Getting a good sound w/the Realist?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by peteroberts, Apr 8, 2002.

  1. I recently had a David Gage Realist pickup installed on my upright (a Wenzel Kohler, sounds pretty good for a cheapie)...I had to turn the (upper)midrange control on my amp (centered at 2 or 4 kHz?) all the way down, or it was very this normal? I am not using a preamp, should I be using one? I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions anyone has; I was playing it through my regular electric rig (SWR Workingmans 4004 w/Eden 115XLT cab).
  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I found a buffering preamp (Tech 21 Acoustic DI) to be extremely helpful in curing the nasal-ness and feedback generated by the Realist. Despite Gage's claims, I really don't think the pickup can be run straight into an amp with satisfactory results.
  3. Never had problems w/feedback. It's the sound, it is very nasally...not using a pre-amp, running it into an SWR Workingmans 4004 w/Eden 115XLT. Like I say, I have to completely kill the 'mid' band on the EQ.
  4. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Eminence with stock pickup into Ampeg B50R combo. The Ampeg has a passive preamp section, which may be why the Realist sounds lousy when plugged in straight. I'd imagine that one would do better with an SWR.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This is great advice. Each amp - like each bass - is a completely different animal, and must be treated as such. Start with the controls flat, and when you need to make an adjustment, CUT unwanted frequencies rather than boost wanted ones. Boosting always seems to cause more coloration because of the bandwidth of most EQ controls.

    Back when I was using a Realist, it brought out a really ugly spike in the 600-800k range that drove me nuts...I eventually ended up turning this range down on the amp's parametric EQ (SWR Baby Blue) AND carrying a stomp box graphic EQ so I could dial out the same frequency yet again. Once I did that, the sound was basically fine, but the "G" string lost a bit of fullness as a result.

    Hope this helps.

  6. One area that seems to have been forgotten is the soundpost. You can not just assume that because your instrument sounds great unamplified that it will sound great with a pickup. Before going out and buying the latest and greatest preamp, try having your soundpost adjusted while listening to the sound coming out of your amplifier speaker. A very small movement of the soundpost can dramatically change the tone coming out of the speaker at the other end of your pickup. It won't change the loudness, but you may find that "sound" you're looking for. This applies to all pickups - not just the Realist.
  7. Ed, thanks for the info. You've just about made up for totally flaming me 'cause I don't care for LaFaro (I like Rufus Reid and George Mraz)

    In response to your questions/comments... I am studying with a freelance guy in Atlanta, he subs for the symphony occaisionally... the guy who installed it plays w/the symphony but he says they are strictly acoustic and couldn't give me any pickup pointers... anyways, I have a coupla questions for you in return:
    1. What factors most affect the tone of the acoustic bass? I just had mine in the shop and the sound post was adjusted, new strings (D'Addario helicore), fingerboard planed. So I think it's in good shape. What I am really asking is what affects the tone the most from a playing perspective? I have heard that the more 'meat' you put to the string (pizz) the better, and I am hearing that. What else? How does the left hand affect the sound?
    2. I get the impression that my amp is not the best thing to be using for an upright...a friend of mine uses a Walter Woods and highly recommends it... what are your thoughts on amps? It seems that the SWR Workingman's line is pretty geared toward electric you think that's true? Any recommendations? I have not tried it through my Workingman's 10 yet.
  8. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    1. The left hand doesn't contribute much to tone production/quality other than vibrato. If you're keeping your fingers properly arched and stopping the string without any buzzes, that's about all you can do with the left hand.

    What I do to get a strong pizz tone (on my Eminem pogo-stick :)) is position my right hand fingers so that they point towards the floor (though not necessarily straight down) and make good contact with the strings (all along first and second joints). I pull the string laterally rather than upwards and i don't release the string right away. After the note is released, I let it blossom and add some vibrato with the left hand (under the right musical circumstances). For low notes, I usually like to pluck around the D-E area in the second octave of the G string. YMMV.

    2. The Workingman's 10 is a decent doubler amp. As a lot of people here mention, though, electric bass amps tend to color the sound rather than reproduce the pure acoustic tone of the instrument. (All hail) Bob Gollihur sells the Acoustic Image line, which generally gets high marks from upright players for transparency. Other brands to consider are Raezer's Edge (they make tiny hi-fi cabinets for DB and jazz guitar), and Polytone (whose Minibrute amps show up on ebay from time to time). The Walter Woods is the holy grail.

