Is the bass THAT important to the sound?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by RabidMusic, Aug 13, 2020.

  1. RabidMusic


    Jan 29, 2012
    Total newb here asking a question that is probably obvious to many, but here goes...

    I have three basses. Well, more than three, but they fall into three categories. Fender Jazz, Ibanez SR1400, and now, a Gretsch short scale. I've also picked up a Line 6 Go and HX Stomp and am starting to program my own patches. Most of the time I use the Gretsch because I am testing to see if I want to convert entirely to short scale. As I program those patches on the Line 6 while playing the Gretsch, and I going to suffer a noticeable difference when I change to the Fender or Ibanez? Is it a difference in sound that a tweak to the eq will handle, is it something that I will not be able to deal with and thus need to create separate patches for the three brands, or is it nothing to be concerned about?
    lomo likes this.
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Assuming the thing is functional and in tune, bass players are really the only ones that care about the differences. No one knows or cares why that weird looking guy is on the stage with some kind of big guitar.
    gebass6, Hubba-Whaa, Oddly and 76 others like this.
  3. Qlanq


    Jul 9, 2007
    Gorn is right there.
    Although, for me, the bass that plays the best makes me want to make it sound the best.
    Eric Kjelstrom, lomo, Xhaxo and 8 others like this.
  4. RabidMusic


    Jan 29, 2012
    So just play. I can get into that. Thanks.
    Oddly, Ronzo, retslock and 10 others like this.
  5. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    No, you should just give up now.
  6. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018
    Here's my 2¢.... and that may be all it's worth :D

    I happen to think that the differences between instruments are often exaggerated.

    There are some obvious broad differences (pick vs finger, fretted vs fretless, distorted vs clean, chorus vs clean). Some are less noticeable (bridge pickup vs neck pickup, or right hand position). Many, including the brand or model of bass, will often be lost in the mix.

    If you are practicing with no other instruments, or recording, you're much more likely to notice tiny differences.

    No one is paying me to care about the teeny tiny esoteric differences in tone, so I try not to get sucked into worrying about it. :smug:
    isaac42, TH63, leftybass54 and 18 others like this.
  7. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I’m always kind of bewildered when these types of bassists try to convince other people that their sad experiences are somehow universal.
  8. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I answered the question asked. You're commenting on my character. Feel free to message me directly if you have anything else you'd like to say about me and not if the bass is that important to the sound.
    Oddly, Grufolo, lomo and 17 others like this.
  9. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Brother, if you believe that disagreement with your answer somehow impugns your character, then take it up with the mods. Otherwise, no, I’m not sending you a special message to reiterate something I’ve said on TB more than once.

    To the OP, it is true that no matter what impact you make on an audience, the subtle nuances of your tone will be generally be noticed by ~.01% of anyone listening, so the most important aspect of playing is simply owning your part.
  10. TheGreatSealof

    TheGreatSealof Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2010
    Deptford, NJ
    I have reviewed a good sample of replies to your question. Since you are a newby, do not let your heart be troubled by snarky responses. It is par for the course in our digital world. Simply sift through the crap and focus on the serious replies. Don't take snarky replies personally.

    Having said this, yes, the bass is a very important component of music. Think of your favorite song or band. Imagine, or if you have, or, know someone that has the engineering skills and equipment to separate recorded tracks of a song, and play a song minus the bass track. It will sound like a hollow, 50's (or older) AM radio song. When you listen again with the bass track fully engaged, you will hear the thunder that the bass brings into the mix.
  11. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Wait. You joined in 2012 and you're a "total newb"? Whay have you been doing for the last 8 years??? :D

    Yes. There will be differences. Whether or not those differences are subtle is up to you.
    MarkJC8, ViaDuck, Dave Neal and 9 others like this.
  12. Sean150


    Jul 18, 2018
    All my basses sound different and I choose them accordingly, but I can find the sweet spot on any of them with a bit of EQ so I don’t think you should worry to much about changing between them. There is the possibility that a specific bass doesn’t work with a given patch but the only way to discover it is to try it.
    TolerancEJ and Low Down Brown like this.
  13. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO, If I pick up three basses that are the same exact model I will generally notice difference between them, and sometimes the differences are fairly significant. Bassist do tend to notice differences between basses, between the type of strings they are using, how fresh the strings are, difference between the type of amp and speakers being used, how the amp is setup and adjusted, etc. Whether the audience notices or cares about these differences is another matter entirely.

    Back in 80 I built a rig around a very powerful EQ, Orban 672A.

