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John Entwistle's Tone

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by DanGouge, Oct 17, 2009.

  1. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I'm wondering what sort of pickup layout and electronics gets one close to The Ox's tone. (Standard disclaimer: I know that woods, strings, amps, and most importantly the player all factor in, but this is the pickups & electronics section, isn't it?)

    I know that a lot of people associate him with the mirrored Precision layout that Warwick puts into their Stryker and Buzzard models, but his Alembics seem to have had soapbars, as did his Status basses. I don't know what sounds like Alembic electronics without Alembic prices, though I recall someone mentioning ACG preamps I think.

    Any help would be great.
  2. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    ACG preamps have the weird q-filter/boost thing that I don't quite understand, but I think it's very similar to what the Alembics had.

    Most of Entwistle's tone - like, 99% of it - came from his playing. He kept his strings barely hovering above the frets, extremely low, and would strike the strings against the frets with his fingertips to create that piano-like percussiveness and that harmonic richness. You will not get his sound without that. Most bass guitars can approximate that sound so long as the strings are very, very low and the bass is played the right way.

    The only time he didn't have that percussive top end was when he was using Gibsons, and that's because they don't quite have the treble output of Fenders, Alembics, etc.
  3. as PBass101 said most of the tone is in the fingers, BUT his true bass of choice the Buzzard had soapbars and a VERY powerful EQ, the (status) buzzard EQ is in my case an 18V preamp with a wide bass and treble cut and boost (so it has a lot of headroom so the treble can be boosted and not distort) it also has a mid sweep so you can get the wah wah type effect as seen in 5:15 at the albert hall, but this is not its main use........ you can use it with your distortion to get the right frequency for the distortion/OD so it cuts through the mix.

    however john BI-amped even in the early days (when they signed with marshall), so he would have a separate amp for high and low, in the later years (80's onwards) he used a stereo top end and a mono bass end, with his effects in the top end. a big ammount of johns live tone (you really had to be there to get what i mean) came from the power of his rig, you would feel the bottom and the top end would cut through even the guitar and keyboard.

    but back to pickups pretty much any powerfull sounding bass will get you the result 'if' you are playing right, the dual P set up is great, so is P+MM (i know from experience :)) but remember the solo to my generation was recorded with a jazz LOL so dont completly discount those either (though i cant get a consistent 'OX' tone with my jag, there isnt enough 'RRAAARRGGGHHH' in the thing)
  4. ... . according to an interview with the Ox I read some years ago, My generation was recorded on a Jazz Bass with LaBella Tapewounds (who'd a thunk it) ..... because the Dano he was planning to use broke a string...

    As PBass101 says 99% of his tone came from his fingers - the lightest of touches and the Extremely low action..
  5. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Everyone has pretty much agreed with this in one way or another, and I'd say I do too. Nonetheless, the man used custom basses with unique pickup configurations and/or electronics - hence my curiosity. My goal isn't to figure how to sound exactly like The Ox, but to get something that can approximate the sort of piano-like quality that someone mentioned already - particularly the sound he gets live in the late-70s (don't know the tour name). It originates in his playing but I don't think say, a Gibson mudbucker would capture that at all well.
  6. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    I have no idea what kind of pickups Alembic used on their basses because I've never understood their electronics. His Status basses had twin-coil humbuckers which might account for his later-years tone being a little warmer and a little less brittle in the top end than the Alembics, which were clangy as hell.

    So your best bet for electronics would either be Precision-style pickups (he used Precisions or P-P Warwick Buzzards for a combined thirteen years with The Who) or Status-style humbuckers. Or if you want that late-seventies Alembic tone, you can shell out $10,000 for the John Entwistle Signature Spyder. :D
  7. scowboy

    scowboy Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Sacramento area
    For years I really wanted a duplicate of JE's Alembic. I inquired with Mika at Alembic a few years before JE died and she indicated that the Explorer bass has basically standard Series II electronics. For those interested that was about 1999 or 2000 and the price was a steep $18,000 and a lot of that was the inlay work (the spider webs and note fingerboard inlays). The price is probably double that now.

    Way out of my price range but it quenched my curiosity.

  8. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Wow. Yeah, that's why I wanted to break down his basses and figure out electronics, woods, etc. See if I could do a poor man's version.
  9. well status graphite does the B2, it goes for around £2500 (thats about what i paid 2 years ago).

    as i said in my 1st post, it is exactly what john used in his all graphite/carbon fibre buzzards, just with a wood body.

    if you want johns 'isle of wight' or 'woodstock' tone then its a maple board P bass, thats all :) but his darker toned stuff like most of his mid solo albums and the last 2 'moon' who albums then either a T bird (the new epi deluxe ones would probably be ok for it TBH) or a fenderbird (T bird with fender neck) would be the ones to aim for.

    but i can get all of johns tones with my B2 and a little work with my amp settings (i bi amp through a pod x3)

    but really you could probably nail most of his tone, if you have the fingerstyle sorted, with pretty much any dual humbucker bass, be it twin P or T bird (i found the older epi T bird a little wooly to truly get the attack that john had, but it could actually do a convincing impression)
  10. The only way to get "close to The Ox's tone" would be to get equivalents to every bass, every type of string, and every amp setup he used.

    There is no one Entwistle tone. Is there one particular tone of his that you are trying to achieve?
  11. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    OP said he's interested in the late seventies tone. As long as he gets the setup and technique down it won't take a miracle to be able to pull off that sound because Entwistle only used a heavily midrangey, slightly overdriven signal into his cabinets.
  12. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    don't forget:


  13. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Yeah, just to expand on that, after spending the past week watching clips on YouTube, I can narrow it down a bit to how his Alembic sounds live.
  14. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Yes, the black nylon tape wounds. So is all the Sly and the Family Stone stuff with Larry Graham.

    And that Graham Maybe stuff with Joe Jackson in the 80's was Rotosound nylon tape wounds.

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