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Really low notes: just a curious outsider

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by petey293, Mar 19, 2020.


  1. petey293

    petey293

    Dec 30, 2013
    Rapid City, SD
    Hi all, I've been on the bass guitar side of things for a while but I've been curious about some of your stuff recently :) I've got a noobish question for you: I was listening to the soundtrack to the video game The Last Guardian and I am wondering how the bassists in the LSO hit those low notes. For example, 4:46 in the video where it sounds like they are hitting a low Ab... I know C extensions exist but to hit notes lower than that would you just downtune? Or do they all have fancy longer extensions that allow them to hit those notes?

    Thanks!

     
  2. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    FWIW I`ve tried B flat on a low C string ( reqular scale lenght and not a long extension string ) and it sounded somewhere between somewhat audible note and low range warbling. From that experience I`d quess that for a low A flat one would need at least a extension scale lenght string and a massive instrument, if not a octabass.
     
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  3. bengreen

    bengreen

    Jan 26, 2016
    San Diego
    Beautiful music. Honestly can't tell if it's Ab0. Suspect it's an octave higher, which would still be a pretty low full sound bowed.

    I've seen exactly one bass in a classified which was a 5-string with an extension which took it down to Ab. Decidedly an outlier.

    Most extensions are C1. Rarely you see one to B0. Longer and you'll need arms like an orangutan and have to buy expensive custom made strings. Doesn't happen.

    My 5-string has a B0 string. Some choose C1. There's literally only a handfull of pieces in the standard rep that use the B0. And the times I've tried to sneak in my low note when it's not actually written have usually sounded too lumbering and I've gone back up again.

    It's not unusual if you haven't an extension to detune a half or whole tone. I know some people can merrily jump between tunings at will. Personally, I get disoriented with it. And trying to find a way back to normal tuning with the piece still playing is challenging.

    I'll try tomorrow detuning my B0 to Ab0. I expect it'll be pretty flabby though and your piece doesn't sound flabby at all.

    Most of the game music I've heard is annoyingly repetitive and dull. Is this example of yours more common now? There's enough money in games to afford the LSO?
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2020
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  4. petey293

    petey293

    Dec 30, 2013
    Rapid City, SD
    Thanks for the answers so far! Bengreen, you may be right that they may be playing an octave above where I think they are... I might have been fooled with all the overtones of those fantastic players :)

    Video game music has been largely up to the amount of money they've been willing to spend. For the last 20 or so years, (or IMO ever since Marty O'Donnell and the Halo series), many bigger studios have been willing to spend the money for good orchestras to perform the pieces that the composers have created, which I think is pretty cool!

    Thanks guys!

    Edit: Here's a cool video if you're curious :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2020
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  5. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Off the OP, there`s s**t load of money in the game industry. Around my neck of woods it`s been the game changer ( pun int ) since the Nokia. One of my buddies is doing her doctorate around the issue at Sibelius Academy and couple of others are earning serious money making this music. My quess goes that if it`s about a big selling game there will be no problem in affording the LSO and a couple of other major orchestras if the first one didn`t get it right.
     
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  6. Sean Riddle

    Sean Riddle Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ventura, California
    Yeah for live orchestra scoring the video game industry is where it’s at. At my Alma Mater CalArts, the BFA composition program offers a focus in video game composition.
     
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  7. bengreen

    bengreen

    Jan 26, 2016
    San Diego
    Obviously my gaming experience is dated. Anybody up for some Pac-Man?

    BTW, sorry didn't try Ab0 yet. We're stay at homes since last night (California) and bass lives in my workshop.
     
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  8. I think that our low C is the equivalent of a 32 foot organ pipe. The Sydney Town Hall organ, Australia is perhaps the only one in the world to have a 64 foot pipe and when that one sounds the whole place starts to shake. It may even have a power limit imposed.

    The LSO players are all on very good resonant instruments and I doubt that they would tune down that far. You have to remember that smooth unblurred movements in the movies require 25 or more frames per second. Any less and your eyes start to see the individual images. The same applies to string vibrations. Our low G is about 50 cps so one octave lower would be in the order of 25cps that is beyond the range of human hearing.

    The other things to take into account are our decreasing ability to discern intonation below the B of your 5-stringer and the ability of most sound equipment to reproduce it. The human hearing range starts at about 27.5 cps (hertz)

    But I must say that the low B at full blast in Respighi's Pines of Rome is magnificent and very visceral. Better than any ocean liner IMO.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2020
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  9. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    The octobass goes down to about 16hz and is perfectly audible.

    octobass-1383664239-view-0.jpg
     
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  10. notabene

    notabene

    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    The organ in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine has three thirty-two foot pedal stops, an open, violone and reed, all of which are the full thirty-two feet in length at low C and are open pipes. The organ is guiltless of a sixty-four foot stop of any description.

