Playability vs. sound

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jock, Jun 13, 2001.

  1. jock


    Jun 7, 2000
    Stockholm, Sweden
    What do you choose?
    My problem is I like the sound of my Precision and can´t find that sound anywhere else, but I don´t like to play it. I love the feel of the Rickenbacker 4001´s neck and the close stringspracing at the bridge. I have choosen to sacrifice playability for the sound of the Precision but every time I see a Rickenbacker in a store I feel drawn to it...
    What would you do?
    Sound or playability???
  2. Sofa King

    Sofa King

    Aug 20, 2000
    Rowlett, TX
    I'd go for sound. Anyways, what it seems a lot of people say are unplayable (basses with larger, fatter necks) are quite playable to me ;)
  3. agyeman

    agyeman Member

    Mar 6, 2001
    If you don't feel comfortable with a bass, how will you get the best sounds out of it? Try and find something in between the two.
  4. I would recommend you try and find a bass that both plays and sounds great. You certainly could get one custom built; P-bass tone with the qualities "feel" you like about the Ric.

    Ever play a Sadowsky? He make a P/J model that has gotten excellent reviews. I haven't played that model, but I've heard good things about it.

    There are certainly other great options that don't require you to compromise tone for playability. Find what is best for you.

  5. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    This is a very good question. Playability is very important to me (god, I need all the help I can get), which is why I really like Carvin. For me, they are the most playable thing on the market. And although the sound is good, they're a little lacking in the "oomph" department. When I decided to get a fiver, I decided to go for sound over playability and went with a Sadowsky. I almost panicked when I got it, because it has standard string spacing, so the neck is pretty dang wide. At first, it was a real struggle, and there were things I could do on the Carvin that I couldn't on the Sadowsky, basically because my hands weren't strong enough (they didn't need to be for the Carvin).

    But, over the last few months, my hands have adjusted, and I can move over the Sadowsky just as well as the Carvin, AND have added flexibility of a B string. But it DID take time, and lots of practice. And unlike picking up a bass in a store and being immediately turned off by the feel (for me, Fender P and Warwick), I was pretty much committed to adjusting to this one. I pulled the Carvin out of the case a couple of days ago, played a little bit, then put it back. It sounded nice and played great, but the sound wasn't nearly as satisfying as the Sadowsky (with the Sadowsky, I find myself staring at my amp going, "Is that really ME?"). It just doesn't compare.

    Anyway, lesson learned for me is go with sound first. Your hands will adjust. I might add that there are guys here that learned this lesson 30 years ago and have shared the same philosophy, but I tend to learn the hard way. :)
  6. Both really. I went through a lot of basses both fives and fours and the bass I came out with was a four for me it just had better sound and playability allround and I suppose the big thing for me was that I couldn't find a B string I felt comfortable with.
  7. craigb

    craigb Supporting Member

    I'm wrestling with that issue now in some ways. I have two basses (4-string) with very different neck dimensions. One is 1-3/4" at the nut and the other is 1-1/2" at the nut. One is slightly "too big" and in long playing sessions (greater than 1 45 min set) I can feel it in the 4/5 fret stretches. The other is slightly too small and in long playing sessions I start to feel something like cramping in the ball of my thumb. How long should it take to get "used" to them? While I can see that it would take some time to adjust to a different size/spacing, it should at some point become comfortable and easy - if not, I don't want to keep with it.

    They both sound good, but in different ways. I've gone through a number of very nice production basses looking for "the tone", and I still haven't found it. Or at least I'm not completely satisfied. I also have 5-string cravings periodically and have bought and sold a couple of those - always getting rid of them because they aren't comfortable enough to play. I've had some hand/wrist problems that go away with good posture, good ergonomics at work (I'm a computer geek) and being smart about what I do otherwise so I'm very careful about avoiding activities (I stopped playing guitar at all) and basses that "annoy" my hands/wrists/arms.

    That said I'm starting to think that, at least for me, I need to move my priorities to comfort first and sound second. Not to say I'd keep a comfortable bass that sounded bad but my own bandmates don't really notice the difference between quality basses so I'm pretty sure the audience won't. I'm retargetting my search to be for a good sounding bass that fits me like a glove. It will have to sound good but not "perfect". Once the bass goes through the preamp/amp/speaker or PA system and competes with those dual guitar stacks does it really matter how "detailed" the sound is? I'm playing rock/r&b/pop type stuff so there's a lot of sound going out - I can see in a jazz setting where there is less sonic congestion that there would be a lot more audibility for superior tone.

    So for me, now, comfort is #1 - I won't risk re-starting/re-aggravating my tendinitis/cts/whatever by playing a bass that isn't comfortable after a reasonable adjustment period. For that reason I'm considering trading in my two axes that I love (G&L L2000, G&L Climax) for ones that fit me better. It's also why I don't have a 5-string at this time - the two I've had were not comfortable (I'll probably try again in the future thought) and I'm considering doing a BEAD 4-string for those times I want to go lower so I can stay comfortable. Sound is still important - the basses I'm thinking about as replacements are the Fender Am Hotrod P, Stingray and Grendel - but it's not primary.

