1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Problem hearing pitch for low notes...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cornelos, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. cornelos


    Oct 15, 2007
    Hi All,

    I am a bass player and I sometimes have the problem that I do not hear the pitch difference between for instance a low E and an F while playing with the band. It mostly depends on the environment and the sound-settings of my bass whether I have this problem or not.

    It sometimes happens that my band mates shout: "you are half a tone too low!" while I didn't hear it. This is very embarrassing of course :(

    Are there more out there having the same problem? What do you do to avoid this?

  2. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Re-think your EQ settings: what sounds great solo'd is all-too-frequently lost in the mix. Also, if possible, put some distance betweenst yourself and the speaker enclosure.

  3. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    Not entirely unheard of, depending on what kind of music you play. If it's really heavy stuff, lots of distortion on the guitars, heavy palm muting, it could be the guitar's pitch is a little off on those low notes. Or it could be really loud and tons of low end bouncing around the room, that can fool the ear due to certain frequencies being reinforced by the room dimensions, standing waves, etc. That's an acoustic phenomenon.
  4. One venue was hideous for this, and stage volume was routinely 106-114dB so people could "hear themselves".

    Ended up HPF everything around 250-300Hz, which killed low end 'roar' thru mic bleed, etc.
    Bass and Kick had HPF 80Hz = where it would stop sub standing waves. It worked for that room and we got clarity back.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You: Cut bass, boost low-mids, pluck closer to bridge with right hand, use bridge pickup if your bass has one, use good strings, check intonation on bass, make sure pickups aren't too close to strings.

    Band: Be sensitive with volume level and EQ so they are giving you the frequency space you need to shine. And needless to say, check their own tuning. ;)
  6. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    It's not always an EQ issue. I have this problem just trying to thump along to recordings. IME, it helps to play everything up an octave first just to find the notes, and from there you can bring them down into the 'bass range' once you got everything.
  7. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    I have this problem to an extreme degree and I consider it hearing damage. But it only happens at high volumes; literally _every_ note on a bass from the E to as high as you can go on the G string sounds like this same loud blur.

    My gigging career has ended because of this - Everything sounds fine at low volumes, but I can't hear anything that sounds like music at a typical band volume. So there's no point in it for me.

    So my initial reaction is you've got the start of a similar kind of hearing damage, especially if it's new and you've not noticed it before. My advice, start turning down the volume and do it _now_.

    But even if your hearing is ok, it's probably still because you're just too loud. You might try taking out some of the lows in your tone as well. That can help bring out the actual notes.

  8. Chromer


    Nov 28, 2012
    DI + IEMs with a "less them/more me" mixer? Get some mids coming from your bass to you, in a way that you can hear them. And it'll help de-escalate on stage volume spirals...
  9. soitainly


    Aug 21, 2012
    I have been playing bass about six months now, have been playing music forever though. I have the same problem of finding the low frequency pitches in the mix, whether live or playing with recordings. Solo I can hear it fine. I use the same tricks of playing an octave higher or even grabbing a guitar to help figure out the chords.

    I think for me and lots of other musicians, is that you are just used to tuning out pitches that you aren't playing, it's only natural. When i listen to a band I can hear bass player mistakes, but when I am the one playing it gets hard.

    I will say that I am slowly learning to tune into the bass frequencies. It gets better over time with practice. I hope that this continues to develop, as it's pretty hard to be a bass player if you can't hear what you are playing.
  10. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    I may have some of this. I seem to be much more sensitive to the A and D string being ever so slightly out of tune, than the lower strings. Either that or the A and D string just need tuning a lot more often.
    I'm inclined to believe I just hear better in that range.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    A lot depends on the orchestration of the band. For example I tune by bass slightly differently when I play with open-chord acoustic guitarists vs. power-chord distortion electric guitarists. And whenever I play in a band with both keyboard and guitar, it never quite sounds in tune to me. Electronic tuners are convenient, but the ear must always be the final arbiter.
  12. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I would love to hear more of this, especially the open-chord v. Power chord tuning. I agree, with the keyboard/guitar bands being a problem. Recently I was performing with such a group on fretless and was admonished to tune 'by ear' instead of with a tuner. The comment was not explained in any real detail.

