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Getting a Deeper, Richer tone.

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by SSHSBassman, Mar 16, 2009.

  1. SSHSBassman


    Feb 28, 2009
    Oregon, USA
    I always find myself listening to the bass professionals like Edgar Meyers, and the various others who play in the numerous classical pieces on my iPod and noticing how deep and full their sound is. I really crave to achieve that sound, but whenever I play, I just don't hear it. Does it just come with age and lots of practice? I've been playing for around 7 years now. I play with the German bow, which is supposed to be better for sound as oppose to the French bow which makes string crossings easier and allows for greater precission. Any suggestions for a better sound guys?
  2. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    as for the bows- french vs german - I was troubling for me to read that one is "supposed to be better for sound." I'm curious where you heard that. I would say that the sound of a bow should be judged on a case by case basis - bow weight, balance, quality of material etc. - the quality of the stick is what matters.

    as for the edgar meyer's of the world, bear in mind he's playing on a very fine old italian instrument and the environment he recorded in was built to have a very nice, resonant and supporting acoustic. so when he makes a free ringing and resonant sound, it comes out sounding beautiful.

    those things said...
    the other half of your sound is what your doing with the bow. I would try to find what it takes to make the sound you want to make on any instrument. if you have a clear idea the sound you want - more free, open, dark, rich etc - you can be more flexible to make those sounds. practice, practice- and always experiment.
  3. Try bowing closer to the bridge, but use less bow speed. This will give you a fuller more overtone laden sound. It will take a lot of practice and a good way to learn to use this part of the string is to just bow open strings trying to hold one long note as long as possible, and then as you get better at it move it closer and closer to the bridge. This is the Gary Karr approach to tone production, though I bet Edgar Meyer and other pro players use it, though less often.
  4. ADissen


    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    I've found that using weight as the MAIN source of bow movement really opens up the sound. Throw the weight in your arm, (controlled of course or your stand partner will lose and eye. You can always add muscle to the weight to get FFFF but its got to be weight 90% of the time). That means that your bow arm and your entire body must be lose and flexible, but not sloppy. Keep breathing when you play, when you stop breathing comfortably and evenly it really attacks tone production. Weight Speed and Placement are the three key factors when looking to be able to control your tone like the pros. Pick up Hal Robinson's "Strokin'", it'll get your bow arm into shape.
  5. Also remember, in most accoustics you don't year your real sound, because it takes a good five meters to develop. If you can practice in a really big (20m or so) room, try sitting or standing facing a wall about 3-4m away, that gives you a whole different perspective on your sound because you've given it space to develop and then it comes back at you off the wall. A stone church gives you some idea too, as the sound bounces around.

    Deepness is, to some extent, also about bass setup. But don't ask me how, as my own preference is a long way in the other direction... bright, powerful and clear.
  6. thedbassist


    Sep 10, 2006
    For a note to have its son premier(or first, basic sound), it should have it's own unique bow placement on the string, weight from your arm sinking into the bow, and bow speed. To truly figure out the type of sound YOU want you will have to do a lot of experimenting with these different variables. Also, always remember to play relaxed(it's especially important to have relaxed shoulders) and that your are the one who has control over your sound(for the most part).

    Oh yeah, remember to keep a straight(or perpendicular to the bridge) bow when you play, this includes bowchanges.
  7. mattgray


    Nov 16, 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    Plus, Edgar usually plays with (his top 3 strings only, if I recollect correctly) solo strings, making his instrument VERY resonant and with excellent tone.
  8. basspirate777


    Mar 21, 2009
    Latrobe, Pa
    does anyone know of a listing of edgar's instruments and/or string/rosin brand preferences?

    I've met the gentleman that sets his basses up, also a supremely badass jazzer named Jim Ferguson from Nashville. He set up my bass when I bought it and it played beautifully.

    On the note of this thread, I think we are ALL trying to find that sound that he gets. My advice would be to practice every day until you are fifty and buy a $500k 7/8 Italian bass. :cool:
  9. ADissen


    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    I'm pretty sure Mr. Meyer uses Pirastro Permanent for the top two and Spirocores for the bottom
  10. bopeuph


    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Interesting that everyone mentioned bowing technique. Would you think that a strong left hand technique is just as important for the sound? As a jazzer, I noticed when I started that how my fingertips landed on the strings and the amount of pressure on them were both major parts of the equation, too. Bowing while striving for a full, resonant sound helped give me a full, resonant plucked note. Maybe the opposite would work, too?

