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Steve Lawson's mwah

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Steve Cat, Mar 26, 2001.


  1. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    Copied from Technique

    This has been driving me nuts too. I have a MIM Fretless Jazz, and the new Fender Bassman 100 amp. I can kind of get the sound on the D sting at the 12th fret and above> Lowering the other strings just causes a buzz and tightening the truss rod causes the 5th and below "frets" to buzz. I have tried Fender tapewound strings, which in general I like the sound and feel of (but no mwah) and D'Addario Flatwound Cromes, but no luck.

    Steve Lawson also gets this tone, but it sounds to me to be all over the neck, not just the 12th fret and above. Does it have anything to do with sting tension? I'm using 45-100. I get the feeling that everybody gets this tone except me, poor me I know.

    BTW Steve I got your CD and it sounds great. If I listen hard I think I can guess what bass you are using. I think the sound I am after comes out of your six sting, I also think I hear the 5 sting with fretless slides but no mwah on it.
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Steve,

    the 5 string on the CD is only on 'The New Country', just the solo at the end. There was another tune that was going to go on there with that bass, called 'Conversation with My Dad', but the MINIDISC was a little too distorted to use, but it is available in real audio form on the solo gig and CD page of my site.

    All the rest of the fretless is on the 6.

    As for sound, it's a combination of many things. The neck on my Modulus 6 is dead straight - it's one of the joys of Graphite, that a straight neck generally stays straight (I've never had to do any neck adjustment on any of my three graphite necked basses). I think that the contributes a lot to the evenness of the tone of the bass. That and a very low action (As set up by Martin Peterson in The Gallery in London, who does the best set-ups of anyone I've ever come across, and makes stunning basses to - see www.thebassgallery.co.uk I think...)

    Also, the strings are Elite flatwounds, which I love, with a lighter B string than normally comes with their sets (I've got a 125 instead of a 130)

    and then the amp, an Ashdown ABM-C110 300, set completely flat, with reverb from a Lexicon MPX-G2...

    and then my hands, which aren't for sale... :oops:)

    Experimentation is the key to finding your sound, both with gear and technique. But I think a good professional setup will help you find the sound you're looking for...

    good luck

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It seems like you're putting a lot of emphasis on setup and low action here. I tend to agree, but a lot of people say to me - it's all in the hands.

    I think this is true to a certain extent in that you can't get "mwah" without some left-hand precision and control. But I have found that some basses can be setup with a lower action than others and some can get the sound you want and some can't.

    This to me, is one of the main reasons to go for a high-end bass - i.e. that it can be setup better. I tried a large number of Fender Jazz basses as I like the classic sound, but I found that the vast majority just couldn't be set up in the way that I wanted and couldn't get the sound I was after. Whereas most "hand-made" basses I have tried can do this.

    I've also been along to the gallery and chatted to Martin Peterson and tried a fretless Sei 6-string which got great "mwah" and good tone overall - but the action was so much lower than you can get on any production basses. I liked the sound on all the fretless Sei basses, although the body felt a bit too small to me - but anyway the point is about
    the best sound coming from a top-class instrument.
     
  4. speaking of Sei Basses and low action, I had my Fender P bass Plus customised by Martin Petersen at the Gallery in 96 (graphite rods inlaid in the neck and ebony fretboard put on/ refret).
    when I got the bass back he'd set the action so low I couldn't get a clean note out of it when I played normally - buzz and rattles everywhere.
    I set it up to my taste with the bridge saddles higher and less relief on the neck.

    I don't think I play particularly hard (by rock standards).

    so what may be a good action for some may be a bad one for others....(okay, this was a fretted bass, but I think there's some relevance of this case to the topic)
     
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Martin does indeed do very low set-ups, and very even ones too. The best best is to be there and have him adjust it while you try it. I saw Randy Hope Taylor in the shop today and he has Martin reset his Jazz bass as it was too low for him.

    Martin picked up my 6 string and said 'hey, that's really low action'... so I said 'well, YOU did the setup!'. As it is, it's just right for my playing... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  6. CJY

    CJY

    Apr 30, 2001
    Singapore
    u guys can try plugging into a sansamp bass driver or acoustic DI.
     
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    the Sansamp is a great little box, especially if your bass is passive. what the sansamp is is a mini preamp and DI in one - especially useful if you're playing without an amp, hence the name.

    for fretless, any active preamp is going to offer more variations to the tone of a passive bass. Some people love the sound of a passive bass (I quite often switch off the active in my 6 string to get a more 'open' sound, whereas the greater control over variation in the sound that you get with active electronics or an outboard preamp such as the Sansamp, Sadowsky preamp, Raven Labs MDB-1, Aguillar preamp, or any of the multi FX with a decent EQ section.

    But it's still the case that the biggest factors in fretless sound are technique and set-up. If you don't get those right, no amount of gadgets are going to help... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  8. kezekiel

    kezekiel

    Sep 24, 2000
    The SansAmp DI proved very helpful to me in correcting for excessive noise and an overactive treble output from the onboard preamp of my Ibanez, too. I can cut the tone controls onboard the Ibanez and dial in what I'm looking for from the SansAmp.

    My Renaissance bass does just fine on its own, though. Rick Turner got that one voiced right.

