Category Archives: Amplifying

Ray Brown about playing without amplification

In talking about Blanton before you were mentioning the difficulties bassists had in big bands because of the lack of amplification. Now, you had to play very fast with Dizzy Gillespie. Did you have amplification by that time? How did you deal with…

Ray Brown: Well, I didn’t play fast solos. We were just playing fast tempos.

Christian McBride: Things To Come! [LAUGHS]

Ray Brown: When I was talking about playing fast I was talking about the way Christian McBride plays now. 20-30-40 years ago you wouldn’t have heard all those notes he’s playing. Now you can hear every one of them.

But then, from what I gather, people heard you pretty clearly, and those are some tempos that havent been caught up with yet!

Ray Brown: Were not discussing tempos, now. Were discussing solo lines. That’s a big difference. Nobody dared play anything that fast because you couldn’t hear it. Oscar Pettiford played some magnificent solos, and you didn’t really get to hear him until he joined Duke Ellington.


Pickup comparison recordings

I just uploaded a couple of recordings I recently made of my pickup testing bass (thanks at Michael Höfler for help and support). The testing bass has not less than seven pickups mounted, which can be used at the same time.

The files were recorded simultaneously (multi track), with no processing or effects at all. The dpa 4099 microphone and the Bassbalsereit Studio (with built-in preamp) went directly into the mixing console. The Ehrlund EAP was recorded with the Ehrlund preamp, for the other pickups I used the Lehle XLR Sunday Driver for buffering (impedance matching). The Lehle SD has no EQ, just a gain control, so the effect should be the same for all pickups.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”show_comments=true&auto_play=false&show_playcount=true&show_artwork=true&color=ff7700″ width=”100%” height=”225″ ]
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”show_comments=true&auto_play=false&show_playcount=true&show_artwork=true&color=ff7700″ width=”100%” height=”225″ ]

Hear my transducer comparison files at

Some general thoughts about these recordings: Unlike when you record a CD, I didn’t try to get the best out of each pickup. After installing and adjusting each pickup for best results, I just plugged in (taking care of impedance matching and gain), and that’s it. That’s not what you usually do on stage: you have an amp, which colours the sound, a cab, which also colours the sound, and after all, you have the room acoustics which change the results pretty much, too. These recordings show the basic characters of the pickups – the sound you’ll get from them on stage is a another cup of tea!

(The bass is an old German flatback of average quality, strung up with Spirocore Weich, which probably every Jazz bassist knows.)

Quote: Ray Brown on string action and sound

A student of the Brown effect since his middle teens, McBride met the maestro around 1990, when Brown came to hear him play duo with pianist Benny Green at the Knickerbocker, a raucous piano bar-and-grill on University Place in Greenwich Village. At the time, he recalls, he was focused, as I wrote, on the unamplified, raise-the-strings approach to bass expression which, as McBride puts it, “seemed to be the new religious experience for young bass players coming to New York.” Ray said, “Why are you young cats playing so hard? You don’t need your strings up that high.”Before I responded, something said, “Shut up, and listen to Ray Brown. Don’t say one word.” Benny and I saw him at the Blue Note a few nights later, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Ray seemed to be playing the bass like it was a toy. He seemed to be having fun. Playing jazz, he had that locomotion I heard in the great soul bass players, like James Jamerson and Bootsy Collins and Larry Graham. He wasn’t yanking the strings that hard, and he had the biggest, fattest, woodiest sound I’d ever heard, and I could tell that most of it was coming from the bass, not from the amp. At that point, I slowly started saying to myself, “It’s not about what they think. It’s about what’s best for the music that I’m trying to play. It’s about trying to get the best possible sound out of the instrument.”from:

