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How to help our 3-piece cover band sound fuller?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by OogieWaWa, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. OogieWaWa


    Mar 17, 2013
    Oak Harbor, OH
    Hey. And help!

    I'm having a blast in a great three-piece zero-drama band playing out with a broad range of genres two or three times a month, with a couple of great guys. The problem we're having is obviously our overall sound gets a bit "thin" with only three of us when the guitar guy is up in solo land and I'm holding down the bottom.

    To help fill the space I'm using double stops with the root, 5th or octave, many times playing all three or plucking around rhythmically ala acoustic guitar playing, which is a blast and certainly helps. But that's not always easy to accomplish during fast passages, of course.

    During the vocals we work hard to get any harmonies or counter melodies or vocal chorus background things going whenever possible, even doing a lot of 3 part stuff (I also sing the bottom of those!) We also add quite a few a Capella sections inside songs or on endings when we can.

    We have zero interest in adding a rhythm or keyboard player, although I've made a small attempt to use a keyboard for some songs, playing the bottom on one side and chords on the other. But that's a lot of work and we won't use it unless we get it done right. That might take a year or more, maybe sooner when we do acoustic gigs in the winter.

    So aside from my paying and our strong vocals, what else can I do to help? I don't think I can add a lot more with technique, but not that I don't stop trying. Or is there more I missed?

    I'm not using any pedals now, what would you guys suggest? I'd think chorus and reverb effects would certainly help fatten things up, maybe a bit of distortion and possibly delay? Flanger or phase shifts? Would compression be counter productive, since I vary how much I dig in on notes on purpose so much? Which of these would be more effective? Maybe I'd be better off with a multi-effects board than individual pedals? But I think I'd like physical things especially with real time blend knobs instead.

    I know it's not very specific and a lot to take in, but what other areas could we be looking at, if any? What would you suggest looking into first? There is a little headroom, maybe a little bass going to the PA, tricks like that? Thanks, any advice would be appreciated.

    Oh, our style. Sort of. We play small to medium bars and such, with everything from Gershwin's Summertime to Crossroads (flat out Wheels of Fire version) to Daft Punk's Get Lucky, with blues, up-tempo country, 60's to 90's rock, Neville Brothers funk and much more in between, even a featured couple of Pink Floyd songs. Basically it's four hours of songs we collectively like, and it varies a lot. Yeah, I know, we're old and weird, but we have fun and folks really seem to like us!

    Thanks again!
    Border, TwentyHz and kikstand454 like this.
  2. Complete personal preference here and apologies if not at all helpful.

    I always like a precision bass and a guitarist who isn’t singing in a trio. I always find the P just fills space nicely (not exactly technical, I know) and a good guitarist can focus on some nice texture and paintwork, without the distraction of a lead vocal. Johnny Marr and Andy Summers spring to mind who do it well! Leave the chorus, delay, verb and looping to them!
    ScotRFM, eyoyo, Stormchaser and 5 others like this.
  3. saabfender


    Jan 10, 2018
    Outside of a dirt pedal on a couple things, I don’t use any pedals for my power trio playing (which I love to do). I may use a rack compressor or maybe not.

    Most of the adjustment I make is writing my own parts to songs that tend to busier than what’s on the record. That and leveraging every time the drum plays a note anywhere. If he plays a note, I’m using that impact. I especially don’t let a single kick go unused. If my drummer is playing more than I can use, I’ll ask him to play less.

    Bottom line, the key to sounding big is by playing tight.
  4. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    IMO outside of looping, pedals will not help fill sound.
  5. Scottkarch


    Sep 11, 2012
    If you get a chance, maybe try out an 8 or 12 string bass. They really can fill up a lot of space. We have 2 guitar players and the 8 is too much with them both playing. But it's cool.
    retslock, G-Dog, PaulJSmith and 5 others like this.
  6. Inara

    Inara Fretless Femme Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    An octave pedal with an "up" option can help, depending on the line and the vibe of the song. Not as cool as the 8 string option suggested above, but it has worked for me.
  7. Rock Salad

    Rock Salad

    Jun 30, 2018
    Tulsa, Ok. USA
    I play drums in a three piece, and our bassist uses distortion or "grit" in it while the guitar has more of an overdrive. It fills pretty well. The grit being brighter and crisper than the guitarist's overdrive which is more midrange. And yes he plays a P.
    OogieWaWa and knumbskull like this.
  8. thewildest


    May 25, 2011
    Beauty is not when there isn’t anything else to add, but when there isn’t anything else to remove.
    barrenelly, tpa, eJake and 4 others like this.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I've played in a couple of power trios. Basically a couple of different directions you can go in...

    One is for the guitarist to really think through how he solos and make sure HE'S not leaving too much empty space the rest of the band has to fill. I once played in a classic rock trio with a guitarist who was great at this - you never felt the sound was emptying out when he soloed. For instance, this jam...

    And related to that, sounds like in part you're already doing it, but you can allow yourself to be a little busier with bass fills.

