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Unplugged - hitting too hard problem

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Danko, Apr 3, 2006.

  1. Hi all,

    Yesterday I played on the street with my small trio. I barely heard what I was playing, so I was plucking like crazy. You may say "what's wrong with playing hard?".

    Everything is wrong with hitting hard all the time:
    1. No dynamics
    2. Quick passages are almost impossible - always go wrong
    3. My RH tendons and fingers take much more stress - resulting in pain and cramping fingers.
    4. I squeeze too much with my LH to keep the tone resulting in poor tone AND intonation. Or is that because I barely heard myself?
    5. My RH index blisters

    I can play 5 sets in a well amplified club, singing at the same time - no problem, no blisters, no cramps. 2 sets of street work and I'm toasted. I had to cut our street gig yesterday short because I was phisically wasted.

    Any pointers on how to play the street without an amp?

  2. Kam


    Feb 12, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    When I was in high school I met a bassist who kept a small amp and car battery on a cart. He must have had some type of power converter as well. I'm not sure how long the battery would last, but maybe it's not a terrible idea to consider?
  3. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Your only other resort is to try and find ways to hear yourself better. Don't worry about listeners -- they're on their own and they probably hear better than you do. Can you find a doorway alcove or a corner or something like that to set up in? Some environment where you're not simply in a big open space...

    I agree: playing too hard is no fun.
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I noticed "set of DB strings" on your G.A.S. list in your profile. New strings can help to boost your output if you have some old, dead ones on there. I found that, on my bass, Spirocores give me a certain level of acoustic sound, Obligatos give me a bit more, and the Animas I'm using now give me maybe twice as much acoustic volume. Of course, this is different on every bass and for every player. Ultimately, it's all about pulling a big sound out of the bass, and this comes over time. Eventually, it can really improve your amplified sound as well, because your basic sound will be bigger. Also, as Damon pointed out, your audience can probably hear you better than you might suspect.
  5. Hey Danko,
    you have listed the consequences of overplaying quite well. Every bass,
    with any strings and setup, has a point after which adding power leads to diminishing results. What DAMIEN and THE MAN FROM OHOPUOHOPU BEACH said, hearing yourself is the key here. If you are comfortable with your present sound, and it´s big enough to produce a good amplified sound, too ( you know the crap-in-crap-out thing ), just play with the same effort you would do in normal situation. Your ears might have to adjust to the environment, but listeners will not have problems hearing you.
    I´ve played a lot of bluegrass, folk & kletzmer and stuff like that on streets, in the parks, parking lots, camping sites, beaches and places like that. First times I ruined my physics, untill I stopped trying to overplay and move the rest of the world´s air with my bass. I just started playing like I would "normally" do.
    At least giving it a try will save you some blisters.

  6. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Never hurt yourself playing, it's not worth it!! Low notes carry quite well outdoors which is why foghorns are low-pitched. Most likely, you were the only thing people could hear until they were up close then they could hear the other instruments.
    You can try placing yourself against a wall or in a corner to direct your sound better. Try to find a more acoustically friendly place such as the courtyard of a building or where there is a roof of some sort. (My group played in the subways of Toronto and I could be heard all over the station without any extra effort plus with a constant stream of new people going by it was very lucritive.) Also, stick to playing more on beats 1 and 3 playing mostly roots and fifths. Using a bow might carry better as well.
  7. Ok, so the things to do is:

    1. find a better place to stand - I agree
    2. get a battery powered amp - Yeah, we'll obviously need that. But then we also need mic stands, cables, mixer and other crap that makes it impossible to move to another place if wind starts blowing the cash out of the case (for instance). :(
    3. Change strings to Animas. DOH, and I ordered a fresh set of Spiros due today. I have 3yr old set of Flexocor strings on - pretty dead, yes.

    Thanks guys!

    Wishlist changed:
    + battery powered multichannel amp
    + Animas
    + neat suit for hotel gigs ;)

  8. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Spiros are loud too. You'll be fine.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that you had to install Animas. I think you'll hear yourself fine with the Spiros once they settle in.

  11. Wow! Weird that you said that just now. I was thinking about that box today during my early morning practice.


    There is a guy selling it locally for a good price. Maybe I'll pay him a visit afterall.

  12. 1. You should try to find a sweet spot where you hear yourself. Try using a wall behind you. There is also differences where you place your head - you can try to lean a little bit back - or forward.

    2. You can also try to stand as far as possible from instruments that eat your sound (drums).

    3. If bow playing is possible - that's a great way to rest your fingers. It also kind give you a fresh start when you switch.

    4. The amount of force you use and right hand technique are something that you have to get use to.

    5. Some instruments, strings and settings are great when amplified but really hard when playing unplugged.

    5 1/2. Go tuba

    6. If it still doesn't work - buy a guitar and a Beatles song book.:p

  13. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    And remember: there comes a point when yanking harder doesn't actually give you an increase in volume--sometimes just the opposite, in fact! I've done my share of playing in subway stations with trains roaring through, and finding that full tone with a pull that's comfortable to play is at least as effective, from a listener's standpoint, as you yanking until your fingers bleed.

    Also, I think Spiros are cool, and I have them on one bass right now (as it seems I always do), but in switching between Spiros and Animas or Garbos in unamplified settings with the same bands I think I have found that the Velvet strings are incomparably better from a volume standpoint for unamplified settings (with my bass, fingers, ears, etc.--as usual!). And what's funny is that I would often have to say that the Velvets will feel quieter when I'm just playing by myself, but in a live situation they just fill the room and the drummer/bandmates always confirm that they hear me perfectly (which is not among their comments when I play unamplified with Spiros or other steel strings...).
    You'll be fine with your new set of Spiros (especially over a dead set of Flexocors), but in the future I would at least consider the Velvets.

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