playing bass live - keep it simple?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by kucor, Jan 1, 2016.

  1. Hi and happy 2016.!

    Will try to explain this best I can with my poor English.

    I play in a cover band, pop, pop rock, funk - music for fancy parties, everyone in the band are at least very good musicians, with feel for dynamics and groove.

    We play parties for 100-400 guests, mostly clubs, restaurants, wedding venues, and 10-20% outdoor gigs.
    The sound guy is an local sound engineer, pretty experienced and with very good quality gear (digital Midas, Turbosound, EV...).

    so, recently I have got some HD tapes from our gigs, recorded by professionals, and my bass sound is...well, not good at most of the indoor gigs. I've been visiting lot of similar gigs when I go out and it isn't a big deal - most similar bands have poor bass sound, but with one big diference - their bass players don't care - they even go direct to the FOH mixer with no DI or sound guy at all:D

    I invested lot of time and money in my gear, playing lakland 55-01 with sadowsky preamp, Nordy fat stack pickups and always new strings, Diamond compressor and Avalon U5 to FOH. sounds ridicioluus good on my amp or on recorded tapes, but on FOH not so well.

    so first question is about gear: best live bass sound with similar music/band I heard was with 70's fender precision, more than just one time. His playing was simple with no "Jaco notes", but bass cut well with it's specific low middles. Could it really be that simple? Get a "prec" and rock? I've been thinking about trying to mic my cab with top class mic (Re20, pr40, M88) first, but don't know what to expect, neither our sound guy does.

    ps, in my country Stingray 5 is the "giging standard" but they sound like c*ap in the live mix.

    Second question: My bass sounded great on a few outdoor gigs, but higher notes, especially on G string did not cut the mix at all or sounded thin (except of pop/slap). Both bass and my technique are very good balanced, but I tend to play lot of notes (Nathan East infuenced). Should I keep my playing style simpler to keep the groove of the band?

    Happy to hear opinions from experienced musicians and sound engineers.

  2. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    While your sound guy may be good, he may not know how to mix bass. Have a chat with him.
    woody357 and hintz like this.
  3. I didn't say he's good:D But He's partner of large live production company and has done concerts of some famous domestic and USA musicians in the past. I really don't know what to tell him as I'm not a sound engineer, and he is telling us the bend sounds great.

    So, more or less, I'm wondering what can I do myself to improve things. He said we can try with micing cab but he wouldn't do it. I keep my eq on bass flat, was thinking to get a HPF or parametric EQ, and cut everything under 30-35Hz, as this frequencies tend produce muddy bass in live mix.
  4. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    It's impossible to do much more than guess without hearing the tapes and seeing the board mix. Assuming that the recordings you've heard are room recordings (rather than board mixes) or else multitrack mixes, then the tape doesn't lie. That said, if you've dialed in your DI tone and it sounds the way you want in recording sessions, then I'd suspect either other instruments are masking the bass *or* else the muddiness you mention in post #3 comes from the way the FOH SE sets your levels, eq, or processing. Alternatively, the SE could be bad at adjusting to poor indoor acoustics at some of the venues you play, or the recordings you've heard might be board tapes (any instrument that is carrying the room primarily through stage spill won't be well represented on FOH board tapes, b/c those channels will be low or off at the board).

    I'd check the FOH board first. If you've got your DI tone dialed in via the Diamond comp & U5, it shouldn't need much channel eq or processing at the board. If you have a wireless and a decent relationship with the SE, play line check and sound check from the FOH mix position and spend a minute or two making sure the channel tone is what you want when soloed. If it is, then the problem is likely arrangements and frequency masking. It's pretty easy for keyboards, acoustic guitar, or badly eq'ed electric guitar to mask bass in the mix. If that's the problem, those players need to be part of the solution—cutting some low end in their tone and playing with more restraint around the bass lines.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
    woody357, hintz, Gearhead17 and 2 others like this.
  5. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    You are at the mercy of the FOH guy... but keep in mind that what you are hearing on the those "HD tapes recorded by professionals" have the same problems as @derrico1 mentioned above.... you don't know (or didn't state) the source audio.. direct from console, room mics, etc., whether it was raw audio tracks, mixed down, mastered? ALL of this factors into what you hear on those tapes.
    For example - direct off the console will not factor in stage wash or the house sound, but will let you hear what goes to the PA. That is not likely to reflect the room mix the SE hears at the console. A recording from room mics will depend on where in the room that recording was made, and so on.

    The SE's job at FOH is to make the band sound as good as he can in the room you are in. But.. the SE only gets to work with what they are being sent, although they do have control over a lot of it... Meaning, keys players who insist on playing lower octaves, or kick not carved out correctly.. will step all over the bass. This means that while your bass tone may work great in the studio, for live? maybe not so much.

    I've mixed bands (festivals on down, but not for a living) for a long time, and have played guitar + bass in A-tier bands I have seen many times that what stage musicians perceive (or want) to be in FOH is often diametrically opposed to what actually needs to be in FOH for the room/venue to work well.

    Yes, check FOH.. check the mix with kick, keys, etc.. got any 7 or 8 strings guitars on stage? Check them also?
    Sounds to me like your concerns are FOH... not your rig.
    hintz, derrico1 and hrodbert696 like this.
  6. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    Happy 2016 to you and yours!!

    Fantastic advice from our pals above - I can't add any further illumination, since my engineering knowledge and experience are only "middle of the road". I do agree that there's only so much quality we can hope for with our own sound when we send it to someone else who uses it to cook up a mix for a show. Chef Soundman!!

    Your observations of that player who gigs with a P-bass and doesn't play many Jaco notes are interesting for sure. My impressions about what might be better or worse for decent sound in a mix have changed substantially through the years.

