Wednesday, November 30, 2016

EB0 2 pickup demo

It's all good times. New pickups in the EB0.

I wired the guitar like a Jazz bass but without a tone control.
I routed freehand without any damage to the finish. I went to drill the hole for the wire from the pickup to the volume pot and I punched a small hole all the way through to the back of the guitar. I'm not showing you that.
Conclusions? The position of 25.25" from the nut on a short-scale bass is the best "neck" position. Putting another pickup even closer to the bridge will get more of that midrange honk the kids love so much these days.

Bassic Testing

I made a little rig. I swept a DiMarzio One pickup across the strings of an Epiphone EB0 bass. I learned things.

I learned mostly that Ethan was right about the pickup location.

Conclusions? Best pickup positions on short-scale bass are at: 25.25" from nut and 26.75" (or 27")from nut.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Putting pickups on basses

Following is an email (between the "§§§'s") with Ethan regarding the positioning of pickups on short-scale basses.
Well, I did some thinking and I did some measuring.  Many people feel that the "sweet spot" for a 34" scale bass is where a standard P-bass pickup resides, which is 28.6" (or close enough) from the nut.

First I did some measuring to see if all my P-basses were the same, and they were.  Then I measured some other, non-fender basses to see where they put their neck pickups and, sure enough, they were pretty damn close to 28.6" - G&L, Modulus, Kawai, all 28.6".  One exception was Musicman, who puts the neck pickup on the Sabre closer to the neck, but I never cared much for the neck pickup sound on a Sabre, which leads me to believe that this 28.6" may be something like a right answer.

As it happens, the original, single-coil P-bass places the pickup an inch closer to the neck.  It sounds good there, but it's a very bright sounding single-coil - very UNlike a split P.  Did Leo Fender move it closer to the bridge when he switched to the split P humbucker to reduce the muddiness of the newer, quieter pickup?  Yeah...  probably.  Did he come up with the new measurement scientifically?  Almost definitely not.  Did he just get lucky?  I doubt it.  I'll bet he just tried it in a bunch of places and chose whichever he liked best.

The Jazz Bass, which came later than both versions of the P-bass splits the difference at just over 28", but the pickup splits the difference, too: single coil, but not as bright sounding as a SC P-bass pickup.  I somehow doubt this is all a coincidence.

So, where does that leave you?  Well, a 30" scale length is about .882 of a 34" scale length, so the numbers on a 30"-scale bass would play as follows:
SC P-bass: 24.25"
Jazz Bass:  24.9"
Std P-bass  25.25"

Incidentally, 25.25" happens to be exactly where the pickup is on my vintage Dan Armstrong/Danelectro, which is the only short-scale (30") bass I own, and it sounds really good there.  There's a bass with the same scale as yours and the pickup is placed right where an equivalently-scaled P-bass' pickup would be.  That's a "lipstick-tube" pickup on there, which is an overwound single-coil that sounds like the bastard child of a split P-bass pickup and a P-90.

So in your position, I would probably choose 25.25" from the nut (to the center of the pickup) if I were using a humbucker of any kind (including a split P), 24.9" for a J pickup or any other bass pickup with a bit more clarity (like the newer, full-range Bartolinis, Nordstrand singles, Delanos or lower-output EMGs) and leave the 24.25" position alone, as it's probably not far enough from where your pickup is now to make any substantial difference.

As far as a bridge pickup goes, Gibson tended to put them too close to the bridge.  I guess they thought they'd only be used as an addition to the neck pickup.  I'd suggest putting it right between the other pickup and the bridge or maybe even a little closer to the other pickup.  There will be less difference between the two pickups, true, but there will still be a difference and what you'll gain is two, distinct sounds that can both be used as stand-alone bass sounds - something you really can't do with a stock Gibson bridge pickup.

Now, just to muddy the waters a little further (because I can), the Musicman Stingray only has one pickup - ostensibly a "bridge" pickup, although it's far enough from the bridge to still sound like a [neck] pickup.  It sits at 30.6", which equates to 27" on a 30"-scale bass.  A Rickenbacker's neck pickup is really close to the neck and most people use the bridge pickup as the main pickup on a Ric.  Translated to 30" scale from a Ric's 33" the pickup would sit at 26.8".  In other words, if the scales were equal, a Ric's bridge pickup sits VERY near where a Stingray's pickup is, which explains their similar growl.

