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Help for a new member

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Beef of the Sea, Mar 22, 2014.

  1. Beef of the Sea

    Beef of the Sea Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hey everyone,

    I've been browsing this forum since I started playing bass about 10 years ago, but I just now decided to make an account because of a "problem" I need help with.

    *DISCLAIMER: When it comes to gear, I am a complete idiot when it comes to anything electronics-related, so please forgive my ignorance.*

    I've been playing bass off and on for the past 10 years, and I recently decided to buy a Squier VM J bass from the music store where I work. My other bass (my first bass ever) is an Ibanez GSR200. I bought the Squier because I wanted something that would give me a better sound for the type of music I play (old-school R&B, funk, disco, soul, etc.). Fenders w/ flats are known for having the perfect sound for that type of music, so essentially that's what I went for. The problem is...I'm not really diggin' the way my new bass sounds. Instead of the thumpy, punchy, fat sound that I like, it's getting a woody, hollow, gritty sound that seems to fit rock music better. It's also really quiet compared to the Ibanez, when set at the same volume levels.

    Both basses are set up with D'Addario Chromes (.045-.100) and have similar action.

    Does anyone know how to fix this? I've heard recordings and live performances of people playing on Fenders/Squiers with flats, and it sounds much different than what I'm getting. I used to own a Fender MIA P bass, and pretty much had the same experience.

    I'll try to send a couple audio clips soon.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. 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
    What amp are you using?
  3. AndyW83


    Feb 18, 2009
    What kind of body wood are your basses?
  4. Beef of the Sea

    Beef of the Sea Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Alright, here are the audio clips comparing my two basses:


    The quality is probably crappy, since it's just a cheap USB condenser mic placed in front of my Hartke A35 amp. The only difference in both recordings is the bass used. EQ and strings are exactly the same on both.
  5. TheAnalogKid

    TheAnalogKid Yer Doin' GREAT!!!!

    Dec 7, 2011
    Tacoma, WA
    My first thought on the lackluster sound from your Squier Jazz is whether your pickup height is "correct" for your playing style. Are both pups set high or low? As a point of reference, I use Fender's bass setup guide. It states that you would depress the E string at the 20th fret while measuring from the bottom edge of that string to the top of the pup's pole piece; repeat with the G string.

    Using the "Standard J" pup specs, and a ruler with 1/64" graduations, you would check for ~7/64" on the bass side (E) and ~5/64" on the Treble (G string) side. This explains it in detail:


    That's the first and easiest thing I would examine. A fine-tip #0 Phillips screwdriver can adjust the screws to raise or lower your pups. Another thing: if the pup needs to be raised up, but won't move, an extra piece of foam under it might be needed to give it that "spring". << I had to do this two weeks ago.

    Barring that, the next thing is to start checking electronics. If you turn the VOL pots one at a time, do you notice a change in sound at all? Does your TONE pot work? If not, it's time to go below deck and have your wiring checked out.
  6. Beef of the Sea

    Beef of the Sea Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks for the help. I'll take a look at the pups when I get the chance. I had the tech at work set up the bass before I even took it home, so I just assumed the pups were set at the correct height.
  7. 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
    A 1X10 combo isn't the best amp to suss out whether a bass sounds good or not.
  8. Beef of the Sea

    Beef of the Sea Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    I agree that it's not the best amp, but that's beside the point. Listen to the difference in tones in the link I posted.
  9. If changing the pickup height doesn't give you the tone you want, you might want to change your pickups. I just bought a Squier VM J and didn't care for the tone of the pickups. They were not as loud as the pickups on my Fender either. I replaced the pickups and now it sounds great and is equal to my Fender output. I don't know a lot about the tones of different brands of pickups, but if you ask around here I'm sure someone could provide an informed opinion if you decide to go that route.
  10. 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
    I think TheAnalogKid may be onto something.
  11. While there are many things that affect tone, the things I would do to change it:
    1. Where is your plucking hand? I tend to pluck near the neck.
    2. What is the settings on your bass? I prefer more "neck pickup" than "bridge pickup." 80%/20% perhaps. Tone is set pretty low depending on what I want to do.
    3. Apparently you're using Flatwound Chromes... so in theory you should be good to go.
    4. Amp settings. What do you have the settings at? If you can, go to your local guitar-store and try other amps. See if you can get the tone you want.
    5. Recording. Try recording without the mic if possible. Either straight from the bass, or using the amp's line out.

    After all that, then consider pickup height, changing to different strings, changing pickups, new amp, and perhaps a new bass (a Precision). Either I'm just lucky or don't have a good ear for tone, but I've been able to get the sound I want from the basses and amp I have (unfortunately none of them are what you have to truly help you out).
  12. BlountEdge

    BlountEdge I play (mostly) jazz basses

    Apr 15, 2004
    Former contributing writer for Bassics Magazine
    Hi Beef of the Sea,

    Welcome to TB as a member. You'll usually find lots of knowledge, experience, opinions and assistance here.

    First of all, congrats on tackling "Darling Dear"! I've always considered it to be one of Jamerson's best performances.

    Assuming that there are no technical issues with your Squire, I believe that the main issue is that you're comparing the output of a passive instrument (Squire) to that of an active instrument (Ibanez). I'm not very familiar with the Ibanez, but a quick Google search revealed that it has active electronics. Since you've acknowledged a limited knowledge of electronics, here's a brief explanation:

    Generally speaking, you typically must increase the volume and adjust the tone settings of a passive instrument to match the volume and tonal qualities of an active instrument. Again, I'm speaking in general terms.

