P-bass in a Big Band

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by rknea, Apr 3, 2018.

  1. rknea

    rknea Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2007
    Boise, ID
    Hi All,

    As I'm improving my UB skills I've been playing my P-bass with round wound strings in a Big Band. I'm thinking about changing strings to flat wounds to get more of a dull "upright" sound. I've tried putting a small piece of foam under the strings and wasn't thrilled with the outcome.

    I know the discussion of flats vs rounds and TI's vs La Bella is almost as volatile as politics but I thought I'd throw this up for discussion and consideration. What are the preferred flats for P-bass in a Big Band setting...or should I just stick with my round wounds.
  2. sing-modulator


    Nov 23, 2014
    use tapewounds. labella medium or light guage black nylon tapes. mute or dont mute, but make sure you get the bouncy feel of an upright into your playing. end of thread.
    Meghans Dad likes this.
  3. Pug the Pig

    Pug the Pig Inactive

    Mar 21, 2018
    Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman 'aint gonna like it.....
  4. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Krivo Pickups
    But Lionel Hampton just might ;)

    If you aspire to play DB in this kind of setting and you’re getting started on it, no time but the present. If you really think you can’t, flats(brand matters less to me)/foam(just barely touching under the bridge to kill overtones) and simandl fingerings can get you closer!
    knirirr and Mvilmany like this.
  5. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I loved the regular Fender Flatwounds. They were stiff, but felt and sounded glorious. (jazz bass)

    Ernie Balls are not quite as good, but close and less stiff, so the compromise was worthwhile to me. I tried both Thomastik and LaBella and they were fine. Nothing sounded better than the cheap Fenders for me, though.

    That said, the bigger the band and the bigger the sound, the less that perfect sound is going to work for you. I came around to GHS Pressure Wounds and/or the Ken Smith equivilant, which are smoothish, like flats, but supple like round wound strings and sound in between. The tone knob will get you the rest of the way and if that doesn't work, minimal eq twiddling definitely will.

    I currently have my first set of DR Sunbeams on and honestly, I can't imagine ever using a different string on my electric bass. They feel sublime and sound wonderful. Not pingy, not lifeless and dull. Every thing that I need is there, nothing is there that I don't.

    You can tame frequencies to get a more woody/wooly sound, but you can't add them if they don't exist. Some of what sounds objectionable to you at home is buried under a big band.
    Lee Moses likes this.
  6. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I think this is something that will matter mostly to bass players. I would stick with your roundwounds and then experience the impact of the decision on the sound of the band and other live musicians for yourself -- what passes for gospel here is a matter of style in real life -- and the musicians you play with will be oblivious to the fact you are using rounds, flats, or a mute at the bridge.

    I played in a big band for a few years and used roundwounds on a Peavey T-40. We did adjudicated music festivals, with one of them with members of the Canadian Brass, and no one said peep about my tone or use of strings. They were concerned about other things -- but not those items.

    Save your money and give it a try. For me, it's sometimes like two worlds -- adamant statements of the way things have to be here on Talkbass, which then fade into insignificance even if I ask experienced musicians in the band what they think about it.
    rknea, Matthijs, HateyMcAmp and 3 others like this.
  7. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    PauFerro speaks the truth. This will not matter to anyone, except you.

    I do find that what I hear and feel does factor into how I play or at least how I feel about how I played, so it's worth dialing things in to suit yourself. If you haven't, make sure your bass is set up so that every note is in tune. There is a reason that Leo called it the "Precision Bass". The good news about BG strings, as opposed to DB strings is that they are not a big investment, so if you aren't digging your current setup, make adjustments until you are, beyond that, execute those charts perfectly and you're doing your job in that band.

    If you want to be a doublebassist, give it time, do your work. Don't feel pressure to rush it, it's not worth it. Nothing wrong with the PBass in the right hands.
  8. I tried all my gear at Big Band rehearsals and loved the following tones the best, in order:
    - Rob Allen Mouse, piezo, La Bella tape wounds.
    - Jazz bass, active EMG's, TI Jazz Flats.
    - passive P bass, old Fodera nickels.
    - old Coronado hollowbody, single coils, TI Jazz Flats, using plectrum > fingerstyle.

    Amp, speakers, room size, and band lineup made a much bigger difference than strings IME.
    PauFerro likes this.
  9. I enjoyed my time using D'Addario Chromes. Flats last a lot longer than rounds. You can keep a set on for a few years without issue.
  10. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    In my experience, higher tension flats, for example D'Addario Chromes and a higher than usual action can make it work.
    Perhaps rounds work as well, if you play then with a higher action.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  11. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    Occasionally I take a EB to my bigband. I actually find my roudwound yamaha works better than my pj strung with flats. As the rhytmic feel between db and eb is very different i prefer not trying to sound like a bad compromise and have fun with the different feel of the eb and add some funk to the occasion.
    Matthew_84 and Jim Dedrick like this.
  12. Ask the bandleader. Experiment with different sounds and as what he or she prefers. What you feel is the best sound may not be the best sound for/in the band (depending on style etc etc).
  13. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    It really does come down to feel more than gear. *Lots* of big-time big bands have used electric bass players exclusively and it can work. I usually play upright with my big band, with smatterings of electric for "modern" charts that call for it either explicitly or by feel. However, for some gigs with very long hauls, small stages, etc., I'll play the show on an electric of some sort: often a Peavey Fury (P-type) or Yamaha BB (PJ-type) with La Bella flats. While the MD loves the upright for old school charts (Basie, Ellington, Miller, Goodman) he's OK with my choices since he knows he's going to get the feel, rhythmic solidity, and impulse that drives his band. If I had any advice, it would be to keep working on your upright playing but mostly strive for a strong, focussed rhythmic and note approach that will help your band, regardless of what instrument's under your hands.
    rknea, Matthew_84 and robobass like this.
  14. I wouldn't worry that much about trying to sound like an upright, it isn't an upright and it won't do the things an upright does well. Try to find your own way into the music and let the instrument speak on its own terms. Do not use Simandl fingering - the best thing the bass guitar has going for it is the four finger spread and the perfect grid.

    I am not saying not to play to the style, but with basic technique and knob twisting you can get a warm tone from a P-bass that should be totally fine as long as the notes and feel are there.
  15. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    I'd use four fingers, but not in a rigid one-finger-per-fret system. For the majority of player, this creates too much tension in the hand and makes smooth transitions from one position to another very hard.
    I'd rather use a mix of Simandl, one-finger-per-fret and guitar/gamba fingerings, that are more related to chord shapes. That way, you use the fingers you need at the moment more relaxed and efficient and have more the other fingers still relaxed and available to mute the open strings.
  16. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Depending on what you put on, flats might bury you further in the mix. I have heard TI Flats are brighter though and might be a good choice. Otherwise the rounds will likely continue to do a good job! Alot of this is just player preference, what sound you want personally.
  17. And I would go with a relaxed one finger per-fret system, the frets mean you don't need to be rigid. The instrument hands over perfect symmetry - anyone who wants weird fingering challenges should just get a double bass!
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2018
  18. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    Good point.
    But honestly: Would you play a bassline like I feel good, or a typical root-fifth-octave thing with four finger technique?
  19. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    I don't think, you need a bright string to cut through a big band, unless you are into 1970s historically informed performance practice. Lower mids are what you need. And a strong clear attack with a natural decay. Flats are really good for that. And while I really like all kinds of Thomastik strings, including their Jazz Flats, stiffer strings might be a better choice.
  20. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    In big band?
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