How can I get more volume out of my Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by firetec05, Dec 31, 2014.

  1. firetec05


    Nov 19, 2014
    I have a Cecilio 3/4 double bass. The tone is very good, but the bass just doesn't have much volume.
    I think the strings are Eurosonics, I have had it set up by a professional, (sound post adjusted and such) whose comment was, "you can't make chicken salad out of chicken s#*t." Anyway, anyone have any ideas?
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Heavier or lighter strings may help. Check the string tension charts for more info.

    I found Evah Pirazzi Med and Velvet Blues made my bass louder than other strings I've used.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Columbia SC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Go back in time and buy a Shen?
    Siriusly though, a few questions and a couple of suggestions - how long have you been playing double bass? I know when I started I went through a lot of machinations to get sound out of the instrument, but a lot of what made the sound bad was me not having a good physical approach to the instrument. So who's your teacher and what do they have you working on in terms of physical approach and technique?
    Next, when you say "set up by a professional", who exactly is that (not a name, unless you want to. Is it a professional luthier for double bass, for other acoustic strings like violin etc., music store setup guy, bassist who does some repair? Since these things are all over online stores, did you buy this online or in a shop? Or from an owner? And what did the setup entail, what do you mean by soundpost adjustment? Did they set it, did they carve a new one or reshape the existing one, did they reposition it? What else was done? Does it have an adjustable bridge?

    So anyway, different basses respond to different strings in different ways, so what's loud on one person's bass may not be loud on yours and vice versa. If there's someone locally whose bass you're familiar with, both playing and hearing it played, you might see how that bass sounds when they change strings. If it sounds kind of thin and bright with Set A and they use something that darkens that sound AND the same Set A strings on your bass sound kind of thin and bright, it is likely that they'll darken up the sound on your bass, too, since both basses responded similarly to the first set of strings. If you have an adjustable bridge, you might want to play with raising and lowering it, to try to find the optimal balance between the quality of sound that you like and the volume you're looking for. Raising the bridge for volume reaches a point of diminishing return for a lot of basses, you end up with volume but a choked sound.

    But, at the end of the day, even though it's a cruel comment, it's pretty much going to be the case. Your expectations just may not be achievable with the instrument you have.
  4. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Dig in harder with Pizz.
    lowendrachel likes this.
  5. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver BC
    If the luthier is good and says the bass is what it is that may well be the case. Just play it and see what happens. Any judgment you make now will modify as you make friends with the bass.

    All instruments have limitations and many most of us will never be able to afford a bass whose pluses completely outweigh its limitations. What you have there is gift. Play it every day and you will struggle and sweat blood learning to get out of it all this bass has to give. If it sounded great to you right now (with what I'm assuming is limited technique) your quest would not have the immediacy it does now. As your technique increases the sound will improve.

    One thing to think about (as you're listening to Ray Brown to cop his giant sound) is that string excursion is kinda elliptical rather than round so pulling and releasing the string parallel to the board rather than more perpendicular to it will allow you a harder touch before the string craps out. Here are some good close ups of this.
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    As usual, I think Ed Fuqua nailed it in terms of advice. Yes, it MAY be the case that different strings will help substantially. It is likely that case that a better developed technique will help you to get out of the bass whatever it can give. In fact, the first response that came to mind was, "It's in your fingers." I don't think it's necessarily the case that what "you have there is a gift." There's a reason that many of us say that one should buy the best bass, within reason, that one can. Some entry-level basses just don't cut it and they can frustrate their owners in terms of progress. Cecilios, from what I've seen, are among those. Oh, and while we're on the subject of technique, many fine teachers will show and instruct you that a good sound is produced by a combination of a "parallel" pull and pulling the string down toward the fingerboard. Videos and written descriptions aren't all that good in terms of capturing the subtleties. A good teacher is the way to go.
    MIKMAN likes this.
  7. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver BC
    Dr. durb, have you ever really struggled with inferior equipment that was all you could afford? I have and understand in that process it's possible to learn in ways you might not starting on better stuff...I'm playing around issues on a poorly dressed fingerboard right now because I don't have the money to put it right. Would I recommend it when better is available? Most definitely not. But when you've made a financial commitment sometimes that's what you're stuck with until it's possible to make changes. Even if the OP only has that bass a few more weeks my advice is well worth considering. It sounds like he probably needs a better bass but in the meantime he needs help to make due and move forward. When it comes to certain things your advice is excellent but practical technique might not be one of those things.

