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The "Zon" solo bass tone

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by osciphex, Apr 30, 2002.

  1. osciphex


    Jun 1, 2001
    In listening to alot of these solo bass players using Zon basses (ok there are only like two that I can name off hand.) I notice they use alot of slapping, popping, and tapping when playing fretted basses. And when they do this the seem to get a whole lot of neat high frequency texture that I can't seem to reproduce. It also seems to be just plain easier for them to pull off these moves (check out that Cliff Engel video at bassically.net...) Listen to Cliff Engel's cover of Purple Haze or Michael Manring's "Fire Sermon" and you'll hear what I'm talking about.

    I've been reading through the specs on their basses and I notice they tend to use very light string gauges most of the time. Is this a good assertion?

    I've been thinking of restringing my fretted MIM fender jazz bass with some lighter strings more like the kind they use. How much closer would this get me to that kind of sound?

    I really should replace the strings anyway... I still have the stock strings on the instrument from when I bought it like two years ago. Well, that is, after I get my fretless jazz... then I'll control both the bright and warm tones... mwa ha ha... but i digress.......
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    strings will make a huge difference to the tone - if your strings are two years old, you're running on two cylinders, basically - great for Motown, rubbish for solo stuff... :oops:)

    Other factors in their tone will be active electronics, recording process and the graphite in the necks of their basses - on a passive fender, you'll have to do some serious tweaking to get close to the sound of an active Zon... better off finding the natural sound of the Fender and working with that...

    lighter strings will also make a difference, that's for sure, but it'll feel very different too, so probably don't go too light (Michael's strings are insanely thin, and his technique works really well with those...)

    the zon's do have an amazing sound - good luck finding your sound.


  3. I own a Zon Sonus Custom 5 and LOVE it!!!

    There are many factors which attribute to that sound. Including the player, gear, pups, etc. One thing you may want to try is putting a nice microphone in front of your bass (as long as you are not tracking in the same room as your amp!) It gives a nice sizzle to your tone when blended together with your direct tone. You can purchase a Zon with a piezo bridge which basically has the same effect.
    Be very careful when restringing your bass with lighter strings, if you like the feel of it, have your bass professionally setup to avoid neck warpage.
    BTW, the song 'The Fire Sermon' was recorded using a 10 string Zon.
  4. Steve, you've said you use flatwound Elites strings on your Modulus 6 fretless- how often do you change them?
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    The Elites flats last ages - Ive had the current set on for about 15 months, and they still sound great!! no loss of tone as yet... I might have to change them soon, just out of embarrasment at how old they are... :oops:)


  6. I've had the same set of light gauge Rotosound Jazz flats on my Hohner fretless acoustic for 6 years now-
    it's not my main instrument, but I do use it for solo loops and fills- I've found that the sound hasn't really changed after the strings were played in- certainly not deteriorated in any way.

    no chiming crystal-clear harmonics of course, but it's surprising how much you can do with them.
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Flat wound strings do tend to be remarkably long lasting - mainly because the loss of tone of roundwounds is largely to do with gunk getting into the winding (hence the effectiveness of boiling the strings in dealing with it).

    What all strings suffer from is that over time the tension of the string stretches the string, and that stretching is an uneven process, leading to the mass of the string varying along its length, which messes with the intonation and deadens the harmonics...

    When I changed the flats on my 6 string, after one year, the tone was noticeably different, and I was really all that keen on it for the first week of them being on - they definitely take more time to setting in than rounds, which sound amazing the second they are put on...

    You might want to try the Elites, or Labellas if you switch - much less rough to the touch than the Rotosounds... The Gallery does LaBellas and Bass Centre does the Elites...


  8. actually, I've found the same happens to flatwounds-
    Rotosound Jazz flatwounds are very bright when new- according to some, brighter than some roundwounds (which is probably due to their greater flexibility than most flats from having gaps between the windings- ie. the rougher feel) - hence Steve Harris's tone (from Rotosound 50-110 gauge jazz flatwounds, which he has to change at every gig to keep a bright tone)-
    but they go dull very quickly as sweat gets into the windings- leading to the typical flatwound tone.
    I'd say this is probably due to the rougher outer winding too.

    I used to use the same type and gauge as Steve Harris on my P bass, and used to boil the strings after every gig- every rehearsal.
    -before I switched to using roundwounds on electric basses.

    (I still boil roundwounds too)

    but the 35-95 set of flats I put on the acoustic I left on since new (they were pretty bright then) and now are probably saturated with sweat-
    the light gauge and flexibility balances out the deadness from playing.

    harmonics still ring out, but as the bass is fretless it's difficult to tell if the intonation has suffered.