  11. BrianMcAnally

    BrianMcAnally Guest

    Dec 28, 2008
    Speaking of this, where can I get this book? I can't really seem to find it anywhere.
  12. quenoil


    Jan 20, 2007
  13. mcnaire2004


    Jan 17, 2006
    Well, the bow is your sound. It is quite possibly the most important thing to your sound. Yes, the left hand has to be quick, and precise on where it lands, and vibrato control is important, but the bow is the most important thing. Bow control takes the most to obtain. I see guys with lightning quick left hands but still sound like mud due to the bow. Timing between the two is important for clarity. Fluidness in the wrist is important, weight is important, placement is important. Plus there are an array of bow techniques that are very challenging and need to be worked at to get the best possible sound. Just listen to Joel Quarrington, or DaXun Zhang. Or another really lush sounding bassist. It is the bow, many many people great left hand technique (though many professionals don’t). But even fewer bassist have good bow technique. Violinist preach bow technique like crazy, and for good reason.
    I respect jazz, but when it comes to technique, it doesn’t require a ton to be THAT good at.
  14. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Perhaps what you were trying to say is that high level mastery of classical bow technique is a much more time consuming and difficult task than the high level mastery of Jazz pizz technique.

    Or i could be wrong maybe you were trying to diss all the jazzbos on the board?
  15. EggyToast


    Jan 21, 2006
    Yeah I think he's saying that adding another object into the mix ups the complexity level. Which is fair enough.
  16. He uses a mic half the time too.
  17. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    What you are hearing in your iPod earphones was played on fabulous instruments that have been setup just right and tweaked just before the recording. Probably new strings and hair, as well.

    The player has spent 100's of hours practicing and playing what he/she intends to record.

    Then it was recorded with several $$$$ microphones placed 2-3 feet from the body of the instrument in a superior recording space. Then it was processed to sound huge and resonant. Then you input it directly to your ears with earbuds. You are probably listening to it at a higher volume than if they were playing live right in front of you, as well.

    Of course it's going to sound huge and deep!

    When you play, your ears are up near the scroll. Seeing that you are 15 playing in a high school orchestra, you probably play on a beat up plywood bass that has strings 2 inches from the fingerboard strung with those cheap blue end strings that have never been changed using a 10+ year old Glasser bow that has never had its hair changed using dried out rosin in your high school music room which is probably not an ideal acoustical space. (or maybe that's just in London, Ontario!)

    That's why you "just don't hear it."

    I made a recording a couple of years ago as a Mother's Day gift. I rented a fairly good recorder and mic. The you could set the recorder to automatically add a little reverb. I placed the mic about 2 feet away pointing directly where the soundpost is located. When I played with the headphones on compared to when the headphones were off, I noticed a very big difference. With the headphones off, my ears were 4 feet away from the body and the sound I was hearing was coming mostly from the upper bout. After a while, I didn't want to play without the headphones!

    Oh yeah, it all starts with hours of long tones near the bridge. Start with 2 seconds using the whole bow with a clean start and finish, 4 times in a row. Then add 1 second and repeat. Don't add a second if there are chatters or burps in the sound. If you get up to 12 second in your first day, you're doing awesome. Do this every day for a week and you'll be amazed at the difference in your tone. Other people will hear it, too.

    There's no short cutting the short cut.
  18. EggyToast


    Jan 21, 2006
    It does kind of suck that the best sound from a bass is one that the players themselves typically don't hear.
  19. ADissen


    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    What a perfect description of High School bass departments. Thats what I get up in the morning to go play on. The definition of dreamy. :ninja:
    If you dont have a real bass when you get home, please go find one. Even if it is to play on just for a couple of minutes. It'll help you hear the little nuances 693 times better. Hopefully.
    And yeah, "Strokin'" is available from Robertson's. Just give them a call.
  20. koricancowboy

    koricancowboy Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    I have to side with McNaire on this. I think he was citing technique alone. As far as musicianship, feel, time, etc., that's a whole different bag. To prove the point you just have to look at players like Ben Alison or Charlie Haden. They both have horrible left hand technique. But man they play the S#!+ out of the bass. If I read into what he's saying correctly I think that's what he's getting at.

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