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Why not mic the bass amp live?

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38 minutes ago, EBS_freak said:

Not wanting to go against what cuzzie has said - but it depends. Depending upon the driver and the cab design (which becomes of minimal importance if the speakers are close miced), the speaker can be flat(ish) or display certain characteristics, such as pushed mids, recessed highs, recessed lows or a combination of all. A bit like a mic really.

The thing is, speaker emulations are generally EQ based - so if you do take them out of the equation, you can get a fairly decent approximation without too much effort, certainly good enough for live situations. If you want to go further, then yeah, you can get some very comprehensive modelling on the go - with IR response and all! All this stuff is built into your modern modellers. The idea is that the modeller gives you the sound of the amp and cab you would hear if it was miced up in a studio... and then that sound is plugged directly into a live sound desk and off you go. Plug it into a FRFR powered cab (e.g. a cab that is flat and characterless - hence doesn't influence the sound) and you have a traditional rig replacement where you don't have to run it stupidly loud to get all the valve drive etc that people desire.

Happy for you to go against me!

Its never one size fits all, but certain solutions are definitely becoming more right for the correct reasons

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4 hours ago, EBS_freak said:

OK, its for a predominantly vocal performance - but its perfect in showing that he's earning his money there. I'm guessing that talent are all on headset mics, so no artist control of mic technique. They care about singing - the rest, the reverb, EQ, delays are all under this man's control. Every line, for every performer, making sure every piece of diction is perfectly reproduced.

What I do know though... is that I can guarantee that nobody in the audience appreciates that work that he has been doing all night.

'pin hell. Absolute artistry. 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, tonyf said:

'pin hell. Absolute artistry. 

Yup - ok so you don’t see this down your local music venue but this is certainly common place with bands touring with their own engineer where the set is known inside out. Not saying this is required for your average pub gig but demonstrates how the engineer can be a big part of the performance and not someone who is subservient to those on stage.

Edited by EBS_freak

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When we played live I used to think why spend so much effort and money on trying to get the perfect sound and then d.i. straight into a mixer? I always mic'd up my cab so that the sound through the pa was my sound or as close as I could get it.

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Guessing you haven’t read the rest of the thread then? 😛

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I'm finding all of this discussion interesting and I'm learning a lot. But for me simplicity is key:

If my band is running a vocal only PA in a pub my amp does all the work

If my band is running a huge PA for a function or playing outdoors where we run the PA I trust the guitarist who is also our soundman to do whatever he wants or needs to get a decent bass sound. Usually he DI's from the back of my amp and good quality bass tone comes out the PA. I've heard recordings, he's very good, it used to be his full time job in the past so he is 100% trusted. 

If I'm at a festival where you've got to rush on, plug in and play your allocated time, I just make sure I can hear myself in the monitor. Now I have a Helix I might ask to DI out of that so I know what's coming out, but even then the Sound-person can and will do what he or she wishes with that signal, life's too short to worry about it. 

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1 hour ago, EBS_freak said:

Guessing you haven’t read the rest of the thread then? 😛

I have a far too busy and interesting life to spend time trawling through Internet forums. I skim what I need and get back to my exciting and hectic schedule!

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Posted (edited)

Most of the stuff is already answered here, and I'll ask the final question: why don't you mic your bass on a gig? With double bass it's common, but you do get an acoustic signal from your electric bass, too.

Few details. The first and foremost issue is that the level of the signal is so low. In a quiet studio micing could work, but on stage, no chance. If you study acoustic g-word micing, you see there are many ways to enhance or reduce the response, like angle and placement of the mic. The mic would also be on the way if you want a good signal level and SNR from a not-so-acoustic instrument.

I do not say it cannot be done. Many artists have had piezos built-in to their instruments (Manring, Zappa...), but I think it is still more of an effect than real sound. I do have excluded piezo bridges from this: if a piezo is built-in to the neck or elsewhere, I consider it an effect mic.

Again: if the microphone capsule was built to a chamber in a bass body, it might give some sound out of it. I still consider an ordinary pickup is the thing here, and my choice in a bigger stage is a Countryman Type 85, post effects.

Edited by itu

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1 hour ago, uk_lefty said:

I'm finding all of this discussion interesting and I'm learning a lot. But for me simplicity is key:

If my band is running a vocal only PA in a pub my amp does all the work

If my band is running a huge PA for a function or playing outdoors where we run the PA I trust the guitarist who is also our soundman to do whatever he wants or needs to get a decent bass sound. Usually he DI's from the back of my amp and good quality bass tone comes out the PA. I've heard recordings, he's very good, it used to be his full time job in the past so he is 100% trusted. 

