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Getting a Bigger/Louder Sound

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Impact Bass, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. Impact Bass

    Impact Bass

    Feb 8, 2012
    Hi, I am a jazz bassist trying to get a more sound out of my upright bass. I have tried raising the action which has helped a little, however it still is not loud enough. When another bassist plays my bass, he is much louder and cuts right through the ensemble. So, it is clearly a deficiency in my technique. Any tips on how to play louder and fuller would be much appreciated. Thankyou.
  2. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Record both of you out front and see if its volume or clarity. The best way to cut in an ensemble is to play in tune. Creating a big warm sound is made up of many different variables. Consult your teacher.
  3. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Asheville, NC
    Try different playing positions with your right hand, maybe start at the end of the fingerboard and work your way back all the way to the middle harmonic area, different basses and strings seem to have different sweet spots as far as volume/tone compromise. Also, a lot of it is how big a contact area your right-hand fingers have with the strings. If your fingers are perpendicular to the strings (the way a bow travels), you'll be pulling the string with only your fingertip. If your fingers are more parallel (like you're pointing at the bridge), you can pull the string with most of your finger. I know there's quite a bit of debate around this, but I feel like my best volume and tone come when I use as much of my finger to play pizz as I can.

    Also, sometimes it helps if there's a little space between your body and the bass, so your belly/torso isn't absorbing any vibration.

    Second to what Jason Sypher said, it's easy to forget that most of the sound on the bass or cello goes straight out front, while your ear is way up top. Find an echo-ey room or record.
  4. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    A better bassist than I told me to focus on getting a good sound, not a louder one. The rest will come. I find that to be the case.

    Also, pull real hard and press down firm with yo left hand.
  5. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    "The best way to cut in an ensemble is to play in tune. "

  6. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Get together with your colleague and analyze what he is doing to get his sound. I'm not convinced you really know how loud you are in the house though. Much different behind the bass than in front.
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I'd also look at this vid:
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    It's unfortunately NOT a cure-all just to raise your action. I'm a firm believer that every bass has an optimal string height and tension and if you fall below that you don't get the full potential of sound and if you go above that you choke the sound and again miss the full potential. And there are basses that are louder than other basses when they hit that potential.
    The thing that got me to the point that I can play mostly without amplification is a lot of work with my teacher. we spent a lot of time on getting a relaxed, tension free approach in both right and left arm, how to get physics on your side and developing intentional fingering in the left hand. *** do I mean by that? It's a lot of things - having a good expectation of pitch (knowing what the note I'm playing is going to sound like before I play it), a good understanding of the geography of the fingerboard (where that note I'm hearing lives), using physics to assist my hand and fingers on the fingerboard to stop the pitch that I'm hearing right where it lives, etc. I don't know if you've seen that little film Neal Miner (who has a GREAT acoustic sound) did on Dennis Irwin's bass, but one of the things he talks a little bit about in there is how Dennis used to practice long tones arco. And sure, we've all heard this and worked it into our practice, but (for most of us) arco practice has been mostly about intonation - you sustain the note so you hear how in tune you are. But I began to see how this is something that focuses your physical approach as well; playing in half position and first position and fingering those Fs, F#s, Gs, Bbs etc, (F and Bb to the Eb) and holding them for an 8 to 10 count at 40bpm REALLY points out where you are relying on bad form and technique to keep them stopped. Spend 15 or 20 minutes doing that and see what hurts, how soon your shoulder bails, when your hand fails. You really start thinking about physiology and physics.
    I know Neal a little bit and he's done a couple of clinics at my teacher's studio; he talks a lot about how solid left hand technique, developed working with a legit teacher Orrin O'Brien, helps him get that big projecting sound.
  9. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    This is great advice, not just the part that I made bold, all of it! All of the other posts offer some great tips too.

    Drew Gress talks a lot about relaxing the right arm, so much so that your bicep and tricep should be "flapping around"- and you transfer that energy into the string.

  10. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I also struggle w/getting enough acoustic volume from my Thompson RM 200, raising the string height does help. As Ed said there are limitations and it seems each bass has a specific ability in regards to volume. My bass teacher has a Prescott, my bass has no where near the volume or tone of that bass. That said your plucking hand (pizz) technique is important, pulling from the side of the index finger using your whole arm etc. Others have covered this much better than I can. Watch a Ray Brown vid on youtube
  11. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Remember, we DRAW sound out of the bass. We don't put the sound into it. We coax the sound out of it.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I have been going to the same Jazz Summerschool for about 15 years in a row now and on many occasions I have noticed how the bass tutors get so much more volume than the students! Even when using the same bass. So, each year, I have had the chance to hear about 12 - 15 bass players close up and on stage, to allow comparisons and it is clearly all about the sort of technique issues that Ed and others have talked about here.
  13. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
  14. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    Before you can draw the sound out, you have to a clear understanding of what the sound is. Drawing the sound out is secondary.
  15. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Well, there seem to be plenty examples of what a full, round, woody bass-sound sounds like. I'm talking about recordings, performances, even YouTube. I was trying to get at the notion of, well, drawing sound out of the instrument. There are some go-to methods we all hear about (raising the string height) but for myself it's been a journey from trying to force sound out of the bass (higher tension/string height, plucking harder etc) to one of playing to maximize the effects of a near minimal effort. Recently this has even included getting a bigger sound -with an amp. That is something very new to me as I've mostly been an acoustic or mic to FOH player.
  16. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    Drawing the sound out is secondary. Primary is understanding what needs to be heard before drawing out the sound from the instrument. Wooshedding is important, but more important is the experience of not quite cutting or fitting in the ensemble. This will create the drive it takes to improve. If you just want to play the same weak s***, only bigger, louder, then it's likely you'll be told what you are playing is wrong. You have to change things up and improve in other areas before you even touch the bass.
  17. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    I see what you're saying. I was just talking about pure sound, not what you're playing. But you're right...louder **** would be just that, loud ****.
  18. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    I think the thing about classical lessons, are, like anything, you don't really know what you'll get out of it until you do it. Intonation, bigger sound, more relaxed posture, etc are all great side effects of good training.
    Come to think of it, I think it's time for me to start lessons again. . . : )
  19. MaxJohnson

    MaxJohnson Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Mark Helias talked to me alot about relaxed arms and it really helped, but the most important thing he spoke of when it comes to getting a "bigger" sound is to realize that each string is it's own instrument and should be played differently, and with a different section of the finger, and your right hand shouldn't be yanking on the string, but more falling into it, putting the weight of your relaxed arm into the pitch. Watch your favorite ACOUSTIC bass players and their arms and you'll see alot of what you need to do.
  20. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    In my experience I got a much better, stronger, bigger pizz tone through practicing with the bow. I rarely use the bow on gigs: i'm not very good at it, but just playing long slow tones and scales made a big very difference in the size of my pizz tone. (not to mention helping with intonation)

    I think more of the volume than we think is in the left hand. Having a good focused point of contact and a reasonable amount of hand strength makes a big difference.

    Also sort of related and counterintuitive: I also found that getting a bigger tone depended less on the right hand fingers than on the right shoulder and arm. It's like a boxer punching--the more of the body is involved with the punch, the more effective it is. Pulling through the note and using the weight of the arm makes for a bigger but more relaxed tone.

    Alos as mentioned strings make a difference, and string height, but I'd agree there's an optimum point for each, and it varies with the bass, the player, and the strings. Just raising the action might not make a difference.