    Another is just to pick songs that work with the trio and accept that not every song works in that format.

    Another would be to go the effects route. Dirt and chorus each definitely fill in some frequencies, but of course they also affect the flavor of the song. Octaves do it big time. Dusty Hill in ZZ Top has an octave on pretty much non-stop, with an HPF to prevent things getting too muddy when he's at the low end of the neck.

    Or, if you want to invest in it, go full Royal Blood. Split your signal; a bass signal going to a bass amp, and a separate octave-up signal going to a guitar amp. Then that upper signal can get whatever further effects you like. I do this and have an EHX Pitchfork to be able to add in an extra 5th up, creating a power chord, and I can add a fuzz or put it through an organ pedal for more effect. This is what my board looked like a little while ago (it keeps evolving, but I still have the basic concept). The big board to the right is "bass" signal stuff and the little one to the left is "guitar" signal stuff.


    One last thing I've added, to use on a few songs is a foot-pedal MIDI controller. I use one of these: Keith McMillen Instruments 12 Step .

    Yes, there's a lot of stuff around my feet on stage...
  10. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I play more simply during the lead IF I want to fill the sound out. More notes doesn't alway mean a fuller sound. Also, I don't usually worry about it. There is no reason that the band needs to be a constant wall of sound.
    Doug4321, GreyMark, Tryggerm and 32 others like this.
  11. You can try to incorporate power chords into some of your bass lines similar to the way Lemmy did. You can also look into an 8 or 12 string bass. They are a beast to play but the sound is great for some genres. Otherwise, just thump away and enjoy it. If you haven't received any complaints then don't fix what ain't broke. :D
    ScotRFM, retslock, pcake and 5 others like this.
  12. grisezd


    Oct 14, 2009
    Having the drummer go to ride and crashes in place of hi hat during guitar solos helps in my rock band. During the rest of the song enjoy the space and try not to simply double the guitar line.
  13. Oddly

    Oddly Unofficial TalkBass Cartographer! Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    Well said.

    In my opinion, a guitar solo, IF DONE RIGHT, shouldn't need any padding out from the rest of the band.
    That's it's moment to shine, and you or the drummer getting busy detracts from that.

    It may be that you all, on stage, think that things need filling out, but from the front of house it's sounding great.
    Ask some trusted friends to listen and see what they say.
  14. I did it for about a year with my current band.
    I added a 2 10 cabinet and that give me more straight punch and I played the rhythmic guitar part instead of my bass line during the lead to just lay down a strong foundation mostly root fifth stuff. The other thing we found was some songs no matter what we did ever sounded full and kicked them off the set list. Lastly trying rocking flats it give me a fatter sound that really helped me. Oh shoot yeah mic the kick drum that also worked great to get us a much fuller sound if you don't already RTS
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
  15. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    +1 8 string bass. 12 might be over the top, but it worked for Cheap Trick. A decent 8 gets you some rhythm guitar vibe with some double stops. An up octave might work if it tracks well, but they always sound kinda synthetic to my ears. Another option is a bass VI, the Squire model is pretty nice, you can play 2-3 note or whole chords without it getting too muddy.
    Scottkarch and OogieWaWa like this.
  16. rohi

    rohi Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2018
    Start incorporating more chord tones.
  17. OogieWaWa


    Mar 17, 2013
    Oak Harbor, OH
    Thanks for all the input so far folks. I was wondering if the power chord and simply hold came up, and will definitely try that some. Maybe hold on the root and lightly play the 5th and 8th, then I'll have both. I'll look at octaves and a bit of grit. I've got a BP50 to try things with before getting individual effects.

    I'll talk to the drummer about what he can do.

    Finding someone in the audience who knows enough to give good feedback is iffy most times. Hard to get any of my musician friends to come because they typically play the same nights we do.

    Getting an 8+ isn't an option for quite a while; I just like playing my 30th anniversary L2000 way too much!

    I do think I lost something when I switched to LaBella deep talking flats from the stainless Fender flats I've used exclusively for eight years. Nice but not as full. Too bad, I love how they feel. For some reason they actually seem to lack the lows that the Fenders have, i was shocked.
  18. OogieWaWa


    Mar 17, 2013
    Oak Harbor, OH
    Yeah, I didn't make it clear that I'm already doing quite a bit of grace notes and the 1,5,8 together as well as plucking/strumming. But I'll definitely be rethinking that to let them ring a bit.
    kikstand454 and rohi like this.
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    You don't always have to play that second note. Get your pinky or ring finger, and just let the overtones ring out. And as others have said, busier is not always better. The more notes, the less each notes means.
  20. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Well done. The reason that works is because the band is tight and working together. And you and the drummer are doing a great job of filling up any empty space. For a larger band, you would both be over playing, but for a trio, it is necessary. I've done a lot of trio work and this is what it takes. The guitar player also has to fill as much as he can as well.
    hrodbert696, Crazy_Jake and OogieWaWa like this.

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