If I'm at a festival where you've got to rush on, plug in and play your allocated time, I just make sure I can hear myself in the monitor. Now I have a Helix I might ask to DI out of that so I know what's coming out, but even then the Sound-person can and will do what he or she wishes with that signal, life's too short to worry about it. 

This is all very true - and as stated earlier in the thread - you are compromising. If you are running just a bass amp, you are flooding the stage with low frequencies and reducing the ability to hear yourself as clearly (and others ability on stage as bass is very omni directional - the common side effect is that everybody starts to turn around to their amps and turn themselves up... and this gets worse as the gig progresses as your ears begin to tire and the high frequencies response begins to get lost - hence the guitarist is more likely to turn around and meddle first).

If you were to cut the lows on stage, then the front of house may sound bass light. If the only thing coming out the vocal PA, you will be able to hi pass the relevant vocal mics - but more often than not, the inbuilt hpf on analogue desks are too high (especially for male voices) and can make the vocals sound thin.

That's not to say it doesn't work - because it does and is good enough for most bands. But it won't get you as good a sound as you could. But having dedicated FoH and monitoring brings challenges - like who owns the PA - and the shift in "but I want to play through this massive rig, it looks cool". If people have invested heavily, or play with loads of different bands, there is that inevitable reluctance to change. - I dep with lots of bands (or at least used to) - but my rig is modular enough to work as a separate bass rig, or part of a foh and monitoring setup... or silent stage.

Your second point contains a key point - you are working with the sound guy and have trust in what they are doing. I guess that has been one of the key messages I have been trying to land (well, for anybody who cares to listen at least!)

As is your third point - you have to trust that these people know what they are doing. A lot of them are cowboys, granted - who have just gone out and bought a load of PA to be part of the scene - but it's there ears that are out there, not the people on stage. Of course, this all depends on the size of festival and band - because again, if you are big enough, you bring your own engineer who knows the deployed desk (or at least knows how to press start on a playback).

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53 minutes ago, ubit said:

I have a far too busy and interesting life to spend time trawling through Internet forums. I skim what I need and get back to my exciting and hectic schedule!

Can't argue with that!

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24 minutes ago, itu said:

Most of the stuff is already answered here, and I'll ask the final question: why don't you mic your bass on a gig? With double bass it's common, but you do get an acoustic signal from your electric bass, too.

Few details. The first and foremost issue is that the level of the signal is so low. In a quiet studio micing could work, but on stage, no chance. If you study acoustic g-word micing, you see there are many ways to enhance or reduce the response, like angle and placement of the mic. The mic would also be on the way if you want a good signal level and SNR from a not-so-acoustic instrument.

I do not say it cannot be done. Many artists have had piezos built-in to their instruments (Manring, Zappa...), but I think it is still more of an effect than real sound. I do have excluded piezo bridges from this: if a piezo is built-in to the neck or elsewhere, I consider it an effect mic.

Again: if the microphone capsule was built to a chamber in a bass body, it might give some sound out of it. I still consider an ordinary pickup is the thing here, and my choice is a Countryman Type 85, post effects.

You can call it what you want, a piezo is exactly like a pickup a registration of movement. This is translated to a value in electrical current. 

The electric bass guitar is not an acoustic instrument.

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Posted (edited)
40 minutes ago, itu said:

Most of the stuff is already answered here, and I'll ask the final question: why don't you mic your bass on a gig? With double bass it's common, but you do get an acoustic signal from your electric bass, too.

Few details. The first and foremost issue is that the level of the signal is so low. In a quiet studio micing could work, but on stage, no chance. If you study acoustic g-word micing, you see there are many ways to enhance or reduce the response, like angle and placement of the mic. The mic would also be on the way if you want a good signal level and SNR from a not-so-acoustic instrument.

I do not say it cannot be done. Many artists have had piezos built-in to their instruments (Manring, Zappa...), but I think it is still more of an effect than real sound. I do have excluded piezo bridges from this: if a piezo is built-in to the neck or elsewhere, I consider it an effect mic.

Again: if the microphone capsule was built to a chamber in a bass body, it might give some sound out of it. I still consider an ordinary pickup is the thing here, and my choice is a Countryman Type 85, post effects.

