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Playing In A Cafe Setting

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by stephanie, Sep 25, 2002.


  1. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    If you had a solo bass gig at a cafe (or some such small setting like that) what gear would you need? I'm especially wondering about what kind of amp would be best, etc. My knowledge of gear is pathetic LOL. Steve and Michael, what do you use for small gigs?

    ...Preparing myself for the future :D

    Thanks,
    Stephanie

    PS: By the way, Steve, that cafe I once mentioned that would be a great place to play closed down. :(
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Steph,

    if you're doing gigs like that, the big advantage is that you can pick your amp purely on the quality of the sound, without needed to figure massive amounts of volume into the equation - for those kinds of gigs, I tend to use my Ashdown C110-300 - a 1x10 combo. There are a lot of little amps that sound great for those kinds of gigs - the SWR Baby Blue, those tiny GK amps (1x12, I think), the little EA 1x10 combos - they are all quite pricey, but will give you a great sound.

    Another option for that kind of setting is to go for a little PA - for the same money as a bass amp, you might be able to get a little stereo set up, with a couple of speakers you can put on stands, which would also give you the chance to put your voice through it, and even add other musicians if neccesary. A lot depends on the kind of sound that you are going for with your bass - if it's a pretty clean sound that you want, then that may be the way to go... A few companies - Fender, and I think Peavey amongst others - do all in one PA set ups - Fender's is called their pass-port series. Those may work well...

    Best thing to do is experiment - recently, I've been using an Ashdown 500 head, with Ashdown 4x8 and 1x10 cabs - the size of venue that I've been playing on this tour opening for the 21st Century Schizoid Band has meant that I needed a bit of extra volume, and the fact that the set up is a little taller than my single combo means that I'm not always looking for something to set it on. And it still all fits in the back of my car.

    Finally, if you are going with a combo, tone vs cash, you might be better with a keyboard amp than a cheap bass amp - I have in the past used a Laney Linebacker keyboard combo, which has multiple inputs, reverb built in and sounds fine - it's not HUGELY loud, but would be more than enough for a coffee shop gig - second hand, they are probably very cheap indeed.

    try every option, even those things that seem a little nuts - you never know what's going to work best for you...

    [edit] - oh, and as for the rest of the gear - if you going for a looper, try a DL4 - bass into DL4 into Laney Linebacker Keyboard amp would be a pretty affordable and groovy sounding solo bass coffee-shop set up! :)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks Steve!

    Heh can you believe I wrote that all down? :D

    Lots to choose from :)

    I guess it all depends on the gig, too, right? Wouldn't want something that is too loud and have the cops showing up at the cafe (or wherever). That's happened a couple times when I used to go to open mics LOL. It was rather loud for such a small setting.
     
  4. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Steve's combo is a beauty alright. Ashdowns are fantastic sounding amps. I use a 300W head + cab in my local rehearsal room and the sound is exactly the same as the combos... and it's a damned nice sound at low and high levels.
    I expect you could pick up a decent under 100W combo pretty cheap second hand, from ebay or whatever, definitley worth saving for! :)

    One point I would say is that no matter how little money you have and how long it takes to save up, you should always aim for the best you can afford. I mean dont go without food or anything drastic, but in my experience, if you get a lower power amp than you need or reluctantly go for the cheaper version, you do tend to regret it in the long run and always lose cash when you sell 2nd hand to upgrade. It can be false economy basically.

    It also pays to bother ALL your local and not so local music stores before you part with your hard earned cash! Make them really earn that commission!!!

    Another point, is to learn about the gear you're planning to buy. Understanding the basics of the pre/power amp, RMS versus peak wattage, speaker cab resistance, speaker cones etc is well worth while. Just enough to know when the shop assistant doesnt know what they're talking about!

