Style vs Tinkertime

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by moped10, May 21, 2004.

  1. moped10


    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Ok- I see this sentiment more and more on this thread and want to hear some more: Despite all of our string changing, soundpost manouvering, action adjusting, etc., our sound all comes down to our PLAYING, correct? I've garnered this from post responses of Paul Warburton, Chasarms, Ray Parker, Mr. Fuqua, and many of the other vet Talkbassers (I'm sure you'd rather be called vet bassists, sorry)-I am definitely guilty of countless hours of tinkering and too much $ in strings, but is my improvement in tone due more to the fact that I've been playing alot more the past couple years, or the new tailpiece wire, new post, new bridge, new strings... It's nice to think style's the big thing, but if that's the case, then why do we all sweat all over this forum on how far the post is from the bridge foot, what gauge our tailpiece wire is, how often we oil our guts,... What I'm beginning to think is if I would've spent all THOSE hours practicing instead of tinkering, my sound would be all the more better... And there just went another 20 minutes I spent on this forum I could've been playing ;) I'm not asking if you're of the strict opinion that it's all style or all setup/gear. You have to straddle the fence, but which side do you lean more to? Do you think if you have the chops, you can pick up a 500$ CCB on Ebay and make it sing (before it explodes)? Or conversely, if you can't seem to get any pizz punch out of your Engel, you can just upgrade to a Christopher hybrid, problem solved? Once again, before I get chastised, I'm NOT saying it's either one or the other, but how much do you believe good sound relies on good equipment, and how much on good style...?
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I think most of the sound comes from you. After a certain level of setup, you're just dealing with comfort level and emotional issues.

    As far as tinkering, I really don't fuss around much at all with the fiddle. Seasonal changes and the like will cause a flurry of adjustments sometimes, spring being worse than fall. I usually don't change strings until the current set dies unless I really hate a set that I try experimentally. Tail gut v cable? I think that this is total nonsense, perhaps as nuts as putting 'real' rubber tires on your car instead of the newer modern poly-steel belted sort.

    Thinking about my postings here, I have tried a lot of different things, but 22 or 23 years on the fiddle gives you a lot time to gather experience.
  3. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I definitely think so. My teacher would use my bass to demonstrate a bowing, lick, or idea as often as he would use one of his own basses - I believe as much to drive home the idea that any real problems I was having were simply my own than because it was convenient for him. It's just a Strunal and nothing more.

    Don't get me wrong, I have lots of fun moving my soundpost around and checking out the tone, trying out different kinds of strings to hear the tones and see what is and isn't bowable...even moving my bridge a little to see what happens.

    I think it's crazy for players to avoid changing strings because they're afraid the soundpost will fall, but whatever. When it comes to making a living as a musician, you have to be well rounded and interact with all kinds of people who don't hear music but want something out of the experience - "My 1765 bass was made in Italy by Guido Medici", "Stravinsky loved riding merry-go-rounds that didn't play music", whatever. I think that a musician who does nothing but practice, doesn't even pretend to have an eye for great architecture and luthiery, doesn't participate socially with other human beings, and doesn't exercise interests outside of music is in great danger of fancying very technically challenging music at the exclusion of everything else. And that kind of music gets very, very boring very, very quickly.

    Music, to me, is a complex, intricate medium for self-expression. Express who you are through it and enjoy the journey wherever it leads you.
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    An interesting answer to a different question?
  5. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I went on a thought train with the "style" issue and didn't notice the derailment, I suppose.
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Great thread. This is what I come here for.

    As for gear wars, we each reach our unique point of futility, but we all reach one.

    But more broadly, consider the Hindu parable of Kali's bauble. In short, inarticulate fashion: You spend time engaged in a detailed examination of an unimaginably beautiful thing. Who would not want to spend hours, days, years finding all the beauty in this? You wake, drawing your final breath, only to find that you have been staring at the paint on Kali's toe-nail.

    Let us here call that thing of beauty "DB."

    You can make fine sound and GREAT music on an undistinguished instrument -- haven't we all heard it done? -- if you have, not just chops, not mere style, but a great sound to bring to the instrument. To me, this is best called a musical VISION. But the more I think about it, the more I suspect we're just calling the same thing different names.

    Phrased otherwise, if Gary Karr or Christian McBride played your bass, they would sound exactly like themselves. Period.

    Absolutely, and well-said. Do note, though, that a bunch of us here have jobs, families and all that come with them. No-one will ever accuse me of over-practicing!

    Wise words, never off topic.
  7. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    No offense meant. There is a reflection of myself that I'm pointing my finger at as well. :)
  8. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Please, allow me to be the bad apple and stink up the lovefest a little bit:

    If it's all in Gary's or Christian's or Ray's or Edgar's vision and hands -- in their beings, not outside -- then why would any competent person have any truck at all with the notion of "fine instruments", let alone pay tens of thousands of dollars for them? Sure, lots of great players can make their great sounds on almost any instrument, but a great many choose not to. At least a little bit of the good sound can come from the instrument and the setup. Various cliches apply, though: "there is no free lunch"; "you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear". Yada.

