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The Re-invention of the Upright Bass

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by miles mosley, Dec 18, 2009.

  1. miles mosley

    miles mosley

    Nov 19, 2007
    miles mosley
    Endorsing Artist: SWR, Blast Cult, MXR, Dunlop, Way Huge
    It has been nearly 430 years since the invention of the upright bass. It has been included in nearly every style of music at some point and is resonant on the lions share of the world’s most famous recordings.
    However these days the upright bass has felt it’s age and has been nearly sequestered to a handful of genres, and is by far the minority of instruments producing the low end in todays popular music.
    Despite that, it remains the most versatile, albeit challenging producer of bottom end in the string family. It is time for its return to dominance!

    Through many years of experimentation, feedback, successes and failures I have come up with my solution to how to put the instrument in a new context and allow it to have clear audible presence in the world of mega amps and huge sound, that sent it packing many years ago.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who has charmed this beast and would like to open a discussion about the nifty troubleshooting and solutions the new guard of the upright bass have come up with.

    So I’ll start:

    My first “desert island” must-have for successfully playing upright bass in a new context is the Aphex Optical Compressor “Punch Factory” Model 1404.
    This wonderful pedal is an awesome compressor that allows you to highlight the wood qualities of the bass over loud amplification. This to me is one of the most important qualities of playing the upright bass in large amplification settings, from large clubs to arenas. It is the translation of a “wooden sound” that is the most distinguishable characteristic of the upright. Lose that, and you’re no longer capitalizing on one of the instruments most unique and adored characteristics.

    You can hear an example of this HERE.
    In this example the solo begins without any effects, just the compressor. You’ll notice that the environment is a loud one, and that I’m pushing a lot of sound. the percussive element of the upright remains in tact. I’m always looking for ways to improve the accentuation of the wood characteristic. For more examples go HERE

    I have already pre-determined 20 must haves in order for us Upright Bassists to continue to be viable competitors for todays gigs in popular music.
    I have successfully played upright bass in every context from Lauryn Hill, to Jonathan Davis of Korn. From Classical to Jazz, Hip-hop to Modern Rock. I’m excited to begin trading this unspoken knowledge with my brethren.

    Miles Mosley
  2. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Wow. Sounds great man. That first tune's got a DEEP pocket. Nice. The arco stuff sounds great too.

    Just out of curiosity what pickup have you had the most success with.

    I come from a pretty traditional jazz background so the rock band loud thing is newish to me and I have always been shy to play the DB in rock setting and just opt for my porkchop. I've been doing quite a few shows with a singer in bigger venues lately and she hires me to play DB so I'm working on figuring it out. I have had the most success with the Bassmax. I definitely have had quite a bit of success with compression too. I run the Bassmax through a Sansamp into a Fishman Platinum Pro both of which have some compression internally and I have really found it to be useful to fatten and 'clean up' the sound. I have also found the HPF to be really useful for this too.

    Anyway great stuff man.
  3. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    **** YEA!!

    Diggin that stuff man. Heavy bad ass stuff.

    I've never been able to get a compressor and distortion to work for me. Love to hear how you make it work.
  4. miles mosley

    miles mosley

    Nov 19, 2007
    miles mosley
    Endorsing Artist: SWR, Blast Cult, MXR, Dunlop, Way Huge
    nice fellas, I'm writing more on this each week! I'll be posting em as I go.

    @fingers, I use a king double bass pickup they made for me. A version of it comes stock in most of their basses, we just did a little modifying as time went along.

    Miles Mosley
  5. bassist14


    Oct 17, 2005
    i think i have to reactivate my zoom b1
  6. Thanks for the inspiration, this thread and the music StarM man!
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    what kind of amp do you use for these gigs?
    and how do you deal with feedback in such loud situations?
    I also play in a pretty loud fusion band and have lots of feedback problems.
    Some tips?
  8. I'm English, we understate things, but that is fan-bloody-tastic. Awesome use of the DB, well outside of its comfort zone....

    And hang onto that drummer!!
  9. miles mosley

    miles mosley

    Nov 19, 2007
    miles mosley
    Endorsing Artist: SWR, Blast Cult, MXR, Dunlop, Way Huge
    I am absolutely interested in a dialogue. I don't think I have accumulated enough answers to "school" anyone. I'm simply trying to provide the most concise responses without flooding the forums.
    Is there a particular question you think I've responded to incorrectly uncle toad?
    As far as your compressor distortion issue, what about it doesn't work? If I have any suggestion there it would be that you have to make sure that your compressor comes AFTER you distortion pedal in the chain otherwise the compressor boosts the signal of the distortion, creating unwanted feedback. You also have to decide what kind of distortion you're going for. I mainly use distortion for a solo sound, but when I toured with Jonthan Davis I used it to emulate a huge sound electric guitar. I had to change the setting on my distortion pedal entirely for that.

