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How do you get a good bass tone?

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by JoakimBassist, Oct 12, 2011.

  1. JoakimBassist


    Sep 13, 2011
    How can a bass player get the ultimate tone he's searching for?

    Any helpful advice is appreciated! :)

    (If there's already a thread covering this, please let me know!)


    Personal information:

    I've had problems getting a good sound I'm prefectly happy with, which is really annyoing.

    Personally, I own a MusicMan Stingray bass, which I'm sure isn't causing the "bad" tone.

    I also have a Line 6 Bass Pod Xt Live, but I find it quite difficult to use. I'm not sure what I do wrong, but after many tries, I still can't get the 'attacking' sound I'm searching for...

    Maybe it's just me that's not very good at using the Pod, so if you know of any other pedal you recommend, feel free to write it in a comment. :)

    I do not use an ampflier while recording.

    Here's an example of a good tone that I'd be more than happy with;

    RHCP - Coffee Shop [Bass Cover] - YouTube (DavidSinRocks)

    In this thread, you may post any tips/advices on how to improve your bass-tone.

    ~ Joakim
  2. Koog

    Koog Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2010
    Central Iowa USA
    Keep it simple.

    The Sting Ray is great plugged direct into the board with volume rolled full on. I've run bass tone on the SR full on, mid about 3/4 and treble about half. This gives you a strong bass signal with some punch. If you need to tweak your tone more, do it from the board in the mixing stages.

    In live performance, I like an amp that delivers good punch. I've used Ampeg for many years, but switched two years ago to Mark. I find Mark great. I run the master volume at least two notches above the channel gain, with low at half past 12 'clock, low mids at 1 'oclock, high mids at 1 'oclock, and highs at 12 'oclock. The SR is set with volume rolled a notch below full on and the tone settings are the same as I used in recording.

    In the amps, I've used a variety of speaker sizes and combinations over the years. I've come to prefer either 4 or 6 10's. This is very subjective for many reasons, but 10's do it for me.

    I'm not a fan of pedals. The set ups above have always worked for me, and other musicians I've worked with in studio and on stage are always complimentary on my tone and the punch and drive I'm able to achieve.

    Unplug the pedals, use the above as a starting place and make adjustments until your ears tell you you've found what you're looking for.

    Good luck.

  3. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    The first thing you need to find your perfect tone is know what it is.

    A bass that sounds good to you is key.
    from there on it's just a matter of tweaking.
    Do you like single or double coils, one , two or three pickup basses, piezo or not?
    Do you like 10" speakers or 12 or 15 etc, tube amp or Solid state...
    answer all them questions you are able to come up with and then tweak your system accordingly.
    First ...analyse what it is you like.

    I personally like it real simple. God sounding bass, a good cable into an amp I like...
    Done. Pedals only when asked for.

    Good luck!
  4. Muzoid


    Feb 12, 2011
    I lucked out and found my sound years ago...

    ...all it took was removing the pedals and going straight to amp.

    Keep in mind that sound you posted works for that song, but won't for most others. Personally I would never consider that tone for my main tone....but to each his own.

    Good luck in your quest.
  5. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    Lose the POD. I had one a few years ago and wanted to like it but, I looked at my situation and decided I didnt need it. I was using a Ric into a Markbass LMII and Ampeg 410HLF, I didnt need any modelling to make things sound good.
    thejacknut likes this.
  6. bassbombs84


    Dec 26, 2008
    +1 Ditch the POD
    thejacknut likes this.
  7. saxnbass


    Mar 9, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    Bass into Amp with strings that aren't dead (unless that's the tone you're after), and practice. Work on finger positioning, how your fingers hit the strings, the power you put into plucking, and things like that. You'd be surprised what all you can do in terms of tone just by changing your technique, where you place your fingers and things like that.
    thejacknut likes this.
  8. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    Always remember that a tone that sounds good to you at home when you're practicing by yourself won't always sound good/appropriate in a band situation.
    thejacknut and Oleg BassPlayer like this.
  9. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    The tone magic in the clip you posted is coming from that guy's hands. He's a great player.

    As far as equipment, to my ear it sounds like he's using an active preamp with a fresh battery, a compressor and some overdrive. Also clearly an envelope filter or wah during some passages.

    But that's just my deaf ears listening to a YouTube clip through a cheap stereo, so your mileage may vary. A lot.

    The compressor is going to matter a lot in evening things out when you slap it as hard as that guy is doing.

    And he missed a beat at 2:25 so nobody's perfect, eh?
    thejacknut likes this.
  10. JoakimBassist


    Sep 13, 2011
    Wow, thanks a lot guys!

    Seen from what have been said in the comments, I'll try to give an example of an eventual set-up:

    I've realized that I should drop the POD, and only use an effect-pedal when necessary.

