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hammer
Senior Member
Username: hammer

Post Number: 596
Registered: 9-2009
Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 8:07 pm:   Edit Post

I've been asked to take part in a new project that involves a band which plays a blend of folk and bluegrass. The group leaders like my playing but insist on use of a acoustic bass (not a double bass but an acoustic bass guitar) even though it will need a pick up or a mike. I know absolutely nothing about these types of basses. Any suggestions on a high quality instrument that I might be able to pick used.

P.S. I'm only looking for something other than an Alembic because they don't make one.
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 3689
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 8:30 pm:   Edit Post

The Guild B-50 is fun !
http://www.bassplayer.com/basses/1165/retro-rama--1976-guild-b-50/26271

Jack Casady had one that he let me check out once many years ago .
edwin
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 1847
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 9:46 pm:   Edit Post

How about one of those ukelele basses? I've heard them in person and plugged in they sound great (although intonation can get challenging up the neck). What would the bandleader think about a Starfire?
cozmik_cowboy
Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 1783
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:38 pm:   Edit Post

Check out the Gold Tone Micro-Bass.

I have no connection to this product other thinking it sounds cool on the vids, and failing to win when they gave one away.

Peter
jacko
Senior Member
Username: jacko

Post Number: 3594
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 3:42 am:   Edit Post

Brian, I have a Kelly dragonfly fretless 5 strung with LaBella 'deep talkin' flats and it sounds superb played acoustically. The low B is a bit lacking through the Piezo bridge though. Had it sent over here from your side of the pond so I reckon you could pick one up fairly easily.

Graeme
rustyg61
Senior Member
Username: rustyg61

Post Number: 1367
Registered: 2-2011
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 7:50 am:   Edit Post

I have a Dean Performer Bass that plays very well & sounds good both acoustically & plugged into an amp. http://www.deanguitars.com/content/imagelib/basses/acousticbass/index.htm
stephenr
New
Username: stephenr

Post Number: 7
Registered: 9-2014
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 9:05 am:   Edit Post

I love my Turner Renaissance five-string. Haven't played a Michael Kelly but that seems like another popular choice. Neither of these basses will be prone to feedback and if you can play fretless they sound even better as a sub for an upright. Michael Kelly recently teamed up with Rick Turner and is making a production model version of the Renaissance bass for him. Should be cheaper than the original.

IMO stay away from dreadnought style acoustic basses if you are going to play at any kind of volume level. My experience with them is that even for an acoustic jam you need to plug them in to be heard and if you play them in a band situation they are prone to feed back easily.
pauldo
Senior Member
Username: pauldo

Post Number: 1309
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 9:56 am:   Edit Post

Stephen for clarification; you are saying that anything with a dreadnought style body (hole in the middle) does not project enough and obviously has feedback issues when plugged in. The Turner you have (with no hole) projects well acoustically?

Back in the 80's there was a GIANT acoustic bass made by Earth something . . . seems like a body that big would project rather nicely.
murray
Intermediate Member
Username: murray

Post Number: 180
Registered: 7-2007
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 10:20 am:   Edit Post

The venture into (Electro)Acoustic Bass Guitar world is an interesting one. Apart from my Alembic and Jaydee solids, I have Fender BG-29 and Fender Victor Bailey Acoustic Bass guitars. Both are lovely but neither made anymore. I have used the BG- 29 extensively to play for Appalachian, Morris dance sides and Folk sessions but have ALWAYS used a small amp. In my case, a Harley Benton rechargeable (like the Crate Taxi) but that is not made any more either!!
There are other amps out there if you need to be portable like Phil Jones and to be honest you shouldn't need a lot of volume if you are doing folk/bluegrass sessions.
I think Acoustic Bass Guitars need trying in the shop and don't expect too much unplugged or from bottom E string if going through a small amp.
Also, as stated above, feedback is a massive problem so careful use of EQ and gain and master is needed. But it is worth it.
I wondered only this week about Ukulele basses like Ortega and Kala. They seem like a good idea but what I keep reading is that the poly strings take some keeping in tune. Apparently, some players choose the fretless option to cope with tuning issues to correct more quickly.
I have had great fun with my Acoustics and a final tip - don't change the strings too often. This develops a nice double bass sound. And also play fingerstyle.
Enjoy, Glynn
stephenr
New
Username: stephenr

Post Number: 8
Registered: 9-2014
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 10:52 am:   Edit Post

The Turner Renaissance bass has no sound hole but is hollow and has a definite warm acoustic sound, it can't be played without an amp. You would not mistake the sound of a Renaissance bass for the sound of a solid body or hollow body bass like the Cassady Signature, Guild Starfire etc. especially if you stick with the TI Acousticore strings they come with. It is a unique sounding instrument. The Kelly basses are similar and some prefer those.

