Can't get that Steve Harris tone!

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by SeismicAssault, Mar 20, 2011.

  1. I've got Steve Harris tone on songs like Wrathchild and Running Free in my head, and no matter what I try, I can't seem to get that tone. I'm not sure if it's my bass, amp, strings, technique, eq'ing or what, but I just can't seem to find it.

    Right now I'm playing a EBMM Stingray 4 with Ernie Ball .45-.100's nickel roundwounds on it, with a fairly standard setup. I play through a Mesa Boogie Walkabout Scout 12" with no effects. I under stand that Steve bangs the strings off the fretboard to get that klank sound, but I can't seem to get that nice round piano-like tone underneath. Everything I seem to play sounds "pillowy" ... kind of soft and muted.

    Is it my bass and amp can't get me that sound, or am I just not using the right technique?

    Here's just a refresher of the tone I'm trying to get:

    YouTube - Iron Maiden - Wrathchild

    YouTube - Iron Maiden - Running Free Live Donington 1992 [With Adrian Smith]
  2. FenderBassist

    FenderBassist & The Trusty P Bass Supporting Member

    I'm not an expert on Steve Harris, though I do like some of his work.

    I'm going to take a guess here. I'm thinking that if you had a Precision Bass with a Seymour Duncan SPB-3 Quarter Pound pickup and D'Addario Jazz77LD Monel Flats you'd get a lot closer to that tone.

    Precision basses don't sound great when you play them alone, but in a mix (especially with EQing) they really blend very well.

    Sounds like Harris is pushing some mids in his sound on that first video.
  3. Widdershins


    Aug 28, 2007
    I'm certainly no Steve Harris expert by any stretch, but from what I've gathered:

    Steve used a P-Bass with fresh flat-wound strings and a very low setup. He uses a light touch and cranks his amps.

    All that being said a lot of it is in his technique.
  4. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    Fixed it
  5. the strings alone will get you a long way there, even on your Stingray. But it's gotta be the roto flats - they have a very distinctive character, tons of fundamental with a bite on top that others lack.
  6. Sam Hain

    Sam Hain

    May 30, 2010
    Are you placing your foot on the monitors while aiming your axe at the crowd? This is required to get that SH tone!

    He has a custom made pre amp and I read that he changes his strings ever time he plays. I wonder what he does with them when hes done....thats a lot of strings.
  7. CBRXJ


    Jul 31, 2010
    Apple Valley Ca.
    and you need a soccer jersey.
  8. Tituscrow

    Tituscrow Inactive

    Feb 14, 2011
    NW England
    As previously hinted at, he uses a very low action and merely tickles the strings, which is just as important technically as any hardware.

    Unlike say, Flea, who mostly plays every note as if it's his last.
    Evil Funk likes this.
  9. Tituscrow

    Tituscrow Inactive

    Feb 14, 2011
    NW England
    Don't you mean a football shirt?
    Mascis likes this.
  10. nattiep


    Sep 16, 2008
    Buffalo, NY
    Don't forget the compressors. The Live After Death gear list had three compressors.
  11. CBRXJ


    Jul 31, 2010
    Apple Valley Ca.
    Oh yes..thats want I mean.
  12. loinmute


    Feb 11, 2011
    Is your action really low? Like 1.5mm at fret 12?
  13. Here's a list from Wikipedia:
    Harris has been seen with different bass guitars during his career, mostly Fender P-Basses. This list may not contain every bass, and most of them are retired, and the first ones in this list are from his earliest days from his career as a musician.