    Therefore, my set-up should be more like this; (for recording that is)

    Bass > (compressor) > amp > interface > PC

    (So, if I forexample need a wah-effect, I should probably just buy a wah-pedal? I heard it'll increase the quality of the wah-effect when having a single pedal focusing on that exact effect, instead of an inbuilt wah-effect in a larger pedal?)

    Someone also said it would be possible to connect the bass straight into the interface, and not use an amp:

    Bass > (compressor) > interface > PC

    To put this more into perspective:

    I connect my MusicMan Stingray bass to an eventual ampflier and/or compressor, and then to an interface. (I previously used the POD as an interface, but I realized AudioBox or Tascam will probably be easier to use) And then an USB-cable from the Tascam/AudioBox to my computer.

    Also, I believe new strings would give a more "punching" sound as well? :)

    Do you agree / disagree with what I just said? If so, please post a reply! Maybe I've misunderstood something, I'm just a normal bassist asking for help! :)

    Also, if you have any advices on equipment, feel free to post that as well. (even though this might not be the right forum for it?)

    Current idea:

    Bass: MusicMan Stingray
    Amp: Ashdown (?)
    Compressor: Boss Cs-3
    Interface: AudioBox or Tascam (NOT the POD)

    My idea was to first buy AudioBox or Tascam, and find out what it will sound like without an amp. So, if I'm pleased with the sound then, I wouldn't have to buy an expensive amp at the time.

    I've decided to buy an amp and not an amphead, because I'll probably play live in the future. ;)

    Thanks for reading ! :)

    ~ Joakim
  11. senp5f


    Jan 27, 2008
    Santa Barbara, CA
    It sounds like you may have some confusion surrounding how to record directly to an interface.

    When bass players talk about recording "direct to the board" in most cases they are not literally plugging into the mixing board, unless the mixing board has a dedicated instrument input. In most cases, you will need either a DI box to into a preamp on your board or interface, or a preamp that comes equipped with an instrument input (many dedicated microphone preamps have this feature, though some mixing boards and computer interfaces do not).

    In your prior setup, the POD played the role of DI to go into your interface. Here's what your setup needs to be:

    Bass > Compressor and or other effects > DI > Interface > Computer

    As for compressors, I would not recommend the Boss CS3. It has its fans, but it's really made for guitars and not basses. I would get a pedal specifically designed for bass, or a pedal that is designed to be more general in its application. The Markbass Compressore gets good reviews. There's also an MXR bass compressor as well as others.

    As far as DI units, the standard for a lot of rock/Ampeg-ish tones is the SansAmp Bassdriver. It's NOT transparent and will scoop your mids like an Ampeg, which it's designed to emulate. The SansAmp Para Driver DI is more flexible in the mids. The Eden WTDI is also a good choice for very little money. With both, you can deselect the tube amp emulation and use them as a pass-through DI, getting only the sound of your bass.

    As for effects, yes, an individual analog box dedicated to the specific effect will generally sound better than a digital model of that effect in a multi-effects box. For the most part, the multi-effects units are a great convenience for live shows where the sound reproduction is not good enough to tell the difference.

    However, I agree with most of the folks here. Keep your gear simple. A good bass straight into the board with a little compression and EQ always works for recording. After that, the tone is in your hands. You can't buy it!
  12. JoakimBassist


    Sep 13, 2011
    Thanks a lot for replying! :)

    You obviously have a lot more experience than me when it comes to gear and such, but a friend of mine told me that an amp and a DI is pretty much the same thing. I believe he uses an amp when he's recording his audio at home. He said "The DI is used if you are playing live and you plug your bass straight into the PA system."

    If it is possible to connect amp to interface, I don't see why this shouldn't work. I've never had a DI box or such though, so I guess I can't really argue a lot. ;)

    I'm probably wrong, would be great to get a response from you and/or other bassists. I'll most likely be laughing at myself when I look back at these days when I didn't know a lot about this, I'm sorry if my questions/statements are stupid!

    Other than that, thanks a lot for all the additional information and advices! :)

    ~ Joakim
  13. Step 1-Get a P bass.
    Step 2-Play directly into the board.

    Problem solved.
  14. Trailight

    Trailight Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2010
    Vancouver BC
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Bass / Darkglass Electronics / Tsunami Cables
    You have a good bass, I'd try to get a good sound while plugging direct. Another helpful tool that I peronaly use is the MXR M80 Bass DI. It has a good range of different tones you can get from it, but like I said, get a god direct sound first. Not sure about the Pod you're using, it may be just a matter of playing with it some more...
    When I record bass, I usually go direct with the DI and use a mic on my amp and then balance it later when mixing.

    You can also try different kinds of strings.
  15. JoakimBassist


    Sep 13, 2011
    Thanks a lot for many good advices! :)

    ~ Joakim