Global Bass Online October 2001
your Backline Sound While Tightening Up The Music
live in an atmosphere of pressure waves.
Low-end sound pressure (bass) is an everyday occurrence and if it's
missing from a musical, or any other, event, the complete sound is not
considered faithful, nor is it trusted. Reality
is filled with detailed low-end sound pressure, from the sound of a
refrigerator door slamming, to a book being dropped on the floor, to the
whisper of your lover's voice in your ear.
Bass is truly a visceral thing, it's the point where you perceive music
vibrationally and by bone conduction, it's where you feel it in your gut and
your chest. It's a tactile
sensation. It’s also a very
primal, emotional, as well as a sexual sensation.
Bass is an instinctive sensation.
You know and trust true bass when you hear it.
Effective low-end will emotionally move the audience more and it will
emotionally move the musicians more.
encompasses all aspects of the musical group, including rhythm, melody and
harmony. With a quality bass
system and the technique to sonically contribute to the musical event, the
bass player is a contributing powerful voice, as opposed to a 'necessary
evil', add-on option. A bassist
does not want his contribution to be reduced to 'wash tub' bass modalities,
where all he is doing is making tangential changes on a one pitched 'thump'.
not talking volume here; we're talking control and extension.
Volume is perceived really as an upper bass phenomena.
You can't make low, low bass really loud.
You can't even make it loud enough to hurt someone's ears.
It's only the upper frequencies that can cause pain or cause fatigue.
By adding extended, accurate, low bass, it will actually make music
less fatiguing and more soothing, and relaxing to listen to.
This cuts across all genres of music, from rock, classical, jazz, and
punk, to wedding, arena, disco and jazz bands.
bass set-up that is going to be the most potent and effective is the one that
models the real life acoustic and auditory experience of the event.
The bassist is fortunate, due to the fact that the bass guitar is the
most dynamic test instrument to use when shopping for a new loudspeaker
system. It allows you to hear all
of the faults, flaws and imperfections in the most vital components of the
sound system; the amplifier and the loudspeaker cabinet.
The bass has the ability of extreme high-frequencies, 12 kHz to 15 kHz,
when tapping, popping, slapping, and harmonics, and it can instantaneously
dive into extreme low frequencies of 30 to 40 Hz on the open B string of a
five string bass.
foundation for a good bass sound is a quality sound system, consisting of a
high-quality loudspeaker cabinet, pre-amp and power amplifier.
These components have to reflect reality and deliver the instrument’s
dynamic range accurately.
and nuances, primarily, come from a the front end of the sound system, the
preamp, not the amplifier. If
you're going for a particular sound, such as a warm tube sound, then consider
a good tube preamp. If you
require more of a high-end tone to your playing, look into a good solid-state
preamp, or dual tube/solid state pre-amp.
the power side, in order for a quality bass cabinet to reflect reality, you
need an amplifier of extended bandwidth that can deliver fast, instantaneous
current. Unlike the pre-amplifier
section, the power amplifier section has to be honest, high fidelity, and
faithful to the original signal. In
essence, the power amp must be transparent.
A separate professional, high fidelity power amp will deliver to the
speaker, by a greater order of magnitude, far more useable transient energy
and extended bandwidth.
dynamic range of the bass guitar doesn't make an amplifier's job easy.
The high peak-to-average ratio of 'slapping and popping' produces
extremely high power peaks. To
keep the sound clean and undistorted, you want plenty of headroom.
An amp has to have enough on-board juice to reproduce fast and
complicated musical events and passages; including all open strings, chords,
slapping and popping, tapping, vibrato, hammer-ons, etc.
amplifier HAS to be able to deliver the sound musically.
Another rule of thumb is, if you're trying to deliver a clean waveform,
it takes a lot more power than if you're trying to deliver a distorted
waveform, such as with a guitar. Because
bass is a long waveform, the speaker cone is moving slower than when it's
reproducing higher frequencies. If
the speaker cone loses control in these lower frequencies, you can hear more
distortion. When a bass note
distorts, you lose all articulation in the lower frequencies and the note is
reduced to slurred, non-musical resonance.
bassist also needs the ability to start and stop the speaker on a dime.
To do this requires lots of power and it also requires a lot of
bandwidth. Your power amp has to
provide the ability to control the slow and observable frequencies and keep
them clean. In many cases, a
guitar sound is built around the sound being uncontrolled, meaning distorted.
