Archive for May, 2009
Bass guitar amps have always been an integral part of the bass guitar. The original inspiration for the bass guitar, the stand up double bass, depended on its great size to generate its low tones throughout a room, adding the rhythm and tonnage to the musical pieces it was involved in. With the development of the bass guitar, not only was the size eliminated but so too was the hollow body needed to generate the tones. Without amplification, it would be almost impossible to hear the notes of the bass. Today’s bass player also knows that playing without an amp can mean some serious miscalculations about the style one is playing, as practicing without an amp sounds much different than playing while hooked up.
Basically, amps work by receiving the signal from the pickup and then amplifying it out so that it can be heard more readily. Amplifiers for bass guitars (and other types of low instruments) have to make adjustments for the low tones generated by the instrument.
Loudspeakers are larger in bass amplification systems as they need to be able to pull through more air to generate the low frequencies.
Speakers are made using heavier material, and they are also braced much more tightly than speakers on other amps. Anyone who has ever had a CD or anything else knocked off a stereo by a throbbing baseline should understand the mechanics behind the bracing; low frequencies move more air and thus create more disturbance.
Preamplifier systems also need to be adjusted to fit low frequencies. These systems generally include equalization controls much lower than other instruments; often down below 40 Hz.
More complicated internal workings like fans help the amp cool down while using the greater amounts of power.
Types of amp
There are two big types of bass amp, the combo amp and amps assembled by the player. Combo bass guitar amps have all of the components needed to play in one piece, and are best suited to beginner bass players. The assembled package means that there is no assembly required either at first or when moving the amplification system to another gig.
Amps that are assembled must include the basic components of the bass system. These components include the head and the cabinet. These components both further contain specific elements of the amp makeup. The head contains all the electronics that manipulate and reproduce the bass sound, while the cabinet will contain the speakers.
One important part in the head of all bass amps is the preamp. This is where the signal from the pickup enters the amp system. The preamp manipulates the tone from the pickup. Once the sound has been modified, the signal is sent to the power amp. This part of the system drives power into the sound which is put through the speaker. Reconciling the amount of power generated from the power amp with the size of the cabinet is vital in building an amplification system as a cabinet can be wrecked if too much power is sent through it.
If you are thinking about creating your own bass guitar amps from the basic components, remember that not all parts of amp systems are created equal. A preamp system designed for classical guitars, for example, will not be very effective for a bass. Keep your instrument in mind when considering components in order to maximize the sound.
Another excellent resource to find musical instruments for sale is gearmusician.com.
Classical guitars are the predecessors to all modern guitars, including basses, acoustics, and electrics. These original guitars are directly descended from the baroque guitar which was found in Spain, with modifications adapted from the early renaissance models. Today, classical guitars are used to play classical music written specifically with the guitar in mind, as well as in different varieties of folk music.
In addition to classic music, the classical guitar is also widely used in two specific types of folk music:
Celtic Music The guitars are used to add flavor to the other stringed instruments typical in celtic folk music, such as the fiddle and the stand up bass. Celtic music has also incorporated the previously little used strumming patterns on the classical.
Spanish Music Perhaps the culture best known for their use of the classical guitar in their music are the Spanish. The classical guitar in the hands of a Spanish master gives off a sound like no other, and needs little in the way of accompaniment. It is virtually impossible to find a popular classical guitar player who does not include several dozen songs of Spanish origin in his or her repertoire.
There are several different design variations in classical guitars when compared with acoustic guitars.
The tuning pegs of the classic instrument are turned backwards.
The body is made entirely of wood. Acoustics generally have a truss rod made of metal running through the neck. The classical guitar strings do not put the tension on the neck that steel strings of an acoustic will, so this part is generally not included.
No inlays on the fretboard.
Classical guitars are slightly wider at the nut than their acoustic and electric counterparts.
Style of Play
Another important difference in the guitar used to play classic music is the ways in which it is played.
There is a specific posture recommended for classical guitar players. The guitar should be held at a 45 degree angle, with the curve resting on the left knee. The right leg is extended, or used to brace the bottom of the guitar.
No type of pick or other plectrum is used to pluck the strings. Instead, the fingers are used to pluck the strings to produce a polyphonic sound.
Strumming is rare in classical guitar playing, but when it is used it is done as a special effect.
And the most important difference….
The most important difference between this instrument and other types of guitar are the strings. Classical guitar strings are made of nylon (they used to be made of ox gut). The three treble strings are made purely of nylon, while the three bass strings are made of a steel wire wrapped with nylon. This string makeup produces the unique sound of classical guitars as well as accounting for the differences in makeup noted above. Nylon strings are also easier to break, which is why strumming is rarely used.
Bass guitar strings are one of the most vital elements in the style, tone, and appearance of your instrument. There are several different types of strings made by dozens of different manufacturers, so it is important to have a good idea of what type of string is best suited to your play before you purchase a set.
Unlike guitars, bass strings are much less likely to break on a player. This is because of the much heavier gauge that allows the strings to make the deeper sound. Of course, the lighter strings may be prone to breakage, especially depending on your style of play. Aggressive play that includes a lot of slapping will mean that your strings break more often than players with a lighter style. If you do not play aggressively and find that you are having trouble with frequently breaking strings, you might want to check and make sure that you are stringing the bass guitar correctly in the first place; check your bridge to make sure the strings aren’t cutting on any sharp outcroppings.
Aside from breakage, basses may need their strings changed in order to maintain a sound that is clear and bright. Changing your strings for tonal maintenance will mean that the frequency you change the strings at depend on what you want to hear from your instrument and how often you play; some players may prefer the deader sound that well-used strings give off.
