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Is it the Bass, or the Player...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by AudioDwebe, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. Gotta love these noobie questions.

    How much of the sound a player gets is from the player himself/herself, and how much is the instrument?

    For example: Gary Willis playing anything other than his signature bass, would he still sound like himself through the use of electronics on other basses, or will he sound like someone totally different?

    I'm a sax player and even if I were to get the same reed/mouthpiece/ligature/horn combo as Grover Washington, I'll never, ever have the same sound. I might be able to play his licks but would never be mistaken for him. Had he picked up and played a Selmer or Yamaha or whatever, he would still sound like himself.

    So I'm guessing it would probably be the same in the wonderful world of the Bass, no?

    I guess ultimately, I'm trying to break myself of this habit that I have (as does much of society, in general, I think), where if I really like someone's sound/tone (is there a difference?), I naturally gravitate toward someday getting the same bass to get the same sound.

    Intellectually, I understand that Air Jordans will not allow me to ball like Mr. Jordan, but emotionally, it's a totally different ballgame.

    So...what say you? The Player or The Bass or a combination? And, if a combination, what percentage would you apply to each?

    Thanks for entertaining these childish questions.


  2. 90% the player 10% the gear.
    Music comes from and is an expression of the human form and consciousness/awareness.
    Whatever you use to make the music take form is simply the instrument of delivery.
    You can never, and should probably never try to, sound like or be someone else.
    You can only be you.
    It takes a while but once a musician learns to "find their own voice" things get much more interesting.
  3. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Wikipedia often mistakes my opinions for fact Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    I'd agree with 90/10 when it comes to how does the performance sound or how does the song sound when viewed as a whole.

    However, I'd have to disagree when it comes to tone. I think it's more like 60/40 when you're talking pure tone. Geddy Lee comes to mind because as he's changed gear choices across the decades, his tone has changed dramatically several times over. If you didn't know Geddy's playing and listened to the Free Will solo section and then switched over to Caravan's solo section you might guess it's the same player, but you'd never mistake it for the same sound.
  4. Yes, I agree with 60/40 pure tone. I just don't usually think or listen that way. I seem to be more focused upon feel, expression, and delivery.
  5. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    There are so many factors that go into tone. The bass, the strings, mutes, the amp/cab combination, etc. The most distinctive player imaginable will sound sound somewhat different playing different bass/rig combinations. The style of playing or logic of note will probably allow to recognize the player, even if the sound is pretty different.
  6. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    IMHO, tone and articulation are very much tied to player, but embouchure/breath/tongue is different from touch in many ways.

    Not the least of these is that after a string has been set in motion, there is less expressive/musical control over it than when a wind instrument is sustaining a pitch—thus the player generally has even greater impact on a wind or bowed instrument—then there are singers! :D

    Should this be in basses?
  7. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    No matter what bass I play - and there have been many - people always know it's me playing. While gear helps, your style, phrasing, licks, etc. will always identify you.

    Now back to looking for my last bass...passive 4 string jazz style if you're curious.
  8. SantiagoGT15


    Jun 22, 2010
    Praise & Worship Group Leader/Director
    60% player 40% gear , try to listen to Tetsuo Sakurai on youtube...his tone is almost even on all recordings but still worlds apart, and he plays with different gear inmost of them
  9. 80/20 me thinks. Personal touch is *far* more important than many think. Anyway, many bass guitars start to sound the same with certain colorized amp/effect setups so playing is that differentiates. And the VM Squiers are top-notch so nobody should now complain that their cheaper gear is not pro.
  10. 95/5. Put Rainey or Rocco on a $100 used Squier and they would absolutely slay and sound stellar.
  11. JonahTheAmazing


    Dec 19, 2010
    A good bassist can make a good sound out of any bass. Higher priced instruments are more of a luxury, or comfort, or aesthetic reasons. There's no reason that a good player couldn't play well on a cheap instrument, or even expensive instruments that they don't prefer.

    Tone is a whole different discussion. Some like flexibility, some want a signature sound. In that regard, it comes down to the player.
  12. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Id say a good 80% is the bass itself including the strings used. And the rest the player. Bass itself includes the tone setting on the bass and action and pup blend used. Along with how the pups are adjusted.
  13. GMSweet


    Oct 12, 2007
    New Hampshire
    I like Ed Friedland's demo of the ShuttleMax 12.0 for this. He grabs a number of different basses and runs through the same amp, same settings and basically the same line.

    Check out this clip: Genz Benz Shuttle Max 12.0/Uber Bass 212 - YouTube

  14. It would seem (at least so far) that the range of performer to instrument ranges from 60/40 to upwards of 80/20, with the performer taking the larger chunk of the pie. So would this mean that a given performer will be able to replicate "the" sound of his playing irregardless of the instrument by using a certain string, eq, amp, etcetera, or get pretty close to the "signature" sound with any bass that he or she picks up?

    Thanks again.
  15. Hey, thanks, Matt, for the clip.

    That was pretty interesting. Sounds were different, but I can clearly see that if he'd wanted to (and taken the time to do it), the basses all could have come pretty darn close to a certain sound.

    Very cool, indeed.
  16. I sometimes think the specific strings (SS versus flats) and compression (pedal, amp built-in) has the biggest impact on the tone, that and P versus J versus the rest, but that's again in the 20% part.

    For example, Billy Sheehan, Rotosounds + lots of compression. But then you add his precise and fast fretboard playing and that's the 80%.
  17. MikeBass

    MikeBass Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2003
    Royal, Oak, MI.
  18. Its both really.

    If you gave victor wooten a squire to play you could tell it was him playing, but wouldnt sound like "him". Ya follow?
  19. pgolliher


    Apr 27, 2010
    Santa Cruz, CA
    It's the indian, not the arrow.
  20. Actually, yes, it would. The Fodera tone is just icing on the cake. It's about the player. A guy said to me once "Wow, your bass sounds great." So I put it down and asked "Thanks! How does it sound now?" Ya dig?

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