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Shedding amplified

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by bopeuph, Mar 8, 2008.


  1. bopeuph

    bopeuph

    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    When I was studying in school, I didn't have much of a rig. My teacher said it was important to shed my electric with an amp to develop what I want in an amplified sound. I have been wondering now, do people do the same thing with the DB? I think I have my sound where I want it amplified, but I don't know whats about getting used to playing with the sound and whatnot. The first four years I've played I didn't use an amp, and even though I have for the last few, it still feels new and unnatural. Any thoughts?

    Nick
     
  2. Alaska Bass

    Alaska Bass

    Dec 31, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    No.
     
  3. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    No. I think it is very important to constantly work on your acoustic sound in order to make your amplified sound good. I never practice with an amp. I occasionally hook it up to tinker with settings and stuff but I never use it for the sake of practicing.

    I think lots of guys end up spending thousands of dollars on gear only to find out that the solution was at the ends of each arm all along.
     
  4. ninnlangel

    ninnlangel Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    France, Switzerland
    I don't disagree that a tremendous amount of acoustic work on tone production is necessary. It takes a long time to really develop a good solid, effortless tone. I do think that a lot of bass players underestimate the amount of work (and I do mean work, not gear) it takes to get a good amplified tone. Not only must you find the right gear, but then you have to learn to use it. The amp is part of the instrument, whether you like it or not, and it takes practice to understand exactly how to use a notch filter on the right resonance, how place the amp, what volume is right in this or that context, etc.

    I find that bass players who try not to use an amp most of the time end up sounding terrible when they plug in, however great their acoustic tone is. The reality is that 90% of gigs require amplification, so do you want to sound your best only for the other 10% ? I would recommend practicing with the amp on a little. Maybe just 10 - 15 minutes a day. And to try to play a few notes with it of, and then turn it on, and try to work the sound until you get the same thing but louder. And try to see how loud you can get it so sound while still close enough to you acoustic tone. Different levels will require different adjusments to the EQ.
     
  5. bolo

    bolo

    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    ninnlangel, those are some interesting suggestions. Thanks.

    I don't practice w/ an amp unless I've bought a new piece of gear and want to check it out. And I don't know if I would hook up the amp every day. But I would definitely practice with it until it no longer feels "new and unnatural" per the OP. Get to know the equipment so there is no guesswork when you gig. It is a whole 'nother set of variables to attempt to master.

    For EB, your teacher was right. If you are not plugged in, I think the tendency is to grossly overplay with the right hand simply because you can barely hear it. I've got a Tascam CD-BT1 that is kind of a neat middle ground for practicing slab late at night or when I'm away from home.
     
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    +1!
     
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    A good thought but then you go to the room where the gig is and all bets are off. That's why learning to use tone shaping circuits and the equipment itself (as you suggested) is so important. I never practice with the amp but I am a fan of the parametric tone-control sections of the EA iamps. Many find them frustrating but I've said here many times that it is worth the effort to learn to use them. It's a valuable skill to be able to go into a room, listen for a few seconds, and say, "Hmm-- gotta cut the octave around 250 Hz and boost the 2 kHz region."
     
  8. ninnlangel

    ninnlangel Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2005
    France, Switzerland
    That's essentially what I meant. I did not aquire this knowledge through practicing with an amp (it was 3 years doing live sound in a jazz club), but I think doing a little bit of it at home, as well as understanding the way a gain structure, EQ circuit etc works, can teach you how to deal with a real context - much the same way practicing alone is not like the real thing but makes it easier. Your living-room setting might not cut it at the gig, but you'll know to recognize what frequencies to alter, and how to do it.

    I am shocked at the number of bassists I meet who have no clue how to amplify, and just fiddle with the knobs until they like it.
     
  9. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I agree. See the new thread I've started.
     
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I practice without an amp, and I have to admit that a major part of it is just the enjoyment of hearing the acoustic tone of the bass. Even though I am a part time gear maker, I still consider amplification to be a necessary evil.

    Meanwhile, I guess it's time to dredge my brother's old MXR graphic out of the garage and see if it still works, so I can work on my "perfect pitch" for EQ.
     
  11. I'm kind of in the middle on this. I only practice with an amp after purchasing a new piece of gear (amp, p/u, microphone etc.) and want to see what it can do and to get comfortable with it's operation. I HATE fiddling with knobs on the gig and want to intimately understand the equipment before the gig. It has also been my experience that it never sounds the same on the gig so some knob twiddling is inevitable. But if I can't make it sound acceptable at home then it definitely won't sound good on the gig. Once I get it happening and feel comfortable on the gig, the amplification just sits in the garage between gigs.

