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Big Time (Peter Gabriel) bass tone

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Ezmar, Jan 2, 2014.

  1. Ezmar

    Ezmar

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    So I posted about this a long time ago, probably almost a year, but I'm still searching for this. If you're familiar with the song, you know what I'm talking about, if not it can be found here and here, interestingly both at 0:34 in. It's got a slightly gritty sound, the jangly kind of grit you get from light overdrive, really fat, and a load of punch. It was made by the drummer, Jerry Marotta, playing the strings with drumsticks while Tony Levin, the Bass player, fingering the notes with his hand. I got a pair of funk fingers, and I've tried it with the funk fingers and with a drumstick, but that line is a monster to play cleanly as just one person.

    Regardless of my figuring out the technique and exact fingerings/notes, I can't seem to find a good tone for that sound. I don't expect much to come from this, but could anyone offer any advice in trying to get that tone? I'm running a compressor, which takes care of a lot of the beef and punch, but the tone color and growl is eluding me. Any advice on how to EQ my sound, what, if any, distortion/overdrive effects to use, how pickups factor in (I'm using a Fender Jazz, and favoring the neck pickup gets me closer), etc.

    I don't know if I can get any information on this, but I figure it couldn't hurt to ask. One problem I'm having is that I'm using the Zoom B3, which has been pretty disappointing in its distortion effects, they're very processed and sharp sounding, even the ones that are supposed to be subtler. This disappointed me, because my Zoom G2.1u Guitar pedal has fantastic distortion effects, and I got a wonderful vintage grit sound for bass, Chris Squire/Geddy Lee style, and was hoping the effects on the B3 would be of similar quality, but no dice. I didn't bring both pedals home with me, otherwise I might try running through both of them to use that grit sound, but that seems quite impractical, not to mention I'm not sure that running my sound through two digital processors would keep the sound particularly natural. But I digress.

    EQ is my main concern, since I'm not very well versed in EQing tone beyond taking each band and moving them up if it seems it adds to the sound and cutting if it sounds better lowered. Obviously I can't get the exact sound, but I feel like I should be able to get close, even without the 'proper' gear.
  2. sizzle

    sizzle sunn #91 Supporting Member

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    i would think the tone is in the attack and thus the technique
    id practice it to infinity and beyond to get it
  3. Swift713

    Swift713

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    My guess would be drumsticks on a Stingray through an Orange Squeezer comp into an Ampeg. He may have been using a Trace Elliot around that time.
  4. therhodeo

    therhodeo

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    Funk Fingers?
  5. mmbongo

    mmbongo Supporting Member

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    11
    Funk Fingers
    Chorus
    Octave
    Tony Levin
  6. Ezmar

    Ezmar

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    Cool, the only thing I'm missing from that set is the Octaver!

    Thanks!
  7. lowfreqgeek

    lowfreqgeek

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    Are you Tony Levin?
  8. Ezmar

    Ezmar

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    No, I just have a couple in the back room. You never know when it's gonna come in handy!
  9. lowfreqgeek

    lowfreqgeek

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    Kewl! I'd love to have some! Even one would be fine with me!
  10. HeebHammer70

    HeebHammer70

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  11. thedane

    thedane

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    I thought I read somewhere back then that the drumstick bass on BIG TIME was played by TWO people - Tony Levin fretting the bass and a drummer actually playing the rolls on the strings.
  12. huckleberry1

    huckleberry1 Supporting Member

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    Actually from what I saw, the bass player had something resembling Chinese handcuffs on each picking finger with small weighted bulbs on the end. I saw this when he played sledge hammer, but I don't know about his rig.
  13. lowfreqgeek

    lowfreqgeek

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    That's what gave him the idea for the Funk Fingers. He was trying to recreate the effect live and couldn't do it with one drum stick.
  14. Swift713

    Swift713

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    I didn't know that Funk a Fingers were available again. I may get a pair.
  15. lowfreqgeek

    lowfreqgeek

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    I made my own with an old set of drum sticks and some Velcro. They are easy to make with a hand saw and a belt sander. Just make sure the Velcro is wide enough - I tried some narrower straps and they were too unstable. Then I put some 1.5" wide straps on and it worked perfectly.
  16. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

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  17. Big John66

    Big John66

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    It seems like I read somewhere that Tony said he fretted the bass while Stewart Copeland played it with drumsticks, which lead to the invention of the funk fingers. But, my memory isn't what it used to be either.
  18. Big John66

    Big John66

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  19. winterburn69

    winterburn69

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    Great song. One of the very best songs of the '80s. I think you're kinda confusing Big Time with Sledgehammer. I'm not hearing any octave or chorus in Big Time. Apart from the drummed bass part, the rest is a synth bass. IMO the Boss SYB-5 works very well for doing the synth bass part.

    As for Sledgehammer, Tony has said a few times that it was a fretless Cutlass II, OC-2, compressor and a pick. No chorus there either.

    And for actually playing Big Time, I bought two sets of Funk Fingers, and in the paper you get with them they recommend playing an active bass, near the bridge with a compressor for best results. Quite honestly, it sounds like crap when I play the funk fingers part, but I also don't have an active bass or compressor, and maybe the notes I'm playing are incorrect too. So there's that too :/

    An EQ pedal and muting the strings not being played kinda helps IME.

    I also have a few of the So 25th anniversary tour recordings from 2012 and it doesn't sound very much like the album when Tony plays it live. I think it would be extremely hard to accurately reproduce the album sound, even with funk fingers.

    If any of you get some funk fingers, try Sleepless by King Crimson. That's alot of fun!
  20. winterburn69

    winterburn69

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    Idk about with Gabriel but there's pics of him using Ampeg with King Crimson in the '80s. I'm pretty he's pretty much always been an Ampeg guy.

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