Jazz basses and G&Ls place the bridge pickup closer to the bridge, just on the edge of usefulness as a standalone pickup, IMO.  They sit at 31.5 or 32", depending upon the year.  That equates to 27.8" or 28.2", give or take.

Based on these numbers, I'd shoot for 25.25 for the neck pickup and then try to squeeze the bridge pickup in there as close to 27" as space will allow (reality would probably push you closer to 27.5).  Sure, it will put it pretty close to the neck pickup, but you'll end up with two really useful pickup positions that would still probably work well together, too.

As far as what pickups to use....  well, shit.  There are an awful lot of options out there.  It really depends upon what you're after.  Do you want your bass to still sound kinda like an EB-0 but on steroids, or are you looking for much more versatility?  There's a pretty staggering array of pickup and electronics options for bass - everything from pure thud to super hi-fi with tons of stops in between, and a lot of ways to get both - or, at least, aspects of both from the same instrument.  A lot of it is just how much planning you want to do and how much you want to spend.

There I go, thinking too much again.
Here for your dining and dancing pleasure is the schematic for wiring a Jazz Bass.
I'm going to try to put my DiMarzio One at the 25.25" position on my Epiphone EB0. More on that in later posts!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Obviously Native Instruments has the sampler world tied up with their Kontakt engine (which is awfully pricey IMHO). And the registration system -- let's just say it's not the best. Some of the official NI instruments I've bought from them work, and some will "say" they're registered but still only be in demo mode which only gives one 15 minutes to work with them.
There are, ostensibly, other options. Plogue makes a free thing called "Sforzando".
As for free libraries there's the Virtual Playing Orchestra and Plogue's own free sounds.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Strings EB0


The order of events is thusly:

  • I got an Epiphone EB0 guitar
  • I put a new pickup in it
  • I changed the strings on it to Thomastik Infeld Jazz flatwound strings
  • I was not really 100% happy with how that guitar sounded on recordings with other instruments
  • I bought an Epiphone Allen Wood guitar from Guitar Center (online, used)
  • The bridge on that guitar decided it didn't actually belong attached to the guitar (even as much as no Epiphone bridge believes it should be attached to any Epiphone guitar)
    I took that guitar back for a refund at a local Guitar Center
    I got a new Allen Woody from Sweetwater
    I took the TI's off the EB0 and put them on the Allen Woody
  • I took the Allen Woody's strings and put them on the EB0
  • I'm much happier now.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Exotic Dihemitonic Pentatonic Modes

An interesting discussion over on Reddit about exotic dihemitonic pentatonic modes. Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke does some very groovy stuff in that, er, mode.

A while back I'd bought a used Allen Woody bass from Guitar Center online. Unfortunately, this was a thing that was true about that bass. Fortunately, Guitar Center lets you return used purchases to any GC store. So I did. And then I bought a new Allen Woody from Sweetwater and never looked back.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Miking and Multipliers

The Nikolai Kachanov Singers are kind of the Seal Team 6 of the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. They're a smaller group and they have a wider mission of doing more modern music from around the world. Not exclusively modern, of course, that's not Nikolai's style. There's some ancient stuff in their repertoire as well as Messiaen and Arvo Part (and much younger composers). And they are freaking fantastic.

So. This concert. First of all, this venue is terrific sounding. St. Ignatius up on West End Avenue in Manhattan. The only downsides are that they have no piano and the heating is... well honestly the heating is a very weird joke as they have these two monstrous and incredibly loud heating units in the back of the church that look... like monsters. You can't see them in this picture.
The pipe organ is wonderful. You can actually hear what's going on around you. But no piano (and honestly I don't see how they could afford to keep a piano tuned due to the, er, vagaries of the heating and humidity situation.)

My sinuses are suffering today from breathing this stuff yesterday.
Ho-ly cats do they pour on the incense on Sundays. Holy cats. I mean, we walked in at 1pm and it was like being on the set of Blade Runner. Like OSHA would insist on respirators. Pretty though.
Looking toward the front of the church.

So the music had a fairly wide range of orchestration. One piece had a lute, one had a harp, one with a percussion section and a string quartet. So we're looking at a fairly wide dynamic range. Also, the chorus moved around a bit depending on the piece. For most pieces the chorus is upstage of that railing in the part of the church called, if I understand correctly, the "choir".
The left Rode NT-1 sat in the first row of the pews on the left. The right one is not visible in this picture.