The dreadnought style basses I have played all needed to be plugged in even when jamming with acoustic guitars and percussion and were prone to feedback at fairly low volumes. I figured that if I had to plug in anyway I was better off with the Renaissance which not only doesn't feed back but is more comfortable to play, the body is thin and they weigh next to nothing.

I had a chance to play my Renaissance bass through a Meyer Sound rig one time. I got right up inches away from the cabinet during sound check and tried to get the bass to feed back. At loud volumes I did manage to get a high pitched squeal but it wasn't easy, there was no low frequency feedback at all and who plays facing and up against an amp anyway.

The giant dreadnought basses like the Ernie Ball Earthwood bass have more volume played acoustically but are bulky and unwieldy and as far as I know they don't make them anymore. The Taylor AB-1 is another huge hollow body acoustic bass that is supposed to be nice but it is expensive and looks like it would be uncomfortable to play due to the size of the body. Have no idea if it is prone to feedback plugged in but it might provide enough volume to play an acoustic jam.
hammer
Senior Member
Username: hammer

Post Number: 597
Registered: 9-2009
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 11:56 am:   Edit Post

Hey Everyone:

Thanks for the input.

The Kelly basses seem interesting especially the one he's making for Turner. His regular basses also seem VERY reasonably priced 2nd-hand. Because this group is just being put together I'm a little reluctant to invest too much in an acoustic given that everything else I do is electric and I'm unsure as to how far this thing going to go.
5a_quilt_top
Advanced Member
Username: 5a_quilt_top

Post Number: 382
Registered: 6-2012
Posted on Friday, October 24, 2014 - 2:47 pm:   Edit Post

Rob Allen - either 4 or 5 string:



This is an MB2 model.

Uses LaBella tape wound strings.

Sounds close to an upright, but with better note definition.

I have not experienced any feedback issues at stage volume.
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 2255
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 26, 2014 - 10:00 am:   Edit Post

I've often thought about an ABG (acoustic bass guitar), to have something to just grab without plugging anything up when the notion strikes me.

Since I only play fives, it's somewhat pointless, inasmuch as it's a lot to get anything approaching bass tone out of a jumbo guitar body with four strings, much less trying to coax low C's and D's out of one. Oh well . . . .

I've tried several in only the most casual manner and haven't yet found anything affordable that hit me. I tell myself I'll grab a Michael Kelly on EBay cheap sometime, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Here in Nashville, I did try a Ribbecke Hafling that wandered through Geore Gruhn's, and I must admit it was fabulous: It also cost as much as a used Alembic, so it was a non-starter. If you can afford that amount of $$$, I can heartily recommend it, a LOT of amazing design going on in that box.

I would definitely recommend the same warning that applies to most lesser piezo-equipped guitars: The output generally overwhelms most conventional guitar and bass amps, so you really need a baby mixer or something like this terrific BOSS acoustic processor

http://www.bossus.com/gear/productdetails.php?ProductId=570&ParentId=259

. . . . in line between you and an amp, to settle down the high output (in some cases 3 or 4 volts (!) and very high impedance. That's how cheap or older piezo guitars can sound clavinet-like. Newer and better guitars are buffered, but you need to know if the guitar in question is one or the other.

The TI ABG strings are also very interesting. Turner realized that piezo bridges have no real need for a ferrous core as it's vibration that creates the tiny voltages. So they have a nylon core with metal wraps, a concept he worked with TI to create, and these are the OEM strings on Renaissance basses. Of course they work on any piezo ABG.

And, a LOT of guys use the Rob Allens in studios and roadwork out of Nashville, very well regarded.

J o e y
hammer
Senior Member
Username: hammer

Post Number: 600
Registered: 9-2009
Posted on Sunday, October 26, 2014 - 12:35 pm:   Edit Post

Wow! A LOT more to think about than I initially thought. Again, thank you to everyone for the valuable input.
pace
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 1084
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Sunday, October 26, 2014 - 8:51 pm:   Edit Post

A Tacoma Thunderchief is worth a mention if a used one pops up in your quest.....
cozmik_cowboy
Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 1786
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Sunday, October 26, 2014 - 9:24 pm:   Edit Post

I have played a number of ABGs in stores, just for Ss & Gs, but only 4-strings & only unplugged; by far the best (indeed, perhaps the only good) E string sound was on a cedar-topped Breedlove. Alas, they have discontinued the one I played (& I disremember the model designation), but I would expect the current "Solo" model to be similar.
I imagine a lower string would only exacerbate the issue.

Peter
gtrguy
Senior Member
Username: gtrguy

Post Number: 798
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 - 11:25 am:   Edit Post

Not to be a cynic, but my experience of 'leaders who insist' on stuff like this tend to keep insisting on other micro-management music stuff as well.

Best of luck!
edwardofhuncote
Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 77
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 - 11:26 am:   Edit Post

Hammer, been there. Grew up in Appalachia, the veritable cradle of bluegrass/old-time music, where they really frown on plugged-in basses of any kind. =) I started as an upright player and switched to bass guitar later.