Working with loops

Last October at Berlin2010, I attended a concert of bassist Andreas Bennetzen from Copenhagen/Danmark. He demonstrated and explained his concept of working with live recorded digital loops and electronical effects. I was really courious about his concept, since I also own a Digitech Jam Man Looper and soon figured out that working with loops on stage is much more demanding than expected …For me, the foremost problem is to isolate a loop recording from the loops you’ve already recorded before. When you use them as a playback, the bass (as the large microphone that it is) captures them again, along with the new loop, resulting in a unwanted multiplication … That’s why Andy uses a rather ugly solidbody electric upright bass that doesn’t capture any feedback. Besides that, Andy doesn’t use anthing special: a e-guitar effects processor (phaser, flanger, echo, reverb etc.) with integrated volume pedal, and a digital looper.Andy has recently put some of his tracks at SoundCloud, where you can hear and download them.

gear review: PJB Bass Cub

Phil Jones Bass CubIt’s really fun to carry the Bass Cub in it’s gigbag. 6 kg seem to me as almost no weight at all, compared to my other amps. I think you can’t built a bass amp much smaller and lighter than this.

Like all PJB amps, the Bass Cub has an high impedance input (4 MOhm in this case), which makes it suitable for piezo pickups, and uses speakers with 5″ diameter only.

Last weekend, I tried out the Bass Cub on an outdoor gig, on the streets of a friend’s hometown which had 750th anniversary (the village, not the friend, of course ;-). The overall volume of the Bass Cub was absolutely sufficient for this band (double bass + three guitars/voice/bluesharp). But due to the lack of room acoustics (no room at all … just a tent to protect us against the rain), the bass reproduction was rather weak. For a gig like this, a larger cabinet is the better choice.

Back home, I tried the Bass Cub in my rehearsal room. As expected, the bass frequencies sounded much more powerful there. I’ve put the Bass Cub on the floor, and moved it around in the room. With the amp facing a room’s corner, with aprox. 1 m distance to the wall, it sounded best.

Conclusion: the Bass Cub offers a amazingly good “size-to-sound”-ratio, which makes it a very transportable amp rehearsals or gigs in small clubs. The Stereo input was designed to plug-in a drum machine or iPod – very useful for practising. With preamp-out and DI out, the Bass Cub can also be used on larger stages – as preamp and/or stage monitor with FOH, or with an active speaker cabinet.

Links: Technical data,

Arco: new bass amps from Danmark

Mathias has sent me a review of the new Arco “Hugo” double bass amp, which is made by bassist Jesper Lundgaard. It’s to long to fit the proper comment field, so I descided to post it here. Here we go:

The arco-amplification Hugo

Arco Amplification is a brand name owned by Jesper Lundgaard, who has been developing amplifiers since his early youth. Looking back on an amazing career as a touring musician, he decided to take it a bit easier, stay home more, and focus on building bass and guitar amplifiers. He used to work together with a company named CADaudio, but they split and now he’s a one man company. It’s likely his company name will change in the future, but for now, it’s arco amplification.
The “hugo” is an amp built according to suggestions of Hugo Rasmussen, another legendary danish bassist. This is the amp I had the pleasure to try for a couple of days.
The long-bearded legend seems to be a sucker for simplicity- the amplifier sports a very stripped down set of controls. From left to right, they are: Master Volume, a mute switch, treble and bass controls, a phase reverse switch, and a tone switch (where you can change between bright, normal, and dark). Continue reading

Solar powered amp from Phil Jones

solar briefcasePhil Jones’ briefcase was already an unconventional bass amp before: with its two 5″ speakers and a variety of powering options, it is already quite different to other amps on the market. You can run the Briefcase from 110/220V, from your car’s battery or a internal battery. The built-in battery gives you about an hour of playing time. To charge the battery, simply plug the Briefcase into an AC power supply.

Phil Jones’ newest version of the Briefcase goes one step further: it’s solar powered. It uses solar panels, instead of your electrical outlet, to charge the internal battery. Charge time is 10 hours of sunlight to get the battery ready for 1 hour of playing time. Of course, it still runs with 110V/220V, too.

The picture shows Phil Jones’ prototype, but he plans to built about 10 solar powered Briefcases to start: “There has to be at least 10 people in the world who want to be totally off the grid and play bass!”

The Briefcase is available at