Man. the past several months have been interesting as I've been pursuing that ever elusive tone. there's no question here, just a story which i think is a little bit funny, and will hopefully teach me to keep everything (basses included!) in perspective. for a few years I had been playing a stingray through a Gallien Krueger 2001rb... I had a nice zingy, aggressive rock tone (and yes, i do play with a pick 95% of the time) that served me well thru a handful of indie and punk bands. i guess my tone was quite similar to simon gallup's tone in the cure, and i was happy with that. I fully embraced that trebly post-punk thing that can come naturally for a stingray thru a GK. as time went on I drifted away from playing music for a few years, and it became more of a personal hobby and I began playing more guitar at home in my apartment and less bass. when the opportunity to join a band as a bassist i got bit by that rock n roll bug and jumped at the opportunity. i felt rejuvenated after all the time away from playing bass, and I was also struck with the idea that this would be the best time to really stretch and expand my sonic palette, since the style of music we play is indie rock with a heavy 50's rock and 60's pop influence... i set the stingray aside, dug out my old crappy mim jazz, bought an sx P-bass, strung them both up with flats and had a ball with the new thumpy tones i was getting. it's amazing how a drastic change to your fundamental tone can inspire you to play in a totally different way. the stuff i came up with was great, and for the first time in years it felt fresh and vital again, like when i was a kid first learning bass. as the months went on, our band got better, and our newer songs started to stretch our natural boundaries again, and our sound began to draw less from our influences and push on into more original territory (that makes us sound more accomplished than we are... we still only have 8 or 9 songs, ha), but as I was experimenting with our newer material i kept trying to "rock harder"... the way i used to with my 'ray, and it proved difficult to get that big aggressive sound from the passive pups with thumpy flats on there. So i tried a plethora of overdrives and distortion pedals, which helped, but not completely. I went nuts trying different settings on the GK2001RB (some pretty extreme...), and I got closer and closer to what I wanted, but I couldn't quite get it all. I was really happy playing our older songs (where just a pleasant warm thump was required), but the "rock parts" were still a stretch. On stage i'd always feel uncomfortable with my tone when I had to play aggressively without any accompaniment (which happens 2 or 3 times throughout the set). I had made all sorts of plans to try out different amps (maybe an SVT?), maybe get some new cabinets (dr. bass maybe?), maybe eventually swap my DOD 250 overdrive for an EHX english muff'n, try using a compressor (why not, right?), and maybe pickup a Sansamp BDDI to get a bigger rock tone the easy way. But I don't know if i'll need to go through all that trouble now... Today, for the heck of it, I decided I'd throw on a set of TI flats on my stingray to see if i couldn't get a nice old-school meets modern rock vibe out of it... but before I even got the chance to swap the strings (there was a set of fairly fresh EB slinky's on there) I plugged the stingray into my Roland Bass Cube 30 and gave my old 'ray a whirl. It was like coming home from war and seeing my fiance waiting there for me, just like i remembered her, but somehow even more beautiful. The fact that i had desperately missed her more than i knew suddenly hit hard. How did I ever put this bass down? After getting used to the neck on my '97 MIM Jazz (sticky, glossy garbage... and too thin for my hand) and the chunky neck on my SX P (actually not half bad), the satin finish and perfectly sized stingray neck was just stunning in comparison. The fretwork felt great, everything just felt so solid... and RIGHT. And i had forgotten how versatile this thing is with the 3 eq controls, even with just the one humbucker. I sat there for a good hour just tweaking tones, trying out different models on my bass cube and adjusting the eq on the bass... (i hadn't tried this bass thru the new cube yet... pretty awesome). After settling on the SVT model I managed to dial in a decidedly more aggressive version of my thumpy rock vibe that I had been striving for with the fender style basses but not quite getting. Fully inspired and re-armed with the stingray I went to band practice this afternoon to see what the other guys (and gal) thought of my "new idea" for our band. With my greater understanding of my GK 2001rb and a nice setting on the stingray, we ran thru our set and the difference was immense. We sounded like a new band. People can knock active electronics all they want, but when used properly its astounding how "alive" they can make the mix sound, and that's what happened with us. Suddenly my bandmates were commenting on little licks I was playing... stuff I had always played but that they had never been able to discern before. The bass was always the fundamental driving force to almost all of our songs, but before it was more of a backbone, under-the-mix kind of affair that never particularly stood out unless it was missing. Adding the stingray to the mix draws the bass to the front and definitely gives us a rockier edge but as we all agreed, for our band and what we're going for, it actually makes us a bit more distinctive... it should be a lot easier to grab the attention of uncaring club-goers with our bigger sound. either way, the change is exciting. So that was a pretty long way of saying i love my stingray, and that the quest for that beautiful sound was a pretty roundabout affair that led me in a giant circle. But the journey was necessary, I think, in order for me to learn more about myself as a musician and to teach me precisely what it is i value in an instrument. Spending all that time making low-end instruments work for me at rehearsal and on stage really taught me to compensate for a lot of things. Now when I play the 'ray i can truly appreciate how well it's constructed... and to think that I kept telling myself that I'd never be able to use such a modern instrument (active pups, maple fingerboard, bridge humbucker, roundwound strings) with this vintage sounding band with an intentionally old-school tone. For the first time in months my GAS pains are fading away! Although those newer Stingray HH's are looking pretty tempting... Ha!