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Topic: That Damped Bass

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  1. #1

    That Damped Bass

    Just curious about something. I have a string bass instrument in one of my libraries, with several "damped" articulations. wondering how a real bass player gets that sound and, in particular, how much time and effort it requires.

    I assume that switching between damped and un-damped notes is not an issue if there is a rest between them. What I am less clear about is whether moderately fast runs can be played with the strings damped. Again, my uninformed assumption is to not use the damped articulation for long or relatively fast-moving bass lines. But, if I'm wrong, I think I might want to use it for such a passage in one of my pieces.

    Thanks.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  2. #2

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    Just curious about something. I have a string bass instrument in one of my libraries, with several "damped" articulations. wondering how a real bass player gets that sound and, in particular, how much time and effort it requires...
    That's an interesting question, ejr. I went to YouTube and started looking at the many string bass tutorial videos there, and saw the constant use of damping, since it's actually not very common to let the strings ring out in any style of music. I almost grabbed some video URLs for you, but moments of focusing just on damping was fleeting, sprinkled throughout several I saw.

    You may want to go to YT and see some musicians of various styles playing the bass so you can see how their hands are constantly damping the strings.

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    Just curious about something. I have a string bass instrument in one of my libraries, with several "damped" articulations. wondering how a real bass player gets that sound and, in particular, how much time and effort it requires.

    Thanks.
    With most orchestral strings the players clamp a damping mechanism, a mute, across the bridge of the instrument when instructed to.
    It is, of course, marked con sordino on the score. These days it's a kind of three legged device, a leg of which goes between a pair of strings. It's designed to stop the bridge transmitting the normal amount of energy to the body of the instrument.

    I've seen cellists use a clothes peg (or two) on occasion though!

    In the music that I've sequenced with this, it seems usual to allow the players a few moments to remove the damper before commencing with arco playing, and a little longer to replace it where con sord. is necessary again. The mute is usually stored, when out of use, on the tail end of the strings below the bridge.

    But with the contrabass the strings are often damped manually at the end of a phrase or when playing pizzicato.

    As Randy says, it can be useful to observe if you can find something on YT.

    Regards,
    John.
    Author of MIDI tutorials at http://midi-tutor.proboards.com/index.cgi

  4. #4

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Thanks. I have been searching the web for answers but not finding a satisfactory one. I was hoping that a real contrabass player would respond with some info on what he actually does in concert.

    Knowing about the mute does help, though. That makes me feel more comfortable about scoring a whole sequence (or an entire number) as damped, if I like the sound. But I would still like to understand if there is as much effort required from switching to a damped run to a non-damped run as there would be from switching from arco to pizz. I expect that damping the odd note here or there wouldn't be a problem. But I wonder about doing moderately fast runs damped and then switching back to undamped where there may not be enough time to put in the mute and take it out again.

    The style of my piece is meant to evoke late 19th century music (waltzes, brass bands, and some European folk music of the period) while being mostly contemporary in structure and playable by a small pit orchestra. I am scoring it for an upright string bass, using the bow here and there (when the mood calls for it), but requiring it to be played pizz.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  5. #5

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Quote Originally Posted by SysExJohn View Post
    With most orchestral strings the players clamp a damping mechanism, a mute, across the bridge of the instrument when instructed to...
    SysEx - Have I mentioned recently how much I value your presence here on the Forum? In case I haven't, I do!

    I probably shouldn't have assumed that Ejr was using the standard "sord" direction and/or the mute sign in his score in most cases. Since he was describing instances where muted and open strings are used in fairly rapid succession, as I understood him to be talking about, I thought watching bass players on YouTube could be informational. I'm not positive, but in that kind of passage, can something like the "+" sign be used over muted notes?

    Randy

  6. #6

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Okay, I found this post

    http://youtu.be/wXm4UPLL8HY

    It's a lesson in bluegrass "basics", in which the instructor shows two methods of damping the strings. Right off the bat, this leads me to believe that (a) damping is easier for an experienced player than I imagined and (b) that more of what I have written is going to sound better damped than I expected.

