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Sustain

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Joe Smithberger, Mar 30, 2005.


  1. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    I am playing a plywood Shen with a Full Circle pickup, Thomastic Superflex G, D, and A with a Stark E. Acoustically it sounds fine. At low volumes it sounds fine. However, in a group setting or even a duo with a grand piano, it tends to get thumpy or at least more so than I would like. I have and have tried several preamps including the K&K Powerpack, Fishman Pro Platinum, Raven MDB-1, and even a Boss ME50B. My primary working rig is either the K&K or Fishman preamp (or both) into a GK1001RB and a 2x10 cabinet.

    The music I am playing is almost anything except straight ahead walking jazz (Latin, Rock, Country, Folk). I am looking for less attack and more sustain. Am I going to have to mix in another pickup or can I get something better if I get a clue about the gear I have? Is there a way to limit the volume of the initial ping or enhance the sustain as amplified? If I can get there with my Fishman box, please shared suggested settings, it seems that if I get more knobs to fuss with, I spend more time fussing and never settle on anything. BTW the GK is always set with the EQ flat, presence off, contour off, and string switch out (no boost).
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Are you pulling harder and more toward the end of the fingerboard in the louder setting? Is your cabinet on the floor? Is the bass knob cranked way up on your amp?
     
  3. Try elevating your amp....preferably on a stand. Put it right behind your bass. Bass @ 12 o'clock, treble all the way down.
     
  4. How high is your action?[String height] Depending on how old those strings are you will get more sustain w.lower action.
    Also these might be factors...Soundpost location and tightness,Fingerboard curve.I feel maybe a set of regular Spirocores will give you what you want after they settle in[2 to 3 weeks].Your current set-up tells me you are going for a darker sound.
     
  5. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    I hate to bring changing gear up, but I've made a lot of changes over these past few years, almost all of them one at a time, to try to isolate what was really happening. In addition to what's been said, I found the most increase in sustain with a more projected tone came when I put in the LDS 3way 1x8 cabinet from Don at Low Down Sound. It's a roughly $325 speaker box that's tiny, light and seems to handle as much volume as my old AI Contra did. The sound sustains and cuts through while picking up every nuance of my fingerings. Seems to sound best with at least a trio, as opposed to in solo or duo situations so far. He makes bigger versions if you need more gain. It may even work as an add-on to your GK. FWIW...
     
  6. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Thanks for the replies.

    Gear wise - My 2x10 now sits on it's end on a furniture dolly (4 inches high) with the amp on end next to it. The GK tone controls are farly complex but I leave everything on 12:00 (flat) except the presence control and contour which are turned off. This is a church situation with piano, drums, 2 guitars (acoustic and electric but no screamers), and synth in a big room with tile floors and a 30 foot ceiling. The Fishman settings I have used lately are - bass up slightly, treble up slightly, mid-mids down slightly, compressor off, and depth set about 9:00 (I think this sets the high pass about 80Hz +/-). My amp sits about 8 ft away pointing at my right ear. In general (but not always) everyone has ears and not everyone is playing at the same time. The music goes from Rock to hymms to country to jazz and changes every tune. I play two services a weekend and one 3 hr rehearsal during the week. The amp on it's dolly stays there since I use my Clarus and Portabass 110 for most other things. I have PA support and usually mic the cabinet to get some articulation in the house.

    Ray, I do tend to work the dynamics in my hands rather than the volume knob. That may explain some of the thumpiness since I am pulling harder when I miss the sustain the most.

    Mark, the strings are new and are a big improvement over the weich Spiros that they replaced in that I didn't need to goose the EQ to get a full sound. String height is about 11mm on the E to keep it from clacking too bad on the low F and F#.

    Macmrkt, I have been following the 3 way thread and am considering it however, I am hesitant to change out the cabinet since it has to be used for the toy bass as well. I still may go there, but it would be nice if I didn't have to.

    I try not to double with this one and pick either electric or acoustic basses based on the song list. I would like to be playing acoustic more since the acoustic is called for more often with the duo things I do otherwise. Of course Chris F's Java Men recording only aggravated things (nice work BTW Chris) since I am sure the sound in my head can be found (although maybe not with me playing on my bass).

    Thanks again guys. Keep em coming.
     
  7. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Actually, in thinking about it more, the LDS would be worth a try stacked with the GK. The flexibility of having the 2 cabs may do the trick. There's a 2 week no risk trial so you could return it. I know that at least one of your fellow Buckeye's drove to Detroit to check them out. Of course, I'm too lazy (and far) so I took the risk.

    Your situation is similar to mine as I had the LDS, swapped it for a Tri208 Accugroove last week, and found I went back to the LDS for exactly the reasons you are looking to make a change - sustain and clarity. Not taking anything away from the Accugroove, which I really do like.
     
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I have a couple of suspicions, but the biggest likely culprit is that you probably have the strings way too high for the sound that you want. Unless you're Grizzly Adams or something.

