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tonybassplayer

Midi bass

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I recently attended the bass bass in Bingley and was a bit restricted for time but I heard a couple of guys playing a bass that sounded just like a keyboard ( I am assuming it was midi but i am a complete novice with regard to this )

At the time I was playing soul/funk and rock but I have recently joined up with a singer/guitarist and there are many songs where a little bit of keyboard type sounds would sound better ( and fuller ) rather than just a low bass note.

Can someone point me in the direction of what i would need etc ( probably from a budget point of view to start....true Yorkshireman !! )

Many thanks

Tony

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I'm sort of dabbling in this myself and I know Brokendoor has been using a MIDI system for quite a while now. You can choose to go down a number of routes depending on your budget and playing requirements but there aren't any super cheap options.

The cheapest way is probably to get a MIDI pickup fitted to an existing instrument, such as those made by Roland, Yamaha, Shadow or Graphtec. You'll need a pitch to midi convertor unit such as the Axon AX100 or AX-50 or one of the proprietary units made by Roland or Yamaha. The advantages of pitch to midi are some pitch bend information. The disadvantages can be tracking and in some cases MIDI lag (the time it takes for the waveform to be sampled and converted into a pitch). However the Axon system is supposed to be one of the best convertors as it relies on a neural net which has already been 'taught' to recognise the pitch of a waveform before its recieved a full wavelength. The net also needs to learn how you play which can take about half an hour to do according to Axon. The more recent Graphtec GHOST pickups can be embedded into a bass bridge so no unsightly third pickups velcroed into place.

Another option is to go down dedicated bass controller route. You can find systems by Peavey MIDIbass or Cyberbass. They're fitted with the same fret switching system that was fitted to Wal basses - Peavey bought the patent from the original Australian designer, Steve Chick. This system was also originally fitted to Wal basses (the MB-4 or MB-5). You'll need to make sure you get the rack mounted conversion unit with the bass as well. The advantages are a pretty quick conversion time, the disadvantages are that you won't have any kind of pitch bending facility unless you do it with a pedal or other kind of separate controller. You can also get quite a few false triggers if you're used to doing stuff like tapping the strings along with the bass drum when you're resting in any phrases.

Finally you can always purchase a set of bass foot pedals much like those used by organ players or Geddy Lee. The advantage is no lag, the notes are generated as MIDI at source. However you'll need to be sitting down if you need to do any quick phrases.

I've gone for the Graphtec GHOST system with an Axon AX100 controller but I haven't purchased all the kit yet. Reports suggest there will never be a MIDI bass set up that can compete on an equal footing with a keyboard based set up.

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[quote name='Crazykiwi' post='280125' date='Sep 9 2008, 09:11 AM']I've gone for the Graphtec GHOST system with an Axon AX100 controller but I haven't purchased all the kit yet. Reports suggest there will never be a MIDI bass set up that can compete on an equal footing with a keyboard based set up.[/quote]

Thank god for that. Leave the keyboardists to their bit, and they leave us to ours.

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If you only want to use the MIDI capabilities and not the actual bass guitar sounds you could string the controller instrument with piccolo strings which being an octave higher than normal should cut the MIDI conversion time in half. You then of course need to pitch down all your synth patches by an octave.

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The bass pedals only really become necessary if you're going to be doing something else with your hands at the same time. If your hands will be free, a keyboard will do the job, and basic keyboard bass is not hard with a little practice. I've seen e.g. Tina Weymouth and Tony Levin doing that, and I have a small "virtual analog" synth that will work, though I haven't had to use it in earnest yet. Edited by bnt

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There are a few songs we are doing that he just plays a strumming guitar intro that wants something a little more than a root note behind it to fill it out ( Drops of Jupiter by Train for example ) so I want to be able to play my bass ( with a keyboard sound ) then hit a pedal and keep playing my bass ( with the bass sounds coming out ) without having to switch from keys to bass or switch anything on a rack etc

Hope this make sense lol

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My setup is a little more complicated than you've detailed, Tony, but the principle is exactly the same (I run one bass with audio and midi signals).

There are a number of complex problems, but if you've got midi experience you should be able to sort it. It obviously goes without saying that the more complicated you get, the more problems arise.

My setup is:

Midi:
Bass (GK3b) => axon ax100 => fcb1010 => Novation Supernova => Korg Microkorg > (audio) LS2.
Audio:
Bass => Bass POD => EHX Bass MicroSynth => ZVex Woolly Mammoth => MoogerFooger Lowpass => DL4 => LS2

But with some complicated wiring. My tone sucks ass, but my sounds can destroy buildings.

