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Solo Bassist Rig

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by coffee-sipper, Feb 7, 2004.


  1. coffee-sipper

    coffee-sipper

    Jul 10, 2003
    Raleigh NC
    Hello,
    I don't play in a band nor do I care to. However, I would like to perform solo. I mostly play intricate bass pieces already (Bach etc) but want to venture off into complete bass solo pieces. What effects are you other solo bassists using?

    Right now my rig consists of straight tone from a Workingman's 15 and I am interested in adding some Chorus, occasional Octaver, and a Looper for backing. Anyone else use these pedals together and which ones.

    Any other advice for an aspiring solo bass player?
     
  2. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN

    I know it's not the same style and type of sound you want, but I think you should take a look at the band "Clatter" They have a link on the top of the page sometimes here. She uses a lot of the things that you want to use.
     
  3. I would recomend a Digitech BP-8. Not in production anymore, but you can find them used for around $125 or so. I just bought one a few months back and it's great for solo type stuff. You would have to purchase a looper seperately though. Hope this helps!
     
  4. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    As a solo bassist, I think it important to point out to you that clarity of tone, clarity of vision and of performance are most important, as opposed to "which fx" to use. In a solo setting you are the sole center of musical focus, and placing too much emphasis on technology, fx and sound "treatments" tends to alienate an audience (after all, they want to hear someone play...not twiddle knobs).

    Octave pedals, while cool, may tend to muddy things up in a solo set.......as will chorus when abused. Fx should not be a focus in the music, but rather a subtle "seasoning" to it.

    With tonal clarity being an issue, I would advise, if you are looking to check out any fx, to shy away from things prefixed by the word "bass" as they tend to designed with a preconcieved notion of what bass sunds like, or should sound like in a band. Also, all-in-one Muti fx tend to compromise sound quaility in exchange for more options, programs etc.
    The tradeoff there is quantity over quality.

    Looping is a great way to augment a solo performance. There are a number of different loopers out there, each with their own speacial set of features..and each in their own price range. You can check out looper's delight for some detailed analysis, but a really good unit to get you started with is the Line 6 DL4, which offers a lot of live performance capabilities.

    It is also important to remember that no fx, or gadgets, can cover up a lack of musicality. More than anything else you must keep you stuff deeply musical, and avoid the pits of ego-filled self-absorbed "wanker-isms".

    Be prepared to not be accpeted, as most folks can not accept, or at least find it very difficult to accept, a new concept of bass playing. They are not quite ready to dismiss the existing paradigm and notions of what bass is and does....and to this end adding too much effects can only make this more difficult for them. I have found that in relating to a (potential) audience, it is best to keep things simple (no drastic fx processing, no drum machines or prerecorded sequences) and highly musical...make sure they can see you play. Also, people tend to be a bit wary of high-browed, virtusosic performances (and perhaps rightly so), so remember to keep it light and fun (for instance, in addition to the BAch pieces learn the theme from The Flinstones, a Beatles tune...even ABBA ...hey, I have done this!)

    Yet, as a solo bassist...I can only say "welcome to the club". Good luck and I would love to hear how things work out for you!

    Max
     
  5. coffee-sipper

    coffee-sipper

    Jul 10, 2003
    Raleigh NC
    Awesome!

    Thanks for the info. That is exactly what I am looking for.
     
  6. coffee-sipper

    coffee-sipper

    Jul 10, 2003
    Raleigh NC
  7. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Great advice from Max, I have only one note of dissent really:

    Fx should not be a focus in the music, but rather a subtle "seasoning" to it.

    I think full-blown electronica is a valid and interesting possibility for solo bass. I play in a duo with drums and bass, and the over-the-top electronic portion of our set is actually quite popular. I play with a slide, dual fuzz units, a stereo rig, and at least three rack delays. I make a big show of knob tweaking, but I do have the advantage of a good jazz drummer working behind and with me. I try to establish a baseline of good solid music first most nights, then go off. Occasionally it's fun to do it the other way around though, keeps people guessing. You need to know your audience, some do respond favorably to freakish timbre and a non-traditional approach. In my case, I was willing to take a few years to indoctrinate them.

