LAST MONTH, WE HEARD THE WORD about doubling on acoustic and electric bass—the gospel according to Reggie Washington, Brian Bromberg, Tim Lefebrve, and Reggie Hamilton. This month, we look at the nuts and bolts of setup and equipment, plus we receive big doses of sage advice from our four experts. Whether you play the tree or the slab, these guys are talking to you!
What does your live setup look like when you are using both instruments?
Reggie Washington I always sit when I play either instrument; I feel more centered when I do. Amplification is always an issue with acoustic bass. I have an idea of how I want to sound, and I have control of my sound before it gets to the engineer and the house. I recommend that every bassist learn how bass frequencies work. The research will come in handy on a gig where the soundman is bass-illiterate. You can avoid what I call “the Long Night”!
Brian Bromberg I either play through a mixer to have control of each channel, or use a two-channel preamp, because the front end is totally different between the two basses. This way, I can switch between the two channels quickly and easily. I usually use one or two 4x10 cabinets when I play, depending on the venue size. I love playing my upright through a rig like that because it actually reproduces the frequencies that my upright bass produces. I know that small, portable rigs are easy to move around, but they don’t reproduce the sound of my bass accurately. Give me the beef, baby!
Tim Lefebvre Generally with Chris Botti, I am spoiled by having either SWR California Blondes or Ampeg B-15s for the upright, and an Ampeg SVT-4PRO head and 4x10 cab for my Sadowsky or Callow- Hill. I also run the electrics through an MXR Bass Octave Deluxe and Moollon Bass Drive. Chris likes how I use those effects. With my band Rudder, I use my Moollon P-Bass with my secret weapon of choice, a Boss OC-2 Octave. I also use a Moollon Bass Drive, Electro-Harmonix ring modulator, and MXR envelope filter.
Reggie Hamilton When using both instruments, I run my bass guitar to an A-Designs REDDI Direct box to a summing line mixer. I amplify the double bass with a Fishman BP-100 pickup and a Crown microphone, and run both to a Fishman Pocket Blender. Both bass signals go to the mixing board from their direct lines and also get summed to the mixer. From the mixer, both basses go through my Fender amp. The size of the amp changes depending on the size of the gig.
What are the special challenges and rewards of playing both instruments?
Washington The challenge is moving all this gear around! The rewards include playing a cross-section of different music when you have an acoustic and electric at your disposal. Players seek you out if you have this talent, and the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
Bromberg The challenge is that you have to put in practice time on both to be able to play both equally well. Each bass deserves to be played and looked upon with the same amount of respect and consideration. The upright bass is definitely more challenging physically than the electric bass, but both are rewarding. You have to play both consistently to keep your chops up.
Lefebvre The challenge for me on acoustic bass is developing the right kind of functional facility. It’s a lifetime of serious work. The rewards depend on the kind of person you are—they can be in an I-just-played-thegreatest- music-ever, soul-satisfying way, or in a remunerative way. Hopefully both! On electric bass, it’s more about striking a balance between playing what I hear, learning new bass styles, but not sounding “muso” at the same time.
Hamilton The challenge for me is keeping up my skills on both instruments. With life passing by, it’s more difficult to be disciplined than ever before. I don’t mean just facility and speed, but you need to study the quality of the output. When I stay on top of my game, the reward is being confident enough to go into an unfamiliar situation, play and interpret the new music, interact with the players—in the studio or onstage— and enjoy the event without stuffing my face in the music, even though I’m sight reading.
What would you say to a young electric player who is just starting to discover the acoustic bass, or vice versa?
Washington They’re two different animals, people! Learn what makes each instrument unique. Take your time and be patient. If you’re serious about making that move, seek out the players who are doing it.
Bromberg Both instruments are wonderful and a blast to play. When you play both, you can play every style of music. As a professional bassist, you double your chances to work and do gigs. The bottom line is they are both the bass, and the bass is pretty badass! Enjoy what both instruments bring to the music and to your big bass-playing smile. In the era I grew up in, it was mandatory for bass players to double. The upright and electric both have an identity and vibe. Plus, you increase your chances of working as a professional bassist.
Lefebvre To any young electric player, I’d say that doubling ain’t easy, but it definitely helps your financial picture. I would also hope they learn it because they love that acoustic sound. I encourage all of my electric students to study acoustic bass. To the young upright player, I would say again that doubling ain’t easy, but it definitely helps your financial picture.
Hamilton The opportunity to make music should be the goal. They should take a chance, while they can, and try both the electric bass guitar and contrabass. Doing this will open many doors, musically and socially. Both instruments are now rooted in all styles of music, and it’s cool to have, at the very least, an understanding if not a complete command of both. BP
DOUBLE CARTAGE: THE EQUIPMENT OVERVIEW
Double bass Tyrolean fl atback, miked with an AMT SP25B
Electric bass Phifer Designs Guitars “Woody” Bass. “I’ve been using it for almost 30 years. Phifer is a genius; I owe a lot of sound knowledge to him.”
Rig Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 head and New York 804 4x8 cabinet. (“I keep the amp off the ground to reduce stage rumble, and so it’s closer to my ear.”) For acoustic-only bass gigs, Markbass Markacoustic AC 121 combo
Strings Dean Markley
Other Essential Sound Products power cables
Double bass Mattio Guersam, Milano, Italy ca. 1700. “It is unlike any other upright I have ever played. I have had it since I was 16 and have used it on every single recording I have ever played on.”
Electric bass Carvin Brian Bromberg signature. “I have been working on my bass design since 1981, and I couldn’t be happier with how these American-made basses have turned out—Carvin did an amazing job with them.”
Double bass u-size carved Matthias Thoma with AMT microphone and David Gage Realist pickup
Electric bass Moollon P+J Classic, Moolon Tele Classic, ’77 Fender Precision and Jazz Basses, Sadowsky 5-string, CallowHill OBS-5, DeArmond Starfire
Rig Aguilar Tone Hammer 500, Ampeg B25-B, Gallien-Krueger 400RB, Markbass combo; Trace Elliot 1048 and Hamhead 2x10 cabs
Strings D’Addario Helicore Pizzicato Medium, D’Addario Nickel Wound (electric)
Effects MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe, MXR M-82 Bass Envelope Filter, Electro- Harmonix Frequency Analyzer, Moollon Bass Drive, Boss OC-2 Octave
Double basses Romanian copy of a George Panormo, Fishman BP-100 transducer, Crown mic, Fishman Pocket Blender; Janos Hejja copy of a William Forster Sr., David Gage Realist pickup
Bows Augagnier and Bergeron Rollez, Hannings and Rubino
Electric bass Fender Reggie Hamilton V Jazz Basses
DI Box A-Designs Audio REDDI
In the studio A-Designs Audio P-1 preamp, EMP-EQ, Pete’s Place BAC compressor, M-Audio Sputnik microphone, T-Rex and MXR effect pedals