Upright Bass, Anyone?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by nojazzhere, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've expressed my frustration with bass players, in general. (no one HERE of course) The guys I've been playing with have been off since before Christmas, and we have practiced a couple of times this year for a gig coming up this weekend. The bass player is a super nice guy, but isn't very good, and it frustrates me. He thinks he's Chris Squire and has to fill up every second with too many notes.....his tone is HORRIBLE... and he often sounds like he's fumbling around trying to find the root of each chord. He would sound so much better if he'd play way fewer note, get some flatwound strings, and cut his volume in half, but he just won't take any tactful, constructive suggestions.
    All this has got me thinking.....maybe I need an upright bass player. It seems "overplaying" would be less an issue, and keeping things simple would occur more naturally. Do any of you guys play upright, or WITH an upright bassist? Most of the upright bassists you see on Youtube are excellent musicians anyway, so it's hard to judge whether they sound good because they ARE good, or if the instrument lends itself to more "tasteful" playing? I'd love to find a great Rock n Roll upright bassist, but don't know where to look.
     
  2. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    I play upright. It’s a totally different beast and it’s very hard to do electric bass stuff on an upright. Just a very different feel.

    the drummer would have to be willing to adjust and songs would probably have to be rethought.

    I LOVE the upright but I approach upright and electric bass as totally different instruments
     
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  3. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I work with a doghouse bass player in my band The Blowtorches


    It's such a cool visual impact, when people see him walk in with the heavy artillery
     
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  4. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    The trouble is too many double bassists think they are Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.

     
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  5. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Poster Extraordinaire

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    Brian Setzer has a good one.
     
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  6. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    download (1).jpg download (2).jpg
     
  7. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I play upright.

    Max and torch are right: it's much more physical and calls, to me at least, the solid approach. Think Ray Brown, not Chris Squire.

    I love it.
     
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  8. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    What I meant to say was getting an upright player would probably involve rethinking your band's whole approach. The electric bass is as important as the electric guitar in its impact on music, possibly more. There are whole genres that would not exist without the electric bass, especially funk and disco but Motown rhythm sections for example really depend on the electric bass--the guitar is just chanking on 2 and 4. It's sort of like if you replaced the bass with a Tuba. Tubas can be funky and cool, but a lot of stuff would likely change if you subbed a tuba for electric bass, right? It's kind of similar with the upright. I have a neighborhood band I play upright in sometimes in addition to my regular gig. They want to play "what's so funny about peace love and understanding" the way elvis costello did it. That's an electric bass song.


    Yeah bass player's overplaying is almost as annoying as guitar players overplaying! Taste is in short supply. A lot of bass players make the mistake of trying to be heard by cranking the treble, or aim for a pretty scooped mid sound that gets lost in the band. In my experience if the guitar player stays out of the bass player's frequency wheelhouse everybody is happier, but the bass player needs to learn about eq for the mix too.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  9. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    I think what you're saying is exactly what I was (inarticulately) trying to get at. If, when you say it's very hard to do electric bass stuff on an upright, do you mean John Entwhistle, Chris Squire, Geddy Lee type stuff? If so.....THAT'S what I want! I DON'T WANT THOSE GUYS. For what I would like, the bass would NOT be front and center, and only noticeable in its absence if it dropped out. Even in a three piece (like we are) the bass should play a supportive, "backseat" role. (at least compared to what the guy I have now does)
    blowtorch's guy looks like a real showman, like a Lee Rocker type, and that's cool, but I'm thinking a little more on the line of Bridget Kearney of Lake Street Dive or Johnny d'Artenay with Kenny Vaughan.
     
  10. MarkieMark

    MarkieMark Tele-Meister

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    I dig the idea of simple upright bass roots and rhythms in a three piece setting personally. Occasionally a little flourish or fill when appropriate.

    One thing to consider, if it applies- the acoustic bass can be a bear for recording. Even sound support/PA can be a bit of a challenge. And in my experience, a good dedicated mic/pickup designed for the purpose is a good place to start. But the goods aint cheap.
    But on the flip side of this, you dont need a real fancy expensive upright to sound decent. A used Kay or new/used Engelhardt can do the job just fine.
     
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  11. Stubee

    Stubee Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I’ve played with a few upright bass players doing bluegrass & similar stuff. Yeah, they “fit” differently IME. A slightly OT but upright story:

    We were in our favorite up north tavern some years back when a local fella Kim walked in at sat beside me at the bar. He recognized me from playing bones with me during a solo acoustic gig I did at another bar. We talked about music and he told me about a big bluegrass “camping” party he hosted at his farm down the road each September. Nice guy, fun conversation.

    A bit later I came outta the men’s room to find Kim’s wallet, beer and smokes still sitting at the bar but he was gone and the bartender just said “he said he’d be back in a minute”. Shortly thereafter Kim walked in with his old Kay upright and proceeded to thump out & sing an unparalleled version of “Where’m I Gonna Live When I Get Home?” by Billy Ray Cyrus, complete with a couple sets of homespun and risqué lyrics. It was hilarious and great. He was still performing when we had to leave awhile later, standing right there by the bar.

