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My tone has fallen and can't get up!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by badgrandad, Oct 6, 2004.

  1. Help!!
    This is embarrassing... but I have....miserable tone. There, Ive said it, but I don't feel any better! I have been steadily improving my equipment and I should sound better than I do. The best I can describe my problem is that all I get is attack and then an empty sounding note. I may be "over-playing" as I tend to pluck hard. If I play closer to the bridge it sounds better but I need (want) a fuller beefier sound then I am getting. I play a 5 string with active electronics. My front p'up is a stacked humbucker, my back its a MM style split coil type humbucker. The bass is a 34" scale neck thru design. I had this problem even worse with my last bass, a usa fender JP 90 which had a split "P' p'up at the neck and a jazz at the bridge.
  2. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    This is a pretty obvious one, but just checking: How old are your strings? Technique is a big issue though. Fingerstyle right?

    I can't tell without watching you play though.
  3. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    That might just be it. Loosen up.
  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    My guess is you just haven't found "your bass" yet. Evidently, you're not getting near the sound you hear in your head. That's not unusual at all.....it's like finding a pair of shoes that feel like you're not wearing shoes.

    Have you gone to some stores and tried out a number of different basses to see if there's one that at least approaches "THAT SOUND" you hear in your head????

    If you have tried the undeniably "tried & true" basses for tone like a US Precis/Jazz and you can't get a sweet/whoopass tone, I guess it is your technique, as others have said.

    Your gear is certainly decent.
  5. Thanks for the responses. As to the string question (how long etc.) you do raise a good point in that even though I have been changing my strings when they loose their "zing" I have about three sets that I have been rotating in after boiling them and it may be time to just trash them and start over. I play fingerstyle , and what is disturbing is that it happens mostly on the lower registers where I want the fattest tone. The upper registers seem to be pretty close to the tone "I have in my head" but the lower notes just seem empty. I have played many basses in music stores and recognize there are "woodier" sounds that defy me being able to suck the guts out of them, but overall the tone those basses produce are almost too "out-front" for me. (though they may sound great in the mix so-to-speak). By in large, if I could just produce a consistently full tone throughout the register, I'd be pleased.
  6. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    You might try one of those Tech21 boxes to see if that is capable of getting you closer to the direction you're thinking. I've heard more folks rave about the tranforming power of these things - and the maker claims that by just changing the controls in certain ways you can fairly-well duplicate many 'famous' amp sounds. Being that we're not talking about amp-emulating presets, but the continuous-resolution analog control knobs, you can presumably get a bunch of sounds that are in-between these famous-amp emulations. That's a pretty powerful capability. It would seem that if you can't get close to what your looking for - or at least get an idea of the direction to go - by playing with one of those for a while, then you may be able to conclude it's your bass or playing style or something.

    I can't imagine it completely being your playing style, though - a good sounding setup should be able to make ONE note sound good when just normally plucked once. I mean on a good rig you should be able to just do a medium pluck over the pickup on an open string (while muting the others), just let it ring, close your eyes, and say "OH yeahhhhhh...." while you just soak it in!

    I tried one of these Tech21 drivers for the first time recently at a big Interstate franchise store we have in Milwaukee (the sales help there is just terrible! Guitar Center is WAY better). I didn't run it to an amp, but instead had them plug it into the soundboard for their hugely-equipped concert stage that's right in the store (when I finally found a guy who believed me when I said that it's possible to DO that - I'm like saying "Dude: it's a direct-box; of COURSE you can plug it into the board!.. Look - see the XLR jack?.. Well if you don't know how, then find someone who DOES, please." ..Dang - don't get me started about these guys!) (!). Anyway - I was pretty impressed. I'm pretty sure I'm buying one of those. I'm talking about the "DI" model that's about $170 or so.

    Another idea is to go to some pro bass player in your area (you could maybe find someone in a music store, but even if you just contact someone 'cold' and explained your situation, they'd likely try to help). The idea would be to just hand him the instrument, and say "OK - let's see what you'd do with it". He'd plug it into his amp, twidle some knobs, and pretty soon you'd either hear a good sound out of it, or he'd say "Something's wrong - this bass CAN'T sound good". If it does sound good then you pick it up, and see if you get a similar tone - you'd have things pretty-well figured out by that point, and this is probably a 15min excercise.

  7. Try turning the amp up and EQing up the bass and then play softly on the strings. Just concentrate on finding the groove, too.
  8. GrooveSlave


    Mar 20, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Nobody has said anything about Amp EQ....

    I would try to set everything flat with a brand new set of strings. Make small changes to one thing at a time. Evaluate if the change got you closer to your "sound". I would start with the amp first.

    I've found that strings make a difference too. :rolleyes:

    I like D'Addario XLs on my Jazz and DR Lowriders on my Roscoe. So, maybe you should try a different brand / type of strings. Also, if you use a larger gague, you will get beefier sound.

    You have already discovered that you can change tone by where you play with your right hand. Perhaps your action is too low to allow you to play cleanly by the neck?

    Also, remember that bass tone that sounds good alone may sound terrible in the context of the band. I've found that I need way more mids to cut through than I would have if I'm setting tone when playing alone. This depends on the bass too. My Roscoe cuts like nobody's business. Less so with my Jazz.

    Good luck and keep experimenting.
  9. pontz


    Oct 31, 2003
    I don't know what to say about your tone, but great thread title.

    I love it!

  10. Well thanks for all the input and support. As it appears everyone was right. I hooked up my "concert" rig (i.e. my 212 cab and 280 watt head) and just took some time plucking notes gently making small improvements via amp eq until I got some really sweet sounds again! Its almost like through a combination of things I had inadvertently lost my tone and just needed to sit down, relax and mess with the bass and my rig. I had been using a practice rig (hartke kickback 10) which was too small for our loud practices and had gotten into a habit of over-playing to beat some extra volume out of the amp, and it has over time brought me poor technique and tone. I played softly for a while, and it was a nice reunion.
  11. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Yup - there you go; that never works.


    PS: Loud practices? You could ask your drummer to play quieter... Hhaaa-ha-hooo ...Just kidding, of course.