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Scott LaFaro’s Tone

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by LuminaryWharf, Nov 30, 2019 at 2:44 PM.

  1. LuminaryWharf


    Aug 6, 2019
    Hey guys,

    First post here so I’m not sure if this is in the right thread. Anyway, I’ve been going back and listening to all of my recordings of Scott LaFaro (especially the two Village Vanguard live albums). One thing I’m always struck by is how even though he plays quite fast, he has this incredible tone that is very full and booming.

    I was wondering how one can achieve a tone similar to his on the album. How much of this has to do with bass setup, right hand technique, strings, amplification, etc.

    Thanks for the help!
  2. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    I think it has less to do with any gear (setup strings blah blah) but work on getting that tone you like at a slow tempo, and figure out how to speed it up. Thats the hardest part and takes time.

    I think for that sound a lower string height will help. Different than a higher string height sound that may be better for a PC sound.

    Scotty played on gut strings played low, but you don't REALLY need to go that route. Whatever strings you have now should be fine, but a pizz oriented string is best (spirocores, evahs, perpetuals). Hope that helps.

    You can find videos of someone using his bass to record some of his transcriptions, that may help to show you its more in the playing.
    LaFaro01 likes this.
  3. LuminaryWharf


    Aug 6, 2019
    Thanks! I hadn’t really thought about trying to find my perfect tone at a slower tempo, but I’ll have to do that. I’m thinking I’ll need to lower my strings a little bit as well.

    I’m assuming you’re talking about the videos Phil Palombi put on his YouTube channel, or are there other ones?
  4. Sean Riddle

    Sean Riddle Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ventura, California
    Practicing pizzicato long tones will help. I picked this up from Ken Filiano. Basically all you do is pull back any open string using the weight of your arm until the string releases itself from your fingers. You do not tell the string when to release, the string will do all the work for you. From what Ken believes, this is the motion to play pizzicato just extremely slowed down. So this totally ties in with what Sam said about getting a good tone at a slower tempo. Long story short all you need to do is provide the string with just the right amount of energy to vibrate freely, which honestly isn't a lot.
    LaFaro01 and Seanto like this.
  5. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Don't forget that you're listening to a mic placed a few inches in front of his bass.

    It will never sound like that to you when you're holding the bass.
  6. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    There's a Prescott for sale in the classifieds @$50k or so. You can start with that, or you can concentrate on getting the best sound possible with your bass, hands and ability level. As Sam noted, recorded sound is one thing and the variables affecting sound are many, as you mention in your post. You can add room acoustics to that mix, too.

    There's no simple answer. You're going to have to work hard and experiment to find the balance of bass, strings, amplification and technique that works for you.
    J_Bass and LaFaro01 like this.
  7. LaFaro01


    Aug 27, 2018
    As said by my nickname, I'm a really great fan of Scott LaFaro and the real important points stated before in this thread (for me the most important is the veeeeery slooooow exercising, which is not so easy, I tend always to get faster far to much..;) ) but the in my opinion the important question is: why do you want to sound like Scott LaFaro? Why don't you try to get your own sound, your "voice"? As Christian McBride often says: "Your sound is your signature!" :)
    As Eric mentioned before.. find the solution, that works for you best...:)
    Sam Sherry and matthewbrown like this.
  8. J_Bass


    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Bill Evans said of LaFaro's Prescott bass, "It had a marvelous sustaining and resonating quality. He would be playing in the hotel room and hit a quadruple stop that was a harmonious sound, and then set the bass on its side and it seemed the sound just rang and rang for so long."

    I still think it was in his hands.
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  9. nbsipics

    nbsipics Smacks of Euphoric Hysteria Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    Scotty and his bass? That was the ultimate combo-deal.
    J_Bass likes this.
  10. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    TB`r Mark Perna playing heavily Lafaro ispired stuff on guts here. He sorted out pretty deep how the Lafaro stuff becomes possible. There`s plenty of discussion on the subject in some older Gamut guts -thread if I recall:
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  11. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    yes those videos
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  12. Cassidyholden1


    Mar 8, 2014
    Recording oneself is critical for this very reason..
    longfinger, Sam Sherry and Sam Dingle like this.
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
  14. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
  15. Recording technique and equipment make a big difference too.
    The right microphone, in the right place, with the right pre-amp and the right recorder...
    then mixed in the right way, finally mastered.

    It all counts.

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