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Plectrum on DB?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by *ToNeS*, May 11, 2002.

  1. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    currently i'm forming an experimental (and wildly unstable) 6-piece band incorporating jazz, hardcore bepop and blues over a death metal basis - although i'm first and foremost a bass guitarist, i just can't shake the absolute desire i have to get a double bassist in on it. so with myself on rhythm guitar instead, i've elected to make a pitch for a DB'er to join the group - the problem is, however, that a lot of the bass runs already written are quite fast (straight up 64ths at 210bpm in a few sections, i believe) and seem to me to be impossible to negotiate without the use of a pick.

    is pick-playing possible on a double bass? i can't imagine any of the local DB'ers having the ungodly technique (or if it's even possible to achieve such dexterity) needed to play these parts with ye olde fingers :eek:
    the tuning of the instruments is dropped 1 step from standard, making the bass (D, G, C, F), if this will make any difference to the idea.
  2. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Not impossible, but awkward.

    In regular upright playing position the right hand angle relative to the strings makes it difficult. Leaning the bass to the left while you lean to the right and forward will give a better right hand position. But then fingering and intonation will suffer, as the now malpositioned left hand also will have to hold the weight of the bass. A shoulder strap might help - I haven't tried that. But it will be a generally uncomfortable playing position.

    DB strings are heavy and placed far apart along a curve high over the bass body, so it's hard to obtain the same picking speed as on a BG no matter what. A lot of right hand/arm movement is required for string crossings.

    All in all it will take some effort to master. Putting the same effort into speeding up traditional finger style may give the same results.
  3. jaybo

    jaybo Guest

    Sep 5, 2001
    Richmond, KY
    Someone with good fingerstyle technique on electric bass can play as fast or faster than someone playing with a pick. If you can find a double bassist that is actually serious about playing and has good technique they could probably handle it. Good luck finding one that's into death metal though! Just curious, are you influenced by any bands or is this a new idea? The Flying Luddenbachers are the only death-ish jazz band I can think of that had a double bassist. I've always wondered why the guy in Candiria doesn't use a DB in the jazz parts of their songs.
  4. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    thanks for the advice, guys. i'm definitely going to have to rethink about exactly what incarnation i want the bass chair to take. there's not many DB virtuosos that i know of in the neighbourhood, and if picking is going to be as awkward erik II says it is (and it stands to reason), i might have to settle for a paddle. even worse, i might have to do it myself :D

    the thought did cross my mind that most people who gravitate towards DB probably aren't going to be getting their ears stuck into harder-edged music, but i guess i felt like i was owed a miracle :)
    the idea sprung from a culmination of influences, actually, so i can't take much credit for any originality that may occur! Dillinger Escape Plan, Candiria, Voivoid, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, and a whole heap of other groups that experiment with sounds like the above do really catch my ear - i just wanted to take the 'jazz' factor a bit further so it was equally as prominent as the 'death' factor. i even plan to enlist the services of a tenor sax player willing to play through distortion and wah, which shall act as the lead 'guitar' in this instance. big dreams, and the musicians around Australia for this kind of thing are scarce, but hopefully it'll kick off any millenium soon.
  5. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Well I forgot to add the obligatory "In My Experience" - there may be others out there who have tried harder than I, and come up with better solutions.

    I like the idea of a band with untraditional set-up and mix of music styles. Planning ahead is good, but the band should also be given room to form itself, and the members to find their approach to the material as you go along. It will probably end up different than you imagined anyway.

    Just a thought. Good luck with the project.
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Sounds interesting. My basses don't really like to be detuned all that much. I use a 5 string EUB for the really low stuff, but that ain't the same, is it? One thing that might be of interest is the technique of using delays to get ungodly fast passages on DB. Tony Levin used it on electric on some Crimson stuff (he also uses a fingering technique that involves some sort of little drumstick type thing on the ends of his fingers). Some country guitar players use a technique in which they set a delay on the "and" of beat two, allowing big cascading lines of notes and intervals with very little physical effort. Could be positively frightening on DB. Let us know how your experiments go.
  7. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Tones -
    Maybe somebody else is buying into "straight up 64ths at 210 b.p.m." Not me.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Stanley Clark, on top of having fast hands anyhow, plays very low action and uses all five fingers (by all reports, but I've never seen it) and gets some incredible right hand stuff going. The speed that you're talking about though. I don't that the strings would adequately respond even if you were able to get your hand moving that fast. Even if you did, I don't know that 'death' anything would be ready for it :)
  9. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Wanna hear me play straight-up 64ths at 210 bpm?

    Wanna hear it again?
  10. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    check my post count if you think i'm trolling, "Donny". :rolleyes: thanks for the help, though. no, really. i got a lot out of your reply.

    five fingers, little stick-finger things, Stanley Clark ... christ. i think the ad i put out is going to go unanswered for a real long time :oops:
  11. mflaherty


    Oct 9, 2001

    Give Tones a break. "straight up 64ths at 210 b.p.m" is only 56 notes per second. It should be part of everyone's practice routine.


