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  1. #1

    Default Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    I was watching the monk documentary "straight no chaser" And there's a segment where they are recording in a studio. And It got me thinking no one is using headphones (I have never heard of headphones being used back then).

    And when you look at old pictures and concerts it's rare to see mics on the bass atleast when it's in small clubs.

    I was wondering if anyone on this forum was around then that could tell me if the bass players where a hell of alot louder and the drummers much quieter. I think I read somewhere that the drums wasn't as loud as they are today. And the heads where really different.

    But alot of people today play really really old basses so there's no difference there. But I've never seen a bass player who isn't plugged in no matter how small the venue is.

    Not really important but I'm curious about how much things have changed.
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  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian paulwl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    I'll answer simplistically: we can blame rock culture for everything. Plugged in is now the default setting.
    Jazz = a man with a $5,000 horn driving a $500 car to a $50 gig.
    Conn, Buescher & Martin Saxes - Selmer & Conn Clarinets - Woodwind, Morgan, Link & Brilhart Mouthpieces - Alexander Reeds

  3. #3
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Back then, bass players used a much higher action and gut strings resulting in a louder and more percussive tone. They could also play with a more aggressive style without hurting their hands because gut strings are gentler on the fingers and have more flexibility when pulled. By the 60's, most bass players started using either lower action or metal strings or both and were starting to get amplified as a result. This also allowed bass players to play faster and have more sustain in their sound (fwiw, I like the old percussive style better than the never ending sustain-type sound).

    Drums were indeed quieter back in the days. Full rounded bearing edges and natural skin heads yielded a much darker and softer tone. They also tuned their drums differently. Nowadays, most drummers have this middle of the road drum kit, setup with a middle of the road setup. It's just unsatisfactory for playing acoustic music - it just makes it extra hard for the drummer to play with nuances because their drum kit is so loud.

  4. #4

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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    I listened to a drummer being recorded in 84' in Las Vegas. He used very thick sticks and played very lightly. He could roll so soft that it sounded like the wind. His time was spot on also.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    No multitracking in the 50s. Everything was recorded in mono or stereo. So, you had to play and setup like you were playing live. And an unamplified acoustic bass can actually be quite loud.

    Now, we have multitracking, so drummers will generally be in an iso booth to keep them from bleeding into other mics, etc etc.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Thanks alot for the good answers. I think these things are really interesting. By gut strings do you mean the nylon things slap players use?

    Our drummer recently switched to drumheads called "fiberskyns" they're supposed to act like calfskin but without dead animals. I think they work really good. much dryer and more dynamic sound.
    Martin Committe II tenor, Brilhart Ebolin And Link STM
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  7. #7
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaker View Post
    Thanks alot for the good answers. I think these things are really interesting. By gut strings do you mean the nylon things slap players use?

    Our drummer recently switched to drumheads called "fiberskyns" they're supposed to act like calfskin but without dead animals. I think they work really good. much dryer and more dynamic sound.
    I mean "gut" strings; they're made from the membrane that lines a sheep's intestines.

  8. #8
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    A well recorded classic gut string sound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sxLLOYSdws

    And another one from the same guy, probably recorded with the mic not as close to the neck http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gys7L...eature=related

    Big boomy sound.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    After some research I totally agree that the gut sound's Is way better than the metal sound. I have always been a sucker for some upright bass sounds and others did nothing for me. Now I think I know why. I guess I'm gonna have to start a string changing campaign at our next rehearsal.
    Martin Committe II tenor, Brilhart Ebolin And Link STM
    B&S Codera alto w/ Meyer 6M

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    I enjoyed magical pig's detailing of the pre-amplified playing issues. I was around then, and to this day, continue to play acoustically and with others who do not amplify their instruments. I have also played in ensembles where some instruments were amplified and other ensembles where everything was cranked up to obnoxious levels (feets don't fail me now!!). The experience of playing acoustically, having each instrument play to its natural level is VERY pleasing to me, both as a player AND as as a member of the audience.

    Many of us play vintage instruments and I'm not so sure the voices are any stronger if the instrument is modern or vintage. Much has to do with the player and as MP pointed out, maybe the way certain instruments were set up.

    I've had other folks on stage try to shove a microphone up the bell of my soprano. I just turned away and played directly to the audience. Their expressions were priceless- they'd never heard such a thing before.

    True, in almost all forms of music I see today (save for orchestras playing classical music) everyone is plugged in. That is unfortunate. However, bands devoted to early jazz seem to be among the few who play acoustically, and even then, some of them are plugged in as well. DAVE
    Dave

  11. #11
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaker View Post
    After some research I totally agree that the gut sound's Is way better than the metal sound. I have always been a sucker for some upright bass sounds and others did nothing for me. Now I think I know why. I guess I'm gonna have to start a string changing campaign at our next rehearsal.
    Gut strings are a b*tch to deal with though. 1. they're more expensive 2. they break more easily 3. they require maintenance as fiber continuously peels off 4. they're susceptible to temperature and humidity variations.