    Here's suspicion #1, based on the mention of the thumpiness starting as low as piano duo: When you're in a room by yourself you're tinkling on the strings pretty lightly and hearing the sustain for the string pretty clearly, but the bass isn't really 'humming' yet. As soon as you get with other instruments you're digging in more. This gets the bass into range where the body of the instrument is starting to sing. The body makes all the boom and fundamental, and so this part of your sound gets suddenly much louder than the sound of the string. Since the strings are so high, there is not much of the growly part of the sustain happening. An example would be the Paul Chambers gut string sound (little string/fingerboard sound) v. Scott LaFaro (much more sound from the strings). In order to get that clearer, sustained sound out of that setup, you're gonna have to back off the end of the fingerboard and pull until you see stars. Or simply lower the strings to a more reasonable height for the strings and sound that you want. A note here, is that lower string height requires that you pull the string differently, more across instead of down into the board so that you get good amplitude on the string. If you were to mess with this particular advice you'd have some adjusting of your touch to get a big sound out of the bass again.

    Suspicion #2: Deaden the after-string when you amplify. It works wonders with Realist and FC pickups. I was hanging the other night and mentioned this to Santi Debriano and he was a bit sceptical, so I took the little piece of tubing that I've mentioned before in another post and weaved it through his afterlength. About three notes into the next tune he gives me a really cartoon-y look of surprise and then turned around and turned his amp down by a couple of numbers as the newfound clarity with his Realist caused him to suddenly be WAY too loud :)

    And, lastly, maybe you're adjust the amp so that it sounds nice and big and warm where your standing, but when you get louder you're hearing the long-traveling fundamental back from the room. Which is just a repeat of 'is the bass knob cranked' from before. To get the bass to sound right out front -- both acoustically and amplified -- it's going to be a little bright and nasty up close.
     
  9. Sounds like if your F/F# on the E string buzz until you get the string to 11 mm then you need some fingerboard work.The proper camber for your playing style will do wonders.
     
  10. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Thanks, I guess I'll try cranking down the adjusters tonight and see how it goes. It is probably in need of a good setup, but I will need to get it to someone other than my regular guy to get anything done differently than what I started with.
     
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You might want to take a trip over to Cinci or even out to E-town, PA and have the thing gone over. I can get mine down to 4mm-6mm and even a bit lower with Spirocore Solos at orchestra pitch and bang on it without buzz with Shank's setup, although I rarely get them below 4 & 6.
     
  12. I'm with Ray. I don't think preamp/amp/cabinet choices or settings have significant bearing on sustain v. attack. I believe string type, setup, and pickups DO. I think you might get more sustain out of Spiro Mediums, with a good FB dressing and lower string height. On pickups, I see you have the FC. I've not had any experience with that one, but I have noticed a substantial difference between the Underwood and Realist or Bassmax. With the Underwood, I got next to no amplified ping, to the point where I couldn't stand it. I had to rely on that element of the sound coming from the bass itself. At higher volumes, this was a problem. By contrast, the amplified ping of the Realist at times seems unrealistically high, and even more so with the Bassmax. Have you tried an Underwood? Of course you also have to deal with its tonal qualities, which may or may not be a drawback.

    HTH!
     
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    My experience with the FC has been very positive on all of these fronts. It has a very wide dynamic range and pretty accurately gets what I'm doing on the bass. If I creep up the fingerboard I can get a very 70's kind of 'mwahh' and if I get down on the end of the fingerboard I can get the Ray Brown kind of dry, sustained sound, but a lot less electric-sounding than you find on recordings. I still wouldn't let a recordist have the signla, though.

    The one caveat, as I mentioned above, is deadening the afterlength for clarity and lack of boominess. My only complaint with the FC is that it is a little pickup-y on the E and A strings, but that is the side of the bridge that it's on and this seems to be the way that one-sided pickups act.

    Overall, I tend to look at myself for shortcomings first before I start blaming equipment. This saves a lot of money and grief.
     
  14. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Ray, I am all for "looking at what I am doing" especially since I have been chasing the perfect string now for the last couple of years. The full Circle was also a recent upgrade from a Bassmax and I am not real anxious to make things more complicated. I lowered the string height last night and the Stark E seems to be OK even in first position. The bridge height was a leftover from the Superflex E and the Spiro Orch E that was there before that. The plan is to shed with the lower string height, play the amp with a bit thinner sound and give it a try. I hope I'm not just asking for something that my bass is not capable of producing.

    Tbal, the reason I posted this discussion in Amps was because I had heard that the Double Big Twin and Underwood pickups tended to be more stringy and sustained more. Your experience seems to back that up as well. I think Larry had reported that he was mixing an Upton Solo with his Full Circle and I know that one or two here had reported that they were mixing Underwood and Realist pickups with good results. I would like to keep the hardware down if possible, however a $100 pickup is a lot smaller and cheaper than a new cabinet or a new bass. I guess I was looking for a silver bullet fix. I should have remembered that this is the DB world where every gain has to have a little pain.

