Bob Lee W/ Piccolo Bass

My Midi Bass has a cherry, wenge & Purpleheart body that was made by Mike Tobias. I used a Kramer 2 octave aluminum neck with 30" scale. The Pickup is a humbucking Bartolini and a Rex Bogue preamp for the Analog signal.

I have a 4 string quad pickup, made by Shadow, for my piccolo midi output. This is fed into the Shadow BTM (Bass to Midi) converter through a multiplexing unit attached to the bass. The connection is made with a stereo guitar cable with Stereo phone plugs on each end. It is my guess that most companies have given up doing pitch to volt midi bass for regular pitched bass. Axon may be a notable exception. The guy who originally designed the Shadow system works for Axon. They use a pickup that will work on regular 4 string as well as 5 and 6 string bass controllers. I tried it at the recent NAMM show (winter 1998). I have not seen it yet but, there is a new Yamaha B1D pickup/G50 Midi conversion unit that has promising possibilities in that they make it for 6 string basses. As stated earlier, other companies have given up on pitch to voltage midi bass and may not currently making a 4 string midi pickup, much less one for 5 and 6 string basses. At one time (like when I got mine, 1986-87), all the midi guitar manufacturers (Shadow, Roland, Casio, and others) thought "We can make a midi bass" so, they tried.

I believe most of the original patents belong to a German company (Shadow Electronics). The problem was it was not received well in the marketplace because of the long delay time it took the computer to figure out the note being played was a low "E" (for example) and send the correct midi stream to the synthisizer (the lower the frequency, the longer the delay). The low "E" on a bass is 42 hz. It never developed beyond that limitation. The new Axon has what they call a neural network and it learns how you play over time and can respond to those nuances. If you mention a midi bass to most of the manufacturers that make midi guitars, They say it can't be done (or rather they can't sell it). Those exceptions (most notably Peavey) that still make a midi bass controller, do it with fret switching (Peavey) or sonography (like sonar using a laser). They are also aimed at the live performer.

I tried to forward my concept of midi piccolo bass soon after midi guitars started appearing on the scene. Piccolo bass is the same frequency as guitar and could get every bit as good performance as a midi guitar using "pitch to voltage".

There seems to be the common misconception in manufacturing community that, a bass midi controller has to have fat strings and low pitch to be considered by players as feeling like a "bass".

I feel that it is the spacing between the strings which can allow for conventional bass techniques that makes a controller feel more bass-like rather than guitar-like. Being limited to fat standard pitched strings also presumes that "bass" is the only role someone playing a midi bass controller would be filling. I write chords, strings and horns, and want to use a controller to write those parts too. Having regular low pitch makes voicing chords harder while making a synth note in general more complicated technically. I would love to work with a company to develope my ideas about bass controllers but, nobody has approached me and I have not been able to get a company to support the idea.

To be able to play a synth bass part in performance is one issue but to allow the bass player to use the computer and synthisizers to realize music that starts with him and is seen to complete musical expression... That is what I want to see become common place.
Example of my use of the MIDIBASS:

Soul Mates (Mark Schmidt-Bob Lee) midi bassline done on midi bass controller

Namm2 (Bob Lee) All parts played with Midi Bass

I have gotten into midi in a big way as far as composing and producing. I realize the difference between keyboard bass and bass played on a variety of different basses (upright, electric fretted, fretless, 4 vs. 5 vs. 6 string) and for me, they all have their place.

My problem is with the idiosyncracies (sp) of the different controllers. Even today it is real challange to get a keyboard bass to sound like a electric bass (articulation wise). Then there is the fact that most keyboard bass cannot recreate a electric bass line any easier than the bassist trying to "cop" a keyboard riff. This is because of things that we do as bass players that the keyboard guys don't take into consideration:

Passing tones, we use notes that are not in the chord as passing tones to get to the next chord tone and sometimes they are not even played as pitches(ghost notes and deadened notes). While this seems like a fairly straight forward concept, most keyboard guys don't take into consideration that a large amount of our passing tones hit at least briefly on E, A , D, or G because of the open strings. It really doesn't matter what key we are in they always seem to be there and we make them work depending on our individual talent and experience. James Jamesrson made this an art form.

Keyboardist tend to use chord tones as passing tones (play A#, instead of A). I must admit it is sometimes a pain when a keyboard (or horn) guy writes out this 'hot' bass line but, have no concept of how the instrument is played in the real world. They also seem to use the same type of passing tone all over the place where as a good bassist will use a variety of different passing tones to spice up his lines (half step, whole step, IV-I, V-I, chromatic, diatonic, b5 or tritone sub,) These statements are not intended to say one is better than the other, just different. I almost never use key controllers to put bass lines in my compositions. I don't play keys too well (I wish I did) and I can get my ideas down with the midi bass much easier. I find people who listen to my music don't believe that it is sequenced bass (I still use the keyboard voices but, with the midi bass controller). I very often use the midi bass to articulate chords and single lines in my compositions. The chords made on my midi controller do not sound like keybaord chords (I usually end up with the third on top). Keys would atriculate the chord in a different manner (more traditional). I will often do a string ensemble one string at a time so the resultant group sounds like seperate players
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