    I second the idea of levity as important somewhere in the set too. I usually throw in some old school R&B, classic rawk, or trashy newer pop tunes (Madonna, et al, sung falsetto), interspersed with some quotes from classic jazz tunes. I once saw Sun Ra pull out some Ellington after an hour of pure noise making. It really made you think about what his intent was, which was very cool.
     
  8. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    Yes, I also have found electronica to be quite a valid form, and quite "employ-able" for solo bass stuff. Yet, my experience in doing this prompted my response.

    When I started doing solo bass shows, my intention was to produce full-blown electronica. As such I used an array of rack mount and pedal processors, as many as three drum machines, three different loopers et al. A couple of things came dramatically to my attention: when doing "just solo bass" (augmented with loops) the audiences were generally rapt; their preconceptions of what the bass gtr was and its possibilities being blown open. Even the use of loops was generally "accepted" as the audience could watch me "build" the structure of the tune...everything they heard was being played.
    Yet, when I would kick in the drum machines, start twiddling with filters and buttons and dials....well, that lost (generally) about 70% of the audience. They felt it was "canned" and were cheated of a performance.

    After discussing this dilemma with other musicians (doing simialr things) I began to use a drum machine in which I would tap out a rhythm on the tiny little keys and build from there. This went over better, but still the audience a little lost. This led to my current setup where I actaully play drum parts on the bass using taps, string mutes, hitting the body of the bass, even aplying alligator clips to harmonic nodes along the string to create percussive loops which I then, in turn, play to and layer upon.

    Recently, I returned to doing some shows which were more "electronica-based" employing a single processor, a Linn AdrenaLinn, to do do a lot of filter swept sequences and such.
    Again, the audience reaction was not as supportive as when I merely played my bass. It seems a lot of folks cannot fathom odd sounds and timbres coming from an instrument which, in their minds, simply cannot produce those.
    Yet, when I use an Ebow, which again they can actually see me using, the odd tones and sounds are enthusiastically accepted.

    Certainly, for me, the knob twiddling bit was a distraction. And if I had made this more "theatrical" (big hand movements...making sure people could see I was doing something with/to the technology) perhaps it would have gone over better. Yet, I also found that keeping track of all the buttons, LEDs, MIDI channels and CC info, and pedal pushes became such a complicated tap dance that it detracted from my own playing: I became to focused on what buttons/fx/etc I was working that I was not focused on the playing...nor the music.

    Now I run a rather simple setup of my bass, JamMan (heavily modded to allow stereo loops, mutiple parallel loops, fades etc..with more memory), sometimes a line 6 DL4, and a TC M-One for light reverb. All my effects are done manually; that is to say with my hands (save for the Ebow and alligator clips!), and the audience acceptence is very enthusiastic. This simplicity allows me to really focus more on the music...and since I am no longer stressed over which MIDI ch, which pedal to push (too many fx can really lead to some serious "option anxiety"), and all the blinking lights I can inject more levity and interaction with the audience.

    Of course, this is just me.....I love stuff with heavy processing. But I found with solo, or even semi-solo bass it works best if there is someone else to pick up the "slack" (such as, in your case, the drummer). And, for me, the abscence of heavy processing makes me focus more on making music.....making the music full and complete with but a single instrument.

    Max
     
  9. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    Of course, this is just me.....I love stuff with heavy processing. But I found with solo, or even semi-solo bass it works best if there is someone else to pick up the "slack" (such as, in your case, the drummer). And, for me, the absence of heavy processing makes me focus more on making music.....making the music full and complete with but a single instrument.

    Everything you're saying makes good sense to me. I despise drum machines...for my gig. My duo is a lot diffferent than a true solo deal, and I also sing (highly processed at times also). I mostly use very simple regenerative ping-pong delay rather than loops per se. I also play guitar and guitar synth a bit during our shows. The overall vibe is quite different from true solo bass, it would be fair to say. Hats off to any of you who make that work in public.
     
  10. TRIPSTER

    TRIPSTER

    Aug 13, 2003
    Sulphur LA
    For solo bass you need:

    Good music: This is up to you....:)
    Good bass: Well set up, well strung, quiet electronics.
    Good amp: Clarity is key. Actually if you don't want to bother playing in a band you could get rid of the bass amps entirely and play through a PA system. Steve Lawson is in effect moving toward this with two powered Accugroove cabs that are like little mini-PA cabs. Pretty cool.
    Effects: Use them how you want to. Noises can be cool. It's your art. Do what you want.
     