I'm not sure if this is tongue in cheek or not... 😕 

I know Ryan Adams did some stuff where he was recording his electric guitar acoustically in the control room whilst his amps were in the live room. In the mix, it was raised quite high, so it was quite clearly there, sounding like an unamplified electric guitar. This was a recording thing though - I can't imagine bothers doing stuff like that live, certainly not with mics anyway... far too much bleed in most situations for starters.

Edited by EBS_freak
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10 minutes ago, Bolo said:

You can call it what you want, a piezo is exactly like a pickup a registration of movement. This is translated to a value in electrical current. 

The electric bass guitar is not an acoustic instrument.

You've seen the folk that mic up Marshall amp heads and SPDSXs though...? :P

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2 minutes ago, EBS_freak said:

You've seen the folk that mic up Marshall amp heads and SPDSXs though...? :P

True, true. 😞

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3 hours ago, Bolo said:

You can call it what you want, a piezo is exactly like a pickup a registration of movement. This is translated to a value in electrical current. 

The electric bass guitar is not an acoustic instrument.

@EBS_freak said it, my thoughts may be written slightly tongue in cheek. I still tried to stay on the technical side of the track.

Like I said, if the piezo is located elsewhere than in the bridge, the function changes quite some. My understanding is that a piezo in the neck or in the headstock of the bass has very little to do with the actual sound reproduction. Those transducers can surely produce effects. History knows several trials, but they have been short lived. (Tongue in cheek ends.)

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1 hour ago, itu said:

@EBS_freak said it, my thoughts may be written slightly tongue in cheek. I still tried to stay on the technical side of the track.

Like I said, if the piezo is located elsewhere than in the bridge, the function changes quite some. My understanding is that a piezo in the neck or in the headstock of the bass has very little to do with the actual sound reproduction. Those transducers can surely produce effects. History knows several trials, but they have been short lived. (Tongue in cheek ends.)

Especially for you - I found out the Ryan Adams track I was referring to earlier. Although, given the sexual and emotional abuse allegations, Im not sure whether he's completely socially acceptable to bring up in conversation.

Anyway...

Amp on the right channel, miced up electric guitar on the left.

As for micing  up the instrument, yeah, you'd need to be micing it up on the side of the string that vibrates to have it make something representing a usable sound. You did remind me of a period where I was experimenting with piezo pickups. It was one that I made from a bottle cap, a piezo from Tandy mounted inside, with a jack on it. And you know what, I used that for recording all sorts of stuff... from violins, acoustic guitars... and.... an electric bass not plugged in. I had it mounted on the body with a cross made out of masking tape holding it in place. I haven't got any recording of it anymore (they were all on hissy tape anyway) - but it produces a kinda overly trebly bass sound. I bet on a real double bass with some processing, it would do just grand.

 

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, tonyf said:

'pin hell. Absolute artistry. 

It's nut's isn't it? I remember sitting in on a desk in the West End - the sound crew are definitely one of the hardest members of the crew there. The engineering line by line scripts are amazing - everything cued by slider number, scene changes etc... and you have to keep your eyes on the stage, and on the score giving you all the cues, whilst actually listening very careful to make sure that everything sounds smooth and perfectly balanced.

This is a pretty cool watch -  (and imagine missing a cue)

 

Of course, similar happens on band gigs - but there's usually a lot less going on fader wise. Basically, you are going to be riding the faders of the lead vocalist(s) and have a grouped backing vocal on a VCA. And then of course, the slider pulling back the guitarist for when the gain goes through the roof as the solo is taken. A lot of pop shows are automated now - and I really dig on it. I managed to get a sneak peak of the Katy Perry gig when she was in Birmingham... and you would not believe the amount of automation going on. Yes, they are playing to a click - but thats a midi sync - so all the patch changes etc are done for the players so that they can concentrate on their performance. I seem to recall there was a video on it. I'll see if I can find it, it will totally blow your mind and make you rethink how gigs can be done. Of course, off the same sync track... you can control your lights and stage fx. It's freakin' amazing. I'll see if I can find the video for you.  

Edited by EBS_freak
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Posted (edited)

@tonyf - here you go. I don't think it's the same video I was looking for - but it's got a lot of the key parts in there. All being played live - but all the events being controlled digitally.

 

Edited by EBS_freak
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, EBS_freak said:

You did remind me of a period where I was experimenting with piezo pickups...

I got a bit tired playing with them. Preamp is a must and every detail in piezo's shape and size matters.

I had a chance to work with an accelerator sensor company and used their custom units. I made functional bass pickup prototypes. But they go down to DC! Without HPF they are unusable and the highest reproducable frequency lies at around 500 Hz only. Because of this the sound is really thick. I was thinking they should be mixed with piezos for wide response. Some day when I get the ambition again...