    Kevin
     
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Kevin,

    This is often the problem with production active basses - the electronics are well below par. Yamaha have for years had rubbish on board electronics, though the new TRBs seem to have corrected many of the problems present in earlier models. If you've not got that much to spend on a bass, it's often worth getting a nicer passive bass and saving up for electronics, either on board or a box like the Sansamp, or a Raven Labs preamp, sadowsky outboard, Aguilar etc... that way you get more for your initial investment and don't get lumbere with noisy electronics. After all one good passive sound is worth more than a whole host of noisy half-assed cheap active sounds...

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  10. steubig

    steubig

    Jul 17, 2001
    locustland, ca
    well i'm barging in here, too.

    i have some questions that i've wanted to ask for a while.

    why is everyone so concerned with "mwah"? what exactly is the purpose of finding this on a fretless bass? why does a fretless "need" to have it? is it really necessary for "you" to have it?


    interested in responses,


    stig
     
  11. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    Well that's why a bought a fretless bass.......so I could sound like solo Jaco, when I couldn't get a decent mwah I gave up and am currently playing a MIA fretted Jazz with DR high beams.....totally different sound but at least I can play it, and for me thats whats important
     
  12. steubig

    steubig

    Jul 17, 2001
    locustland, ca
    okay,

    to me, i think that's the wrong reason to have a fretless bass. (i'm not trying to offend, just trying to offer a different point of view.)

    i don't hate the guy or anything, but i think it's time for the bass community to move beyond trying to sound like jaco (ever been annoyed by too many guitarists trying to sound like hendrix or sr vaughn?). jaco did his thing magnificently, it's time for everyone else to do their's (imho). however, if "your" sound is mwah, so be it.

    my opinion? if you still have the fretless, pull it out and see how to make it sound like you.

    stig
     
  13. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I'm not sure that Mwah has to sound like Jaco... I agree that wanting to cop someone else's sound doesn't seem like the most musical of choices, but having said that, I'm sure it's been a stepping stone for most players somewhere down the line...

    I do think that it can be crippling to a player to struggle to avoid sounding like someone else. I'm not going to change my accent if I happen to speak like someone else - the words I'm saying are going to be different enough for people to differentiate...

    Having said that, listening to Jaco and a lot of other players did show me what I didn't want from a fretless- that roundwound sizzle tone, which is why I went for flats, and therein found my own sound... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  14. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    Sorry, I really would like to be crippled enough to sound like Hendrix or Stevie Ray. Most people don't have the talent to copy their sound and even if they did their lines/phrasing/songwriting would never be the same. There are few who ever sounded like Hendrix, Robin Trower to me came the closest but one would never confuse the two. The myriad of guys who try to sound like Stevie Ray just plain don't and that's what I find annoying, guys who try to sound like someone and don't. As far a Jaco goes again I don't know anyone I would confuse with him. Its not "just" the sound/tone that makes a person sound like someone else its the way they phrase. and again if "all" I could do was to sound exactly like Hendrix I would consider it an act of grace.
     
  15. Have you ever tried Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Flats? They're quite soft, and usually require a tweak to the setup when you use them on a bass for the first time, but I've found their sound to be quite amazing, and they're so easy on the fingers - almost as if they're too light...

    - Wil
     
  16. kezekiel

    kezekiel

    Sep 24, 2000
    Anybody know of a good online source for Thoms? My local music store doesn't carry them. Thanks!

    Kevin
     
  17. Steve Cat

    Steve Cat

    Mar 19, 2001
    If you are talking about the black plastic ones I have tried them, they do have an interesting sound but the E was really dead. I personally liked the Fender black nylon tapewound better because they had a little better sustain and were a little brighter, but if one is looking for a "different" sound both these strings are worth trying
     
  18. steubig

    steubig

    Jul 17, 2001
    locustland, ca
    howdy,

    first, the thomastik-infeld jazz flats are not black tape wounds. they're just standard nickel wrap strings. at least the ones that i've used for the last 4-5 years. i use 'em on both fretted and fretless 6-string basses. i find that they give more of an "uprightish sound" than do round wounds (not suprising from a compamy that makes strings for orchestral instruments).

    i think steve's point was that people can get "crippled" in a counter-productive (read unnatural for them) effort to not sound like someone. not that they are crippled by sounding like someone else.

    my point, which is probably closed to what you're reacting to, is this, IF you want to have your own artistic voice (and this is prehaps the key here), i think it's important to stop emulating at some point - - and this is gonna be different for each individual person. in general, i believe that the bass community as a whole needs to move beyond the jaco influence as a primary objective. i stress the word objective here. there's no question that the guy really had a major impact and influence - - and not just on bassists - - but i personally don't feel that it's going to further anything by people slavishly recreating (or trying to recreate) his sound, etc. just an opinion. (reference all the alto players who had to deal with bird's legacy.)

    a small anecdote: one of the best guitar players i ever knew went from sounding like larry carlton to alan holdsworth to eric johnson. i feel that he squandered his talent as a creator settling for becaming a very good mimic. this is not the point of playing music in my life.

    lastly, to quote you:

    The myriad of guys who try to sound like Stevie Ray just plain don't and that's what I find annoying, guys who try to sound like someone and don't.

    this was exactly my point. (but then can anyone really sound like anyone else?)

    stig
     
  19. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Exactly - copying someone isn't crippling, if what you're trying to do is copy them... being blinded by the light of some stellar player if you're trying to form your own voice can hold you back - I'm just glad that Bill Frisell doesn't play 6 string fretless bass... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk