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What ingredients make for a great "chording" bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lowfreqgeek, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. Just curious about opinions on what particular ingredients make a bass that sounds crisp and clean and articulate with chord voicings, both up high and down low?

    Think Anthony Jackson style chordal playing - more "guitar-like" in some regards - with superb clarity in the lowest registers.

    Let's put aside technique for this discusion. Yes, it's an important ingredient, but I'm less concerned about that just now. So is it neck wood/material, body wood/size, construction, pickups, electronics, strings, hardware (high mass, low mass, etc.), solid or chambered body, etc? Personally, I'll play chords on just about any bass if the music calls for it, but obviously some combinations work better than others.

    I have some of my own opinions, but I'd rather not share till I get some discussion.

    So get to it! Discuss!
  2. 134735


    Nov 23, 2010
    Hmm... I'm not too knowledgeable on crisp and clean sounds, although I believe brighter woods, especially used as fretboards will help. I would also think frets should help as well, since fretted necks sound cleaner and brighter than fretless necks do, generally. The thickness of the strings is probably something else to consider but probably not as important as the construction of the body, density of woods, types of woods used, etc. Not too sure about solid/chambered bodies as well... Would be interesting to learn. :)
  3. VinKreepo


    Nov 13, 2009
  4. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
  5. You can play chordal stuff on any bass, it really doesn't matter what bass you have, you can make it work. Look on YouTube and you can find beautiful solo pieces played on everything from 6 string MTDs to good old Jazz style basses.

    Here's what I like. 5 string with fairly narrow string spacing ( 17mm-18mm) and 21+ frets is nice with good access. I prefer single coil jazz pickups or EMGs for clarity, a decent preamp helps... outboard or onboard. A fresh set of strings on any bass does wonders. I've heard great sounding maple, ash, alder and mahogany bodies. It's all about what sounds good to you.

    My solo bass is a USA Spector NT with EMG DCs. It's tuned from D to A# (E-C down a step). The string tension and extended upper range is just killer IMO. Composite necks and extended scales can add to evenness and clarity but alter playability. I prefer a good ol' maple neck and board to composite and day and I've owned Status, Zon and Modulus basses. A well built bass with a wood neck shouldn't give you any problems or dead spots.

    Again, don't fret what kind of bass you have, anything can work if you play with it a bit.
  6. I ain't fretting! I fretless... :D

    I can and do play chords on a wide variety of basses with drastically differing characteristics, but some work much better than others. Personally, I want "grand-piano clarity" on close-voiced chords played way down low (on the B/E strings). I want to hit 2 adjacent notes (a b2 interval) on adjacent strings and hear both notes clearly and balanced.

    No, it's not a device I use often, but sometimes it works in the right context. Anthony Jackson is a huge role model for me there...

    As I mentioned in my original post, I have some ideas and concepts in mind, much of which is based on my experience and analysis (my curse as an engineer). I'm just curious to see if others have arrived at the same ideas as I have, or if there's something else that I haven't considered. In the mean time, I'll be doing what I do and hopefully well. :)
  7. cg123


    Aug 10, 2010
    I don't have all that much experience with chordal playing, but I do know a thing or two about pianos. This picture here does a pretty good job of illustrating some of the reasons pianos sound the way they do in the bass register:


    Note that the longest string there could easily be 90" in length.

    A big part of the clarity and 'piano sound' you want comes from the abundance of higher harmonics and slight inharmonicity of those giant roundwound strings. Just using the brightest set you can find would probably work somewhat well, but ideally they would be as heavy as comfortably possible. I think string material also plays a part, but I haven't really experimented with this.

    The mechanism involved in playing a note on a piano is also about as far as you can get from fingerstyle bass. Rather than weakly plucking at the string with a squishy human finger, a piano beats the s**t out of the string with a tiny little hammer. This is entirely speculation on my part, but I think playing with a pick near the bridge might come a little closer to that.

    Well, those are my thoughts, but keep in mind I am very much an armchair adviser here. ;)
  8. danomite64


    Nov 16, 2004
    Tampa, Florida
    ^This. My Modulus had incredible note definition; the tone just leaped off that bass. I've never been too into bass chords, but that bass made me want to play them. And listening to Michael Manring's cds, I think that Zon of his sounds incredible.
  9. Unwound


    Aug 10, 2007
    Ridgecrest, CA
    what about two-handed tapping? could that be the missing link between bass and piano?
  10. PopaWoody

    PopaWoody The major rager

    May 28, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    I think Wooten has that down pat. I also tend to believe Vic gets a lot more interesting tone from his technique. Piano's only have so many notes a bass can have much more range and chord voicings.

    IMHO of course. :D

  11. VinKreepo


    Nov 13, 2009
    I standard tuned 5 string has roughly 2 1/2 octaves... a 6 string has around 3. A piano? More then 7 usually... even my Walmart keyboard has more notes than my bass.

    This is, of course, if you aren't including 13 string basses or pinch harmonics or odd tunings haha. Then, you'd have to you have to question playability to get that range.

    Just food for thought.
  12. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Ive heard excellent chord strummed bass stuff on just about every type of bass. From very dark voiced to overly trebly. Its a matter of the pups and electronics giving good note difinition imo wether played clean or electric guitar style with lotsa overdrive. I dont think there are any mkagick ingrediants other then avoid muddy murky indistinct pups and voices. You can crank the low bass so long as its articulate imo. Obviously a piano is gonna have lots more range then any bass. But so what, bass even 4 string has plenty of range for chord playing with variations on where on the neck one plays a chord thing. Lol. Obviously unless you have very narrow string spaceing, its gonna work easier to base your chords on 2-3 note combos. This can include bouceing between different notes on a 5 note chord of course. But overall doing simple bar chord type approach can work pretty easy for most with some practice imo.
  13. About all I can think is good action, nice sustain, and good resonance.

    Something slightly brighter might be nice, but an EQ to tame it would go a long way.
  14. Ursus Tyrannus

    Ursus Tyrannus

    Oct 9, 2010
    I play a lot of chords on bass and as far as your specific concerns of the physics (as opposed to technique) I can only say what I personally look for in my chording basses.
    Slim skinny necks with narrow string spacing to make the reaches easier to achieve and to hold, but admittedly I have small hands, short fingers and arthritis.
    A clean and bright tone, how a particular bass achieves it whether its through a combination of woods, configurations, shape, and/or electronics isn't important to me so long as it has those tone characteristics. You know which of your personal basses are tight and bright and which are beefy thumpers.
    Bright, crisp sounding strings of a lighter gauge. I'm always trying different brands but on the basses I like for chording I keep the gauge light but not piccolo.
    And slightly higher action to eliminate any possible fret buzz so notes ring out clear and true with good sustain.
    I may be doing everything the opposite of convention, I really don't know, but I doubt I'm suggesting anything radical. These are simply the things that work for me as I've discovered them over the years. I hope that my input helps.

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