How to get a Rockabilly sound, without the upright...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by inthevelvet, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. I seem to be gravitating toward this type of music. Since I'm not even close to mastering electric bass, I don't have a lot of interest in learning upright. Not to mention the cost of a decent one and hauling the thing around. That said I have a Squier CV P-Bass that is one of the good ones, sounds and plays great, super lightweight, low action etc...currently strung with TI Jazz Flats
    So the question - will going to tapewounds be a good idea for the sound I'm after? If so any particular brand known for this sound? Also, would going to a lined fretless neck be helpful? Thanks
  2. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I get a great Rockabilly sound using the same gear as you. I'm not a huge tapewound fan BTW.
  3. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    It's all about that slappy clack, isn't it? I had a fretless acoustic strung with flats that I couldn't lower the action on and the only tone I could get out of it was what I think of as rockabilly.
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    It sounds like you've got the right equipment. The TI Jazz flats are a good choice. But, you need to raise the action up fairly high, and learn to pluck the strings really hard. That's the real characteristic of Rockabilly bass: rubbery strings plucked really hard. A big percussive pulse on the front of the note, and all those snaps on the fingerboard. You aren't going to get that with the action down low, plucking gently. Rockabilly bass is bongo drums with strings! You have to beat that thing. And learn to wiggle appropriately. You can't just stand there.

    You can certainly play Rockabilly style on a fretted bass, but it will be better on a fretless. Those slides onto the notes and being just a little bit off key all add to the crazyness of it. But start out on what you have, and work with it.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  5. topcat2069

    topcat2069 Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2007
    Cathedral City Ca.
    I played Rockabilly by turning my right hand a little and playing across (like brushing pluck on an upright) the strings instead of picking regular style........and positioning my right hand between the neck joint and P pickup (or neck pickup on a Jazz style two pickup Bass)..... just a playing technique instead of equipment change. Play it like an upright and use the Rockabilly feels. Flat wounds may help.... but serious Rockabilly guys want the upright.....The whole image thing I guess.

    Also try a straight 8 feel against a shuffle and vice versa
  6. Great replies so far, thanks guys!
  7. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Well, since Connie "Guybo" Smith used a Precision Bass playing with Eddie Cochrane, I think you'll be okay.
  8. wmhill

    wmhill Inactive

    Aug 20, 2012
    upstate NY
    MTD basses endorsed artist Bartolini pickups emerging artist TECAMP bass players gear endorsed
    Bassmute-1.jpg Mute! if you can palm mute, or maybe get some foam under the strings (bridge end)...that will help get that plucky sound. There are several boughten rigs- but try some foam first to see if you like the sound before spending any coin. if your bass has the 'ashtray" cover-put some in there). I do a palm mute thing and use my thumb (think where the finger rest was on early basses) for a real cool rockabilly/stand-up sound. I don't use it a lot-but it's nice to have in the bag "o tricks.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
    Garret Graves likes this.
  9. Ben Noblit

    Ben Noblit Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2009
    You'll never get the slap sound with a sideways bass. If you really want that sound, you're gonna have to learn upright. If you don't want to (which you should, you'll get way more work and attention, not to mention have a lot more fun, upright players are a whole different breed) I'd recommend not trying to get the click. Get a fretless, run flats or tapewounds, pluck near the neck, and try and think like an upright player.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2014
    Cat-A-Tonic likes this.
  10. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    And remember: Don't out-dance the band leader, or you'll get kicked out of the band. Bass players are supposed to have their own groovy wiggle, but you aren't allowed to upstage the leader.
    fretlessguy likes this.
  11. Dan Bass

    Dan Bass Inactive

    May 26, 2014
    Virginia Beach.
    Get a used Boss GT-6B bass effects processor one of the presets is Rockabilly and it sounds exactly like a huge stand up bass I mean exactly,it's fun to show your friends and then I'll turn the the patch dial over to Fieldy's and start clanging a bunch of funky KoRn stuff and everyone's like how the hell did you make your Bass guitar go from that to that in like seconds flat, pretty kool, not to mention all the other stuff you can customize.
  12. Danomo

    Danomo Guest

    Apr 25, 2013
    35 years ago, I recieved high marks in a high school jazz band competition for getting an upright sound out of my electric bass. I used my Aria Hollowbody bass, flatwound strings, and a felt pick. The Aria originally had a mute, but it was an all or nothing ordeal, I found it easier to palm mute.

    Felt picks: they don't make 'em like they used to (a good thing). Modern felts (ala Jim Dunlop) are much more tightly compressed, have more glue, and are harder than the ones back then. The new ones last much longer before disintegrating, and are excellent for tic-tac bass work (country/rockabilly), but not so much for emulating a string bass.

    The old felt picks were literaly good for about two hours of play (you ended up with half a pick, and a bass covered in fuzz). You can get a JD pretty close once it's broken in a bit. You can defiantly get the click without raising your action with a felt.
  13. SwitchGear


    Mar 23, 2005
    Sunny Beach
    Actually, Guybo used a SCPB with Eddie Cochran. The previous post shown with Cochran is another bass player using a split coil p bass. Any bass will work. image.jpg
    jd56hawk likes this.
  14. SwitchGear


    Mar 23, 2005
    Sunny Beach
    Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps here doing Vincent's biggest hit - Be Bop A Lula.

    Rockabilly hall of famers.

    Spearsy likes this.
  15. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I've had good luck using a SCPB, a Hofner Ignition Club and a Squier Jaguar SS all with tapes. I've also used my DIY washtub based EUB made with a Bronco neck and tapes.
  16. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    Unfortunately my experience trying to play electric bass when the bandleader wanted an upright always came down to the look.

    They had no interest in hearing my bass.

    I hope your experience is different.
  17. jg919


    Jul 7, 2010
    NSW Australia
    Rockabilly without an upright is...hmm. Try plucking a fretless acoustic Bass guitar with your thumbs - it's a great sound in itself ;-)
  18. jason_cfh

    jason_cfh Guest

    Sep 6, 2013
    DR Legend Flatwounds on a Gretsch hollowbody seem to do the job for me...
  19. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Rockabilly with a P-bass is just fine. You don't need an upright with flames on it. A P-bass will never sound like an upright, but that doesn't mean you can't play tasty walking/swinging lines to push the rhythm.

    I've played tons of rockabilly with a P-bass, flats, and foam mute in former groups. Good lines and old school fender tone is where it's at for good rockabilly bass if you don't have the advantage of upright. That's what was on a lot of those old records.
  20. RED J

    RED J Lol

    Jan 23, 2000
    Get a fretless hollow body bass, put the action a little high, and pluck really hard several inches up the fingerboard so your fingers slap the board as you play the notes. You'll be surprised. Dead sounding flats will help.