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Whats the difference between tone

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Steve5999, Sep 10, 2000.

  1. Steve5999


    Aug 27, 2000
    Hey everyone, i really just started playing bass and i was wondering what is tone? I know that each bass player must have his sound...but what is tone exactly? and What is the difference between tone and pitch...i would really appreciate it if someone could tell me, thanks alot

    Steve...aka Caz
  2. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    Tone, technically, has to do with the amount of bass and treble in a signal. Most of us really mean "timbre" when we say tone. Timbre has to do with the total sound of an instrument, including the overtone series, etc. There is a website that covers all this better than I'm doing, but I don't remember the URL.

    When we say someone has an awesome tone, we aren't using the word in the technical sense. We're talking about his total sound, which involves tone, but we're thinking more of his timbre.

    As far as the difference between tone and pitch, there's some confusion there as well. We speak of the 12-tone scale, but "tone" here means note or pitch. Usually when bass players say "tone," this is not the sense that they mean. Pitch is a function of how many cycles a string vibrates (in the case of stringed instruments) per second for the first harmonic, which we call the fundamental.

    If you play a passive bass, like a Fender Precision, the "tone" control is actually a low-pass filter that reduces the treble as you turn it down. On active basses, you may have individual knobs that boost a selective range of frequencies, such as bass, mid, treble, or something like that. These are also called tone controls.

    When someone develops an original style or sound, what he or she has done is to find a timbre that they like, along with their own ideas about timing, pitch, phrasing, and so on. This takes time and experience. Do not worry about your own "sound," if you concentrate on learning the basics, you will eventually develop your own way of doing things.

    Hope this helps.
  3. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I think when we talk about tone, the most significant aspect is the equalization (EQ), like what Max Power said. Some styles of music need more mid-range frequencies (but not too much ... it can give you a real "honky" sound). A lot of jazz players like to "scoop" the mids, meaning turn up the bass and treble frequencies and cut the mid frequencies back.

    Some folks like to get an instrument and amp that give them the "right" tone when run "flat" ... all the EQ settings at zero boost and zero cut, or close to it.

    When playing live venues, you may need to EQ a little differently (usually a little more mid) to "cut through" the mix. Too much bass can get mushy if the room resonates a lot. Finding the "best" tone is highly subjective. The tone you come to like most will be part of your musical signature as you develop as a player.

    Note: Wherever you see quote marks in the above post, just picture me doing that little thing with my fingers, a'la Doctor Evil.

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