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Where do you stand on the 'unplugged' rage?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by pedro, Dec 10, 2004.


  1. pedro

    pedro

    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    I've discovered relatively recently that there is a huge debate in the jazz community about whether or not a bassist should perform without amplification. The reasoning as I understand it is that the bass sounds best acoustic. Some believe that the bassist swings harder unplugged. I'm curious how my fellow bassist feel about this? Theoritically and as a practical matter.

    Curious minds want to know.
     
  2. klepto

    klepto Guest

    Nov 10, 2004
    i play without an amplifier and i find that some people really appreciate this

    i will sometimes place a mike in front of my bass if i play in a large room that happens to have a house p.a. -- i usually point the mike in the general direction of the bridge

    i have found it difficult to get comfortable on the occasions when i have played somewhere with a sound technician controlling the volume--if the volume is so loud that i can't actually hear the sound coming out of my instrument

    i haven't owned a pick-up in years... i just can't decide on what to get, or if i want to use a mic, but i do want to get something soon, so i can have more control over my sound in larger rooms ...i actually have a walter woods and a swr 1x12 cabinet
     
  3. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
  4. pedro

    pedro

    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    Mat thanks for the link. I haven't read the whole thread but Juilliard is the Masalis romping grounds, and I believe they are big proponents of the 'no amp' thing.
     
  5. pedro

    pedro

    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    klepto I certainly think that upright sounds best without an amp but the problem is can it realistically be heard in all but the smallest of venues. I also would have some concerns about being forced to pull really hard over an extended period of time and causing some physical problems. Also there is the matter of musical choices. Its very difficult to play loud AND fast. If there are musical passages that require that kind of speed one might have to make a choice.
     
  6. klepto

    klepto Guest

    Nov 10, 2004
    one thing i have found helpful in regard to getting a bit more of a percussive and louder sound is my approach with my right hand

    i try to play as close to the end of the fingerboard as possible, some times even playing off of the fingeroard a bit

    also, i try to strike the strings, rather than pulling on them... i try to have my fingers in contact with the strings for as short a time as possible

    personally, i don't care if people want to amplify their instrument or not... i choose not to, but this was not originally a choice--i didn't own an amplifier
    now i feel like i will eventually use amplification in certain situations, like playing outside
     
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    My preference is definitely to not use an amp if possible.

    I'd say on a typical gig it's not possible, so I almost always use an amp or DI into a PA.

    I have NEVER practiced the DB using an amp...that's just nuts!

    As far as needing an amp for living room rehearsals (as mentioned in the other thread) that insanity has caused me to quit bands.
     
  8. pedro

    pedro

    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    Thanks for the feedback guys. As I said before, I think that the unamplified sound of a double bass is hard to beat. I just remain skeptical that its a practical thing most of the time.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Not if you spend a lot of time playing with an amp, it isn't. I agree that life would be wonderful if I could play acoustically all the time, but mine doesn't work that way...so whenever I add a new piece of gear, I spend a certain amount of time getting used to the way it fits into the signal chain. This way I don't get any big surprises on the gig and can just focus on playing.
     
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Christ, this is almost as bad as saying metronome.

    PEZROLL - you do what you have to to get the sound you want to hear. There are stupid people in the world who say stupid ****, it's best not to pay attention to them.

    I, personally, love the sound of my bass. I have a pick up I'm happy with , an amp I'm happy with, a speaker cabinet I'm somewhat happy with and a microphone I'm happy with. But first and foremost, I have a bass I'm happy with. So, in any and every situation that I can play and just hear the sound of my bass, I DO SO. If I am in a situation (like tomorrow night at KAVEHAZ) where I cannot play acoustically, but can get the sound I want by just using my mic through the house system, I DO SO. If I am in a situation where I cannot play acoustically and the microphone will not suffice and I need to use an amp to get the sound I want, I DO SO.

    As far as it being a "practical thing most of the time", well it's practical to me. I've only used an amp on about 20% of my gigs this year. And that's big hall to small club. I've brought my mic to about another 10-15%. So at LEAST 65% of my gigs are done without any kind of amplification. NOT because I think that bassists' shouldn't use an amp. But because I don't NEED an amp to get the sound I want.
     
