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How do I get this tone?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by XavierG, Mar 12, 2001.

  1. Be gentle with me - I've only just got back into bass-playing after an extended "sabbatical".

    I can't seem to get this tone out of my fretless, and am wondering if there's a trick to it (ie. external effects). It's a fairly common tone on jazz bass lines, Jaco had it, Caron does too. I really can't explain it other than to say it almost has a trombonish(?) feel with a very slight wah. It's on this this (very short) Alain Caron clip from "Grand Cafe" -


    Is it just a good bass through a good amp (..and a good bassist :rolleyes: )?
  2. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Jazz Bass or bass with two J p/u's; selext the bridge p/u only and roll off the tone/treble. Now dig in and play 16th notes near the bridge. You may want to add a bit of low frequency on your amp.

    Bonus info-swap to playing nearly other the fretboard with the same setting to get a mellow sound. Mmmm nice.
  3. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    was that gentle enough?

    CS-anticipating that some joker will say that you can only get this sound from a 61 Jazz with no scratchplate (thats real talk for pickguard).
  4. Thank's CS. I tried that but don't quite get the tone I'm looking for :(. Maybe it's my pickups. I guess it's back to the drawing board for me.

    Mr. Almighty Moderator, I realized (after posting) that the Technique forum would have been more appropriate. A thousand pardons.
  5. mark egan is another with probally the sound you speak of, he did use a chorus and of a touch of delay on a few songs.
  6. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    Like CS sez, J-style bass, bridge pup soloed, although I'd say boost the mids instead of the lows - a lot. I can get that farty Jaco sound ;) , with a decent "mwah," even on a fretted that way.
  7. Now why couldn't I think of that one when I was trying to describe the 'sound' I was looking for. You, sir, must be blessed with the gift of gab. ;)
  8. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
  9. NJXT


    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    Xavier, have you try to change the setup of your bass ? I mean, lowering the action ?
    Perhaps it's a lack of "Mwah" in your sound ?
    I don't have a fretless but when I tried once for the first time recently, I was surprised by the lack of "mwah" except on one string.
    When I asked in TB what could it be, some experienced player told me that the action of the 3 others strings was too high.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    The search for this type of sound has been like a "quest for the holy grail" for me over the last 4 - 5 years as well and I have mentioned it in many places in these forums.

    I have tried literally hundreds of Fender Jazz basses (4s and 5s)in my quest and like you I found that they all couldn't quite get that sound, no matter how they were played or what effects were used. The closest for me was the Roscoe Beck signature 5 with D'Addario Slowounds. But even so, it wasn't quite there.

    But then, a while ago, I got to see and talk to a couple of local (i.e. UK-based) Jazz pros who play electric bass and favour this type of sound. Well I talked to 2 of them, but there were three whose tone I really admired. The big thing that I noticed was that all three played pre-Gibson Tobias 5 strings - tried one of these in the Bass Centre in London and have never looked back - this does get my ideal tone and is immensely playable.

    I suppose what I'm saying is that after many years of searching I think it is down to the bass as well as the way you play and some basses I have tried or owned just would not get anywhere near this sound, while others were frustratingly close. I know people say that tone is in the hands, but I think the bass itself does have a big influence over the tone and also influences the way you play, which also has an effect on the tone you produce.

    Anyway, I'm rambling a bit now - this would be so much easier as a face-to-face thing, with a few demonstrations - for me, one demo of a bass in a shop or wherever, is worth a thousand words! ;)

  11. Your wish has been granted. You might get a few more replys down there anyways.
  12. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    In the end, it's in the fingers. Most of us(certainly me) could have Jaco's or Caron's bass and amp and still not come within a light year of their tone.
  13. I've pretty much tried everything as far as setting up the bass goes, Nathanael. When I analyze it, it seems that 'the sound' hinges on a combination of factors. Other than some of the more obvious ones, I think that a dash of compression, a sprinkle of chorus, and a pinch of that 'yah' effect common to guitar effects units (although the sound might more appropriately be described as a 'mwaow'), might somewhat replicate the elusive beast. I'll fiddle with my Pandora and see if I can't nail it.

    Mark Egan, if you read this, could you please enlighten us? I'll buy you a TB T-shirt in return :rolleyes:

    re: 'mwaow' - perhaps if I plug into a cats rear end..... Never mind! (No letters please :D).
  14. CS


    Dec 11, 1999

    IMHO dump the effects and go 'pure', try altering the eq on the amp, try mids as Lump suggested.
    BTW-George L cables make a huge difference to tone. Dont knock them till you have tried them.

    RE its all in the fingers-yes. Try playing in a fluid manner and try attacking the note cleanly (ie no slide in) but adding a tiny slide down, stop the note on the slide. Also do the semi tone drop thing with the root and octave to get you in the mood.
  15. 6-stringer

    6-stringer Guest

    Feb 5, 2000
    Another trick to acheiving the preverbial "mwaa"
    is instead of using the very tip of your fingers to fret a note, try using the meaty pads of your fingers, and be conservative in your attack (don't pluck the hell out of the string). Using this technique will give you a good feel for how a frettless neck reacts. After you get it down you will be able to coax all sorts of new sounds out of your bass. Playing with your plucking hand right at the bridge is good for short sticatto notes. Playing closer to the neck pickup is better for lagato with long slowly decaying notes. Also a good compressor
    might help beef up your tone.Just try to find a tone that works for you. GOOD LUCK!
  16. Yvon

    Yvon Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2000
    Montreal, Canada
    It sound like an F bass to me, they have their sound, it is a little hollow, it's hard to duplicate. If you can acheive it without buying a 4000$ F, let me know. ;)
  17. APouncer


    Nov 3, 2000
    Lancashire, UK
    I reckon you pump up low-mid EQ as high as possible on the bass amp, knock off the highs, have a fairly low action and like someone said - coax the ! I also fondle my beautiful, sweety pie and gently caress it when I walk by, they respond to this! The fretless mwaaa is the sound of the string lightly buzzing against the fretboard, play near the neck and add a subtle vibrato to keep the string ringing as long you need.

  18. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    This has been driving me nuts too. I have a MIM Fretless Jazz, and the new Fender Bassman 100 amp. I can kind of get the sound on the D sting at the 12th fret and above> Lowering the other strings just causes a buzz and tightening the truss rod causes the 5th and below "frets" to buzz. I have tried Fender tapewound strings, which in general I like the sound and feel of (but no mwah) and D'Addario Flatwound Cromes, but no luck.

    Steve Lawson also gets this tone, but it sounds to me to be all over the neck, not just the 12th fret and above. Does it have anything to do with sting tension? I'm using 45-100. I get the feeling that everybody gets this tone except me, poor me I know.


    BTW is it OK to post this a Steve Lawson's column?
  19. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    I second what APouncer said.

    I was in a music store trying to get the "mwah" from a EB MusicMan. I couldn't do it.

    The guy in the store takes the bass and plucks right over the end of the fretboard and does some serious left hand vibrato.

    I was in the presence of "mwah"! He said that low action is also part of it.

    Give it a try,
  20. Listen to this - I plugged my MIM Jazz into my daughters Squire practice amp and, lo and behold, I achieved mwao! Neck pup off, bridge full and tone 'off' (as CS suggested). What does that suggest?

    I play with a very light touch. I am a plucker and use 3 - 4 fingers to pluck. I usually pluck between the bridge and the bridge pup. I am very pleased with the results on the Squire amp - why can't I get that on my Bassman 60? I've tried everything.

    I need to see if it works with my fretless P, but it's dismantled right now for a refinishing job.

    .... I get the mwao with my Pastorius bass, but not with my Cirrus6.

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