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Synth Setup

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Classical_Thump, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. Classical_Thump


    Jan 26, 2005
    After listening to countless guitarists (Metheny,Mclaughlin,etc) use synth effects on their guitars, it brought me to research the interesting piece of equipment. What I am really wondering is how exactly a synth pickup works. I understand that it allows a guitar or bass to use all different kinds of voices, but thats about it. Can anyone explain it more clearly?

    ps- who are some good bassists that use synth basses?
  2. Well in a nutshell a synth pickup is a hex pickup or 6 individual poles or pickups. Well that is for guitar or 6 string bass. What it does is it lets the signal be processed individually or mono and then convert to midi.
    As far as "good bassists' go, if I recall there was a great clip of Al Caldwell playing a Benevente at winter NAMM? I think if you searched for all of Al's posts or winter NAMM, you should be able to find it.
  3. in order for synth pickups to convert the signal to midi they must process at least 2 cycles of the string's fundimental...therefore low notes tend to track inaccurately and slowly, this is why many bassists who do use synths only track the higher register strings or use a piccolo bass.
  4. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments

    I was contemplating getting MIDI installed on a 6-stringer, but it turns out that it wouldn't have worked. Guys like Al Caldwell have the midi on the higher-register strings as you suggest, but then again, they have 9-11 strings. Until tracking becomes better, it just won't be an option on a std bass.
  5. Classical_Thump


    Jan 26, 2005
    I understand better now, but after the signal is converted to MIDI, does it have to be sent through some sort of processor or a keyboard or somethign in order to get the different voices.

    ps- by this whole synth thing I was meaning how the guitarists can get different voices (ie- sax, flute, etc) on their guitar. just to clear that up
  6. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    not something I've really looked into but I was wondering how guitarists pulled off synths when I knew there was a problem tracking bass, so the frequency issues address that.

    A keyboard is an ideal setup for synth cause each key acts as an individual trigger. On a piano, you can only play a middle C in one place. Obviously with a string that doesn't exist cause you can play a given note in several places over the fingerboard - and they don't sound the same. I don't know how they get around that on synth guitar, or whether they don't. At any rate, with a string you have to have a device that will read the note and convert it to a digital signal then a brain (like a synth) to recieve that to emit the appropriate sound. Midi is merely a digitized music language that permits various components to communicate with each other.
  7. Le Basseur

    Le Basseur

    Mar 26, 2002
    I have an old UZEB concert on tape and Alain Caron has the MIDI PU unit on one of his basses (but I don't remember exactly if it was a Roland or a Yamaha PU).Lately,I saw another concert where Alain Caron endorses a Roland V-Bass unit.
    Not quite...the dedicated bass MIDI PU's are offering a wide range of possibilities.You can install them on 4,5 and/or 6-stringed axes and also you can tweak them regarding the string spacing in order to get the best,most even strings' response.
    The Yamaha,Roland and Axon PUs are,AFAIK,based of the same (magnetic) principle as normal PU's,as opposed to other MIDI PU systems (optical or piezo).
    There was an old issue regarding the tracking precision since the first guitar MIDI synths hit the market.Most of them (guitar-or-bass-installed,as well) didn't track at all as one would expect.OK,Metheny used an Roland GR33 and McLaughlin an Axon,but they had some elaborated,maybe one-of a-kind PU's installed on their guitars.
    My guitarist and I took the hard way and tried every MIDI PU and MIDI synth unit we could find,and after countless combinations,both on guitar and bass,we concluded that:
    1.The Roland PU's are far superior regarding tracking accuracy
    2.Except for the latest Roland V generation synths (V-Bass and V-Guitar),the best tracking speed is offered by the Axon unit,maybe because of their special chips (?!?).
    We found some interesting and enjoyable stuff on the Yamaha MIDI unit but the tracking speed was the weakest of all,no matter what PU we used.
    Finally,my guitarist settled with an Axon and I took the Roland V-Bass.
  8. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Actually, you only need half a period, but it's already a long time.
    The best way to prevent this is to use piccolo strings.
    Also, Yamaha used a system based on overtone harmonics that made the whole thing much faster. I don't know if they still do.
  9. Le Basseur

    Le Basseur

    Mar 26, 2002
    You talk about Yammie's G50 MIDI Guitar Converter?Yes,the unit is still in production.We tried it too,like I said,but the Axon is even faster.I just wonder what's the Axon's principle regarding it's speed?!?
  10. That's very interesting. and very clever...so I guess using strings with high harmonic content (like stainless steel or chromes) would afford better tracking.

    I still think that if I used a midi-bass setup, I'd go with a piccolo and then send the regular bass signal through an octaver pedal.

    Like everyone else, I suspect - I wish I had unlimited funds (AND time) to play with stuff like this...I think it would be a BLAST!
  11. I've got the Roland V-Bass and the GK-2B pick-up on my Stingray and the GK-3B pickup on my Roscoe 5-string fretless (tuned D-A-D-G-C). Both pickups track well for the sounds I'm using.
    The V-Bass is pretty cool; you can trigger synth sounds with it (a half-dozen or so built in) but the cool part is that the MIDI pickup also triggers some of the effects like pitch-shifting. I use the octave down effect layered under the normal sound of my bass and it sounds much better than any pedal I've tried. I also use the octave up and since it's polyphonic, I can play chords and it tracks all of the notes equally well.
    I'm not a big fan of the COSM bass sounds, though.