    Some shop owners are great and will spend time talking to you and helpnig you make the right decision (like Martin at BassGallery in London, where i bought my last amp, he even made me cups of tea!! I was in there for about 5 hours!), and some wont :(
    Also, some might tell you a load of old BS to make the sale - maybe not intentionally, but if they dont know their stuff, you might end up with something unsuitable.
    It might sound daunting (i find electronics D U L L!), but just an idea of the basics are pretty simple to grasp. The amps forum on here gave me a great deal of knowledge, there are also articles on various web sites that might help, try www.intermusic.com and/or www.activebass.com

    :)
     
  5. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    So true! Thanks Howard. I admit to knowing really next to nothing about gear. :eek: :D and have been taking the time lately to browse through such forums as Basses, Amps, and Setup, that I previously never did. It all confuses me. :( But I realize how important is to know. Hehe and I read Bass Player cover to cover and the Musician's Friend catalogs (well, the bass section anyway)(erm....I'm crazy) I get in the mail each month just to absorb as much info as I can. :D
     
  6. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Howard mentioned Martin Petersen; I've bought stuff from him is 1994 1997 and 2000. He always remembers me and treated me like a regular customer which I'm not.

    I use my local guitar shop for strings and things. I know their names and they know me. THey probably don't like me but we have a relationship :D

    What I'm trying to say is that when buying long term stuff like musical gear you need to make the effort to find a good shop and keep going there.
     
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Yeah, either he has the best customer retention strategy known to man or he's genuinley a very nice guy! - Next time I want a new bass, I will undoubtedly go there first.
     
  8. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Martin is indeed genuinely an INCREDIBLY nice guy - along with Nick Owen who used to work in the bass centre, one of the only music shop workers to offer impartial advice, even if it would lose them the sale, just to make sure that people got a fair deal! It's sad that that's such a rarity, and that most shops can't see past the quick sale towards building good relationships with their customers. The Gallery has a whole community of people who call in there for hours at a time (I've not been there as much since I moved my teaching studio out of Holloway and back home...) - and the bass celebs get treated the same as the weekend players.

    Being a gear junkie, there are few places I'd rather waste three hours than mucking about at the gallery, and I quite often end up helping out in the shop if I'm there... :D

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Another thumbs up for Martin - I've spent several hours there while he explained how he was making Sei basses and it's worth a visit just to see the "work in progress" and the different smells of all the woods are amazing!

    He also insisted I try a 6-string Alembic he had priced at £6,000, although I had already said I was looking at spending about £2,000 on a 6-string!!
     
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    That Alembic is incredible, it's HUGE!!! - I didnt play it, I just stared in amazement!

    ...and yes the workshop downstairs is mad, I'd never imagine those incredible instruments came out of that tiny basement!
    He spent a good hour talking to me about amps, cabs ect when I went in there to buy a new head a few months back. Obviously, I bought the amp I liked the sound of best, but he could have easily sold me a more expensive Eden or something.
     
  11. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Everyone has offered good advice, Stephanie, so I'll just echo the recommendation for using what's appropriate for the venue. It's a good idea to have more power than you need, so that you can operate your system below the distortion level (this is sometimes called "headroom"). As a rough estimate I'd guess maybe 100 watts for each 10- 20 people, assuming the music should be somewhat unobtrusive (any other opinions on this?). Many venues have an in-house system and sometimes it can work well to just plug into that. The upside is that you don't have to schlep your own amp; the downside is that it may not have the sound you're looking for.
     
  12. I too agree that Martin is a great guy, I recently spent several hours there and came away with an Alembic 20th Anniversary but he chatted away and insisted that I take down anything and try it out no pressure just good advice and help, I drank coffee whilst I watched him clean and re set the bass to exactly how I wanted it I didn't tell him that he just said, after watching me play a bit, I'll change this and lower that, great guy.
     
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Awe don't you're giving me GAS! :D
     
  14. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
  15. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Oh don't, if only... I'm having one of those 'really don't want to be here' days today.

    Being part of a huge corporation that's sole aim is to make cash is probably the most soul destroying common aspect of western life. IMO.

    Yours slightly depressed and want to go home :rolleyes:
    HK
     
  16. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Howard I feel your pain, however you are earning cash yourself. You will feel much better by spending it on a new bass.
     
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    This is indeed true.. and once the debts are cleared and I've saved a deposit for a mortage (no mean feat in Reading I can tell you) I'll be there! :)