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ISO the perfect fingerstyle tone - Warning! Long.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by deiseldave2001, May 20, 2002.

  1. Well, my band had a break in schedule last weekend, so my wife and I went out for a drink at a little beach club.
    There was a four peice playing. Chick singer/guitar player - poor. Keyboardist - unremarkable. Drummer - killer. Pocket as big as a truck! Bass player - making me wanna cry! He had the fingerstyle tone I've always wanted, and was scaring me with it.
    My wife heard the singer go flat and said "wow, they need help", expecting me to agree (because I'm rarely impressed), and I just said "holy crap! This rythm section is killing me".
    The bass player had the fingerstyle tone I've always wanted and never quite nailed. Sounded like Benny Reitvield's studio sound on Smooth, maybe a bit more hi-fi.
    It was punchy, full, bright & present, yet not clacky or harsh. Very hi-fi, but dialed in perfect. It was the "Stevie Ray" sound of bass tone. Just enough bridge pickup spit to give a nice percussive effect, but enough bottom so that it didn't sound too nasaly. Man! I know there is an eq setting(s) thing happening here, that I'm just not getting.
    He was using a Modulus->Eden Nav->Eden 1000->Eden 410T.
    I have a nice setup also Demeter, Hafler, etc.., and though I get tone that is much more than adequate, I can't seem to dial this illusive fingerstyle tone in. I've tried on many nice rigs and basses over the years, and never got it like this. It's a subtle eq thing or an eq/compression perfect setting. I don't know, but, hearing it in a club both inspired me, and hurt me bad.
    Whenever I get the bottom end dialed in to that level of woof, then, try to get the clarity he had, I have too much string noise, or other annoying artifacts. Truthfully, I feel the treble freqs (1K - 5K) I'm playing with for clarity are not right for the sound I'm looking for. Yet they seem essential for that "hi-fi" sound.
    My slap sound is fine, got it dialed in. Old R&B tone - got it. Old school rock (John Paul Jones), etc, no problem.
    This tone is like a super hi-fi detailed finger tone that you rarely hear (usually only in smooth jazz). It's killed me trying to get it over the years, and always coming up short.
    Anyone blessed with "it", and willing to cough up the secret?
  2. lesfleanut

    lesfleanut Guest

    Sep 25, 2001
    Syracuse N.Y.
    Its in his fingers man.;)
  3. "
    Well, I can understand that sort of response, especially since you've never heard either one of us play.
    I will even admit that he was a better player to a certain degree. However, I'm saying that he strikes one note and it sounds like heaven. That is not "in the fingers". I'm sure I could have played his rig and be really been satisfied with the tone.
    10 years ago, a bass player friend sat in and played some slap stuff on my rig, he was very much into slap (much more than I at the time), and consequently, he tweaked the eq and compressor a bit and made that subtle difference between "good tone" and "great tone". That was not in the fingers, because my sound improved immediately.
    Now 10 years later, I could tell someone (with pretty decent technique) who's looking for a good slap sound: fresh strings->good bass/pickups-> good preamp/amp, compress with moderate attack/release 3:1 ratio, blah, blah, blah. and the guy would be pretty close.
    I'm looking for that type of info. Let's pretend that I know not to play too hard, and that I have enough callous on my fingers, etc... Then what?
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...that, IMO, is "in the fingers". ;)
    Just going by my experience(& I know guys like the one you mentioned). Whatever bass, whatever rig they play...it's happenin'.

    I recall awhile ago(a long while ago), I sat & played with one of my favorite in-town players(he was especially good at Jaco-fingerfunk). Anyway, he played my bass, I played his...both were Music Man Sting Rays, both going through the same amp/speaker.
    His groovin' sounded a lot better to my ears...basically, what I noticed-
    He plucked with more authority & confidence; IMO, that gave his notes some energy...the sorta energy I was seeking in my own sound.
    FWIW, I'm no knob turner/EQ guru...I'm from the Bassman school of amplifiers: Everything on "10". ;)