    It was kinda different than your typical electric bass player encounter.
     
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  12. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    You certainly can't do Entwhistle Squire or Geddy stuff on the upright. But you know as well as I do that you don't need an upright to play bass simply and well.

    The double bass can be a real pita to deal with. It takes up a lot of space especially when you lay it down between sets. I've ended up playing it on a stand so I don't have to lay it down. Amping it is harder than amping an acoustic guitar. In the picture of the cowboy rockabilly guy you can see he's got a mag pickup on the end of his fingerboard, so he can play at high volumes without feedback, but the result is he's gonna sound a lot more like a Pbass, which of course is a fine sound but the opposite of what you want.

    I've been playing with a couple buddies in a neighborhood trio. Classic Country, soul, some son volt, some blues. People LOVE the upright. It looks unique and I always try to play acoustically whenever possible, which brings the bands' volume down. People like that. They love when I do some bill black style slap stuff.

    But bass players are already hard to find: upright players are harder to find. The instruments are harder to find and expensive, fragile, and they take up a lot of space in your house. Setup is really crucial. Strings are really expensive. It might be worth it to get a double bass yourself, and entice an electric bass player to take it up. That sounds crazy but a lot of electric bass players are upright-curious
     
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  13. 2HBStrat

    2HBStrat Tele-Meister

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    Man, I feel your pain. I'm having to deal with this very same issue. This doesn't answer your question, but have you tried recording rehearsals and letting him hear it back while you describe what he should be playing? Maybe that would help. In a way it should be kinda simple...if you're a cover band tell him to play the parts on the record...if you're an originals band and YOU are the songwriter then the way you hear the bass parts should supercede him...imo...

    Even Pete Townsend didn't want those guys (Entwhistle). I feel HIS pain, too. Imagine you're the guitar player and songwriter and you have to endure a bass player AND a drummer who both overplay?
    https://ultimateclassicrock.com/pete-townshend-keith-moon-john-entwistle/
     
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  14. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    It's not the type of bass, you just don't have a bass player that's doing what you want. On top of that it sounds like he's doing things that are beyond his skill level, which would bother me too. You just need a new bass player and you have to make it clear exactly what you want them to do from the start.

    I'm a busy bassist and it works great for the type of music I play and the guys I play with. I sure wouldn't join a band that just wants me to lay back and play root notes. IMO that's boring as heck; yes I do it if that's what the song calls for, but for the most part it's not what I want to play or what I want to hear.

    Chris Squire, John Entwhistle, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool - those are my bass gods.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  15. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've vented about this before.....sorry to keep repeating myself. Technically, the band is his, although because of my (modest) abilities, he has relinquished a lot of authority to me. As I said, he's a super nice guy, but he's living out his "rock n' roll" dreams the only way he can. He can listen to cover recordings, and is unable to copy them, but only wants to approximate the bass part. I've (tactfully and diplomatically) offered to SHOW him the bass parts, but because that requires a little effort, (and probably insults his ego) he won't practice and polish the songs. The only reason I stay is that it gives me the chance to play with my drummer from Jr. High, High school, and college....who is a great drummer.....and HE does it simply because it's a comfortable situation, and we both have trouble finding other players with whom we're compatible and don't have personality issues.
    And as to Pete Townshend.....I know when doing solo stuff, Pete often went with someone like Pino Palladino and others who are solid, reliable bass players, but completely unlike Entwhistle was.
     
  16. 2HBStrat

    2HBStrat Tele-Meister

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    Then you don't really have any options, other than vent here as needed. Good Luck!
    That's too bad...:(
     
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  17. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    You're right!.....one thing I haven't mentioned is that his girlfriend comes to all our rehearsals, has a lot of influence on him, and apparently she agrees with much of what I try to suggest. She may be able to persuade him around to some of my idea. I believe he's "capable" of playing better, it's just a matter of getting him to WANT to play better.
    And my ideal option would be for the right bassist (and maybe frontman/woman/ multi instrumentalist) to come along. ;)
     
  18. Piggy Stu

    Piggy Stu Friend of Leo's

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    This debate reminds me of a journalist column I used to read called Dear Mary. I think it was in the Spectator

    Essentially, it was a way of framing words to upward manage other people into making the decision you want them to, by manipulating their position so they felt they owned the decision, and they were not resisting your idea as a powerplay

    Taught me a lot, but not sure how to achieve that here. Record in and play it back, ask him to critically assess his playing? Get another person to play his part just like him and he can see how it comes out?

    Depends on the constitution of the character

    Easier than carrying a double bass
     
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  19. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I know double bass players who gig with an EUB (Electric Upright Bass).

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    Yeah, those are really not the same. The whole attack/decay envelope is different. I don't get those unless you plan to do a lot of bowing
     
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