Where's the mwah?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SebbyNC, May 11, 2005.

  1. SebbyNC


    Mar 17, 2005
    Hi, I bought a Carvin LB75 fretless last year, and have always been disappointed by the lack of 'mwah'. I've put roundwound strings, and the action is set pretty low already (lower it starts to buzz).
    I'm not a specialist of fretless, so is there a possibility to get more mwah by having the bass setup by a pro? Do you have some other tips? Or is this proper to this bass or Carvins fretless in general?
  2. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    US Northeast
    Cheapest MWAH adding tips:

    1.- Pluck nearer the neck. When playing fretless, I play near the bridge only when I don't want people to realize I'm playing fretless. For the soloing with mwah-ish passages I play almost at the begining of the fretboard.
    2.- Use the bridge pickup.
  3. artistanbul

    artistanbul Nihavend Longa Vita Brevis

    Apr 15, 2003
    also you may want to boost the mids. how you attack the string is very important as well. and fingerboard wood has an interestingly high effect on fretless mwah.

    that's my .02
  4. What woods in particular give better mwah? My only fretless has a rosewood board on it, and I get a decent amount of mwah out of it. Might be going with acrylized ebony on my next fretless though....
  5. artistanbul

    artistanbul Nihavend Longa Vita Brevis

    Apr 15, 2003
    my take is the stiffer it is the morw mwah it has. I epoxied my rosewood fretboard and it does have it. I am not sure if the wood under the the epoxy changes anything. But the epoxy is like a transparent stone, and buzzez the strings very well.

    acrylized ebony is much praised in this department as well.
  6. I heard Jaco epoxied his fretboard to make it more durable; that may have an effect on the "mwah." Have you tried it with flatwound strings?
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings

    Agreed, although I get plenty on most of my fretlesses and I play predominantly near the bridge. Soloing the bridge pickup is key. How you pluck the strings can make a huge difference too.
  8. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    "Mwah" is a term commonly used by bassists to describe the almost singing quality of a good fretless tone - it's really what distinguishes it from a fretted bass. I agree with comments above about boosting mids, roundwounds and low action, but I especially agree with the comment about fretboard material (hardness of). This is the main difference between my Yamaha fretless and my Status-necked Jazz, and the latter has mwah by the bucketful compared to the other (soundclip available on request - PM me your email for this). Sebby, I suggest you check out the possibility of having the fingerboard of your Carvin epoxied or otherwise treated to get it hard and shiny. If the acoustic sound of the bass hasn't got the "mwah" , then electrics won't create it for you, in my experience. For example, a few Warwicks I've played have had quite coarse grained fingerboard wood as I recall, maybe this isn't ideal on a fretless bearing in mind my comments above. They did seem a little lacking in the "mwah" department. Try a few basses if you can to see if these factors may be the solution you're after.
    RiZzBot likes this.
  9. That's how people describe the fretless sound, but I wouldn't know how to explain it any other way... maybe someone else can help you on that. :p

    EDIT: I see someone just did that before I posted this. :p
  10. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Another thing to try on your setup is to adjust the neck relief. On fretless, little or no relief seems to bring out the "mwah" most consistently all over the neck for me.

  11. Epifani UL-502 + Aguilar 2X12 + Status S2 Fretless 6=

    The most genius sounds I've ever heard. You heard it here first. :)

  12. ppanousos


    Apr 10, 2005
    A lot of the mwah comes from your left fingers,how you pivot your finger to get that singing vibrato_Ofcourse a good ebony fingerboard will help. :bassist:
    RiZzBot likes this.
  13. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    If you're not doing so already, try soloing one pickup or the other (the bridge for a Jaco-esque sound, the neck for a deeper double-bass-ish tone): on most basses (including Carvins), having both pickups on full results in a scooped sound that reduces midrange (what I consider the primary mwah "singing" frequencies). I get plenty of mwah out of my Carvin kit bass (and got plenty of mwah out of the old Carvin LB76 I used to have), so it's not a general issue with Carvin basses.
  14. well, technically it's the string buzzing against the fingerboard. But unlike fretbuzz, which is harsh and metallic, this buzz is pleasing and "vocal" in a way.

    IME mwah is mainly a product of low action.
  15. pointbass

    pointbass Semi-Retired Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    All pretty good suggestions, but I really think that the sweetness and singing fretless tone comes primarily from the bass. I've played fretless basses my whole life, basically all set up kind of the same way for my style, some of the basses have that glorious tone, some don't. My most recent FBB has it in bucketloads :D
  16. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    there's really a good step by step fretless setup site by one of the signature bass fretless players (everybody here will - I don't remember). I've dinked with fretless a little but don't play it and don't have one. But it's pretty common sense to be absolutely certain the it's setup optimally cause mwah at it's core is derived from proper setup. I'm suprised nobody's mentioned strings cause that's bound to be a factor to some degree.

    Given mwah is midranged, pups, settings, amp, etc. are going to factor in. Scooped tone will not optomize mwah - and some pups are scooped by design.

    Anyway, go with the quickest, cheapest, easiest resolutions first until you get down to the acoustics of the bass - which I doubt is the source but don't know. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of the acoustic properties in a bass are in the neck and if you've got a thumper bass, may be a problem. And I don't know if Jaco did the epoxy thing for tone or to protect the neck but it's something to look into.
  17. Mwah comes from the string vibrating ever-so-slightly against the fingerboard...it's that not-quite-buzz sound that is "mwah"....all of the above suggestions (low action, playing near the fingerboard, little relief, round-wound strings, etc...) contribute to mwah. Amplifier settings accentuate the mwah.

    All factors are important. I can get heaps of mwah from my fretless, but I usually don't play it that way. I change it simply by technique (plucking position and fingerboard pressure).
  18. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine