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Please help recommend a pickup/amp/mic for my little guy...

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by bassist6, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. bassist6


    May 20, 2007
    Carlsbad, CA
    Hi everyone!
    I am a clueless mom looking to purchase a first pickup/mic?/amp? for my 9 year old son. He is playing his little 1/4 size bass in a 15 piece jazz band with a bunch of trumpets/trombones/sax/keyboard/drums. Right now he is using a microphone wrapped in, of all things, a santa hat :0 and stuffed between the bridge and tailpiece. It works, but he would like something a little better. He prefers the "natural" acoustic sound of his bass, and has been hesitant to amplify it, but with these loud instruments, he really needs to, as he is getting blisters on his fingers from trying to "hear" himself over all these loud instruments. What can I buy him, that will last him at least a few years, and be flexible for both arco and pizzicato jazz playing? He is a classical player, and this is his first jazz experience. Thank you for any advice!
  2. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Hi Mom.

    If your son is into playing bass, playing jazz, and is taking the blisters for it, maybe you don't have much longer to call him "my little guy"! ;) I've been a professional bassist for many years now, and like your son, I prefer the natural sound of my instrument. Even though I've tried or at least listened to other guys playing every pickup that's out there, I still mostly use a microphone. I use one on a stand in front of the bass, and spent time finding one I like. And no pickup is going to get close to that sound. So my advice is to get a pickup for when you need one, but don't spend more than a hundred bucks or so, IMHO a 400 dollar pickup doesn't usually sound that much better than a 75 dollar pickup, if the goal is to get as close to your acoustic sound as possible. Go for one that can be taken on and off the bass easily, so you don't have to have it on there when you don't want it.

    For me, that ended up being a K&K Bass Max pickup. http://www.gollihurmusic.com/product/1265-BASS_MAX.html
    It seems to have gotten a bit more expensive since I bought mine, but it's still under $100. A pickup like this usually needs a preamp to sound it's best, there's a guy on this board who makes a preamp a lot of guys rave about: http://personalpages.tds.net/~fdeck/bass/hpfpre.htm I can't say I know anything about it myself, but the reviews have been great. I have a different preamp, but it's much more expensive. If you can squeeze out another 50 bucks, his little preamp is likely to be worth it. The next stage of the reproduction is an amplifier, and things get complicated, subjective, and expensive here. Basically, finding the right amp means doing research and trying things out. Maybe start with a pickup and preamp, and then try to find an amp that works well with them (according to his taste and budget). There's lots of information to check out in these forums.

    As a last comment, I think he's probably on the right track, some blisters are normal for a developing player. There's lots of information at this website on how to deal with these physical issues, how to setup your bass and use your body to get the most sound with the least effort, and how to amplify when needed. I realize you may be wary of the idea of your 9 year old son interacting with much older men on a website, but he can search for the information he needs and get quite a lot of information without ever having to post at all.

    Good luck,
  3. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007

    A Bass Max + the HPF-Pre preamp will be a very nice but not too expensive setup. The Bass Max sounds good and is easy to install on the bridge, and the HPF-Pre preamp will allow you to use most any bass amp to better effect.
  4. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    First of all you aren't clueless if you came here. There are a whole lot of players here dedicated to helping others. I remember when I was in J.R high a very long time ago and had a 1/4 size bass. Blisters were part of life back then especially when I started playing in "Stage Band"
    when I went to High School.
    Amplifying a bass is "a necessary evil" and I think that you can easily set him up with a system that you can use for bowing and pizzicato. I would go with the Realist since it works well for both bowing and pizzicato and gets a fairly natural tone. I will warn you, that it's placed in between the E foot of his bass bridge and the body of the bass. The HPF preamp is also a very good idea since it
    really helps match the pickup with what ever amplifier you decide to go with. Those two items will cost you @ $250.00. and you should have a qualified repair man install the Realist. For the "blisters" to go away it's necessary that he develops and maintains a callus on his 1st and Second Fingers. To do this he has to a little lotion on the tip of the finger once the callus develops to keep it from cracking open. There is a product from Earth Therapeutics called Tea Tree Oil Foot Repair Balm it works really well on maintaing and moisturizing calluses.

  5. bassist6


    May 20, 2007
    Carlsbad, CA
    Thank you all for your responses... gives us a lot to think about! I think we'll start with just a microphone, and see how that works, and do a little more research on the pickups you mention. With a preamp/amp, it seems they can get quite expensive, and I'm not sure that he'll be happy with the sound. I wish there was a shop where you could try out all these options! That would be a great offering at the next ISB... a room with all the most popular pickup/preamp/amp/mic options all in one place, to try out with your bass...!
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I would check the ads here and the classifieds at www.doublebasschat.com and look for a used piezo pickup that won't need a preamp. The mic in the Santa hat has a long and honored tradition for upright amplification, but a piezo can get louder without feeding back. For $60-70 you should be able to get him something pretty decent used. Some are easier to install than others, but there are a few that don't really require anything special to install.

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