    If the db players you audition can't play the 64ths at 210, you could just have them bow tied whole notes on an open A for that section. The A is 55 cycles per second, which will probably be closer than the other players get;->
  12. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    well i know it's incredibly funny for the lot of you seasoned veterans, but as a novice to the art of writing sheet music for instruments that i really don't know the capabilities of, i'm finding all of this kind of hard. i obviously miscalculated the '64ths at 210' part, but the speed of some sections is still in the realms of 'utterly heinous' (as befits Death Metal) - i guess it worked in that i managed to emphasize the point i was worried about. it's just a real shame some guys feel the need to be wankers about something so trivial, hey? especially a mod. who i won't name :D


    while your post was hilariously sarcastic and shall provide me with many, many, many moons of abrupt bursts of mirth as i recall your exact words, i like the point about bowing; i hadn't thought of that. sounds like a far better solution than asking a DB'er to use a somewhat unfamiliar method to play with. cutting through the mix with that sounds like another problem, though :oops:
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    What's that got to do with anything? I think that assvirtuoso13 put up hundreds of posts in a few days - didn't make him any less of a troll - if anything more so!

    Do you want us to be impressed with how much time you've wasted on here - you're talking to a champion timewaster here! :D

    If you want to impress the DB fraternity you've got to start talking about hemi-demi-semi quavers at presto! ;)
  14. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    i find it highly unlikely that anyone with 1000+ posts will suddenly take it upon themselves to go trolling, Sprucey. besides, you know me. i only troll you :D and your buxom British hide loves it, too. don'tcha! don'tcha! ;)
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Ha - there you go - caught you at it!

    PS - I reckon the answer to your problem is to get a road drill - you know one of those pneumatic things - that should approximate the effect it sounds like you are searching for - and I think you have far more chance of getting a roadside labourer to join your band than Stanley Clarke! ;)
  16. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    :D :D :D
    well, as strange as might sound to you, you're not far wrong - the idea is to create a 'wall of sound' as it were, a huge sludge of indistinguishable riffage punctuated by very little melody and guttural vocals. this is the basic premise in Death Metal, anyway; but the bands playing in the genre are so uncompromisingly traditional in their approach nowadays i thought it might be an interesting idea to expand on it, and add some unconventional instruments and ideas to the mix.

    yeah, i know what you're gonna say. i'm still looking for a suitable didgeridoo player as well :D
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    If you don't alter it, I suspect that it will. But there are other things that a DB can do that you might find interesting. If you're really serious about looking into the possiblility of using orchestral instruments in non-traditional styles/ways, you should start with a good orchestration text, which will describe the range, timbre, limitations, strengths, and idiosyncracies of each instrument in great detail. In my orchestration classes, I use Samuel Adler's The Study of Orchestration, published by Norton. This is an extremely thorough and well-written text, but what makes it so great is the fact that you can order a set of 5 CD's which contain sound recordings of almost every musical example shown in the text - including those demonstrating specific types of passages idiomatic to each instrument in each choir. All of the recordings were performed either by the Eastman orchestra, or by single faculty members. The recordings are a fantastic resource, and the performances are top notch. Ya cain't beat it with a stick.


    P.S. - Nice signature, BTW. I couldn't agree more.
  18. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Truly shameful, Don. Our other moderator would never stoop so low. I wonder how you sleep at night.
  19. mflaherty


    Oct 9, 2001
    I downloaded Cannibal Corpse - A skull full of maggots (live) to get a feel for this stuff.

    Most of the tune is eighths at 240 bpm (with the drummer moving in and out of doubletime). 16 bars in they change to 16ths at ~200 bpm for eight bars. I don't think they change tempo for dramatic effect; I think that's as fast as they can play it. So this may be a good metric or goal for you, Tones - i.e. 800 notes per minute (13.33 per second) for short sections, 480 notes per minute or so for longer sections.

    As far as this applies to your original question, I think a lot of db players can play at these tempos. My second year db class did Moto Perpetuo by Paganini at ~480 notes per minute; on the CD that came with the book Francois Rabbath plays the same piece at ~ 612 notes per minute.

    As far as arco tone cutting in the mix, I think the only sound more abrasive than death metal guitar is a badly bowed db. In fact, I'm getting to like your death metal db idea!
  20. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    Funk fingers are the little drumstick things. With a bit of effort one could make them on your own (they're not that complicated), and that's really your own option to getting them as Tony's supply of manufactured FFs is sold out and he's not had a chance to make arrangements for a second batch yet. It's taken a lot of practice to achieve any proficiency with them on BG, but I would think that there's not going to be a huge problem with using them on DB (other than getting sufficient volume). Someday I'll get around to trying it.


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