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Juilliard Jazz & The No-Amp

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by ba$$88, Jun 13, 2004.


  1. ba$$88

    ba$$88 Guest

    Jun 13, 2004
    I heard Julliard's Jazz program doesnt let their bass players use amps, and they only have double basses in their bands!! Is this true??
    Also is their Jazz program good? :eek:
     
  2. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ
    that would make sense since ben wolfe is the bass instructor and he never uses an amp. by the way his trio was playing opposite my quartet in a club in nyc and i sat in the first chair in front of the bass and could barely hear him over the drums and sax..couldnt really make out any pitches either, just some low thumps (even during the bass solos). cool if that's what you're into...
     
  3. grovest

    grovest

    Feb 26, 2002
    Oregon
    I have heard players that subscribe to this philosophy play live and I would compare it to having a conversation with a brilliant person who doesn't brush his teeth or eating a fine steak on a paper plate.

    However, I do think practicing (by yourself) without an amp as much as possible does encourage better tone and greater endurance.
     
  4. abaguer

    abaguer

    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    It sounds like a good idea in order to get the students to get a sound out of their instruments which is the first step in getting good tone, unamplified or amplified. That said, most name jazz bassists who played during the days when you played unamplified said they would never go back to that way because you couldn't really hear yourself in a loud band and it was an awful lot of work for little sound.

    Ben Wolfe is one of my favorite bassists but I remember seeing him with Harry Connick's big band in mid 90s and couldn't hear him unless the band dropped down to just piano drums and bass.

    I'm sure there are a lot of people who will chime in on this. I
     
  5. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ
    However, I do think practicing (by yourself) without an amp as much as possible does encourage better tone and greater endurance.[/QUOTE]


    i totally agree. we're getting into a very touchy subject now and some no amp guys will start to get pissed. i'm not passing judgement, but if you're playing in a trio and the bass cant be heard in the first chair in front of the f holes, then i'd say there's something wrong. ben would probably say that he projects and that people can hear him, but that night i couldnt. i also have to say that there was alot of conversation noise in this club too.
     
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There are going to be no amp guys that get pissed, because they are making a philosophical decision, rather than a practical one. You do whatever it takes to be heard in a given situation. But (as a non-philosophical no amp guy) there are more situations in which you can forgo an amp, if you work on it. And, as I have said countless times in the past, every gig I can do without an amp makes me want to do more gigs without an amp. There is NOTHING like the acoustic sound of a
    double bass.

    I have a very nice amplifier and a very nice microphone and a very nice pick up. I will be using my very nice amplifier this evening because I will be playing outdoors, with a keyboardist who will be ampedand drummer, and there is no PA (garden cocktail party at the Cooper Hewitt). But Sunday I played a wedding in a largish room with an acoustic quartet (tenor, piano, drums) with no amp and no problems being heard.

    Damn, I can't run them down now, but Nick Ara, Don Higdon have both posted some commentary here about hearing me at gigs while playing acoustically. Additionally Ray Parker, Olivier and Jason Sypher who post here have heard me acoustically, they should be able to tell you if I was not being heard past the f holes.

    I think the whole point that the Juiliard cats (and others, check out the interview with Neal Miner and then check out his records) are trying to communicate was rather succinctly put by Rufus Reid ( who plays acoustically when he can, uses a mic and/or pickup when he needs) if you get a thin puny acoustic sound out of the bass, when you amplify it you get a LOUD thin puny sound. It's not about PRACTICING acoustically only, you have to get the bad boy out in the trenches and work on getting that sound. Jimmy Blanton did it, OP did it, PC did it. You can too.
     
  7. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    From my experience at SUNY Purchase, you don't need an amp for the ensemble playing that you'll be doing. The rooms aren't usually that large and most students are focused on listening and dynamics is also a part of the lessons to be learned in group playing.

    In the real world, you have more variables, sometimes you don't know the size of the room, the people you're playing with or how many people are going to be at the venue. Coming to a gig without an amp under those conditions, i.e. so many unknowns, to me reflects lack of experience or a fanatical devotion to a purist ideal.
     
  8. mxr255

    mxr255 Supporting Member

    Jul 21, 2003
    Williamsport, PA
    In the first rehearsal I had with a big band in College the director made me unplug. It was just an exercise to build my strength and my tone. He wanted me to "dig in" and be more aggressive with my pizz. I think it helped immensely. I still practice without an amp and play small trio stuff without an amp, but to drive a big band I really feel I need to amplify myself. A player has to learn how to dig in and get the style down before plugging in. Just my opinion. Good Thread.
     
