Noob question: best way to actually hear the bass in the room

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by Soprano, May 31, 2020.

  1. Soprano


    May 13, 2020
    Vienna, Austria
    As somebody of you know, I started playing the double bass a few weeks ago. Complete noob.

    I love the sound of the instrument, but (obviously) changes a lot according to where I position it. So far I found that the best place to ear it well is facing it in front of my tv screen, where the sound rebounds and I can ear it quite well. If I turn it facing the open room, the sound rebounds and echoes everywhere, it's quite unpleasant.

    Do you have anything special you use in your room to maximise the sound quality you get from the instrument ? Any advice ?

    J_Bass likes this.
  2. Martin Spure

    Martin Spure

    Feb 4, 2020
    Playing facing a corner of the room - or any 90 degree angle, like between one side of a cupboard and the wall, reflects the (true) sound of the bass coming back towards you very well.
  3. jazzyvee


    Aug 11, 2012
    I recall reading somewhere years ago Ron Carter recommending that method.
    Martin Spure likes this.
  4. While it's good to practice in a resonant place, I'm gonna play a bit of devils advocate here and mention that you should try practicing in socially dead spots too. Back in college I hung out with a lot of percussionists who played traditional drums from Ghana. Because those drums are so loud, they often had to practice outside because one person practicing could ruin a concert or recording session. One thing they noticed was they would generally get tired more quickly from playing outside than they would inside. So hearing them talking about that inspired me to try it out with bass. It's definitely a huge challenge, but I wound up primarily practicing outside throughout my college days. Practicing outside is hard but helped me a lot. It forced me to focus on good technique because right away I could tell if I was overplaying because I was trying to physically compensate for the lack of a nice sounding room. And it helped with projection in my opinion cause I had to make my sound travel rather than rely on a room. It's getting sunnier here in SoCal so I'm gonna get back into this.

    Now you are a beginner so don't get too hardcore about something like this. What matters most for you is staying inspired. And if playing in front of your tv is inspiring because of how the sound reflects, then by all means keep doing it. Just consider sometimes practicing in dead spots in your house sometimes as that could also be beneficial for you.
  5. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Something to realize is that your core sound wave coming out of the instrument is 10-20 feet long, so it's a little tough to practice in a regular cell-like practice room, or even a normal room in your house and really have any idea what your tone actually sounds like. Ideally you would be in a room that is long enough in some direction so that the full sound wave coming out of your instrument can stretch out, wrap around the wall, and come back to your ear. This will also make you sound much louder to yourself.

    If you can't find a good room, then play with your f-holes facing a corner in a room, and try to be standing at least 6-8 feet away from that corning if you can.

    In college I practiced in a stairwell, because the ceiling was tall enough to get the right effect and actually hear what I was doing.
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  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Corners sound nice. There was a gig I played for a while where I didn’t have to bring an amp because I set up in the corner.

    At home, I ended up gradually changing the acoustics of the music room to make it more pleasant to play and record in. That sort of thing is its own rabbit hole to go down, it worth it in the end.
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  7. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Play the two extremes: a largish tiled public restroom, and a walk-in closet full of hanging clothes. That will show you how acoustically quiet and how acoustically loud your double bass can be. Everywhere else is somewhere in between, and having seen the extremes you'll begin to recognize what causes what.
    Fretless55, Martin Spure and Soprano like this.
  8. Soprano


    May 13, 2020
    Vienna, Austria
    Thanks all for the suggestions (although I don't think I may be brave enough to show up in a public restroom with my bass and start playing lol).

    I practice in our living room which is quite big and pentagon shaped (is a corner flat, with windows on 3 of the 5 walls). I love the room, constantly under sunshine, but there are no many 90 degree corners, just 2 of them, and one is occupied by the bookshelf. I've to free up some stuff on the other one and try.

    I guess material counts as well, wonder if concrete reflects sound better than drywall, or viceversa. Will make some further tests.
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  9. My thought is you should relish playing such a wonderful instrument in such a wonderful room in such a wonderful city! I envy you.

    As for the search for sound, I‘d rotate the bass on its endpin to find the relative compass point that gives you the best practice room aural feedback. But always keep in mind, as said above, every room will be different when you start to play out. Oy! ...and then the amplification conundrum begins.
    Soprano likes this.
  10. bengreen


    Jan 26, 2016
    San Diego
    Had one teacher who constructed an acoustically dead room to practice in (gym mats on all the walls and ceiling). The idea is that a resonant space flatters your sound whereas a dead space exposes your every musical burp and fart and forces you to deal with them in your technique.

    Noticed this for real at an open sub audition once (no screens). All of us were spread out on the balcony of the hall in a beautiful acoustic space to warm up and wait our turn. Was lulled into thinking, "this might just turn out well...I sound pretty good!" Then to a medium sized, carpeted, decidedly not resonant meeting room to play for the jury. Oh dear....
    Soprano likes this.
  11. marcox


    Dec 10, 2007
    This will prepare you for many a gig.
    moles, bassobrutto, neilG and 3 others like this.
  12. Meant sonically dead, but yeah socially dead is applicable right now.
  13. Soprano


    May 13, 2020
    Vienna, Austria
    Thanks Fretless for the nice words, I do enjoy immensely to play the instrument, even just scales or the "Kanon variations".
    Fretless55 likes this.
  14. Martin Spure

    Martin Spure

    Feb 4, 2020

    Just to add to this ....Because you mentioned the odd shape of your living-/practice room : Even if a corner/90 degree angle isn't available in your practice room, just standing with the f-holes pointing straight into a wall (or other flat surface of approximately same height and width of the bass, such as bedroom-door, cupboard-door etc.) about 1-1,5 meters from the surface, will also give you some nice acoustic 'feedback'. This is the reason why you experience a more pleasant sound when standing in front of your tv screen. If the room is carpeted also plays a quite significant role, as this will dampen the sound of the bass in the room, especially if you aren't standing relatively close to a surface.

    Oh... and avoid doors that are being used...or at least use a door that doesn't open up towards you :D (kinda obvious, but thought it wouldn't hurt to mention :) )