Help me amplify my upright bass, live, with these limitations:
April 9, 2013 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I have an upright bass, a Fishman B-2 preamp, a Sennheiser e835 microphone, a Peavy PV10 Mixing board, an Ampeg Micro VR stack, a Six Rounds piezo pickup (which suck suck sucks, but I mention for full disclosure), and various cables and connecters. How can I combine these items to best amplify the upright bass?

This is for a fairly last-minute gig I have this weekend, sitting in with a guitar player/singer, playing the upright bass. It is in an enclosed outdoor area that I would label as small to mid-sized. There is no house PA. I don't normally gig with the upright so I don't really have a 'rig' tailored for it, and I don't really have the money/time to buy anything to help me out. Unless it is locally available and less (significantly?) than $100.

I am thinking stuff the mic in under the tailpiece with foam or a teatowel, and run it straight into the Ampeg. Or should I go through the preamp? Or the mixer? Or?
posted by dirtdirt to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh, and if it matters: primarily piz with a few brief moments of bowing. No slapping. I would label the music as perhaps 'Americana'.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:39 AM on April 9, 2013

Won't you get a lot of feedback if the mic is making contact with the bass? Seems like it would be better to put the mic on a stand and run that into the Ampeg. Shouldn't need the mixer or preamp.
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2013

I think the piezoelectric pickups for upright bass usually produce an output with very high impedence, and that one of the essential things that a preamp such as the Fishman does is to buffer that signal to be suitable for use as a line level output. If you use the pickup, I think you have to use the preamp, in other words.

I'd guess that it is easier to get an acceptable amplified upright sound consistently with a good pickup than with miking, which is probably hard to do right. But you say your pickup is terrible (is it possible that you have been plugging it in without an impedance buffer though?)

The various upright bass sites probably have a lot of information about this stuff, if no one here knows what your best bet is. Good luck!
posted by thelonius at 11:55 AM on April 9, 2013

Best answer: I am thinking stuff the mic in under the tailpiece with foam or a teatowel, and run it straight into the Ampeg.

Except the mic is low-impedance with a balanced XLR connection, while your amp's input is designed for an unbalanced high-impedance signal on a 1/4" connection. You could pick up a transformer/adapter at your local Radio Shack, stick it on the end of your mic cable, and then into the amp. I've certainly seen the foam-wrapped mic stuck under the tailpiece technique work before.

You could go mic to mixer to amp - it looks like your mixer has 1/4" outputs - but you're adding another whole layer of gain stages & knobs to fiddle with.

Thelonius is right, I think, about the piezo pickup into the preamp. I'd say toss the pickup & preamp & a couple of cables (AND a fresh battery for the preamp) into your gig bag & bring that system along as a backup or alternate.

Hopefully you have time to try both out & see which system works better, or if the rig you start with isn't working well, you can swap during a set break or something. Uprights can be finicky & unpredictable beasts, so having two possible ways of amplifying seems like a good idea.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:45 PM on April 9, 2013

Best answer: You might consider building a shockmount out of strong rubber bands to hold the mic. An example. There is a concern of the mic falling out if you're really swinging, but mixing some mic signal in with the pickup will combat the dull sound of the pickup.
posted by alexandermatheson at 9:43 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Well, combining the path that Soundguy99 led me down in terms of high/low impedence, and the thread that alexandermatheson linked I bought a cheap tube mic preamp, foamed the e835 in between the feet of the bass bridge so it was parallel to the front, about an inch away from the wood. I put my bypass tuner in line just before the Ampeg, so if it started to feedback I could stop it with one stomp.

It worked great! We didn't have much in terms of stage monitoring, but it sounded and felt warm, low, and clear on stage, and friends in the audience with good ears said good things.

I'm not sure if it would scale to a much larger venue, or if it would work in a noisier room, but it really exceeded my hopes. Thanks everyone!
posted by dirtdirt at 5:36 AM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: And my split of the loot covered the preamp, minus about $20!
posted by dirtdirt at 5:37 AM on April 13, 2013

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