    My bass sounds really freaking tubby right now -- season change and worn out strings, methinks.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well this is just one man's opinion from the stinky apple but - I have to agree with Ray to a great extent. The sound you are trying to get out of every bass you pick up already exists inside your mind's ear. There are richer and poorer versions of that sound, instruments that you have to really work to get that sound and those that seem to get to that sound with no effort whatsoever. And that's not to say that the "interior" sound doesn't change as your ear changes or the depth of timbre you are able to hear changes. But just like ear training builds your ability to hear internally with clarity, the more you "hear" your bass sound, the sound that is you, the closer you get to getting that sound (or a version of that sound) from just about every bass you pick up.

    I know it may be a leap of faith DEMON, I know that as I was coming up, all I needed was a better bass, a better pick up, different strings and then I would get that sound. But the more I work on getting a good physical approach and getting a warm open focused sound out of the bass, the closer I get to getting that sound on ANY bass.
    Stay the course, thousand points of light....
  10. A few years back, I got a bass just to kind of try things on. In other words, just to get that accessorizing out of my system. My main bass has had a hell of a record of remaining exactly the same with no messing around from me.
    I only learned that I always sound like me no matter how the bass is set up or accessorized.
    I think there's a little of " Mr. Gadget " in all of us, but our playing is more than anything "our own"
  11. I think for a lot of folks, tinkering is much easier and so that is where the focus lies. It is a tendency to believe that the problem is not with you but with your instrument, that some adjustment or another will suddenly make you sound like Christian McBride. Learning the whole range of the instrument takes time and effort, learning to draw out a quality sound takes time and effort, learning to play music rather than notes takes time and effort.

    Most bass players in my little corner of the world are just not willing to do that. And if they are, they usually take up one of the more "glamorous" instruments.
  12. rscconrad


    Apr 26, 2004
    I don't know but a great deal of enjoyment to me comes from tinkering. I like to change things aruound just to get a different sound.

    Playing is also tinkering for me, I am a closet player, striclty for fun and relaxation.

    Heck I don't even know what the ideal sound is, but I do know if it sounds different and I like it.
  13. I believe it's a combination of the player and the instrument. You can work with your approach to get a sound and after a while see how the bass may be falling a bit short of your efforts, so you tinker until you find a workable sound from the bass. I have heard my teacher playing mine and his bass, he always sounds like him. I have been to jam sessions and let others play my bass and heard how IT sounds.
    My point is this, a great painter can make a beautiful painting no matter what paints or brushes they use, but it doesn't stop them from thining the paint they use or even getting the best brushes they can.
    But the work you put into yourself as a player is far more important than the work you have done on your bass.
  14. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    As many people will know, I have done and continue to do my fair share of tinkering although I have to say that I've basically done now and am quite happy with my current setup and gear. I am not one to blame my tools and will always blame myself first. Although I believe the player has a lot to do with it, there are limitations. There are two things I've focused on:

    a) Getting a sound like PC and many of the guys that played around then and that sound is typified to me by the use of gut strings

    b) Getting the same amplified sound as I get acoustically

    Trying for example to get a gut sound on the most un-gut like sounding of strings is very hard for anyone to do because there's just a certain envelope and an attack of those strings that is quite unique. It includes the strength of the fundamental, the snap of the strings, and all the wonderful sounds that the strings make when they get old and frayed too. Those kinds of things are not easily reproduced by technique alone. There are also elements of playing on gut strings that have nothing to do with sound but include the feel of the strings under the fingers, the idea of playing with an organic material under the fingers that is in harmony with the other organic material in the instrument, and the idea of playing with a setup similar to what the guys used "back then", which includes dealing with all the troubles they had to deal with (tuning instability, etc.).

    In terms of amplification, after doing everything with both the bass and my technique to achieve a certain sound, to then have it change through the amp, is a real pain, so I've tried to get a rig that would be as natural and as transparent as possible (AMT mic and Pub speaker).

    Most of my tinkering has been to prove to myself whether I could be satisfied with anything less than the real deal (i.e. gut strings and a mic). This is partially due to the marketing of the the product vendors who will often claim "the strings sound just like gut but don't have any of gut's problems" or "the pickup sounds as good as a mic but doesn't have any of the mic's sensitivity to feedback and bleed". And so I've accepted my own personal challenge to prove these claims - and found that they have fallen short in every case.

  15. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I don't think there is anything at all wrong with tinkering. In fact, I love the idea. My point has always been you should tinker with the right perspective. It's about reasonable expectations.

    I laughed out loud a bit when I was called a "vet." Shoot, I can still look back and see the starting gate when it comes to the db journey. But I have occasional moments when I hook up with the thing and make a sound that makes me smile. I clipping along the other day following a pianist friend of mine on a little jazz-like thing and thinking I was at the top of the world. My tone was absolutely perfect.

    Then it occurred to me that I am not supposed to be able to play jazz with Flexocors. My sound fell apart in a second after that. :)
  16. :) The act of observation changes the thing under observation, as them nuclear physics folks like to point out...
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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

    I thought the Heisenberg Principle stated that unless you keep a close eye on the clubowner, you won't get paid...
  18. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ... that would be the Heistenburg principle, Ed.

    Glad I could help.
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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

    I was SO hoping somebody would go there!