Using Jazz Bass (Passive) Tone Controls Versus Outboard EQ

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ADWolpert, May 25, 2016.

  1. ADWolpert


    Mar 12, 2008
    Since, when tracking, I suffer from a fear of sonic commitments, I've always been wary of using the tone controls on my J bass (stack knob reissue). I've always just left them wide open, figuring I could always roll off high end when mixing, but I can't really put it back once it's gone. Is there any reason this is a bad approach? Is there something magical in the sound of the rolled off tone controls that I couldn't just approximate later on anyway?


  2. PotsdamBass8

    PotsdamBass8 Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    I feel the same way. I prefer to roll off a tone knob rather than reduce treble at the amp, I feel like the sound reacts differently, like the whole tonal spectrum is changed. I don't know how accurate that is. I think there are some graphs showing that rolling off a tone knob can boost some other frequencies, but don't quote me on it.

    I think that if you are comfortable tweaking multiple EQ points to get the tone you need, you should be fine recording it wide open and doing the editing afterwards. However if you like the recorded sound with the tone rolled off and you are not particularly savvy with changing EQ in your recording software, you might be better off just recording it the way you play it.
  3. AngelCrusher


    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    Different roll-offs provide different sounds depending on the slope and that is something to keep in mind.

    I roll off my Jazz bass in the studio all the time. I believe in getting the core tone to fit the song with my hands. Additionally, I don't always need both pickups on full volume, so regardless you are going to have to commit to something. If you leave your pickups dimed, you incur a mid scoop.

    The best way to decide on an effective bass tone is to play the bass through the song in the studio a few times and make sure the existing tracks are high passed just enough to where there is no useless bass in them that could affect your decision making. From there its just a matter of experience and you will find yourself dialing up tones on your bass really quickly. The more you hear your bass in a suited environment, the faster you will really learn the nuances of it's tone, and I think that is extremely important for playing sessions.
    Mushroo likes this.
  4. I use both onboard passive and different preamps for different sounds. I have even swapped tone cap values to get a particular sound.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Pickup volume/blend between the bridge and neck pickups, I haven't been able to duplicate that with outboard EQ.

    My approach is that I want the sound leaving my bass, to be as close as possible to the sound I want to hear on the record.

    For example if "bridge pickup with the tone at 20%" is the tone I want for the song, then I don't run both pickups full-volume with the tone at 100%, that seems counter-intuitive to me.
    Last edited: May 25, 2016
  6. Parzival

    Parzival Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2013
    When playing classic rock/southern rock I run passive wide open. For hard rock songs I use the active with just a touch of mid added in and a touch of EQ boost.
    Or if don't have the active, just EQ the passive on the amp.
  7. ADWolpert


    Mar 12, 2008
    Thanks for all of the great responses. I should be clear, though: I'm not talking about the volume of the pickups, how they're blended, etc. -- which is something I would certainly figure out during a performance. I'm only talking about the tone controls themselves -- and whether it makes sense to make any undoable EQ changes on the instrument itself as opposed to later on, as i mix. But... point well taken that it makes sense to get as close as you can to the final sound you want while you're recording.

    Thanks again.

    blindrabbit likes this.
  8. Yeah, I feel as though most people aren't actually reading your post, and instead only responding based upon what they think the title is about.

    I'd definitely lean towards recording the fullest possible range tone, and then you can tweak it later, especially if you are undecided about it. Now, if you are quite clear about 50% tone being your "signature" tone, that's a different story, but if you aren't sure if it sits in the mix or if that's the tone you want, then send out a nice full-range signal (or as close to that as possible), then deal with changing it later on.

    I feel the same way about effects, and they are often recorded in a similar fashion - a DI without effects is taken, along with the effected signal. I believe this also applies to amps - a DI, unamplified signal is laid down along with a mic'd cabinet.

    Bottom line is if you are in doubt, send the full range/clean signal to the board. :)
    ADWolpert likes this.
  9. AngelCrusher


    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    Yep, understood. My post applies to the tone knob as well, as it can be a perfect way to shape your tone before tracking. Don't be afraid to use it once you have the confidence to make good decisions in the studio.
    blindrabbit and ADWolpert like this.