  11. pedro

    pedro

    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [[I, personally, love the sound of my bass. I have a pick up I'm happy with , an amp I'm happy with, a speaker cabinet I'm somewhat happy with and a microphone I'm happy with.

    Ed, excuse me for asking but how do you determine whether or not you need to go to amp vs. mic?

    [[I've brought my mic to about another 10-15%. So at LEAST 64% of my gigs are done without any kind of amplification.

    Again excuse me for asking (I’m obviously new to this debate) but is there some distinction made between amplifying with a microphone vs. amp?
     
  12. On another thread, you just announced your first paying jazz gig. In my book, that doesn't equate with enough experience for you to tell everybody what happens on a typical gig, or what is or is not nuts.

    Happy New Year!
     
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The first shall be last and the last shall be made first...

    as far as a "distinction", well any of the footage you see of the Burnsalis clan playing at clubs and festivals etc, the bass is ALWAYS mic'ed. What they really seem to be talking about is NO PICK UP. The bass is an acoustic instrument, you treat it the same way you do any other acoustic instrument, you mic it if it needs to be spread over a big room. As far as putting a mic through an amp, I haven't tried the AMT but with pretty much any other mic I've tried, I don't like the sound. I like to put the mic through the PA, even if it's just the crappy Peavey the singer brings.


    How do I know? The first time you bring everything and you figure out what works. The only time I DON'T bring everything is if it's a stupid jazz casual and there aren't going to be any bass solos. Cause all I have to do is provide a foundation, just be audible. They don't have to hear me with enough clarity to transcribe my line. Although, with all humility, I get a big sound.
    Some places I know from being in the room before. I knew Birdland was gonna have a good sound system so I just brought my mic. I knew that Cobi Narita's concert space was going to be small, I brought my mic and ended up just going acoustically.
    But the more I play without an amp, the more I trust my intuition or assessment. If it's an outdoor gig, I take an amp. If it's a room of less than 75 seats, I don't.


    My only problem is with cats who's default is to ALWAYS bring the amp. There was a thread from awhile back where some guy said he wouldn't do a coffee house duo gig with anything LESS than 250 watts. I just don't understand that, to me it speaks to a lack of understanding of good physical approach. And of not really listening and playing with people who don't really listen.
     
  14. pedro

    pedro

    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [[as far as a "distinction", well any of the footage you see of the Burnsalis clan playing at clubs and festivals etc, the bass is ALWAYS mic'ed.

    Who or what is Burnsalis?

    [[What they really seem to be talking about is NO PICK UP. The bass is an acoustic instrument, you treat it the same way you do any other acoustic instrument, you mic it if it needs to be spread over a big room.

    I’m not a very technical person but isn’t most upright pickups essentially microphones?

    [[ As far as putting a mic through an amp, I haven't tried the AMT but with pretty much any other mic I've tried, I don't like the sound.

    You lost me again. What is AMT?

    [[I like to put the mic through the PA, even if it's just the crappy Peavey the singer brings.

    Why?

    [[My only problem is with cats who's default is to ALWAYS bring the amp.

    But wouldn’t the reverse (someone who never uses an amp) be just as unacceptable?
     
  15. Hi guys, I've just registered after being a passive viewer for a while. I've gone both ways, plugged and unplugged. One thing to bear in mind: those you play with. An unamplified bass can sound great out front but be barely audible to people on the bandstand. In such a case the ideal, of course, is for other players, especially the drummer, to come down in volume. Drummers like this are rare in my experience. Generally there is a host of complaints about how they cannot hear you (while you sound great to the audience). The amp in these situations is important so the bass can play its role in holding the band together, but easy does it. Still, if you can get a sensitive group of musicians, it never swings as hard, in my view, as when you are all playing at low volume and unamplified.
     
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Kenston Burnsalis is my amalgam for Ken Burns and Wynton Marsalis. When he has his trumpet in his mouth, he's Wynton and I respect the player. As soon as he takes the trumpet out of his mouth, he transforms into Kenston and tends to say stupid ****.

