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Bass sound on Gabriel's Big Time

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Ezmar, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    So this might not be the right place for this, but I thought I'd put it here. As usual, mods can feel free to move this.

    I'll add a link later if you want, I'm on mobile now, but in Peter Gabriel's Big Time, there's a section right before the first verse, it's slapped, it's got a really deep, fruity growl, and a little more "overdrive" than "J-bass growl". It sounds almost exactly like Claypool's Antipop tone.

    Anyway, my question is what would help me get that tone? I'll obviously experiment on my own, but I thought maybe I could save myself a bit of grief by asking you folks.
  2. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    I heard they used drumsticks on the bass strings for Big Time. By the sound, I believe it.
  3. preside


    Aug 7, 2010
    Scottsdale Az
    Look Up Funk Fingers By Tony Levin. it also sounds a bit like an octave pedal if memory serves me right
  4. Yes, originally drummer Jerry Marotta drummed on the bass strings while Tony Levin played them. Later, Tony developed "funk fingers"--drumsticks attached to his fingers--to replicate the sound. See http://www.papabear.com/pbtlff.htm
  5. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    That's pretty neat, I might have to take a look at those. Although they don't look like they'd bee too convenient in a live performance setting, if you just needed them for part of a song. :p

    But as far as the tone goes, is it going to be mostly the EQ, or is there something I could do effects-wise that will give that aggressive-yet-deep sound?
  6. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    And one drumstick , I think he used the stick near the bridge.
  7. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    If I remember correctly, there was also some doubling/tripling of parts with other instruments going on.
  8. LaBassGuy

    LaBassGuy Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    I saw PG at Hollywood bowl in October. And if I remember correctly, Levin used a synth for the entire song. But he did use the sticks in other songs--like secret world.

  9. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan. Supporting Member

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    I saw them during the original So tour, on that song TL played a silver fretless Music Man (no surprise there), no drumstick that I could see, and played the synth bass on a DX. I don't think the funky fingers were developed at the time, they came a few years later.

    Great show BTW, very memorable. Mercy Street was very chilling.
  10. This would have been many, many years ago so my memory could be flawed but I'm pretty sure I saw Big Time performed on SNL and it seemed like he had what looked like aluminum tubes on 2 of his fingers that looked to be about 5" long.
  11. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    QFT, it's important to note that Gabriel's recordings from this period are like 50 tracks deep, with each "instrument" being a mix of many sounds.

    To the OP, I really don't think EQ will do much to get you there. Maybe an octave pedal, maybe some compression (like a parallel setup with uncompressed and heavily squeezed channels mixed together), maybe a synth pedal. And try making your own Funk Fingers. :)
  12. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Yeah, my goal isn't to duplicate the recording sound, I'm hoping I can play a live cover version of it, and I just want to get more of that tone, more because of the feel it has. I'm playing the rest of the song with regular fingerstyle. I'll probably use some compression, a bit of crunch, and try EQing the sound. I'm using a Zoom G2.1u, which I got when I was playing more guitar, but it works for bass, as well. I'm finding especially the "Marshall Crunch" setting, adding the crunch at the higher guitar frequencies, making for a great Geddy or Squire tone.

    I'll fiddle around with it. I don't suppose you guys know of anything that could be done about the drum sound short of using electronic drums? We'll probably have to re-imagine a Rock/Funk version of the song.
  13. Swift713


    Dec 4, 2006
    Florence, Ma
    I'm pretty sure there was an earlier credit of drumstick bass on one of Gabriel's first two eponymous albums.
  14. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    ^^^This. It's perhaps worth noting that Jerry & Tony developed a drummed bassline for the entire tune -- and presumably there's a rough mix somewhere in Gabriel's archives that has that bassline throughout -- but subsequently during the production process 90% of that part was deleted in favor of the keyboard synth-bass that's heard on the final mix. iow, that four-bar drumstick bass solo that you hear in the original studio recording of "Big Time" is just a tiny fraction of the part that Jerry & Tony originally played.

    It's definitely not on the 2nd album, and I was always under the impression, based on the hubbub surrounding its implimentation (see above) that "Big Time" was the first appearance.
  15. blueacid4l

    blueacid4l Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2006
    Yeah, this is the story I heard as well.

  16. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    I absolutely love this song. The instrumentation is so rich. For playing the synth-bass, an octave works pretty well as long as it tracks that low a chorus (alone, or with the octave) also sounds good IMO. If you don't have any funk fingers, you could make some, or improvise. Personally, I use AA batteries attached to my fingers with hair elastics. Slapping sounds similar to the funk fingers and could be used as a substitute. It's what I usually do when I play it, pulling out batteries and elastics is annoying.

    For the last several tours, Tony has played Big Time on a synth (Nord Lead, IIRC) but still uses a bass with funk fingers for the drummed bass part (there's videos on YouTube). But to answer the OP, the part was originally done by Jerry & Tony, with the drumstick bass. Funk fingers or a substitute can get you there.