    If I were you I'd get the Rick and play with the pickup balance/pickups/amp to get a sound I like. Or actually, I'd go for a 4004 that has a pair of much more standard pickups and get the Rick feel with a more "standard" two humbucker sound.

    Good topic
  8. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    I want both...and with the basses on the market should be possible for just about anyone.
    You have to be willing though, to try brands that are not the most popular. But if I can do it...then anyone should be able to...:D
  9. :)

    This is how I feel. As a lefty, It's almost impossible for me to try different basses for the playability - they're all upside down! So I have to look for sound, then order the southpaw instrument and adapt.
  10. If you like the feel of a Jazz neck (closer to that of a 4001 than the P's neck will be), you might just want to check into replacing the P neck. You can get them thru Fender or a half dozen other manufacturers. That would let you keep the P sound you like, while giving you a thinner neck. Plus, it's cheaper than putting out the cash for a new axe. Just at thought.
  11. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    For me, I actually picked the sound of my Spector over its feel, believe it or not! I ultimately grew into the feel of the Spector, but I was originally coming from the feel of a Modulus Quantum, which has a totally different feel!

    Anyway, I've found that now I can move around on the Spector about as easily as I want to, and other basses just feel foreign to me. My MIM Jazz, for example, is actually a struggle to play compared to my Spector, even though the neck on the Jazz is much thinner.

    On the other hand, sound is easier to change. If you get a bass that feels good, but you don't like the sound, it's only an electronics-swap away from sounding different (better ???).
  12. craigb

    craigb Supporting Member

    Well I guess I put my money where my mouth is (or placed my foot there instead). I've arranged a deal to trade my L2000 for a Stingray. I love the sound of the L2000 but find the neck to not fit me that well. I previously had a Stingray and moved on because of the single (awesome) sound. It was the bass that best fit me I'd ever tried. So now I'm going to have the best physical fit for me in the 'Ray and get to practice a new philosophy - have a single great sound that I can apply to any song/style. I like it philosophically and will have to make myself work on varying sound via plucking location, velocity, etc. and this time I'll make myself work with the eq to extract what I want/need from it.
  13. jock


    Jun 7, 2000
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Well a jazz neck is not what I want. My precision´s neck is not to fat at the nut but further up the neck (towards the body) it gets verry wide. What I like on the ricks are that the neck is almost as wide/thin at the nut as by the 12th fret. I love the tight stringspracing at the bridge on a rickenbacker.
  14. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    My thoughts are:

    1. Keep your precision
    2. Don't get rid of your precision
    3. Keep your p-bass
    4. Don't get rid of your p-bass
    5. Keep your p
    6. Don't get rid of your p

    Seriously though... I think that feel is just a matter of adaptation. I've bounced around between short scale and standard scale basses a lot. And it may feel akward at first, but it'll feel better... Just keep playing the p-bass.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm not so sure about this - after having tried hundreds of different basses, my impression is that the sound or "tone" of the bass is in the construction, wood etc. and that the electronics just add or take away a little from what is still recognisably the sound of that bass.

    So tone to me is a function of things like Body mass, neck stiffness, the type of woods used and just becuase you roll off a bit of treble, this tone is not really affected. So to my ears, a bass made of graphite will never sound anything like a bass made of Maple or Alder- no matter what electronics you put in.

  16. i agree with Bruce, a builder worth his/or her rep will concentrate on building a bass that sounds good acoustically. if you like different areas and features of different basses then why don't you consider designing you own custom bass, then get it made. it's not as expensive as it sounds, (a certain builder who is mentioned here quite often springs to mind)

    it would be money well spent, you have an instrument that fits you, not the other way round, your playing will improve over night, no kidding, it happened for me, I needed a longer scale so I got a 36" 5 and I feel so much happier.

    just have a look, I don't think it's a question of having either, or! why compromise feel for sound, it's not necessary
  17. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Nice point, Bruce. Although, I'm sure it works both ways... A bass of wood will never sound like a bass of graphite... Just a matter of what you're looking for. ;)
  18. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I agree that many things affect an instrument's tone. But, you can't tell me that I didn't totally change the tone of my MIM Jazz by merely putting DiMarzio Ultra Jazz p/u's in it (along with a BadAss II).

    I bought this Fender because it felt good and because I knew the tone I was after was not to be found for the $280 USD I paid for it. But, it was only a couple hundred in upgrades. Totally different sound, same feel.;)
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - these things are always subjective and to you it might have sounded "totally" different; but another person listening to it might have thought it just sounded "slightly better". The point I was making though, is that no matter what electronics you add to a Jazz bass, it's not going to sound like a Zon or a Steinberger graphite bass. So if that's the sound you had in you head then it's not going to be "easy" to get this sound just by changing the electronics.