  9. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I think it is a great practice to play unplugged. I would say I can pull it off in most situations that I play. My trio usually consists of Bass, Guitar, and Drums. My summer is pretty busy playing at the wineries in my area, and I have no problem being heard. However, when I play with the Solid Brass big band(17 piece), there is no way I could pull it off acoustic. All of our gigs are outdoors.

    One thing is for sure....when I started playing acoustic more often, the quality of my sound increased 100%. I can also thank Ed for tipping me off!
     
  10. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ
    i really hated it when i was in college and non-bass playing ensemble instructors told me to "dig in" or "pull harder". i would look at them with the utmost of contempt and tell them that i'm digging in mentally. they can ruin a young bass player's technique and touch this way. the young eager bass player is anxious to impress, but in the mean time he is trashing his technique and possibly injuring himself . i wanted to tell the trumpet instructor to smash the trumpet into his lips harder in order to get the high notes out or tell the drummer that he can only swing if he's "digging in" and smashing the hell out of the kit.
     
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Do they have you dealing with that medicationally or has therapy been helping?

    Even more than the "philosophically inclined" no amp bassists, I love hearing from the "I don't do this because I hate my high school/college band director" must amp bassists.
     
  12. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ

    obviously you missed the point. the point is that a person who doesnt play the bass shouldnt give technique pointers on an instrument that he an no concept of... it's as ridiculous as me trying to give a trumpet lesson. the bass is very complex, and for some guy who has no clue telling someone to pull harder can do alot of damage to a bass player. usually when they want you to "dig in" it's because they want you to drive the band more. if anything, pulling harder will make you drag the tempo which has the opposite effect of what he's trying to get. we all know that it's easier to play when relaxed, no matter what the instrument. if a guy is not driving the band to the instructurs satisfaction then it's probably a conceptual problem relating to where the beat is and where to play on the beat, not a matter of pulling the strings harder. i'm surprised i even had to explain that.
     
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    And I'M surprised they haven't doubled your meds. Having some anger management issues today? Every day?

    Just remember, Ben Wolfe isn't responsible for what's going on in your head (no matter WHAT those voices say), YOU are.
    Calm, placid blue ocean....
     
  14. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ

    geeze you seem to be taking all this ver personally. i guess you've heard all this before a few times... i never said that ben wolfe says to dig in. i never said he wasnt a good bass player. all i said is that i couldnt hear him when i saw him. you replied by telling me how good everyone can hear you, which wasnt even the issue. sorry if you're catching alot of heat these days about your playing. you know what they say, practice makes..... anyway, i made my point above about digging in and pulling the strings harder. it's counterproductive. anyone who's studied an instrument would know that. perhaps a few lessons are in order? the issues about driving a band are purely conceptual. they have nothing to do with pulling hard or even volume for that matter. its a matter of placement of the note at particular places on the beat. by the way, ben wolfe does not pull hard. he's very relaxed when he plays. since he's actually a bass player i seriously doubt that he would tell anyone to pull harder. good tone isnt a matter of pulling harder either, it's a matter of having the technique and touch to coax a good tone from the instrument. i just want to warn young players like the one who commented above that sometimes college band directors are going to try to tell you to dig in and pull harder which is not exactly what they want to say. what they're really saying is that they want more drive from you, but they dont know how to communicate it properly. just nod your head and try to swing harder in your mind, and the rest will follow. many times its just a matter of playing more on top of the beat, especially in a big band, but that's a generalization. every situation is different. pulling harder usually makes you play more on the back of the beat and therefore sounds like you're dragging and it kills the whole groove.
     
  15. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS

    Sorry, but this is just pure bull****.

    Pulling harder makes you play on the back of the beat?!?! ON what planet? Sure would have been news to Ray Brown and Mingus back in the days of no-amp. I play amplified usually around here because the clubs here are huge in physical size, but I play no-amped every time I get the chance, and I'll guarantee I'm ALWAYS on the top of the beat.

    Our trumpet player doesn't play bass, but he has played with some of the best in the world, and he has commented to me that fingertip non-digging in players usually don't groove (as opposed to killing the groove like the no-amp guys :rolleyes: ).

    I just don't buy that you need an amp to be heard. It was eye opening for me this summer when I played outdoors acoustically when the fraternity we were playing for neglected to get the electricity turned on at the park theater. It was a bass, sax, drums trio, and it amazed me how far away in the park people would groove to the music, even when it was a bass only solo.

    Don't knock it until you've put in the effort to achieve it.

    Monte
     
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Man, this all seems like crossed wires to me.

