Acoustic Trio - Optimal Instrumentation

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by Knowcaster, Mar 29, 2019.

  1. Knowcaster

    Knowcaster Tele-Holic

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    My current musical project is an acoustic trio (no Tele content!). The current instrument lineup is two acoustic guitars (myself included) and a percussionist who plays a cajon (a drum thingie that he sits on). We have played several gigs and have gotten a good response, mostly by finding venues that do not have the space or money for a larger band with big amps, PA, and full drum kit. We play covers, a combination of songs that were acoustic in the first place (CS&N, Neil Young, Pure Prairie League, Simon and Garfunkel, etc.) as well as covers of classic rock songs that we do in acoustic style - Beatles, Stones, CCR, Tom Petty, etc. A few of the songs have distinctive lead guitar parts, but most do not and on a lot of them we end up basically doubling the rhythm guitar but we try to vary it a little - like one of us capoing up or playing alternate chord shapes.

    I had mentioned to the others that I would like to explore changing to bass, so we would just have the one guitar. That would give us a fuller sound, especially because the cajon does not have much low end, but we would lose the rhythm guitar when the other guy plays a lead. We do not want to have me switch back and forth, and have multiple instruments and amps on stage (thereby losing our advantage of being able to shoehorn into small spaces) and at this point in my life I want to keep the amount of gear I tote to a minimum. The photo below is one of the joints we play in on occasion (I'm the guy on the left).

    Any thoughts before I bring this up again with my group? I know we can just try it at practice but any input from the gallery would be welcome.

    Beez 13.JPG
     
  2. dannyh

    dannyh Tele-Afflicted

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    I’ve done acoustic trio gigs with Gtr/Gtr/Cajon and Gtr/Bass/Cajon.

    Personally I prefer having bass. YMMV.
     
  3. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    I think I'd prefer bass.
    I've struggled over the years with people who are locked into the way of thinking
    along the lines of Lead guitar/Rhythm guitar. Or, hey, two guitars, so who's playing LEAD?
    I've always preferred that two or more guitarists just play something that makes sense,
    but that almost never happens.
    Good luck and I hope you can make it work.
     
  4. GibbyTwin

    GibbyTwin Tele-Meister

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    What would be my optimal instrumentation? I'd done the acoustic trio thing in the past. We had a bass, acoustic guitar, and I played another acoustic guitar and switched off to mandolin and uke for some songs. Three part harmonies. I think a bass player (that has the ability to play tastefully) makes for a more full sound. Acoustic guitar is percussive enough that in my opinion, a cajon really is not necessary and I would think might tend to make things all sound the same. But not having ever played in a trio with a cajon, I'm probably talking out of turn. :)

    Edit: Corrected spelling.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
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  5. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Another vote for bass (upright makes an impression), cajon and guitar.

     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
  6. picknfool

    picknfool Tele-Holic

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    In my trio my partner plays acoustic guitar and mandolin, I play acoustic, tele, and harmonicas, and our bass player plays an upright- nice,full sound, and versatile! No drums needed!
     
  7. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

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    Guitar + loop pedal
    Record a verse or chorus and solo on playback
    I've always thought the cajon had plenty of low end
     
  8. FerruleCat

    FerruleCat Tele-Holic

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    As an experiment, I'd want to try acoustic guitar, Bass VI and djembe vs. cajon vs. brushed snare. You have to account for the range of the vocals and the overall mix, of course. But when you have only three instruments, I agree that you get the biggest bang for buck by avoiding duplication.
     
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  9. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    I do a duo but just a vocalist and guitar.. so you are lucky! Been doing a lot more of that than the big band lately. I'd like to add a bass but at the pay it's pretty hard and my non playing vocalist is the star really. She's amazing. She does play some percussion/drum. I loop a lot.
    You should probably pick up a bass and play it on some songs but not on other songs. Depending on what the song needs. For that group you cont need a big bass amp. Heck, you could probably use the right guitar amp.
    Or dump the drums and get a bassist! But really, just having rhythm guitar while soloing would be a treat for me!

    You could get an octave lowering guitar pedal, turn it on the play bass on your guitar! Not sure if the POG etc is good enough but it does work. The one I tried seemed a bit... funny on attack? .... probably a time lag thing. But it's an option.
     
  10. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    If you're considering an electric bass, how about a baritone guitar?
    No experience with them but it seems like a good idea from here...
     
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  11. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Tele-Holic

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    How the players' styles mesh is just as big a deal as the instrument selection, and might in fact help dictate the instrument selection. Two acoustic players who tend to stay in the percussive strumming style of play can be a major propulsive force, or can be a syncopation nightmare. Having the sensibility to play one part (percussive, full barre chords, for instance) against a contrasting acoustic guitar part (capoed up, different chord voicings, high doublestops, rip-ass bluegrass singlenote runs, whatever) can really fill out an arrangement.