    But I firmly believe you have to work with your equipment to get a sense of what it can do and what it does to your sound. Really, to sound your best, you need to adapt or learn to adapt to what's coming out of that hunk of paper, metal and wood. Unless you're standing right in front of the people, most of the audience hears more of your amp than you.

    Of course, what comes out is only as good as what goes in so if your acoustic thing isn't happening, it doesn't matter how well you know your equipment or how good it is. But, conversely, if your amp sound isn't any good, it doesn't matter what your acoustic sound is like because no one will actually hear it.

    For me right now, I don't practice with an amp. Even though I've tried a bunch of new gear over the past 6 months, I've pretty much ended up with the same basic rig I've used for the past 5 or 6 years. I intimately know how it works. I know how it responds to different rooms and how to compensate for unpleasant or unfriendly rooms (most of the time anyway). So I spend my practice time playing acoustically because no matter how good I think my amp sound is (and I really like my amplified sound), it doesn't have the nuance or the depth of tone that my bass and I alone get. And hearing that gorgeous sound is what makes me WANT to practice.


    mark
     
  12. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Perfect!
     
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've done a fair amount of practicing with an amp, usually around the time I've gotten a new piece of gear and want to find out how it behaves in the signal chain. Once I've gotten that figured out, I practice acoustically only. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you play amplified, your rig is an extension of your instrument. I know plenty of guys who sound one way acoustically and much, MUCH worse amplified. I don't want to be one of those guys.

    While it's a given that the most important tone controls you have are the ones protruding out from your shoulders, and that this is where the majority of your time should be spent, I think that coming to terms with controlling your amplified sound is an important and oft overlooked aspect of being a viable working musician.
     
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I think there is a difference between learning how to get a good live sound and practicing with an amp.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Chris. Your amp is an extension of your instrument. Like others have said I learn how to use a new piece of gear when I get it. After that the amp stays off though. I just bought a external speaker that I tested for 5 min. Other than that I have been using mostly the same setup for a few years now. I never plug in at home.

    Also rehearsals are a great place for gear tinkering. It is hard to get an idea of how your sound is going to fit with the overall mix until you hear the total picture.

    I still stand by the assertion that people expect amps and pickups to improve their tone. Ain't gonna happen.
     
  15. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    :)

    +1 for all!

    I don't practice with an amp. I do however rehearse with it. I don't think the sound of any bass amp in a room alone will translate to the bandstand very accurately, but it is a good way to discover how to use your EQ.

    There are few joys in life quite like the sound an acoustic double bass!!

    -J
     
  16. bopeuph

    bopeuph

    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Maybe rehearsing with one is a good idea. I spent the first five years learning jazz bass unamplified. I went to gigs, rehearsals, etc., without an amp. Needless to say, I had super high action and was heard over a 24 piece big band.

    Because of this, I have decent callouses, even without playing for weeks, and I have been told I play too hard now that I have an amp. It's been about two years since I've had a pickup to work with. I guess the idea I was thinking is shedding with an amp may discourage me from playing so hard now, since I'm so used to playing so hard unamplified. I will keep shedding without an amp and try to focus on that task by itself.

    Nick
     
  17. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    ...or work towards getting a amp/pickup/mic combo that doesn't require that you change your approach.
     
  18. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    Hey Nick,

    When you practice, do you play as loud as you do in rehearsals? Because you have an amp now it's not a bad idea to find the best balance of volume and tone acoustically when practicing alone and then optimize that sound/tone with your amp in rehearsal.

    I think it is important for all of us to keep in mind that rehearsals should be for rehearsing ALL aspects of your performance with the ensemble including volume dynamics AND amp settings.

    -J

    This is my New Year's resolution/mantra;
    Practice = intonation, personal technique, etc
    Rehearsal = arraignments, dynamics, etc.
    Performance = FUN!
     
  19. bolo

    bolo

    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    Yikes.

    Then why do you want to use an amp?
     
  20. bopeuph

    bopeuph

    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    My last teacher, Dennis Marks (check out your last decade's worth of Arturo CDs), wanted me to start playing more modern. With action like that, there was no way to really play 16ths, or really even 8th notes. I did start to dig it more, but amplification was necessary at that point. But, I still have a bad habit of digging in too much.

    Jeff, I'm trying to play more dynamic altogether. The guitar player I play with wants me to hold off walking as long as I can, and a local guy tells me I'm "balls to the wall" way too early in a song. They're right. I'm just trying to ease my playing up.

    These are all great tips guys. Thanks.

    Nick
     

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