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P-bass tone lost in the mix. How do I make it cut?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by zac2944, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I love my P-bass tone, but I'm having a hard time making it work live. It sounds great alone and in the studio, but on stage it just seems to get lost.

    I'm playing old R&B/Soul/Funk tunes with a 13 piece band. I love the way the old P-basses sound on the origional recordings, but I can't get it on stage. It just gets too muddy. My Fender Jazz cuts through fine, and my Smith works too, but neither sounds like a P-bass.

    I've tried cutting some low bass and adding some mids on my amps EQ, but it sounded too funny. I just want to tighten up the bottom a bit; make it punch through more.

    I'm playing a '97 MIA Fender P, stock, with flats, GK1001, and Schroeder 1212.

    How do all you P-bass players do it?
    Can it be done with flats?

    Thanks for your input.
  2. flatwoundfender


    Feb 24, 2005
    My advice would be to try to get the sound on your amp to match the sound of the bass. Play your bass unamplified then slowly turn up the amp making adjustments so the sound sounds the same. Also to cut through with a p you might need more power.
  3. bino


    Jun 27, 2002
    Orange County
    I don't have the problem you're experiencing and actually prefer the way my pbass cuts through over my jazz, but I also have a much different rig and don't play with such a large ensemble. Could just be there's not enough space left for your fat P with everything else going on.

    I'm currently using TI flats which are pretty middy sounding strings, but I'd expect switching to rounds or maybe a brighter flat (rotosound) would help you. Also, try cutting the low mids a bit (around 160 hz) to take out that girth and boosting the higher mids instead to get those grindy P frequencies to speak.

    I had an Aggie GS112 and I could never get a good sound out of it with a Precision (too thick down low for an already thick bass). Recently, I've been using an Eden and Bagend S15 coax which has all the mids/high mids anyone could ask for. Not exactly a smooth modern r&b tone, but definitely a funky Paul Jackson -esque tone.

    good luck.
  4. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I'm not sure I can do that. IMO they don't really sound anything alike.

    Good idea, but I doubt that's it. I don't even come close to using the available power from my rig.
  5. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    That might be the case. Alone I think the tone is great, but in the mix all the character of the P-bass tone seems to get lost and all I'm left with is mud.

    I'm going to try this out. I have an extra set of Chromes and a set of Rotosounds. I'm playing Dean Markley flats right now because I love the thick/old-school tone they have. They sound like rubber bands. When I use the Chromes and Rotosounds they don't have that nice old-school tone. They sound more like round wounds. I've never used them live.
  6. bino


    Jun 27, 2002
    Orange County
    Yeah, I tend to associate large r&b bands like that with Jazzes or Stingrays. Then again, Rocco pulled it off.

    My Lull P/J has rounds and seems to work well in loud settings. Doesn't have that engulfing tone of a typical P with flats, but still sounds like a Pbass.
  7. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    That's what I'm talking about. P tone, yet it cuts and isn't muddy.

    I doubt it is an EQ thing. I run my rig flat.

    I have to experiment with strings.
  8. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I've never tried to play in such a dense mix with my P, but I've had no trouble cutting through in three and four piece rock bands. And I use a G-K 700RB-II, so in that respect I have a similar rig. I'd suggest using roundwound strings, and getting a hotter pickup. The stock MIA Fender pickup has good tone IMO, but not enough punch, and it is a little muddy down low. I now use a Seymour Duncan SPB-2 Hot for P-bass, which is an overwound version of their vintage pickup. It has high output to pound through a mix, but still has a vintage vibe. I think it's a little clearer that the stock pickup, despite providing a fatter, thicker sound. And it's only about $60.

    I suspect your experience is why so many players started adding J pickups to their P-basses back in the 1970's.
    Tanner5382 likes this.
  9. stretch80


    Jan 31, 2005
    put some rounds on... I've got a maple-board P with DR Sunbeams (nickel) and it's got a great snappy growl, and I can roll off treble if I want more bass. This is through an Eden WT300 and Avatar 15+12. I tend to use a little mid-boost on the Eden to get the midrange P-growl.

    good luck!

    What's your band, btw...I'm north of Boston myself.
  10. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Could be. I have no problems with my J. It is just so easy to work with.

    I want the P to work too. The tone is just so bad ass. I think I'll try different strings before I swap pickups, but thanks for the advice.
  11. zac2944


    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Booty Vortex. www.bootyvortex.com
  12. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I've got a P-Bass and to cut through, I use roundwounds (your preference) and mids/upper mids boosted, with the lows cut a bit.

    Try that and it should cut through much better. I've never found flats on a P-Bass to "cut", but rather just fill out the bottom.

