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P bass tone-help?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by David Jayne, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. I have been a Jazz Bass guy for quite a while, and decided to buy a USA Standard P a couple of months ago, to see 'how the other half lives.' And I'm having a love/hate relationship with it. Feels great, plays great. There are times where it just sounds awesome to me, similar to recordings I've listened to and like the sound of, but other times where I just can't get a good sound from it. Seems that when I play it through a large rig it's the shizznit, but with a smaller rig it just doesn't sound good. 'Honky' would describe it. And if I EQ the 'Honk' out, it just doesn't have any guts.
    On the other hand my Jazz always sounds good, through anything, big or small. Big rig is a Demeter pre/power rack into two Goliath's. Small is an Epi UL-310/Markbass TA-501.
    I'm pretty sure it comes down to my approach, but I am baffled. I tried LaBella flats, too, but couldn't deal with the feel and went back to Fender rounds. Didn't help the sound anyway. Any pointers from real P bass players? Thanks, Dave
  2. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I was going to say try flats..... but that didn't work for you :(

    IMHO, flats make a P bass come alive, but only in a band situation. Rounds sound better in the basement playing by yourself.

    Are you using the small rig in a band situation, or just at home? Honk is really something I would not expect from a P bass. And I quite often used to play through just an iAMP500C, a very small rig.
  3. tylerwylie


    Jan 5, 2008
    Dunwoody, GA
    Have you thought about upgrading the pickups? A P set of EMG's might help a LOT.
  4. I've used both rigs with bands. And again, the Jazz sounds great, all the time, so I'm thinking it's a technique/approach thing. It's like the Jazz is 'my bag,' but I really want to learn how to make the P speak properly. With the Jazz, I tend to play right between the pickups, or slightly closer to the bridge, with both pups equal volume, usually. This give a nice fat sound, with 'pop', when I want it. The P doesn't seem to like to be played this way. Over the pickup, or close to the neck, gives a better sound, as does playing lighter.
    Flats sounded OK, but not great-sort of clacky. But with more thump, to be sure. But the feel drove me nuts in the end, and they had to go. Made the bass feel dead. With rounds it feels alive, and when the sound is happening, I would describe it as 'brassy,' for lack of a better description.
  5. Most reviews I've read say that the stock pup in the '08 model is great. Wrong?
  6. tylerwylie


    Jan 5, 2008
    Dunwoody, GA
    It's a good pickup, just the EMG's are usually better, and may help you specifically with the tone you're trying to get.
  7. Experiment with different string types; I tried steels because I wanted to sound brighter, but after they settled in and most of the "zing" was gone (about a month), if I rolled back the tone control, you get a lot of character and warmth in tone out of the bass. You don't get as much low end as you do with other string types, but it's real easy to EQ that back in (it's really not a big loss, just a touch higher on the bass knob/100hz slider and you'll be there).

    I'm experimenting with nickels next, just to see what they 're like. But I really would reccomend trying a few different string types/Gauges before spending big bucks on mods like pickups etc.

    Good luck!
  8. This is just me.But,IMHO,I think a P-Bass is along the lines of,say,a Stingray,in terms of being limited in what they can do.I'm not saying they sound like a 'ray,I'm saying they sorta fit that "one trick pony" medium.But,boy,they can do those few things great!
  9. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Banned Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Hi dmusic148.

    Have you tried adjusting the hight of your P's pickup halves?

    Having them closer to the strings accentuates the Precision's 'planky' midrange bark, having them further away brings out a more 'acoustic' bass guitar fullness. You'll likely find that splitting the difference between these two extremes yields the best all-round tone.

    In the past, I've used a Jazz Bass and a couple of P-Basses.

    I found that the Fender Precision is best played like an acoustic bass guitar in that when making a P speak, its three basic 'vowels': OOOW (plucked/picked at the 20th fret); AAAH (plucked/picked over the pickup); and EEEE (plucked/picked close to the bridge), with variations in between, can be exploited to articulate one's tone and phrasing in a more 'vocal' manner.

    While this is true of the J-Bass as well, it is more so for the P since it's only pickup samples a comparatively longer length of string resulting in the Precision's broader voice.

    When it comes to achieving tonal versatility compared to a J, a P demands a more explorative plucking/picking-hand technique.

