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P-Bass.. Harsh sound?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BradM, Apr 28, 2006.

  1. I've been considering a P-Bass lately to use as a backup to my J. After playing a few today, I've noticed each one seemed to have a very harsh, metallic (for lack of a better term) sound that I don't care for. I've played both MIM and MIA, is this normal?
  2. terrelli721


    Mar 19, 2006
    did you check the action on the one's you played to see if it was too low. I had that problem with mine when I first played it in the Guitar shop. I got it set up better and ran through a better amp and it was fine
  3. ElBajista


    Dec 13, 2005
    Sebring, FL
    This sounds like you're using roundwound strings. What strings are you using?

    *Edit* I didn't read the original post completely.

    I'd guess that all of the basses were strung with new roundwound strings. Also, P basses by tradition have very strong mids. That combined with new roundwound strings can sound "harsh." Tweaking the EQ, "deadening" your RW strings, or simply switching to some sort of flatwound will help you get rid of the harsh-ness.
  4. KayCee


    Oct 4, 2004
    Shawnee, KS
    I've always thought that P pickups sounded really harsh, or abrasive, when played alone. I've learned to like them a lot though, when playing in many band settings. That harshness becomes punch when the whole band's playing, and it sits well with the drums.
  5. mattpnolan

    mattpnolan Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2005
    New Jersey
    That's exactly why I haven't owned a bass with a P pup yet, but why I am also going to get one soon :)
  6. The action was fairly low on each of the basses I played, and yeah the strings were roundwound. I was just kind of surprised at how they sounded. I mean, obviously I was expecting a different sound than my jazz, that's the idea! I just wasn't expecting that.

    If it sounds good with a band though, it might be worth giving another shot. :)
  7. Zombi3


    Nov 15, 2005
    P-bass pickups do have a bit of that harsh feel to their tone, but a lot of people like them. You could always opt for a P-bass with alternative pickups, such as a Humbucker. Check out the 'Big Block' Bass seen here:


    Supposedly, it has a very warm and powerful tone, rather than the harshness of the P-bass pickups. But to each his own, as others comment that it's still harsh. Good luck with the next purchase!
  8. This is why I like P-Basses and Rics - they both can sound very raw and in-your-face:bassist:
  9. ElBajista


    Dec 13, 2005
    Sebring, FL
    +1! Even sitting between a grand piano and an acoustic guitar, my Glaub sat so well in the mix. Big and Fat, but that might have been the combo of the Glaub, the TI flats, and the EQ of my B100R.

    Keyword: "Can"

    P's can also sound very "mellow." They sure as heck aren't OTP's. Anyone who says a P is a OTP is a OTP themselves! :D
  10. +1

    I never said anything different:)

    I say the same thing for people that say that about Rics - they respond to even more subtle touches - most who slam them have a ham fisted technique, lol!
  11. Mine's like that (it's a copy), but only with the tone control wide open. I love the sound of the P with the tone rolled completely off though.
  12. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Standard P bass pickups are also humbuckers, though.
    While I don't think P basses sound that harsh (they do have some bite but still sound smooth enough for my ears), you can take off much of the edge by turning the tone knob down.
  13. FeelTheGroove


    Dec 2, 2005
    The P tone is very gritty, but thats the character of the Precision bass. In my experiance, in a full band setting it doesnt really sound harsh but sits in the mix rather well.
  14. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    IMO yes, a P-Bass can certainly sound raw. Especially soloed, using stainless steel roundwounds, a pick, and with it's tone control up full.

    There are many different ways to tame it's sound. Early on I experimented with different brands and types of strings. Nickel roundwounds sound a bit smoother to my ears. I've since switched to flatwounds for a classic 60's-type of tone.

    You can always try different pickups, but in doing this you may lose the classic P-Bass sound. IME by using the tone control, where you pluck the strings, and how hard or soft you attack them can make the biggest difference in sound. Or you can always adjust your amp's eq to take out some of the harshness.

    I hope this helps if you decide on buying a P-Bass.

  15. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Arthur makes some good points - for what some people call a "one-trick-pony", there are lot of variables that go into a P-Bass sound, and it can go all over the map!

    Unless I missed it, one thing you haven't mentioned is the amp you were playing through and what the settings were - that can make a BIG difference! Amp settings that work well with one bass usually don't jive with another!
  16. Thanks for all the tips, guys. I really appreciate it.

    The amp I was playing through was a 10" Peavey combo they had at the store, set with the Bass at 4, Mids at 7, and Treble at 3. That's what I usually set my amp (an old Kustom II head with a 15" Traynor cab, if it matters..) at when I'm at home, but thats for playing my jazz..

    (As an aside, I usually like to play through something closer to my own amp when I'm trying out a bass but they'd sold the closest models since last time I was there.)
  17. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    Well, that could do it right there. While the Jazz bass usually does well with a little kick to the mids, the P-Bass has TONS of midrange with everything set flat - if you had the mids boosted on it (going through a 10" combo, no less), I wouldn't be surprised at all if it sounded harsh.

    On my Jazz basses, I often find myself adding mids, with my P-Bass I often ended up scooping a bit out. That's just me, though. :cool:
  18. Well, now I know better for next time. Any recommended EQ settings?
  19. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    Lot's of variables here. First is amp Eq. Pickup hight. Lowering the p/u's smooths things out dramaticly. Alnico magnet p/u' like in the 62 Re Issue are smoother sounding thant the Ceramic magnets in others. (anyone know what they're using in the new MIA's these days?) Also a PURE nickle wraped roundwound, like the Fender 7150's will also tame the tone a bit vs. Nickle PLATED or Stainles Steel roundwounds, if you happen to like roundwounds. Maple fingerboards are going to be more upper mid/trebly than rosewood boards. Alder/Ash/Basswood/Poplar bodies all have differnt tonal qualities. Alder/rosewood/Alnico/PURE nickel make the sweetest sounding P IMHO. Remeber... Watch that EQ on the amp. P's are naturaly have lots of mids.

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