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How can i make my Bass guitar sounding like a Contrabass?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by poulsen, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. poulsen


    Nov 8, 2011
    Greetings from Germany :hyper:
    I have a Fender Squier P-Bass and i want to get that old 50´s bass-sound. For example Elvis songs. I know they used Contrabass. But can i get this sound with my P-Bass too?
    Maybe with Flatwound strings? If yes, which?

    Sorry if english mistakes!
  2. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    Hallo Freund,

    Strings only won't do the job. Flatwounds which have had a hundred hours of playing or more will bring you in the right direction. You might want to try foam underneath the strings, near the bridge, to make them sound even duller. Cut off the higher harmonics by rolling down the tone control. I myself like to play d'Addario Chromes, as they have a very slick feel, but there are many other brands, producing suitable flatwounds. To my opinion a bass can be made to imitate an upright bass, but it'll never really sound 100% alike.


  3. agree w/the above post. Might also investigate tape wound strings to help get you there.

    Proest! :D
  4. kb9wyz


    Sep 8, 2008
    Some foam under the strings near the bridge to mute the strings a little bit would help too. It would make the articulation a little more like a contrabass.

  5. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    The Brains: FretNation.com
    Black Nylon Tapewounds...

    Most thunky sound imho...
  6. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    You cant! I cant even get that sound with my upright
  7. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    I just did some comparisons between a set of GHS Precision Flats with a foam pad under the strings at the bridge, and Roto RS88 Black Nylon Tapewounds. Very similar sounding. IMO, not worth dedicating a bass to the tapewounds. I suggest the GHS and a foam pad. GHS doesn't seem to get as much respect as their brand is not as caché as Thomastik-Infeld, Pyramid, D'Addario, etc., but I was immediatly impressed with their Precision Flats. Percussive, woody, everything I was looking for.

    As mentioned, nothing sounds like a contrabass except a contrabass.
  8. Bassics101


    Feb 3, 2011
    AS others have said, flats and muting can help. Fretless and flats, IMO, even better. I'm not recommending that you pull them out of the bass you have.
  9. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    Let's also remember that most upright guys when playing use the sides of their fingers, while us electric folk use our fingertips. Whenever I'm faking an upright sound (as in, I don't have my upright with me at the gig), I'll use my thumb and mute the strings with my palm. That gets me a lot closer than what strings I use.
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Honestly, it doesn't matter what bass or strings you use...it's never going to sound exact, but the key to sounding like an upright player on electric is to play like an upright player. Not necessarily the technique, but the notes, spacing between notes, etc.
  11. randysmojo


    Jan 14, 2008
    Temple, TX
    I'm similar to One Bad Monkey. I use my thumb and mute with the palm right on the saddles. I can roll my palm forward or backward to change the muting effect for a little more sustain or a little less depending on what I'm wanting to sound like. Also as JimmyM said, try to imitate the note length and spacing between notes with the muting to give more of the feel of upright.
  12. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Except that a contrabass is not an upright.
  13. randysmojo


    Jan 14, 2008
    Temple, TX
    Everyone else was refering to upright basses. I had to look up Contrabass to figure this out. They are actually more of a large acoustic bass, usually 6-strings, and tuned different ways but the early ones where thought to have been an octave of a classical 6-string guitar. The article I found states that although they where called Contrabass, they where only tuned one octave down, so they where not a true "contra" instrument.

    Now the question is does the OP mean an actual Contrabass, or an Upright Bass?
  14. ?? :confused:

    Yeah it is.


    "While the term most commonly refers to the double bass (which is the bass instrument in the orchestral string family, tuned lower than the cello), many other instruments in the contrabass register exist.
  15. When one was able to take an instrument on board a plane Ron Carter used to buy a seat for his bass, booking the ticket under the name "M. Contrabass".
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I once met Todd Philips, the bluegrass upright bassist, in an airport, and he said his upright has as many frequent flyer miles as he does ;)
  17. stiles72


    Mar 20, 2009
    Albany IL
    +1 I have a set of GHS Precisions on my P-bass and with a foam mute, IMO they have that same deep "La Bella" sound with much more playable action. Very nice strings.
  18. I read in the same article that he says he no longer travels w/his main DB because the airlines and TSA have made it so difficult so he usually just rents something local :scowl:
  19. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Here's what I thought was the lineage:

    Double Bass: The tall thing Sting plays, sometimes referred to as an upright bass, stand up bass, string bass.
    Electric Bass: The ones most folks here play that get plugged into your Ampeg, Sunn, etc.
    Bass Guitar: Looks like an acoustic guitar, often called a contrabass.
    Baritone Guitar: A Fender VI, tic/tac style electric guitar.

    I'm guessing that using the term contrabass to mean a double bass probably has some geographical or cultural attribution.
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    What article? I met him at Bradley Airport in Hartford once about 3 years ago. Back then he had his upright and two giant bags of cords and preamps and stuff in a pushcart. Renting, although the quality of rental basses is anywhere from decent to crap, is really the way to go.

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