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What pickup to use on DB for funk?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by MadelineP, Oct 26, 2018.


  1. MadelineP

    MadelineP

    Jul 30, 2018
    Let's for a second assume I have no interest in the EB and that I know that playing funk is generally done with that so I am aware that I am limiting myself. If I wanted to convert a DB to be setup for this type of music, what's a good pickup to go with if I want to play funk stuff? Should I still be still be looking at a piezo type thing like the Realist or do I go to a magnetic pickup style? Pedal wise, I'll probably mostly just use a compressor.

    Amp is to be determined.
     
  2. jasonrp

    jasonrp

    Feb 19, 2015
    vt
    I'd say go magnetic to get a more electric bass sound. If you do want a piezo to keep it sounding like an upright, go with a K&K bass max. Mine has tons of midrange
     
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I just played a funk show with 3 horns on DB using the normal setup of a Full Circle pickup through a Phil Jones amp. The limitations of that pickup for funk have more to do with my own chops than anything to do with the pickup. I use a Sansamp Paradriver DI for a preamp, but a good compressor like a Keeley Bassist could also help give some cutting power to the bass sound. In my experience, the best sound for that style is an extremely articulate sound with a fair amount of the low bass rolled off via some sort of high pass filter to let the attack speak more quickly on all of those 16th note-based grooves. That, and a ****-ton of practice!
     
  4. donotfret

    donotfret

    Jun 11, 2018
    Magnetic. Also because funk sounds nicer (in my opinion) when you play fairly light. Only a magnetic pickup will give you enough output for that. Of course magnetic is also much more direct, which is a good thing for funk.
     
    lz4005 likes this.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well, I'd have to agree with Chris, it's more a function of strings and string height than pick up. And also what you mean by funk; you talking old school Motown or something more contemporary? Particularly getting that staccato eighth note feel that's a trademark sound since the 70s, that's steel strings with some tension on them and a lower string height. You definitely ain't getting that sound with guts and higher strings (which is not to say you can't play funk tunes with that set up, you're just not going to get that same 8th note "pop" and will have to adapt that particular voice to the music).

    And not cast aspersions, but I've heard Chris play and both his resume and recordings (both audio and video) speak to his ability to answer this question from a very practical and experienced standpoint. And that's without his preface to his answer of this is what worked when I did the exact thing you asked about. It would be nice to know if you other two cats are speaking from your experience in the same or similar situation (and what that experience might be) or if you're just speculating abstractly.

    And not that you can't do that. It's just gonna be a lot easier for Madeline to figure out what direction she wants to go in if she can make the best assessment of the information she's getting.
     
    Seanto, Joshua, donotfret and 2 others like this.
  6. MadelineP

    MadelineP

    Jul 30, 2018
    Yeah, I'm definitely playing steel strings (I'm a Spiro fan) and my string height is nothing aggressively high: about 0.7 to 0.9. I have a Cali76 compressor so will be using that.

    Definitely leaning heavier towards the old Motown/Brownl/Jamerson/Parliament-Funkadelic/Bootsy/Prince school but also will do new stuff.
     
  7. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I've always loved Tower of Power and while I am not one to EVER initiate grooves I've pulled off 16th note funk lines on my bass recently and was happy with the results.
    I never think a magnetic pick up is the answer, I might go with a more "hot" standard pick up like the Underwood or even a Fishman BP-100.
    I have a normal set up with medium action. Buster Williams with Hancock's sextet probably has some answers for material.
    As Ed points out, the exact era of funk you want to make happen should be balanced with the other music you also want to get out the same instrument.
     
    Seanto likes this.
  8. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I'd try the old Underwood, it has a lot of output, but, maintains more of a double bass character than a magnetic.
     
    JeffKissell and MadelineP like this.
  9. jasonrp

    jasonrp

    Feb 19, 2015
    vt
    I was somewhat speculating abstractly. I was thinking old school funk would want a p bass sound and I've always been told that a mag makes an upright sound like a big EB. I do have a krivo that I bought when I first started, but never ended up using it. I recommended the K&K because it has a lot of mid range (on my bass) and when I've noodled snaps and funk style slaps, it didn't sound too bad at all. BUT... noodling around with that style is all I've ever done, not actually putting much effort in.
     
  10. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    If money was no object, I'd say do both. Run both a mag and piezo into a two channel mixer pedal like a Radial Tonebone. That way you could dial in exactly what you needed. The mag would be more feedback resistant if you needed more volume and electric bass sound, the piezo would give you a more acoustic sound.

    It really depends on what "upright funk" sounds like to you. My first thoughts were Sebastian Steinberg with Soul Coughing and then Chris Wood with MMW, both of which when I've seen them live were using piezos.
     
