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How can I hear my bass over the keyboard?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Swingin, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    That is a good plan.

    This is a great topic for bassists playing in live ensembles. The "fixes" aren't always obvious, as evidenced by a lot of the replies.

    General speaking bass guitar is not limited to low frequencies and the conflict between the two instruments can have nothing to do a HPF or any EQ fix. If the two aren't playing things that mesh you can have problems... even playing an octave apart. Tower of Power's Chester Thompson and Rocco Prestia are a great example. Between them and Dave Garibaldi on drums, if one of them goes rogue the wheels fall off. But when they're "on" it's a phenomenal rhythm section. I learned that lesson early on.

    Knowing how to cut through in a mix, period is often overlooked. I've been gigging with a couple of basses strung with flats among other basses lately and if anything I find that they cut through even easier than my basses strung with rounds.

    Adequate amplification/monitoring is essential. You have to be able to clear yourself. If you don't have it you'll likely have problems with anyone who can drown you out.
    GrapeBass likes this.
  2. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Because sometimes we go for the simple response instead of the adult one.
    retslock, Gaolee and GrapeBass like this.
  3. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Even at lower volume the wrong thing can screw up a groove. Just by be being wrong and audible.
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    "Back off" seems confrontational.
  5. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    Sometimes being juvenile is fun.

    I didn't read the whole thread, but I suspect there's an eq problem to deal with.
  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    No.... because pedals were not the problem. Properly placed they can really fatten up what I'm doing. I have no problem with that.

    Where I have a problem is when you play constantly alternating bass stuff that I don't have a prayer of locking onto more than occassionally. Or worse, bass that is kind of right with the wrong swing. Playing a stiff eighth note feel while my part is broken down into sixteenths can be frustrating... particularly if I'm trying to propel a song that requires the feel I'm playing. It can sound like musical whack-a-mole. Imagine a novice keyboardist trying to play bass along with Rocco. It would tie Rocco's hands. Nobody puts Rocco in the... well, you get it.
    john m likes this.
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Juvenile in a new band. Probably not a good idea. Juvenile when trying to solve a serious problem probably isn't either.

    I'm not talking about the jokey responses, rather the ones which appear to have serious baggage and approach this from a negative place.

    From what the OP has said the problem could be a number of things. I don't think he mentioned whether or not he cuts through when the keyboards aren't covering his range
  8. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    That's where I would start, if he can do that. The worst sounding mud from a keyboard was a band with keys and vocals fighting over the same sonic space. Being the new guy makes it a whole lot tougher, which means he should start with eq and the rest of his specific sound. That's under his control. Then if it doesn't work, discuss it with the keyboard player. Then, if that doesn't work, time to be juvenile, I guess. Or just live with it if the band is worth it.
  9. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    My band just got a new keyboardist. Last gig I kept hearing this odd sound. Looked over and saw his left hand in the bass register. I politely told him to 'cut it out'. That is was causing a sonic conflict.
    Dr_Benway likes this.
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I'm not saying that his tone couldn't be an issue but the fundamental issue IMO IME is that the keyboards is playing as if there's no bassist there. Unless the goal of the group is to have them play simultaneously, I'd start there.
  11. GrapeBass


    Jun 10, 2004
    Graphic designer: Yorkville Sound
    Play some of the parts you're having the issues with together, without the rest of the band (okay, maybe with the drummer - LOL). See if you can bridge the gap and offer changing up some of the lines to what works best.

    again, good luck
  12. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Work with a keyboard player that can play more than roots in the left hand and knows basic voicings and theory.
    Dr_Benway and obimark like this.
  13. I find that boosting my 125hz and my 800hz (approximately) helps me cut through without killing the room when I'm muddy. That's a a thing you can try without resorting to any violence at all.

    Obviously if he's making a gross intrusion to your sonic space you'll need to have a talk.
  14. DLVlad


    Jan 17, 2009
    Used to play with a keyboard player that was a prodigy. Could hear and play anything. Nonetheless he knew that the band would sound better if he didn't step on the bass player's lines.
  15. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    Generally, the keyboard is going to win because they usually go with a sound that has a much faster attack than your bass has. Talk to the guy/gal, maybe he has been covering for a missing bassist. I’m doing sound for a band and i have our keyboard player playing up an octave on a lot of parts to help declutter the mids. We’re gettibg a lot more clarity from the vocals and guitars now.
    Omega Monkey likes this.
  16. Plutonium244

    Plutonium244 Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2015
    The keyboard player needs to understand that he is an effing a-hole for venturing more than an octave below middle C. He/she needs to be publicly shamed and openly repent the sin. Even if he/she does, you should always treat them just a little coldly, lest they ever forget.