    This organ at full blast simulates an earthquake in a thunderstorm! Awesome in the original meaning of the word!
     
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  11. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    If it's an actual Ab0, the track could have been 'sweetened' afterward with a synth or organ.

    There are also some contrabassoonists who can get that note using multiphonics.

     
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  12. Sean Riddle

    Sean Riddle Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ventura, California
    The lowest a human can hear is about 20hz, so the Octobass is just right below our threshold of hearing. What you are hearing though is all the overtones being produced by playing it.
     
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  13. Co.

    Co.

    Sep 10, 2006
    Germany
    It is possible, to get a Ab0 with a big sound, when using close miking, as they obviously did on the recording. But the pitch couldn't be as clean as it is on the recording, so I'm pretty sure, there is no downtuning involved.
    There is either some synth or subharmonic generator involved, or you just perceive the low pitch, because of some other psychoacoustic phenomenon. I'm actually not so sure about hearing any super low notes in 4:46. More so in 5:50, where the basses blend with very low percussion. That actually sounds a lot like some subharmonic generator thing.
     
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  14. petey293

    petey293

    Dec 30, 2013
    Rapid City, SD
    Thanks guys, It's interesting reading all the responses! I think I'm mostly just not used to hearing a good orchestra :)
    It was mentioned that I'm likely just hearing the overtones from all other players playing in tune. Now that I go back and listen to it, I think I could convince myself that they're not actually playing that low, at least not at the moment I mentioned. Although I swear I hear the fundamental on the 2nd note of that line (Bb), and for sure by the third note but by that point they could have just moved to an open B with a B extension (which google says exists, and I would think the LSO would have them :D)... Maybe it's just the way my EQ is set on my headphones. With it being a studio recording, it's also possible that they went in added a little something to it while mixing.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
  15. I should possibly correct myself above. What is the lowest frequency that can give a discernable note? I assume that a slackened bass drum is deeper sounding but just creates a thump with over tones.
     
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  16. bengreen

    bengreen

    Jan 26, 2016
    San Diego
    Your brain enters into the mix big time. If you're presented with an overtone series minus the fundamental, you head will provide it for you.

    I forget the terminology but I remember reading of organ pipe design in which a stopped pipe gives the sound of a pipe twice it's length. Is that us filling in the fundamental? And I've always found it interesting that Hammond Organs have a slider for the 5th above the fundamental while the other sliders followed the harmonic series. More acoustic sleight of hand?

    The concept of the instruments built for the Hutchins Consort was based on the idea that the bodies of traditional strings, bass and viola in particular, were inadequately sized to properly resonate the fundamentals of notes in their range.

    Going to the visual spectrum, we lack light receptors in the area of the eye where the nerve bundles exit to the brain. The holes in our sight can be demonstrated by light stimulus tests but we're not aware of those holes in normal seeing. The brain fills them in.

    And there was an experiment in which subjects wore prisms to turn the world upside down but after a few days they saw right side up again despite the lenses. When they took the lenses off in the end, they saw upside down again until their brains readjusted a second time

    Just saying the mind is a big part of all perception and it can be gamed.

    BTW, I believe our low C is actually 16 foot open pipe. The number made an impression because I remember feeling ego deflated that that's all we were good for.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
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  17. I agree with Carl, I think that low Ab is sweetened by something else. I've been playing a 5 string with a low B this year and loving it. I've found plenty of places where the low B works great. I even use a Hipshot sometimes to drop it down to Bb.
    Of course, this has given me a fantasy about putting an extension on the 5-string so that I can reach a low Ab or G.
    I did play Bob Spears, Hutchins Consort large contrabass (not sure what they call it). It sounded monstrous. OMG. If I had the money, I would have had him make me one of those for the orchestra. That bass worked with a low G on the bottom. But nobody would play it that way because all the bass players only play in 4ths.
     
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  18. the_Ryan

    the_Ryan

    Jul 10, 2015
    Bronx, NY
    I took a listen to the recording and to me it sounds like the basses are playing fifths (Ab1 and Eb2) for those low roots as opposed to Ab0.
     
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  19. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Not exactly. Below that threshold, we can *hear* the individual waves/pulses but have trouble discerning an actual pitch.
     
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  20. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    I believe that those really low frequencies are more felt than heard when they come out of subcontraoctave church organ pipes. Similar frequencies are found in huge sounds of nature, like thunderstorm and waterfall.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
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