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  1. #1

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    I have struggled for years to get a nice acoustic archtop tone a'la FG, at the full volume of a modern bb.

    Yet I wonder why people are so much more forgiving about bassists using solidbody fretless?


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  3. #2

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    I gave up worrying about this years ago and just play an L-5 with set-in humbuckers through Acoustic Image amps. No one has complained about it in twenty years—in fact, quite the opposite.

    Danny W.

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Danny W.
    I gave up worrying about this years ago and just play an L-5 with set-in humbuckers through Acoustic Image amps. No one has complained about it in twenty years—in fact, quite the opposite.

    Danny W.
    I envy you Danny for getting the sound you like. The guys I play with are also always happy with my sound and playing. It's ME that's unsatisfied. I feel we guitarists definitely need two completely different setups for bb, one for that rhythm sound, and then one for the more high energy stuff. But why do the bassists get away with one compromise, and nobody seems to care including themselves?

  5. #4

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    Buddy Rich-wow.

  6. #5
    If i have the stuff to get a nice FG groove, then I can't do the other stuff. If I am doing more modern things, then I can't get that crispy acousticy-rhythm tone.

    And changing tunes throughout the night messes it all up, but why can the bass player get away with it on one axe? Not to mention the pianist on some kind of electric Nord or whatever? Nobody seems to care.
    Last edited by Woody Sound; 04-06-2021 at 02:00 PM.

  7. #6

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    In my college days I auditioned twice for a big band. Didn't make it the first time and they wouldn't let me be the water boy either. 2nd time, two year later, I got the chair, right place at the right time.

    I remember back then, the late seventies, if you didn't show up with a guitar that had f-holes on it you were making a bad first impression. More of an appearance thing than a sound issue I think. Roll off the volume and tone a bit on a solid body guitar and you have a fine sound for big band, imo.

    Les Paul's "Log":
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  8. #7

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    I once sat through a presentation by James Chirillo, the Lincoln Center big band guitarist. He does have an acoustic D'A clone but probably does most of his work on an L-5. He's written about this, and there's some videos on YouTube. What he spoke about was FG's style - not so much about tone. Perhaps there's a gold nugget or a few on tone as well, if you dive deeper into his social media presence.

    The guitarist has more than a comping role in a contemporary big band, and if he misses that four-note score on bar 121, the leader is not the only one to notice. If the music is modern, a solidbody could well fill the slot. But I think golden age swing calls for some authenticity. The old principle of being felt rather than heard still holds. A 17" archtop with acoustic qualities (Emperor Regent and up), strings higher than you'd normally have for lead and solo work, and the amp on low volume so you can get really physical and percussive with the strings. BTW, a little secret, at least in this country, is that when a big band goes to studio, the guitar is not the usual archtop but a flattop recorded separately, for that "fruity" acoustic timbre.

    This is coming from somebody with almost zero experience with big bands but a lot with various horn-rich ensembles on Classic Jazz camps. I hope our friend PCJazz will chime in, because I think he shares my view about how an upward-firing cab works in a big band setting.

    Edit: When I sat down to write this, there was just one reply. Now there's several, and some of my points are well covered.

  9. #8

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    Big Band Tone -  A Serious Conversation-dsc_0018-b-2018_08_24-00_11_34-utc-jpg

    This is what I use. If someone complains they can't hear me I say your playing too loud.


  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I envy you Danny for getting the sound you like. The guys I play with are also always happy with my sound and playing. It's ME that's unsatisfied. I feel we guitarists definitely need two completely different setups for bb, one for that rhythm sound, and then one for the more high energy stuff.
    In Tom Bruner's "How To Play Guitar In A Big Band" he says precisely that. He used a Johnny Smith and an ES-355 for his big band playing. That's all too much for me--in most venues I'm lucky to find room for one guitar.

    I think this sounds fine and is much easier for me to achieve than the acoustic solutions I've tried.



    Just for the record, our bandleader complains often about our bass player's tone and is always asking him for more treble, or "more acoustic" sound from his 5-string Tobias solidbody.


    Danny W.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    ... I wonder why people are so much more forgiving about bassists using solidbody fretless?
    Bassists who use solidbody fretless instruments in big bands are pussies and need to be beaten with a stick. Bandleaders who let them get away with it need to be beaten with two sticks. Listeners who can't tell the difference need to be ... well, you get the idea. NO SOUP FOR YOU, I say.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I envy you Danny for getting the sound you like. The guys I play with are also always happy with my sound and playing. It's ME that's unsatisfied. I feel we guitarists definitely need two completely different setups for bb, one for that rhythm sound, and then one for the more high energy stuff. But why do the bassists get away with one compromise, and nobody seems to care including themselves?
    Because they are bass players

  13. #12

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    I play in a big band which has a guitar chart on one tune that includes the notation "Not F.G.".

