How To Get P Bass Thump?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by sebpayne, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. sebpayne

    sebpayne Guest

    I guess this question has been asked many many times before but I've just done some searching and can't find anything. It's a quickie this time - how does one get the classic Precision Bass thump heard on so often?

    I've been fiddling with Lakland Duck Dunn with TI Flats this morning but the sound just isn't right. Played through an Ashdown Electric Blue E180, any suggestions? What should the tone on the bass be and does the EQ need adjusting from flat? I always use the bass boost button, regardless of what instrument is being used :bassist:
  2. It's easy. Plug the thing in and play it.

  3. PSPookie


    Aug 13, 2006
    Albuquerque, NM
    Do you have a recording in mind? A sound you're trying to imitate?

    Perhaps your definition of "thump" differs from that of others.
  4. Add a piece of spongy foam rubber under the strings, near the bridge. Angle it to taste; I tilt it so that the bit that's under the E and A is closer to the pickup. It has more effect that way.
    And those strings won't really deliver, I suspect, until they've got some miles on them.:bassist:
  5. sebpayne

    sebpayne Guest

    Any of the Blues Brothers albums - Sweet Home Chicago for example, I'm quite a fan of Dunn's sound, hence buying the bass!
  6. Start from scratch. I've just bought a Squire P-bass, haven't changed the Rotosound roundwound strings that were on it (I normally play flats), and did a gig last weekend with it. I play over the pickup, and I always start with a flat EQ and work from there. I got a lot of praise from a bassist saying how much I nailed the P-bass tone! Rolling back the tone knob helped a lot too.
  7. DougD

    DougD Bassman7654

    Sep 19, 2002
    North Las Vegas NV
    Turn down the mids and trebel on your amp, Raise the action on your bass, hang a pipe from your mouth, look cool and swing it baby:)
  8. PSPookie


    Aug 13, 2006
    Albuquerque, NM
    Alright then. You might try a mute (like the sponge suggestion) and playing with a pick, plucking the strings just over the pups.

    IME the TI flats sound the about the same just out of the pack or after 3 months of use. They are a bit brighter than some other flats though.

    Also, remember that you are going to sound different (significantly deeper) in a mix than in your living room.
  9. Brian D

    Brian D

    Dec 2, 2004
    Dublin, Ireland
    Play it. :)
  10. Osprey


    Jun 20, 2005
    The answer is out there. Erm..out in the answers so far.
    That bass and flats will do the job.
    The tone will be different in the mix.
    I always find that when anyone else is playing my bass I think it sounds great. This might mean that everyone else has a better touch than me, but I suspect you need a bit of distance to hear the instrument properly.
    A bit of sponge as a mute might get you where you want to be: Babbage wasn't too proud to do that on SITSOM.
    They say the bass was compressed on the Motown recordings, which would allow lots of thump without the farty blurr.
  11. superfunk47


    Sep 9, 2007
    Any P bass. Flats. Play over the pickup. Done.

    It'll sound like the classic P thump when you're playing with a band - by itself it won't sound like much of anything.
  12. Standard American P bass , Ernie Ball flats and Marshall VBA , thats how I do it.
  13. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    Classic P bass thump?
    Only one word comes to mind:

    Get some good flatwounds, throw them on it and you will learn the meaning of the word "thump" :)
  14. Sparkdog


    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    Any good solid P-bass will do it, as long as it's played through a good solid amp with good solid technique.

    See a pattern? :)

    But here's what I have found to be the vital ingredients, all of which have already been mentioned (I'm just throwing them all into one bag for you) :

    - Flatwound strings. Serious tone seekers will spend inordinate amounts of time, money, and talk about which brand is best. Labella will absolutely get you the old school Motown sound, only you will know if that's the sound in your head. Having tried them all my personal favorite is D'Addario Chromes. I change mine maybe once a year.

    - Higher action. This definitely boosts the thump factor. IME low action and thump are mutually exclusive.

    - Foam mute under the strings. This causes the notes to decay much faster and emphasizes the fundamental instead of the overtones. Makes a big difference.

    I play in a band that specializes in stanky old blues and my Precision gets a lot of stage time, so I've been honing that sound for quite a while. I use my fingers and a pick, with a separate EQ set-up for each, and if there are musicians in the crowd they never fail to comment on my tone and how authentic it is for the material.

    Makes me think I'm doing something right.

    Happy hunting!
  15. Flatwounds like chromes or labellas are great. For me one of the key points is rolling the tone knob to 0 and then turning it up just till you can hear the slightest bit of clarity. A mute is key because it keeps the note from sustaining so much and each note is a quick, fat "foomp". All that being said, you can still get a thump going with palm (and even left hand) muting along with plucking with the side of your thumb. The idea is less treble attack and shorter fatter notes.
    Mili likes this.
  16. DFW_Bass

    DFW_Bass Guest

    Jul 8, 2008
    Here's the answer you're looking for. I get the thump all the time with my P bass. You will need flats with high tension, (NOT TI Flats) the tension is too low. IMO the best trings are the LaBella deep talking or the LaBella James Jamerson set. The tension is strong and high with the strings. When playing the b pays turn the trebal knob all the way down. You will be thumping like crazy. If you want a motown thumps, just turn up the low mids slightly on your amp. Experiment playing close to the neck with your fingers or over the pickups till you reach a desired tone and WAHLA' you got your Thump.

    If you have the right amp and cab, there will be no need to turn up the bass EQ, It might sound good by yourself but in a band, it can be too muddy and won't mix well.
  17. mntngrown

    mntngrown Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2007
    The lost Sierra
    Isn't Duck Dunn the one who had the same strings on for 20+
    years? When he hits the "G" on the intro to "soul man", on the blues bros. you tube segment, that's one dead thumper of a string!
  18. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I agree with most of the above posts, but I strongly disagree that rolling off the treble on a P is necessary or even desirable (if you have old flats) to get a good thumpy tone.

    Duck Dunn uses a surprising amount of treble at the amp to get his live tone; Jamerson always played with his tone wide open, as did most of the flats/P players in the era where a thumping P was a common tone.

    I know its intensely personal, but I think when playing a P with flats you are better rolling the treble off at the amp than the bass, to get a lively musical thump going instead of sounding like a kick drum (unless of course you want to sound like a kick drum).

    YMMV, etc.
    Mili likes this.
  19. Baird6869

    Baird6869 Supporting Member


    I play over the PU on my '74P strung with old Chromes.

    If I use either a Markbass F1 or an Ampeg SVT-CL paired with either Ampeg cabs or a Sadowsky (Berg) 4x10 and no matter what I use, the P bass sounds like a P bass.
  20. quadrogong


    Jul 6, 2006
    Don't get too carried away with eq
    Turn back tone knob rather than adding bass
    Keep amp flat, old strings
    And use the meaty part of your fingertip
    Alot is in the rt hand technique

    It's not as ez as "plug in and play"
    Tone is a lifelong journey, it gets better and better as u get older,
    Be aware of where on the string u pluck
    and how u attack the string