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"Discovering Tone"

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by BMBassman, Jun 6, 2012.

  1. BMBassman


    Jul 16, 2010
    So I just read something in a thread in Basses that got me thinking. Someone was talking about buying gear (bass and amp), and one of the replies talked about 'discovering tone'.
    I've been playing for quite awhile, but feel like I just don't have an ear for tone. One band I was in even brought it up, although all he could tell me was 'you sound like crap. You should sound like a BASS'. OK, great. Thanks for helping me grow and learn.
    Anyway, I am happy with my basses right now (Geddy Jazz, Ibanez Artcore and ESP 5-er), and I'm ready to spend (within reasonable bounds) on amp and cabs. I have a decent collection of pedals, but I'm kind of pulling back on that, as I want to get good straight tone first, then add effects to enhance.
    I'm curious for thoughts / input, or some of your experience and process on discovering tone or developing an ear for it. I know its sensory and subjective and about perception, but how do you start? I feel like right now, I couldn't pick out or appreciate the difference between the 'perfect tone' and the worst tone in the world. And I'm not sure how to buy gear when I can't hear that...
  2. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    This is VERY subjective. One persons perfect tone is another persons worst tone in the world.

    Plug your bass into your current amp.
    Set all of the controls at the 12:00 position.
    Play it for 5 minutes.
    Then turn any of the EQ controls all the way off.
    Play it for 5 minutes.

    Can you hear a difference?
  3. Bill Staudt

    Bill Staudt

    Jun 18, 2002
    I think our (as bassist) idea of good tone, and the rest of the band’s idea of good tone are two very different things. I think the key is a compromise between the two.
  4. coyote1


    Mar 23, 2012
    It's all about tone:

  5. Last night at practice we were working on a new song and my gui**** told me "you just arnt sitting in the mix right on this song..." I explained that the tone I was using had a lot of bass cut out so that I could be heard with out destroying the house around me, if I matched his volume my 1515/66 would have hurt our drummers house. He asked me to work on it so that "we can get tighter with our sound..." During the next run through I slowly dropped my volume down to nothing, which resulted in "Yeah! now you sound great!" Or my other favorite is being told to play they same note they are playing but an octave down. So I do so which warrants the comment "Thats too low play it up but stay below what I'm playing..."

    It just goes to show that guitarists dont actually know what good tone is. They just want to hear them selves in a bedroom setting.
  6. ^ +1000

    As a bassist you hear yourself as a full range instrument that is equally important to every other instrument in the mix. Most other musicians and even engineers pretty much only want to hear you from about 200hz and below - pretty much that smiley face eq that we all try to avoid so tediously

    I have gone through numerous discussions with my brother/engineer about my bass tone in the mix, all pretty much resulting in him telling me that If I wanna hear myself in the mix, I picked the wrong instrument to play...

    The fact that the majority of our actual tone comes from our midrange is a problem because that is exactly where no one else wants to hear us apparently. Certain music types seem to allow for more room for the bass, but in any kind of heavy rock or metal with distorted guitars, you will find very few bands that allow the bass to hold it's own as an instrument. Add to that the fact that many guitarists in these styles are down tuning with 7 or 8 string guitars, leaves us with very little sonic spaces to shelve ourselves
  7. Aguilar db751 & Bergantion HD410 :bag:
  8. Bill Staudt

    Bill Staudt

    Jun 18, 2002
    Yeah, no one here is ever guilty of that.
  9. FenderBassist


    Oct 28, 2005
    That has been the case 9 out of 10 times in my humble cover band experiences.

    To take it a step further, I sometimes speak of The Guitarist Paradox:

    The guitarist insists on being louder than anyone/everyone else.
    Their underdeveloped meter (and failure to listen to the rhythm section) throws the groove off.
    They want you to sound a certain way to "make things tighter" by showcasing them.

    Most of them need to be placed in solitary confinement with a drum machine pumped through a speaker 24/7, the pattern and tempo changed daily, for a month.
  10. Bill Staudt

    Bill Staudt

    Jun 18, 2002
    One thing to consider;
    The definition of “good” guitar tone has pretty much been established for 30+ years. Advances in bass amplification over the past 10 years have drastically changed the way our instruments sound and function within a band mix. Our band mates and audiences are hearing us differently then they have before.
  11. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    I'm very pragmatic about "tone", that is I want something that works in the band. What sounds good on stage is different than what sounds good to the crowd which is different than what sounds good at home.

    What works in a bar is different than what works at church. Plug your bass into two different house systems and its like two different worlds.

    This whole thing about finding one tone that is "tone heaven" is way overrated IMO.

    I think you need to think quickly, adapt to the situation and be open to possibilites you have not yet considered in order to get your "tone".
  12. FenderBassist


    Oct 28, 2005
    A very good place to start.
  13. FenderBassist


    Oct 28, 2005
    A very good point to reach. Being able to "dial in" a tone based on where you're playing is crucial.
  14. Yerf Dog

    Yerf Dog

    Jun 29, 2009
    Carol Stream, IL
  15. coyote1


    Mar 23, 2012
    It's an interesting phenomenon. If the bass is sitting in the freqeuncy range that non-bassists want it in, it can be VERY loud. Because there it does not impede the other instruments, all of which have no choice but to sit in the midrange.
  16. Amp emulation is where it's at ... Line6 and Roland. You get an amp that gets super close most of the time if you know what your going for.

    I hand my band the preset manual for my Line6 combo and tell then to pick one when they have complaints.
  17. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I don't think you're going to find very many bassists agreeing with that.
  18. Even that is a subjective preference. I dont care for modeling as I have yet to hear one that actually sounds like my tube head. I would also never let my gui****s touch my tone knobs as they would just dial everything above 100hz out and then ask me why I sound so muddy in the mix.

    All that said they love my tone when Im not worried about structure we are playing in or trying to play at a level we can easily talk over. Some guitarists dont get that though.
  19. imagine telling your guitarist to use emulation instead of his tube head and 4x12 :)
  20. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    This is why I play Funk and R&B. The bass player has a prominent role and we're (allowed) more forward in the mix. I sat in at a blues open mic and they called me the bass player who likes to play without bass. They couldn't understand I knew how to tweak my sound to be heard. That boom boom shake the room is passe'. You can still have presence, sound like a bass and not be muddy at all. it's actually a great time to be a bass player. If you are playing with guys who try to hold you down, put you in a corner, or bassically want you to shut up, find other guys who actually like bass. It's nothing greater than being a bass player in a group and you have free reign in terms of your tone and what you sound like. You''l find every other instrument player always has something to say about the bass and how it sounds. they need to shut up and let us do our thing. See if they like it if you always have something to say about how you think they sound. Drummers included.

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