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Bass tone gripe/rant

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bass Viking, Dec 12, 2004.

  1. The other night I saw a great local band. All were good musicians and their repertoire consists of alot of 70s material, stuff I grew up with. I've seen this band once before and this time I invited a few friends to check them out. They also enjoyed the show. The bass player was excellent. He was playing a 6-string Peavey Cirrus. I don't know what kind of amp he was going through.

    One thing bothered me though. He was getting this overly midrangey tone from his bass. I was talking with my buddy the next morning and he also agreed, the sound was just too "farty". Which brings me to my gripe: why do so many bass players not get a good sound out of their instruments? Other times, the bass is boomy or muddy and you can't tell what the guy is playing.

    Now to be fair, it's often the acoustics of the room or the sound system that are at fault. But I think alot of times the bass could do with some more high end, to cut through better. I suspect some players get the sound they want to hear on stage without regard to how it will sound out in the audience. Maybe the answer is to have somebody else play a few notes during soundcheck while the bassist goes out in the room to hear the result.

    Anyway, I just wanted to get it off my chest. Anyone with opinions feel free to chime in.
  2. i agree with you, the bass has got to be one of the hardest instruments to eq properly (or whatever you've got to do) to be able to hear in a large room. too much bass, and it'll get boomy...too much midrange, it'll get "farty"...too much treble, and it won't matter, because the other instruments will cover it up...at least in my experiences...i haven't tried DI yet, because my band doesn't have a PA system, so that could be somewhat of a help maybe...
  3. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    IME tone like many other things is a matter personal preference.. He may like that tone. I have a Cirrus and can get a lot of different tones out of it so I don't think it was by accident that he had that "farty" one.. I bet he was a finger player too, right? I use that sound sometimes. I use the term "burpy" though ;).
  4. pistoleroace


    Sep 13, 2002
    I think it's very tough to find out how your system work out front when you can't go there to see how it sounds. As far as having someone else play your bass during soundcheck, I don't agree because of two factors.
    1) There isn't anyone around that plays the same way I do and that makes a huge difference in tone.
    2) Depending on when you soundcheck, there may be more or less people in the room than when you are playing later which will change the acoustics of the room greatly.
  5. my experience from an audience perspective is most guys running the sound board totally screw the bass sound up. All I hear is mud and trebly sounds. Midrange cutting through would be a welcome relief. But what I hear playing and in the audience is too different things.
  6. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    Yep, this is one of my ideal tones...the farty one, but I don't call it that, lol
  7. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Agreed! But can't we just settle on one name, and just call our tones "gassy"? It's a nice blanket term so that both opposing camps can be united in one smelly, smelly nation.
  8. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    I can agree to this.. No point in making a "big stink" about it.. :D
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    As Mark said, it's possible the bassist is getting his tone and you simply don't happen to like it. Me, I prefer the traditional P-bass tone, but it seems most people these days are all about the bridge pickup. Or, perhaps the bassist is getting poor advice from his bandmates or soundman.

    Aside from that, I think you've come up with some valid answers to your own question. Room acoustics can be very difficult to work with. In fact, that variable changes depending on the location of the listener, the size of the crowd, and the volume of the band (which usually changes as the night goes on). Maybe the sound system is inferior, or not being operated correctly.
  10. I don't really care much for a soloed bridge pickup, it automatically makes me think of Jaco, and I want my own sound. IMO the bridge pickup sounds best together with a neck pickup, not counting Stingrays.

    Sometimes though, farty bridge tones are great.
  11. Yes, he played fingerstyle the whole first set, except for "Roundabout" on which he used a pick. And I'm sure the tone he had was coming from his instrument and deliberate. He may well have been using that sound to attempt to cut through. I didn't get a chance to talk to him and certainly never would have told him, "Great playing but your sound stinks" (no pun intended)

    True, it can be a matter of preference although my friend also commented that he didn't care for that tone, even before I mentioned it.
  12. wwittman


    Apr 21, 2004
    Westchester, NY
    Sometimes it's the player and his own tone from his set-up... but more often than not, I blame the sound guys.
    Most soundguys pride themselves on what they like to IMAGINE is their "great drum sound" or their "great guitar sounds".
    Bass guitar is almost always almost an afterthought.
    That's why I hate the 'stick any old DI on it and forget it' approach.
    For most guys, as long as they have SOMETHING, they think they have a bass sound.. whereas they'll spend an hour soundchecking drums.

    Most of the time when i go to see bands the bass sounds muddy and indistinct.. it's rare that it's too pointy.
    But either way, it's because no one cared to work on getting it better in the house.
  13. +1 I agree with you completely...I can't tell you how many times I've gone to see a band and bass sounded like he was playing inside a PILLOW!