    Having a teacher is a given but it's not all there is to learning. YouTube is a massive resource I wish I had when I was starting out. I learned a lot about drawing out sound watching Ray Brown but I had to wait for him to come to town to see what can clearly be seen in the video I posted. Ray Brown could get a massive sound playing softly and there is a wealth of information in this clip. I didn't throw this out there saying a parallel pull is the only way or even the best way. It is something to be aware of though and something even on a great bass you need to experiment with to find what works for you with that particular instrument. I would highly recommend paying attention to what Francois Rabbath has to say on the matter too. You might not end up doing it like he does but ALL knowledge coming from players of this caliber is worth considering wherever you can get it.
  8. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I don't know who "Dr. durb" is but I'll go with it. :) To answer your question with regard to basses, indeed I struggled with inferior equipment. Decades ago, I trained on and played classical music on, of all things, a Kay C-1. I did the best I could. It was all my family could afford. Being saddled with inferior equipment one, by necessity, learns in ways one would not otherwise. That struggle seems best avoided, though, if it can be. Now, as I've said here many, many times, if a poor instrument is all one can afford, then it sure is most often better to play than not to play. I'm not sure that the OP here has made a financial commitment with which he is stuck. He may have the means to upgrade. There are many well-regarded entry-level basses (e.g., Shen) that would represent upgrades over a Cecilio so it's certainly not a matter of my suggesting that the OP seek a pricey bass. My advice can be taken as saying that he may be far better served by upgrading sooner than persisting with an instrument that may fight him all the way. Of course, one should make the best of what one has but it's sometimes better to change what one has, if one can. You don't seem to disagree with that. Now, so far as practical technique goes, I think the little bit I offered was actually right on target. Basically, I deferred to good teachers many of whom have agreed and will agree with the right-hand technique I described. After all, it was fine teachers who taught me that. I wonder if you disagree with their teachings about the partial parallel pull with a component down toward the board.

    In many cases here on TB, having a teacher has not been a given. I'm glad you agree, though, that having one is fundamental. I certainly agree that videos and supplementary information can be valuable adjuncts to a good teacher. I would never say that the only valuable learning is that which is gained via a teacher. My point in the previous post, however, was that for someone who has, perhaps, not had the benefit of a good teacher, the subtleties of right-hand (and left-hand) technique would be difficult to glean from videos and written descriptions. I was really thinking of the beginner. I was encouraging the OP to get a teacher if he has not already. I sure have spent a fair amount of time with just the type of videos you posted carefully examining what monster players such as Ray Brown do. I suppose there's few around here who haven't. Once one has a decent knowledge-base, those can be valuable resources.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
  9. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    I would come in here and recommend something with the right hand. Make sure that your right thumb is "locked in" on the fingerboard when playing pizz. I think someone will say in response that you don't do this all the time but I have found that I get a little more volume from my bass if I lock my thumb against the ebony (just past where my fingernail starts).

    Comment about the "new bass" issue. Some basses are louder than others. I am fortunate enough to have started (and still play) on a beautiful carved german bass from the 50's. Its quiet. I need to use an amp 95% of the time I play. The other 5% is playing a drummer-less trio gig in a church. I thought it was the strings or the hight of the strings but after trying a few different brands I've found it to be the bass. My friend has a new (2011?) plywood bass that is wicked loud. Plays with a full big band without an amp. That being said I like the tone of my bass better. I can't describe it but it sounds more warm and full than the plywood. As said above, you take a bass with its pros and cons.
  10. firetec05


