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Anyone play bass and keys on stage?


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I currently play bass in a rock/pop covers band. I love playing bass and wouldn’t want to switch to any other instrument. There are times when a bit of keys on an intro etc., would be useful so I did wonder if it was practical to have a little keyboard setup on stage to do this, then switch back to the bass for the bulk of the song. I can play the piano a bit, so wondered about giving this a go.

Anyone do this? If so how do you get on? Is it a major hassle?

I don’t know much about keyboards, but I’d want something lightweight, compact that doesn’t take up too much space, doesn’t require hooking up to laptops etc., and has all the sounds built in. Wouldn’t want to spend a great deal either, ideally under a few hundred quid. Any suggestions on this front?

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, 41Hz said:

Anyone do this? If so how do you get on? Is it a major hassle?

[...]

ideally under a few hundred quid

IMLE, no hassle at all.
Bass kept on its leash, and fretting arm stretched over bass neck - unless bass is "hung" very vertically.


As to what to buy, instruments exist that contain gazillions of presets that can be regarded as a travel through the history of hits. These can be modules, requiring a MIDI keyboard, or stand-alone instruments with built-in keyboard.

One example of a great one, bought used, is the Alesis Micron, which later was bettered and re-released as Akai Miniak.
You won't find better for the money, but its user interface with few knobs and buttons needs some getting used to. The Miniak in this is already much better than the Micron.

A more expensive alternative, exactly as unique for the money, and again bought used, is the Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard. One should get the "Keyboard" version rather than the tiny module, for several reasons.
It's less of a travel through hit history, but IMHO makes up for that through a very powerful synth engine.


There may also be examples in the class of instruments that bewilderingly is called "keyboard" or "keyboard instrument". These are the often cheap instruments that beginners buy when wanting to start playing keyboards. They'll have built in rhythms as well as auto-accompaniment, and in the cheap end of the market sound incredibly cheesy.
If you go that way, then maybe get a second-hand Yamaha, as they're the most secure brand to buy. Then get one that was 1,000 quid new or more. Roughly.
Of course you might be able to find a model from another brand that's equally good. It's just that Yamaha have been consistent.

Edited by BassTractor
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I've doubled on electric and synth bass on gigs before and it's no real extra hassle to set up.  The main thing is do you want to run it through your rig or are you just going to DI it straight in to the desk. If you want to put it through your amp maybe look at something like a Boss LS2 so you can split your signal. I'd also look at a way of muting your bass so that you don't knock the strings when you're playing keys.

I've used the Akai Miniak a bunch. It's got some really good sounds in it. It probably wouldn't be my first choice for piano sounds but it's definitely passable, although it only has a 3 octave board. For synth sounds though, it's great for it's price.

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Marking the thread as this is literally something we started experimenting with this week.

We're currently toying with the idea of using VST instruments in Ableton and an Akai Mini or MPK 225. Ableton won't play nice with my favourite plugins so the current set up is a bit of a lash up: crappy old Roland controller keys triggering vst sounds in Reaper.

It was great fun - guitarist and me had already swapped instruments and were jabbing at the keys whenever either of us had a hand free. Will be reading with interest to see how we can finesse things.

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I've done this alternating between an old Roland D5 and my P-bass. Just set it up using an A/B box into my rig then DI with no problems, very lo-fi but worked fine. Main problem was having enough room onstage to set the Roland up.

When I went to see Stevie Wonder, Nate Watts switched between bass and keys for a lot of the gig, although must admit I couldn't hear much difference. 

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Some limited experience here but I've played Bass Station II while having a bass guitar strapped onto me and it's fine.  For me, it worked better with my left arm under the bass's neck, but either way will work.

The LS2 is a good call - it can level-balance the two instruments, and it will mute whichever instrument isn't currently being played.

A keyboard I've played which was light and had a lot of useable sounds is Yamaha MX49; about £250 used.

Try and get a sturdy stand.  The cheaper X-style stands can be a bit wobbly.  The stand I have is https://www.staymusicstands.com/products/supports-for-keyboards/

 

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I play bass & synth bass using a Roli Rise25 & a MacBook. The bass goes into the audio interface & I use 1 track on logic for the bass & how ever many I want for the synth(s).

That’s me set for playing songs from The Greatest Showman a couple of years ago, which was fun. 

A7E9DF63-5CE1-4D01-8E1D-BC6245D2D5DD.jpeg

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Not really an answer to the OP, but perhaps interesting - Simon Gallup in 1982 playing the bassline on a pedal keyboard with one foot, here and there adding a melodic line high up on his Rickenbacker 

 

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1 hour ago, Woodinblack said:

The McMillan 12 step pedals on my pedalboard.

 

 

Just had to look that up.

https://www.gear4music.com/Recording-and-Computers/Keith-McMillen-12-Step-Chromatic-Keyboard-Foot-Controller/IKX?origin=product-ads&gclid=CjwKCAjwkN6EBhBNEiwADVfya8N7ZtGTHfJajkC9XwY3vVPS8g5gNnTnRVx6yHS4jAZDiNrEYUGQ0hoC4MAQAvD_BwE
 

Not sure how you make use of the the 5 note polyphony though unless you are an octopus🤣

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8 minutes ago, 41Hz said:

...Not sure how you make use of the the 5 note polyphony though unless you are an octopus🤣

No; up to five notes at a time (five-note chords...) can be programmed into just one (any one...) of the pedals. A different chord can be stored in another pedal. One press and the whole pre-programmed chord of that pedal is sounded. No octopi are hurt in doing this. -_-

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On 08/05/2021 at 11:48, Dankology said:

Marking the thread as this is literally something we started experimenting with this week.

