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Possible to change the tone?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by pdeon99, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. pdeon99


    Oct 8, 2005
    Question: To what extent is it possible to change the tone?

    My Fender is an American P/J config, with EMG pickups on 9V, Badass Bridge, and Elixir strings (heavy gauge). I like the playability lots, but I am not happy with the tone, especially compared to my 5 string fretless (Bartolini single soap bar with NTBT internal preamp on 9V), and auditioning a stock Ernie Ball Bongo bass in a store. The latter are tight and have solid presence in the mids and lows, whereas my Fender is sloppy by comparison (‘twangy’, or boomy resonant, or something that results in ill-defined mids and lows). I've already tried several setup changes.

    These are my choices, as I see it:
    - Try Bartolini pickups and preamp
    - Try differnt strings (this is the third different type already)
    - Find a bass that already has the sound I want and trade it in.

    I'm getting polar opposite opinions from pros. What's your experience with these options?
  2. Masher88

    Masher88 Believe in absurdities and you commit atrocities

    May 7, 2005
    Cleveland, OH
    I think your first stop would be changing string type. It's the cheapest and a very effective thing to do. You be suprised at how different types and gauges of strings can effect your tone.
    IMO P-basses are kinda locked into that P sound...no matter what pickups and such you change out. It always ends up being a variation of the P sound. You either like it or you don't. I prefer the Humbucker (Musicman) or Soapbar sounds over Jazz or P bass sounds. Not that they sound bad to me...I just like the others better! To give an example, I once changed out the stock MM pickup in my old Sterling with a replacement Bartolini MM pickup. I think I was trying to upgrade to a different tone or something...I don't know. It ended up sounding pretty much the same as the stock...actually not quite as good...seeing as the pots and tone capacitors were all voiced for the stock pickup. It wasn't bad...just not the drastic upgrade I was looking for! Good luck with your search for tones! Your last resort just may be a totally different kind of bass!
  3. That is a bit surprising to me. My MIM Fender has the EMG P/J and BAII bridge and I think it sounds very tight and focused. The only differences I can think of is that my pu's are wired for 18v and I use DR Lowrider med. strings.
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    I've had a fender hot rod p/j with EMG pickups and I loved the sound. How do you typically blend the pickups? Do you favor the P or the J?
  5. pdeon99


    Oct 8, 2005
    I prefer the tone of the P by a wide margin. The J (bridge) is shallow (honk-like) and bright, but when the band gets loud, I need to add J in order to cut through. Also, the tone control (with a simple rolloff cap on the pot) is generally set 1/4 rotation above off (ccw) otherwise too much fret noise.
  6. I had a thin sound on the J-pickup of my Yamaha P/J...the first thing I did, AND the most dramatic was raise that puppy right up so that it was as close to the strings as I could get it without it being a problem (with things like strings touching the pole pieces, etc)...

    It was a HUGE difference...I've found that single coils, especially have a proximity effect and to get a good tone from them they MUST be close to the strings...

    While humbuckers definitely have a proximity effect, I don't find this to be such an issue with humbuckers, however.

    The next thing I suggest is...open your tone control right up on your bass and get your amp to a point where it sounds good, and then just use the bass for fine tweaking of tone.
  7. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
  8. pdeon99


    Oct 8, 2005
    Well, did that ever help!! The pickups were sunk way down low, so I padded them up close to the strings, and the J-pickup is back in business! Thank you PilbaraBass!
  9. Ívar Þórólfsson

    Ívar Þórólfsson Mmmmmm... Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    Kopavogur, Iceland

    Even though this forum is obsessed with changing pickups etc. (which is not a bad thing :) )
    This goes to show everyone that such drastic measures as replacing the pickups etc. is not always necessery.

    Excellent, excellent stuff!
  10. After the dozens or so suggestions I've made on here, I've finally made one that has profited someone...:)...that's a good feeling...

    You're very welcome...but, in all due respect to everyone here at TB...I learned about proximity effect with pickups right here! :)

    Talkbass is awesome.