Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

Chat about Equipment Info
 #52341  by playingdead
 Tue Nov 04, 2008 11:39 am
Seeking a little advice on our bass player ... he's a founding member of the band, a great guy and a terrific musician, but we're struggling with a couple of issues.

First and foremost, we can barely hear him onstage; he insists on using in-ear monitors attached to his rig so he can hear himself, which keeps him glued to his amp and constantly fiddling with the controls, but he won't turn up his amp loud enough so we can hear him, he says we're all too loud and he won't sacrifice his hearing. Our sound men are always complaining that they can't get enough signal out of him to get him into the house mix. He plays a variety of basses (lately a Modulus Flea bass) through an Alembic preamp, and they've taken directs out of the Alembic, directs before the preamp, miked his cabinet, to no avail. His tone is great, when you can hear him, which is rarely. He's almost never on the board tapes, barely audible in the mics we put in the house regularly, etc. When he can't make a gig, we have someone else sit in, and he shakes the stage with his bass, lays bombs, plays all over the place, and it's great. We don't really know what to do about this.

Secondly, while he's a talented guy, the spots where we want him to step out, he lays back too much. We did a rare rehearsal a few weeks ago and ran through that 73-74 Eyes of the World jam, then played it at the gig a week later. We told him, "crank it up, step out all over the E maj 7 portions, this is your moment" ... and he didn't take advantage of it, or if he did, he stayed in a lower register so it's barely there. This is a similar thing on, say, the opening of Help on the Way, jam in Unbroken Chain, the vocal breaks in "That's What Love Will Make You Do," etc. etc.

Here are recordings, you can hear him (miraculously) on these boards, just to give you a reference. He's a fine bass player, we just can't get him to crank it.

(Please excuse the roughness of the Eyes jam, first time out with just one quick rehearsal, and I don't know what the rhythm guitarist was doing on the riff, but it wasn't right. I don't think I'm playing it right either, I can't really tell what note it starts on. But I digress, this is about the bass.)

If you want to suffer through the entire song:

Any band is a dysfunctional family, but after countless email threads and conversations about it, we're not getting any traction. I'd like to see him ditch the ear monitors and crank it up, but he's unwilling.

 #52343  by tigerstrat
 Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:24 pm
I dont get it- he's using in-ear monitors which he could turn down, but he won't even give you a loud enough preamp signal to have him up in the other monitors and house? What about having his power+speakers on the opposite side of stage, near the guys that need to hear it??

Dwelling constantly in the lower register is bassist pet peeve of mine as well- those smooth chiming upper notes still carry a LOT of weight, and make a lot more rhythmic interest possible imo. I'll have to check out the Eyes clip...
 #52346  by jeffm725
 Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:55 pm
somethings not lining up here........if he is truly afraid of hearing loss, then he should be using noise cancelling in-ears with a full band mix to his liking. If he is using noise cancelling in-ears, then you could have an airplane taxi across the stage and he should be obilivious.....Also, I cant understand how taking a tap from the alembic pre doesnt give the house sound enough to work with....Almost any signal out of the pre should be sufficient to boost through the PA. Also, you could take a tap from his pre and run a power amp and bass cab on your side of the stage and crank it whether he likes it or not 8) ..........

The one thing that is troubling (if I understand this correctly) is that if he is wearing in-ears that are just his bass signal, it seems to me that his desire for musical interaction and his playing ideals just dont line up with the rest of the band. I dont know if there is much you can do to change that.

I will say this, he is an excellent bass player, my rig was not far from his when I filled in with you guys in NYC. I could hear him, and he was right on the money.
 #52351  by Pete B.
 Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:00 pm
playingdead wrote: ...he says we're all too loud...
He is probably correct.
My reccomendation would be to enguage him (as a band) in his desire to get the individual instrument volumes where he thinks they should be.

I personally hate wearing earplugs when playing or listening to music, but, I have musicians custom molded earplugs with filters for -9/-15/-25db cut, and I find I almost always have to wear them at gigs wether I'm in the audience or on stage. The snare drum is usually what bothers me the most, but the sound pressure of the bass and kick are also known to cause the typicle "ringing in the ears" symptom that your bass player is probably trying to avoid.
I've considered the in-ear thing, but haven't felt the need to go that route yet.

Your bass player probably wishes (as i do) that the individual band members could all play at a volume that would allow him to play WITHOUT earplugs or IEM's. I would ask him if that is specificly what he would prefer, and, as a band excersize at your next rehearsal, let him contol the volumes to get it where he thinks it is acceptable.

If I could get folks to do it, I would have each persons amp on the floor IN FRONT OF THEM pointing up like a monitor.
That way you could hear your own volume very clearly at a lower volume (ahhhh... if we only had ears on the backs of our knee caps, eh?!), and you would actually have to turn down or lay out in order to listen to what the other guys are playing.
fwiw, Sound men love low stage volumes, too.

By playing at a low volume himself, your bass player is passively asking you all to turn down.

