Pitch Shifter to compensate for DJ

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by chiefcrunchy, Aug 27, 2003.

  1. I've been lurking on the site for a little while now, and I've been learning a lot. Now I am hoping that I can get some helpful advice.

    I've just agreed to take on what might be the oddest gig of my life to date. I'm going to perform live as the "house bassist" accompanying a DJ... no - not a hip-hop DJ... and not a rap-metal DJ... We're talking about a good old-fashioned bar mitzvahs, sweet-16, retirement parties, etc DJ!

    Aside from anything else you might think, the real trick here is that when the DJ switches songs, there is sometimes a slight shift in the pitch from one track to the next. There is only so much I can do with bending strings to compensate - ya know?

    So I'm thinking I should be able to buy a pitch-shifter pedal with a smooth-rotating pitch control knob - to keep within arm's reach on top of my amp. I hoping that way I'll be able to make adjustments to my pitch when necessary.

    But, I've never really had any experience with pitch-shifter pedals, so I'm not even sure this will work the way I'm thinking it will.

    Any advice on whether this seems like a good approach...? If so, what unit to buy...? Or if this whole debacle sounds like a bad idea to begin with ;)

    I'm committed to do a show for these guys this coming Saturday might, so any feedback would be awesome! Thanks in advance - C.C.
  2. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    What about a digitech bass whammy. You can rock the pedal back and forth to smoothly change pitch. Might be a tad sensitive tho. Don't know if you can set a min and max range.
  3. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    A regular whammy can't, and I don't think a bass whammy can, either. But! The Digitech BP200 has whammy effects, and it can be programmed to bend up or down as much as you like (you could set it to bend up a half-step, and use the pedal to bend in fractions of a half-step). This seems to be a good solution to your problem.
  4. You might run into tracking problems with a pitch shifter.
  5. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    I think it may be time for you to start playing fretless...

  6. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Has the DJ got much sense of pitch? I'm pretty sure a lot of mixing decks come with a speed control that lets the DJ compensate for records that are recorded slightly sharp or flat - maybe he could adjust to you rather than the other way round? After all, he just sets another disk spinning while you've got to concentrate on hitting all the notes...

  7. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Pitch shifter pedal isn't going to work, they track horribly and they alter your sound synthetically. Whammy pedals won't work either, too sensitive, and you can't select the interval or range on the fly like you would need to do (it would be quicker to retune for every song.

    The only thing you can do here is preview all the songs with the DJ, note which ones are "off", and either switch to a different bass that is tuned differently, or use a fretless and "wander" a bit to compensate.

    Some recordings I've experienced are WAY off of standard tuning, so good luck!
  8. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    That would be my approach as well.

    You need a show preview at show pitch.
    Make notes!

    You don't really need to examine the songs per se, unless you are not comfortable with them,
    only the segues.

    Then, when you have this disaster analyzed, you can decide whether to retune, change guitars or
    bend the strings.

    I am a fan of retuning. I think tuning on the fly is a skill every bassist and guitarist should have. I think that you should take your electronic tuner and throw it out.

    I once saw John McLaughlin play a concert with a double neck 12/6 Gibson. He broke a G string on the 6. While he was playing the 12, a roadie put a new G on the 6, John then moved back to the six,
    bent the note to the desired tone, and I saw his hand fly out like a cobra strike and adjust it.
    Once. Perfectly.

    I was in total shock. I had never seen this done.
    Here was a guy who could tune effectively on the fly.

    Later, when was playing my own gigs, I made this a habit. I could hear if the high G or low E was out, and during a pause or open note, out would fly the hand and tweak it. I would never wait to tune during a song break.

    I think retuning is the best option, you really only need 1 string tweaked to do the segue. Then do the rest on the fly. If there is a measure break or so, changing basses might be an option.
    With no break your options are limited.

    Off to build a lap steel slide bass ...:D

    Hope that helps

  9. trouble is that DJ's often adjust the record speed to match the tempos of different records- which probably introduces more tuning problems.

    Beck's bassist Justin Meldal-Johnson said in an interview that there was one song which used an out-of tune sample, and he had to bend every note sharp to match it- not very feasible for complex riffs, or for records that are slightly flat, unless you've got very light strings.

    I'd go for a Bass Whammy pedal- it would allow shifting the pitch while playing.
    or an unlined fretless (I find playing a lined fretless to out-of tune records very awkward).

    out of interest, would a Steinberger trans-trem allow slight tuning changes to be selected and locked in place?
  10. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I'm not convinced the pitch shifter will work. It may let you choose intervals but I suspect the DJ is out by 1/4 or 1/8 of a semitone.

    So far the best suggestion was the fretless idea. Just reposition your hand and VIOLA, you're in tune. Just don't hit any open strings.

    Most DJ CD players now allow your to beat mix tempo's without altering the pitch. Your DJ's gear must be either old or basic.
  11. I have a bass whammy, and it is a BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD IDEA PEOPLE!! The way it works is that it warps the delay of the bass, not the signal of the bass itself. So you can't press the pedal to go up a semi tone, or 1.8th of a semitone. I would stick to the fretless Idea.
  12. Yo - thanks everybody for the outpouring of advice. I was down sick all day yesterday so this is my first chance to reply.

    While the fretless does sound like the ideal solution musically - financially it's a little harsh. Maybe after a few more shows, and a few more paychecks ;)

    As for asking the DJ to handle the slight pitch adjustments... I brought it up, and I just didn't get the feeling the guy was even clear on what I was asking for, so I doubt I could count on him for that. Besides - there's a whole stable full of DJ's in this outfit, and I might work with any one of them at any given time.

    Some of you mentioned tracking problems as a result of pitch shifting... this may expose my ignorance, but what exactly do you mean by that?

    Thanks again for all the responses. You guys are great!
  13. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Tracking problems means you play the note and there's a perceptible pause while the FX box figures out what to do with it.

    Getting used to tuning on the fly by ear might be the best solution - how prominent and complicated a role does the bass play in this set up?

  14. Hey Wulf - thanks for the prompt answer, even though I wasn't NEARLY as prompt in getting back here to read it or thank you for it. Anyway - thanks. I really do appreciate everyone's help. Hope I can be helpful to someone else soon.