    In any case, I hope this helps, and I hope you don't perceive my eagerness to perpetuate an instrument we all love as standing on a Soap Box.

    Miles Mosley
  10. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I thought better of my last comment it didn't come out quite right so I deleted it.

    I am interested in how you deal with pumping in the compressor on the envelope side and runaway feedback on the other side as it searches for a signal to increase gain to? I have played in similar context for many years and never could use a compressor as it would always swamp the mains and subs with feedback that never really went away. This is really a problem indoors in large theaters meant for acoustic amplification rather than big PA. If subs are anywhere near the stage or especially under it I don't see how a compressor can be set to be helpful.

    High pass filters helped as it seems to really capitalize down low but that doesn't seem to be the whole answer.

    Distortion in big venues or with resonant basses have similar issues.
  11. miles mosley

    miles mosley

    Nov 19, 2007
    miles mosley
    Endorsing Artist: SWR, Blast Cult, MXR, Dunlop, Way Huge
    Hmm, the first thing I noticed most, that helped with that situation is recognizing that what I'm trying translate to the audience is the CHARACTER of the upright, not the actual acoustic tone.
    So the sound coming out of the bass is rendered useless, because no one is gonna be able to hear it anyway right?
    If you look closely you'll see that cover up my f-holes. It keeps sound from going in and greatly eliminates feedback.
    It seems to me your issue is not with the effects chain, but with the sound flooding into your bass.
    This will help tremendously.

    Miles Mosley
  12. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Ok I get that. I do get better results with my Ply bass than the orchestral bass.

    I'm still not getting the compressor yet, how do you configure that so it functions in a useful way?
  13. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I was going to try that also. What material do you use for covering the f-holes?
    keep us posted about the feedback article. My main concern at this moment is how to eliminate feedback from the upright.
  14. miles mosley

    miles mosley

    Nov 19, 2007
    miles mosley
    Endorsing Artist: SWR, Blast Cult, MXR, Dunlop, Way Huge
    I'm currently traveling through South America at the moment, I'll begin chipping away at the feedback post asap! I know it's what plagues us most, however the answer is not short, and is gonna require a whole heck of a lot of typing, to get the whole host of options clear. :)

    In any case, for now, I found that a hardware store can be your best friend. Because each bass' F-hole is different we'll probably all use different materials. I went through the insulation isle and looked for some rubber that I could jam in there. It's not perfect.

    I'd love to hear anyone else suggestions on what fits well inside the f-holes.
    A word of caution, I'm fairly reckless with my instrument so be careful not to crack the f-hole when putting stuff in there, and be aware that's it'll probably fall in a couple times till you get it right. You'll need a coat hanger and some patience.

    look HERE you'll see the material and that hack job way I've forced it into the bass.
    It DID end up cracking the F-hole, but I think the perk outways the aesthetic. But that's just me.

    Miles Mosley
  15. Chris Symer

    Chris Symer

    Dec 13, 2009
    There was a bassist in So.California who was trying to deal with the feedback issue about 25 years ago. Back then quite a few people playing hollow body guitars were filling them with foam to control feedback. Being a go getter he figured to try the same approach.

    Rather than cutting up blocks of foam and stuffing it in the f-holes, he figured to save time by using the expanding foam that comes in those niffty spray cans. Basses are pretty big, so he got two. I wish there were pictures. I can only imagine his reaction as the foam began coming back out the f-holes before popping every seem on the instrument. In the end he had a neck and a bridge left. Although he did cure the feedback.............
  16. Miles, thanks a ton for getting on! I LOVE your stuff- if I ever get my s**t together enough to gig w/my DB, it is ALL your fault. :D
    I haven't looked at your sched lately, but are you playing anywhere in Northern California anytime soon?
  17. Subscribed,

    I'm always interested in how someone else handles the feedback monster when confronted with stupid rock volume situations. One of the bands i'm in are WAY too loud.
  18. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    You are kicking @$$ and taking numbers on this one man! Well done!
  19. Great stuff, Miles...! Good bass stuff, and great songs (LA won't bring you down... veeery nice song, man).

  20. This one makes me cry- friggin beautiful. Look up the man's version of *Voodoo Chile* as well- unbelieveable.
  21. Primary

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