Should you get a double bass pickup? | Classical double bass

amplifier double bass pickup pickup upright bass pickup

If you are a double bassist specializing in jazz performance, then getting a double bass pickup is a 'no brainer'. But when it comes to classical double bass, this argument of whether to get a double bass pickup or not can be tricky.

Here's my experience with the double bass pickup. I once played a concerto with a symphony. We performed at an outside venue rather than an inside venue. Performing in an outside setting can be difficult considering the multiple extraneous noises that occur outside (bird noises, cars, people talking). There are two ways to get past the extraneous noises. I chose option number 2 for my outside concerto performance. 

1. Play louder

You can always play louder during those outside concerts, but the problem with playing loud the whole time is that you don't give the opportunity for the audience to hear soft 'piano' sections. For example, if you start the piece of music playing loud, when its supposed to sound mezzo forte (mf), it will be difficult to play piano (p), because if you actually do play piano, then nobody in the outside venue will be able to hear you over all the outside noises. So consequently, you are devaluing the performance by not allowing the softer dynamics to take place. The good thing about this approach is that the sound is still natural, rather than the sound being played from loudspeakers. However, it may be in your favor to sacrifice the pure natural double bass sound for a louder amplified sound, so you don't have to work harder playing loud all the time. 

2. Use a pickup

In order to amplify your double bass sound using an amplifier (speakers), you must have a pickup. A pickup is a device that converts the vibration of your instrument into an electronic signal. This electronic signal that the pickup creates can then be used by an amplifier, thus allowing the audience to hear your music through loud speakers. Using an instrument pickup will allow you to play a range of dynamics that you otherwise would not be able to do without the use of an amplifier. The downside of using an amplifier is that the majority of the sound you make will be heard from loudspeakers, and not from the double bass itself. This sound is less natural, but hey, it gets the job done effortlessly when it comes to producing a loud enough sound that can be heard over all the extraneous noises that occur during those outside concerts. 

List of pickups to choose from.

1. KNA pickup DB-1

The KNA pickup DB-1 pickup claims that it delivers 'natural sound' by not modifying the instruments sound in the amplification process. Just remember than any sound that is produced by a loudspeaker will always be different than the sound made by the wooden double bass frame. So the company that made this claim might be boasting just a tad bit.  

 2. Fisherman BP-100

The Fisherman BP-100 is a standard pickup that can be used by all acoustic instruments. By looking at the comments on Amazon about this product, it seems like the installation process for this pickup can be quite difficult and time consuming. You have to use screws to install it, so if you are OK with screwing things, then you should not have a problem! however, if you prefer not to do it yourself, then I am sure you can hire someone from Ikea to do it for you (lol). 

Meyers 'mini microphone' pickup

The Meyers double bass pickup is actually a really small microphone that attaches itself to the body of the double bass. Remember, a normal pickup works by using magnets to convert the vibrations into electronic signals. This pickup works the same way, since it does use a microphone that uses magnets, but in this case, the microphone wont 'pickup' the sort of sounds made when you accidentally hit the bass with your elbow (boom!), or the small buzzing sounds that occur when you pluck your bass. 

This is the end of the list. Thanks for reading!

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-Xavier Foley


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  • Jacque Harper on

    A good overall thought, but there are some details you’ve left out. First, the company is Fishman, not Fisherman. Were it in fact “Fisherman” it might be a pickup that Les Claypool should have! Also there is no need to screw anything to the bass when installing that pickup. I think you might be scaring people away from it.
    Most importantly, you did not tell us what pickup you used! I’m guessing it’s one of the three, but which one? I’d love to hear more!
    Jacque


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