Dialing in a good P-Bass tone

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ClassicJazz, Jul 28, 2009.

  1. ClassicJazz

    ClassicJazz Bottom Feeders Unite!! Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Delray Beach, Florida
    Hey everyone!

    Being a jazz bass guy, I am kind of new at this P-Bass thing! I have a Fender Classic Series 50's P-Bass, which I love. But I am still learning how to get a good tone out of it (not that it sounds bad now). I would really love to get close to how Donald "Duck" Dunn's P-Bass sounds. Just listen to the Blues Brothers and you'll know what I mean!

    So my question how do you have the tone on your bass set and eq on your amp. (I know that allot of Donald's tone comes from his fingers). I am using a Carvin B1500 which has a very basic EG section like I like it. Running through two Avatar 2x10 Neo cabs. And round wound strings on the P-Bass.


  2. blmeier7


    May 7, 2006
    Amarillo, TX
    A couple of big factors here...IMO, are the strings and the right hand attack. I think Duck used flatwound strings for a lot of his stuff, but I could be wrong.

    I've played around with several sets of strings on my P bass and have really been enjoying the GHS Precision Flats. They don't have super high tension and have the old school sound to them.

    I also have the B1500 and had an Avatar B210 a couple months back. To me the B210 has a little bump to it in the upper mids. I would try turning the tweeter off or almost off, then bump up the sub bass/bass on the B1500 a little. You might also slightly back off the upper mids and highs on the amp too. This would be a good starting point and then go from there.
  3. learn to play in FRONT of the pickup guard for a more mellow, blossoming tone.

    Personally, I'd just take the thing off, because, when I play my P-bass, I use a LOT of right hand muting. This is especially true when doing the motown or stax thing.

    Also, play with the tone knob to get you the right amount of treble roll off without totally killing the upper mids.

    I agree with blmeier7 about the amp settings
  4. I'm like you- Jazz guy for a long time. Took me awhile to find my P bass sound, but now it's all I play.
    First of all, if you are used to digging in with fingers near the bridge, forget it- it doesn't work on a P. You can't get that percussive burp-it won't happen. But, a pick does work there, and well.
    The best overall tone is found by plucking directly over the pickup, IMO.
    Forget the idea that flats will fix everything- they won't. I tried three different types and wound up going back to Fender rounds, the ones my bass came with, with a .110 E. They are perfect. Maybe with further study and practice I could work with flats, but I'm very happy with my tone as-is, the rounds giving a crunch that I like a lot. It really is all about your approach, and especially, what you EXPECT to hear, which will need adjustment. It's really, really different, coming from a J bass.
    Rolling back the tone knob a hair fattens it up.
    Amp settings? I'm running a Markbass head at the moment, through a Golight 4x10, and I'm getting a great sound by turning off the filters, bass slightly boosted, low mids slightly boosted at around 300hz, everything else flat.
    The low-mid bump is key- that's where the thump lives. Never cut that area, or you'll have no punch.
  5. P-Bass. Cord. Amp. On Switch.

    The reason the P-Bass guys laugh at the "P-Bass sux, not versatile enough" threads is that P-Bass is P-Bass. Unless something is horribly wrong, it's putting out a good sound.

    My next bass is going to be a P with the pickup wired directly to the jack. In the past I have rolled the tone off about 20%, but I do the same thing with my Jazz bass and my Alembic.

    Set the amp to the room, not the instrument.