Other times the chorus was down on the steps and the percussionist was up in the "choir" with the string quartet down on the floor (where you can see the conductor in the rehearsal above.)
Oh, and a quartet of singers was sent off to a side chapel for one piece to be an "echo." I generally don't go chasing after things like that with microphones because the whole point is that they sound far away.

So the basic deal is that my tendency is to want to go relatively close with microphones to pick up the articulation and detail, and Nikolai is wont to put microphones further away because he doesn't want to hear individual voices. So for this concert I was thinking about the details and locations of various instruments and came up with another notion.

1 and 2 are large diaphragm cardioid microphones spaced about 6 feet apart. Number 3 is a stereo pair of small diaphragm microphones up in the air, showing the kind of distance the maestro prefers overall. (Note these numbers are not the channel assignments. If they were 1 and 2 would be in channels 3 and for, and 3 would be a stereo pair in 1 and 2. If you aren't confused, just keep reading.)
Probably 90% of the sound you want is a pair of nice supercarioid microphones in an X/Y pair in the first "sweet spot" you find as you listen to the chorus and start to walk backwards from the conductor's position. It's kind of funny and awesome that I have a conductor who will make that walk and ask for a particular mic placement. I think it's somewhat unusual to have a musical director that sophisticated in recording.

For this recording I wanted some options though. And those options involved having a couple bigger mics closer to the music. And it turned out that except for one piece I was wrong and Nikolai was right but not for the reason I expected. The mix and the blend are vastly better for almost all the music with the X/Y pair set three rows back. So what are those very far apart microphones good for?

When mixed in with the center X/Y pair those far apart microphones add a bit of widening to everything. Which, you know, makes intuitive sense now that I write it down but. Well yes then. And when I say "mixed in" I mean at least 10dB quieter than the center pair. When I recorded I set all the gains to record the sound on the stage at the same level on each recording track. So if somebody sang in the center of the stage, the meters on all four microphone channels would light up exactly the same.*

The percussion setup was really very cool. Not shown well are these sweet little bells. Ooh. I think they're called "crotales".
But in the mix those NT-1's would be 10dB lower. I think I said that.
Pay no attention to the amount of compression and even parallel compression added to this mix. Ahem. That would be illegal in classical music. But note that channels 1 and 2 are the center mics and 3 and 4 are the Rode large-diaphragm mics and that the Aux channels only have 1 and 2 in them.

Actually, in the mix they're significantly lower than that even.  But I think that just the bit of sound we get from them, varying from piece-to-piece obviously, adds enough to make them worthwhile.

The lute. Pretty. But quiet. Insert your own joke here.

Now I made one exception to the general "don't move microphones" rule. That was for the piece with the lute. I scooched the NT-1's to where you can see them here for this one piece. And when I listened to the quick temp mixes I made today, I favored those mics over the ones about 30 feet away just because... because.

But now I'm all down with how I've got an 8-channel Zoom recorder, I may as well go crazy with microphones and track counts. Right? Right. I'm thinking a very wide modified Decca Tree. Because the fact is, if we don't like a mic placement -- we can just mute it in the mix.

*Yes, this is technically only true for a single point source and would fall apart as soon as someone changed position, but I had a chance to come up with an average and that's what I stuck with. Let's just pretend that all the microphones were getting the same amount of signal onto their respective tracks and leave it at that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pedal pedal

There are a lot of guitar pedals out there in the world. The thing is that there's actually sort of a limited number of actual usable sounds compared to the numbers of different sounds we can make with our technology or even imagination. I think Casio discovered this in the late 80's with their PCM synthesizers. And especially now -- when we can literally draw any sort of sound we want, we find that by and large there are some usable sounds and other sounds we don't care about. I mean, I don't even have examples of those sounds that are useless because nobody uses them. But go ahead, draw a waveform. You'll hear what I mean. They're pretty useless.
Anyway, pedals. Lots of small manufacturers. Mostly making fuzz boxes. Look, there are and have been some amazing guitar players who used fuzz boxes. You know, people like Hendrix. But personally I don't care for them. Maybe it's because I used to have an MXR Distortion + pedal. But most new pedals make sounds I... just don't care about.

Obviously there are exceptions. Most all useful guitar sounds had pretty much been found by the early 70's. Probably earlier than that even. You could keep adding more gain and fuzz but... after a while it gets kind of boring.
Strymon does excellent work. And if you had a hankering for a vibrato/reverb pedal their Flint seems like it can't be beat.
Lehle also rocks the vole. They just make great stuff. And if I were a bass player I'd be seriously looking into their two-band bass compressor pedal.