poor jazz tone???and no bounce

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by merrill_chris, Nov 28, 2000.

  1. merrill_chris


    Nov 23, 2000
    I just dont understand this?? Im a student at the University of North Texas and there are tons of bass players here.(around 60) The majority of these players have really low action and crank there amplifier, resulting in the worst tone ever.
    My roomates, (both drummers) have delt with this tone and together we have named it: NTBTS North Texas Bass Tone Syndrome It sounds like a cat meowing in a cry for help.
    Does anyone know why this is happening so much?? I know that with low action its much easier to play fast 8th notes and all of that, but come on!!!

    Maybe im just come from the perspective that having great tone is much more important than playing real fast?? Who knows.

    I have thought about this a lot and realized that recordings from the 50's and earlier have something that records from the 60's to present dont have. The bass swings so hard that it sounds like it is almost bouncing? Let me know if you know what im talking about. In the sixties the amplifier was introduced, and suddenly **** the bouncing stopped*** Imagine that!!! Perhaps these to occurances are related. who knows???

    let me know what you think


  2. That's happenning so much because they can't play and they don't want to learn how to play. Those cats in the '40's and '50's with their high action gut strings are proof you don't need low action to play fast. If you want to learn how to play, play a few gigs with no amplification. That will do wonders for your tone and technique.

    I wonder how many of those guys at your school started out on electric bass.

    Another development in the '60's was steel strings. Those
    cats prior to that all had *the sound* because they were playing on gut. Now, with string's like Sprirocores and very low action, pizzed notes will sustain forever. But the abscence of any real discernable decay between the notes prohibits "the bounce" as you call it, it doesn't swing as well. It can't be as propulsive because the attack is not as distinguishable.

    I hope I'm not stepping on any toes, but IMO, really low action and a lot of amplification is a crutch; it's the easy way. And for me, a crappy tone/sound can turn me off to a player before I even get a chance to hear whether or not he can really play.

  3. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I think "can't" play is a strong statement (too strong), but I hear what you're saying. But it also depends on context. Take Chris Wood for instance - I have heard him with both - the real smooth, low action, farty, easy tone, and with the thunderous high action swinging tone. He can play both, and uses them to achieve different sounds. So the key here is that its only lazy if it's a crutch. Some people really choose a certain setup tone that's different than your tastes.

    That said, I like the thunder. I like Mingus on "Nobody Knows" (though I think that was both him AND Ron Carter).

    --> Slim Gulnick
  4. I wrote can't and lazy because we're refering to a bunch of college students who, according to the guy that brought it up, really on this sound w/ a lot of amplification and can't play otherwise. Although I've never paid Chris Wood any attention, you make a very valid point. I know personally many players that prefer lower (but not ridiculously low) action. But they can play without an amp; they have developed their tone and technique.

    And BTW, I was thinking about Ming the whole time I was writing that other post; high action, plain gut, and bounce and still displayed a ton of technique and speed. I love the two solos on "Tensions".
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Ya gotta be careful though, a lot of players have gone back to gut and high action only to find the main result was tendonitis :( Playing gigs acoustically only works when the whole band is sensitive to levels. I've done some gigs in a tiny bar with acoustic piano, drums and electric guitar through a small amp. I could not hear myself at all, but the pianist said he could hear me fine (his head was only about a foot away from the top of my bass!!!).

    As far as the bouncing stopping, go blame Ron Carter :) He was the guy to my ears who really brought in that modern sustaining steel string sound.

  6. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I just can't blame Ron Carter for anything. And to take Ed's point to the next step, who's the bassist who's played on probably the most jazz records ever? Ron! Dammit, he's the man!
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    doesn't Lynn Seaton teach at NT these days? I wonder what his his reaction is to all of this "bad tone", seeing as he's the king of bounce himself....I don't recall ever seeing him use a pickup, he always seems to have a mic. What (if anything) does he have to say about NTBTS?
  8. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I know this is a little off the subject, so let me know if I should be starting a thread. Anyway, what do y'all think of Charlie Haden, while we're slamming technique? I love his lack of conventionality AND his playing, but I would never have the guy teach me something. Like Steve Martin said on "A Wild and Crazy Guy": "may I mambo dogface to the banana patch?".

    -> Slim Gulag
  9. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    No, my point was that his technique mambo'd dogface to the banana patch, not his heart, his music, his intention, or his end result. Don't get me wrong, I respect and admire all of his work more than almost any DB player out there, especially the ones who are simply slaves to the technical.

    Also, maybe Steve Martin had a deeper philosophical point there, so maybe Charlie DOES mambo dogface. In my odd little world, absurdity, the intentional disruption of preconceived logic, and the insertion of ritual into the everyday is what music and especially bass is all about....if that makes sense.
  10. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    You deliberateley miss MY point - the whole discussion is about TECHNIQUE and my comment was clearly in that context. PLUS I started out by proclaiming how much I like and admire the guy, so I think its quite obvious that I was talking about having him "teach" in the technical sense. I also don't understand why you are being condescending to me.
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Excuse me, but did I just hear Ed Fuqua defending someone with unusual or questionable technique on the grounds that the person with unusual technique was "in touch with their own individual musical voice"? (insert appropriate Warner Bros. cartoon double take, complete with sound effects by Mel Blanc, right... about.....HERE!). I just might have to print that post and frame it....by the way, Ed, I couldn't agree more - the guy has something very pure and honest about his playing, and I learn a bunch from him every time I hear him play. Also, I'm still jealous about that master class....how did you manage to stumble into that situation?


