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

MIDI for bass?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by superbassman2000, Jun 8, 2004.

  1. *mods feel free to move this!*

    so i'm wondering about midi for bass. I have been thinking about it since i saw bela fleck use midi on his banjo. So I have been trying to do my homework on this, and i have seen two types of pickups that i like, the GK-2B, and the graph tech ghost modular pickup system with hexpander pickup (hex pickup). I like the hexpander better as far as looks go, but nobody is able to help me with the graph tech system (http://www.ghostinside.com/product_display.asp?SearchType=brand&brand=Ghost) like how well it tracks and such...

    anyways, thats not my question. I want to know about the box you plug it into. I have heard that you can take a midi bass system and make it sound like any other instrument (woodwind, organs, brass, anything else). I have heard about the vbass and whatever that axon (sp?) thing that people here talk about.
    so my question is, can one of the two boxes i have just listed do that? can they make me sound like a trumpet? or can i also just plug in my midi pickup to any old keyboard sound module ( like this one?-> http://www.musiciansfriend.com/srs7...=key/s=modules/search/detail/base_pid/700504/ ) do synth sound modules work with bass?

    btw i know i probably don't need a midi system, but I would like to know anyhow! :D

    also, if anyone has any info on any of the products i just talked about (especially the hexpander) or has any info they feel i should know before i get to deep into this, please don't hesitate to post!
  2. nobody will even read my post? come on guys, i know i didn't stump everyone here!

  3. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yes you can. The VBass won't do it, it's only a modeler. You need a hex pickup feeding a converter box (the axon you mentioned is supposed to be the best but Roland and Yamaha also make 'em) and that feeds a synth module with patches for trumpet or whatever you want.
  4. well, it sounds like you have a beginning grasp of what you need to start Midi-ing your bass. The GK2b pickup or piezo pickups w/ a 13pin output will work w/ the axon unit or a roland based converter. Once the conveter converts the signal to midi you can trigger synths. So to answer your question you'll need the pickups, a converter and synth modules. The other thing i'll tell you is that on a bass tracking is still a problem, so don't expect Vbass like responses on a midi system.
    I believe John Turner has his basses set up for midi. I've used my Dingwall w/ a GK-2b and the vbass and it works great, but when i tried the Gk-2b to a roland converter to a roland synth module I was less than impressed. It does work thou.Now trumpets, not sure I'd like that patch. i tried a grand piano and a bunch of keyboard patches, they sounded Okay, but spotty
    good luck
  5. ok, well a trumpet was the first thing that popped into my mind...anyhow, thanks for the help everyone, is there a website about all this stuff? maybe one that points out the different options i can take to go midi. actually now that i think about it, brass and woodwind instruments aren't top priorities, but i was thinking about more synth-type sounds, anyone who has heard bela fleck might know what kind of sound i am looking for, well, that and stringed instruments...

    btw, if bass doesn't track very well for the midi stuff i am talking about, should i look at guitars for a good synth, because i can play guitar too!

  6. grovest


    Feb 26, 2002

    You might enjoy reading JT's gear page. http://www.lordonly.net/lojtsyn1.htm From there, you can google on the box he uses. It is a unique system that claims to register notes based on their initial attack sound. In otherwords, it doesn't have to wait for a whole wavelength before it can decode the note (that is, if I am remembering the literature correctly, it's been a few months since I last looked it up). Other, more traditional systems look at the entire wave and compare it to an embedded timer to decode the pitch (these are best guesses, I don't actually know for sure, and certainly some of the algos. are 'trade secrets').

    I think you might have better luck with guitar. Even the manufacturer of the Axon unit - which proudly claims to be the absolute fastest MIDI system - states that guitar tracking is probably faster. This is because notes are formed about twice as quickly ever octave

    As to your other question, about if any generic 'synth module' will work: yes- assuming it has a MIDI in and an analog out, it will probably work. If you see the letters GM in the model or description, it will absolutely work.
  7. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    If you can find one, try to track down an old Peavy Cyberbass or MidiBass. Those are the best bass to midi converters out there. There are individual sensors for each string and fret, and the Cyberbass version actually converts to MIDI within the bass itself. You just need to run a MIDI cable out of the bass into a sound module - very cool. You can split the fretboard up into regions, and can even use certain notes to send control messages. Too bad they had to bury the project due to lack of interest.
  8. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    I've got the Peavey Midibass, it does track very well. It's very rare, but I'd sell it for the right offer . . .
  9. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Don't tempt me!
  10. martens-koop


    Oct 10, 2002

    has anyone ever tried ripping out the frets and electronics from a cyberbass, and re-installing in a new custom built bass? how does the cyberbass work? does each fret have a wire running to it under the fingerboard?

  11. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Why would you do that? Yes there's a wire going to each 1/4 of each fret, and a huge circuit board occupying most of the body. That's a lot of things to screw up trying to remove and reinstall. If the PV isn't high end enough for you, I'm pretty sure another maker used the same switch based system on a limited run of basses. I want to say it was Warwick but I really don't remember.
  12. BenjaminStrange brought up a good point - I played a cyberbass when they were brand spankin' new - they worked around the tracking and response time issues by using slotted frets that were wired to a 3rd set of "pickups" (not pickups in the converntional sense, more like momentarty switches) it did respondd fast enough to get the midi notes to the synth with almost imperceptible latency (there's that evil word again) HOWEVER - as questioned earllier in this thread - dressing the frets (or doing anything on the neck/fingerboard) is very complicated, costs a lot on money, and that service may not be available in your town. (jondog is right - each fret is sectioned diagonally under each string) Also I wasn't impressed with the Cyberbass as a normal electric bass. As a reference, I did select the Peavy Unity 4 string for wy own.

    MIDI works for Bela Fleck largley because he plays a Banjo, where the attacks are very prominent and quick. Pat Metheny uses MIDI but you may notice his choice of synth voices have slow attacks, so the guitar strings sound out just ahead of the synth. When Miroslav Vitous wanted to MIDI his upright, he found that no hardware responded fast enough so he changted his plan - he used it to trigger sampled phrases rather than individual notes (and thus the Miroslav Vitous Orchestral Sample Library was born)

    If you want to have the power of MIDI for live performance, you're going to need to adjust your expectations to fit the limits of technology. If you want to apply MIDI to studio work, get some good quality pitch-to-MIDI software and apply it to your normal bass tracks after they're recorded.

    you may write me if you have questions

    Mac the MIDIator
  13. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS