1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Changing the tone

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by GoofusPro, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. GoofusPro


    Feb 12, 2014
    I'm new to string instruments and had a question about tone.

    Lets say you get bass guitar A, which has tone that is questionable at very best. (I say questionable because tone can be subjective)

    Can you alter it by changing pickup, amp, strings, etc? Or is there such thing as inherent nature that you just can't change due to the construction?

    I ask this because a friend of mine who has been playing some time told me to avoid cheap bass (sub 300 bucks) because I will have to fight the instrument to play and you'll be stuck with a tone because it's not worth trying to correct due to the low cost of the bass and high cost of the after market parts.

    Do many of you even bother changing pickups or do you just buy another bass guitar to get the desired sound as time goes by?

    Thanks for all advice in advance.
  2. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Bring your instructor or an experienced player to help try out instruments.
    You can get a serviceable instrument with a usable tone (something that can be heard in the mix) for under 300 bucks.
    As a beginner, you probably won't have an ear for when your tone is good or bad for a few years.
    (Then you'll spend a decade or two chasing a perfect tone ,
    only realize that anything that can be heard in the mix is just fine and worry about your playing more.)

    There is a reason the Fender Precision continues to thrive over the years: a simple, serviceable tone.
  3. Also bear in mind that your playing has a huge effect on the tone and how you feel about it. It's a bit of a cliché around here, but I know it's true because it's happened to me recently.

    I've been playing guitar for 20 years and took up bass a couple of years ago. I've three basses, (a) €300, (b) €600, and (c) €900 (approximating for the purpose of this post. For those who are interested, they're an LTD B-55, a MIM Jazz, and a Rockbass Corvette $$). I never really liked (a), then I got (b), which I thought was ok, and then I bought (c) which I really liked for a long time. After a while, I started sitting down to figure (b) out, and spent a long time figuring out the sound and how different plucking styles affected the sound. After my right hand became more consistent, I actually started loving the tone. Now I like it way more than (c) (for now!) Today I picked up (a) for the first time in over a year, and I _loved_ it. It's got a fantastic neck pickup with a clean yet recognisable P-like tone, and apparently my playing has got to the point where the tone is acceptable to me again.

    So, in short, any decision you make now won't actually bear fruit until you get to grips with the instrument, whatever it is, and it's quite likely that even a heap of rubbish will sound sweet when your fingers learn what to do.
  4. nashman


    Feb 11, 2011
    Tone is a "chain with many links". You can pretty much change any "link" and get a different tone. If you were to buy a car - buy the one you need - or a "beater" that needs parts? If the latter - you have time, risk, effort, hassle etc. to consider - and in the end, was it worth it? Sometimes, but not always. I suggest you buy a good, solid instrument (new or used) - especially when you are learning, otherwise you will spend an inordinate amount of time focussed on gear and not on actual playing skills.
  5. GoofusPro


    Feb 12, 2014
    Thank you all for the excellent advice. I will purchase something that I will not have to battle so that I can concentrate on my playing instead of trying to fix something that doesn't work too well.

    As to what to purchase, I will read the forums and reviews and try to find something in my budget, then ask my teachers advice since 'm just a beginner and feel that I should just trust the teacher, review and forum advices.

    Thank you very much everyone.
  6. VeganThump


    Jun 29, 2012
    South Jersey
    I'm not a beginner, I've been at it for about 20yrs actually, and it took me discovering talkbass about 2 years ago to learn 90% of what I know regarding tone. One thing I can't believe I didn't know before, as embarrassing as it is, is how much of a difference strings make regarding your tone. I would say that while ever type of bass does have it's own kind of tone, your strings of choice and plucking/fretting style is gonna make you sound like you on almost any bass more or less.
  7. pudgychef

    pudgychef Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2005
    Chongqing, China
    OP: your friend's advice may be a tad out of date. The instruments available new or used for <$300 have improved dramatically in the last 5-10yr. A new sub 300 bass like a VM squire or SBMM SUB is light years ahead of the same price range even 6 years ago (and compared to 10-20 years ago it is laughable)

    A used CV Squier is also a great value. I have played >20yr...gigged plenty, recorded a few CDs and have owned a fair number good basses. I would not hesitate to gig any of the basses i mentioned. That is not even touching on some other killer used values like Peavey (mia) Furys etc that can often be found for less than 300