    [Edited by Chris Fitzgerald on 11-29-2000 at 06:41 AM]
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    (sorry, missed your last post)

    Whenever Ed gets that way with me, I think of a poem my mother used to recite to me when I was a wee child. This poem, she claims, has been passed down through her family from generation to generation, and has instructed many of her ancestors on the lesson of how to take the high road when you feel (rightly or wrongly) that someone is dissing you or grossly mispronouncing your name on purpose. It goes something like this:

    "When bassplayer Ed Fumanchuqua
    Takes aim with his verbal bazookqua
    Some folks might take offense
    When his barbs seem intense
    But most find him harmless...
    Don't youqua?"

    You know, for the first 30 or so years she recited that poem, I thought that it made no sense whatsoever, and it is only recently that I have come to understand what she meant by it. And I find that, as with so many of my mom's old family sayings, that if I will only only wait long enough, they will magically transform themselves from gibberish into prophecy. Moms are kinda funny that way... :cool:
  13. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
  14. ED: Someday, we'll sit down with a couple of beers and I'll explain why Charlie Haden is one of my unfavorite bassists.
    I'm not about to go into this here, as my exposition is longer than is appropriate for this forum. My estimation of your musical intellect is that you would understand my position without taking it as a personal affront, but rather a difference in taste, albeit based on substantial thought. Suffice to say I am no less inclined to will you all of my basses when I die.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I read a lot of stuff about how great Rufus Reid is as a bass player and how he is in demand a lot; but I picked up a few 70s/80s records that he plays on and I find that the bass tone is very strange to my ears - nothing like some of the classic records of the past.

    Where does Rufus fit into this debate about "tone" does he use low/high action and does he amplify or not?
  16. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN

    I most certainly concur!!!!!!!!!!!
  17. Bruce: Rufus is another of many fine bassists. Two answers to your experience are:
    1. Over time, players use different strings and pickups. Every pickup alters the tone we hear, one way or another.
    2. The recording engineers are much like newspaper editors; they have great power to shape the information (tone) we receive (hear) from the same set of facts (instrument). Record labels have been known to decide that a particular sound is hip and will sell more records.
    The sound you get on a recording will rarely be what you would hear sitting 20 feet from the bass in a club.
    As for his action, there are people I can ask who would know, and yes, Rufus amplifies. At one point, I know he was using the same Barbera that I use.

    Tim: You concur that I should will all my basses to Ed?
  18. Yeah, but...
    That's how I played in the 60's. Duet and trio with unamped bass and unamped Gibson L-5 guitar. I had strength, but suffered alot of ripped skin.
    Our concept of dynamic balance has changed significantly; rock and the Fender did that.
    I played unamped with the same group recently, but the guitar was amped. It worked out OK, but absolutely I soloed differently. There's really 2 sounds from an ampped bass: the amp and the bass itself. There's a happy balance that I strive for, because the bass acoustic sound is a visceral throb that can be felt as much as heard. I've found that in situations where I have to crank up the amp, all the visceral sound disappears. That's why, except as a favor, I have no interest in working in a band where everybody has a rig the size of a refrigerator. I don't think it's a coincidence that people who want to blow the barn doors off have not had the 50's-60's jazz club experience.
    When Gerry Mulligan came out with the piano-less quartet, which was in the days of un- or under-amped bass, he insisted that the group play at the dynamic level of the bass (Carson Smith). This notion would not occur to anyone today.
    Amps give me the ability to express myself in a way that was not possible 35 years ago. For me, the key is finding the balance point.

    [Edited by Don Higdon on 11-29-2000 at 10:42 AM]
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    As of last summer, Rufus was using the Barbera pickup in conjunction with a movable mic on a gooseneck, blended together using I know not what, and run through a WW head plus whatever cabinet he could get his hands on. After talking to him at length on the subject of amplification, I discovered that he is sort of a gearhead only insofar as he has and will continue to try anything to better produce THE SOUND - i.e., an amplified version of what his bass sounds like acoustically. His advice has always been: work on your acoustic sound, practice and learn to play without an amp, and then, when you need to use amplification, try to remain as true to that sound as possible. Each summer for the past few years I have been fortunate enough to sit right (10 ft. or so) in front of him while he does a trio set at the camps (I also got to play - (on piano) - in a faculty combo with him for a week, and I must say he's also a great teacher. He schooled me, but in a very nice and gentle and positive way, and he continues to be a positive influence every time I see/hear him), and his acoustic sound, in my opinion, is not only tremendous but also very real and,... dare I say it?...BOUNCY when he wants it to be. FWIW
  20. I think the interaction of the group is better when everyone is forced to pay attention to dynamic levels. I've also noticed that with amped groups dynamics only go one way, crescendo.

    A nice thing happened last week at the Tuesday night jam session at Ortlieb's in Philly. The power went out. I didn't play that night, but I had the pleasure of listening to everyone unamped/unmiked. Everyone was very sensitive.
    All of the instruments sounded much better. It also forced
    the folks not playing to shut up.