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RE: midi'd bass (was Roland VG8)

Title: RE: midi'd bass (was Roland VG8)

>>Be mindful that there's only so much you can do with pitch extraction from a vibrating string.......A smart person explained all this to me many moons ago, and he'd calculated that for an open low E on a guitar you were looking at something between 20 - 30 ms, simply due to the period of the string's vibration. One of these days I'll find the article he was trying to refer me to.<<

tony, all- I wonder if you're thinking of one of the interviews with steve chick, who developed what became peavey's midibase (sic), later cyberbass.

I have one of these.... interesting.... instruments. steve figured out the midi tracking problem (he is a proper physicist) & elected to deal with it by splitting each of the bass's frets into four discreet segments, thus allowing the strings & the frets to act as a switch matrix. took the idea to valley arts & also licensed it to WAL.

later (post-valley-arts) developments to this basic approach included pickups in the bridge saddles to measure the dynamics (& which would be processed into midi velocity or w.h.y.) & strain gauges for each string to allow pitch-bend (again, which could be turned into something else once in midi-land).

well.... I'd loved to have got hold of one of the valley-arts retrofit systems to put onto a better bass. a couple of my 70s precisions could use new fingerboards anyway..... there were systems fitted to WAL basses too, but eventually the licensing deal went to hartley & co.

most of the web reviews complain about the standard of the bass, whilst praising the basic idea & wondering where it all went wrong for this technique. probably not enough demand for being able to play the flute using a bass guitar, I'd say.

my own experience, fwiw, is that while the bass is nice enough to play, it is essentially characterless. I have any number of vintage fenders, rickenbackers & ibanez so I'm a bit spoiled in that regard; I'm used to the bass having a nice voice of it's own.

but when it comes to driving midi gear using the peavey.... it's pretty good. I have used roland systems on strats & on a fender VI with mixed results.. the peavey lets you play stuff without any tracking delays, for sure, & you get the responsiveness of a "real" instrument with anything you care to patch it into. this in itself takes some getting used to, after always playing ahead of the beat on the roland system. in that sense it's more like the line6 variax.

BUT you have to keep the frets & the strings extremely clean. the operation of the various setup & performance menus is weird, to say the least, because it's all been crammed into the bass; it occupies a four-digit LED display in the upper bout, selections being made using a small two-way toggle switch & the string/fret switching. I keep a bag of the appropriately named "goddard's silver dip" cloths in the case for wipedown purposes.

I have extracted some fun from the instrument using it to trigger guitar figures (pre-programmed arpeggios) while I muck about with a walking bassline which is itself driving a stand-up bass sample. but I couldn't see myself using it to play, say, a french horn part or to replace any aspect of my iffy keyboard chops. the novelty wore off very quickly. & on stage? risky. I'm going to see if flatwounds improve matters before I try it out.

ymmv, as they say in small print at the end of car adverts.

so for my money, I'm better off with a nice selection of "normal" basses & some interesting stompboxes (like the alesis bass-fx). I like the variax bass too, & could be springing for one of them soon.