    I just checked your profile and you don't list any double bass or and Double bassists in your profile. You just whacking the nest to see what comes out?
    Anyway, I'm not a very technical person either. That's whay I play an acoustic instrument. A microphone picks up sound vibrations in the air, much the same way your ear does, and converts them into electronic impulses. Most bass pickups are piezo crystals placed under, in or around the bridge of the instrument and pick up vibrations of the strings, the body, the bridge as changes in pressure and convert those into electronic impulses. A good bassist is a good bassist and it doesn't matter if they are playing acoustically and that sound is being heard without any amplification or with amplification by microphone or pick up. A lot of bassists who don't have such a good background RELY on the pick up and amp to get the volume that they could not get out of the bass. But, unlike electric bass, the amplified sound you get is just a louder version of the sound you get acoustically. If you get a weak, undefined, thin, imprecise sound acoustically, you get a louder version of a weak yada yada. If you get a sound the projects well, that is well defined, warm and open, not only is it easier to amplify, but that sound is easier to hear without amplification.


    Tweren't hard. it's a brand of microphone. It's metinoned a lot here and I'm sure is pretty transparent to Googlng. Just type in "AMT microphone", see whatcha get.

    Because I do. I am always amazed at WHY questions. What could it possibly matter WHY I do something. It is something I do. Why do I like Japanese food? Why is the shirt I am currently wearing black?
    My preference for putting a microphone thorugh the PA rather than an amplifier is a situation that exists. There is no why. You may try it and decide that it is a situation that holds validity for you. Or not.

    You remember my "people who say stupid ****" line? You connect the dots as to what it was referring to in that post?

    "Unnacceptable" is your word, not mine. My problem with people who default to "all amp, all the time" is because it is a crutch. In order to play acoustically and be heard, you have to develop a physical approach that's good for you, you have to develop a precision of note choice and meaning, you have to develop a great sense of time, and you have to develop your ears. All of which serves you in good stead when you do need to plug in.

    There are a number of bassists I know in NYC who never use an amp. They also never take gigs where a pick up and amp would be necessary. I personally would rather play in a group with Murray Wall, Neal Miner or John Webber than somebody who refused to play a duo gig unless they had a 250 watt amp.
     
  17. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Ideally, most of us would like to play acoustically all the time. Not only does it sound better, but you don't have to worry about having to carry all that extra gear and plug it all in, etc. It's great when I can just turn up to the gig, get the bass out and start playing.

    The simple reality is that I can't do that all the time. Some people can do it more than others just because they can get more sound out of their bass. Every player, every instrument and every gig is different.

    One problem is that some people use the amplification as a crutch. They never develop a good acoustic sound because they have no concept of playing that way and no interest in doing so.

    One thing to remember is that nowadays with some of the great gear that's available, you can get a damn good amplified sound.
     
  18. This pretty much sums up my experience. I used to work much harder than I needed to on no-amp gigs thinking that the audience couldn't hear me. Then a guy at the far end of the bar told me to turn my volume down because I was drowning out the vocalist.

    This is one of the reasons I like using the Contra amp when I feel some reinforcement is needed. I don't need to use much volume, and the down-firing speaker spreads the sound around the bandstand to quell any complaints about not hearing the bass.
     
  19. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    My main reason for playing acoustic(or without a pickup), is that I just love the sound of the bass on old recordings. Especially Chambers, Blanton, Mingus etc. For that reason I am playing with gut strings and high action. There isn't any other way to get that tone. Granted, there are situations where it isn't fair to play completely acoustic. In these situations I will mic the bass up.
     
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Since the question is "where do you all stand on the unplugged" issue, I'd like to state that, for me, it seems kind of silly to put together a bunch of instruments that vary greatly in terms of dynamic range, and then ask everyone to keep it within the range of the quietest instrument on the bandstand. When I play the bass, I want to be able to hear it as an equal voice in the mix if that's where I'm hearing its function at that moment. Sure, it's great to play with sensitive and tasteful musicians, but I also don't want to restrict the band to playing down to the level that my bass can put out acoustically. This seems the height of pedantic arrogance to me. YMMV.