We're currently toying with the idea of using VST instruments in Ableton and an Akai Mini or MPK 225. Ableton won't play nice with my favourite plugins so the current set up is a bit of a lash up: crappy old Roland controller keys triggering vst sounds in Reaper.

It was great fun - guitarist and me had already swapped instruments and were jabbing at the keys whenever either of us had a hand free. Will be reading with interest to see how we can finesse things.

This is something I'm interested in too, and it's also come about at a good time. However your comments go completely over my (very simple) head. I want something that go press button make sound. I don't want to spend the years that it would rake for me in a darkened cave reading manuals and programming things to just learn the basics of this witchcraft. With bass synth pedals sounding like Skynet having a bad day I'm thinking some kind of keyboard synth to make tasteful 80s synth bass sounds is what's required. It would be good to know what comes pre loaded with usable sounds vs what is just an interface for more background wizardry involving computers and whatever the heck MIDI is. 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, 41Hz said:

Not sure how you make use of the the 5 note polyphony though unless you are an octopus🤣

Sorry I wasn't too descriptive, I was out waiting outside a shop and my wife came back out!

As dad says, this is per key. It is very handy. i don't really play individual keys, I use it for chords such as backing chords - it also has a hold, so you press a key, it plays a chord and holds it until you press another one or the cancel button. Very handy for backing pads / strings etc. Really fills everything out nicely but doesn't involve too much tap dancing.

1119660579_Screenshot2021-05-09at18_00_33.thumb.png.002b8760b45ccb1ce7c7c8033965fda2.png

Very useful device.

Although I have a Yamaha keyboard for piano playing for a couple of tracks now:

IMG_6151.thumb.jpg.db7038bead967305183ab4cabbcc8124.jpg

PS - that was the first outing, the keyboard is on a holder now so needs less duck tape!

Edited by Woodinblack
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The footswitch thing looks really useful, especially to fill things out if you only have 1 guitarist, but for what I’m thinking I just want a cheapish small lightweight keyboard with some decent sounds built in, that can occasionally be used on some songs when there is a keys intro etc. I’m playing in pubs where space is a premium and I don’t want to be messing around with laptops etc., that will likely get beer spilt on them, knocked on the floor or nicked. So far the MX49 mentioned earlier, or the Roland Go:keys, look like they might be contenders.

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Posted (edited)

I recently purchased Akai mini play..... it's a small MIDI controller with 25 mini keys , but also has a bunch of built-in sounds. So no faffing around with laptops.

I plan to try it in my Punk/New wave covers band (the other don't know yet!) to play simplified lines for songs which have  keyboard e.g. Pump It Up.

However it will not be played instead of bass..... we are gtr/gtr/bass/drums ... the keyboard will played by a guitarist, or a guitarist will switch to bass for that song. 

 

It's a good option if you want a single keyboard to do live work and home recording.

 

Not sure if the bass sounds are good enough for what you want... I'm guessing not, I can find two patches called Synth Bass 1 and 2.

Edited by Nail Soup
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21 hours ago, Woodinblack said:

I also do one track with piano, using a very small piano on my microphone stand! But I literally play the bass with one hand and the piano with the other.

Out of interest, how do you do that?

I'm guessing open notes.......

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15 minutes ago, Nail Soup said:

Out of interest, how do you do that?

I'm guessing open notes.......

No, open notes to be avoided as my right hand is playing piano. Hammer ons on slow notes. I only do it for Linkin park - in the end.

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Posted (edited)

On occasion with the proggy band I run Keyboards & a 12Step from soft synths on an iPad, but sometimes it's just too much faff to string it all together and get it running 🤣

 

IMG_0694.jpeg

IMG_0697.jpeg

Edited by WalMan
damn you autocorrect...proggy not groggy, though...
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Yes, I forgot to mention, the actual sounds I use are from iM1 on the iPad from the 12 step, which is also running the mixer. Apart from the Yamaha reface DX which is using its own sounds.

 

 

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I'm looking at possibly doing this in the (near) future too. Obviously, the LS-2 is an obvious choice for combining keyboard and bass into one amp; but would a noise gate also be handy? It would be used on the bass's output, then maybe the LS-2 used to simply mix the two signals. The keyboard ought to be near silent when not in use so no noise gate needed there.

This way there isn't actually switching of the instrument, instead both are present but the bass would be kept silent when not played.

Or are accidental knocks of the bass likely to trip the threshold of the noisegate anyway?

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10 hours ago, Dad3353 said:

No; up to five notes at a time (five-note chords...) can be programmed into just one (any one...) of the pedals. A different chord can be stored in another pedal. One press and the whole pre-programmed chord of that pedal is sounded. No octopi are hurt in doing this. -_-

I use a McMillen 12-step for this with one band - so I can play strings or similar to fill out the sound on guitar soloes. I use it in legato mode, so the notes play until I play another note. Bottom C is programmed with no notes at all so I can stop it. It will also be in use with the prog band, but as we have a keyboard player, it'll probably just be doing a Taurus impression.

I've done the simultaneous keys and bass thing too, just for one song ages ago. I think I was just playing Am and G for the section I used keys and bass together, nothing in the slightest bit clever.

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