Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Completely new tone in a jazz bass?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by lethargytartare, May 2, 2005.


  1. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Ok, I'll confess a few things up front -- I don't know a lot of the really great bassists, just a bunch of popular bassists that I've gotten hooked on in the last 10-15; and I'm very new to gigging, so my sense of the tone I want is very underdeveloped.

    All that said, I've been flailing about trying to get closer to something I like, with varying degrees of success. But I'm pretty stymied, so I'm just gonna admit that I would like to get as close to Flea's tone as I can.

    I've got a wonderful MIA jazz deluxe, but I just couldn't get the right tone from it (I tried it stock, Ultra-Js, and Barts 9Js). But in terms of fit and feel, the bass is perfect. So I've been going down the road of trying more and more basses -- and I'm considering a couple of trade offers on the MIA deluxe (spector euro, peavey cirrus) -- but that hasn't gone the greatest either. I'm currently playing a Schecter with some huge anonymous pickups, and there's a lot to like, but I'm still not getting some of the upper mids and highs I want. The MIA gets great output across the full range of frequencies, but there's a roundness to the tone that I can quite get -- and some of the "ring" in the upper mids and higs isn't quite there.

    So before I let my MIA deluxe go, I figured I should ask around again and see if there are pickups or onboard preamps (or combos of both) that I could outfit my MIA with to get more of that Flea tone. I have been listening to their Hyde Park show a lot lately, and I'm just awed by the tone he gets -- the lows with this upper end that has a zing to it that I think is just fantastic.

    I'm playing through an SWR WM's 8004 T/O/P, with a BBE Sonic maximizer, and my issues with the Ultra-Js and Barts -- the barts were too mellow (beautiful smooth tone!!), and the ultra-js are great (aggressive and some serious output!), but just not what I want.

    Ok, so anyone got an opinion on this all? I admit it's pretty weak to just say "I want to sound like flea," but in my defense, I'm still working my tail off to improve my playing and fingerstyle, and have tried dozens of things recommended by other players...and I don't want to be Flea -- really, I don't even slap much at all -- I just like that tone.

    Thanks for any suggestions!

    ltt
     
  2. IMO, a jazz bass is always gonna sound like a Jazz bass. Flea started out using a MM Stingray, which is a tone that I don't think you'll be able to find in a Jazz. The type of p'up and placement are very key factors in finding the Flea type tone. He now uses a Modulus sig bass that is based off of the Stingray, so in order to get that type of tone, you'll have to go with something with a MM style p'up(i.e.-just about any MM, a Lakland w/MM & J(best of both worlds), Modulus Flea bass(that one was a given, right?? ;))) Hope that helps.

    Brad
     
  3. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    gotcha -- does indeed help. I do have an MTD kingston, but wasn't excited about the tone it had -- lows good, but the highs were weak. I'm I'm trying to keep my expenses low, would it make sense to upgrade that with a better pup, or maybe add in an active preamp?
     
  4. EricTheEZ1

    EricTheEZ1

    Nov 23, 2004
    Clawson, MI
    Flea's tone is very wierd. He rarely uses the natural incredible slap tone that Stingrays can produce. In the mix, it's usually lacking a bit in the lows and a VERY heavy on mids and high mids for a very gritty sound. I usually hate it because it sounds like he has bad picking and fretting capabilities, but it's just his tone. Very gritty indeed.

    His Modulus Flea Signature is even more transparent, naturally, and just very unique. IMO, he could use a little less high mids and more bass, but that's just me. He also plays very agressively. All things you need to consider.

    Overall, you'll need a MM pickup, for sure.

    -Eric.
     
  5. HiFi

    HiFi

    Apr 20, 2002
    Anaheim, CA
    Have you tried a J-Retro? I'm not sure you can 'nail' Flea's tone, but ti sure has a lot to offer and you may stumble upon a tone you like even more. I'm big on the player produces the tone but others have mentioned the StingRay which isn't a bad suggestion. The Modulus Flea Bass might be an option as well if you have a chance to try one out.

    If you really dig the jazz though and want to add to the tone palette, a J-Retro might be the answer.
     
  6. You could slap an Aguilar OBP-1 and a Seymour Duncan MM in it and that would probably get you more toward the tone you're looking for. The older Kingstons were passive, so putting in an active pre will help and the SD are known to be a little more aggressive sounding. You could probably pick both of those up for under $200.
     
  7. ted13

    ted13

    Mar 12, 2004
    montreal quebec
    Just a thought, what about a series/parralell mod. won't the series setting really beef up the tone more like a stingray pickup?
     
  8. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    That's not a bad idea at all...and it'd be pretty easy to do without mangling the instrument (I've got an extra control plate)...thanks!!
     
