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WHERE do electric basses get their SOUND from?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Arnel M., Jun 6, 2018.

  1. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Owner of seven basses - eligible for 44 TB Clubs Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    The distinctive sound of this bass is nearly 100% attributable to pickups and preamp.

    The acoustic energy you hear from a bass is merely an analog of what the pickups “hear” when the electromagnetic field is disrupted.

    Saying you can hear what a bass sounds like acoustically is a little bit like saying what color a planet is when you observe it using a radio telescope.

    Arnel M. and candiehappy like this.
  2. candiehappy


    Oct 21, 2011
    Wood == 0% it has no impact on an electrical signal.
  3. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    The structural components of a solidbody bass, including the neck and body, influence how the strings vibrate and therefore their harmonic content which is then transduced by the pickups. It can be heard and felt even with the bass unplugged.

    The classic examples of how the structural components effect the vibration of the strings are deadspots and hotspots.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 9:14 PM
  4. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

    Apr 15, 2013
    sound comes from the magic holes
  5. Thank you sir! I went through a similar but more modest route, and felt like I was on to something, ergo my post. I'll remember your post as I contemplate on getting only one passive 4 stringer that i'd keep for retirement. cheers!
  6. Thumps up.
    And, I just wanted to caption your pic.

    "You talkin' BASS to me?"

    DigitalMan likes this.
  7. superdick2112

    superdick2112 Mile High Bassist Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2010
    The Centennial State
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Take those electronics out and put them into a Rondo and let me know how that works out... :banghead:
    Rumbledore and mongo2 like this.
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Saying you can't hear a bass acoustically is... hey, it's TB... all kinds of expert opinions fly here . My suggestion is to get some actual experience and rely on that. These guys will having you chasing your tail forever... or miss out on a good thing.

    The percentages are funny because they ultimately mean nothing. They don't carry over in general and when you attempt to overlay them on a specific bass... wow.
  10. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Owner of seven basses - eligible for 44 TB Clubs Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    That’s like ordering a Jack and Coke, and then substituting McCallan 25 for the Jack Daniels. Why?
  11. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Owner of seven basses - eligible for 44 TB Clubs Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    I don’t think anyone said you can’t hear a bass acoustically. The point is that acoustic energy has zero effect on the pickups. The acoustic energy shares the same source information as the kinetic energy, which is what the pickups do see. Technically, the kinetic energy is the source of the acoustic energy. However, things like reflections and resonance that you hear from the body directly are NOT seen by the pickups.
  12. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Those "things like reflections and resonance" effect the vibration of the strings which is seen by the pickups.
    Mechanical and chadds like this.
  13. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Owner of seven basses - eligible for 44 TB Clubs Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Yes, there is a potential for energy feeding back into the system, if the kinetic energy is transmitted through the physical structure at contact points such as the bridge or frets. However, the acoustic energy which is specifically the movement of air (for example air waves reflected back from the body) is nowhere near strong enough to influence the string vibrations.
  14. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I don't know, man...acoustic guitars sound different from electrics even when amplified by magnetic pickups. Strings can be really good at picking up vibrations and resonances and sending them into your pickups...ask any kid who's tied two Dixie Cups to a string :D
    Mechanical likes this.
  15. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Owner of seven basses - eligible for 44 TB Clubs Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Agreed that acoustics sound different due to their structure. The point is where the resonance comes from. Air pressure isn’t the answer, especially for solid body basses.
  16. wluffman


    Dec 21, 2013
    I once knew a lady who had a VW Beetle (new style, back when they were still new and uncommon) with a turbocharged Porsche mill shoehorned into the engine compartment. It looked like a VW, and she (usually) just called it a VW Beetle. But when she smoked Mustangs and Camaros at traffic lights, she didn't call it anything; she just laughed her head off. (I can only imagine what the dumbfounded kids with their V8-powered rides called it, and her.)

    To me, upgraded pickups and other electronics are simply "after-market" accessories that don't really change the instrument's name, although it might require one to explain how it's been customized. Same goes for strings and hardware such as bridges. As far as I'm concerned, my Jazz with Rotosound flats and a Babicz bridge is still a Fender, even if it is no longer pure-stock.

    Pickups and other electronic modifications definitely change the tone of a guitar or bass. Strings change the tone somewhat, too. Fretboard wood has more of an influence than the tonewoods used for the body, I think. But the real key to a bass' tone is in the player's fingers and playing style. If another player hands me his/her bass, it's going to sound like _me_, not the owner. Likewise, going from fingerstyle to a pick (and the choice of pick) will change the tone somewhat, even with the same player.
  17. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Sure it is, that's why there's dead spots and hot spots. If it can cause that an attenuation/reinforcement at certain frequencies due to resonance or a phase match or phase shift or total phase cancellation at some frequencies due to delays during reflection can easily change the harmonic content of the string. The structural system is then acting to attenuate or reinforce certain frequencies in the strings depending on the characteristics of the materials. The altered vibration of the strings is then transduced by the pickup.

    The timbre is in the timber.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018 at 7:10 AM
  18. DavesnothereCA


    Aug 21, 2017
    Case in Point :

    My Ric 4001 has a 'dead spot' along the D string.

    It always did, and always at the same note on the D string, no matter what strings and electronics and bridge I have had on the bass.

    I can notice it regardless of whether the bass is plugged into an amp or not.

    Positioning the pickups to a different location along the strings did not change this damping effect either, though it did very much influence the general timbre of the instrument which was output.

    I live with it, same as with the moderate neck dive.

    Fender 34" scale solid body basses usually have a dead spot along the G string.

    Music Man basses are different again, possibly because they have the tuners in a 3 and 1 arrangement, which would change the resonance alternately.

    Some folks say that Leo made the change to remove the dead spot on the G, and left the D tuner alone because that string was fine as it was.

    This makes sense, as my Ric has its G tuner about where a MM bass has it, and my G is evenly damped from fret to fret - IOW no dead spot.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018 at 10:08 AM
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    So they don't have an effect on the sound?
    Mechanical and DavesnothereCA like this.
  20. DavesnothereCA


    Aug 21, 2017
    I'm asking the same question.

    My last post suggests that resonances etc CAN and DO influence what the pickup picks up.
    JimmyM likes this.