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Vintage vs. Modern P-bass tone

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Kombo, Jan 2, 2017.

  1. Kombo


    Feb 29, 2016
    Akron, OH
    What type of tone constitutes as what? Intentionally vague as I'm hoping for a wide range of responses. Is it the pickup? Flats vs. Rounds? Or just turning the tone knob on or off?
  2. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Huh? The P bass hasn't really changed in almost 60 years. Any different in "modern" tone verses "vintage" tone has to be about your strings and your amp.
  3. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    I agree with this. However to extend your premise I would add that a Precision with a preamp may be construed as modern sounding. I thinking of the various Deluxe or Elite models and Super P's that are out there. I have a MIM Deluxe and it is certainly a different animal than a standard Precision.
  4. Kombo


    Feb 29, 2016
    Akron, OH
    So would a "modern" pickup make little difference in tone versus a vintage style?
  5. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    In my mind that would pretty much boil down to whether or not it was active pickup that you are defining as modern. In my mind an active pickup colours the Precision sound somewhat.
    Aqualung60 and Kombo like this.
  6. taylor16


    Dec 25, 2012
    Flawound vs. Roundwound???
    RichSnyder and SwitchGear like this.
  7. You can get a modern tone out of a vintage P. For many people modern means scooped and wide range. That's mostly the amp and any EQ in the chain.

    When Vintage was new, amps didn't have the range and EQ abilities they do now. A 1960 Fender had lame flatwounds and an amp with no tweeter and no bottom end. Take that same bass and put on SS roundwounds and hit the scoop button on a modern amp and it sounds like a modern bass.
    xroads, AndyLES, ICM and 5 others like this.
  8. I just bought a Fender P with EMG's, badass2 bridge, best P I have ever heard,,,,
    G RICH 5 and SwitchGear like this.
  9. Flats vs. rounds.
    cdef and Plucky The Bassist like this.
  10. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    in terms of the difference in the "typical" P tone from different eras, i'd venture it has more to do with differences in amplification than differences in the instrument.

    just spitballing, 'sall...
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2017
    PawleeP and M.R. Ogle like this.
  11. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    The major difference, on recordings at least, can be recreating by using either flats or rounds. Back in the day flats was almost all you could get and many artists such as Jamerson stuck with them after rounds became more prevalent. You could chase pickups or various amps, but I've had the best luck reproducing either with a solid P-bass pickup (nothing more than $100) and either flats or rounds.
    G RICH 5 likes this.
  12. Kukulkan61

    Kukulkan61 Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Northern Arizona
    There is a difference..when I got my Lakland Skyline Duck Dunn it had the stock neo-punch pickups, it didn't sound like a P Bass so I went with Fralins and it made magic happen, then I went with EMG Geezers and WOW!!:bassist:
    pappabass likes this.
  13. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    That sums it up nicely. This is your answer.
    trothwell, rockinrayduke and Kombo like this.
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I find it funny that we're still using "vintage" and "modern" to discuss one sound that's 55 years old vs one that's 45 years old :D But yeah, it's basically darker sounds vs bright sounds.
  15. Totally.

    What is modern tone? Most of the younger players I know aren't going for what I think a lot of the people on TB would consider "modern." A lot of people seem to refer to bright, sparkling clean tones as "modern," even though that actually hasn't been in style for at least a decade.

    However, generally I think when people are talking about "vintage" tones, they seem to be referring to tones from a time before everyone had rounds and before cabs had tweeters and sub lows. I guess. So it's probably more about the amp and cab than the bass. And EQ settings.
  16. I think most of the difference comes down to modern recording equipment and techniques more than anything.

    But the P bass 'tone' is do varied anyway. Jamerson, Geezer, Simonon, Flea (with Atoms for Peace) Mendelson; all P basses, all different tones. Only similarity is that they all sound fantastic.
    Kombo, G RICH 5, topcat2069 and 3 others like this.
  17. Yeah. Jamerson's tone on various motown hits and Entwistle's on Live at Leeds were drastically different despite using the same model of bass.
  18. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    I suppose hotter and/or ceramic pickups might be the difference too, in addition to amp/eq and strings...

    But ultimately it's the combination... take an alder p with rosewood fingerboard, old flats, vintage-voiced alnico P, a coiled cable, into a tube amp with 15" speaker, and played at the neck... chances are it will sound more vintage then an ash/maple p with fresh stainless steel rounds and a ceramic pickup, plugged via a low capacitance cable into a hifi solid state amp and a 410 with a tweeter, especially if played more towards the bridge.

    But then again, you can just stick a sponge under the strings, adjust the touch and maybe EQ, and you're kinda doing the vintage thing again...
  19. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I think it's weird that everyone keeps saying the difference is in the amps and eq, when ~75% of your sound is in your string selection. :cool:

    Also: where are all the "tone is in your hands" people for this debate?
  20. Maybe your sound, but mine has way more to do with amplification.

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