Took my solo stuff to an open mic yesterday...

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by thrash_jazz, Nov 20, 2003.

  1. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    ... and I didn't like the way it turned out very much. :(

    I was going direct with no amp and I paid for it in that the low end was a loud boiling mass of mud that drowned out everything else. Since I couldn't really hear what was going on, it made improv'ing over it that much harder.

    People told me they dug it (maybe because solo bass loops are fairly unique around here?), but the stuff didn't feel right to me... especially considering the stuff I'd played earlier in the day was probably the best I'd ever done.

    A question for the solo gurus: Do you ever dare go direct only, or do you prefer to keep your fate in your own hands, so to speak?

    Strikes me that with this sort of thing the sonic balance is just too delicate to risk it...
  2. Im a sock

    Im a sock

    Dec 23, 2002
    Central MA
    Hi... I've never performed solo bass live, but I've gone direct before and my best advice to you would be to bring your amp, even if it's heavy. At least you'll know exactly how its gonna sound.
  3. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member


    The sound man said he'd do me direct.

    He did me.

    He should be in for 3-8 for molestation...
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK

    I have gone direct, and with the amount of control I have over my sound in the rack, I'm usually pretty happy to. I don't think I'd ever want to go direct if you didn't have enough EQ to hand to get something approximating my sound through the house system though. The better the preamp you can take with you the, er, better...

    Might be worth trying to get hold of a pre with a good DI out, and get to really know it, what it will do, what kind of frequencies you'll need to cut/boost for certain kinds of rooms and systems. It's a tricky thing to learn, but as you pick it up, EQing to the situation gets a lot easier...

    Anyway, remember that if the audience dug it, you'll get another shot, and that's the main thing! Don't sweat it too much - first time out, you did great. A crappy sound is what open mic nights are all about - no-one sounds great at an open mic. You're there to show what you can do, you did that, and the audience were into it. Win-Win

  5. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks for the input guys!

    I actually go direct all the time at that place and it sounds ok in a band situation, but looped bass is a whole different animal.

    In fact I used to play all the same old games with that soundman, i.e., turn your volume up halfway and "sneak" it up later on and hope he doesn't notice.

    Stupidly, I used my passive 5, leaving me no EQ control whatsoever. :oops: Next time I'll give it a shot with an EQ.
  6. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I agree with Steve on this one. I fly to many, if not most of my gigs, so I don’t get to use my own amp very often and I frequently play through the house system with no amp at all. Although I would prefer to have complete control over my sound at gigs, I’ve found that it’s important do three things: to take or rent what gear I can to try to be able to get the sound I want to hear, to communicate well with the local sound techs and finally, to get used to playing through all kinds of systems, no matter how bizarre I think they sound! I know it’s tempting sometimes to try to play sound check games with techs, but I think you’re better off doing your best to communicate clearly, politely and honestly with them. They have a good feel for their room, audience and gear and sometimes their way of doing things really is better. It’s also important to be absolutely certain that the signal you are giving the house is just as you want it to be. Too often I’ve seen a musician blame a tech for a problem that that originates in their own gear. In any case, no one appreciates being dealt with in a disrespectful manner and the sound tech is one person you don’t want to piss off!

    This may sound odd, but I try to spend a significant amount of my practice time playing with my gear set-up in a way I don’t like. I feel this not only helps me prepare for real-life situations, but also gives me a better understanding of what sounds are coming out of my hands and bass as opposed to later in the signal chain. This is important to me because if there is a problem I’d rather correct it at the source and control the sound, as much as possible, from the bass itself.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This is undoubtedly working!! ;)

    I remember the thing (clinic?) you did with Steve at the Bass centre in London (Wapping) - your amp setup stopped working and you plugged into Steve's very different setup, halfway through a tune - but sounded exactly the same on his rig as you did with your own!

    I remember it, as it made a big impression on me at the time about how gear is in many ways irrelevant and that it's all about what you do with it. :)
  8. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    There was a bit of the difference between the two amps but I agree that it was relatively minor.

    It's certainly worth spending time developing your playing ability rather than getting too hung up on the specifics of any particular piece of gear.

  9. I can think of a few people who would do well to learn this lesson. :meh:
  10. Im a sock

    Im a sock

    Dec 23, 2002
    Central MA
    And you can say that again. At a gig some time ago I kept asking the tech to turn up the monitors, because we couldn't hear a THING, and he got so pissed eventually that he just turned them off, and since I was the one repeadedly asking, he turned me way down in the mix.

    What a jerk :)

    Seriously though, I second Steve's suggestion of finding a good preamp with a good DI. Heck, maybe even something as simple as the SansAmp BDDI would work, if you're into that sound. As a side note, I've done direct a few times with my head (SWR SM-500) and it usually sounds very decent.
  11. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Yes, the BDDI was what I was thinking... I've been experimenting with running the BDDI after the looper, so that way if the lows start to build up too much, I can cut them.

    I'll try it again at the open mic when it restarts next week, since I go there to jam anyway. I'm also working on a demo, so perhaps soon I'll be able to post some clips up here.
  12. I play alot of solo gigs and typically always use my amp and a direct signal.I have gone direct only and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. A good solid DI is paramount imo.

    I agree with Michael when he says if the crowd dug it, then go with that feeling and try not to focus on the negative.

    I also heartily recommend detaching your ego and concentrating on truly sharing the music with the audience, rather than being wrapped up in the actual execution of the songs. It removes alot of the pressure and opens up great new worlds for both listener and performer. After my last gig I had people hugging me, people crying, people bringing me free verse that they had written while inspired by one of my pieces. It was pretty incredible man. I guess the point is that it was a long trip to get to a point like that. Bad sound, inattentive crowds etc..Keep plugging away,
    and keep the attitude positive.
  13. I have been working through the "gear" thang and have found what sounds I like. I have been using the Eden Metro setup with the Yamaha TRB. We were going into the studio and my amp was getting the CAP's replaced. What to do? My rig was in the shop!! I went online and found a tube preamp.

    I found the Bellari tube pre. I dinked with it for a little while and got a nice sound. When we were in the studio it took all of maybe 5 seconds to get the sound up to what I thought I liked. The tech changed one thing, a pad, and then left it in the "flat" position for recording. It sounded awesome. The sound was the reason I started playing bass in the first place.

    The tech was happy with the sound, the guys in the band were happy, I was happy and all it took was some research and work on my part prior to the gig to get it that way. Not to mention, I had the right attitude with the sound guy. Just let him listen to the sound and make the adjustments and let him know when it sounded good to me, too.

    I take this tube pre with me everywhere now.