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Don't do mods to improve technique!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by JimmyM, Jun 13, 2005.


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  1. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    This is probably the most mod-happy bunch of folks I've ever seen in my life! I see one guy wanting to replace perfectly good pickups because he isn't getting the tone right. I see another wanting to replace his pots just for practice. I see things like, "I'm not getting a good slap tone...do I need to replace my pickups or buy a new bass?" No! You need to practice on the bass you have!

    Contrary to what marketing departments of aftermarket suppliers tell you, bass modding makes very little difference in the sound of an instrument. If your bass sounds bad, putting a new bridge or new pickups on it isn't going to magically make it sound like a new bass. It might slightly change, but it won't be drastic. You can get pickups with different EQ points and varying degrees of volume, but they're still going to pick up the sound at the spots under the strings they're amplifying. Moving the pickups makes a difference, not replacing them. If they're noisy and you can't get rid of it, then replace them, but don't junk perfectly good pickups expecting a miracle change. it ain't gonna happen.

    And none of it is going to make you play better. If you suck with a Fender bridge, you're going to suck with a Badass. You are much better off using the time you'd spend on modding your bass and practicing instead. Just buy a bass that works, learn how to play it as good as you can, and you'll have great tone no matter what pickups you have.
     
  2. tekhna

    tekhna

    Nov 7, 2004
    I was wondering why after modding my SX I can't slap 900 notes/sec.


    :rolleyes:
     
  3. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Feel free to come visit some DIY audio forums! :p

    But, I perfectly agree with you. Things are still stock on my basses (except for strings, of course).
    I see more and more people thinking that if they spend more on their gear, it will sound better just by that - while there's some truth in this, too, many miss one very important factor: spending more time practicing.
     

  4. Changing a bridge is not done to make you magically play better. It's done because the stock one is a POS that keep moving around or becomes loose. Some pups need to be changed. If my bass sounds like crap then its going to discourage me from playing it. I see nothing wrong with modding to your own tastes. It make us different.
     
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Mods per se don't make you play better. That's obvious.
    Some mods, though, improve payability.
    New Bridge -> better setup -> inproved playability -> (probably) better playing.
     
  6. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    Are you talkin' 'bout meee? :D :hyper:

    I respect what you're saying, but when a bass sounds great unplugged, but has really bad pickups, preamp, and pots,
    don't you believe that replacing the bad electronics would change the tone?

    Modding is a much cheaper way to get a better instrument, than buying a new one, IMO. Of course that's just if you have good wood and a good quality instrument to begin with.

    Sorry if that doesn' make any sense, i'm sitting here in the sun and my brain is boiling :D

    -Erlend
     
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Must be nice! It's been raining here all weekend and it's dark.

    I don't know if I was referring to you or not, Erlend. However, if by what you mean by bad pickups, preamp and pots is that they are broken beyond repair, then I'd say yeah, replace them. If they're noisy and you can't get rid of the noise, sure, gut 'em and put in something else. I've done it. But if you're trying to change the tone of your bass, it's not going to happen. You can change EQ points with new pickups and preamp (the pots don't make a difference but usually come with onboard preamps), maybe you can get a better signal to noise ratio, but your bass is still going to sound like it does now if you put the new pickups in the same places. I've never heard any difference when I've changed out pickups unless I put them in a different place, and I've made some drastic pickup changes before, like from Duncan passives to EMG actives.

    I don't know...I guess I'm an old fashioned old fart, but I've always believed that as long as your instrument works, you should be able to get a good sound out of it somehow. The most significant tonal changes I've had have come from changing my technique. I pretty much sound the same on every bass I play.
     
  8. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    I understand what you mean!

    Anyway, i heard a TON of difference when changing the stock pickups on my Stratocaster to Seymour Duncans. It sounded like a new guitar!

    When the pickups are so bad quality that it "masks" the tone of the guitar and "crapifies" it, i think you could get a much better tone by changing the pickups :).

    -Erlend
     
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well someone has to keep the aftermarket companies in business, I spose ;)
     
  10. pil

    pil

    Feb 17, 2005
    Pimlico, UK
    Damn...you mean i resprayed that olp for nothing! :scowl:

    Personally i haven't played enough basses to be able to tell that much difference between them...but just to put my 2 pence worth in - After a few REALLY crappy starter basses i went out and bought a rick, decided to leave the pup cover on, and have learnt to play the bass over a year or two with my hand resting on it...

    Now i can barely play a bass without one, so when i bought my gl jazz i had to put on the ashtray...looks rather good too might i add...

    BUT my point is (yes finally) that some mods can improve your playing depending on how you play.

    And as for mods to the electrics, ive never seen the need especially with the second hand market like it is...

    all the best
     
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I know for a fact that if I replace the crappy Mighty Mite pickups and preamp in my Soundgear 6 with an all Bart setup that it will sound different. But still not as good as my better basses.
     
  12. And this light-bulb idea comes to us from a guy who lists sleeping as a hobby! :rollno:

    I have a 1979 Ibanez Roadster that has a near-perfect neck and I put EMG P/J's and preamp with sweepable mids, and it is a different instrument, it has actually become my most versatile instrument, replacing instruments that cost 20 and 30 times as much. I also put a Schaller roller bridge on it and noticed an immediate difference in the sustain, punch, and clarity of the notes, not to mention wicked low action.

