What do Thunderbirds actually sound like??

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassdude15, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Bassdude15


    Feb 26, 2013
    I've always loved the look of a non-Reverse T-bird (especially in orange) and I've been GAS-ing for quite some time.If I got one I would definitely use flats on it. My question is: what do they actually sound like?? In videos/live demos I've heard, they either have a thick, rich, warm growl or a nasally, honking midrange-heavy tone.
    Which is more charracteristic of a standard, stock, modern Gibson Thunderbird?

  2. BassDaddy77


    Feb 12, 2010
    NE Ohio
    They sound like pure awesomeness!!! Seriously though, I think alot of the differences you're hearing in the videos is probably due to amp and EQ influence. Mine (with amp set flat and volumes & tone up full) sounds full, fat and warm with a nice clarity to the top end. Kinda like a thick Jazz sound with much added heft.
  3. Ender_rpm


    Apr 18, 2004
    St. Louis MO
    I have the Epi Classic, and it can do both, and also a sweet thick almost synthy sounding drone with the neck pup soloed and tone rolled off. I'd say the basic tone (All knobs WFO) is like BassDaddy77 said: A thicker Jazz.
  4. Arvin

    Arvin Underwound Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    On the bench
  5. TBird1958

    TBird1958 As a matter of fact....I am your Queen! Staff Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Seattle Washington
    Endorsing Artist Mike Lull T Bass pickups
    Over the years Gibson has used a number of pickup variations in Thunderbirds, but if you're talking a late '60s NR it's going to to be very growly, the pickups were often overwound and produced a hot signal - Very different from early '60s or any later '70s or Post '88 versions.

    In my Sig there are links to my band, I'm playing a Lull with a '63 repro and a '76 with stock Gibson pickups.
  6. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010
    Still the best legs on TB!
  7. Bassdude15


    Feb 26, 2013
    Thanks guys, everyone's been very helpful :)!
    Jah Wobble Fan: Obviously ;).
  8. It's not called a Thunderbird for nothing ... personally, I think the look, feel and comfort of it (neck dive = nonsense :) ) encourages a fellow to play it in thunderous fashion, thus unavoidably producing a rolling, meaty sound with sparks on.

    Truly a sound to eat raw chillis to.

    I can play other basses, I even have some - but I've often been accused of making love to my T-bird (which is a bit worrying, really, har har!).
  9. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    Here's mine; 2013, still with stock strings (which are pretty nice, actually), so I guess it qualifies as modern in stock condition. Thru my old Marshall amp, set for flat response, it is most definitely in the "Thick, rich, warm growl" camp. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at the tone, after all the "Muddy" comments I've read and heard over the years. Have been playing it for about 2 months, now; very, very nice, but it won't replace my '73 4001 as the Stud Duck in my flock. Not far behind, though.;)

    Attached Files:

  10. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Southwest Virginia
    I hope to find out soon... just recently bought a late 1980's Gibson V bass, which as I understand it, is basically wired up like a Thunderbird.

    Most all of my current basses are active custom builds... so I'm hoping for a more traditional, passive HB sound... meaning - less boing; more boom.
  11. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    would it be possible to get a thunderbird type tone with my g&l L2000, i was trying to get an edwards esp rd style bass, but i'm having some cash issues
  12. George Himmel

    George Himmel

    May 16, 2009
    The east coast?
    Former Manager, Bass San Diego
  13. Gott im Himmel! Nice T bird George!
  14. George Himmel

    George Himmel

    May 16, 2009
    The east coast?
    Former Manager, Bass San Diego
    Full disclosure before this gets out of hand, I was tending to the social media facet of the shop, so I quickly mocked that up in GIMP. I don't own a Ford Thunderbird, and if I did, I wouldn't "Rancherize" it into a chopped pickup. But I appreciate the encouragement!
  15. uOpt


    Jul 21, 2008
    Boston, MA, USA
    The confusion comes from the pickups. Just like the Firebird guitar, Gibson equips today's Thunderbird bass with high-wind ceramic magnet pickups, aka hard hitters. Those are pretty thumpy and do the heavy metal thing. I think you generally want to combine them with bright strings.

    More vintage style thunderbird pickups show a warm, even sound like you'd expect from a neck-through with mahogany. There is still a lot of growl with vintage style pickups, partially from the mahogany, partially from humbuckers, partially from mixing multiple pickups. Here you use warmer strings to give it some more "mass" than what comes from the thin body.
  16. mr.mow


    Feb 11, 2009
    Endorsing Artist: BBE/G&L Basses
    Thunderbirds.. well they sound like the Pope fornicating with a Unicorn.. yes sir that's how they sound..
  17. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I always kind of liked t-birds, but when I played Mike Lull's take on the 1960s pickups I was wowed. That's my favourite t-bird sound.
  18. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab ACME,QSC,Fame/Hondo/Greco user & BOSE Abuser Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    South Texas
    With reference to the 60's T-Birds:
    if played and amplified properly, they can sound like everything from THUNDERous mud to an angry piano.
  19. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Southwest Virginia
    I'm pretty tickled with the sound of my Gibson V bass with the Thunder Pickups. The only other passive bass I currently own is a 1960's Kalamazoo bass, which was essentially Gibson's entry-level EB-0. I love the sound of the old MudBucker in the neck position, but never could get enough brightness from it to suit a wide range of needs. This new/old bass has all that sound available, plus is way more adjustable. I also like that it's very utilitarian... no frills, just sensible.

    I'm not sure if it's wired up the same as a Thunderbird though... how are you guys volume/tone pots laid out?
  20. squirefan


    Nov 22, 2009
    Lansing, Ks.
    I have a '76. If I had to sum up the sound, I'd say 'rich'.
    It has the balls of a pbass, clarity of a jazz, and overtones of a ric.
    Not the most comfortable to hold, but the cool factor and tonality negate that fact!