    But if both players tend to shoot for similar strummed rhythms and just playing in time with one another, my sense is that changing one of the guitars to a different instrument would be advantageous. Not even necessarily bass, or some other low-register instrument. A higher-register instrument with different percussive or tonal attributes can be interesting to listen to also. What other instruments can you all play, well enough to cover one of your sets? Or could reasonably learn on, quickly enough, to make the switch?

    I'm not trying to discourage you from the bass idea at all...just suggesting that you think in terms of variety in arrangement, timbre, and density, not just register. Maybe you already are thinking of those things, of course.

    I used to play electric guitar alongside an acoustic guitarist, drummer and electric bassist in a low-volume band, and for awhile we skewed more acoustic (I switched to a funky old acoustic archtop, with a magnetic pickup added, for a sort of hybrid acoustic/electric sound...because I didn't really have sufficient skills to switch to another instrument, so I went for a timbral change primarily). The drummer started using brushes on a smaller version of his regular drum kit. But one of the real surprising changes was when the bassist came walking in one day with a cheapo Rogue acoustic bass guitar...like, the Musician's Friend house brand Rogue. He got it in a trade or something and pulled the frets out in a fit of inspiration and started playing it as a fretless. BOOM. That was a cool idea. It seemed to have more sustain and work better with his playing approach than his upright did, and it seemed to fit better alongside the guitars than his electric Fender Jazz bass did.

    My point is, if the other bandmembers are on board with changing things up a bit while trying to stay portable and simple, keep your options open and see what kind of interesting solutions present themselves. Could be some fun experiments ahead. If they're not into that kind of thing but are open to switching one guitar for a bass, nothing wrong with that either, obviously...

    EDIT: forgot to mention that since we were so low-volume, the bassist experimented with various small amps to run that "fretless Rogue" through, and the one that won the tonal shootout hands-down was the other guitarist's silverface Fender Deluxe Reverb. Nobody's idea of a bass amp, for sure, but in that quiet setting, at low volumes, it was soooo warm and full sounding, and the "mwwaaaah" of the fretless came across nicely too. You'd never have guessed how humble the source instrument was, hearing it. We did a couple of quiet gigs like that and it worked great.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
  12. Knowcaster

    Knowcaster Tele-Holic

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    Thanks for all of your input...gives me a few things to think about.

    One of the factors against initially switching to bass is that all I have is a Fender P bass, and that would futz up our all-acoustic image. I guess I was thinking that if I did end up making the switch on a permanent basis, I would acquire some type of acoustic bass. I like that idea of going fretless, though I have never played one.
     
  13. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Telefied Ad Free Member

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    If the bass is strong enough, you shouldn't need the rhythm guitar.

    My favorite acoustic trio is guitar, fiddle and accordion doing cajun music.
     
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  14. Pineears

    Pineears Tele-Afflicted

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    Upright bass, mandolin and guitar complement well for rythym (no drums, cajon required), have there individual place in the frequency spectrum, and works for lead on guitar or mandolin. Bluegrass uses these tools well.
     
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  15. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Amped but Juzzy Smith gets it covered, cajon content.




    There are some Authentic Bass builds out there, this is from Instructables and uses plastic coated steel cable for a string.
    Tub works great for carting gear to the gig!
    If you want a more conventional acoustic bass, try out one of those rubber-band acoustics.
    [​IMG]
     
  16. drmmrr55

    drmmrr55 Tele-Holic

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    I was also going to suggest a baritone guitar, that way you can, (sort of), do a little bit of both, (bass, and rhythm guitar). A baritone guitar is a really versatile instrument, but I got beat to the punch on that suggestion.
     
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  17. loco gringo

    loco gringo Tele-Meister Platinum Supporter

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    I've always wanted to do an acoustic deal with a cello. Or an oboe. Or both?
     
  18. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    Cello would be very cool. They can be plucked as well as bowed...
     
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  19. Knowcaster

    Knowcaster Tele-Holic

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    I do play a bit of mando and fiddle, but we don't really do much country so I haven't busted those out. Not bringing another instrument for one or two songs.
     
  20. muudcat

    muudcat Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    I've done a lot of different group arrangements and an acoustic trio is fun. Bass , guitar and percussion can be very effective of even two guitars but my suggestion is to try and have one guitar play a different position or capo, than the other and stay away from playing full chords all the time. The sound will open up
    If you're doing CSN I would imagine you all sing which is cool if it's tight. I'd be tempted to join up with someone again, and I do a duo with a multi instrumentalist when the money is there, but right now solo work is my best bet. I also use a foot operated stomper and shaker on the other side
     
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