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joescartwright

Playing without an amp

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So I've been asked to play in a band with no amp or PA support.

I have a stentor hybrid upright bass which is fine for me as a beginner but is certainly not that loud, any tips for maximising volume acoustically? String recommendations/better bass/suck it up and practice more and stop moaning etc.

 

Cheers,

Joe.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, joescartwright said:

So I've been asked to play in a band with no amp or PA support...

Perhaps a bit more detail..? What's the band's composition..? What style of repertoire..? No PA, even for vocals..? There was a time, not so long ago, that bands were all acoustic, with brass sections, drums and pianos. The bass players had their place in the mix. As an extreme, you could just play as best you can, and if it gets drowned out by the others, one would ask why they require a bass player at all. If you're playing acoustically, the others will have to 'suck it up', too, I'd have thought.
Just my tuppence-worth; I'm probably wrong. :$

Edited by Dad3353
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Best way to play. Work on you technique and you’ll be fine. TONE! That is what the double bass was invented for. Talk to the old guys, they did big band stuff with no amplifier. My amp has not come out of the cupboard for over a year. I needed it when playing with full drums, but not now. I play in duo-trio at clubs, festivals and small theatres with no amp, but that’s easy at low stage volumes. For fun, I also play sessions in “acoustic” settings in village halls and clubs around 100 capacity. There is always a PA, the singer has a mic, the guitars and keys have acoustic amps (at low volume) and there usually is a drummer with snares and brushes. I often go totally acoustic and only when there are lots of people on stage, brass etc, I DI for front of house (no monitoring). I am always heard and after 3 hours I’m still standing (though I probably wouldn’t pass the armpit test).

my action is fairly normal, between .9 and 1.1cm

Strings: Spirocore medium.

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At which position do you measure the action on a DB, Rabbie?

I thought I had my action pretty high but I'm sure it's not over a centimetre, so maybe I'm looking at a different place.

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2 hours ago, Happy Jack said:

At which position do you measure the action on a DB, Rabbie?

I thought I had my action pretty high but I'm sure it's not over a centimetre, so maybe I'm looking at a different place.

Hi mate, I just measure the distance between the very end of the fingerboard and the string, which I think is the standard way of doing it. I’m not clinical about it, I use my 5 year old daughter’s Disney princess ruler... but I’m pretty sure it’s around 1cm high, a wee bit more on the E side, wee bit less on the G...

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Posted (edited)

That’s useful, I raised the action on my E and it helped correct the weakness in its sound a bit.

Turns out its now identical to yours, maybe the luthier had it set a bit low, as I’d asked as I thought it would make it easier to develop my playing.

i think I’ll try the mittel spiro for the E today.

Edited by wambamalubop

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It’s for a roaming band, acoustic guitar, percussion/snare/cajon, vocals and me so it’s not like there is a massive amount to compete with. 

 

The environment can can be challenging at times though as it’s rarely in a space designed for music, often outside or in a space with a fair bit of background noise etc.

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Busking is best unplugged anyway so I’m sure you’ll be awesome in that team, no worries there. Have a blast.

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I have done it, and it can work, but it is very drummer dependent.  While people did it "back in the day", you really need a drummer who is aware of how they played in that era, or at least one with some restraint and sensitivity to the ensemble sound. A kick-heavy rock or funk approach rarely works with unamped bass! 

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With a marching snare and/or cajon, should be OK, then..! I hope the bass has wheels, though, 'cos carrying one, playing, could be a challenge. :|

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I was thinking that a pogo stick attachment might be more eye catching. Gotta set yourself apart from the competition right?

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Posted (edited)

Just while i’m Browsing this, my tutor has recommended this.

https://www.kcstrings.com/bass-buggie/

I have one one the way, via a relation travelling over to save on the postage!

(And order the cushion)

Edited by MJJS

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Rabbie is spot on--Technique & Tone. I read an article by Ray Brown where he said that guys like him were brought up--in the 1940's---in big bands and had to project to be heard. No amps in those days.--hence there tone and volume. He said that the guys today are brought up with amps. A big difference. 

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String choice is another factor - Spiro Mittel gave significant volume on my DB.  Hard on my right hand fingers though.

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Tried various stings over the years and the best--for me- for volume & tone are Evah Pirazzi Weich. Good for pizz & arco.

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12 hours ago, gypsyjazzer said:

Tried various stings over the years and the best--for me- for volume & tone are Evah Pirazzi Weich. Good for pizz & arco.

The weichs being louder than the standard set? That’s surprising

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That's it, higher action for better tone. Now my right hand index and major fingers have nice blisters... 🤗 😌 😠

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55 minutes ago, Hellzero said:

That's it, higher action for better tone. Now my right hand index and major fingers have nice blisters... 🤗 😌 😠

It’s only through pain that thou shalt find salvation....🤦🏻‍♂️🐒😁

under the blisters nice calluses are waiting, then the holy grail of the double bass player will reveal itself: taking teabags out of the cup without the need for a teaspoon (what’s a few germs amongst friends...)

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Finally got around to sticking on the Spiro Mittel on my E,  what a difference that makes.  A relief that the bass isn't a lemon as I was fearing. It now sounds good as well as looks good. I'm getting a better sound and sustain at the low end.  Still room for improvement I think, but a good start. 

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In my experience the double bass projects very well and your audience can hear it in the mix a bit better than you can next to your band mates. You can really feel it too :) 

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It’s all very well giving advise about string height and strings but we are all physically different , Mittels a centimetre of the board for some one new to the bass could be the end of playing a few months down the road when they develope RSI etc

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15 hours ago, Jezyorkshire said:

It’s all very well giving advise about string height and strings but we are all physically different , Mittels a centimetre of the board for some one new to the bass could be the end of playing a few months down the road when they develope RSI etc

Yep, the high-ish action and tough Spiros work for me, but I’m a fairly big person and I have been playing for years with people that love the acoustic tone above all, very old school.

There are lots of ways to make music, there are a few players I follow that fly around that fingerboard with low action and would never dream to play without an amp: they sound great. Charlie Haden played guts and nobody ever complained they didn’t hear him, so... each has their own way and we all try to make music, that’s the important thing.

Edited by Rabbie
I reworded my message
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There's a strong element of "work smarter, not harder" too.  When I first started playing a few years back I had a fairly high setup, too much relief in the board and Thomastik Superflexibles that are about on a par with Spiro Mittels.  I hurt myself and had to take week long breaks a couple of times trying to brute-force my way through situations I was daft to go unamped in.  With a bit more experience, I think the maximum volume I can get with my current bass, technique and setup is about on a par with what I got back then, but I don't hurt myself. 

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