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radsboy

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Reply with quote  #1 
I'll start off the bass section of the forum (Looks great, thanks!) with the white elephant in my room.

I played upright for many years, in both jazz and bluegrass bands. Mostly just around Maine.

So, as my spine got so lame that I can't give you more than about 20 minutes on "Big Woody" without needing to sit down, I took up the Fender bass and can now play as long as I want, sitting down. I have adjusted my gear to get a nice dark, "woody" sound.

So here is the question: how many of you are muttering "It ain't bluegrass" ?

For those of you that also play electric, how do your band or session mates feel about it?

And who else besides Nick Forster is an influence?

David
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Buzzbomb

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Reply with quote  #2 
Ok, I'll bite... I don't play much bass, but I much prefer to see bands with the original upright acoustic bass. There are exceptions - Jimmy Martin for example... but on the whole I don't find either the stick-uprights, or the bass guitar sound right in bluegrass/old-time bands.

Another exception & one of my favourite bands - The Earl Brothers - use bluegrass instruments and make good use of the electric bass on tracks like "Hard Times Down The Road":


I think they mainly use a hollow body (or semi-hollow body) electric bass (though on some youtube clips they have two electric bass' a solid fender and hollow epiphone I think).

Do you use round-wound or flat-wound strings? I only mess around on bass, but both my cheap stick bass and hofner violin bass ('80s) have flat wound strings.

George Shuffler used an electric bass on one of The Stanley Brothers sessions for King in Jan 1961, where they cut 9 tracks (it was a borrowed Fender Jazzmaster from one of the staff musicians at King).
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TDF5G

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Reply with quote  #3 
I haven't played bass very much in the past several years either.  I will pick one up at a jam on occasion and play a few just to see what I remember. [smile]  I have an upright bass fiddle and learned to play it about 15 years ago.  I have noodled around with e-bass a few times but never owned one.  I have a couple of buddies that recently bought uke basses and they are fun to play, but hard to tune with the rubber strings.

As far as being bluegrass or not, I would answer it this way.  IMO it's more the way and style in which the bass is played and the tone that comes from it.  I prefer the sound of an acoustic but an e-bass, whether it's a guitar style, acoustic guitar style, electric upright or uke bass, most can be set up to sound more acoustic with a good amp.  I don't like what I call a buzz kind of sound that I've heard with many electric bass guitars, whether live or on recordings.  

As far as influences on e-bass, I always thought Keith McReynolds did a good job and got a pretty good tone when he played with Jim & Jesse.

I've been to jams where there is an e-bass and it's hit or miss with the person behind it.  If they play tastefully, have the amp set properly and the volume is not overbearing I can enjoy it.  I don't like loud e-bass.  It should blend with the other instruments to sound good, IMO.
Todd



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radsboy

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Reply with quote  #4 
Thanks to you both for your replies.

I essentially agree on all points. With regard to how the listener hears the bass from the audience, I will say that when using the electric there is a better chance for the sound person to have it way too hot in the mix. Particularly if they are used to doing rock/pop shows more often than acoustic ones.

On my Fender P-bass I use D'Addario Nylon Tapewound (flatwound) medium ga. They are easy to recognize as they are black instead of shiny metal. They do give a nice dark sound, and I try to dial in the amp as cleanly as possible.

And yes, style and tone are EVERYTHING. Now when I play bluegrass I play pretty close to exactly the same notes and dynamics and rhythms as I would on the upright. One difference is that on the electric, I use fewer open strings: the fretted notes have more consistent tone than switching between open and fretted. The same is true on upright but to a lesser extent; compensated for by the convenience of using open strings makes it easier on the left hand.

Given the choice, I'd also prefer to hear an upright bass in a bluegrass band. I just can't do it any more myself, and do not feel held back musically when i play the fender.

David

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