    At the time I played a Ric 4001. I spent a lot of time adjusting the EQ to try and get my Ric to sound like the bass on different hit songs that I heard on the radio. I think most people would be surprised by the range of tones I could get from the Ric and how close I could get to the recordings. But it often was not possible to get the sound exactly the same.

    The reason is because of pickup placement and the way strings vibrate. Strings vibrate in a complex way that generates both standing waves and transverse waves that travel back and fourth from one end of the string to the other. There is a simulator on this page you can play with if you want to see how transverse waves act: ‪Wave on a String‬ 1.1.22
    I suggest the following: in the green box in the upper left, select Pulse. On the tool bar that runs along the bottom of the page, move the Damping control to None. Energize the string with the green button on the left. It has a symbol that looks like this: _/\_

    The standing waves setup nodes and anti-nodes that are location dependent based on the frequency of the standing wave. Keep in mind that the vibrations are made up of the fundamental and also overtones or harmonics. If the pickup falls on the node for a certain frequency, it cannot sense the frequency, because A node is a point of 0 displacement.

    Here's an animation of a standing wave to show the difference between nodes and anti-nodes.

    If the pickup falls on a node of a certain frequency then tone is sensed. From this it should be obvious that the location of the pickup changes that makeup of the harmonics that the pickup senses.
    bmusic, DeltaPhoenix and 40Hz like this.
  14. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    Lompoc, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    My wife (artist, not musician) can tell which bass I’m playing without looking, and has given consistent feedback at gigs as well.

    I know that if I have doubts about the bass in my hands, my performance will likely suffer. May not be by much, and no one else likely will notice. But I’ll notice.

    and conversely, if I’m digging the bass in my hands, my performance will likely elevate. May not be by much, and no one else may notice, but I’ll notice.
    gozbass, lomo, Matt R and 25 others like this.
  15. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    "Bass tone doesn't matter" is the retreat of low-esteem bassists. Y'all can be better than that.

    Its the saddest trope of TB.
  16. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    At most of the places I play, the bass is an integral psrt of the music. One place, however, The FOH guy is a drummer - the kick drum takes up all the low end in the mix. I still work hard at playing a good part, but how I look may actually be more important.
    kodiakblair, zoonose and bassb66 like this.
  17. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    The only person who can answer that is you or someone who is in the room with you when you switch from one bass to the other to see how different they are.

    Quite often a simple EQ or volume tweak will suffice..... sometimes not. It all depends on the individual basses.

    As an example I regularly switch from my Pbass with Bill Lawrence P46 pickup to my Fretless Jazz bass with Bill Lawrence J45 pickups. The difference in volume and EQ between these two basses is huge. To overcome this I have my amp set up for the Pbass and when I switch to the Fretless Jazz I switch on my Mozztronics preamp pedal. This gives me a similar volume level and the change in EQ I need without having to muck around with the amp itself.
    I also regularly use my 8-string which has a similar volume level to the Pbass but very different EQ requirements. This isn't an issue as the active electronics allow a lot of adjustment without resorting to changing the amp settings.
    dmt and RabidMusic like this.
  18. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017
    I ran into that back when I was installing EMGs in basses that sounded great so they guy could play dive bars with neons, bad wiring, old appliances. I thought they were basically drummers playing bass but then I'd had enough fighting annoying hums and interference.

    I get why some guys go with the "product delivery" route vs "Food Network appreciation of the products depth and nuance" lane.

    I can also see this same question being asked in tubatalk, or accordiontalk.
    Artman and BurningSkies like this.
  19. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I grow so tired of people who both throw themselves into playing yet have no self esteem. Great bass tone happens and people appreciate it, but so many guys would rather play in the corner and think it doesn't matter while a tear rolls down their cheek. At some point everyone here wasn't a player, but they heard something that moved them to pick up the instrument. That tone mattered. I've played hundreds and hundreds of shows and with the best sounding gear I could. People notice and not just other players. The audience, the engineers, the people who own and run the clubs. Most of should matter to you. How do you step on stage every night and think 'well this I guess is whatever' and want to be there? How can you not want to hear the best transformative tone you can get? When you find tone that so beautiful that it takes you out of the now and transcends is where the magic is.
  20. Ya it depends what sounds you have in your head, I find the bass to be the most important thing other than the player. A bass has a native voice and no amount of strings, eq, amp heads and cabs will ever change the inherent character of a bass. Pickup choice AND location play a huge role. Scale length does too
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Sep 25, 2021

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