    My advice?
    Ask this guy what he has goin' on.
    ...I hope he wasn't using some kinda effect/processor(Korg) where he merely selected "MM"(Marcus Miller). ;)
  5. lesfleanut

    lesfleanut Guest

    Sep 25, 2001
    Syracuse N.Y.
    It realy doesnt matter what amp or bass you have. jaco could have picked up a (insert your least favorite brand name here) through a pile of crap ampand still sounded amazing. Its not so much in your gear, It comes from the heart.:cool:
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I agree.
    The thing is, Jaco's gear was sorta 'low tech'...
    A "stock" Jazz bass(pickups/pots) & that Acoustic amp + 'old skool' analog effects; true, all were, at one time, 'state of the art'... in the '80s, though?. ;)

    (FWIW, I believe Jaco recorded direct).
  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Which reminds me of the sax Bird played on the Jazz at Massey Hall recording.
  8. No offense intended, but you guys are missing the point. You're spewing out Jaco rhetoric, and frankly, preaching to the choir.
    If someone asked Hendrix what the key to his Machine Gun tone was, he'd say, "Univibe!"
    I dig Jaco as much as the next guy with a bass inferiority complex, and though he was a better player than I, and most others, he never had a "Hi-fi" finger tone. He had jazz bass spit on steroids.
    I loved his tone, but it's not the one I currently seek.
    Anyone out there who "knows",
  9. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    PM or ring Gard arrange to take your amp setup to Bass Central. Try a load of basses. Directly compare carbon fibre neck basses to ones with wooden necks.

    I believe that the answer is a carbon fibre neck.
  10. Thanks CS,
    You may have something there. I had an old Kawai bass about 15 years ago that had a graphite neck. I got rid of it because it sounded too thin.
    However, I've noticed recently, that when dealing with PA, room size, etc.. Basses that sound thin by themselves have a tendency to be just right on stage.
    With the exception of outdoor gigs, I'm pretty much always cutting low end freqs to clear the mud.
    I'm friends with Beaver at Bass Central maybe he will let me "test drive" a graphite bass.
    Thanks for the input.
  11. why didn't you just ask him?
  12. I talked with him for a minute, checked out his rig, told him I liked his sound, etc.. Then it was time for him to play again. Hunger hit, and I was on my way.
    I'll probably go back and see if I can pry some info from him, but I'm booked for the next 10 weeks.
    I'll post any tips the guy lays on me (if any). Sometimes guys are pretty secretive about things like thier tone.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Thanks for the heads up, Jim. I missed this thread.

    I run into this a lot. I hang out (probably too much) at a local store and play lots of different basses. On any of the decent ones I sound like me. People buy the basses afterwards, take them home, don't get the sound they heard in the store and either bring them back or start buying more gear to try to fix the "problem". The fix can be annoyingly simple. BTW I'm by no means some kind of uber-bassist, I have decent skills and a grasp of what I want to sound like. Apparently some dig what I do but I don't impress me:D

    I'm not going to bring Jaco into this because that's the quickest way to turn some people off. Here's my take on the situation.

    What you heard probably has very little to do with his rig. You already have a nice rig and I seriously doubt the difference is in tweaking it. Trying to "add" clarity IMO is a mistake, either it's already there or not. Dialed in or "fake" clarity is very different from the real thing. It's akin to trying to dial brightness back into an old set of strings, you may get trebly but you won't get the same complex sound.

    Look, I'll try not to get too deep into this but this is one of my favorite bass subjects... tone and how to get it. See if any of this helps:

    Turn the volume all the way up on the bass. Set your amp flat. If you have an onboard preamp set it flat. Turn up the volume on your amp to match the loudest you want to play. Use no voicing switches (if possible), no smiley face EQ settings, no slap cuts. Chances are you'll be close to what you want just by doing these things.

    Look at how and where you're playing on the bass. Did the Modulus guy seem to stay in one place or did he move around? Playing near the bridge can result in a very punchy and articulate sound, nearer the neck can give a more full and thumpy sound, somewhere in between will yield something between that.