    The human tendency, on all instruments, experienced and inexperienced players alike, will tend to drag when playing at ffff. It only takes a big band gig or two to realize that you're about a mile ahead of the horns when they start turning pink. Being aware of the effect I usually try to remember to open a third eye (no funny comments, Ed) when dynamic change drastically to make sure that I don't stray from the groove.

    Beginning players will almost always get the 'dig in' comment from almost everyone they play with -- and this is usually because of tone or feel, and usually both. That comment taken to the newbie's teacher should get the proper translation.

    I love playing without an amp, and tend to hedge on gigs where I have the amp but would rather hear the bass. But when it comes down to it, when you're in a bad room, with a loud band, etc, you just have to turn the damned thing on. Unless you're working for a superstitous leaer who thinks an amp makes the music non-jazz, showing up to not be heard is, in my opnion, unprofessional. Kinda like a carpenter showing up without a hammer.
     
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Oh, my dear friend SHAWSHANK, thanks so much for the amusing response. It's not often I get the chance to expound so freely.

    "geeze you seem to be taking all this ver personally." All what ver? Or are you channeling Elvis "Thank you ver much". Maybe you need to up the meds again, that might steady you down.
    But personally? How so? Have I responded "How dare you say that about me?" or some such? Please rest assured, I'm only pointing and giggling because you look kind of funny, getting all red and spraying while you're yelling.
    "i guess you've heard all this before a few times... Heard all what?

    "i never said that ben wolfe says to dig in. i never said he wasnt a good bass player."
    And if you look very, very closely (OK, not even all that closely) you will see that I never said that you DID say that. Focus seems to be an issue, here.

    "all i said is that i couldnt hear him when i saw him. you replied by telling me how good everyone can hear you, which wasnt even the issue." No, that's not all you said. Unless it's another personality
    So, when you talk about
    1. no amp guys getting pissed
    2. basses not being able to be heard past the f-holes

    and I am a non-pissed no amp guy and I have actual verifiable experience of being heard past the f-holes (like Levar Burton says, you don't have to take MY word for it. That's why you got a list of names of folks you can e-mail to see if they could hear well, had to strain to hear, were sitting in the first chair and couldn't hear anything past the f-holes). And, just like you get to type about your experience, I get to type about mine.

    sorry if you're catching alot of heat these days about your playing. you know what they say, practice makes.....
    Thanks for your concern. I'm deeply, deeply touched.

    "anyway, i made my point above about digging in and pulling the strings harder." Yup. And made it in such a way as to cause concern in me for the aobvious psychological trauma that seems to have ensued. Did little SWAMPMUCK get passed over? Did he get yelled at by the big bad director? Why oh why does he HATE so much?

    " anyone who's studied an instrument would know that. perhaps a few lessons are in order?
    Thanks for your concern. I'm deeply, deeply touched.


    "the issues about driving a band are purely conceptual. they have nothing to do with pulling hard or even volume for that matter. its a matter of placement of the note at particular places on the beat." I gotta ask, you just out of school or what? This insistence on absolutes smacks of youthful exuberance. No, they are not PURELY conceptual. The issues of driving a band are not PURELY any one factor. Beat placement, line development, note choice, volume (not just decibel level, but the "3 dimensionality" of your sound), interactivity of players - ALL of these factors and more are what gives the music forward momentum.


    "by the way, ben wolfe does not pull hard. he's very relaxed when he plays. And has developed the technique to stay relaxed and get a big warm open sound. Which has a lot to do with doing as many gigs as you can without an amp.


    " since he's actually a bass player i seriously doubt that he would tell anyone to pull harder. good tone isnt a matter of pulling harder either, it's a matter of having the technique and touch to coax a good tone from the instrument. Yes, this is a good point. You don't play harder, you play smarter. I get a bigger sound playing relaxed than a lot of cats who play tense. But I can stay relaxed and pull harder than cats who are tense and trying to pull harder with bad technique. But the bottom line is, you use what technique you need to to get to the sound you have in your head. And you try to get an instrument that makes that easy, not hard.

    i just want to warn young players like the one who commented above that sometimes college band directors are going to try to tell you to dig in and pull harder which is not exactly what they want to say. what they're really saying is that they want more drive from you, but they dont know how to communicate it properly. just nod your head and try to swing harder in your mind, and the rest will follow. many times its just a matter of playing more on top of the beat, especially in a big band, but that's a generalization. every situation is different. pulling harder usually makes you play more on the back of the beat and therefore sounds like you're dragging and it kills the whole groove. Warn away. Just try to do so without the spittle flying, you sound like a crazy man and it makes me point and giggle. You might also want to warn all of those young players that one of the reasons that they aren't getting more "drive" no matter how loudly they turn up that amp is because the amplifier is not going to provide a clear, projecting focused sound with a lot of bounce. Unless they are getting a clear projecting focused sound with a lot of bounce out of the bass to begin with. Nodding your head is good, with your band director. Talking about your physical approach with your private teacher is better.
     