Dan

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What's the role of the behringer foot controller Dan? Just patch changing on the Novation Supernova? I have a Novation KS4 (now trying to sell it but that's another story..) and I know exactly what you mean about being able to destroy buildings, I think I scared the hell out of everyone nearby after plugging that into my bass amp at practice.

How do you find the tracking of the axon/roland setup to be? I have been experimenting with some pitch to midi software and can get pretty good results above 12th fret but obviously only monophonic..

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Now that I have a GK3b on my bass I am going to try out some of this stuff when I have fully explored the vbass. It is useful seeing the full signal chain to help me make sense of it all. I guess all I need is a MIDI converter and some kind of rack unit with some sounds... I will probably explore this one in years to come (got enough on my plate at the moment!)

Cheers
ped

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Dr. Funk: The Axon's tracking is generally good. Oddly enough it's far better with the MicroKorg than the Supernova (which doesn't make any sense midi-wise). I occasionally get problems with double triggering (Notes cut short by two 'note-on' messages) but its not much of a problem.

I use the foot controller's 10 buttons to mute and un-mute the 8 patches in 'performance' mode. This essentially means I can have any combination of 8 sounds (1 sub, 2 leads, 2 monophonic synths, 2 pads, and 1 just noise) that I layer up to create a vibe (very important as I use it a lot when improvising and a single synth patch is too rigid). I also assign the two expression pedals to control mod wheel and portamento or lfo rate or whatever to really alter the sounds as I play.

Ped: It really is as simple as getting a few bits of gear together then figuring how the hell you make it do what you need it to!!!!

Dan Edited by TheBrokenDoor

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i have a fender franken p midi bass with a ghost bridge installed i am thinking of selling..it has a '71 jazz neck, 60's p body (black refin), darkstar pickup, extra volume for midi..

its ready for midi use and drives the v-bass system really well..

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[quote name='Crazykiwi' post='280125' date='Sep 9 2008, 06:11 AM']Another option is to go down dedicated bass controller route. You can find systems by Peavey MIDIbass or Cyberbass. They're fitted with the same fret switching system that was fitted to Wal basses - Peavey bought the patent from the original Australian designer, Steve Chick. This system was also originally fitted to Wal basses (the MB-4 or MB-5). You'll need to make sure you get the rack mounted conversion unit with the bass as well. The advantages are a pretty quick conversion time, the disadvantages are that you won't have any kind of pitch bending facility unless you do it with a pedal or other kind of separate controller. You can also get quite a few false triggers if you're used to doing stuff like tapping the strings along with the bass drum when you're resting in any phrases.[/quote]

As an engineer with some knowledge of pitch tracking, I'm disappointed to hear this. There shouldn't be any particular difficulty in tracking pitch bends even with a fretboard pickup system. If any sort of pitch tracking is being performed, and something must be at least tracking the volume from the string. Since computing power is now cheap, I'd expect there to be pitch tracking in the system somewhere. The errors in pitch tracking are (for standard techniques) usually gross errors such as octave down, octave up, etc. If you have information from fretting, then I'd expect tracking to be fairly good, and for pitch bending to be easily tracked by such a system.

But I personally believe that MIDI is a bad choice for stringed instrument synths. The data format of MIDI forces decisions on note identity to be made much, much, too soon. I have some ideas about ho this can be solved and have the skills (if not the time) to implement bass synths from scratch. Maybe some day I will, or get a student to do it.

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[quote name='Annoying Twit' post='328971' date='Nov 14 2008, 12:28 PM']As an engineer with some knowledge of pitch tracking, I'm disappointed to hear this. There shouldn't be any particular difficulty in tracking pitch bends even with a fretboard pickup system.[/quote]
The pitch sensing is done electronically by fret position not by sensing the note. I don't think you could get the MB4 equipped systems to pitch bend any more than you could do it with a piano. If you did want to pitch bend then it might be quite simple to set up a MIDI controller to do it (like on a MIDI keyboard).

I'd agree with you about the application of MIDI and stringed instruments though. I think there is still going to be a use for it regardless though.

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[quote name='Bigwan' post='285742' date='Sep 17 2008, 11:16 AM']Can anyone suggest a reasonably cheap keyboard to get started playing synth bass on? Alesis Micron?[/quote]


You would be better going the vsti route they track better if you have a decent soundcard

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