    Two things have brought more than my fair share of compliments after successful gigs. One had to do with my simple, straight up reinforcement of the beat without playing too many of those Jaco notes. One group I've filled in with on more than one occasion has a regular bassist who is a solid player and likes to include some of those Jaco notes. When I play with them, they really like how I lock in with the drummer and drive the groove - much of my focus is "on the one".

    The other source of "thumbs-ups" and happy ears has come from playing a bass that sounds a little more bold (or even obnoxious) than what my ears prefer when I'm practicing at lower volumes. For several years, my usual bass was a passive Jazz with a somewhat "dark" tone - the mids were inherently a bit limited, but its tone is buttery smooth. It wasn't uncommon for my drummer to ask me to turn up during a set when playing it. Later when I bought a P/J bass equipped with active EMG's, it certainly got the people's attention. Initially I wasn't wild about the tone it gave me when practicing with it at home, but when I used the new bass for some gigs (with two different groups), everyone was really liking my sound. For the first time in my "career", my guitar player actually asked me to turn down!!

    So I'd say you're not crazy - simple can be great. If your fundamental sound is right, a competent soundman puts it to good use, and you're not surrounded by other instruments that are muscling in on your sonic turf, that can be all it takes to really nail it. As far as those Jaco notes are concerned, they can put some FUN into the FUNK, but only if you're locking down a solid groove. Maybe save some of them for more of a soloing opportunity or a recording. Too many can get a little bit lost in the relative clamor of some live shows. When I remember to play with a not-too-busy style on stage, I can usually do a better job. That's just me.

    And thanks - your "poor English" is terrific.
    Torrente Cro likes this.
  7. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    IMO too many bass players don't value "space" in their playing - both in notes played (and not played) and tone. The "P" lacks the harmonic mish-mash you get from having multiple pickup areas on each string such as a "conventional" humbucker has.

    Let the flames begin ;) .
    pickles and Dug2 like this.
  8. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Oh, and I don't think you mentioned how many players there are in your band? A power trio has a lot more space for the bassplayer to fill if that's your "thing". I play in one of those as well as a nine piece with three guitars, keys, and two horns band and play very differently in each.
  9. some cool answers here, thanks!

    I have both audio track from the mixer, and video redorded by two cameras with microphones.

    this is the audio track, not mastered or anything, just pure recorded from the mixer.

    it's pretty low gain, but doesn't sound that bad.
    Camera (venue) sound is much worst, everything under 300Hz is a pure mud.

    I have got some tapes with semi pro camera, recorded by my frends, and all sound same. Their comments on bass sound weren't good either.

    Unfortunately can not upload video as it is large file and I have poor upload speed.

    I suspect on this.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  10. we have drums, bass, keys, guitar/singer and 3 female singers
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  11. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    There's nothing on that mix that resembles bass or kick.. it sounds like the BE has the 100Hz high-pass filter on everything, all vocals - plus effects, etc.
    I ran it thru my own 31-band eq in PC speakers and boosted the bottom.... your bass tone sounds great..

    IMHO - the issue is totally the SE, or maybe the PA being used!

    I took the first 60 secs and boosted the bottom, cut some vox - it ain't great, 'cus you can't add what's not there.. again.. the console recording sounds like there's little under 100Hz in it. Adding bottom also adds some mud.. so take it with a grain of salt.
    I could NOT hear a KICK in there anywhere..
    Point was to show what's missing!!

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
    madidus, samson3382 and MTFD24 like this.
  12. samson3382


    Apr 26, 2009
    Boise, Idaho
    I agree. I dig it.
    I do hear what sounds like a low cut too.
    s0c9 and MTFD24 like this.
  13. BboogieXVII


    Feb 4, 2013
    Congrats on having a really fun sounding group to play in, a lot of guys probably wish they had a similar to play in.

    I do think your tone on this recording sounds"OK" but not great. So, I get what you mean. I'm not really knowledgeable when it comes to FOH setups but I do quite often hear it takes a lot of control away from the player. Maybe try to reduce the FOH sound or eliminate it if possible and crank up the rig to an appropriate level, don't know if this is possible for you in this situation.
  14. Yes it sounds ok, it will be a saver as the camera sound is useless, and I have to put together a 5 minute video of the band.

    However, in "real life", FOH sound is what is really important.

  15. I think this mix would be too much bassy to dial a good FOH sound from it.

    on this page there is short video cut from outdoor gig produced by other sound engineer (who btw has a pretty bad reputation)

    second video, first 20 and last 15 seconds (I'm unable to capture a video link).

    Kućice na Rivi i Prokurativama započele s radom, pogledajte što je zabilježila naša kamera > Slobodna Dalmacija > Split

    this is camera sound and to me it sounds better than most gigs we did with our SE.
    s0c9 likes this.
  16. DavC


    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    i've seen/heard Nathan East a few times ... he sounded great up front right of stage ... and thru the FOH

    depends on the PA , venue , sound dude ...

    in my running sound while playing bass/keys/vocals ... i got a decent sound thru the PA once in a while , but it never really sounded good over the whole club ... but , the canned music , the bass sounded fine .!? nothing like get comps and finalizers with someone who knows how to use them ,.. to make stuff sound good .!?
  17. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    playing bass live - keep it simple?
    Keep it functional.
    Zbysek likes this.
  18. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    Buy or borrow a wireless and stand with the soundman during sound check. Tell him what you want. He works for you. Not vise versa
  19. A sound guy that doesn't offer an opinion about mic use? Especially mics as common as the ones you mentioned?
    That's pretty weird coming from a species who claims to be able to tell you the color of the cable outer jacket just by listening.:whistle:
  20. Stingray crap? Bullocks.
    Keep it simple? Yes.
    ReiPsaeg likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 22, 2021

Share This Page