    It seems to me that you haven't made drastic changes and thus haven't noticed the differenct. Duncan passive to EMG active ISN'T a big change. The EMG's are quieter (although I can hear a sonic difference in the treble response).

    Try to convince luknfur that there isn't a difference in pickups, and he will disagree with qualitative analysis I'm sure!!
     
  13. Rodent

    Rodent Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Regenerate Guitar Works
    So the upgrade I just did to a bass from passive electronics to a U Retro Deluxe is all psychoaccoustics? :confused: Switching out a set of stock Fender MIM p/u's for a Nordstrand NJ4SE only resulted in a ding to my CC, and the studio engineers who have commented on the radical improvement to the tone are also halucinating? :confused: You mean that switching from a MF $5 cord to a superb quality homemade cord assembled from high quality components didn't really 'open up' the lows/mids on my bass like the Pro sound engineer said it did during a blind A/B test? :confused: You mean that all of this is just mental forgery because I want to hear something different for the $$$ I spent? :rolleyes:

    Puh-lease ... it's great that you enjoy utilizing the components on your bass the way they are, and that you personally find inspiration with all things as they currently are. And maybe it's true - you can't hear the difference implementing the above modifications will have on your tone. That's cool with me that you can't hear it. But to slam those of us who do hear the sonic difference, and that difference then inspires us to venture into territory we have not personally traveled before is impolite.

    If there is actually no difference to be heard, you can be sure that these bass part companies (like Lindy Fralin, Bartolini, Aero, Sadowsky, Nordstrand, etc ...) will not be around in a couple of years. I have my money hedged on the part companies because I, like the great majority of modern players today, can hear the difference.

    Note that I am not implying that swapping electronics is the cure all for bad technique. If you have bad technique, take the steps (lessons, practice, etc ...) to get it corrected. This conversation here is focused solely on swapping bass components supposedly having no impact on the tone of a bass.

    R
     
  14. bigbeefdog

    bigbeefdog Who let the dogs in?

    Jul 7, 2003
    Mandeville, LA
    :rolleyes:
     
  15. Sorry, I just disagree with the original poster. Granted, your technique heavily influences your tone but you must see this from a more psycho-analytical perspective.

    Let's say an individual is not pleased aesthetically with the tone his ear perceives from his insert bass here. He or she may think it's the bridge, pickups, tuning machines, so forth.

    Maybe the finish is not pleasing to the touch or eye.

    The point is, you and I cannot tell someone what to like even if you believe that what they have now is more than they would ever need. Far more goes into treasuring and finding *your* instrument than how it may or may not sound and if modding can take you there...
     
  16. Akito

    Akito

    Dec 1, 2003
    Spokane
    It's pretty obvious that people with good technique can sound good with crap gear. I've seen it and heard it over and over again. Taking that to an anti-mod stand point seems a bit off to me though. I'm glad some of the guys who were innovators in the technical and mechanical side of bass playing didn't have that attitude. Would we even have round wound strings if everything was done solely with technique and no one looked beyond existing combinations of materials?
    Ah this is silly, I'm going to go find an excuse not to practice.
     
  17. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    I must also disagree with the origional poster. While I do agree that many people buy high end basses and do fancy mods instead of putting in the time praciticing. I have found from experience that modding a bass is a great way to make it sound better. Not just different, "BETTER"! When I took the stock pickup out of my MIM fender pbass, put in a quarter pounder and heard an incrediby stronger fuller and more musical tone from my instrument, it was not a halucination It was an improvement in the sound.

    Further, I must agree with those who say that modding an instrument is a great way to have a much better instrument at your disposal without spending mucho bucks on a new instrument. Sometimes a Mod does little to change the sound of an instrument, and some instruments are such turds that modding them is a waste of time, but the fact is better parts = better instrument= better sound. Thus I will continue moding my basses.
     
  18. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Another note for disagreement. A bit of an example:
    I replaced the stock MEC pickups from a '97 Warwick Corvette 4 string with some DiMarzio Model J's. It didn't even sound like the same bass when I was done. It was VASTLY superior IMO. I got that comment from my bandmates as well. We all must have been experiencing a placebo effect of some sort huh? :rollno:
     
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well, if I had weak low output pickups on a bass I bought, I would change them, not for tonal reasons but for volume reasons. But if you're changing them because you want a different tone, can't you do that with the amp tone controls or even the bass volume and tone controls? What do new pickups do other than give you a new reference point for your EQ? Or maybe cut down on noise a little? Noise, I can understand wanting new pickups. But if you're just looking for a different tone, replacing pickups is pretty drastic when all you need to do is twist knobs on your amp.

    As for the thing about "If there is actually no difference to be heard, you can be sure that these bass part companies will not be around in a couple of years," well some parts are shoddy and need replacing, so it's good that these aftermarket companies exist, but if you have good parts in your bass already, what's the point? You're just spending good money. You're better served by practicing longer and learning how to get a good tone with what you have.

    But hey, suit yourselves. Mod your basses all you want. Just don't come crying to me when these mods don't make you play any better.
     
  20. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Who ever said that changing out pickups would make them play better? :confused:
     



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