1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

how to play loud [pizzicato] without amplification?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by ctrlzjones, Dec 7, 2013.

  1. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    What kind of exercises have you been practicing in order to develop a big sound, a good projection, so that you can loose the amplifier as often as possible?

    I know from singers and wind players that it is a question of getting to air around you to resonate with the movements of your diaphragm, using the attached tubes in the body & instrument to synchronize vibrations and give all the particles hanging around you good pushes …

    The acoustics of the room are very important for the spot you are choosing to stand, so that corners are preferable (better arrive before the drummer comes in);
    and a good intonation also helps (the incorrect notes are also smaller, and one can feel the image growing on the good spots with a little vibrato [hey, maybe this is something interesting to follow: how to grow the notes with the modulating movements of your left fingertips]);
    and of course, the set up of the instrument has to be okay, string heights, bridge, sound post and all that ...

    But what can you do with your fingers on the strings to get your sound through, from the inside to the outside?
    It is certainly not a question of playing 'hard' or 'force it', what kills the sound more than helping it grow; neither am I talking about 'slapping'.

    But there ought to be some typical workouts to help the ability of sound distribution.

    This is for pizzicato, of course, bowing is another dimension, where you have certainly more under your hands that makes you a good resonator ...
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    I've only played a few gigs with the noamp. Reading here on what people have to say it's definitely a technique thing that doesn't require force. I want to say also that you have to find a certain sweet spot that gets the most volume with the least effort.

    I tend to get a bigger sound with Ray Browns way of doing it where the index finger almost wraps along the length of the string. You can also play with Dennis Irwins way of doing it and pizz with two fingers together. There's also the aspect of using your body mass from the arm and shoulder and getting your bigger muscle groups in the back as part of it.

    I'd def start with DURRL's video on right hand sound production:

    I wonder very much about how Scott LaFaro is able to get such a big sound while articulating such fast runs. I'd love to be able to get that type of volume.
  3. What works for me technique-wise is to get plenty of finger on the string and "prep" it as my teacher says meaning get a nice pull on it. Imagine shooting a bow and arrow when you play. I use the weight of my arm to pull through the string and stop on the next one. All the while my thumb is anchored behind the fingerboard. It's not about the small finger muscles but the whole arm's mass and gravity. You'll need action high enough to get a good pull. Correct left-hand technique plays a large role as well.
  4. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Before amplification UB players used gut strings and developed pizz technique so they could be heard over the other players. As mentioned above your right hand (full index finger contact, pulling w/whole arm) and left hand technique (strong, accurate placement) is key. Your string height needs to be relative to how strong you are so that you don't strain your hands w/strings too high. Practicing and playing w/out amplification is essential. Youtube has a series of videos of Ray Brown teaching a master class, a must watch
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The way I learned was by being in the same room as a live human being who showed me how to get to a relaxed, tension free approach. It's not really about exercises as it how you approach ANY playing in general. It's also not something that happens overnight. And it's not only about the right hand; arm and shoulder, left hand, arm and shoulder, expectation of pitch, fingerboard familiarity, really hearing the notes you want to play in the arc of your line -all of that contributes to getting the sound out into the room.
    And it is not, of course, infallible. There will always be situations where using a mic May necessary, or where you will absolutely need a pick up and amplifier. But, in my experience, the bigger, more focused and projecting sound you get out of the bass, the easier time you will have getting an amplified sound. If you get a weak, unfocused sound out of the bass, all an amplifier can do is get a LOUD weak, unfocused sound. GIGO.

    My experience has been, if you're performing in an environment like a noisy club, no matter how loud you get, you're never going to be able to "out shout" them and still make a musical statement. I've had much more success "bringing them to me" by maintaining a good acoustic level on the stand and listening to the other musicians, trying to let something musical happen. Even with the most obdurate non listeners, there's a time when a preponderance of folks HEAR that there's something different going on and they become engaged.
  6. jake3

    jake3 Guest

    Aug 23, 2013
    great post, Ed. As I've been posting on another thread - I went no-amp at a gig last night, in a trio with two lightly amplified guitarists. I know the room well and I knew I could carry it with the unamplified bass, and I have to say people dug it. What you say about bringing them to you is so true. HOWEVER:

    I now have a nice, big blister on my right index finger. Any link to blister threads, or other helpful thoughts? I play all the time, and this happened only when I decided to do a gig unamplified.

    I know back in the day bassists probably had calluses in places where I don't even have places. ;)
  7. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
  8. Don Sibley

    Don Sibley

    Jun 27, 2005
    Fort Worth, TX
  9. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Big thing- if your bass isn't dead in tune, and you don't play with excellent intonation, on the bone of the left hand fingers, it doesn't matter what you do with the right hand.

    Where you stand matters tremendously. Use the room to help you. Play at the very end of the board with a focused sound, not a forced sound. Let the notes ring. Make your closed notes match your open notes.

    Listen to Ed. I learned exactly what I *didn't know* about playing the bass in jazz from hearing Dennis Irwin up close in lessons and in concert. It's essential to hear someone with a big sound up close. The difference is shocking.

    Fwiw, I play the majority of my jazz gigs with no amp, or just a little help from the mic. Doing so dramatically changed the way I play, and seems to make the phone ring a lot more...
    Jeshua likes this.
  10. I would also listen to guys like Ray Brown. It's easier to get a big sound if you're familiar with what it sounds like.
  11. I heard the Evans trio in Birdland in 1960. In fact, LaFaro did not have a big sound. He was almost inaudible to the audience, no matter what you hear on the recording.
    The major question bassists asked one another when he came on the scene was "Would you give up the volume he does to be able to play like that?" At the time, amps were not in general use.
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Thanks Dono for that insight.