    The BEST soundmen are bassists themselves :D

  14. Yes, chances are his sound on stage was just fine.
  15. HamOnTheCob

    HamOnTheCob Jacob Moore Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Cambridge, Ohio, USA
    Endorsing Artist for Warwick Basses, Mesa Engineering, Joyo Technology, Dr. J Pedals, and Levy's Leathers
    There do seem to be a number of bass players out there, though, who just have horrible tone and don't seem to care.

    ZZ Top played a festival show I was at this summer and the bass tone from their set was the absolute most horrible tone I've ever heard from a bass. Give me a Squier P and a Crate combo any day. LoL

    His tone was ridiculously muddy and thuddy, like his strings were thirty years old. Not to mention he's not a very good bass player, even after touring and recording a few decades.

    I've noticed that a lot of guys don't bother to buy good equipment, too. They'll play some korean P copy through a Crate head and some Hartke VX cabs and wonder why they can't get a good sound.

    ALSO!!! a lot of bass players would have fine tone, but ruin it by plugging their thousand dollar bass into a $50 multi-effect pedal. For over a year I used to use a Zoom 506 for a little chorus until I plugged into my amp dry one day and I couldn't believe how much better my tone was!!!
  16. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    I know personally a house system can absolutely destroy your tone. That was no more apparent than at a gig last weekend. Both the guitarist and I ended up sounding horrible in the mix as the guy tried to add tons of low. I run a cirrus through a mostly all ampeg rig, he ran me direct, I keep my stuff pretty flat, and so is my bass. I get a very bright even tone with just a hint of middy lows. On the video we go (and to my ears on stage) I was nothing but low end and boom. It sounded horrible. He did the same to the guitar which uses a rather lightly gained sound. He must have seen the younger metal lookin' guys and thought that's the sound we'd like, but that couldn't be farther than the truth. We're both tone-heads and don't try to sound metal at all.

  17. eqvolvorama

    eqvolvorama Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2000
    Arlington, Virginia
    About a year ago my band decided to buy our own PA system, including a snake, mixing board, and monitors, and carry them around with us from gig to gig. This was expensive, and is a lot to carry around, but it at least helps us keep our sound SOMEWHAT consistant. What I will say is that even with the same bass, signal chain, speakers, monitors, and mixer settings, the bass sound can DRAMATICALLY change venue to venue. The influence of the walls, ceilings, people is undeniable.

    There are some rooms that swallow the sound up to the point that anything more than a midrangy, amorphous, muddy bass sound would either overdrive our subwoofers or bully out the sound of the keyboard or guitar. Even if Marcus Miller used our gear in these rooms, he'd have to sound like James Jamerson. And this is through our QSC PLX power amps, driving over 2000 watts.

    In the course of owning our own PA, we've also run sound for a bunch of other bands. Sometimes, some basses just refuse to sound good over the PA, no matter how boutique they are or how we mess with the mix. I've seen another band's bass player play with an absolutely gorgeous Fodera 6-string that REFUSED to sound clear no matter what we, or the player, did. I've also seen guys go out with Rogue P-Bass clones that manage to sound punchy and distinct. It's just strange.

    I don't like it, but I've started to accept crappy bass tone as a fact of life in some live settings. At least with our own rig, we know that we're TRYING to get the best bass (and piano, for that matter) sounds that we can.
  18. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Yes, there is no denying that different (acoustically) rooms, will alter even a usually killer tone.

    The biggest problem for us bass players is that the low frequencies produce bigger and longer soundwaves and you just can't change physics. They are what they are. Trying to control those waves is and always will be a problem...even with the best gear money can buy.

    The only way one could ever be satisfied with the tone would be to set up in an ideal room, setup your tone exactly how you like it and replicate it through the PA and then never play anywhere else.

    Aside from that, us bass players will always be messing with our sound everywhere we play. Add to that...every musician has their own idea as to what sounds good, so everyone will not be happy with the sound everywhere you play, all the time. The trick is to get it as close as you can given the limitations placed on us and live with it.
  19. Fealach

    Fealach Guest

    Apr 23, 2003
    Gone to a better place
    His tone may have been farty, but at least you could HEAR the bass to tell his tone was farty. Seen more shows than I can count, in venues from clubs to arenas, where it seemed the bass wasn't even plugged in. I used to go to shows when the band had a bass player I liked, but I've learned all that's really important is if I like the drummer. Or more specifically his kick drum foot.
  20. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Did you see his cab? Was it 10's or 15's?