    These guys get high marks for their acoustic guitar amps, but I don't know if they have much of a reputation yet for their basscube.
  9. I have just spent a week at a summer school with a tutor that would disagree with that statement,that tutor being Danny Thompson.Not a name you may be familiar with in the USA but he has recorded with just about everybody you can think of and is THE pre-eminent double bass player in the jazz,folk,blues cicle this side of the pond.
    He expressed particular importance on the left hand technique in connection with producing a good sound and tone.Thoughts anyone,or should we move this thread to Technique?
  10. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    In my experience, the left hand has a huge amount to do with the sound produced, almost as much as the right. I got a little sloppy in my left hand technique a few years ago when I was doing a lot of doubling on the slab, resulting in some wrist pain. So I focused on that whole unbroken curve from the shoulder, crab claw, fingertip thing that we all know and love, and in addition to alleviating the pain, I was rewarded with more volume and lots more clarity. This applies to the real bass; my pogo stick/popsicle fake bass allows more "crossover" in the area of technique. My .02...
  11. martinc

    martinc Supporting Member

    Christopher wrote

    ". The left hand doesn't contribute much to tone production/quality other than vibrato. If you're keeping your fingers properly arched and stopping the string
    without any buzzes, that's about all you can do with the left hand."

    I'm no classically trained player but I am not so sure about this.
    In my experience with pizz, if you are using a firm right hand you need an equally firm left hand. Each bass needs the right amount of pressure on the strings to produce its best tone and you have to find (feel) what that is. The left and right hand have to work together and do what is necessary to produce good tone. That may have to go beyond merely stopping the string without causing any buzzes.

  12. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Mea culpa. Pete was asking about the "meat" necessary to produce a strong pizzicato tone, so my response focused on right hand attack, the fine-tuning of which can yield a significant increase in volume and a more assertive pizz tone.

    I didn't mean to suggest that proper left hand technique isn't essential to tone production; just that it isn't specific to pizz. The above left-hand suggestions are good advice regardless of what you're doing with your right hand.
  13. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    please accept my apology: I would like to address the original question....

    here's my current rig- plywood bass, synthetic on E/A, gut on G/D, Realist pickup, GK MB150E. No preamp. Finding the right bass/pickup/amp combo takes some patience. I've been through all kinds of drama trying to find a pickup that would carry that fat gut sound through an amp (when I have to use one). It also does well with slapping: the "click" doesn't overpower the note. The Realist works like a champ, for me.

    However, Gage's instructions are lacking. On most basses, the installed pickup does affect the "fit" of the E foot. I build/repair doublebasses, and this is what works- *gently* scrape away the center area of the foot. You can have your favorite luthier do it. I'm not talking about the perimiter of the foot, just a 12mmX30mm rectangle, and only 1mm deep. ( If I remember correctly, the thickness of the ceramic dots is 1.1mm). The result will allow the pickup to do it's job, and the bridge foot will sit squarely on the top, like it used to.
  14. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    I've been using the Clarus and an Acme B1 or EA 110 as well as the Woods with the Realist. No problem with nasalness or anything. I really like the Clarus head.
    Danny Thompson is terrific. I've been hearing on records with Richard Thompson for a while.
    Through studying I've found that using the weight of your arm when releasing the pizz note (much like letting your arm weight fall on the piano keyboard when chording) and keeping a tight grip in my right hand has given me a bigger sound and has the given the note a definite point to it. A center that is well defined. I wouldn't have found it without studying.
  15. Nice to see Danny has fans in the USA,I must admit I haven`t heard a great deal of his stuff with Richard Thompson(no relation) as I am not really a fan of his.
    BTW,I put `no relation` cos that is how Danny is always referred to when he has played with Richard,to the point where his email address starts `dannynorelation`I thought it was funny.
    Check out his albums `Whatever`,`Whatever next`,and `Whatevers best` if you can find them.
    Back to the left hand thing,his approach as far as I could gather,was to not just think of working the hand from the shoulder but extend that line through the back, down the legs and out to the floor,like your whole body is making the note.
    I don`t know if that makes sense,it sounded like it did when he said it.
  16. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I saw Danny Thompson play 2 songs with Indie band Gomez last night. Excellent player, excellent tone, played with a bow as well as his fingers.

    The support bands bassist used a DB for one song and it sounded just like his Jazz Bass (a pitchless thump to my ears) Ok the bass and pickup was probably different but the soundman and system was the same...
  17. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Often it is easy to discount something a bass player says, because you don't agree right away.

    Really, you probably just didn't quite understand what he had to say, or you may have some sort of bias.

    Anyway, I think Danny has a great thing to say, yes it makes sense that you use your whole body to play every note.

    It may be easier to understand if you think about using your arm weight to hold down the note, this can change the sustaining quality of your note in a lot of ways, just kind of hang your arm down, try noe to squeeze with your thumb, this just makes you tired.

    If you can find a very efficient way to play using your body weight and movement, you will find that playing the bass with lots of sustain can be nearly effortless, at least struggleless.

    Check out Barbara Conable's book what every musician needs to know about their body- It changed my life.