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Combining Good Bass and Guitar Tone

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jlagoon, May 11, 2006.

  1. jlagoon


    May 11, 2006
    Hello forum,

    I'm in a hard rock band in which I play a 7 string guitar and the bassist plays a 6 string bass. We sound good together with the vocal and the drummer, but there seems to be a tone or perhaps frequency war between the guitar and the bass. I am, by no means, a guitarist who just turns his amp very loud, but it feels that the bass frequencies walk all over my guitar frequencies and make them sound like in the background.

    The bass tone sounds like the bassist's tone from TOOL, and my guitar tone sounds like John Petrucci's from Dream Theater. The bassist plays through a multifx pedal, 350 watt and a 4x10 Hartke. He has his tone knob on the bass pretty full. The bass tone, to me, sounds very heavy on lo-mid, mid, and treble. I play through a pretty good rack gear with an EQ that boosts a liiitle bit of my low-mid (around 120-160), a LOT of mid, and upper mid. I use a 4x12 cabinet.

    The only way that I have found to encounter this problem is to turn my volume louder, but this would be a problem with the vocal. Would elevating and pointing the bass cab to ear level help? It's on the ground right now. I'm very anal about tone, regardless of the instrument, but the bassist isn't (he just likes his current bass tone that sounds like TOOL).

    I don't have a lot of knowledge of bass equipments, so I hope that you could give me some insights on this tone/frequency issue. :confused:
  2. ebladeboi123


    Jul 11, 2005
    Oberlin, Oh
    Sounds to me that your issue is that the bass is cutting through the mix to well. Whenever you boost your tone knob all the way- you cut through the mix very well- but at the cost of looseing low end. If I remember Justin Chancellor's tone correctly, this is the problem I think you're seeing.
    Really as a guitarist you dont' really have a way to "counter" his cutting through the mix.
    Solution: Tell the bassist to turn down, if by you turning up the solution is found- the opposite should be true, by turning down you should be more "prevelant"

    But, just so you know. This could all be a bunch of BS i really don't know that much about what I'm talking about. In a few posts someone will talk about frequencies more (I think).
  3. Jeff Martinez

    Jeff Martinez

    May 10, 2005
    Denver, CO
    I've experienced similar issues in my band. My guitarist and I tend to work in the same frequency range quite often. We now both use BBE 362 Sonic Maximizers, and it's amazing the clarity...even when we're in the same range. I'm able to turn down AND cut through at the same time.
  4. canopener


    Sep 15, 2003
    Isle of Lucy
    Does this conflict show up in recordings, or is it just by your ear on stage?
  5. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Well good for you wanting nice tone. But this is usually the other way around with the guitar's bass freq's steppin' all over the bass freq's.
    So what I always notice in most tunes is the fact that the guitar is somewhat in the background until a solo part. It basically is part of the rythym section until that time. My guitarist has the problem of being too much "out front" with both his volume and toneall the time, even in parts that he should be very subtle. If the bassist is walkin all over the mid and upper freq's, plain and simple he needs to get out of that range. But he does need to cut through. Have him roll off the treble and hi mids while boosting lo-mids. Just make sure you're not excessively "fat" in your tone as well.
    Remember that from top down ultimately it should be: hi-hat, guitar, vocals, bass, kick. Each should have its own space in the mix. Separation and clarity trumps loud and muddy every time no matter how technically proficient you all play.
  6. I'd think it would be better (particularly in the kind of band a 7-string guitar is likely to be in) to have the bass actually cut the low mids for clarity's sake. Otherwise, nobody's tone will be defined enough to be heard clearly, and the blend will be non-existent: poop-tone bass and non-meaty guitar is what I'm envisioning.

    What would sound better would be to EQ the bass to emphasize the lows, pitch-defining mids, and maybe a little spot of treble for articulation. Then do a similar thing with guitar - low mids for the fundamental (but not excessive), high mids and highs.

    edit - If it's one of those 4X10 "Transporter" or whatever cabs with the aluminum, I hate those. They sound like butt and I can see where it would mess with the mix.
  7. jlagoon


    May 11, 2006
    Hi guys,

    It looks like you understand my problem here. Thanks a lot. We don't use sonic maximizers, because they seem to oppress the original sound, we would only use it for post production.

    This issue arises both in recording and live. The bass is really heavy on low-mid-mid, and mid-high. It does have punch, but not a punch of bass; I mean it's bass, but it has that finger, fretboard, slapping (not the style, just the sound) frequency on the high range. Do you have particular frequency range for the bass and guitar low-mid, mid, high mid as a guide for tweaking?

