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A bass philosophy question.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Benjamin Strange, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    It's occured to me that I've really only owned two basses for any appreciable time I've been playing. I played a Peavey BQuad for about 7 years, and I've been playing my Steinberger now for about 3-4 years. I've also noticed that I seem to have a distinct tone that's different from many other people. Now, I've started thinking: does my tone suck?

    Could it be that my relative inexperience with the basic building blocks of tone (P-bass, J-bass, Stingray, etc.) have left me with a shallow knowledge of what actually sounds good? I think I have a good tone now, but without having any basis of comparison, how do I really know for sure? I guess what started me on this train of thought was that at the last TB GTG in Dallas, I heard a ton of different basses, all through pretty much the same amp. When it came to my turn to plug in my bass, it sounded wildly different than everybody else's bass: really bright and harsh. I think it sounds good through my rather unorthodox rig, but through something else it was just bad. Maybe I'm overcompensating a bad sound with the amp. Hmm... or perhaps I'm just on to something wonderfully different.

    I thought that this situation could apply to us bassists at large. Is it good to own or have owned the basic basses that are known to be building building blocks of what we know as good tone, or is it better to forage into the unknown, possibly achieving a horrible tone with not being aware of it? Is comparing tone essential to acheiving a good personal sound? Should one start with a tone that is known to be good and then progress from there, or start from scratch?
  2. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    First of all, no, your tonal wang is fine.

    Secondly, if it sounds good, it is good. Hell, people listened to Creed, didn't they?
  3. Your the dude with all that mesa stuff so I'm sure your live tone sounds decent. Give us a sound clip w/o effects and not too much OD and I will tell you. Just play a walking riff or something in the low, middle and upper registers.
  4. Get a J bass for more possible tones.
  5. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    You arn't supposed to care what other people think....what kind of hippy are you anyway?
  6. Aaaah bass philosophy.

    I ask you, if a bass falls in the woods, does it make a sound? :rolleyes:
  7. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Personally, I thought the tone you had in the clips you posted of your band was fantastic. Seriously, the biggest, yet still defined tone I've ever heard. It was like a wrecking ball! I love it.
  8. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    If a tree falls in the woods, will it be a bass, or a guitar?
  9. If it was just showing off to the other trees, then I would say guitar. :p
  10. so your issues w/ your tone are related to a situation where you weren't playing through your own rig? That doesn't really sound like you have much of a problem. I don't see why you would need to have played p,j,stingray to have good tone. These basses fill their respective niches well, if that makes sense, but that doesn't mean you should require experience w/ playing w/ all three. Maybe if you had never heard them at all, but I'm assuming you have. If you're used to playing through a crazy rig, though, you shouldn't worry about your tone otherwise. That would be like a fish sayin' "bloime, oi cain't walk on de' ground 'er." :)

    and you can quote me on that last part
  11. lyle

    lyle Guest

    Jan 10, 2004
    Vernon, B.C. Canada
    if it sounds good to you then who cares about everybody else. dont go changing your tone because some one doesnt like it.
  12. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Well, see this is part of the problem. We had a bitch of a time trying to record my bass. It didn't naturally have the balls that the previous bass track that I was replacing, which was recorded with a cheap Ibanez. I think my sound through my rig is great, but once the rig is taken out of the equation (for direct recording and direct live feeds and such), I fear that my bass may not sound too good, compared with a more "standard" bass.

    I was posting this not so much to hang my dirty laundry out in front of everbody, but to honestly see if people felt a need to really experience classic tones before they felt comfortable seeking out a different bass. I've been involved in the music retail industry for close to 10 years now, and I don't think I've ever encountered somebody telling me this is how they were doing things. I was curious to see how people go about making bass purchases, and how they hear tone - in a vacuum, or as a comparative process. Thoughts?
  13. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    If you can hear tone in a vacuum, more power to you.

    Personally I think it must be a comparative process. Remember back to the time when you tried your first bass (probably some $100 POS through a 20watt practice amp) and throught it sounded like you'd conjured the devil riding a tyranosaurus? Then you went to the amp room and heard someone slapping the bjesus out of a stingray through a GK 800RB and realised that you were playing the bass equivalent of caffine free diet coke.

    Ultimately, you imagine a tone in your head and when you play, what you hear coming of your speakers either matches that or doesnt. When I go to slap I hear Marcus Miller's tone - if mine doesnt match that I try to adjust my tone to get close to that sound. If what you hear in your head isnt being matched by your bass directly, perhaps you need to look at different recording techiques (ie a BDDI or a Palmer or something).
  14. It really depends on whether you even want to venture into "familiar" territory. If you pick up a P bass, for example, your band may encourage you to keep it because they like the tone. However it might not suit your style. In that case I don't think a traditional sounding bass would be a good choice. Good tone is obviously very subjective, and by getting a Fender or Stringray you might just be prohibiting yourself from expressing yourself with YOUR tone. What I'm saying is, you might end up prefering the traditional tone and keep on using it. However, you no longer have that different tone and you might give up on it altogether. Next week you might be playing blues covers at some bar and give up prog altogether! Kind of dumb, but you know what I'm getting at. I think tone has an influence on what you play, and if you have a tone that cuts through you will tend to play more than just the roots. In my experience, anyways. By getting a warm P-bass you might be compelled to simply hold the groove and limit your own creativity. Do your own thing and let everything fall into place. You seem like a creative, experimental guy. You should judge what you think sounds good and not necessarily use a widespread, established tone. Unless of course your tone really doesn't suit the song. Obviously that should be high on the priority list.
  15. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    If a man says something out in the woods when there are no women around, is he still wrong?
  16. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA

    maybe or maybe not, but it's owner certainly does...

    *weep* :crying:
  17. r379


    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Just my personal opinion, but I don't think that playing more "traditional" sounding basses limits creativity.There is creativity to be found in the groove. If, Benjamin, you decide to pick up a Fender of some type and you like what you get from it, then it is "your tone". More traditional tone IS bass when I remember that, as a bassist, my job is to hold down the bottom first and foremost. To me, being a bassist means being a sideman and being part of the rhythm section and not a soloist. Just an old, "traditional" guys opinion.

    This may get me labelled as a radical these days...oh, well.
  18. But if a woman walks in the woods does that give her the right to say something ?
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've been saying this for 5 or 6 years on Talkbass - where have you been!! ?? ;)

    Honestly, I thought everybody round here was saying this - i.e. that you should try as many different basses as possible - i give you Brad Johnson!! :)

    Besides it's great fun to go to shops and try all the basses!

    I must have literally tried hundreds of different basses over the last 20 or 30 years - although before the last 5 or 6, there weren't as many about. But I think TB did turn me on to the idea of how a "boutique" bass can make a difference to your playing and tone. But having seached through all the different types and deciding what I liked and didn't - I'm not that interested in gear anymore and am happy with one bass, as long as I know it's a good one.
  20. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    So true!