Most electric bass guitars use magnetic pickups. The vibrations of the instrument's ferrous metal strings within the magnetic field of the permanent magnets in magnetic pickups produce small variations in the magnetic flux threading the coils of the pickups. This in turn produces small electrical voltages in the coils. Many bass players connect the signal from the bass guitar's pickups to a bass amplifier and loudspeaker using a 1/4" patch cord. These low-level signals are then strengthened by the bass amp's preamplifier electronic circuits, and then amplified with the bass amp's power amplifier and played through one or more speaker(s) in a cabinet.
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I brought in several other pianists for our test panel. Liz Kinnon is a pianist/arranger/composer/educator from Los Angeles who has performed with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Andy Williams. She was an orchestrator on the animated shows Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Histeria. At the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles, she teaches jazz piano and is the Director of Adult Jazz Combos. She was Ryan Gosling’s piano coach for La La Land and recently worked with Simon Pegg and Juno Temple for the film Lost Transmissions.
Keyboards, on the other hand, were designed to produce a much wider range of sounds than traditional pianos. Though they are sometimes good options for beginners, the range of available features on a keyboard make them more appropriate for intermediate to advanced musicians who are interested and capable of developing their own sound. It’s uncommon for such musicians to use a keyboard to create the same sounds that a traditional piano would make. Keyboards are usually much lighter than digital pianos, and they often do not have weighted keys. In short, keyboards are designed to be used by musicians and producers with more experience. Keyboards are often much lighter than digital pianos and have tones which number in the hundreds and sometimes thousands. They include a lot of technical options to allow the player to fully customize their sound.
The string can be plucked (or picked) at any point between the bridge and the point where the fretting hand is holding down the string on the fingerboard; different timbres (tones) are produced depending on where along the string it is plucked. When plucked closer to the bridge, the string's harmonics are more pronounced, giving a brighter tone. Closer to the middle of the string, these harmonics are less pronounced, giving a more mellow, darker tone.
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"Jazz" pickups (referring to the original Fender Jazz Bass), also referred to as "J pickups", are wider eight-pole pickups that lie underneath all four strings. J pickups are typically single-coil designs, though there are a large number of humbucking designs. Traditionally, two of them are used, one of them near the bridge and another closer to the neck. As with the halves of P-pickups, the J-pickups are reverse-wound with reverse magnetic polarity. As a result, they have hum canceling properties when used at the same volume, with hum cancellation decreasing when the pickups are at unequal volume, and absent if the player uses only one pickup. 'J' Style pickups tend to have a lower output and a thinner sound than 'P' Style pickups. Many bassists combine a 'J' pickup at the bridge and a 'P' pickup at the neck, so they can blend the two sounds.
An acoustic piano produces reverberation in its soundboard and in the room where it is played. Digital pianos often have a feature to electronically simulate reverberation as well. Other digital pianos may have additional reverberation options such as a "stage simulation." Some also have chorus, tremolo, and phaser effects, all of which are generated by digital signal processing.
Drummers using electronic drums, drum machines, or hybrid acoustic-electric kits (which blend traditional acoustic drums and cymbals with electronic pads) typically use a monitor speaker, keyboard amplifier or even a small PA system to hear the electronic drum sounds. Even a drummer playing entirely acoustic drums may use a monitor speaker to hear her drums, especially if she is playing in a loud rock or metal band, where there is substantial onstage volume from huge, powerful guitar stacks. Since the drum kit uses the deep bass drum, drummers are often given a large speaker cabinet with a 15" subwoofer to help them monitor their bass drum sound (along with a full-range monitor speaker to hear the rest of their kit). Some sound engineers and drummers prefer to use an electronic vibration system, colloquially known as a "butt shaker" or "throne thumper" to monitor the bass drum, because this lowers the stage volume. With a "butt shaker", the "thump" of each bass drum strike causes a vibration in the drum stool; this way the drummer feels their beat on the posterior, rather than hears it.
Once the basic parameters were established, I reached out to colleagues who are piano teachers or musical directors to get a sense of what models were in highest rotation in the professional world. I also played several models at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show in January. From there I searched through Amazon, Musician’s Friend, and Sweetwater for available models, then cross-checked that information with manufacturer websites and added anything that was missing. After considering all that information, I decided to limit the price to $500. That was high enough to include several quality-built keyboards that met all (or most) of the criteria without being too pricey. This gave me a list of 21 models from nine different companies.