    As for Bottom Feeder, can you explain more on this part from your post, please: "Remember that from top down ultimately it should be: hi-hat, guitar, vocals, bass, kick."

  8. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    Sorry that I'm off topic, but I read this exact same post on http://www.sevenstring.org! I just joined up there beacuse my guitaristis on there.
  9. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    jlagoon, sure I can try to clarify that.

    Each instrument has a "zone" which ultimately it would occupy within sonic space. I am stating that in the range of frequencies, the instrument that is usually in the uppermost zone is the hi hat. If you continue down the frequency range, it would be that of guitar, then the vocals tend to fill out the middle range, then the bass goes from the mid to the lows with the boom from the kick drum in the lowest frequency zone. If all these instruments could ride within their perfect zone, you would have ultimate sonic clarity and separation. Unfortunately this is usually not the case. The bass will want to cut more so he comes up from low-mids and starts occupying the mid range (vocal) sonic zone. Now the singer is mad he can't be heard so he ups the volume on his PA. Now the hi hat is becoming faint and the bassist can't hear it so he starts losing position. In all the sonic melee, the guitarist brings his volume up and boosts bass to make up for the wallowing rythym section and consequently walks all over the bass players freq's. You get the drift of where I'm going with this? Leads to sonic mush.
    If everyone would concentrate on their sonic zone they need to occupy, it would always sound better.

    From what you explained in your last post, the bass player sounds like he has his treble boosted really high. That will give that annoying clicking sound when the strings are banging on either the fretboard or the pickups themselves.
    If your bass player is open to the suggestion, have him set his amp's eq all to 12 o'clock and then play a number and listen. Clicking sound gone? Good. Does he need or want a little more bottom? Dial in a bit more bass, while you at the same time make sure you are dialing out the bass on your amp. If he wants to cut through, he needs more mid/high mids, less treble and bass. All the while everyone is paying attention to the zone they are occupying in that sonic space we were talikng about earlier.

    Basically, if one person or instument adds to a frequency range or zone, something else needs to subtract or at least make sure they are not muddying it up.

    As for you, as I mentioned in my other post, make sure your controls have a lot of low freq's dialed out. I know there is a tendency for guitarists to make a "fat" tone when they are home alone practicing as it fills it out when there is no bass player. But they seem to leave that tone going when the bass player is in the mix and then you are back to sonic mush.
    Whew! I hope that helps. :D
  10. rebelbass


    Feb 16, 2006
    New Jersey
    I play in a southern rock tribute band (insert redneck joke here). We have three guys singing harmonies,two lead guitars,an acoustic and a keyboard;lots of stuff going on. I rool off mids,guitar guys roll off bottom so we don't clash. it works if evereybody works together!
  11. jlagoon


    May 11, 2006
    Bottom Feeder, thanks a lot man! It worked now. I cut my bass, and the bassist, fortunately, cut his treble. His bass tone did have that fretboard clicking sound. I mean, it sounds pretty cool, but it gets annoying after a certain period of time. Now his bass tone doesn't have a lot of treble anymore and he is still audible. However, he said that the one is not him anymore, the bass notes don't have character. Fortunately, he's willing to use the modified tone. His bass tone sounds like the one in TOOL's Parabola now.

    To All Your Bass, yes, this is the same subject that I also posted on sevenstring forum. I thought that I'd get more perspective if I post on a bass specialized forum.

    Thanks guys!!!!
  12. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Glad it's working out for you guys. Your bass player may find that he likes the new tone after he realizes how well it fits into the mix. I know I had the same problem a long while ago but can't imagine how I ever liked my overdriven tone. Of course, you guys can use it as a starting point and adjust from there.
    Break a leg.:bassist:
  13. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    Clicking might have to do with the action on his bass and technique, though I sure the EQ emphasizes it more.
  14. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    Also new strings can and will make this even worse.

    On another note, I would love to play a bass that sounded like Justin Chancellor's. He tones kinda got this "chunky, clunky and dark" character that I really love.
  15. jlagoon


    May 11, 2006
    Well, the bassist treble tone ticked on your ears. Can you image that? The strings aren't even new. Action? This guy doesn't even know the knobs on the bass per se, he only knows that this knob adds more treble, this is for bassier tone, this is volume, etc. He doesn't know the string gauge he uses, and accepts the action as is stock. However, he's a good bassist, it's just how he is.

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