    In your particular case, the Ibanez sounds louder and fuller, due to the increased output and tonal range of its on-board preamp, which applies additional volume and tonal qualities to the signal before it reaches your amp.

    Your Squire does not have an on-board preamp and is therefore relying solely on its "passive" electronics (pickups, volume and tone pots - no preamp) to achieve its actual (and perceived) output and tone.

    Many amps compensate for the use of active vs. passive instruments by a) including separate passive and active input jacks on the amp, which adjust the signal (+ / - )within the amp's input stage or b) by including an input gain knob or button near the input jack, which allows the user to adjust the input signal appropriately (+ / -) for active or passive instruments.

    Your amp does not appear to have either of these options, which in basic terms means that your amp's input volume is "fixed" by the instrument that you plug into it, with no input adjustment options. It has an overall volume knob, which adjusts output only. Therefore, when you plug in the active Ibanez, it sounds louder and has enhanced tonal qualities, as compared to the passive Squire. In this situation, to "enhance" the Squire, you may need to adjust the tone settings and perhaps increase the amp's output volume.

    There are many, many other solutions to this issue. Here are a few of the most basic options, beginning with the most economical:

    1. Have different volume and tone settings on your Hartke amp for each bass. Most economical, but not ideal.

    2. Use only active basses or only passive basses - do not mix the two. Purely a question of taste, style and your identity as a player. Very subjective. May not be ideal.

    3. Upgrade your amp to a model that includes input gain staging options as mentioned above. Ideal solution, but less economical.

    4. Invest in a 2-channel outboard preamp pedal, which will allow you to adjust the input and output volume of each bass independently, regardless of the amp you're using. The Radial Tonebone is one of many great examples of this product type. Another ideal solution, but (again) less economical.

    I have made a few assumptions here, based on the amp and basses that you're using. Hopefully, I'm correct and you will find a solution within my recommendations.

    Good luck and reach out further if you need to.
  13. Welcome to talkbass.

    Looking for thatJamerson tone? You need a P bass with well broken in LaBella flats (like Jameson used on the original recordings). Play up closer to the neck will help. New chromes will sound overly bright until they're broken in. Sorry I'm not aware of any quick fix beyond just playing until the strings start sounding fat.

    You're siimply never going to get a jazz bass to duplicate the tone of a precision or vise versa......... Sorry, this is why so many of us own both.

    The active vs passive differences and pickup hieght issues have aleady been discussed. Don't give up, the VM jazz is more than capable of great tone. Give it some time.
  14. Beef of the Sea

    Beef of the Sea Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks again for the help, guys.

    I ended up re-setting up my bass earlier today (to the Fender website specs), so I feel better now that I know the problem isn't a faulty setup.
  15. Beef of the Sea

    Beef of the Sea Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Not necessarily looking for a Jamerson tone, per se, but rather a tone that's thumpy, yet still versatile.

    I did, in fact, have a P bass with Labella Jamerson flats a few years ago, and I had a very similar problem with that combo--I was getting a very thin, hollow, boring sound instead of a fat thumpy one. That's part of the reason why I ended up selling that bass.
  16. First... Chromes take time to loose the new bright tone. Depending on personal body chemistry and how much you play it could be many months. The good news is once the start sounding good they last for years. I had one set of chromes on 5 different basses over a 20 year span.

    Secondly and this is very much my $0.02, and were I'd put my money before spending one more dime on a bass. You're never ever going to achieve a fat thump from a 1X10 alumiumn driver. Up grade to a 15 paper cone driver in a property sized cab if you want fat thump. Or at a minium try your bass thru an Ampeg BA108 (a very round soudinng little amp). IME a great bass into sub par combo amp will aways sound like the amp, that is sub par and not at all satisfying. YMMV
  17. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    Jamerson also had his string height set abnormally high - he would use his finger like a "hook" as he calls it. Other bassists playing his bass found it almost unplayable.
    My MIM Fender P bass has "old" strings and the thing can thump. It does have Seymour Duncan pickups though.
  18. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Spector-Dingwall-Aguilar-DR-Tech 21-Darkglass
    Interesting...I personally found the tone of the Squire much more pleasing than the Ibanez, it would certainly punch through better in a band context, and obviously its electronics are less prone to interference as well.

    Sounds to me like you just need to employ one of two simple fixes (or even both):

    As far as your bass goes, roll off the tone to taste, and you might also try favoring the neck pickup.

    And for your amp, it's going to be very difficult to find the tone you're after with an aluminum driver; they're literally designed for the exact opposite of what you're looking for.

    Good luck, and welcome to TB! :bassist:
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I think you just need to kill your strings, and that's going to help a lot. I use Eucerin cream on flats to kill them...a little expensive for a jar, but if you get the house brand instead of real Eucerin cream it's cheaper. Beats the hell out of rubbing food products on them...Eucerin cream won't go rancid ;)

    Also, if you're going for a more Jamerson-y tone, just run the front pickup and turn off the bridge pickup. Honestly, I liked the Squier better, too.
  20. Beef of the Sea

    Beef of the Sea Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    I tried Eucerin cream on the strings. Not sure if it did anything. Is it supposed to be re-applied regularly?

    Would an Ampeg BA115 be a good upgrade for home practicing/rehearsals/smaller gigs?

    I have a custom set of GHS P flats on the way from Bass Strings Online, and hopefully that'll fatten the sound up a bit more.