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playing without an amp

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by AJ Love, Dec 14, 2003.

  1. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    I am new to playing Upright bass and I want to play without an amp, simply because I like that sound the best but also because my employer/bandleader insists on it.....

    SO, I am wondering what are the best ways to play bass without an amp, what type of string height, what type of strings etc etc
  2. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Just curious, do the singers sing without microphones and does the guitar player play without an amp as well?

    If you're new to upright, playing in a full band without amplification can be one way to get your sound together in a hurry, although most guys who played without amps in the old days say they would never go back to that way of playing.

    I guess the specifications depend on a couple of things. How loud is your bass, (is it plywood or carved) what is the sweet spot tension wise that projects a good sound but doesn't totally exhaust you after the 24th chorus of Cherokee. I think it'll take a little bit of experimentation with this band and a little feedback from players in the group to let you know how much you need to change your set up, if at all. I'm assuming that since your bandleader insists on you playing without an amp that he is hip to having the band play responsibly volume-wise so everything can blend and be heard.
  3. Yeah, a big part of it is going to get the rest of the band on track with the no-amp thing, and as abaguer pointed out, the leader should instruct the band accordingly if he insists on no amp.

    As far as setup, you're not going to get away with low "electric" action on most basses if you're playing over horns, a drummer, etc. Hopefully, your upright has an adjustable bridge that will allow you to find the right balance of projection and playability. CAreful not to hurt yourself.

    On my un-amped gigs, I find that a fairly aggressive right-hand/arm is required. You can't just use the fingers to get the string moving; I employ a concerted effort of fingers, wrist and forearm. (Actually, I use this method whether I'm I'm using an amp or not

    Also, remember that what you hear on the bandstand may differ greatly from what is being heard in the room. I've played un-amped gigs where I thought I had to work my butt off, only to be told by audience members or the band leader to "turn down" because the bass was projecting into the room so well.
  4. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    the bandleader isn't opposed to mic'ing the bass, just doesn't want an amp onstage...yeah the other musicians are gonna have to keep their volumes in check, i.e. if you can't hear the bass that means other people are playing too loud

    is there a particular type of string that works better for playing -un-amped, or doesnt that matter so much?

    thanks for the advice so far
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Avoid light strings like Spirocore Weichs or Corellis, IMHO. Also, try to set up so you're facing out from a corner, or at least have a wall behind you.
  6. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    Could you use a pickup and small headphone amp to monitor yourself?
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Well, that's a whole different story. I actually prefer the sound of a miced bass over the sound of PU. Although a PU is admittedly easier to deal with.

    If there is a wedge near by, you should be able to hear fine with a little bass in the monitor.

    The next question, of course, is which mic to use on the bass. The answer is 'whatever you have.' But you won't get a nice full tone through the PA using something like a SM57 or similar.

    You need something that can pickup the lower frequencies better. I'm sure recommendations will follow. I have an EV RE20 that I use to record anything and everything acoustic, including my DB, That I just love. They are a little pricey though.
  8. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I love playing without an amp too but beware that doing so in cases where it doesn't make sense is also a good way to potentially hurt yourself. Sometime ago Christian McBride said that at an early stage he bought into the whole no amp thing which was promoted by Wynton Marsalis who insists that the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra play with no amps. And he said he almost hurting himself doing it.

    If the bandleader really has a problem with seeing the amp up there, one thing you can do is get an PA or something like an AI Coda and put both the guitar and bass through it.

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