The good news is, there's quite a selection to choose from, and at several price points, Rob Allen, and Rick Turner being examples of the upper-middle. If you're expressly looking for an acoustic bass-guitar, then neither of those help much. Godin also made a very nice semi-acoustic, piezo bridge equipped bass guitar that actually produced audible sound, at least enough to practice with. Unfortunately, it feeds back at high volume, as will most any ABG.

Now here's the sticking point for the band. NONE of the above really sound like an upright bass. True, you can get some of that upright inflection with hollow bodies, tapewound strings, fretless fingerboards, and some clever muting techniques, but it's difficult to get that upright bass sound even out of an electric upright. If their sensibilities about "acoustic" bass are based on the visual, then that's a losing battle IMO. Really, the trouble with acoustic basses, even and especially uprights, is physical; they are very hard to amplify. There is always a balance to be struck between quacky piezos and boomy mics, the result is often less than ideal.

On a personal note, I have somewhat successfully integrated Turner Renaissance basses (fretted & fretless) into several folk-bluegrass ensembles, even a neo-oldtyme string band, but the traditionalist element here is intensely anti-electric. Of course, YMMV.

Good luck in your search... they are loads of fun! I too have often wondered if Alembic had any interest in building a piezo-equipped bass, maybe even a combination of magnets and piezo bridge. I'd love to hear their take on piezo electronics with low-pass filters and q-switches.
edwin
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 1848
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 - 11:36 am:   Edit Post

Somewhere on this forum is a build record of a guitar that included piezos built into the bridge. It was a thing of beauty. A search should reveal it. I would imagine that now they've done it once, the second time should be easier.
pace
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 1085
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 - 12:24 pm:   Edit Post

Edwin, I know you've seen it up close back in the day~ Andy West's bass allegedly had that second 5-pin wired to 4 individual piezos in the bridge.... A very elegant way to fan out to quad, or integrate with analog synths, but I dunno about achieving an acoustic bass sound....
murray
Intermediate Member
Username: murray

Post Number: 183
Registered: 7-2007
Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 - 2:24 pm:   Edit Post

I fully understand edwardofhuncote. In the UK some traditionalists are wary of plugged in basses in bluegrass/folk. My folk side of bass playing is with Morris dancing and Appalachian dance sides. I have had mixed reactions but persevered and champion a view that music is music, bass is bass. I do not understand why music has to be put into boxes and we cannot stray away. I have had good comments from people who say that my ABG sound through a small rechargeable amp ADDS to the fiddle and melodian. I have also had people object but they seem to be more about tradition than music and entertainment. Surely we are only in the professional world of music to entertain not for self-glorification and getting hung-up on what went before.
I say to Hammer, choose your ABG after research and harden yourself to any objections - your band seem to want an AGB so that is a good start. What can the traditionalists object to? J.S.Bach wrote some of the best bass lines ever and they have been played on organ, harpsichord, double bass (Loussier), bass guitar (Jethro Tull). Also bass has been played on the serpent (Melstock Band), euphonium (New Orleans jazz), - need I go on?
I end with checking out The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain playing a Wheatus song 'I'm just a teenage dirtbag'which mentions Iron Maiden.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw8ZDwdyHJQ
I think this keeps our minds open.
Glynn
hammer
Senior Member
Username: hammer

Post Number: 601
Registered: 9-2009
Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 - 2:58 pm:   Edit Post

Thanks again for the input. More research on my part is in line at this point. I truly appreciate all of the ideas and suggestions.

And David...I had that same thought too which is why I have used the word "Possible" new project.
cozmik_cowboy
Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 1787
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 - 3:59 pm:   Edit Post

"Really, the trouble with acoustic basses, even and especially uprights, is physical; they are very hard to amplify. There is always a balance to be struck between quacky piezos and boomy mics, the result is often less than ideal."

I, as an engineer, have tried just about everything to amplify/record doghouse basses. The best result was with a college big-band jazz player, who, after we'd tried several approaches to no avail, said "What the hell, let's try this", wrapped an SM-58 in a bar towel & shoved it into the opening in his bridge; bingo! Great sound that followed his movement!

Peter
edwardofhuncote
Member
Username: edwardofhuncote

Post Number: 78
Registered: 6-2014
Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 5:29 am:   Edit Post

"...wrapped an SM-58 in a bar towel & shoved it into the opening in his bridge"

@ cozmik cowboy - LOL! yeah, most doghouse players have a wad of foam stashed in their case, just for that reason! Can't say it was the greatest sound ever, but it will surely do in a pinch. =)

Apologies for the small hijack hammer, but I am fascinated with the notion of Alembic employing piezos in a build edwin mentioned above. I gotta go look for that... it may be time to update the "Dreaming For Now" post!

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