Bass sounds on the opera

Discussion in 'Ask Mike Watt [Archived]' started by slinkp, Sep 21, 2003.

  1. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
    Hi Watt,

    "Contemplating the Engine Room" has some of my favorite recorded bass tones. The opening notes are so tasty. I like the sound of that blue Thunderbird. I'm planning to build a somewhat Thunderbird-ish bass for myself. So I wondered if you could tell me:

    1) Did you use any other basses besides the Thunderbird?

    2) Does the thunderbird still have the original pickup? If so, do you know of any other pickups that sound similar, since I probably won't be able to find a real Gibson one?

    3) On the Thunderbird, how much of a difference does the Bartolini preamp / EQ make? Does it just give you different options, or does it inherently change the basic character of the bass?

    4) Did you only use the DI signal, or was there a mic on the amp too?

    5) I notice a lot of your basses, like the "purple plower", have Bartolini pickups. I might go with Bartolinis but they all come in "deep" and "bright" varieties, and when I play basses with bartolinis in stores, the salespeople never know exactly what's in them - so, which do you use?

  2. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
    Responding to one of my own questions: apparently Watt's "bluey" has a Chandler replica of the original T-bird pickup. And according to Watt, the Gibson reissues don't sound the same at all.

    I stumbled onto this while searching usenet (google groups) for t-bird pickup options. I found a post with a familiar-sounding spiel style... hmmm, is this watt? clicked on a few more links to verify... yep it's watt!

    here's the thread (watt is "bisojo"):

    In another thread, watt reports that the old thunderbird pickups are not single-coil as sometimes stated; they are in fact humbuckers.

    The rest of my questions are still open :)
  3. watt

    watt TalkBass Pro Supporting Member


    the blue one ( does have a chandler and they have more high end than an original t-bird pickup from that kind of a bass but aren't too much different sounding. yes, both the chandler and the original pickups are humbuckers.

    on some of the other tracks on that album ("contemplating the engine room"), I used a brown t-bird IV which was similar to the blue one (a non-reverse gibson t-bird from the 60s) but had two pickups instead of one. I think I used the brown one on "liberty calls!" besides some others but it's hard for me to remember which used which. I think you're right about using the blue one on the first track. I think both the pickups on the brown one were chandlers. both basses had the bartolini eq that uses one 9 volt battery and has bass, mid and treble eq controls (w/adjustable mid frequency). on both of them, I had to move the bridge so they both could have better intonation higher up on the neck (had to move them closer to the neck).

    the original pickup for the blue thunderbird is in the bridge position of a 1957 fender p-bass that I have. there's a chandler t-bird pickup in the neck position, replacing the fender's original one. (see it here: I don't know what pickups sound similar and besides, there's other things that one has to take in account for a bass' sound (wood, contruction, bridge, etc.). the preamp definitely makes a difference too.

    I recorded both the direct signal out of the bass and the amplified sound from a eden wt-800 amp through an eden d410xlt cabinet and blended them in the mix.

    as for the purple plower, I'm changing the bartolini bb4c pickups to bb4t (split coil) cuz the ones I have now are way too deep for my sound. I need more honk, growl and snarl.

    hope this all helps. remember to try and find your own sound too.

    on bass, watt

  4. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
    thanks much for the info. It does help!

    Believe me, I have no intention of trying to clone yoru sound... I sound like myself :)
    I just wanted some points of reference for your sound which has some characteristics I really like.

    here's some photoshop-style concept "sketches" of the bass i'm making:



    So far all I've got is a bridge and 1 1976 t-bird pickup that I scored on Ebay. The rest is still up in the air. Hope to have it done in a few months.
    I'm documenting the project as I go along at