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Electric upright bass

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The electric upright bass (abbreviated EUB and sometimes also called stick bass) is an electronically amplified version of the double bass that has a minimal or 'skeleton' body. These features greatly reduce the size, weight and in some cases, the cost of the instrument whilst retaining some of the features of a double bass.


[edit] History

The first production electric upright basses were developed independently in the mid-1930s by Regal, Vega and Rickenbacker. It took some years to develop high-quality transducers and amplification for the EUB, and the bass guitar became more popular. In comparison with other electronically-amplified string instruments, such as the electric violin, viola and cello, the EUB has been taken up by a wider range of players, perhaps because it is considerably easier to transport than its acoustic equivalent.

[edit] Description

[edit] Scale length and tuning

The scale length of EUBs varies: some scales are 42", similar to most double basses, whilst other models have scale lengths of only 30" like a short scale bass guitar. The shorter scale can make it easier for bass guitarists to convert to the EUB. Some scales lie between these two extremes. The fingerboard extends over two octaves and usually has side dots for the players reference.

Regardless of scale length, the strings are usually tuned to E1, A1, D2, G2 (see Scientific pitch notation) at the same pitch as the double bass or bass guitar.

Double bass players use features of the instrument such as the neck heel and edge of the upper bout as tactile positional references. The rear of the body of an upright bass is usually braced against the hip with player standing or knee if sitting. Many EUBs therefore mirror these features in their design. There will often be a raised reference point about half way down from the nut to the bridge at either the D or Eb position to represent the 'neck heel' of the acoustic bass. Many EUBs will have wooden or metal bars to brace against the musicians body. The most complete example of this is the Yamaha 'silent bass' which has a removable frame designed to match the outline of right hand side and left upper bout of an upright bass allowing for easy transference of double bass technique.

[edit] Amplification

Solid bodied EUBs produce little sound on their own and the string vibrations are amplified by some form of pickup. Early EUBs used magnetic pickups similar to those in electric guitars, or percussive magnetic diaghram pickups eg. Ampeg Baby Bass. Many modern EUBs use piezoelectric pickups located in the bridge or a combination of pickup types. Some EUBs have a resonant chamber which changes the tone and response of the instrument eg. Eminence EUBs and some Aria and Azola models. Microphones can be used to amplify EUBs with hollow bodies.

[edit] Variety of EUBs

There are many varieties of EUBs available at present. Some EUBs cannot be used with a bow because of the large radius of the fingerboard and the flatness of the bridge. These types are therefore solely used for pizzicato playing. EUB's are available in 4,5 and 6 string models, and solid, hollow and 'floating top' configurations.

[edit] Genres and performers

The Ampeg 'baby bass' has been popular in Cuban music since the 1960s being used by such performers as Cachao Lopez and Andy Gonzalez.

A well-known EUB player is Sting, who played a Dutch made 'Van Zalinge'.

A player who found a unique sound for the instrument was Eberhard Weber, whose playing on the 1975 album Yellow Fields, features a combination of modes, raga like riffs and the unique sustain and sometimes percussion of the EUB.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Les Claypool used the EUB in several of his bands. Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam and Tony Levin also regularly use EUB's. Even in heavy metal music you can find bassists who eventually play an EUB like Felipe Andreoli of Angra, who plays a Brazilian made D'Alegria one.

Tony Levin plays an NS Electric Upright Bass, sometimes fingered and sometimes with a bow.

[edit] Playing the EUB

The EUB is played in a similar manner to the double bass. All EUBs can be played pizzicato style, only those with a suitable fingerboard and bridge radius can be bowed. Some EUBs are designed with integral stands, freeing the player from the need to brace/support the instrument. This makes bowing much easier, especially for the beginner. Like a double bass, the instrument may be played either standing or sitting on a tall stool.

[edit] Height of instrument

The optimum height for most players will be when the (index) finger in the first position (first fret on a fretted instrument) is at the same level as the player's eye. If the bass is higher than this, discomfort in the muscles of the neck may be experienced after playing long passages in the first position. If the bass is too low, the player may need to bend or stretch when attempting to play notes at the higher end of the fingerboard (although not as much as on a double bass).

[edit] Right hand

The strings are plucked with the sides (not the tips or nails as in guitar playing) of the top joints of the index and middle fingers whilst the thumb of the right hand rests against the side of the fingerboard. The strings are usually plucked over the fingerboard near the end.

[edit] Left hand

The left hand is used to stop the strings by pressing down with the fleshy part of the finger, generally using the ball of the thumb at the back of the neck to obtain pressure.

In the extreme high positions, where the neck on an EUB gets considerably thicker, the left hand usage can be modified with the whole hand being brought round to the front of the instrument and the thumb taking the place of the index finger. These positions are called the 'thumb positions' in double bass parlance. In these positions, it is necessary to rest the neck of the bass against the players left shoulder in order to support the neck against the pressure of fingers on the strings.

On the shorter scale EUBs, bass guitar fingering can be used over a large portion of the fingerboard and thumb positions may not be necessary. On the longer scale models, due to the larger distances between notes, the double bass (Simandl) fingering method usually has to be used unless the player has unusually large hands.

[edit] Comparison with the double bass

Since the EUB typically does not have a hollow sound chamber, or only includes a small sound chamber, the EUB is less prone to feedback when amplified than the double bass.

In order to use a bow with an EUB, both the bridge and fingerboard need to be radiussed.

[edit] Sound

By adjusting the amplifier tone controls an EUB can sound similar to an acoustic double bass. Since the EUB transmits its sounds through a pickup, the tone is brighter than that of the acoustic double bass, which transmits its tone via the sound post to the back of the body. Compared to a double bass, the tone produce by an EUB is not modified substantially by its 'body'.

[edit] External links

This article was started using a Wikipedia upright bass article
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