Edited by itu
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On 07/04/2021 at 13:36, Dad3353 said:

I doubt that much mic'ed bass was fed to many FOH PA systems back then, excepting 'Woodstock'-type gigs. Most clubs had a pair of WEM columns, and struggled already with just the vocals in there. Not sure about the US scene, but mixing consoles were rare in those dark days (yes, I was there...). I didn't get my drums mic'ed up, even in the '80s. The bass amp was all there was on stage, for the hall. Recording a 'live' act would be different, of course, but FOH was brute bass horsepower, back then. B|

 

In North America, in my first band the mics, bass, and guitar went into one amp. Standup bass, acoustic guitars, and even pianos, were mic'ed into separate amps.  Amps served as the PA. It was common to play in theaters, they commonly had Voice of The Theatre speaker cabinets that worked well in that sized venues. An advantage of old theaters is that they were designed to project unamplified sound into the audience. Bands with more money would use theatre systems on the road.  They could be scaled up by adding amps and speakers. That was the best technology available. 

Woodstock really did kick off the need for large systems. That triggered developement of big systems. Even in the early 70's there were some pretty large PA's with cabinets stacked on each side of the stage, Acoustic was one make. At smaller venues, Shure columns were common. But large venues, both indoor and outdoor became the norm. High school danses could easily have 1000+ attendees. By the mid 80's I was using a tube preamp and a 1400W Peavey SMPS PA amp and EV speakers. Things were kind of nuts back then, much more civil now.

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I cut my teeth mixing sound for musical theatre with a few amateur companies. 2 1/2 days of get-in, room balancing, pit setup, tech rehearsal, band calls, dress rehearsal and the rest. Almost invariably you'd get the comments from some audience members that it was a lot of equipment to use just for playing back a recording. It was quite a compliment, although they didn't realise it at the time...

How we woud laugh when the actors decided to miss a few pages of dialogue and totally mess with the cue list!!

 

As for what I do when I'm playing, I have enough to worry about making sure I'm playing the right song, never mind obsessing about whether or not the audience appreciate the nuances of my slap-dash tonal choices. By the time it's mixed with the other 6 people in the band, all the audience will ever hear is dum, dum duh dum anyway.

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These are really interesting answers. It seems that this mainly comes down to what is lost by using a DI - so if nothing is lost, why not make life easier? I can get on board with that.

So 2 follow up questions (I'm the OP):

What if the bass player uses effects to function similar to a rhythm guitarist, like Tim Commerford, Chris Wolstenholme etc, and uses a bunch of effects which generally sound better with pushed air, and a bit naff without - Does that change things?

 

 And what about styles of music, like jazz/fusion where the bass player often has a brighter sound and doesn't just provide the "dum, dum duh dum" role? 

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@BadHands - the use of FX is still achievable - you just tap the DI out to the PA post the FX. As above, if the amp is a big part of the resulting tone (through colouration, distortion, speaker etc), then go to a amp modeller, or speaker emulation that can emulate it. You can tap a DI (using a special DI box that allows for speaker level outputs) from a speaker output on the amp - and then you'd just have to EQ for the speaker, or use a speaker emulator.

As for pushed air - it's the PA speakers that do that for you. The signal is the same, just the amplitude that changes - and arguably where Fletcher-Munson comes in. People tend to like and think that things sound better for being louder.

This is where compromise I talked about comes in - you can run your stage volume loud - but it will have a negative impact on what you can do with your FoH mix - unless you have a big enough stage to get the separation between audio sources and mics.

As for jazz/fusion - no different to what has been explained in the rest of the thread.

 

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On 07/04/2021 at 18:23, ahpook said:

I don't worry about my onstage sound. I make sure that I can give the person dealing with the sound a DI that sounds the way I want it to.

Anything on-stage is just for monitoring.

However, if the person doing the sound wants just a straight DI with no whistle and bells then that's that I'll give them. Being heard is more important to me than 'my sound' and it's their job to decide how that's best achieved, on that night, in that venue.

 

This. Often my stage sound is rather bass-light because it helps everybody hearing everything more clearly, including myself. It depends on the size of the place. On the larger stages I can have a very full and lovely sound and still get everybody else too. There's rarely one answer that fits everywhere, otherwise we wouldn't need sound engineers. It's important that the sound engineer knows what the music is supposed to sound like, but sometimes you just have to go with what you can get and compromise. 

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