  9. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    To me, Flea's tone is all about mids (as stated above). I can see how the Ultra-J's wouldn't give you that tone as I've always felt they were a bit "scooped" in the mids. The Model-J's would likely be a better choice for that, however, even those aren't going to really nail it (IMO). Since the SWR head and BBE you referenced used to be mine :)D) I can offer some advice on those:

    On the SWR, the Shape control basically rolls off the mids while boosting the lows and highs the more you turn it clockwise. I typically kept that control turned off as it took too much away from the mids to be really useful. For a mid-heavy tone like Flea's I would make sure and turn that control off.

    On the BBE, to get that high-end "zing" that is a major part of Flea's tone, I would crank the process knob all the way up (at least until it starts getting noisey). Also, his tone (to me) doesn't have a whole lot of bottom-end to it, so I wouldn't put the lo contour control up higher than 25% at the most. If I'm not mistaken, the lo contour is basically a boost only right at 50hz, so use that control sparingly.

    Another thing to remember, Flea plays VERY aggressively and that contributes a lot to his tone. Take that into consideration as well. Good luck :)
     
  10. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Sweet -- thanks SS! Yeah, another thing I know I need to keep experimenting with is the amp's settings -- that T/O/P is working out great, and I know that is has more to offer than I'm letting it give right now...I'll try those settings.

    Tonight's gonna be one of those fun rehearsals where I tick everyone off by fiddling with my settings all night :D
     
  11. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    How would you guys describe a P-style pickup and how it compares to, say, an MM? I thought I saw one reference likening the two...
     
  12. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I have one of those nights quite often. My guitar player hates it. Fortunately my drummer is a complete audiophile and anything that can be constituted as a sound improvement gets him very excited.
     
  13. Not sure if he uses it much now, but Flea used to bi-amp out of GK 800RBs. In fact, he's the reason I got my 800rb in the first place. I loved it tone at the time, and I figured at least a little bit of it came from running the 800rb. It bi-amps to 300 watts on the low & 100 watts on the high....

    This may be a factor, and it may not be. Just thought I would mention it.
     
  14. IMO, you're not going to be happy with anything other than an MM... or possibly a hybrid like an ATK... But I think MM would be the go for you.
     
  15. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    sounds like you have a fix on the tone you want, a known bass that puts it out, a known artist that pulls it off, and a bass in hand that may produce desired results.

    Personally, sounds like you've been dinking with the wrong bass. Haven't had the Kingston bass but have had the pup - not bad but not Flea caliber, or Ray for that matter. To my knowledge, he only plays through LPs - so about $300 if you can track one down. Bart would be next closest to an LP in tone. Alternatively, you can go for an alnico ray replacement. They all sound similar to me but Nords are popular at the moment and Carey does make a quad MM too (I've had the 4.2, not the quad) so you might give Nords some thought - but it will be more Ray than Flea.

    If you get close but not quite there, go for the same strings (probably not a bad idea anyway or adjust tone accrodingly with strings), still closer but not quite there then maybe time to looks for amps.
     
  16. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Who's 'LP'?

    And I wonder if it would be worthwhile to get a better model MTD...

    One thing I've been hoping to do is make progress on a project bass I have been tinkering with -- right now it's got a mightymite MM, passive electronics, but a neck I"m not happy with. Once I get a jazz neck (I may break down and just grab one from rondomusic) then I can see how that stacks up against the MTD (and the others)....and the body (a Hamer) has a nice big electronics cavity, so I could easily fit a nice preamp in there too, so I'm hoping to get that in a state where I can readily experiment with some electronics.

    Another angle I'm trying to work is the diy electronics community. I've been building pedals and circuits for a few months now, and may try putting together a few compact ones to build into a bass (a booster and eq come to mind); problem is, so much of what that community does is guitar oriented...what I want to start with is a booster I made for my guitarist (sparkleboost), which boosts and also clarifies the signal a ton -- I'm wondering how that signal would sound when pumped through the T/O/P. It might help fire up the upper mids and highs, but I'm worried about the impact on the lows...

    Back on the topic of MM pups -- are there any models out there that might come in a bit lower on the cost side than Barts, but better in quality than, say, mightymites?
     
  17. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Lane Poor
     
  18. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    LP is Lane Poor - defunct but quality pup maker that was apparently a very poor business man (no pun intended).

    The vast majority of the tone of a bass is in the pup. If you like the bass itself, it doesn't make sense to jetison the bass unless there is some defined quality about it that is objectionable and can be resolved by replacement - buying and selling a barage of pups is practical, buying a selling a bunch of basses is not.
     
  19. lethargytartare

    lethargytartare

    Sep 7, 2004
    Chicago
    good point. That is one thing about the MTD I like a lot -- it's much more comfortable to me than the stingrays.
     
  20. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE

    Yep,

    weight is my first cut. If it's over 8 1/2 lbs, I don't even need fire up.