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Tips for a "warmer" tone

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Tony Canevaro, May 10, 2004.

  1. Tony Canevaro

    Tony Canevaro

    Jan 4, 2004
    Hi all,

    New bassist here with another annoying question:

    In most of the tunes I listen to the bass sounds a lot softer or warmer. When I try and play the same piece it always sounds brassier or more percussive. Even when I play higher on the neck.

    Is this just a case of striking too hard? I watched a guy play bass on the weekend at a show and he hardly seemed to touch the strings at all...with either hand. I always feel like I need to "mash" with my left hand and really strike with my right hand.
  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Lighten your attack. Let the amp do the work, not the strings.

    Maybe raise the action if the noise continues.

    From the way you describe it, you probably should lighten your fretting. Only press hard enough to make a clean, solid note; do not fret as hard as possible because you can hurt your fingers and wrist doing it that way.
  3. DaemonBass


    Mar 29, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    Hi there,

    You should try playing with your thumb anchored on the end of the fretboard. This means you'll be plucking the strings between the "J" pickup (?) and the fretboard. In any case, if it's not a J pickup you still play between the end of the fretboard and "neck" pickup. This gives a warmer tone. Conversly, playing over the bridge pickup gives that brassier (treble) tone you're talking about. Also maybe try adjusting your EQ, just experiement.
  4. LarryO


    Apr 4, 2004
    Technique has a lot to do with it but your EQ is such a powerful tool....use it!
  5. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    You may want to play using your thumb. More flesh and the string=fatter tone. Pluck the string parallel to the body with your thumb, as opposed to striking the strings with your fingers, which can make the strings rattle against your frets.

    And turn your horn down or off if you have one. Horns suck.
  6. Sprudellio


    Oct 16, 2002
    Don't crank every knob on your bass. The tone control is on there for a reason. :)
  7. slam

    slam Guest

    Mar 22, 2000
    Try using flatwound strings and rolling off the tone control.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think you have to bear in mind that bass sounds very different on a recording or in a live situation, mixed in amongst all the other instruments - to how it does in isolation!

    So most recordings will have some subtle compression and EQ-ing that has been tweaked over a long period of mixing to make it sound "just right" in context, with all the other sounds.

    I think it's futile to aspire to this, as it is not something you can do on your own - although consistent technique is a good aim - you just have to be aware how you sound "in context" and not get hung up on how it sounds in isolation.
  9. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003

  10. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I recently purchased a Rocco Prestia video - Live at Bass Day 98.

    When playing alone, Rocco's old-school tone is only ok with me - nothing special.

    But when playing with the rest of his group, funk legends Tower of Power, it seems to sound great.
  11. Wayner


    May 7, 2004
    Maryland, USA
    Like what these guys said.. changing your fingering position can make a huge difference. So can changing where you pluck with your fingers.

    Do you use the very tips of your fingers, or do you use the fleshier part? Are your fingers sitting perpendicular to the strings, or at a 30 or 45 degree angle?

    Another thing that makes a huge difference is the string tension/setup -- raise and lower your action to figure out what you like best. Lower action is not necessarily better. I've never been able to do fingerstyle well with a low setup because I like to dig into it. You can't do a Jamerson groove with Marcus Miller's setup, and you can't do Marcus-type slapping with a Jamerson setup (unless you have hands of steel).

    Just experiment... don't be afraid to try weird things.
  12. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    raise and lower your action to figure out what you like best. Lower action is not necessarily better.

    The above is one of the most appropriate pieces of advice I have ever heard. The whole post was knowledgeable but this hit home with me!! I just never looked at it that way and when I read it the light came on.

  13. Tony Canevaro

    Tony Canevaro

    Jan 4, 2004
    Hey all, thanks for the great replies. I started by turning up my amp and lightened my attack. That has helped quite a bit. Then I monkeyed a bit with the EQ on the amp and improved it a bit more. Still not where I think it should be but much better...thanks!
  14. Sometimes, when a bass part is isolated (even with very good bassists), you hear a lot more high-end and percusive sounds. And quite frankly, sometimes it doesn't sound that good. But mix in the rest of the band and it blends really well.

    It's not always true, but it's surprising how noisy a good bass part can sound when isolated.