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upright sound?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by unclebass, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. unclebass


    Dec 17, 2012
    I'm sure it has been discussed here before, but pardon my ignorance. I am looking to get an upright bass sound from my Squier jazz bass. We are playing a few songs that have more of a bluegrass sound with mostly acoustic instruments, violin, viola, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and my electric bass. Is there a certain string that I should use to achieve the sound I am after(such as tapewounds or flatwounds), or is a foam mute near the bridge the best option. I haven't needed this tone from my bass before, so I am relying on the experience of fellow TBers to lead me the right direction.
  2. In my experience, the closest way to getting an upright bass sound is rolling the bridge pickup and tone knob on your Jazz Bass down, putting a foam mute at the bridge and playing at the neck like one would on an upright bass. And you'll wanna use tapewound strings.
  3. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings
    To the OP; you're right. This had been discussed a couple of times. That said, here's an article I wrote (with video) of what I do on gigs (I play in musical theatre pits where the real estate just won't allow for an upright).

    Palm Muting, or "Wait, that's NOT an upright bass?!"

    Biggest thing I can tell you is to listen to actual upright players and emulate their attack, phrasing, lyricism (or at times, lack of). That knowledge will get you a lot closer to "faking" it over just fiddling with your tone knob, shoving some foam under the bridge, etc.. (all of which are things I've done, BTW).
  4. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    You might find it odd, but the best "upright" sound I've been able to get from my Jazz Bass has been by rolling off the front pickup and the tone control some, and plucking the strings over the end of the neck. To my ears, it sounds closer, tonally, than the muting thing.
  5. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Ala Charles Ables.
  6. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
  7. MosGuy

    MosGuy Keep it low and thumping..

    Dec 26, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    There are several different approaches you can use: amp EQ, palm muting, foam mute, string choice. I'd say the biggest factor is technique i.e: using more the side of your fingers & plucking over the fingerboard. A combination of the above should get a tone that you're happy with. People have varying ideas what the "upright sound" is, so experiment and see what works for you and your ears.

    For my Squier VM jazz: I use tapewounds, bridge mute and a fretwrap at the nut. Those plus playing with my thumb, gets me a sound I'm happy with, as much as an electric will allow. Until I can invest in a Rob Allen Deep :D
  8. RxFunk


    Dec 2, 2012
    There's a thread where a guy linked his version of Alice by Tom Waits, and he cops a great upright vibe, he listed everything he used to create it, you should check him out.
  9. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    OP... this subject comes up a bit in the "basses" section. You may have to sift through a few pages, but search "upright".
  10. bobsax


    Jan 16, 2011
    Southern Oregon
  11. unclebass


    Dec 17, 2012
    Thanks for the replies. Will give all the suggestions a try at next practice to see what works best. Last resort is to change to tapewounds, free and cheap options first.
  12. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    while i do understand this, i disagree with it. it will yield a fatter rounder neck pickup sound, but for me the closer sound is always with a bridge pickup, tone turned down, and playing up near the fingerboard.

    flatwounds obviously help, but you'll only get so close to the sound of a different instrument anyway.
  13. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    Cut some foam to dampen the sustain and bring out more thump. Play above the fingerboard. Raise you string height if it's low. Rip out your frets. Listen to DB players in your genre.

    And, while I play tapes, flats may be more in the blue grass vibe.
  14. I can't add much beyond what's been said...

    Neck pickup, foam mute, tone rolled off, play down by the heel of the neck. Flats or tapes would be a huge plus, though.
  15. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    It's great that this works for you. It never has for me. Foam mute and flats sound great, but they don't really sound like an upright, to me. A lot of thump, though.
  16. RxFunk


    Dec 2, 2012
    Foam and flats tend to give me a more Motown-y sound than anything else.
  17. Grissle


    May 17, 2009
    It like to see someone scope an upright to see what's happening in the mid/low mid area compared to an electric. I bet someone could make a sim pedal, but how's my people would be interested?
  18. donn


    Mar 28, 2011
    A really successful one would do real well, I'd think? I'm not well informed on what you can do with electronics, but I'm a little skeptical. Too much of the effect is about the "shape" of the note - that's where the foam comes in, and to some extent the flats and the technique and so forth.
  19. unclebass


    Dec 17, 2012
    I gave the suggestions a try on my Squier standard jazz, and they all seemed to work pretty well. It was still a little bright since I have fairly new stainless steel rounds on it. I am going to cut myself a better foam mute and try it on a friends bass that has well worn rounds on it. I think I will be able to get fairly close to the tone that I'm after. If not, a set of tapewounds will surely make enough of a difference. If I had a little money, I'd seriously look into a Kala U-Bass. They seem to have a really sweet tone.
  20. jasper383


    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    The Line 6 Variax bass had just that. The upright model, in a mix, was very convincing.

    A lot of it had to do with feel and touch, as well.

    Put me down for tapewoujnd strings, a Jazz Bass with tone rolled off a bit, right hand position near the neck, and proper eq and touch on the bass.

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