The Upright Bass Players Union is one of the few reasons I keep a Facebook account. It’s an awesome group of working class rockabilly and honky tonk players who share tips and talk a lot of shit. Amplifying the double bass isn’t easy, so it is incredibly helpful to see such a diverse range of rigs and setups. I think I have some pretty unique things going on in my rig, so I thought I should share it with the group. I like to own my mojo, though, so I’m posting it here as well.
Not much has changed in the past few years. My main bass is a 1961 King Moretone. It’s about a ⅞ scale, but has really slim upper and lower bouts. The neck is also thinner than many other basses of this scale which suits my tiny hands very well. The longer scale also helps the instrument project well. I play lots of un-amplified bluegrass, and getting as much volume as possible out of a plywood bass is very important to me.
I use gut strings. Lenzner Supersolos are my current favorites. They are very expensive (about $350/set), but they do last a long time when properly cared for. I oil them with extra virgin olive oil, grown and pressed right here in Yolo County, California. I use a wound E string.
My amp is a custom Mesa Walkabout Scout, covered in “Wine Taurus” vinyl with a “Cream Tan Jute” grille cloth, and tan leather handle and corners. It’s a 300 watt combo amp with a 15ʺ woofer and a tweeter. It’s a little unwieldily to schlep around, but I have gotten so many compliments on my tone that I am very reluctant to switch to something more manageable. A 15ʺ woofer can be pretty boomy for double bass. Most players opt for smaller speakers to keep things clear and punchy. The Walkabout has a nice 3-band parametric EQ section, though. It’s actually pretty easy to pull out the frequencies you don’t want.
My pickup and preamp are where my setup is a little bit different. I hate having things on my bass. I want my bass to behave as naturally as possible, and hanging preamps, pickups and cables off of it only gets in the way.
I use a K&K Bass Master Rockabilly PLUS (an older version that this). It has a two-element pickup: one for the bridge and one for the fingerboard (the clicky). The preamp has three outputs, one for the bridge, one for the clicky, and a blend. I use the blended output and run into the -20dB input of my amp.
Most players with a clicky setup like this mount the preamp to their tailpiece, and run a short TRS patch cable from the pickup output to the preamp and one or two regular TS cables to their amp(s). Some even use a wireless system. I go the opposite rout. I prefer keeping my preamp on top of my amp and running a 20 foot TRS cable from my bass to the preamp and a short TS patch to my amp. This way the only thing hanging off my bass is my pickup, and a cable.
Finally, my one last cool trick: I tuck a tan-colored ear plug around the clicky cable going through my bridge to keep it from bumping around. The cable is a pickup too. The color sort of looks a little gross, but blends in pretty well with my bridge.