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
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
- Pre-1970’s: Mic on a Stick era
- 1970’s-1990: Basic piezo and multipurpose amp era
- Post 1990: “Designed to sound like the bass only louder” systems
Here are some clips for reference that I will be discussing.