    (( An aside-- it was funnier when I accidentally typed "pubicly shamed" )).
    obimark likes this.
  17. tekhedd

    tekhedd Tone chaser Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Colorado, USA
    Owner/operator of BYTE HEAVEN
    I play with a player who is incapable of not using his left hand like that, and we EQ the bottom out of the keys. It's fine.[*]

    The real answer: KB player should learn to play appropriate sparse inversions with the left hand. If you want to be the in-demand-everybody-loves-you player, do this. Also it sounds great.

    Alternative answer: tie the KB player's hand behind his back, or simply remove it surgically. This greatly improves the playing of 75% of all piano-trained keyboardists. They'll thank you later! Trust me on this![**]

    RE: all the people who say "just change your tone", this is also a great approach! I recommend:
    • Dial in a nice aggressive high-mid tone. Add a little bit of grind. Yes, that's it, but more--you need to cut through the mix. Break out that modified Tube Screamer and wind it up! You don't need low end, that's the keyboard player's territory now. Bonus: you can bring a smaller speaker cabinet because you're not pushing as much bass!
    • Bring your fretless. Solos are more fun on fretless! Let go of tiresome constraints like the need to play on pitch or in the pocket.
    • Play fills. You have lots of great ideas and you've been suppressing them because of some warped idea of "fitting in". Let go of your inhibitions and you'll be a better player. Is there space for more fills? Of course! There's always space for more fills! The whole song is basically a bass solo; you've known this for years.
    • Play chords! The keyboard isn't the only one who can play chords, you know!
    • Play chords on your fretless! Slide them around! Intonation doesn't have to be perfect all the time, and this is your chance to practice and improve. Everybody loves pedal steel, and this is basically the same thing.
    • Use some effect pedals. Effects add color to an otherwise dull sound. With the bottom dialed out, you can finally use delay!
    • Use ALL THE EFFECT PEDALS! Delay sounds even better through a phaser. Turn up the resonance!
    • Practice your dance moves. The keyboard is pinned in place, while you have freedom!
    Hope this helps.

    * -- I keep telling myself "it's fine." Over and over.
    ** -- do not trust me on this.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
    MartinB and obimark like this.
  18. Kragnorak


    Sep 20, 2008
    I probably disagree with most people in this thread. We are in an age where many guitarists are playing 9-strings and invading bass frequencies constantly. It's a similar issue. So the key is not to cut off a keyboardist's left hand but to learn how to balance frequencies so that you each have your own space, even when playing in a similar octave. Picture the awesome sound it created in those Spaghetti Western soundtracks when a Fender VI and upright bass were playing the same lines!

    For context, if I can't hear the bass over the keyboards in my own bands, it's my own fault because I play both! So it is something I figure out in soundcheck.

    And when I play keys, I often use the full range of the instrument. I find that the low end of a piano has a different sound than the baritoney sound of a bass guitar, so I don't want to avoid it. Here's an example of a spontaneous composition where I played keys and my friend played bass. Sometimes he goes up and sometimes I go down, and everyone has their space even though the 'mix' was not something we put effort into balancing but were just capturing what was happening in the room.

    Here is another example of a solution from a drunken recording party... Another friend is playing bass and is very present in the mix. I'm playing a clav-type sound and when I'm in his octaves it is complimentary instead of muddy because of my much thinner tone and frequencies. So again, anyone having a problem might be having a problem with the tones and approach the keyboardist is using rather than the octave.

    The above example were all improvised; if we were playing actual arrangements, it would be even easier to carve out audio space!
  19. We've had this problem in the past and it isn't an issue now that we've gone to a stage setup with no amps. Keys player isn't thrilled about no longer using a real Leslie, but it really sounds better and is much easier to set up. Currently both his Hammond and keyboard have a HPF around 300 - 350hz and I'm finding that I really like what he's doing with the left hand...
    Stumbo likes this.
  20. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Wikipedia often mistakes my opinions for fact Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    If a pad screws up the groove, then it’s not much of a groove.

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