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How Many Tones Do You Need?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Dr. Cheese, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    IMO, most of us probably only need variations in tone that are available from our main basses. Only people who are in really precise cover or tribute bands or session players, really need truly distinct multiple tones.

    That's not to say, however, that a of us don't really enjoy being able to get many different tones!:bassist:
  2. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I think it's so ironic that the Yamaha TRB5s that I'm using now sound so much like that BB605 with Sadowsky pickups I had!:D
  3. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    A P and a Music Man covers about every tone that I covet.
  4. Archaeobass

    Archaeobass Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2008
    Sunnyvale, CA
    I try to cultivate my own vibe and voice, which has more to do with tone in many cases than the bass I'm playing, but I certainly have my preferences. I prefer basses that are a bit more tabula rasa than known for a particular tone. Lots of folks have done wonderful things with P's, but I think that sometimes the P-vibe overpowers the vibe of the player. That said, I've been digging my Stingray lately, which actually surprises me with its versatility, even though rays are often typified as having a distinctive sound (and I guess it does...).

    I guess, I don't care for basses that have such distinctive or unique tones that I pick them up and immediately fall into those "classic" riffs. I'm sure Jaco could sound like Jaco on a P-bass with flats, but it sure is a lot easier to sound like Jamerson with one...

    As for the number of tones I need? I suppose I just need the one that comes out of my hands... and all those pedals I keep buying... But it definitely starts in the hands.
  5. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    I use two basic tones. My finger tone and my slap tone. My bass setting usually remain the same. My tone changes as my technique changes.
    I can get a lot of variations with just my hands.
  6. This is not gonna make anyone happy but like many here on TB I tried a serious amount of basses in my time. And, the tone that I keep coming back to is that sweet vintage Fender P tone. I have culled my herd to 5 basses, but let's call it 4 + 1. Four Leo's a P, J, P/J FL, Ray34, and the one, a 4003 Ric.

    And, here is the part that's not gonna make many happy I could replace the 4 with only the 1. My Ric, in my hands and probably many others, could mimic every one of the 4 plus it can do the Ric thing. I know many think like the P, the Ric is one trick pony and that is so far from the truth.
  7. I do fool around with different sounds sometimes, but I would say 70% of the time:

    One bass tone, soloed bridge pickup on a fretless Jazz bass, like Jaco. With TONS of reverb.

    Three guitar tones,
    A clean Strat tone, with chorus and tons of reverb.
    A fuzzy Hendrix Purple Haze kind of tone, with tons of reverb (I use this tone most often.)
    A lead distortion tone, kind of Vai-ish in a way, but with no compression, and of course, with tons of reverb.

    Once you find the tones you like, there is really no reason to do anything else. Like I said, about 70% of the time, I'm happy with one bass and three guitar tones for what I do.
  8. markkoelsch


    Sep 6, 2008
    Personally, I think the answer is as many as it takes to get the job done.

    More specifically, I will give you an example. I was recording with a friend. At one point, I was playing a largely descending melody line on my fretless. I then recorded a harmony line with the same bass, but a bit overdriven. As those parts were going on high on the bass, I had a very bass heavy low pedal tone movement underneath. That is three distinct tones within the first two minutes of the song. As that section finishes up and those parts fade out, I switched to a slightly overdriven, very aggressive fingerstyle on my Steinberger. That makes 4 sounds. Granted, doing this live would have posed issues, but recording is a lot different.

    If you are playing a single style of music it might not matter, but for most players I think it is a good idea to practice dialing up different tones, and being able to do it fairly quickly depending on need.
  9. HMZ

    HMZ Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2003
    3 different sounds
    1. P bass
    2. Jazz
    3. Stingray
  10. Lakland 55-02/55-94 = All of those in 1 bass.
  11. SpamBot


    Dec 25, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    Three main tones:

    Plucking near the neck
    Plucking over the bridge pickup

    I find playing style is much more distinctive than a particular model of bass. Slap on my J sounds a lot more like slap on my Ray than fingerstyle on my J.
  12. Soft and spongy, wooly and cannonlike, plus heavy-clipping and growly.

    So three. And I can get all three on any Bass I get my hands on.

    I need only three guitar tones as well: clean, rhythm, and lead.
  13. Arvin

    Arvin Underwound Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    On the bench
    1) P/J with Chromes, P at 90%, J at 100%

    Honestly, I could just about do everything I need with this one.

    2) Jazz with Rotosound 66's, Neck at 100%, Bridge at 80%

    When I just have to have more snap and brightness.

    2) Fretless P with GHS Pressurewounds

    I *seriously* love the sound of this bass. I can't do without a fretless anymore.

    If I had to, I could go with any one of the three as my only bass, but I use them all.
  14. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I really only need one, and I'd venture a guess that it's the polar opposite of yours! (Passive P w/half rounds.) What ever it takes to get the job done!
  15. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I use a few, including P with flats, P with rounds, four and five string J's with rounds, G&L SB-2 with rounds, and occasionally an L-1500, all with various control settings. I'll sometimes add effects to these, usually delay or overdrive.

    But could I accomplish all my rock stuff with just one? Sure. Passive Jazz with rounds, neck pickup full, bridge rolled off about a third, treble rolled down about a third. Use it much of the time, and works for everything. I could accomplish the same with a P (or the SB-2) with rounds and the tone rolled down about a third.
  16. Sounds you need=n+1. N is what you have!
  17. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I tend to like 2 tones: The traditional bridge p'up J sound and the full two P'up sound. I have never liked using a P-bass type sound (it just doesn't please my ears).

    I have to say I like wider aperture p'ups than single-coil J types - they just seem a bit richer in tone, to me. I get a real head-turning neck p'up sound out of my Zon 5 that has Bart soapbars - very biting and barky yet not harsh.
  18. Great question Cheese. I sometimes think about guys like Petersson and Entwistle, who evolved over time. It took them a relatively good deal of experimentation and design to get to a tone they liked. Evidently, one tone was not good enough for them, and they were never quite satisfied until their tone evolved a bit.

    Since I do studio work, I need whatever tone me, the band, and producer/engineer decides is best. I have laid down as many as 5 different virtual tracks of the same bass line with 5 different basses and had the producer choose which one he liked best.

    For some folks, one tone will do. More power to you. For some of us, we can't have enough.
  19. Tommygunn


    Nov 8, 2008
    Houston, Tx
    Many basses. One tone.

    They all sound a bit different but are based on the same thing.
  20. bassophil


    Jan 17, 2009

    but that one is in constant metamorphosis :D

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