    F***IT I'm using an amp! ;)
  13. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    Thank you all for the statements.

    It seems to resume in a question of personality. Play yourself in a clear way, be confident; relax, enjoy the moment & the sound. Don't try to hide. Don't play things that aren't worth to be be played, but feel and stand behind what you want to say. The inner projection (this small interval of anticipation) seems to be playing a big part in all that.
    Make a statement. Communicate with the situation: the instrument, your [inner] body, the room, the other players (if they are sensitive enough), the audience (if they are sensitive enough).
    Listen to other bass players, that are capable of doing what you try to achieve & go into that, let your body and mind copy them.

    I like all of that. But it still is somewhat esoteric ...

    Is there something a can do, 10minutes a day, to get there?
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Yes, get a teacher that has a good physical approach.
  15. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Ed, that's cute, but apt.

    FWIW, there's this silly assumption that with a modern setup you can't get facility and sound in the same place.

    Anyone who adheres to that notion has never been lucky enough to see and hear Christian McBride or Ray Brown up close and in person, acoustically.

    We should all note the dozens of professional orchestral players making a living in the US playing the bass LOUD without compromising execution, speed, and articulation. The bow really isn't that different from a jazz pizz. Getting a great sound out of either takes great teachers, a good setup, a perfect left hand, and years of experience playing on and off the stage.
  16. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    aahh, this was way too fast, Ed (fast Eddie, the color of money, how shooting billiard related to walking basslines is a totally different question).

    I am on your side;
    but let the others join in ...
    Just to see if there is something coming from personal/universal moments to shed some light on the loudness factor ...


    -- edit (@ ChicagoDoubler):
    I actually just was in a masterclass hold by McBride acoustic in a large hall, and hallucinating: how does he do that: this presence, unamplified bass (and not even his instrument) And I asked him: how do you do it. And he said, "well I had to, when I was playing with RB in a bass trio, nobody heard me soloing".
    So: more secrets but no tricks revealed ...
    uhm, maybe there are no shortcuts, never, seems that one have to go through and learning the hard way.

    --2cnd edit
    Mr. McBride also said that the old cats didn't explain nothing when one was asking them.
    This is a way of teaching: I love you, but better you figure it out yourself ... And I'll tell you when you are done.
    But this is not how forums should be working ...
  17. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    You need the technique but you also need a bass that projects even with the action low.

    The bow is way different from Jazz pizz is very different from orchestral pizz, how do I know this? I have a friend with amazing facility with the bow and her orchestral pizz is phenomenal too, notes bloom like orange blossoms, but her Jazz pizz...not happening. I grab her bass, boom boom boom, give the bass back to her, plink plink plink. I've explained to her the pulling with the whole arm back thing with as much meat on the string, still: plink plink plink. She'll get it eventually it takes time even with someone showing you.
  18. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    In an effort to attain the mojo of the elders one must duplicate the exact conditions that the elders flourished in. :D
  19. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    I was gonna say...

    1. Practice scales
    2. Long tones with a bow
    3. Learn transcriptions from those you want to emulate
    4. Practice your tone production
    5. Learn how to do the above with a qualified teacher
    6. Learn melodies, lyrics, etc. and play them all with accurate intonation
    etc. etc.

    Sound familiar?
  20. ABlueJazzBassist

    ABlueJazzBassist "Always play beautifully."

    Dec 26, 2012
    In my classes with Lynn Seaton we covered how he gets a big sound out of a bass (notably, he uses a pretty low action.) He covered two techniques, (he also commonly uses a third that remains unexplained) one is called the wave and the other is two finger. The wave is basically where you rest your thumb along the fingerboard side (not behind) and then you basically perform the motion you'd use to pick up a small object with your thumb and index. Its like a pinching motion between thumb and index. You can close the other fingers or leave them open handed so it looks like you are waving goodbye to someone. For video, look up Sam Jones or Charles Mingus, that's what he used to teach us. Importantly, Lynn doesn't like the wrist to motorcycle, he says he thinks the energy goes to waist (I'm pretty sure Chris Fitzgerald says motorcycling protects the wrist, so its not like there's one way of doing things.) Basically, my experience with the technique is its like pinching the string. You pull using all the meat of the finger up to the first (lowest) knuckle. For me this technique is a little awkward for string skipping, but definitely gives a great attack to the note and makes it really sing and pop into existence with great sustain. When I'm walking on the G and D strings it feels really great at a medium tempo.

    For two finger, he basically said put your hand perpendicular to the fingerboard like an bass guitar, and really work on making sure to have one finger up and ready to go whenever the other one is stroking down. As in every time one finger plucks, the other is already lifted and ready to strike. He also differentiated his technique from Eddie Gomez. Eddie, if you watch a video, is hammering down onto the string, causing the string to bounce up and down into the fingerboard. Lynn Seaton says that he's more plucking from the side causing the string to vibrate sideways. Personally, I find it more natural to play in that Eddie way, but without a higher action, you'll probably get lots of clacking ( I do.) which I don't really like. I've found to play Lynn's way almost requires a floating thumb ala slab to do properly. For me, it's hard to get the power I need.

    Important note that he made though, regardless of if your amped or not. Your solo is going to sound wimpy if its not at a volume level at least at if not above your walking. Bass solos often sound weak and less energetic because the volume drops. Therefore Seaton advises bringing an amp, so you don't have to work very hard to be heard walking. That way you have plenty of headroom for your solo. Anyways, he would always say this this is just his way of playing and that there are many other ways, and I'm just a college student, but maybe this will at least provide some food for thought.