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How low is too low.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by ghostinthemach, Aug 28, 2017.

  1. ghostinthemach

    ghostinthemach Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    Brea CA
    I just saw a post about a 40" bass. The person mentioned 'an octave below a conventional 4 string bass. Can an audience actually hear that bottom note?
    My experience with super low frequencies was mainly with a giant custom built p.a. which had 4 JBL loaded subs. The keyboard player using an Arp Odyssey synth opened a particular song (Riding the storm out) with the synth inaudibly low and using the coarse pitch slider he slowly raised the pitch. At first there was normal noise and conversation in the typically packed club. But the when the sound began to make the room throb (drinks actually began to 'walk' across the tables due to vibration) people stopped conversing and looked disoriented as the sound rose in audibility. For a few seconds their faces flashed everything from fear/slight panic to huge grins prompted by the sonic massage.
    Where does it cease to be musical and become Cerwin Vega's Earthquake effect?
  2. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I remember some prominent sub-bass players on Talkbass (like Jauqo, haven't seen him in a while) who swear their rigs can reproduce the fundamental of the subcontra C# (nearly an octave below the low B on a fiver) without needing ridiculous rigs. There were quite some discussions about that, I think.

    However that may be, what matters the most to the human ear is the overtone series - our brain has the ability to fill in a missing or weak fundamental if the corresponding overtone series is present. The discussions mentioned above mainly revolved around whether it actually was the fundamental that could be heard, or if it was the first and second overtones that were perceived as such. Much of it had to do with whether the fundamental was in the audible range, I think the low C# must be somewhere around 10Hz?

    One octave below E is not all that low, and it's becoming more common. One band that uses a low F tuning (only a half-tone higher), Bongripper, demonstrate how good you can make it sound.

    Was your keyboarder's tone purely a sine wave, or was it a more harmonically richer tone?
    HaphAsSard likes this.
  3. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    No, at least not the fundamental. They can feel it, but they certainly won't hear it, and no bass rig will reproduce it.

    Jauqo is banned. He made a lot of claims about his rig, most of which were easily disproven by the more tech savvy members here.
    Nashrakh likes this.
  4. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    There are plenty of off-the-shelf subwoofers that will reproduce the ~20Hz fundamental of the low E an octave below the open 4th string of a conventional bass guitar.

    They are rarely marketed as "bass rigs" for bass players, but if you're down tuning 8vb you're already a special case so why wouldn't you think outside the box when putting together your amp/speakers?
    Ghostinthemach likes this.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I will simply repeat something I say to my staff a lot:

    Just because something is possible doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea.

    I think this falls squarely in that category.
    nbsipics, Atshen, /\/\3phist0 and 2 others like this.
  6. My bass is 44" long & it's tuned to E standard.
  7. fly agaric

    fly agaric

    Jan 18, 2016
    Sound checked once at a club that had a massive subwoofer for dance music and when I was all hooked up the super low E I was playing through an octave pedal never sounded so massive and earthquaky.

    I probably spent a good 20 minutes doing ridiculous runs and electronic style bass drops with my drummer. Easily the most fun I've had sound checking. Mind, most of it sounded awful, I am new to these frequencies, after all. But it's a great feeling to experience bass with your body instead of your ear.

    Running those same frequencies through my little 1x15" combo amp doesn't at all bring me the same joy, but I definitely have the GAS for a big room-shaking system one day.
  8. If we're talking usable melodic pitches I think classical musicians (musicologists?) pretty accurately and appropriately defined C1 as the bottom of bass range before you start getting into "sub-bass" or contrabass territory where I would argue the pitches are no longer clear enough to be very useful in a moving musical line. For example, if we're talking some sort of contrabass progression like E0 - F#0 - G0 - E0, or whatnot (that's like a simple 1 - 2 - 3 - repeat minor progression in my highly in non-academic designation), those pitches are all going to be so indistinct they won't really sound like anything melodic but rather a vague sense of progressively rising tone to a repeat. If you want to be able to hear the nuance in a minor 2nd change (which can be huge depending on its use in the line) I don't think pitches below C1 are distinct enough to convey that adequately.

    Oh, I should say contrabass pitches can be great to add weight to a chord though if you want to just follow the roots of a progression though. Contrabass tones may be borderline incomprehensible to the ear, but they still have a feeling (usually very foreboding) they convey and this can be put to great use, especially in a musical context.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
    Atshen and Ghostinthemach like this.
  9. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    My 25lb RevSound RS115X cabs go down to 38 Hz - definitely a different sound than a 'fridge which is more like 58 Hz. OTOH I'd never use them if I have PA support with subwoofers - in fact they mostly get used in one of my PA's as subs.
  10. ghostinthemach

    ghostinthemach Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    Brea CA
    Just to add an interesting detail to the OP, it was clear to me over the several occasions we'd start a set with this sonic tactic, that there was a fascinating range of time as to when patrons were able to realize 'this strange vibration is comin' from those musician fellas' and was actually part of the show.
  11. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    No this falls into the category of "Lots of people misconstrue ideas that they don't understand or care to as being bad ideas."

    As long as nobody is being hurt, go as low as you want. Push musical boundaries, upset the purists.
    Bob_Ross, HaphAsSard and fly agaric like this.
  12. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Or just be ignored by them. Much more likely. ;)
    mdogs likes this.
  13. nbsipics

    nbsipics Bass Plasma Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    One of my clients sells an awful lot of glassware to music venues. Keep those glass-breaking sound waves coming!

    ( now I've got to get them to start selling ear protection... )
  14. ghostinthemach

    ghostinthemach Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    Brea CA
    Me recollection is that it was probably a square wave selected on his oscillator.
  15. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Of course!

    Just realize that the idea may succeed, or it may stick to your face.
  16. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA

    And why are you talking to a stick?
  17. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    aka Philosopher's Syndrome: "Mistaking a failure of the imagination for an insight into necessity."

    Ghostinthemach likes this.
  18. Ben B

    Ben B Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    This is correct. A few years ago, I was breaking in a new Kappalite speaker for a cabinet I was building. I ran the speaker using a 30 Hz test tone for a couple hours. The signal was from a signal generator on a PC, so, it was all fundamental, no harmonics. At 30 Hz, there is rumble and you can sort of hear it, but the sound is nothing you would consider to be musical or melodic. At around 25 Hz, you hear nothing and only feel the rumble.

    The bottom line: there's no need to even try reproducing these low frequencies with bass guitar because no one will hear it. IMHO, a 5 string bass with a low B is as low as you would ever need to go. If you are in a band that requires occasional use of these low frequencies as part of a stage show, either use a keyboard or have your soundman trigger an effect.
    Pilgrim likes this.
  19. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Aaaaaaaand - there you are.

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