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Musical trio - empty sound: Need help

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by trackskinz, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. trackskinz


    Nov 1, 2011
    We have been unable to acquire a lead guitar (that will stay and not become an ego problem), so for now we are a solid drummer, a rhythm guitarist that is capable of some lead work, and me on bass. I tend to be a McVie type bassist, but after listening to our video of our first gig I realize how empty we sound at times.

    Clearly I need to bring more to the game, almost playing rhythm parts especially during lead guitar riffs.

    I am exploring ways of filling out our sound, from merely playing 2 -1/8 notes in some places where a 1/4 is now, to altering tone, to ...??

    Advice? Ideas?
  2. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Listen to The Police for starters. Andy Summers was not s lead plaurr at all on tje conventional sense. Their sound was full when necessary, but they made good use of space as well.
  3. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I have the same problem in my trio. When the guitar takes a lead it sounds empty. Sometimes I can add some notes, but there's a limit, especially if it's a country tune that REQUIRES root/fifth all the time. Sometimes I can hit fifths (root and fifth simultaneously), but that is rare. I think it just may be the way it is for a trio.
  4. My guitar player got an Akai Headrush and learned how to use it. Record the rhythm part during the verse, press play and solo over the top of it during the lead. It's a neat invention.

    I've found that adding distortion and more notes to the bass doesn't do much for "filling the sound".. That's usually up to cymbals and guitars.
  5. Good suggestion. They also had tight arrangements and (often) short song lengths.
  6. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    My first cover band was a trio with an excellent guitarist, but he was adamant that he be the only guitarist in the band. Here's the tricks that I used.

    some basses will let you play chords up high pretty effectively, others get boomy as you move up the neck and make your chords sound muddy. If you're playing with a pick you can do root and fifth chords on your two highest strings easily, with fingers it takes some practice.

    Move between the root, third and fifth of whatever chord you're on, only playing one note at a time. or Whenever you're using an open string, add higher notes (third or fifth) on accent beats.
  7. rust_preacher


    Dec 17, 2009
    Would your style be OK with a synth or octaver sound?
  8. EQ the band to fill in the sound. depending on the kind of music perhaps some kind of effect.
  9. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I like a drummer who can fill in a bit more when in a trio and the guitar drops out to solo etc. A good trio will have spaces in their music and its cool as long as its tastefull.
  10. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    +1 to both of the above comments. I prefer 1 guitar bands because of the space it leaves.

    Also, listen to Rush, Kings X, Cream. Obviously, those bands have very capable lead players, but when they take a solo it all still sounds nice and full. My band gets that a lot..."You guys sound so full for just being a trio..." and we have been denied gigs because the booking agent thinks that a band needs to be a 4 or 5 piece to sound full. But they have never even heard us play.
  11. There's usually a few general rules for filling up the sound, and it's often NOT about playing chords, busy bass lines, synth pedals or any of that. If a solo guitarist, a good drummer, or even some killer bassist like Michael Manring can do it with basic, not at all fancy equipment, so can even the most mediocre of trios. Combined, y'all have way more versatility then anyone playing solo. So, IMHO, it always goes back to dynamics, technique, listening to everyone, everyone else listening to everyone else, and good feel.

    Here's how to start on the right path:

    1. Play distinctly, filling up your space sonically well.
    2. Get everyone else (drummer, keys or guitar) to play distinctly, too, but not stepping on the other distinctly played parts (including the vocals).
    3. Don't overplay. Less really is more, usually, with all the instruments (and sometimes vocals).

    A great example of those is in Primus's "Tommy the Cat." - Every note Mr. Claypool plays is very, very distinct and accurate, and he's hitting them hard to pull some big notes out of them. During the verses, he even stops playing in Tommy the Cat and only three 16th notes at the start of the bars in "Harold of the Rocks." In fact, during the verses, there's pretty much only drums, yet the sound is full because the drummer is rockin' it, and playing very distinctly and drawing a whole lot of tone out of those drums.

    As a whole, both of these songs, as well as almost any trio's songs, are very, very dynamic. There are parts where there are breaks where there is literally no sound coming out of anyone's instruments, even the drummer.

    As Salcot mentioned, listen to the Police. That's a great example... simple bass lines with lots of space in them. Same with the other guys in the band. Then there's Rush or King's X, or other Primus songs. There's tons of others out there in almost any genre. Listen to other trios (and four-pieces that have a singer that doesn't play anything), and figure out what they're doing, how they're interacting with the drummer and everyone else in the band. Also, you can look at some funk bands... While they might have 10 guys on stage, most of the time, they're playing nothing or very minimally so that all you really hear is bass and drums.

    Sometimes, it is about getting a synth pedal or an 8-string bass, but the truth is that it rarely really needs any of that. 99% of the time, if you have good technique and are versatile, you can usually pick out a good bass line that'll fill up the space.
  12. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    The indie rock trio I was in made allot of noise for a 3 piece. The drummer filled in allot with cymbal work and fills. I added effects pedals to make my sound full and powerful allowing it to double the guitars volume and distortion.
  13. Raymeous


    Jul 2, 2010
    San Diego
    If guitar guy/gal plays tastefull solos that mimic or at least hint at the main vocal melody that can sometimes fill in for that perceived lack of "completeness". Roland PK-5 bass pedals and a cheap synth would also work out nicely.
  14. geddeeee


    Jun 30, 2006
    I play in a 'power' trio and we have been complimented on our 'full' sound.

    When the guitarist takes a solo, I usually play a bit harder and throw in some passing note phrases to fill in the spaces. This usually does the trick... It's all about the tone too.
    I play a Ricky bass, so the added treble clank from playing harder, fills in some of the space that would be taken up by the guitar. Seems to work well.
  15. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    Do you all sing? If all three of you can sing it gives you a lot of options. The voices are essentially another polyphonic instrument.
  16. Yep. Also, when the guitarist goes solo, the vocals will be absent (typically) which further lends to the "empty" sound. In this case, both bass & drums need to find a way to fill the "rhythm guitar void" while keeping up with their normal duties. It can be difficult to do, but extreme dynamics can be achieved under these conditions and powerful rocking can be had by all.
  17. trackskinz


    Nov 1, 2011
    I had considered this; I play without effects at the moment.
  18. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I play a Fender Jazz, and when the one guitarist does a solo, I often will pluck very aggressively, down by that bridge, and get a kind of "Geddy" or "Squire" sound. The rest of the time, I play more lightly, up by the neck. When I'm down by the bridge, I do throw in more notes. I don't always do this, but I think it's been working out pretty well.
  19. DrSpunkwater


    Sep 17, 2012
    You're probably fine playing the way you are. I'm willing to bet your guitarist is lacking, and he should concentrate on becoming a better guitarist. In this instance, he's not playing rhythm or lead, he's simply playing guitar. This means playing partial chords, playing rhythm and lead lines at the same time, and using full chords when appropriate to create emphasis.

    You may need to play bass differently as well. If the sonic space sounds too empty to you, fill it. You may need to play "lead bass" in order to get the sound you want. But I'm willing to bet, if anything, that your guitarist needs more dynamics in his playing.
  20. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    i play in a trio-love the space and simplicity of the trio band dynamic.
    we all sing too which helps fill it in.
    i like to hear everything that goes on and a trio allows for that due to space; it allows everyone's instrument to be heard. subtle nuances that would be lost now take on a bigger meaning.
    space is good