    BTW. Have you tried Rotosound 77 Jazz Bass Monel Flatwounds?

    They're the only flats I've tried which sound much like roundwounds when new. After a while they die down to a tony, stringy BOOM instead of the dead THUD that other flatwounds often produce--particularly their E strings.


    And now for some P-Bass appreciation courtesy of Mr. Colin Hodgkinson. :D
  10. a P speak, its three basic 'vowels': OOOW (plucked/picked at the 20th fret); AAAH (plucked/picked over the pickup); and EEEE (plucked/picked close to the bridge),"

    Wow! a lesson in P-bass linguistics.
    The P-pickups should be fine, don't go to the bother to change.
    EMG's are nice pickups, I often call them 'too' nice. Better for the studio then live.
    I'm guessing your P-bass isn't the pre-amp version. If it is I'd say look there. Installed pre-amp can be a bothersome of inconsistency.
    Find a friend with a studio, beg, borrow or steal an hours worth of time. Take in both basses, A/B them and find the answer.
    Luck is good.
  11. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I find that honky quality to be part of what makes a P sound so good in the mix.

    Also, in a mix with guitars playing over or behind the PUP for the most part gets a better tone for a rock mix. maybe you are just trying too hard to get a pleasant soloed sound, instead of trying for something that slots in a mix better.

    Very interesting posts the vocal qualities of different attacks, something I use intuitively without having thought about it this way!

    +1 on PUP height adjustments, and don't go swapping PUPs yet. Those stockers are great sounding, really.
  12. ljazz


    Dec 10, 2002
    Cookeville, TN
    Man, I hate to admit this, because I think their qc has sucked over the years, but I just put a set of DA Chromes on my '08 P. I got a great deal on them, and they were the SL's so I could go through body without issues, and they were in stock..... they really really make the '08 p open up. The US pup is kinda tame, and really requires an agressive string. I'm a huge TI Jazz Flat fan, but they just plain ol' sound bad on this bass. I threw on an older set of Labella flats I have laying around here, and they didn't help much either. I'm on the fence at the moment as to whether or not I'll drop in a different pup. The sound of this thing right now with the chromes is pretty sweet..... even through my smaller practice rig.

  13. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Banned Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Yup! Those split-coil P pickups have been helping to put the groove in groovy for a time-tested 52 years.

    Based upon the wide tonal variation I enjoy with my MIJ Fender VI, if I ever had to play a long scale electric bass again, it would be a 5 string P-Bass--modified with two additional P pickups + a 5-way Strat switch. :hyper::hyper::hyper:
  14. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    P bass may not always sound remarkable when played solo. It doesn't have the shimmer of modern hifi sounding axes, it does not have the same snap as a Jazz being slapped or the throaty growl of a Jazz bridge pick-up.

    Put a stock P bass in a mix or in rhythm section and that bass shines. What was honkey and middy by itself, sounds just right in the mix. It always sits in the right space, its round, its warm, it has fat bottom.

    I have not really played mine that much recently. I used it on a recording session the other night and it sounds perfect.
  15. tylerwylie


    Jan 5, 2008
    Dunwoody, GA

    Tame is the best way to put it. They're great pickups, but they are tame.

    You can change the strings(Do this BEFORE Pickups always ;) ), change how you play and possibly get the tone you want. However, the EMG Precision pickups are, the best way to put it, bloody amazing, active or passive.
  16. phatduckk


    May 24, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    +1. I love the P bass when playing with my band but I never play it solo at home. but in a band situation it definitely works for me.
  17. BadB


    May 25, 2005
    The P bass is all about right hand technique. It's very touch sensitive and you can get a lot of subtle sounds out of it. It truly can cover a lot of ground.
  18. Moe Monsarrat

    Moe Monsarrat Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2006
    Austin, Tx.
    Endorsing artist:Regenerate Guitar Works Carvin, Micheal Kelly Guitars
    I play mine near the neck or right over the pups. I put active EMGs in mine but I like the Bartolinis even better. I use Chromes on it. Still, it sounds like a P & not much else.
  19. Lowtonejoe

    Lowtonejoe Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Pasco, WA
    No, it's not just you. I agree with you 100%.

    All the humbuckers I've played have had this issue.


  20. Lowtonejoe

    Lowtonejoe Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Pasco, WA
    Yep, hand technique makes it as flexible as it can be.



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