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Make a Jazz sound like an upright?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by DrVenkman, Oct 21, 2010.

  1. DrVenkman


    Jan 22, 2010
    Pacific NW
    I've got a Squier CV Jazz and a GK MB210. I'm playing with a 5-person combo that does primarily folk-rock type stuff, but we're doing a couple of songs where I'd love to come as close as possible to the sound of an upright (think smoky club at 2:00 AM for the kind of vibe I'm going for).

    I know I'll never really get that sound, but what's the best I can do with the equipment I've got? I'm not interested in buying a pedal or anything like that. What are the settings on the bass and amp and any playing techniques (where to pluck, whatever) that will get me as close as is possible?
  2. Tangentor


    Jun 12, 2010
    Tampa, FL
    With my passive Jazz, I get closest to that feel by dialing both pickups in at 100%, then backing the bridge pickup off a hair - you can totally hear the difference just a tiny turn makes - then plucking right at the end of the neck (right on top of the last fret) in a lazy, cool way that sounds more 'wooden.'

    I have a GK MB500 head, which I believe is the same as used in your MB210. That amp is so capable of dialing in tones, you should be able to experiment & find something that sounds good for this... BUT, you might find that the plucking style mentioned above goes farther toward that sound than any EQ change that might mess us the rest of your set.
  3. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Denver, Colorado
    Flatwound strings would be my first stop.....
  4. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    You can get a passable upright "thump" to your sound by laying the knife-edge of your hand across the strings just a little bit in front of the bridge, using your thumb to play the notes. That will deaden the sustain in a very upright-ish fashion. Ed Friedland has written some stuff on "the thumb thing" before, Google/Youtube might be able to help you out.
  5. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    LaBella flatwound strings, a piece of foam under the strings at the bridge, and pluck on the neck side of the neck pickup.

    It'll get you close.
  6. DrVenkman


    Jan 22, 2010
    Pacific NW
    Thanks for the help everyone!
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    why has nobody mentioned playing as an upright player would? you can do stuff like use dead flats and different eq's, but i've found the best way to do it is by trying to imitate the way upright players play.
  8. Shakin-Slim


    Jul 23, 2009
    Tokyo, Japan
    Too right. I would say what is most effective, however, is getting an upright. I know that's not a constructive comment, but it has to be said.
  9. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    All about the stroke. Use the side of your finger, not the tip, and pluck against the fretboard.
  10. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Banned

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    Get rid of those bloody frets- nothing screams upright as much as no frets! +1 to all the other suggestions especially flats and hand muting.
  11. Samsound


    Sep 28, 2010
    As mentioned, pluck at the neck with more horizontal contact area (ie side of finger).
    To get the "dead string" thumpiness, there are two muting techniques I use:
    1-use forearm to mute strings near bridge; use thumb to pluck at neck.
    2-use fretting hand to apply light muting just ahead of the fretted notes; pluck at neck

    1 is a little easier at first, but the right arm angle feels kinda awkward, especially on the G and B strings.
    2 for me is more flexible, more controllable, but a little trickier, because you have to adjust the muting point fir each string, in addition to moving your "mute" with each note. Once you get it down, though, it's easier to be more consistent.
  12. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I was gonna type of whole rant here, but the short answer is that the average bass guitar is not going to sound like an upright. Only guys who don't play upright have these incorrect theories about how to make a electric bass guitar sound like an upright.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    ahem...i play upright, too. you are right that nothing will sound like an upright, but if you want to do a fairly reasonable imitation of one with an electric, it's not impossible.
  14. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    What exactly makes the theories incorrect?
  15. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I didn't say impossible, but I respectfully disagree with your opinion unless we are talking about Rob Allen level stuff. When it comes to Fender slabs, IME I've never heard what I what I would consider a reasonable imitation of upright bass.
  16. It's possible to fool people who don't know what an upright actually sounds like, sure. 'Reasonable imitation?' Not really. For the OP's purposes, sure. Neck pickup, tone rolled down, palm muting.
  17. Tampabass

    Tampabass Going Viral By 2080 Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2006
    I know you are, but what am I?
    The OP started off by saying "I know I'll never really get that sound," trying to head off the inevitable Grump Brigade comments.

    And yet some people still feel compelled to tell him he'll never get the upright sound without an upright.
    Well, d'uh.

    Yes, there are techniques to create a broad array of sounds from a bass guitar. That's the simple question he was asking.

    By the way, I'm a doubler.
  18. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    may i gently suggest you read more carefully before you post. the op stated "...as close as possible to the sound of an upright..." (emphasis added)

    if he wanted to sound 'as close as possbile' to the sound of a tuba, i'm sure he'd appreciate constructive advice in that area as well.

    thanks all, ron

  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    man, what a bunch of sticklers!
  20. DrVenkman


    Jan 22, 2010
    Pacific NW
    So I did some experimenting based on input here, and I've settled on:

    - a piece of foam by the bridge
    - roll off the bridge pickup just a little
    - pluck with the side of my fingers right by the neck

    Does it sound like an upright? Well, not really, and I didn't expect it to. But as a contrast to the 'normal' jazz bass sound for a song or two per set I think it will work pretty well and capture the vibe, if not the exact sound. We'll see how it goes over tonight.

    Now, could someone help me get a tuba sound out of my jazz? :bag:

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