By going to IEM's, you bass player is passivley saying he is not kidding about the volume issue, and he will solve it for himself if you won't turn down.
Unfortunatly, the fiddling with knobs thing is a side effect of IEM's (Phil Lesh speaks of this [in his book] as a problem in the GD when they were first trying to use them).

This is all pure speculation on my part.
Let me know if he becomes available though!
Pete B.
 #52376  by Emoto
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:39 pm
This is a public web site, right?
 #52377  by KCJones
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:53 pm
When he can't make a gig, we have someone else sit in, and he shakes the stage with his bass, lays bombs, plays all over the place, and it's great. We don't really know what to do about this.
That's a no brainer; he's now your former bass player. You now have someone else as your new bass player that fits right in.
 #52379  by playingdead
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:17 pm
Well, no, it's not that simple, no one wants to change bass players, our regular guy is excellent, too. We just want to hear what he's doing, both onstage and on the tapes. It's not a criticism of his playing at all, although we need him to step out and solo when it's called for.

All along, the thread within the band has been, if there's not enough bass in the mix, it's the soundguy's fault, but we've discovered recently that they can't get enough signal out of him to start with. And the bass should be way out front in a Dead band.

And we're not particularly loud onstage; numerous soundmen have told us the band volume is not the problem, it's a lack of signal from the bass rig that thwarts them in the house mix, and a lack of volume from him onstage that thwarts us. I don't know if it has something to do with how he is routing his signal to his ear monitors, or if he has the volume on his bass turned way down most of the time, or what.

I'm looking more for how some of you guys handle band issues from a conversation standpoint, you know?
 #52380  by playingdead
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:20 pm
Emoto wrote:This is a public web site, right?
LOL... sure is.

Have you ever taken a look at the Basstalk forums? They call their guitarists "guitards," as in, "My guitard is so loud... " or "My guitard said the other day ..."
 #52384  by Pete B.
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 4:19 pm
I would suggest two things.

First, Send out an "Agenda" for your next band meeting/rehearsal/gig, and put "Solve the low Bass guitar signal problem" as your first agenda bullet item.
Just underneath that first agenda item write a one sentance "Problem Statement".
"Now that [Bass Player] is using IEM's, the bass signal requiered to drive that instrument to the board, ie. mains/monitors, is too low for the soundman."

Second: Issue the Bass player an "AR" (Action Requiered):

AR [Bass Player]: With respect to the above Problem Statement, we need you to research the technical aspects of your new IEM system such that at the next band meeting/rehearsal/gig, we do not have any problem whatsoever getting a Bass guitar signal to the soundman.

Problem Statement #2: You completely missed your Bass solo on Eyes, and you are not fullfilling the bass solo duties requiered on the Help On the Way intro segmet(s). Can you please provide a thoughtfull explaination, and solution?

Other agenda items might include other songs you are working on, other band issues, etc.

fwiw, There are Grateful Dead band meeting "minutes" available in either Rock Scully or Dennis McNally's books (can't remember which right now)l.
 #52387  by Emoto
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 5:28 pm
playingdead wrote:
Emoto wrote:This is a public web site, right?
LOL... sure is.

Have you ever taken a look at the Basstalk forums? They call their guitarists "guitards," as in, "My guitard is so loud... " or "My guitard said the other day ..."
:shock: No, I never have. :lol: They're probably just mad because their amps don't go to 11...

It is kind of a weird problem, though.
 #52391  by Emoto
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 8:07 pm
RiverRat wrote: Do you what's black and blue and usually found in a ditch after a gig?

A guitar player that went too far!
:shock: :?

Shortly before a band began to play, they discovered their bass player was missing. After a short search, the guitar player found him in the back alley beating the heck out of some guy . .
Guitar Player: Sam, what are you doing?
Bass Player: This guy de-tuned one of my strings!
Guitar Player: Why are you beating him up?
Bass Player: He won't tell me which one.

8) :P

BTW, I am not a volume wars kind of guy even though I joke about it.
 #52392  by playingdead
 Wed Nov 05, 2008 8:31 pm
What's the difference between a drummer* and a pig?

The pig won't stay up all night trying to f--- the drummer.

(* or guitarist, bass player, keyboard player, etc.)

Thanks, Ray, maybe you can check out his setup if you make the gig in Marshfield on the 29th.

When we get the odd soundboard where we can hear him, his playing always blows me away.
 #52404  by Pete B.
 Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:51 am
Oh yeah... I just assumed the whole band was reading this, too.
'Clearly an interbandular fail'yuhhh...t'commuuunicate.
You guys sound good, though.
Carry on citizens.

fwiw, Last night I had to tell a drummer to Shut The Fuck Up And Just Play at leat 5 times.
I feel yer pain.
 #52408  by deadguise
 Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:31 am
A quiet bassplayer???
Does he have an introvert personality (timid)? Maybe he needs a boost in self confidence.
I have a guitarist in one of my bands who wears ear plugs, his tone sucks because of it and it tunes him out from the rest of the band. He wears them because "he stood in front of Bobby for too many years".
Your band doesn't sound "loud" from the recordings (nice playing btw...) maybe sneak in a slave amp and tap into one of his outs...?