    Frankly, finding guitarist out of tune is fairly common in my experience. Mostly due to set-up issues with their instrument. And in combination with a keyboard, there is always going to be some conflict in intonation. Sometimes the patches used by keyboards (synth sounds mostly, but some string patches too) will have several layers of sound detuned in the sound design with the effect of being bigger or more lifelike. Perhaps thats true, but the center of pitch can get rather wide, combine that with a guitarist that tunes open strings and then fingers all the chords mid neck and there can be a hassle.

    However, how tuning 'by ear' is an advantage over a tuner in this case is questionable to me.
  13. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    Ah, good call! I do a lot of transcribing and that thought never crossed my mind for some reason. Duh! Although the upper octave does have a different characteristic obviously, this could still be very helpful. Thanks for the tip!
  14. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    For example when I am playing with an acoustic guitarist who plays a lot of songs in open G, I tune my G string to their open G chord. I never tune to one particular string of a guitarist, because that string might be a little sharp or flat compared to some of their other strings, in order to make the chords as a whole sound good.

    Google "Eddie Van Halen tuning" if you want to read some interesting theories on how to tune an electric guitar for rock music.

    In practice, if you are playing with musicians who have well-intonated guitars, and everyone tunes to A-440 using an electronic tuner, it's close enough.

    (edit) jazz bassists do something similar when they are tuning to a potentially out of tune piano, read here: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f73/asus-b9-[tuning-chord]-764091/
  15. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada

    This sucks .....i have it too ....i've been playing guitar for 26 years, my relative pitch is great as i've been a life long hobby transcriber and now teach for a living ...

    something falls apart between say F# and drop D on bass .....i've always noticed this even as a listener .....i used to have diffiulty isolating the bass listening to music.

    Don't sweat it....what can you do? it's got nothing to do with tuning or intonation for me ....it's how my ears are wired i guess.

    i was doing a gig once and was tuning my bass to drop D and only got it to D# because of sunshine on the pedals .....i couldn't tell for a few bars but the rest of the band knew instantly!

    If i'm learning a new tune on bass that i'm unfamiliar with i'll often check the key an octave or two above low E range just to be sure.
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I've had it happen, so don't feel alone. I also have some serious hearing loss. Whether that's the cause, I dunno. Have you also ever had it happen that a song on the radio at very low volume turns out to be in a different key than what you thought it was in once you turn the volume up? I've also had that happen, and it's scary.
  17. R&B

    R&B Both kinds of music: Rhythm AND Blues! Supporting Member

    Great observation. I was starting to tumble to that as well. Now that I am venturing up the fretboard more often, I find that locking in the pitch is much easier in the middle of the neck. The difference between low E and F can be hard for me to hear at first. Middle age is tough, but the alternative is worse! :)
  18. and here I thought I was the only one with this kind of problem.... thank the universe that I found this post and that I am not alone... I hope so much that is is NOT hearing loss... because I have yet to even play my first gig (which will be coming up on the 15th at SXSW).. I sure hope I can fix this problem for myself.
  19. May not be as closely related at the O.P's issue, but when I am trying to learn a new song by ear, I like to be in another room from my reference material. I find that I can hear the bass lines much better in the room next to my playing area. Seems to allow the bass line to stand out more, as mid range and highs are not a strong part of the signal I'm hearing.
  20. Silas Stingy

    Silas Stingy

    Feb 19, 2009
    Done a few gigs where I've had to play by sight on lower notes. The only time it happens for me is when guitars have way too much bottom end, nothing I could do to totally get away from it other than choose to play with other bands. IEM's will go some way to overcoming those frequencies but nothing other than the guitar player turning down will cut them. For me, luckily it's never been a hearing loss or tinnitus problem.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.