    I hope this helps anyone who has been following this thread. I am going to continue with a few more of these "lessons", as they could be useful in understanding how to write bass parts.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  7. #7

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    SysEx - Have I mentioned recently how much I value your presence here on the Forum? In case I haven't, I do!

    I probably shouldn't have assumed that Ejr was using the standard "sord" direction and/or the mute sign in his score in most cases. Since he was describing instances where muted and open strings are used in fairly rapid succession, as I understood him to be talking about, I thought watching bass players on YouTube could be informational. I'm not positive, but in that kind of passage, can something like the "+" sign be used over muted notes?

    Randy
    Randy,
    [mutual admiration]
    Have I mentioned how much I appreciate your presence here on this board?

    If not, I should have done so a long time ago.
    [/mutual admiration]

    Well, I wasn't quite sure whether he meant momentary damping or a passage played with the mute.
    When muted samples were mentioned my senses told me con sordino.
    I see the other as played normally then damped. Am I wrong?

    My own understanding of bassists muting notes after playing unmuted was that this was an automatic performance kind of thing. Clearly one doesn't want a note ringing on when its presence might not be welcome after a short while. (Bass notes are particularly prone to this phenomenon.)
    Much like using the sustain pedal on a piano and release as the next chord is struck. Or observing a percussionist playing timpani. They usually 'know' when the note needs to be shut off by simply observing its length in the score. Play, dampen, play, dampen. N'est ce pas?

    Strangely, I didn't have to bother with that kind of thing when I played oboe and flute many (many, many) years ago.
    For some unknown reason when I stopped blowing they stopped sounding! Kinda wierd.

    Often in older conventional classical music it's marked 'con sord.' but in more modern scores it's usually marked, in my experience, with m for mute on and w for off. If you think of these two as symbols like a very square m and then inverted you will have the symbols I'm familiar with. Alternatively, I guess wiki will have it.

    There may well be others. I'll do some research and return, hopefully suitable clued up.

    Just my 2d. ... as usual.
    Kind regards,
    John.
    Author of MIDI tutorials at http://midi-tutor.proboards.com/index.cgi

  8. #8

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Pressing a bass string to the fingerboard with one finger of your left hand while simultaneously just touching the string lightly with another left-hand finger will produce a damping effect. This applies to both arco and pizz.

    This technique is not conducive to the playing of rapid passages.

    Regards,

    Larry (bass player)
    Larry G. Alexander
    www.alexandermusic.com

  9. #9

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Just to clarify, of the pizz various articulations in my contrabass library, some are labeled "damped", others are not. Those that are not don't decay THAT much longer. Certainly not as much as holding the damper pedal down on the piano. The damped ones sound a little clipped though, a little punchier. I have steered away from using them for faster passages because I had no way of knowing at what point they would become too difficult or impossible to play live.

    Basically, what I take away from all this, is that bass players must be damping notes all the time and can probably deal with just about any line that wouldn't be too fast for a bass anyway.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  10. #10

    Re: That Damped Bass

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry G. Alexander View Post
    Pressing a bass string to the fingerboard with one finger of your left hand while simultaneously just touching the string lightly with another left-hand finger will produce a damping effect. This applies to both arco and pizz.

    This technique is not conducive to the playing of rapid passages.

    Regards,

    Larry (bass player)
    Thank you very much, Larry.

    This presumably just stops the string from 'ringing on' rather than changing the amount of energy transmitted to the body of the instrument by very much, as the mute does? Sorry, that was a question.

    I can't recall when I ever saw a score with a bass con sordino instruction. Nor, that I recall, seeing one clipped to the tail end of the strings below the bridge. I see cello one's quite frequently in Berlioz and have often seen them on cellos on my infrequent meanderings on concert platforms, sadly now a thing of the past. Maybe it's just that a contrabass on its side, or half a dozen, represents more of a navigational challenge than a group of cellos, so I steered clear.

    Kind regards,
    John.
    Author of MIDI tutorials at http://midi-tutor.proboards.com/index.cgi

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