    One other thing...never figure that your sound at home will cut through onstage. That's why the typical "smily-face" EQ settings that sound so good at home get lost onstage.
  13. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    It sounds like your amp is scooping your sound. You might have the controls set flat, but that doesn't mean the sound is flat!

    Seriously, I think a P bass cuts better than just about anything out there if you run a fairly flat (or even slightly fat) amp. If you cut the mids it dissapears, since that is where all of its tone is.

    Roundwounds will give you more punch, though.
  14. seanm

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

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I think this is your problem. I love the thump from Dean Markley flats but they do not cut. I am finding the same problem with tapewounds. Love the tone but I am having troubles cutting through live :(

    Try the chromes, they cut through great. If that helps, try the LaBella 760FL. They cut through well yet have more of that good ol' thump than the Chromes.
  15. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I play in a 10-piece band and I wear earplugs, so either I cut or I can't even play.

    My experiences with P-Basses hasn't been good- exactly the same as yours. Using Fender original roundwounds helped a little with the P-Bass, but ultimately didn't make it.

    I used TI Flats, and that helped, but not entirely.

    I currently use two bases, both with dual pickups and especially, the neck pickup closer to the bridge (like a G&L L-2000, Ken Smith, or Sadowsky 5-24) and I'm using TI flats. They both cut and support beautifully.

    On the other hand, I recently tested an American Jazz Deluxe with the stock Fender strings, and it also sounded fantastic with the band.

    So, I-m sorry to say, but I just don't think the Motown sound you have will make it in your live situation.

    If you insist in using the P-Bass, then my recommendation is to try TI first, instead of Chromes or any other flats. TIs really make a difference in the presence and mid-range.
  16. dave120


    Jun 27, 2005
    Central Florida
    I managed to get flats to cut through with a P before, but it took some tweeking. Try pegging the boost knob on your amp, that might help. Also using a pick will help a lot, although that will change your sound by a decent amount. GK heads are the best around at cutting through of any amp I've had/tried, so you should be able to work with it.
  17. cobbster


    Sep 11, 2000
    You need an Ampeg SVT and an 8x10 cab. Fender flats. Thats the ticket for a P-bass.
  18. toad


    Jun 26, 2002
    Are you talking about just on stage or are people in the audience saying that your bass is not cutting through? Is your cab sitting on the floor? Do you have PA support?

    I had a similar situation with my rig and my bass was getting lost in the mud of the keys and guitars. I took my 2X10 cab and put it up on a three foot cart so the speakers were more at my ear level. Boom! All of the sudden my Precision was back to being the thumpy mid monster. I actually had lower the volume and dial in more bass. Everybody on stage heard the bass better.
  19. ted13


    Mar 12, 2004
    montreal quebec
    I think you'll find that what sounds good alone never sounds good in a band setting and what sounds good in the mix (band setting) will never sound good in your bedroom.

    if your not sure what i mean think line6 they always sound great at the store or at home with headphones etc. but you never stand a chance live.

    i play with roundwounds mostly but i think the same pricinples ring though for both.

    i think that an eq fix may be in order here. i try to mostly play my amp "flat" but where ever you are "flat" is gonna be different. remember your surroundings are gonna greatly affect your frequency resonance. in the room im currently rehearsing in i have the treble boosted, the mids about noon, and the bass almost off. Thats "flat" in that room.

    try not and think too much about what is normal settings or how someone else sets up their rig. whenever you set up in a new room put everything back to zero (not "flat" cause you haven't found it yet) Listen to what you hear and say "wow this sounds too "......" then fix it. If you like a bassy sound you still may achieve "that" sound while still cutting the bass knob. EQ'ing is about Ears Not Eyes.

    i usually find i need to adjust the bass or treble up or down alot more than touching the mids. remember with active eq's you are best to try and keep the eq curve centered around "0".

    hope that helps a bit.
  20. Shoot, you play with my friend Sky. Do you guys have another Johnny Ds gig comin up? Love to catch your show some time.

    I think just about anything that makes you cut, strings, eq, moving your plucking hand toward the bridge etc, is all going to move you away from that trad P sound. It is all a compromise.

    If you listen to the old time P players in show and swing bands (usually using ampegs), most sounded like bigger & fuller uprights - filling the bottom but not the sort of sound people expect today. I believe it also worked better because everyone played softer back then.

    One strange idea I had is to try a tiny bit of envelope filter mixed with your dry signal. Maybe adding just a tiny bit of quack or squack on top of that P tone you love will make you more audible in the mix.

    Oops, I forgot to mention that I am a fan of GHS Brite Flats - groundwounds - but I don't have any band experience to back that up.