You can entree into distortion with very few watts and overdrive a
speaker very, very quickly. You
can only entree into controlled sound by having enough power 'in the bank'.
So, for clean, accurate and articulate bass, you require lots of power
and lots of current. Generally, a
'separate' amp will offer more power than integrated units.
testing a bass guitar loudspeaker, you have to listen to the transient
response of the speaker. The
transient response is the speed at which the speaker cone propagates the note
to completion and returns back to its starting position, ready for another
note. It’s the speaker's
'Hit-it-and-Quit-it Factor'. A
speaker system with the greatest 'Hit-it-and-Quit-it Factor' will not display
as many perceptible intermodulation, decoupling, and/or distortion problems,
and will recreate greater fidelity, more articulate, faithful musical nuances
and subliminal cues.
you now have a great bass system. A
fatal mistake of all rhythm sections is to place the bass cabinet behind the
drummer, so the drummer can hear the bassist.
Low-end energy masks a lot of the highs, which is where the musical and
subliminal cues live. A drummer
needs to hear, and cue off of, the high frequency attack of the bass guitar
notes, which is the directional 1 kHz to 3 kHz sound output that originates
from the center of the bass speaker.
drummer with half a brain does not need, nor does he want, the full impact of
the bass cabinet’s massive wash of low-end, 250 Hz to 500 Hz radiant sound
impact that comes along with the higher frequency 1 kHz to 3 kHz ‘musical
cue’ sound output. In fact, the
speaker output at these 250 Hz to 500 Hz frequencies will mask the harmonic
resonant characteristics of the drums themselves.
drummer is trying to hear his kick drum.
The kick drum emanates sound from it's front.
When a bass cabinet is placed very close to, and behind, the drummer
and he can no longer hear his drums, the drummer then needs to re-establish
the sonic importance and perspective of his own instrument.
To do this, the soundman usually winds up giving the drummer a lot of
PA monitors so he can hear his drums, including the kick drum.
Then the guitar player is turning up to compete with the additional
monitors, then the singer can't hear himself because the band is now blaring,
and the fights escalates from there. The
rhythm section, first and foremost, has to shut down the confrontation of ‘I
can never hear myself, the stage volumes are too loud!', before it starts and
escalates out of control.
kick (or bass) drum is one of the highest output, mechanical, acoustic
instruments ever produced. It has
been engineered to move air on a major level.
The bassist has to link his mechanical system, i.e., his bass cabinet -
regardless of it’s driver configuration - to the loudest mechanical acoustic
instrument on the stage, the kick drum. The
drummer and the bassist have to become a unified sound and their output
devices have to become one driver in space.
Therefore, proper physical, on-stage placement of these mechanical
devices is critical, as it will allow the bassist and drummer to sum the
output and energy of the two devices, thereby creating a unified sound output.
do this effectively, line up the centerline of the bass cabinet to the
centerline of the kick drum. Granted,
the depth of bass cabinets and bass drums all differ greatly, but the law of
averages states, if you centerline the two output devices, you're going to be
very close to summation.
with the bass cabinet aligned with the kick drum, the drummer needs a
dedicated ‘bass cue’ monitor, with its own volume control, so he can
clearly hear the bassist’s 1 kHz to 3 kHz musical cues.
There are several manufacturers who make personal monitors, that mount
on drum or mic stands, all of which feature various signal controls, so
whomever is using it can adjust his or her own monitor mix.
The bassist’s signal can come right from his amp to the drummer’s
properly positioning the equipment on-stage, at an ‘acoustic ground-zero’,
the band plays at a more acoustic sound pressure level and they hear each
other, and the musical cues, much better.
These simple suggestions are integral in lowering the stage volume by
as much as 10 dB! Not only does
this improve the timing of the drummer and the bassist, the timing of the
entire band improves, as well. The
group’s low frequency sound cue, the pulse, pocket and/or groove, is more
clearly defined, and it's also more clearly defined for the audience, because
they hear the rhythm section clearer. Also
eliminated are the phase cancellation problems bassists and drummers have
suffered from since the beginning of electricity.
many cases the relationships between drummers and bass players extend far
beyond their personal marriages. A
melded rhythm section has to have as much blend as possible, they have to be
as close to one as possible. As
close to one means, you're not hearing every note.
You're going for the totality of the note, you're not going for the
individuality of the note. At
some point in your musical development, you're going to become more interested
in the totality of what you're creating.
You outgrow the necessity to hear only yourself.
Copyright © 2000-2009 Global Bass Online