P-bass in a Big Band

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

  1. smeet

    smeet Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I’ve been doing a rehearsal big band, and rounds seem to work well for me. I’ve been using a active Roscoe classic PJ, usually 100% on the P pickup. Horns are louder and have more high harmonics than I would have expected. I’m actually turning up about as loud as I do for a somewhat loud rock band, although my touch has to be much more sensitive. So string noise and extra highs are swallowed up or at least greatly tamed. I concentrate on making a nice fat attack, and depending on the style, sometimes muting the notes.
    Groove Doctor and Nashrakh like this.
  2. On bass guitar, always.
  3. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Using a P bass tuned BEAD strung with TIs in my big band.

    Bass player number two uses a bass ukulele.

    Really, no one will truly care, as long as you can play. In my experience, trying to cut through a big band is exactly the opposite of what you want: finding your sonic space. Nothing different than any other band. Playing genre or style appropriate and good time is so much more important.

    (Well, our conductor does kind of dislike the tubby bass uke sound, but it gets the job done)
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  4. sean_on_bass

    sean_on_bass Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2005
    I generally agree and would think just about any string set will do the job well, using EQ to compensate for any minor adjustments.
  5. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Disclaimer: Played a lot of Big Band (both gigging and college), but not in a decade. 2/3 rds on electric, 1/3 DB.I really wanted to play 100% DB but tendonitis ..

    I tried to channel the DB sound mostly by using my hands and neck pu/rolling off the treble. Round wounds.

    The left hand goes "modified" Simandl up the neck, using limited amounts of 4 finger. Prefer to play on E A D strings midway up neck and avoid G

    Right hand is usually a gentle two finger pluck with the meat of the finger curled under the string. Alternate is thumb opposed by index.Got the idea from Joey from NRBQ. Alternate, use side of index finger. Imo, a lot is in the fingers plus palm mute.

    Careful to mute with open strings or rakes. A hair band at the nut might be a good idea.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2018
  6. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Off topic, but why did the Buddy Rich BB move from DB to BG?
  7. I'm estimating it was in part the power and precision of the BG, with the right amp/speaker combination, in high volume situations. Add to that changing musical styles, and changing tastes of how a big band could sound. I'm sure someone can pull up an interview from somewhere...
  8. Probably also it was a lot easier to travel with an electric versus upright bass.

    At risk of pouring gasoline on the fire and turning this into an electric bass thread, the great electric bassist Carol Kaye teaches to use mainly 1-2-4 when playing in the lower parts of the electric bass: "Keep your thumb separate from rest of fingers of your hand, your thumb is your anchor (not your 1st finger), and finger on low frets, 1-2-4-4 move up whole hand with your 4th finger for 4-4 without your thumb moving. The thumb will slightly pivot (turn around slightly, but NOT move, keep it there, it's your anchor while playing). This is for all styles of music except soloing on standards and jazz (1-2-3-4 is OK then) which requires a lot less effort as well as practicing with arpeggios, it's OK to use the 3rd finger but never to take the place of your stronger 4th finger, i.e. octaves are 1 and 4, not 1 and 3, don't turn that wrist sideways!" That's how I learned to play electric bass. Maybe that's old school nowadays, but I agree with her that using 1-2-3-4 on the lower part of the electric is a recipe for hand problems.

    I don't think it matters a lot for playing in a big band whether you have flats or round-wounds on an electric bass. I've played both upright and electric in a big band. Both kinds of strings can sound good on electric bass, but neither will really sound like an upright, because the attack and decay of the note are different on the two kinds of instrument. Not that electric bass is bad for a big band; it's just its own thing. What I personally think does sound bad in a big band is that electric bass sound where the notes run into each other -- that fretless electric sound you sometimes hear. I prefer the precision bass sound where there is some separation between the notes giving a very clear beat and a strong bottom -- think James Jamerson.
    longfinger likes this.
  9. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Agree with Carol on the thumb, but strict 1234 here on BG. Think Ramblin Man in Ab. Hand never moves from the 1/2 position.
  10. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Forgot to mention. HIGH ACTION.
  11. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    Left hand playing technique is almost independent of the style of music. On both electric bass and double bass.
  12. Wow, there's a wide range of opinions here on this one. Here's one more: a bass players first responsibility in this situation is to produce a good sound. You might think that no one notices, but if they don't that's an indication that your sound is mediocre. When it's good, they will notice.

    My favorite on my P-basses in big band is the LaBella tapes. Those are amazing strings. Other flats work fine, but those are by far the best for me. The TIs are great but not very puinchy, and that is the main problem with using electric in big band anyway. I use a lot of the meat on the side of my index finger, and a little bit of foam, and it's a good sound plus covers the role.
    IamGroot likes this.
  13. FenderP

    FenderP Supporting Member

    May 7, 2005
    I've been playing a P-bass (or a variant) for jazz and in big bands since the 80s. My fretted P has always had Rotosound RS77LEs on them, and on my fretless basses, it's either been various black nylon tapewound (over the years have owned G&L, EB, and Rob Allen; depending on the bass some were better than others but generally prefer the RS88 set) or the 77LE (currently on my fretless P).

    Technique and feel has a lot to do with it. Depending on the size of the room and the bass I may roll the highs up or down. You just have to know what sound you want, but people have always liked my tone. Half of the battle is the approach to how you play.
    IamGroot likes this.
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