    They make synthetic strings that are supposed to sound like gut without the high maintenance, and metal strings with a nylon core for the same advertised result. Nothing can replace a good gut string though. The synthetic have that gut flexibility but lack tone. The nylon core strings have a better tone but lack the "bounce back" of a gut string (by the way, this bounce back really makes the playing experience radically different.)

  12. #12

    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    In my experience you can't get a true sound from a clip-on bass mic. And most of the time the volume is to low for a condensor on it in a live setting. That just kills me since I really love a good bass sound.

    In the summers we usually get together in the park to play old country songs for fun and then it's all acoustic banjos, mandolins dobros, guitars everything. It's a totally different feeling. You tend to neglect the dynamic aspect of playing when you can change the volume with a knob.
    Martin Committe II tenor, Brilhart Ebolin And Link STM
    B&S Codera alto w/ Meyer 6M

  13. #13

    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Well MP looks like a got some google time ahead.
    Martin Committe II tenor, Brilhart Ebolin And Link STM
    B&S Codera alto w/ Meyer 6M

  14. #14
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Dolson View Post
    The experience of playing acoustically, having each instrument play to its natural level is VERY pleasing to me, both as a player AND as as a member of the audience.
    I think non-musician members of the audience can hear the difference as well. Nobody wants to "feel" the bass in their chest and have to wear ear plug to attend a live concert. I mean, this is ridiculous. That's why I don't go to outdoors jazz festivals. All I hear is lows and highs. Ridiculous. The worst thing is that most musicians seem to have accepted this state of loudness and over the top amplification as the norm.

    By the way, jaker, you may want to check this thread I started a while back which has a lot of good info: http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthr...d-in-the-50-s.

  15. #15

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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    I heard an early music ensemble where all the strings played with gut. Very mellow and expressive, not much bite. The woodwinds also were "early" so intonation was somewhat loose but lots of character and feel.

  16. #16
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaker View Post
    In my experience you can't get a true sound from a clip-on bass mic.
    Do you mean a piezo?

    FWIW, the 3 best things a bass player can get are:

    1. a good piezo like the David Gage or Full Circle (sound comparison here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBPP9GwptCc). This will allow for a very loud amplified sound that will still somewhat sound like a double bass.

    2. an AMT S25B to either mix with the piezo or use in lower volume applications. Similar to Christian McBride's setup: http://christianmcbride.com/gear.html

    3.an Acoustic Image bass amp. Most bass amps are tailored for electric bass and do NOT really fit an upright.

    This should save you some googling.


    By the way look at the height of PC's D string on this pic.


  17. #17
    SOTW Administrator hakukani's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    The problem with electronic sound reinforcement is that folks think of it as making things 'louder'. Reinforcement is the craft of putting sounds where you want them, at the level you want them. It takes a great deal of learning and practice to do it effectively. Unfortunately, the only qualification for sound engineer is having the price of a modest PA system.

    I regularly play at a venue where there is a decent PA, and a house sound man that is not only a musician also, but understands how the equipment works. The venue has no roof, and so must keep the level way down. Even with a rollicking blues band, the level seldom goes above 100 dB SPL on the dance floor, and is down below 60 outside the venue.
    Sound guy theory of relativity: E=mc^2 (+or- 3dB)
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    "Free jazz is the vegemite of the musical world. It's an acquired taste."-J. Jacques

  18. #18
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    Quote Originally Posted by hakukani View Post
    Unfortunately, the only qualification for sound engineer is having the price of a modest PA system.
    I can't count how many times I've played with bands that used gain knobs as a volume knobs, regardless of actual level, clipping, etc.

  19. #19
    Distinguished SOTW Member kymarto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    One of the reasons for the difference in feel between vintage and modern horns is because designers worked on getting more volume out of them, at the expense of tone, response and flexibility. Remember, Sax originally designed a family of orchestral instruments. But it soon became clear that they were mostly ending up in bands, so the push began. Selmer continuously enlarged the bore--Pea Shooter to Super to Radio Improved (for playing in radio orchestras). The Mk. VII bore was apparently designed to eke out even more volume to compete with electrified instruments, and we all know how that turned out...

    I recently got a lovely old Selmer 22 curved soprano. These were apparently cobbled together out of old A. Sax stock after Selmer bought them out. Frankly, I didn't expect it to be a player's horn, but that puppy rocks! Amazing response, and solid but flexible intonation. Really agile, and with sweet presence. What the hell happened? Playing modern sops just ain't as much fun. A sacrifice, I suspect, on the altar of the God of Loudness.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Have instruments changes since the 50's?

    All I hear is lows and highs.
    This is an annoying trend that needs to stop! I don't mind a subtly amplified bass, and fortunately most guitarists I have played with make a conscious effort to not be too loud because loudness is a common complaint about guitarists. As a sax player, I love to be able to go without a mic in a jazz setting.

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