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non-amplified upright bass loudness


groovehead

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I am struggling to find a balance between the lower action I prefer to play with and the low volume levels I am currently getting. What set-up factors directly effect the non-amplified volume of an acoustice bass? Does higher action make a louder sound? Are certain strings louder than others. Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Some basses are inherently loud. One of my teachers has a 5-string double bass that the notes just jump out of, yet it he can set the action relatively low.

 

Another thing is technique. How are you playing? Are you using the muscles in your shoulders or are you trying to squeeze the neck with your hand? You should be using the power of your whole upper body to stop those strings against the fingerboard.

 

How's your pizzicato technique? Are you pulling with your whole arm or are you trying to play with your fingers? To get a full pizzicato sound, you should be using the weight of your arm in a pendulum-like motion.

 

Are you studying with a teacher?

 

As far as strings go, Thomasik Spirocores will probably give you the most volume for jazz playing. They'll sound a bit rough for playing arco, however.

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Both excellent points.

 

It is true, however, that the height of the bridge seems to impact loudness. Partially because of the wider string excursion, but also partially for other reasons, I think.

 

The volume problem has been around forever. In symphony orchestras, you have a bundle of basses. 12 basses playing mf have a much more powerful sound than 6 playing fff.

 

That's why they invented amplifiers for basses to begin with!.

 

When I saw the Great High Mountain Tour a few weeks ago, everyone used mics, generally field mics with a few solo mics....except the various bassists, who plugged in!

 

Anyway, it is my belief that if you develop the arm muscles to pound out loud notes, it will impact other aspects of playing. I've had trouble keeping my bass loud enough for a 5 piece jazz band in a living room....by the end of the night I was worn out and blistered.

 

I do have one secret....

 

I call it a "speed" pizz. It is not generally taught that the speed of the attack impacts the pop of the sound.

 

Experiment with the speed of your finger, instead of just pulling the string a long way.

 

I also heard a guy talking about generating speed by moving his finger along the length of the string through a full arc as he pulls.

 

Speed pizz seems to make the notes pop out more. One of my All Staters a few years ago played with a 75 piece Wind Ensemble. There were three string basses playing along. In an extensive pizz passage, I could clearly hear his pizz above the other two basses...from the second balcony.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Thanks so much to all 3 of you guys. I know your advice is valuable and based on much experience. Something I lack with the acoustic.

 

I will say that I am not studying with anyone at this time. My intereste in the acoustic is pretty non-serious at this point and I dont really want to spend the money on the lessons when I know I wont be using it for serious gigs. I also dont believe there are any teachers within a 30 mile radius of my home. I just love the warm organic sound of it and like having an acoustic instrument to jam along with my band mates when we feel like going unplugged. Or, you know, if we experience the collapse of society and suddenly are without electricity.

 

My nut action is pretty low so I have a comfortable grip on the neck. Sounds like I just need to keep my bridge action high enough to really dig in to the strings and let the string "bloom" as Bob said. I have played around with this concept since last night and found that it can get fairly loud.

 

As for my pizz technique. I havent figured out a way to really do the pendulum arm swing yet without stumbling all over the place and losing all speed of attack. I will need to work on it. It sounds extremely inefficient though. I have been playing with my two fingers just like a bass guitar and that has allowed me to develop quite a bit of fluency in my lines. I can even take some decent solos with it.

 

Is the two finger method a generally accepted method among acoustic bassists? Not that I really care too much about what technique is acceptable. If I can get a good sound out of it and play nice lines, then I am happy. I just want to know if I am going to be lashed by the first real jazzer who sees me playing it like a darned bass guitar. Some of the solos I hear these guys playing on these things seem like they would be nearly impossible to pull off by swinging the entire arm like a pendulum and only using one finger.

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I would highly advise getting a teacher for double bass. Unlike electric, the double bass is a very physical instrument that can cause you serious long-term injuries if you develop bad habits right off the bat.

 

You'll get more sound out of the instrument by pulling with the side of your finger as opposed to using your fingertips to play electric bass style. You don't have to use your whole arm when playing fast passages...but you'll get much more sound if you use the side of your finger.

 

The technique is completely different. If you try to play it like an electric bassist you'll sound like an electric bassist trying to play acoustic.

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If you try to play it like an electric bassist you'll sound like an electric bassist trying to play acoustic.

You'll also look like one. There are always a few performance ques that musicians look for to see if somebody's "faking it"; pizz technique is the giveaway on URB.
...think funky thoughts... :freak:
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Here's a pic of the lovely singer/bassist Kristin Korb to illustrate my point.

 

http://www.lemurmusic.com/openhouse/gallery/images/DSC01251.jpg

 

Notice her right hand, the way the fingers are parallel to the strings. She can pull with the side of her finger and get a nice, meaty sound with minimal effort.

 

Also notice her left hand. She's using Simandl-approved 1-2-4 fingering. Her 3rd finger supports the 4th...it is never used by itself.

 

Here's Giovanni Tammaso uses his right hand electric bass style when he's playing high where the string's vibration length is shorter.

 

http://www.lemurmusic.com/openhouse/gallery/images/DSC01271.jpg

 

This is the only time I really advocate using one's fingers perpendicular to the strings. In the lower positions, a full sound is better achieved with fingers parallel to the strings.

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Ahhhh...the incredible Kristin Korb.

 

To amplify on that side of finger thing...I pull with my finger all the way from the second knuckle (the big one) to the fingertip. My Pizz callus is right on that knuckle.

 

Within this context you get one kind of sound if you pull the string a long way and then let it go and another kind of sound if you attack with a fast finger.

 

By the way, the technique I was describing is not the "pendulum swing" but rather an up and down motion along the string to achieve speed of attack.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Ah! Just the kind of expert advice I was looking for. You guys are great. Thanks for the pics Ben.

 

Is Kristin Korb using both fingers, as it appears she is. I just tried plucking with the side of my finger as suggested. It does sound quite a bit thicker than with just the finger tips. Now if I can just get the economy of motion down. When you described swinging the hand like a pendulum, do you mean that the mand floats above the strings, moving from one to another. Or, can I anchor my thumb on the side of the finger board or the neighboring string.

 

Also, Dave, can you describe more clearly your fast finger technique. I dont quite understand.

 

PS. I do appreciate your advice to get a teacher Ben. However, as I mentioned I would likely be putting in a 60 mile round trip plus the cost of the lesson. Is there a good video I should check out.

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Sometimes bassists pull with both fingers. In the photo of Kristin (you must go to Amazon and buy the "Where You'll Find Me" album) it looks to me like she's using one finger to ghost a note.

 

Generally speaking, think of this...lock your finger into a 90 degree angle...pull with your entire hand....that is speed one.

 

Now, as you pull with the hand, add additional speed by pulling with your finger as fast as possible. The note will pop out.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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