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Getting good effect sounds with flatwounds

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Swimming Bird, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD

    How do you get good effect tones while using flatwounds? I'm having a heck of a time getting anything but mellow sounds out of my setup. I enjoy sound degradation effects, and those too are a bit on the 'soft' side for me when I use my fretless bass. Any suggestions?


  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    HI Alex,

    the first thing to note is that there's a HUGE range of tones across the different brands of flatwound strings from super-bright to dull 'n' muffled straight out of the packet.

    The ones I use are Bass Centre Elites which are very bright, but controlled. I love the sound - if you have a listen to any of the fretless stuff from my album Grace and Gratitude, that's the sound of my bass in passive mode, just on the bridge pickup - I don't think I moved it out of that for the whole record... The fretted 6 string also had flats on it, and is noticeably darker, that's in passive on the front pickup.

    On my more recent album, Behind Every Word, the fretless tones are all active - I used my U-Retro to help shape the sound a bit.

    I guess there are a few things that will influence this - the string brand and age, the pickups on your bass, the set up of the bass - both the action and the distance from pick-up to string - and the kind of processor.

    One pitfall to avoid is cranking the treble to make it sound brighter. It often will just make it sound brittle. if a part of the frequency spectrum just isn't there, then you can EQ it to be there - that's like turning up your amp when you're not playing to be able to hear more bass... :)

    I could probably tell you more accurately if I saw you bass, so sorry to talk in such generalised terms...


  3. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD

    I'm using a Spalt Magma 601x Fretless six-string. It uses an optical pickup (Lightwave Systems), though it also has a piezo for high end and its midi system. I'm assuming that it uses Lightwave's pre-amp.

    The action is super low - lower than most uprights I've played - but tension is good thanks to its rough equivalent to through-body stringing (gives it the same tension as a 36" on a 34" scale). No idea what brand of strings or exactly how old, I haven't replaced them.


    (it's the bass in my myspace profile pic)
  4. the low one

    the low one

    Feb 21, 2002
    Hi Steve,

    The passive fretless tone on Grace and Gratitude sounds great. I wish my fretless Jazz sounded as good but then I don’t have your hands either. Do you roll off any your tone knob as well as just using the bridge pickup? Do you find you need to boost the bass a little on your amp a little too?

    You talk about using just the bridge or neck pickup. With 2 pickup basses do you tend to solo one or other pickup rather than running both together?


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