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fretless: "MWAH" vs. upright-like sound

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jsonnenblick, Jun 1, 2001.

  1. Hi. I own a Mexican Fender Jazz Bass that I converted to fretless, and just recently acquired a G&L ASAT fretless in a trade. I'm trying to decide which one to keep. Both are strung with flatwound strings, so it's been fairly easy to compare their tones directly.

    The ASAT, to my ear, is much closer to the sound of an actual upright bass -- lots of thump behind the notes, lots of fundamental and clarity, not such a huge amount of singing "mwah" sound.

    The Fender is quite the opposite -- less fundamental clarity, less bass freq's, less fundamental, but singing "mwah" for days.

    So what do y'all value in a fretless? I really only want to keep one of these, but choosing is rough. . . .

    Also, is there always a trade-off between "mwah" and upright-ness when choosing a fretless?
  2. what exactly do you mean by "mwah"?
  3. "Mwah" = that midrange-y, singing sound that many people look for in a fretless bass. Recorded examples might include the fretless work of Pino Palladino on David Gilmour and Don Henley albums in the '80's, as well as the fretless tones favored by Marcus Miller on his solo albums. Also, of course, Jaco's tone on early Weather Report albums has to be included here. . .

    The "mwah" is especially apparent when sliding between notes on a string, so there's no fretted-bass equivalent.
  4. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I like a sustaining "mwah". It's the characteristic sound of a fretless bass guitar and it's what people expect when you whip one out. Sell the ASAT and buy an upright with the money...okay, 1/4 of an upright.
  5. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    I'd go for the upright like tone, I don't care what people expect from a fretless bass. Fretless bass is a great way to play the unexpected.

    Too bad my intonation sucks. And my bass.
  6. MikeyD


    Sep 9, 2000
    I'm able to get a bit of either on my defretted '62 MIJ Jazz Bass reissue. Depending on what I'm playing (funk/fusion or straight-ahead jazz), I really need either option. It has a rosewood fingerboard. I use D'Addario XL170s and set the action pretty low. When I want the "mwah", I can pluck over the bridge pickup, with just that PU on for the Jaco-like sound. Or I sometimes pluck right at the heel end of the fingerboard for a fatter sustaining/singing sound.

    For more of an "upright" sound, again I pluck over the fingerboard, but more aggressively to twang the strings a bit more. I sometimes even use my fretting fingers to damp the strings a bit for shorter decay. Further, I bring the neck PU up in addition to the bridge PU - almost, but not quite, as high. This gives some better bottom thump during the attack.
    - Mike
  7. Scott Cutrer

    Scott Cutrer Guest

    Aug 21, 2000
    Richmond, VA
    Jason, Ijust got a fretless ASAT too. I used to have a fretless L2000 for a while and got rid of it. I had flatwounds on it and though it did have a good upright sound, I thought that it was mwahless, and that bummed me out. I like having the upright sound available to me in an electric, but I want a fretless bass guitar to sound like a fretless bass guitar first, upright second, ya know.

    Well skip ahead about six month. I decided to try again with the ASAT that was offered to me. I have had great luck with fretted G&L L2000's and just had to try one more with the fretless. Well this time I put roundwound strings on it. Jaso, I have not stopped playing this bass for the last two weeks. This bass is now a MWAH MACHINE! Also, I can rool the treble off a bit and bump the lows and in the active series mode it is rather uprighty.

    Point being that I am now very sold on this bass, so much so that I turned down an offer for a Pedulla Buzz Bass in trade. With the ASAT/L2000 electronics, you can get such a great variety of tones with this one bass, and I really do feel that it lends itself to fretless in a big way.

    I also saw your post looking for a fretted G&L neck, that is the way to go, I think. I am gonna try to do the same thing. If I could have a fretted neck to switch on this bass with the frettles, I would be rather content I think.

    Keep the G&L, can the MIM!

  8. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    My Lakland can get either sound. The Pedulla is more prone to mwah.
  9. I usually go for the upright sound with my fretless. I like it, it's fun.
  10. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    I'm with MikeyD. I can get either tone from my three fretlesses. I use the bridge pu and and play near the bridge for the "mwah" sound, but my bread-and-butter tone is more upright-ish: both pickups on full and plucking at the end of the fingerboard. Also, lower action seems to help the "mwah", while a stiffer action sounds more like an upright. Mine is a little on the stiff side, and I use tapewounds.
  11. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I've got a DeArmond Ashbory. It sounds lots like an upright-the main reason i bought it over a MIM Fretless. Now however i plan on adding a Fretless Jazz so that i can get all 3 sounds [fretted jazz, fretless jazz, upright on acid]. to quote an old Nik Show {legends of the hidden temple}"The Choice is yours & yours alone" :) thats all
  12. My DB has a ton if it but out of all the fretless BG's I have played I think the Pedulla is #1 for perfect MWAH. Yet another reason why we are both proud owners of Pedullas.
  13. coyoteboy

    coyoteboy easy there, Ned Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Sactomato, CA
    The Zon Lightwave does a very good upright bass inpersonation, especially with ABG strings on it, but has a fair amount of mwah as well, epecially with the elixir's on it. Anyway, I like the big bloom from my fretless...
  14. If it's a decision between keeping either the G&L or the MIM Fender, I can't imagine an easier choice. The G&L is by far the better instrument. It has such a huge range of tones and with a change in setup, can easily cop any tone that'll come out of the MIM.
  15. Speaking of MWAH shouldn't NotDuane be here? I know he has been on this quest, and rumor has it he finds it in a Rob Allen.
  16. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
    Yuppir! The Grail is mine! MWAH-ha-haaa :p

    ...my R/A, the B-15, a lotta' pre, a little post,
    a tweak on the mids == bliss-age :D.

    But that's jus' me.

    Now if you wanna' talk "BowwrrrRRrrr" (M.M.'s
    La Sagrada Familia) over "mWahhhh", try some
    Acousticores (on a R/A of course ;) ).

    :eek: I've said too much! My double plans must not fall
    into the wrong hands!

  17. RS


    Aug 27, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    Do you think a thru neck fretless has more mwah than a bolt on? all other things being equal.
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Maybe...maybe not;)
  19. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    RS, I don't have an opinion on your question, having never owned a neck through of any persuasion.

    My Sonus Custom 5 is capable of both sounds. For mwaahh, I use 80% bridge pickup 20% neck, and have the piezo blend set at 60% magnetic. Instant Jaco.:) Too bad it doesn't make me play like him.:p

    For upright tone, I go 100% neck, and set the piezo blend at 70% piezo, and of course play near the end of the neck. Great quasi upright tone. I am a firm believer that if you want Jaco or Pino tone, you have gotta have roundwounds, preferably stainless.

    I don't like to take the Zon on oldies gigs, so for those situations I have my old Westone fretless strung up with Fender black nylons. Turn the parametric EQ to low bas, boost it about 4 db, turn the tone all the way down, solo the P pickup, and 'Rock around the Clock' sounds 100% authentic.
  20. Go for the G&L, it's a better bass. Now, I'm suprised no-one has mentioned the fact that your Fender has more Mwah simply because it has different neck relief to the Asat. You can give your Asat more mwah by straightening the neck slightly, and give the Fender less mwah by loosening the trussrod slightly. Other factors involved here are nut height, saddle height, and technique. If your set up is good, and your technique is good, you can get both the mwah and the "uprightness" from the one bass. As I said before, the G&L is a way better bass than a MIM.

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