    To drill down even further, look at "how" you strike the string. I play with the tips of my fingers and the pads of my fingers, depending on what tone I want. How you use your fretting hand is critical, too. Subtle muting techniques, sometimes just how you release the string "after" you fret it can make a big difference in your sound. A buddy of mine complained that the MIA Jazz Bass he was trying had a floppy B. He played it and it did sound floppy and rattly (is that a word?). I played it and no more rattle and the B sounded very solid. The difference? Technique. Because this bass was in need of a setup, I ended up playing harder than I would on a bass with a low setup. I struck the string distinctly, let it ring for a fraction of a section and then raised my finger up off the fret but kept it in contact with the string. Sometimes I used a subtle vibrato on the string which sounded pretty cool. Getting rid of string noise and tempering your attack on a particular bass aren't hard. You should also have complete control of your volume in your hands, from max to off... I do. It just takes practice.

    I learned this from watching a local bassist, Anthony Setola, who worked at a store in Baltimore. No matter what he pulled off the wall and played, he was smoking. Must not be the shoes:D. I quit blaming things on my gear.

    Again, do not immediately turn the treble up. Treble boosts sound loud. If you do this, you'll get a sound that is loud in the treble area only and probably lacking in the lows and mids, where punch lives. This is one of the most common tonal mistakes I've seen people make. Too bad EQ's don't come with relevant instructions;)

    By starting with a flat amp, flat bass and the right amp volume, the sound will usually carry more weight in the mix and you'll probably find that you only have to make minute adjustments at the bass (if active) or the amp (if passive) to dial in exactly what you want.

    The exceptions to some of this is if you have a bass with a signature sound, like an Alembic, Ric, Ken Smith, etc. You'd possibly have to work against that sound to get to where you want. Personally I like to let basses sound like they sound and play them.

    Do this and see if you see any improvements. Bear in mind some of these suggestions are made with gigs in mind, you may not like the sound at home at very low volume and not surrounded by other instruments. IME once you get used to this, you'll notice the difference on the job and at home too. If you want to practice this at home, follow the same tips, especially turning the amp up and play along with your stereo at volume. Hope the family or neighbors don't mind;)

    There's more but these are the basics.

    Hope that helps.
  14. Bassist519

    Bassist519 Guest

    Feb 6, 2003
    Albany,New York
    I was just wondering, not to get off the subject, but how do u get the john paul jones tone?!
  15. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks! In Memoriam

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH

    You couldn't just start a new thread? You had to resurrect a 2 year old one?

    Chris A. :rolleyes: :bassist:
  16. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Wow, great thread, thanks Brad. And thanks for including the fretting fingers in your description of tone. Back when I played guitar, my missing tone link was my fretting fingering, not my picking.

    Now that I play bass, my missing tone link is in my head. Darn, that hurts.

  17. Hmm, there's still life in this thread ...

    In addition to what Brad and the others have said about tone, let me add another aspect: Your sound may be average on stage but fantastic up front. Especially with cabs that project far into the audience, like 4x10s, you might have a boomy, bloated sound on a hollow stage, but the audience will hear a tight, punchy and clear sound. Also you are in the mix plus the sound guy does his thing too. I am pretty sure deiseldave's sound was better in the audience than he realises and the other guys sound would have been less impressive on stage.
  18. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ

    I thought we were encouraged to use the search function?

    Bongo man :rolleyes:

  19. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    This topic as as old as the BG itself I'm sure :)

    My take on it is...

    A quality amp and bass will, in my opinion, make it easier for you to find that killer tone, because, more often than not, it will be more responsive to subtleties in your technique. However, it will highlight any poor areas of technique to an equal degree.

    All gear sounds different, and some sounds better than other to my ears, but it's not where a good sound comes from. It really does come from your fingers.

    Personally, I like my amps to give the cleanest sound possible, I like to hear every imperfection so I know when I have it right, or wrong as is more often the case!

    Note: substitute 'you' for 'one' in the above text, this aint aimed at anyone in particular :)
  20. Squidfinger

    Squidfinger I wish I could sing like Rick Danko.

    Jan 7, 2004
    Shreveport LA
    I too searched for the perfect fingerstyle tone. I'm pretty damn close right now.

    1)P-bass + flats. I'm loving the TI jazz flats I just put on.

    2)rest thumb on bottom of neck and play there.

    3)Most importantly, play with a feather touch and turn you amp up. This takes some practice. The urge to dig in can be great at times, you must resist.

    Amp settings are up to you.

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