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So ya wanna be a Key-Bass Player... (tips and whatever..)


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I believe in a seperate keyboard for bass playing. An AGO spec full radiating 32 note one. The flat Hammond ones are almost kind of acceptable. Forget those little sausage octaves, they totaly suck. Grab the bench with both hands and use both feet to go nuts on solos. I like to do duos back and forth with bass players, just like keyboard and guitar duos, but with totally thundering bottom end. I tend to stack several patches transposed down an octave with a few that are nontransposed, so each key plays two octaves. Don't forget that when you run out of keys at the bottom, you can play a note and its fifth to sound an octave below. Also I use a huge double 15 1/2 length folded horn for my bass keyboard.

E.M. Skinner, Casavant, Schlicker, Hradetzky, Dobson, Schoenstein, Abbott & Sieker.

Builder of tracker action and electro-pneumatic organs, and a builder of the largest church pipe organ in the world.

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I also like to practice my bass parts with a recording from time to time.


I play upright and electric bass. Although they're both basses, they're different. Keep that in mind when playing LH-bass.


Also I have yet to hear a decent upright bass patch that features samples of any decent bow-work on the bass. Does anyone know of any upright bass samples featuring any bow work?

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Hmm, good point about bowing work on the bass. My own bowing skills are rudimentary as I never took bowing lessons, so I am inclined to use samples for that. I can't think off-hand of any good sources in workstations, but the Vienna Symphonic Library is excellent and I am now using it for bowed string bass. It may be too "classical" sounding for other contexts though.


Did Scarbee deal with bowing in his string bass library? He usually covers every imaginable detail in his stuff.


One thing to keep in mind in terms of finger-style playing is that unamplified string bass tends to have much less sustain than bass guitar. It's one of the reasons the bass guitar was invented in the first place. Both have their place, of course. And a quality tube amp (such as my Summit Audio TB100) on a string bass can add some nice sustain without creating feedback or boominess.


In the context of a keyboard workstation, the string bass patches tend more towards a jazz context. I've actually been quite impressed by the string bass patches on the Yamaha Motif ES (and seem to recall the ones on the Kurzweil PC2 series being fairly believable as well), and still haven't gotten around to replacing those parts with my real string bass yet on most unfinished projects.


In the live context, I generally find it more convenient to use an organ bass patch when I want a bass sound that has more depth than presence. This technique works especially well for reggae and reggae-influenced music. Generally in those cases I use a split organ patch as my left and right hand parts will probably overlap their range anyway, and this way I can set the two parts up with different stops, as though I had two manuals.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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lol it's funny you mention that. I also like to use organ bass for certain blues tunes; it seems to set the mood better. Besides, it's close enough to what I would have played on bass anyway. :)
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An update to my situation on key bass...


I'm now the only bass player in the praise band, playing left hand bass twice a week.


I started out using my Motif ES7 in a split, but none of the other members (or myself) were completely satisfied with any of the preset bass voices in it. And I pretty much tried all of them out at one time or another.


However everyone is good with the Roland XP-60, which I've currently set on top as dedicated bass keyboard. It was just hanging out unused in the basement but now has found a new life as a bass board. Comments from all that first session were things like "that's it" and "that's what we're looking for".


I'm using one of it's Pick Bass presets which I've tweaked a bit, run through a Hartke head and a single 15" speaker, which was also preferred over my usual 4/10" because it's tone is a bit deeper. This rather modest outfit is a different situation than a club band because none of the drums (i.e. kick) are mic'ed, so I'm the low end.


The comments I get from people in the know in the congregation are that it sounds like there's a bass player up there and how am I doing it.

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VERY timely post. I just inherited bass responsibilities (temporarily?) for a cover band and I need all the advice I can get. Currently I'm using a split 88 and a Prophecy for bass parts. The Prophecy, although mono has very expressive aftertouch and a few nice bass patches. I also feel something more "expressive" in using a separate keyboard as opposed to using just splits, along with sending to a separate bass amp. First gig in this config is in a few weeks.

Thanks for this thread and please keep the tips coming.

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I got thrown into left hand bass in a clubdate band back in the early 80s and had to learn with no advice because the bandleader did not want to pay another musician. I had a Crumar Orchestrator which I used as left hand bass.


The way I learned was as Tarkus says, to BE a bass guitar. My left hand was no longer the left hand of a keyboardist but a guy holding a bass. And for years before that I had been learning a lot of the music of Yes playing Chris Squire's parts with my left hand. I used to tell other keyboardists in the other club date bands that if they wanted to do it right they had to BECOME the bassist on the recording of the tune in question. It is amazing what kind of techniques you develop when you HAVE to do it or not work! I got to the point when if we went into a "wedding factory" the other bands' bass players would come around to hear us while they were on break and they used to ask who the great bass player was. So I'd point to my little Yamaha LOL!


I started using a little monophonic Yamaha CS-01 mini-keys synth after the Crumar crashed and broke into a million pieces on a gig one night, and still have it and still use it when necessary. On my CD I used the fretless bass sound of the Alesis and I just tried to emulate what I have heard on fretless with pitch bend and vibrato. Remarkable how good it came out.


Try getting a jam together sometime with everyone but a bass player and just fool around with it. If you have talent you'll find your groove.


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It helps if you LOVE the vibe of Fender bass. The attitude is different compared to the left hand in solo piano playing or even the b-3 bass thing, despite the fact that all these perform the same harmonic function. I gigged mostly as a drummer and sat next to some great Fender people.


I used to play along with James Jamerson grooves on old Motown hits to practice keyboard bass, using the transcription book (STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN, same as the movie). There's another great book of bass grooves by people like Chuck Rainey and Bootsy, the title of which is escaping me right now.

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