Getting more 'attack' from a P-Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by allanmac00, Feb 3, 2017.

  1. allanmac00

    allanmac00 Supporting Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    I'm primarily a P-bass player, and I love the idea of keeping things simple - one bass, two knobs. But a few recent studio experiences have me wondering if I need to augment my situation in some way. I'm also not a studio guy, just showed up to record some tracks for a friend, so I'm not expert in how it all goes.

    In the past year, I recorded two separate tracks with an American Standard P-bass. Both times, the producer (same one each time) remarked that I wasn't getting enough 'attack' from the bass to situate it properly in the mix. Even after opening up the tone fully, it still wasn't quite enough for one of the tracks - I ended up using a pick super close to the bridge just to get a little more bite. The track sounds ok, but not nearly as meaty as it should've been. (I should note that I was using GHS pressurewounds on this particular bass).

    My question is, (without of course knowing if the pickups were faulty) should I look into adding some sort of overdrive, or a preamp to my setup? Right now I just go PBass into amp (or DI in the studio), no effects. I've always loved the P tone, but if it's going to be my workhorse, what could I do to maybe add a little more presence to it? FWIW, I typically play rock in the style of bands like Wilco, MMJ, Dr Dog, etc. But I also take on some Motown/Soul stuff from time to time.
  2. CoarseBass


    Dec 28, 2002
    Pressurewounds are the first thing to go, in my opinion. A P Bass should be able to bite and chime pretty effectively with bright round wounds on there. If you need more, a lot of classic 'bright' or sharper attacking rock tones are as simple as a PBass with treble boosted along the way...that'll get you into a surprisingly gritty tone, without needing OD.

    But that said, OD is the most fun effect, why not try it?
    Jaco Taco, fender68, lpcarter and 4 others like this.
  3. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Brand new Pressurewounds have plenty of punch. Old ones, not as much.
  4. MarkoYYZ

    MarkoYYZ Commercial User

    Jan 31, 2012
    Hammersmith Music
    Attack is usually a word that describes your technique and not something that gets adjusted in the tone. More attack = digging in harder and getting more volume out of the strings, which also opens up other tonal characteristics. This might include a little more fret noise, but also the strings themselves will give you a different response. The increase in string travel will also react differently with the magnetism of the pickups which can further color the tone.

    Were you maybe trying to play too clean, being in the studio, or is your playing style a little on the lighter/smoother side?
  5. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Depending on the year and model, it could be the pickup. IMO, some stock Fender pickups, like the one I had in a 2004 Am. Series, do indeed have a soft attack (especially in the lows) that doesn't always record well. That pickup came alive to some extent with D'Addario Chromes, but the bass really came alive when I finally got a Lindy Fralin pickup. It was fantastic all around, and recorded extremely well.

    Maybe a preamp could help in your case, or something like an Aphex Bass Xciter that could add punch and "sparkle."
    Arthur U. Poon and jallenbass like this.
  6. allanmac00

    allanmac00 Supporting Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    Dumb question, but would this apply to Chromes as well? My other P is strung with these. Haven't had a chance to record with it but sounds great otherwise.
    tekhedd, knumbskull and Groove Doctor like this.
  7. allanmac00

    allanmac00 Supporting Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    Possibly? I do play with a little more finesse, but I dug in hard with a pick for one tune and it still sounded a little weak.
  8. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    ^ This + 1
    You need to dig in. If you get fret rattle, then your action is too low. Gadgets wont do it. It is technique. Carol Kaye always used flats and a thick pick.
    SLO Surfer and inanimate_carb like this.
  9. How high are the pickups? Getting them closer to the strings could make all the difference.

    +1 to Try the P bass with Chromes next time.
  10. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    Aside from strings, a little bit of fuzz/od can go a long way to help the bass pop out in a mix. I'm not talking chain saw distortion, just a little extra harmonic content.
    fclefgeoff likes this.
  11. chilliwilli


    Aug 17, 2005
    Just use a more typical round wound and adjust your right hand technique accordingly.
  12. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Buy a set of D'Addario Pro Steels. If you have any problems with "attack" after that, you have a problem with the bass.
  13. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    This is why most pro's will turn up to a session with 2 P basses, flats and rounds, a Jazz and several other basses.

    Your bass probably sounds just fine. Don't change it. Buy another bass that does that job.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    I find that on my P style basses (not Fenders) that i have more attack and better dynamics by boosting the volume and playing with a lighter touch. I fought this at first but it works for me.
  15. What others have said: new strings and raise the action (if you haven't already) of the bass so that you have to articulate the notes more.
  16. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    First thread EVER about a P bass not working in the studio.

    My suggestion is a different producer.
    filmtex, cxcxcx, Gluvhand and 23 others like this.
  17. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I like 5, 8, 10, and 12 string basses
    You need this kind of p-bass

  18. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    You say that when you used a pick close to the bridge, the sound was better. Likely all you need are fresh strings, and learn to pluck the strings with more authority. One thing about recording - there is no where to hide.
  19. monkeyfinger

    monkeyfinger Moderator Staff Member

    For me, attack is mostly about dynamics. A strong attack has a very large volume spike right after striking the string, (1-2 ms). IMO, the best way to achieve this is using high output amp with lots of headroom and a light technique. I think many players depend on heavy right-hand technique to create attack. But that has an affect similar to heavy compression. The heavier the right-hand, the longer the finger stays on the string. That mutes the initial spike. IMO, this is why picked basses have a very strong attack and a brighter tone. The pick strikes the string quickly and does not stay on the string for very long. Plus the pick has less mass to dampen the string than a finger. If you want great attack, take a lesson from classical guitarists and use a light touch with minimal string contact. In our case, you need to match that up to a very powerful amp with lots of headroom so that the dynamics translate through the amp and speaker system.
  20. Get a new producer, there's nothing wrong with your bass. If he's any good he should be able to take the signal and do whatever he needs with it.