  11. LowG

    LowG Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Milwaukee, WI
    Do you have a pickup already? If so, it might end up working out fine depending on how broad your vision of a funk bass sound is.

    In a way, real funk is about embracing sounds that are not "correct". Search the term "anatomy of a heavy funk 45" and you'll read some interesting perspective on this topic. For instance, consider Melvin Jackson's Funky Skull album. I suppose he's using one of the traditional piezo pickups and gets a sound that is certainly "funky", even if not appealing to some.

    It also depends on the volume at which your ensemble plans to play - if things get pretty loud that can score some points in favor of magnetic pickups.

    I have one bass set up with both a full circle and a magnetic pickup. I run it into a Radial Bassbone OD so that I can blend the two inputs. If things are louder and I need a more modern sound I lean more toward the magnetic pickup. If the group is quieter I sometimes lean more towards the full circle. But I almost always keep both in the mix and I think that pickup blend works well for a variety of 1960's - today styles; keeps the bass sounding upright-like while providing a more modern component to the sound. I bet just about any piezo and magnetic combination could work.

    Warning: arco does not work well with magnetic pickups, so if you want to bow at all you must at least blend a piezo.
     
  12. MadelineP

    MadelineP

    Jul 30, 2018
    I have a Rev Solo II on my fancy bass which I run through a AI Ten2 but I'm going to be converting a cheap Strunal into more of a focused funk thing. No arco for that so I'm not worried about that. However, from what I'm hearing here, I may just end up doing a piezo-mag combo and then test out amps specifically for this down the line
     
  13. LowG

    LowG Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Milwaukee, WI
    Good call on dedicating a cheap bass to the task, that’s what I do too. No need to waste a fine acoustic sound on heavily amplified or processed stuff, and it’s more fun to bang around dive bars with a cheapie!
     
  14. donotfret

    donotfret

    Jun 11, 2018
    I've been playing a lot of Jamerson lines on my electric upright (NS Design NXT5a) and I also have a bass guitar for comparison. My experience is that you can play funk lines, but it's more difficult on the upright (I imagine even more so on an acoustic, but there I really don't have the experience). But I just can't get the piezo to sound right, unless I play very, very softly. I need to be very disciplined to avoid background noises. It's the same on the bass guitar, which also has a piezo. Magnetic on the other hand sounds exactly like you would expect.

    To be clear, I don't have the slightest doubt that Chris can get a good sound the way he describes it. My point is that I, with my capabilities, struggle to make a piezo work.
     
    DoubleMIDI likes this.
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Thanks guys.
     
  16. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Chris Wood grooves like crazy on guts and I believe he has both underwood and realist lifeline on his bass.
     
    Chris Fitzgerald and damonsmith like this.
  17. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Chris Wood is a very good source for this.
     
    Reiska and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    About the touch issue: on electric bass, the touch on most funk recordings is pretty light because...well, they were made on electric bass. The string heights and tension are a lot lower, so if you dig in too hard the string most often bottoms out and sounds nasty. Logistically, the upright is also limited by the open space between the bridge and fingerboard - electric players can pull the string much closer to the bridge than we can, and in this way can get a brighter and punchier sound.

    On DB, the light touch rest stroke might work if the fingerboard extended almost all the way to the bridge to give us board to rest stroke on/from near the bridge, but since it doesn’t we are resigned to pulling at the end of our board to get our brightest and punchiest sound. Because of this, I’ve found that I have to play harder rather than lighter to get a similar sound to an electric playing closer to the bridge. High-ish tension steel strings help in this since you can hit them harder without them bottoming out. Spirocores are a great string for this purpose.

    Last, another part of it is stylistic. Playing funk requires a lot of control over the end of the note, extensive muting techniques in both hands, and control of ghost notes. We will never be as agile or facile at this as an electric bass can be, but with a lot of practice we can evoke a similar vibe, And with the added benefit of the upright tone and bump on the front of the note. The idea of mixing a magnetic pickup with a piezo sounds like a good idea to be able to control the “best of both worlds” mix.
     
    Dabndug, 5StringBlues and donotfret like this.
  19. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I think the pickup is the least important component of playing this style...IMFO.
    Edward Gomez has magical hands & ears plus an enormous (un-amplified) vocabulary at his disposal.
     
  20. donotfret

    donotfret

    Jun 11, 2018
    Thanks Chris, this is enormously helpful. On the NXT it's actually possible to play closer to the bridge, but with my setup - helicores with high action - this makes my problem with undesired harmonics from the piezo worse. Going back to the "contemporary", i.e. flatwound, strings and setting the action low would always be an option, but it would limit me in other ways, so I don't want to do that. So I'll try out playing harder as you suggested.
     
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.

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