    The arranger is telling the guitarist not to play that section Freddie Green style.

    Talk about influence! Mr. Green was such an influential player that an arranger has to tell the guitarist not to play like him.

    As far a tone goes, this band is filled with experienced big band players and nobody has ever complained about my tone. Volume, the occasional screwed pooch on a tune, but never about tone. I use the Comins GCS-1 or the Yamaha Pacifica cheapie. Both work. The Yamaha has less in the low end, which actually may sit better in the mix.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I envy you Danny for getting the sound you like. The guys I play with are also always happy with my sound and playing. It's ME that's unsatisfied. I feel we guitarists definitely need two completely different setups for bb, one for that rhythm sound, and then one for the more high energy stuff. But why do the bassists get away with one compromise, and nobody seems to care including themselves?
    I beg to differ ! Most of the bassist I play with are very conscious of the sounds they are producing and they vary their playing style, technique (and if available the fx/amp-presets/channels etc.) , pickup choice and tone settings etc. accordingly. If the player was less experienced I have also made comments and suggestions in the past - not only re the bass but towards the drummer and and the keyboardist just the same. It's my firm belief that you must talk about these things as they are important issues in any band. As long as it doesn't get personal and the players are mature enough to consider a second thought/opinion and the experience of older colleagues then there shouldn't be a problem.

    Re the tone(s) we use while playing in a big band setting my experience over the past 44 years has been this :
    in a modern band that plays contemporary arrangements (plus several microphones, an electr. keyboard, mic'd drums etc.) a hollowbody guitar is very difficult to integrate into the overall sound. Amplification is difficult/complicated, feedback a constant worry, hearing oneself in all but the softest passages almost impossible - so from the start in my highschool stageband I used either an ES type guitar, my Suhr Strat or my Warmoth Tele. These and a long string of multi-FX pedals (starting out with a Boss ME-5 in the 90's to a Helix-Stomp today) have helped to make life much easier for me, the sound guys and my fellow musicians : I get heard with the proper volume and sound for the occasional solo (both with and without overdrive/FX) and the eq lets me dial in a very useable rhythm-tone that has enough "cut" to get through but doesn't get in the way.

    Should I be playing in a more traditionally oriented band (and have very few if any solos) then I'd opt for a small-ish acoustic archtop with a goose-neck mic (and/or a single coil floater) going into a small acoustic amp/monitor pointing towards me, sending a line signal to the house when needed. I once saw Natalie Cole in concert with the "Unforgettable" material and she was backed by a british/german bigband. The guitarist used - to my BIG surprise - a FLATTOP guitar ! He had a mic in front of it and might have had a pickup-signal too but I could not really see too much - the sound was absolutely ok and in a perfect blend with the rest of the rhythm section. The typical "chink" was all there ....

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I play in a big band which has a guitar chart on one tune that includes the notation "Not F.G.".
    I have seen that!

    I think my gripe is having to bring two full setups, carved top and acoustic amp for standard basie/nestico rhythm tone, then have to have a lam or semi and amp for more "Maynard-ish" things.

    THEN EVEN IF I BRING TWO SETUPS, ALL OF OF A SUDDEN IN THE MIDDLE OF MY ACOUSTIC RHYTHM GROOVE, THE LEADER YELLS, "GUITAR, TAKE IT!"

    And I want to scream FU.

    So how come the bass can get away with one inst and amp, the kb can get away with one inst and amp, but not the guitar.

  16. #15

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    Insist on a second guitarist.

  17. #16
    ps - And THEN after needing two different guitar setups, elec and acous, he says "Why do you need so much room?"

  18. #17

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    Seems you are not the problem. He is. But hey, have you tried a guitar (even a solidbody) with magnetic and piezo PU's? A long-time TOOB user (he's got five...) is doing wonders with such an axe. He's using two small stereo pairs, one for each PU, and mic'ing them for PA. Crowds up to a thousand. A small amp (BUD, one of mine?) mic'ed into the band's PA (and wedge monitors) would save precious space and help the rest hear you.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gitterbug
    I once sat through a presentation by James Chirillo, the Lincoln Center big band guitarist. He does have an acoustic D'A clone but probably does most of his work on an L-5. He's written about this, and there's some videos on YouTube. What he spoke about was FG's style - not so much about tone. Perhaps there's a gold nugget or a few on tone as well, if you dive deeper into his social media presence..
    I studied with James. Never saw him take out his Gibson. That Guild Artist Award that he has is a beaut of a guitar.

