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My P-bass doesn't sound like one...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lowendgenerator, Aug 28, 2007.

  1. lowendgenerator


    Mar 26, 2006
    And I want to figure out why before I just start throwing money at the problem. The bass fine, it just doesn't have the typical P bass ping to it though. I bought a P-bass to get that classic piano like sound when I use a pick. This sounds more like 70's motown. It's a mutt of a bass, it has a MIM P neck on it.

    Could it be this?
    I had to shim the neck to correct the angled cut of the neck pocket, and instead of using a piece of wood, I used 2 guitar picks in the bottom of the pocket. Could bad coupling affect the sound that much? The neck pocket needs a shim, or needs to be leveled. With the neck in the pocket sans shim, you can see the neck rising out at an angle.

    ...or maybe this?

    I still have the stock SX pickup and pots installed. They seem to be reproducing the sound faithfully, but I have to wonder...

    this is a longshot...

    Could it be the strings? I have a new set of stainless Fat Beams on it. Nice strings, but they sound dampened a bit. The bridge is a Fender-esque bent tin bridge. The saddles look to be in good condition, no burrs, the strings look like they're making good contact across the radius.

    I've owned a few P-basses before, and I should have held on to at least 1 of them. A few were too bright. What can I do to make this one more...zingy?

    Disclaimer: I performed a search, couldn't find anything that gave me concrete answers.
  2. Try adjusting the pickup height?? I find that lower provides more woofy bass, raising them provides more sharp lows and cleaner highs.
  3. lowendgenerator


    Mar 26, 2006
    I did try a few adjustments with the pickups. There were subtle changes, but it still sounded too muted and thumpy. I'm s playing it unplugged and it sounds just like it does amped.
  4. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Strings and Pickups are the strongest factors in determining the tone of a bass IMO. Not the only factors but the strongest.
  5. Boldey


    May 29, 2006
    Groningen, NL
    I think the picks in the neckpocket may affect the sustain and fulness of the sound, I'd replace it with a wooden wedge, so the neck has full contact with the body.
  6. +1 on the neck shims!!!!!!!!! Alsao I don't really think STOCK SX pups & pots will do it justice, get a set of stock Fender P bass pups!
  7. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    I've seen people use business cards to create a shim. Seems to me that they would at least transfer any vibrations more cleanly than plastic picks. I agree with everyone else about the strings and pickups but I think the plastic picks are not helping.

    The sound before you made any modifications was what? Better? Worse? The same?
  8. lowendgenerator


    Mar 26, 2006
    As far as the picks go, I used pretty thick ones. I have a whole roll of stainless shim stock at my disposal, but it seemed like more than a few thousandths was needed. As for the tone of the bass before modding? It's hard to compare, the strings were dead and about 2 inches off the board due to the poor neck pocket.

    The pickups will probably get upgraded anyway, I just want to make sure I have a good foundation..
  9. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Get rid of the after market muffler.....
  10. lowendgenerator


    Mar 26, 2006
    Que? :D
  11. csholtmeier


    Feb 8, 2004
    omaha, ne
    I installed a Fender 60's P pickup when I first got my SX. I could barely notice a change in tone.

    When I installed a Dimarzio Model P, it was a different story. This bass sounds great through just about any amp.
  12. vtwo


    Dec 16, 2006
    70's motown is what I would want in a precision... piano and precision should not be synonymous with each other.

    get a jazz? get ernie balls?
  13. lowendgenerator


    Mar 26, 2006
    I want my bass to sound like this!

    That tone has been stuck in my head for months. Definitely P-bass territory. Or Patrick Dahlheimer from Live. Or Matt Sharp. Or Mike Dirnt.
  14. I'm with FL Knifemaker. My '65 p has real high action and real low pickups. LaBella flats. Jamerson butta. Roto S. Swingbass 66's for that "piano" sound, esp with a pick.
  15. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Ok, maybe it's not the aftermarket muffler.....
    Have you tried an early 60's Pre A/B'ed with a mid '70s Pre (both no neck shims) through a good studio compressor like a Neve and a freshly re-tubed SVT? No? Hmmmm.....bet that'd solve yer problem.


    You could get a nice fitting shim cut by a REPUTABLE luthier and see what that does. I'd start there anyway.......


    What I'd really do is sell the thing and let it be someone else's problem. In all the f*** ing around I've done with replacing parts on a bunch of basses the good ones sounded good right off the top and sounded good no matter what strings, pickups or amps I tried; different with different stuff but always good. The dogs never did no matter how much aftermarket crap I threw at 'em. And when I say "good" I don't necessarily mean expensive either.....just great sounding.
  16. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Pickup placement (not talking about height) is a critical factor on any bass' tone, but I think it's particularly critical on a P-bass (If you want the typical P-bass tone).
  17. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    If it sounds dull and muted acoustically I think it's safe to assume the problem is either in the shim quality, or possibly in the combination of neck and body woods. Any decent P should have that ring and piano-like quality to it with the right strings. I use Rotos, maybe the Sunbeams won't nail the tone in your head but there's no way they should sound muffled or choked.

    There are many ways to make a shim- stepped business cards, a thin layer using the top sheet of a P/G, or a fender replacemnt one are all effective, and if properly seated shouldn't affect sustain and resonance negatively.

    Some basses are just duds, though.
  18. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    If i'm not mistaken, the bass that was played on that particular INXS album was done on a Steinberger, it's a little tough to emulate that sound with with a p-bass type, I've owned both a p-bass and a Steinberger, so they are a bit dissimilar.Check out the video "I need you tonight/Meditate", It vaguely looks like a fretless.
  19. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    If it sounds dull and muted acoustically, the electronics aren't the issue, and I think the SX P-bass pickups are pretty good anyway. However, I think the better aftermarket pickups usually provide better clarity in the lows than SX or stock Fender pickups (I've had both), so you might hear some improvement from a Duncan, Fralin, Nordstrand, etc. (I use the Fralin.) Also, if you have a stock MIM Fender bridge or something similar, chuck it for a decent one from Gotoh, Hipshot, etc. I replaced the MIM Fender bridge on my project fretless P with a Gotoh 201, and the difference was dramatic, with improved sustain and clarity. It's definitely more "piano-like." I was surprised how much it affected the tone.
  20. Whaaaapsh


    Apr 23, 2006
    Portland, OR
    I would think that a shiney new set of nickle roundwounds and a pick would do the job, but new pickups might do it too. I was looking at this pic of Garry Beers with his basses, and I'm sure that beat to sh*t '58 P doesn't hurt in getting tone with a big T.

    The maple neck adds a good amount of presence I'm sure.

    I have Fralins in my P and could get somewhere close to that with their output.

    If the bass is a total pos, I vote trade it for something better.

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