The Upright Bass Site - We don't call it a double bass ;-)

“The Upright Sound” Intro

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What is “The Upright Bass Sound”? The sound that we associate with and expect to hear from instrument has changed over the years. In actuality, a bass has changed some in terms of sound through the centuries, but little. A bass, for the most part, sounds the same to the naked ear now as it did 100 years ago. What has changed is the amplification of the bass, which influences the live sound and live recordings. Some pillars of the bass world who have been prolific in live performances and in recordings such as Ray Brown,  Christian McBride and Dave Holland sound very different live than they do in recordings.  Listening to recordings that span several decades, the sound of the bass hasn’t changed much, because studios still incorporate the same methods when recording in a controlled environment. In live situations and live recordings, the sound has changed over the years with changes in technology

So what is “The Upright Bass Sound”? Is it the sound that we associate with the recordings of Paul Chambers, Scott LaFaro and Charles Mingus when there were only gut strings, no amplification, and recordings were through vintage microphones shared among band members? Is the “upright bass sound” Ray Brown and Ron Carter on steel strings in the early days of bass pickups and amplification? What about the newer, more accurate sound because of advances in bass amplification and reproduction or growing popularity in other types of strings; where do those fit into the picture?

I can’t emphasize this point enough: This discussion isn’t about talent, it’s about timbre and sound. It’s also not about who or what sound is better, just how things have changed over the years. High caliber players sound fantastic regardless of what they use and the limitations of what they are faced with. What we are discussing is the actual sound of the instrument itself. No matter what the tone, I could listen to these guys for hours and they are largely the reason why a lot of us fell in love with the instrument.

To simplify the categories for the purpose of discussion, I’ve divided them up to three eras

Here are some clips for reference that I will be discussing.

Paul Chambers

Scott LaFaro

Charles Mingus

Ray Brown

Ron Carter

Dave Holland

Eric Revis

Carlos Henriquez

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