  18. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Well, I'll definitely agree with this. What's the point of not being heard? I'll bring an amp any day over this. However, I think people exaggerate the need for an amp in all situations. I remember (and cringe) hauling an amp to living room rehearsals about 3-4 years ago.

    Monte
     
  19. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    The fact is that there are a lot of variables and each person has to decide what is right for them. Many of us would love to be able to play without an amp all the time but the reality is that very few of us can do it in all situations (and be heard). As a bassist, I have a role to fulfill and if I can't be heard, it's going to affect the whole band.

    I am somewhat into the Ben Wolfe thing but I also realise my physical limitations. I'm a small guy - 5' 6", 120 lbs with average size hands. Many of the guys that can or used to do the no amp thing are big guys with huge hands and fingers like sausages (as my teacher would say). I'm really into PC too - guess what? He was a huge guy. As I said, there are many, many variables.

    I think too that (since Ben Wolfe was mentioned) that there is a typically a certain sound that goes with playing unamped. Not always but often. Ben Wolfe for example plays on the Pirastro Chordas - seriously big strings - 2 unwound and 2 wound gut.

    I tried using the Chorda set playing without the amp. Believe me I tried very hard to make it work but I could not. Part of it is technique, part of is my bass, part of it is the situations I play in, etc. I am somewhat there in that I use a full gut set with only the Chorda G unwound (the others wound) and a mic but I simply can't do what Ben Wolfe does. Apart from the physical limitations, part of that is the sound. As much as I love that really full-on PC gut sound, I realised that I play more than just straightahead jazz and the sound just doesn't work for a lot of other stuff.

    I can understand some of the points shwashwa is making. Firstly, it is not impossible to injure oneself by insisting on playing without an amp when truly it is not feasible. And again, when it comes to physical size (and yes I know there are exceptions), Ben Wolfe is built like a linebacker. He'd probably be quite effective in that sport. I on the other hand would not only be ineffective - I'd probably sustain some serious injuries. Secondly, there definitely are people out there that try to talk about stuff that they have no idea about.
     
  20. Ed's being obtuse here. Playing harder than you used to over a prolonged period can be dangerous or at least lead to ill-advised coping techniques such as grabbing the fingerboard, not that it did OP any harm I supose.

    Playing unamped can be as much a lesson for the rest of the band in playing so the bass is heard clearly. This isn't always a matter of volume or register. Just as bass players shape their sound to be heard the same goes for the rest - particularly drummers with dark splashy cymbals. For pianists, it can be about placement.

    But at one time, people often expected no more of the bass live than to hear a thump in the distance. Now, thanks to hours of high-fi listening and amplification in general, people expect to hear it clearly. And the bass, being what it is, is usually louder in front than above meaning I don't hear my poor intonation when drowned out, but those in front of me do - oh joy - this is learning I can do without.

    As pointed out elsewhere in TB, Ron Carter teaches the oposite - "always use an amp, play only as strongly as you need to bring out the subtleties of the bass" or something very simmilar.

    The ubiquity of amplification has spoilt audiences - they expect live music to be played at a higher volume even in jazz. Jazz megastars set the trend when they turn up to every hall with a bus-load of unecesary electronica to venues that need nothing.

    Finnally, I take issue that playing unamped means getting a stronger tone that therefore amplifies better. Its not the volume, its the quality of sound, and the quality of sound is not dependant on being able to play unamped. You can play loud and feebly acousticaly too. I'm convinced my tone has improved now I don't try and knock seven shades out of the bass all the time. I think Haden has talked about being gentle with the bass and in Tone and Queries by a drummer who's name I've forgotton, is an older interview with Ron Carter again who says something like:

    "the bass can only take so much vibration - after a certain point it clams up"

    and

    "I haven't played for six months but I can still get my fat tone - its all about control, not strength"

    Now obviously this thread isn't a fan of these ideas but I think people are confusing strength with quality as much as I wonder if Carter wasn't exagerating a little. What playing accoustically acheives is that nothing is added to the tone by the amp - you are hearing and responding to what you put into the bass. And beyond a certain strength of tug on those strings the response I get is ugly and it sounds choked. However, I do freely admit that below a certain threshold, the full quality of sound is not developed, but I've found that whilst playing late at night trying not to be overheard, it can be very low. Perhaps an exercise to develop is playing at low volume with the quality of normal delivery?