    I am hoping that Chris F will also chime in here as one of the leading sustain junkies on the board.
     
  15. JonB

    JonB

    May 27, 2003
    Indianapolis
    Among the excellent suggestions above, I don't think anyone has mentioned the tailpiece wire. I just replaced the baling wire that came on my new bass with aircraft cable that Lemur sells for $6, and ZOWIE, I've got lots more sustain. I guess it lets the top vibrate more because it's more flexible.
     
  16. jazzbassnerd

    jazzbassnerd

    Aug 26, 2002
    I also use the FC and the Fishman Pro Plat. EQ. One thing that you may want to change in your set up is turning the compression knob up to abotu 10 o'clock. Its not as much compression as you think and it sounds very natural to me. I think having the knob all the way down is giving you something like "anti-compression" where the pre-amp is now cutting your sustain off at a point that is sooner than your bass is. Besides, a little bit of compression on a bass sounds great. Hope this helps!


    also- you may want to put those mids back into your sound. A lot of growl and "good tone" (IMO) is in the mid range.
     
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Headed out of town tonight for a really fun gig, but am replying in order to subscribe to the thread. I'll check in later this weekend.
     
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks for the compliment, Joe. :) The sound on that recording was the closest thing I'd gotten to "the sound in my head" until I made a trio record with the pianist and drummer from JM over X-mas break (clips will follow in the next week or two). It's been said earlier in the thread, but for me I think sustain is about the following things:

    * Strings - nothing sustainlike comes from thuddy strings. I don't know the superflex strings at all (are they the light blue wrap?), but if you want UBERSUSTAIN that bows like ****, try the spiro starks, and work your way down the spiro chain from there. The further down you go, the tradeoff is that you lose the power and sustain pizz, but they bow better.

    * Fingerboard - the better (harder/smoother) the board, the more sustain you get.

    * String height - the lower the strings (within reason) the more the sustain. You lose the POP! when they're too low, however, so be careful.

    * Good Strong LH Stops: the stronger the stop, the more sustain you get as a result. Since I'm a sitter, I've been working on applying serious "martial arts" centered body/arm weight to the FB of the bass, and the better I get at it, the more easy it is to get sustain when desired.

    * RH Technique - certain types of attack will tend to give more THUMP, whereas others lend themselves more to sustain. I could show you what I mean, but don't know if I could explain it.

    * "Piezo Syndrome" and amplified playing - Piezo pickups are great for capturing sustain, but you may have noticed that since most of them are located on the bridge, they also are prone to getting a very "compressed" thump at the beginning of the note when you really dig in and pull hard on the string. I'm no techie, but I think that piezos get slightly "overloaded" by a strong pizz stroke, so if you're looking for a certain sound amplified, you have to practice with your rig as if it's part of your instrument. If you get a nasty sound that you don't like when you pull too hard, practice pulling just "under" that amount, and make a mental note that that is your "ceiling" for attack. Since there's no "floor" (i.e. - you can play as quietly as you like), you should be able to adjust to this without too much trouble. If you want to be able to pull as hard as you want, you'll need a good mic, but that's another story.

    * EQ - if you spend much time in a good studio with a good engineer, watch him and you'll learn a whole lot about capturing sound and sculpting it. As far as EQ goes, if you have a good parametric EQ to mess with, spend a few hours looking for that frequency range in your sound that "blots out the sun" when you attack the note, and apply a cut to that. (FWIW, my guess is that the frequency you're calling "thumpy" is likely around 200hz, since IME this frequency range = mud when it's too prominent.

    Anyway, hope this helps, and good luck! I'm not too sure where Canton is, but if you're ever down this way, look me up and see if playing on either/both of my basses gets you closer to "that sound".
     
  19. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Thanks Chris, there is a lot of good info there.

    The Superflexibles are the ligt blue wrap. They seem to be between the Weich and Orch Spiros in guage and sustain and a little darker than both. I haven't been working the bow much since I installed them, but they are supposed to be easier to bow than the regular Spiros. The Stark E is a keeper.

    I guess I need to spend some quality time with that rig. It doesn't get home very often. The idea of overloading the pickup is something I'm going to have to check out on the whole signal chain. I noticed on your string thread that your bass had a loud D string until you redid your setup. This has been the case with mine as well and I have been tweeking the bridge and trying different strings to even things out there. The D is still loud compared to the other three, maybe a low mid cut would help that as well. I may be compensating for that string by pulling harder on everything else.
     
  20. Joe, the more you talk about your problem, the more I think that you could spend a little more time on playing with your sound post in relation to your bridge/bass bar. I truly believe in that 'sweet spot' for the bridge in relation to the other two factors in sound production...the post and the bar. I've just seen too many basses open up when these factors are all working together....especially eveness and sustain.