  11. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I'm primarily a soloist and i use a bass and an amp...
     
  12. coffee-sipper

    coffee-sipper

    Jul 10, 2003
    Raleigh NC
    I probably should have ellaborated on my needs.

    I like the way the Bach sounds with a little echo-ey chorus in it, sort of like it is in a concert hall (slight chorus).

    Additionally, I want to be able to do layers. Start with percusive slaps and pops on the bass add a simple open bass line (perhaps at an octave) and do more complex solo over that. Nothing all that fancy.


    I guess I was looking to see what others are using. For my needs I think I will try and find a chorus an octaver and a looper. Nothing that will dramatically change my tone but add to it.

    My audience will be primarily small coffee house gigs that will hopefully not contain any rotting vegetables to throw at me.

    Thanks for all the great info. I now have some direction and better get practicing (what pieces to practice besides the bach I don't know).
     
  13. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    chorus and octave you can get from just about any multiFX unit - how fussy you are about which one you use depends on how long you want to spend programming it for a good sound. I once saw Michael Manring playing through a Zoom 506, and was trying to work out what this amazing new tiny pedal was that he was using... He'd just spent a bit of time getting rid of the zoominess of it and making it work...

    loopers - there are quite a few, main contenders on a budget being the Line 6 DL4, Boss RC-20 and Akai Headrush - head over to www.loopers-delight.com for more on those.

    Effects/No FX - all depends on what you're trying to do. My stuff veers from hugely processed sounds nothing like a bass soundscapes to one loop of unprocessed bass chords with a tune over the top. Neither is inherently better or worse than the other, both seem to work fine with audiences though I'm careful to pick the right kind of material for the vibe of the venue - I wasn't doing much soundscaping when I opened for Level 42!

    Max's dilemma seems to be about finding your voice - it is possible to get caught up in the mechanics of processing and lose the music. It's also equally possible to get so into the idea of noFX that you try and do things with your hands that would be a lot easier with a pedal, and would free you up to focus on music... No rules, no boundaries, bottom line is does it sound good and do you enjoy it? :)

    have fun!

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  14. Correlli

    Correlli

    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I perform unaccompanied bass solos at a local cafe' downtown.

    The gear I use include the following:
    - Combo bass amp w/ RCA input.
    - Fender P Bass modified w/ brass nut/bridge, Rotosound strings, Dimarzio pickups.
    - Zoom drum machine, used only for background tempo etc.
    - CS 3 Compressor/Sustainer to even out the sound, and add heaps of sustain!

    Have fun
     
  15. coffee-sipper

    coffee-sipper

    Jul 10, 2003
    Raleigh NC
    -Kiwi Kid-

    I think we have a pretty similar set-up. How do you like the CS 3 Compressor/Sustainer on bass? I am using the LMB-3 and I don't like it very much.
     
  16. Correlli

    Correlli

    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I tried the LMB 3 but I choose the CS 3 for quite a few reasons:
    - It's compact, portable, robust, cheap, and easy to use.
    - Adds heaps of sustain. Being a finger style bassist, the
    CS 3's sustain feature enhances my techniques (hammer-on and pull-off etc).
    - I get a better "feel" for the sound comming out of the amp
    - It allows me to be more expressive, able to make the bass talk a little more. I practice acoustically with my electric bass then, plug in using the CS 3 (magic)
    - It's lets me blend in band situations in a more controlled way.
    - Can use it for any instrument

    The CS 3 has some draw-backs:
    - It will pick up noise from unsheilded or low quality electronics
    - Amplifies harmonics in weird ways. I have to watch my left hand string muting to ensure I don't get unwanted harmonic sounds.

    Also dude, the best way I've found using effects, includes the following:

    First combo amp:
    - Clean tone
    - Full range sound
    - Compression

    Second combo amp:
    - Bass/Low mid cut (remove altogether if possible)
    - High mid/treble boost (just a couple dB's)
    - No compression
    - A touch of distortion, chorus, and delay (or any effect for that matter)

    Mix the two together and you get spine-tingling results. You could have a third amp for separate ultra low boost and remove all other frequencies above that.

    What do you think?