    * Fender Precision Bass Copy: White, white pickguard, maple neck.
    * Fender '70s Jazz Bass: Sunburst w. tortoise pickguard, rosewood fretboard.
    * Fender '70s Precision Bass: Pearl White w/ West Ham crest and blue/red pinstriping (formerly white, then black, then blue sparkle), mirror pickguard (formerly black), maple neck.
    * Fender '70s Precision Bass: Blue / silver crackle finish (formerly white, then red sparkle), mirror pickguard (formerly black), maple neck.
    * Fender 1959 Precision Bass: Chess finish (formerly fiesta red or 'salmon pink' as described by Steve in a 1992-era Bass Player magazine), mirror pickguard (formerly gold anodized), maple fretboard (formerly rosewood).
    * Ibanez Roadster Bass: Black, maple neck (White pickups).
    * Ibanez Roadster Bass: Black, maple neck (Black pickups).
    * Danelectro Longhorn Bass: White, rosewood fretboard.
    * Fender '80s Precision Bass: Red, mirror pickguard (formerly black), maple neck.
    * Fender '80s Precision Bass: Red, black pickguard, maple neck.
    * Fender '80s Precision Bass: Red, black pickguard, rosewood fretboard.
    * Lado Steve Harris Signature Unicorn Bass: Blue w. Unicorn graphic, rosewood fretboard. The bass has no tone control and Harris taps his head or body to cue the technician for treble or bass adjustments.
    * Lado Super Falcon Bass: Blue w. Falcon graphic, rosewood fretboard. (He's been using two such basses, one being a proto-type and was delivered back to Lado.)
    * Unknown brand: Natural, rosewood fretboard.
    * Unknown brand, possibly a "small luthier" bass: Golden, rosewood fretboard.
    * Fender '80s Precision Bass: Black, white pickguard, maple neck.
    * Ovation Acoustic Bass: Black, rosewood fretboard. Used to play the bass solo during the introduction of "Blood on the World's Hands".
    * Fender Steve Harris Signature Precision Bass: Blue, wine-red pickguard, maple neck.
    * Guild Acoustic Bass: Black, rosewood fretboard.
    * Fender Special Precision Bass: Sunburst, white pickguard, rosewood fretboard.
    * Fender Special Precision Bass: Black, golden pickguard, maple neck.
    * Washburn Force 40: Black with red lining. Shortly after Bruce returned to the band, he appeared with this bass in some photos. According to an interview by Bass Magazine (in Japan), he uses this bass only for exercise.

    Steve uses his own signature RotoSound SH77 flatwound bass strings. Broken-in flatwound strings are not typically associated with Steve's bright sound; however, to retain brightness, Steve changes his strings on a daily basis while touring and recording.


    * Pre-Amp: Custom-made 'Electron'. This is a rackmountable virtual clone of a vintage Hi-Watt Solid State 200 amp (rare) and has been the center of Steve's bass rig since the early 1980s.
    * Compressor: Vintage DBX 160
    * Power Amp: C-Audio SR707 rackmountable power amp x 2
    * Switching: Custom-made rackmount unit built by Pete Cornish. Provides loops and mute for tuning, etc.
    * Cabinets: Quantity 8 Marshall 4x12 JCM 800 bass series straight cabinets loaded with Electro-Voice EVM12L drivers (32 speakers total).
    * Spare: Trace-Elliot GP12SMX serves as spare pre-amp.

    Now thats a lot of toys!!:hyper:
  14. BrandonBass


    May 29, 2006
    A HUGE part of steve harris' sound comes from technique.

    U mentioned you use a stingray, so i suppose u pluck at the bridge? then maybe thats the problem. Strings have more tension at the bridge than at the neck. High tension = more growl, low tension = clank and grind when plucked hard, which is all what steve harris' sound is all about.

    try to 'slap' the strings with ur fingers near the precision pickup position.
  15. FenderBassist

    FenderBassist & The Trusty P Bass Supporting Member


    Thank you! I appreciate the correction.
  16. YES! And it didn't help :smug:

    Mine is set at about 6/64" (2.5 mm) right now. I can try to set it lower, and see if that helps. Is that really any different than raising the pickup height, though? I understand you can get more klank that way.

    Yeah, I use all fingers, down near the bridge. I'll try plucking closer to the neck.
  17. Rexalot


    Jan 1, 2011
    He plays between the pick up and the bridge and I read in an interview that he keeps the nails long on his right hand to get that attack. Hope this helps!!
  18. ubnomnar

    ubnomnar Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2009
    So Cal
    6/64" = 3/32" which is not very low. Low action (1.5mm at the 12th) plays buttery smooth when you also have minimal neck relief. It's a hugely different feel with the action a third lower than what you have now. Give it a try. High tension strings... like Steve's flats help to keep the low action in check.
  19. tocs100

    tocs100 Utah Bass of Doom, Metal DJ @

    Sep 16, 2007
    Ogden, UT
    Yep: specifically multiband limiting using a crossover. Live, I get it with a DOD crossover with a Boss Bass Limiter on the low and a Digitech Dual-band Bass comp for the mids. Lose all the stuff above about 2kHz to get the clank w/o the hiss.

    In the studio, I used 2 takes (lo and hi) through a $1,600 tube compressor. Hear my band's "EP 1" free in my sig-link.
  20. EdHunter


    Jan 14, 2010
    I can get a very close approximation with:
    Fender P Deluxe - full P, treble maxed, bass half, mid maxed
    Marshall MB450h+410c, full treble, just under half bass, voice on 1 and voice shift on about 3/5
    Strings are Roto SM66n - they keep the zing for ages
    I play with a light touch, skipping over the top of the strings, right on the bridge (not the neck!)

    This gets more of a Seventh Son/Somewhere in Time tone, but is still pretty cool.