    P-Bass is a one trick pony, except that trick is incredible.
    Aragorn35016 likes this.
  6. emblymouse

    emblymouse exempt Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2006
    I guess I got lucky. All I did was plug the thing in and BAM.:)

    I do find myself playing right around the p/u too as much for the tension's sake as tone.
  7. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I agree with the bass, cord, amp theory. I also like flats.
  8. ClassicJazz

    ClassicJazz Bottom Feeders Unite!! Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Delray Beach, Florida
    Wow, some great advice! Thanks... In regards to the pickup cover, I got it mainly to use as a thumb rest since I was playing close to the bridge. But since it seems that people are saying the best tone is right over the pickups...well it might be coming off then!
  9. 1. Install flatwounds
    2. Plug bass into amplifier
    3. P-Bass tone is achieved
  10. racket


    Jul 26, 2005
    Riverside, Ca
    FMIC Employee
    Flats will help. I recommend "LaBella Deep Talkin Flats". My self, I'm using the "Jamerson" set (.050 - .110). Also foam under the bridge helps. I use a medium density foam to dampen the strings a bit. I also play on top of or in front of the P/U's, and roll the tone knob off a bit. Hope that helps you get what you want. I love my P Bass.
  11. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I have my P-bass strung with med gauge Sadowsky Flats. All on is a great tone for rock, for Motown-ish stuff I back off the tone a bit. I also have the action pretty high compared to my other main electric bass (Ray5).

    There's a huge difference in how the instruments feel. I'm used to playing right over the bridge pickup (well, only pickup) on my Ray5 where I can dig in a bit. Playing right over the pickup on the P-bass is a very different touch. It's worth it. I think about it as pulling just hard enough to get the notes to come out, rather than digging in (on the Ray5).

    As strange as it sounds, I tend to think much more in DB terms when I'm playing the P-bass than my Ray5. It helps me get the sound that I want.

    all the best.
  12. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Inactive Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    +1. That and finger-playing decent flat-wounds right over the pickup yields the BIG P-Bass tones which makes playing these instruments truly satisfying.
  13. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    Flats or dead rounds for strings. slight low mid boost, and match the lows to fill out the tone. Roll the tone off about 1/4 of the way (you'll hear it).

    other than that it's in the fingers. The trick is that there's plenty of meat and not much pizazz on the tone Duck gets..
  14. you dont need to dail any thing on a Pbass... either you can play bass and it sounds good or not!!!
  15. Whaaaapsh


    Apr 23, 2006
    Portland, OR
    even though the pickup covers look really cool, I always play with my thumb resting on the pickups themselves -- something you can't do with the covers on.

    Try taking them off and see what you think!

    What kind of pickup do the classic 50's have? If it's not at least the fender "original 62" (or whatever they call it), I'd think about picking up a new vintage voiced pickup.

    Hope you achieve precisiontasticality!
  16. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Inactive Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    ^ 'Thing is, the now-vintage P-Basses were largely new instruments when they were first used on stages and in studios.

    If its height is adjusted to deliver a full and balanced response without imposing undue magnet damping upon string vibration, I expect that the pickup in the OP's bass will sound just fine.
  17. My P has a set of about five year old Fender rounds on it. I've got a set of flats that were on a fretless Jazz, but are now trimmed short scale and put on a Gibson melody Maker EB-0.

    A while ago I spent a bunch of time trying to read everything on the strings forum and trying to discern patterns. From what I was able to gather there, the end-all-be-all are Thomastik Infeld Jazz Flats, provided that the odd gauges don't throw you on the feel.

    They're my next purchase.
  18. RED J

    RED J Lol

    Jan 23, 2000
    Just gonna echo what has been said about the sweet zone from over pickup to end of neck.
    To my ears, the zone "between" pickup and neck gives the real old school greasy fat tone, ( Jamerson hook zone )over the pickup a little more clarity and punchiness, still fat. Tone knob to bring in just the right amount of clarity.

    Simple and sweet.

    Red J
  19. Whaaaapsh


    Apr 23, 2006
    Portland, OR
    Yeah, I'm sure it'll sound fine, but IMO, it won't sound baddass.

    I've found stock Fender MIM pickups to lack in definition, the Fender "original 62" pickups, Fralins, or SD Antiquities hit the mark much better.

    Good pickups + flats = vintage pbass tone
  20. RTL

    RTL Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2008
    Leander, TX

    This should be a sticky. This is invaluable advice for anyone getting into a P for the first time.