    Nov 19, 2014
    I started playing upright about 7 years ago when a friend loaned me an old Kay that was in need of repair itself. The music I play on the upright is bluegrass, after playing electric for over 40 years, I loved the tone of the old bass for bluegrass. I still play electric in a classic rock band, so I'm sure my technique is more geared toward playing electric. After a few months of playing his old Kay, I decided to go to Fretwell Bass in Staunton Va. and by my own. Gerald Fretwell was very helpful in helping me select a bass, which was a 71 Englehardt that had a neck repair done on it, so I got it for an awesome price of $1200. I loved the sound and the playability of this bass and after a bad experience with some band mates, I ended up selling it back to him (bad mistake). After a few years, I was offered the Cecilio for $500 so I jumped at the opportunity to play an upright again. I took the Bass to Gerald for him to tweak it and he did what he could with it. While waiting on him to work on mine I actually pulled a fairly new Englehardt out of the rack and that bass was twice as loud as mine and I knew then that mine was a dud. I know the type of wood used and strings used and the setup all make a huge difference, so I'm thinking that I need to bite the bullet and find another bass that will fit my needs.
  11. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    One of the benefits of my day job is that I get to play a lot of basses. More than once I've been surprised that they have often exceeded or not met my expectations. Some of the loudest basses have been the cheapest plywoods, especially when played pizz. One in particular had a thin top and, in spite of the collapsing bass bar, had a huge booming tone that was surprising. I pulled that one out of the dumpster, strung it up and gave it away.
    My Kay is much louder than my old flatback. Both have medium weight tailpieces strung with aircraft cable. Both sound equally good pizz or arco with the carved bass getting the edge in both due to a more refined character. I gig with the Kay because it has a good even tone, is loud, punchy and amplifies well. I don't share the opinion that more expensive basses are necessarily louder or sound better. Basses are all different.
    Generally, basses will sound best and loudest when they are set up to their best. I prefer aircraft cable on the tailpiece, although we use a strong synthetic rope at the shop with similar results. Aircraft cable sounds a bit clearer to me. Lighter tailpieces can increase volume. The bridge must fit well, be of the proper proportions and straight. Strings that allow the top to vibrate freely generally are best for volume. String heights are important as well but at some point the tension can choke a bass causing diminishing returns. Endpins can affect tone. If it's steel, cut off any unnecessary length because it acts as a mute. Physical approach is THE most important factor in getting a big sound. However, it takes time to develop.
    These are my observations and opinions. YMMV, etc., etc.............
  12. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Absolutely, Greg! Nice, informative post. There are sure expensive carved basses that, even when set up optimally, do not sound as loud as many ply basses. What they lack in punch, they often make up for in complexity of tone. As I'm sure you'd agree, it's not all about how loud it sounds. Very low end ply basses often have none of the above. That is, they are neither loud not have a desirable complexity of tone.

    Thanks for the clarification. I think your approach is informed and realistic. I do think you'd be happiest in the end if you made a switch.
  13. The companies that make those "Cheap Chinese Basses" (CCB) also known as "Bass Shaped Object" (BSO) are not aiming to create a playable instrument; they have no reguards for the end user of the product whatsoever; their only concern is for enough people who don't know any better to buy their product thinking that they are getting a good deal so the manufacturer can turn some kind of profit on the sales. I doubt there is even anyone with any musical or luthiery experience overseeing the production of these things. Again, they are not made to be playable instruments. They are made to extract money from unsuspecting buyers.
  14. firetec05


    Nov 19, 2014
    I totally agree with you. As a matter of fact, when I bought the Cecilio, I had never heard of it and probably wouldn't have bought it had I known it was in fact a CCB. LOL!
  15. firetec05


    Nov 19, 2014
    I think you're right about this, now all I have to do is find THE ONE again. I had a good one, hopefully I can have that experience again.
  16. I agree you should dump the cigar box ASAP and find a better bass. Early Engels aren't bad. A '70 sold off of this site for $950 a day or two ago, and I picked up a '72 a few years ago for $600.

    Get a good bass, have it set up well with good strings and do your thing.
  17. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    There are plenty of good points here. I've recently upgraded from a Shen, which is a reputable Asian manufacturer. I have an Upton Standard that so far I am very pleased with. Now to my ears the Shen is louder than the Upton, but that doesn't mean it is more pleasing to the ear...only louder. Just food for thought.

    The only other point I'll make is this. If you are stuck with what you have for a while, and it's playable within reason for the level of build quality - then work with it the best you can. As long as the bass isn't going to cause injury to you, you will progress. The better you get, the more deficiencies you will find in the bass, which will make you appreciate something nicer that much more. It will also give a better idea of what you are looking for when you make the move to invest in something of higher quality.

    When I first got my Shen, you couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Five years of playing it, and I was frustrated as hell with it.
    drurb likes this.
  18. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I've posted this before, but have your teacher play your bass - it's eye-opening. A few month ago, I concluded that I didn't need a better bass because my teacher could make mine sound so good. But I've improved since, at and my last lesson, while listening to my teacher play my bass, I heard someone not-so-good sounding and asked, "What's that? Is that my bass?" and the answer was "Yes," so it's time for a new one for me.

    IMHO, you don't want your instrument to be the weak link in the chain - that should be you.

    Tom Lane and drurb like this.
  19. My bass is Cecilio, and it took me awhile to get decent volume out of it. The way it's set up now with Helicore Hybrids I'm very happy with. These basses seem to be made strong and a bit thick, so it may not be as loud as some other basses, but mine fell once from vertical onto its side and the only damage was a couple nicks on the upper bout lip. I'm Quite happy with this instrument and enjoy playing it every day, that is what counts