    The acoustic archtop was made custom for him by Carlo Greco. It is LOUD and clear as well.

    He even said that he has that Greco setup just to play big band. The Guild was for everything else.

    One day I complained about the action on my archtop. He said "that's almost as high up as my acoustic archtop, and it's like squashing golf balls to play single lines."

    He always dressed to the 9's for our lessons. Funny guy with a lot of stories. But ya better do your sight singing

    A month later, brought my guitar and found out that the truss rod sunk into the neck... nightmare

    I had a custom bridge built for my current Eastman AR803. The bridge is a solid piece of bone sandwiched in between two pieces of ebony. The tone screws thread through the bone. The bridge base is also ebony. Sounds cool. Does it work? Slightly

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I have seen that!

    I think my gripe is having to bring two full setups, carved top and acoustic amp for standard basie/nestico rhythm tone, then have to have a lam or semi and amp for more "Maynard-ish" things.

    THEN EVEN IF I BRING TWO SETUPS, ALL OF OF A SUDDEN IN THE MIDDLE OF MY ACOUSTIC RHYTHM GROOVE, THE LEADER YELLS, "GUITAR, TAKE IT!"

    And I want to scream FU.

    So how come the bass can get away with one inst and amp, the kb can get away with one inst and amp, but not the guitar.
    I play in a 19 piece band. PGBD rhythm section and 15 horns. Nuances of guitar tone? Not so much.

    That said, I do think they'd notice a guitar howling with feedback.

  21. #20

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    You know, Fender has made solid bodies for half a dozen decades that have multiple pickups providing different qualities of tone, with switches and knobs to dial in a wide range of sounds... just say'in.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gitterbug
    Insist on a second guitarist.
    An interesting point, I recall seeing a big band concert in a bandshell in a Paris park with an electric guitarist in the horn section and an acoustic guitarist in the rhythm section. Haven’t seen that on this side of the water.

    Thanks to Covid it’s been more than a year since I last performed or rehearsed with a big band. If memory serves, I found the “fountain of sound” from an upward-facing Toob ideal for rehearsals—the band could hear me at low volume for swing rhythm and I used a boost pedal or similar for solos. This worked exceptionally well with bands that rehearsed in a hollow square, when I could shove the speaker out into the centre of the room.

    In performance I might use the Toob facing frontwards or a larger amp and cabinet, depending on the room, with either an archtop or a solidbody. On the archtop I play rhythm with a pick, on the solidbody with fingers. For boosting the solos I like the Jr Barnyard with single coil or Rasmus’s polytone pedal with a humbucker. I haven’t had much joy with microphones on big band gigs but they can be fine in quieter settings.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcjazz
    An interesting point, I recall seeing a big band concert in a bandshell in a Paris park with an electric guitarist in the horn section and an acoustic guitarist in the rhythm section. Haven’t seen that on this side of the water.
    not the most novel idea ever


    Big Band Tone -  A Serious Conversation-freddiegcc-jpg

  24. #23

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    [BTW, Buddy fired that whole band -- starting with the bassist -- following that gig!]


  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    I have seen that!

    I think my gripe is having to bring two full setups, carved top and acoustic amp for standard basie/nestico rhythm tone, then have to have a lam or semi and amp for more "Maynard-ish" things.

    THEN EVEN IF I BRING TWO SETUPS, ALL OF OF A SUDDEN IN THE MIDDLE OF MY ACOUSTIC RHYTHM GROOVE, THE LEADER YELLS, "GUITAR, TAKE IT!"

    And I want to scream FU.

    So how come the bass can get away with one inst and amp, the kb can get away with one inst and amp, but not the guitar.
    Two setups not me ever. I play rhythm guitar in the rhythm section. If they want something else they can get somebody else.

    In our area big band guitarist are as rare as big bands.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Sound
    If i have the stuff to get a nice FG groove, then I can't do the other stuff. If I am doing more modern things, then I can't get that crispy acousticy-rhythm tone.

    And changing tunes throughout the night messes it all up, but why can the bass player get away with it on one axe? Not to mention the pianist on some kind of electric Nord or whatever? Nobody seems to care.
    Woody, you seem to have a mental rule that big band rhythm guitar has to sound like Freddie Green and other stuff has to sound different/modern. That seems to be the source of your problem rather than the actual sounds you're making. I suspect that everybody else in the band thinks of you exactly the same way as you're thinking of the keyboardist and bass player.

    Here's my thought: a two channel amp with different sounds dialed in on the channels and switch back-and-forth as needed. Or do what Jonathan Stout does and use a boost pedal to change the sound between more traditional comping and modern high energy playing.