Types of Bass Strings
Bass guitar strings are classified according to how they are wound. Bass strings are actually made of two different strings; the core string and the winding string. The core string is pretty thick, while the winding string coils about the core in a wrapping pattern; this is why strings appear grooved.
Each type of bass string is named after the winding string used to wrap the core. Roundwound strings have a round shape, while flatround are created flat. Both will produce a different sound. Roundwounds sound very clear and are the most widely used type of string, as they can be applied to all sorts of musical styles. Flatround have flatter wrapping strings, and produce a mellower sound than roundwound. They are also very durable, as they have fewer grooves due to their broad makeup.
Re-using Bass Strings
Because of the durability of bass guitar strings, they do not have to be replaced as often as those used on acoustic and electric guitars. In fact, many players find that they can regain some of the brightness of the strings just by cleaning them. To do this, denatured alcohol is used (do not use water, as it will rust the strings). All the musician has to do is soak the strings in the solution for a half a day or more.
Because bass guitar strings are so important to your individual sound, it is best to gain a lot of knowledge about the way you play each type of string. As noted above, some players might find that they prefer the deader sound of old strings. When changing your strings, make sure not to bump your bass guitar pickups out of position!
One important concept in the age of electronic music is the use of the power amplifier. Amplifiers are needed to send the sound created by an instrument out into the air where an audience or the player can hear it. In order to accomplish this, amplifier systems have been invented. There are dozens of different kinds of amplifier systems, from those found in instruments to those found in stereos and public announcement systems. Specific instruments often have an amp that is designed for them, such as a guitar amp, a bass amp, or a keyboard amp.
One of the big differences in each of these kinds of amps is the power it uses. The power is located in the head of the amp, and the places that generate the power used for the amplification system are known as power amps.
Audio power amps are included in combo amps, along with everything else. The power produced is measured in watts, which is the unit used in many electric functions. The more range or power that is needed, the greater the wattage in the power amplifier. The result might be called a high power amplifier. This is useful to know for those musicians who prefer to design their own amplification systems. There are also several major types of audio power amplifiers. Some of the more commonly used are the stereo power amplifier, the mono power amplifier, the solid state power amplifier and the vacuum tube power amplifier just to name a few.
Measuring the power used by amps can be tricky, as there is not a proportional measurement in the power output and the decibel level (dB). Decibels are used as measurements (for the purpose of music) of acoustics, although they also apply to electric functions. Decibels are very small units, and one decibel is roughly equivalent to the smallest change in sound that a human can perceive.
Simply put, doubling the wattage of the power output in power amps will not double the decibel level. Instead, increasing the wattage by two times will increase the decibel level by 3. This is the case no matter what wattage you are doubling, be it 300W to 600W, or 100W to 200W. It is always constant.
For the musician, the measurement of the power amp is important as it directly relates to how well the instrument will be heard over other systems. Most soundboards will include equalization controls which compensate for electronic instruments which require greater power amps, such as keyboards and even basses. As a mid-range instrument, guitar amplifiers do not require such a high power output. However, levels on the power amp of the amplifier hooked up to the guitar need to be adjusted upwards so that the guitar, including solos and rhythms, can be heard over the other instruments. Often, guitar players find that the power setting should create a +3dB in comparison with the other instruments.
Understanding the function of power amps is essential to musicians who play in bands. The power amplifier is what will produce the electric energy necessary for an instrument such as the guitar to be heard over keyboards and drums, without the instruments drowning each other out. Amps should be purchased according to the style of music that you play, and the venue you play in.
Electric guitar pickups are the feature on electric guitars that pick up the sound and send it via electronics to an amplifying system. The pickup was first introduced commercially in a partnership between Les Paul and Gibson, and also around the same time by Leo Fender. These pickups revolutionized both guitars and the music industry, as they essentially created instruments capable of whole new levels of sound that had been impossible to even imagine before.
The types of electric guitar pickups
There are two kinds of pickup. Both use different principles of electronics and sound wave manipulation to send the sound to the amplifier. The oldest type are the magnetic pickups. These pickups consist of a magnet encased in hundreds of turns of copper wire. The vibrations from the strings of the guitar are picked up on the magnetic field that runs between the magnet and the strings, which is always the same when a string has not been plucked. When a string is plucked, the field is changed, and an electric pulse is created which is transferred to the amplification unit.
One issue with magnetic pickups is that the electronic field can create a hum on the low frequency end of the vibration. This hum is picked up by the amplifier along with the sound. To combat this effect, the double coil pickup was created, which has two magnets instead of just one. These pickups are also called humbuckers.
It is possible to make your own pickup, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. In addition, you will not know if you have coiled the wire properly until you feed the power in, and if it does not work that is more hours spent wrapping and figuring out where you went wrong. Still, if you feel confident with this type of activity, there are kits that you can purchase to create your own pickup.
The other, more recent type of pickup is the piezoelectric pickup. Piezo electronics uses crystals to manipulate electric fields to generate voltage. In order to ensure the full response of the sound field, it is necessary to fit the guitar with a buffer, since they are in series. Due to the frequency of the series version of piezoelectric pickups, they are often labeled hexaphonic pickups. This is erroneous, however, as hexaphonic pickups can be used in both piezoelectric and magnetic pickups. The term merely refers to a pickup modulator located under each of the six strings of a guitar (in the case of a piezo electric device, there would be six crystals).
There are dozens of electric guitar pickups available, including those that are built in to electric guitars and those that serve as replacement pickups. Just like with the bass guitars, though, different people will find that some pickups work better with different guitars. Generally, the lower the output of the pickup, the cleaner the sound.