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Which fretless sounds closest to that '80s Wal/Percy Jones tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by PSouth, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. PSouth


    Mar 15, 2003
    My favorite bass tones come from Percy Jones and Fernando Saunders (on those early '80s Lou Reed albums). I would get a Wal, but it seems hard to get a hold of (long wait time), so I thought I would try something else. I hear Zon, Roscoe, and Pedulla are great, but I don't know how close they are to that sort of tone. I like the "mwaah" sound but I don't really want to sound like Michael Manring. I want that bubbly Percy Jones sound. I suppose technique has a lot to do with it. I have a pretty cheap Yamaha that I can get a decent sound out of, but it's not the best low-end or high-end. It's time to step it up.

    I'm also a huge Mick Karn fan, but I don't want to try to imitate him (well, maybe I do?). I think I want something that's versatile. Something with a good mwaah sound, but something that also doesn't overwhelm and suffocate you. Percy and Fernando Saunders do it best, I think.

    Anybody familiar with these players will probably know the sound I'm looking for. It's hard to decide because the samples I hear of Zon all tend to be pretty jazzy and sing. There are times when I play like that, but I also do a lot of funky, syncopated stuff with fast fingerwork, a la Percy Jones.

    Somebody help me out! This is going to be my college graduation present next year, so I want to pick the right one! I'm a pretty experienced bassist, but for some reason I know very little about how to customize my bass...I've focused on playing more than knowing about the bass. So if anybody can help me in that area as well...

  2. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I can get pretty close to that tone with my graphite neck Jazz with EMGs - just wish I could get closer to the playing! :(

    Have a listen to this and see what you think.
  3. caruso


    Jun 13, 2005
    Bremen, Germany
    Apart from Percy's playing the basses he played were Fender Precision fretless (Brand X), Wal (later - 90's Brand X , solo) and Ibanez Ebd 900/905 which is that futuristic looking bass, all fretless. The Presicion had no Jazzstyle p/up in the bridge position.
  4. PSouth


    Mar 15, 2003

    Hm, that does sound pretty good.
  5. PSouth


    Mar 15, 2003
    The Fender must have been like '76 and '77 then? My favorite sound of his was in the early '80s, and I think that's Wal. Well, he sounds great on 'Unorthodox Behaviour' too of course. Not a big fan of his current bass, though he still plays the same.
  6. bovinehost

    bovinehost Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    You know what production bass compares favorably with the Wal?

    I'm not telling you it sounds EXACTLY like a Wal, but if you like that midrange-heavy aggressive tone, you might want to test drive a Bongo. For more Percy-esque tone, of course you'd have to get the fretless model.

    And yes, I know what both basses sound like:

  7. PSouth


    Mar 15, 2003
    Bump. Any more advice?

    And I don't know why I said I don't like the sound of his current bass. It's great, especially on the Richard Barbieri album 'Things Buried'.

    Also looking forward to the new Tunnels album 'Natural Selections' out next month.
  8. zoloo


    Jun 7, 2005
    If you come to France, I could give you mine :

    Seriously, the Stingray fretless should come close, without the sophisticated electronic.
  9. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    80's fretless G&L L2000.
    Poor mans Wal.
  10. hippiesandwich


    Aug 29, 2003
    San Jose
    Affiliated with Looperlative Audio Products
    Nice Wal :p

    I would try out a fretless, single hummer Bongo with piezo.
  11. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I have an instructional video of Percy (filmed in the early '90s?) where he is playing what looks like a custom Ibanez, with wide string spacing, bubinga or walnut body, ebony board, neck-through, wenge neck (?) and stainless steel strings. The strings seemed to be medium to heavy gauge and the action seemed to be setup medium to high. (He is really working it in the video, and it doesn't look like an easy-to-play bass/setup, and his sound kind of reflects this.)

    The Ibanez had an MM or bridge pickup only, like a Gary Willis model (or maybe closer to the neck, like an MM pickup position).

    Sorry for the "I-thinks" but this is all I remember. Unfortunately, the video is in VHS and I have disconnected and stored "that thing" to make room for an "all-digital" DVD player.

    Wanna cheap solution:

    I would try to get an MTD Kingston 5-String fretless. The passive MM pickup has that dark and bitting qua;ity to them.

    Even though I don't like the design, a Warwick Thumb fretless should also be in the ball park (but the ergonomic design and the narrow-spaced bridge are not me cup-of-tea.)
  12. Hey I found this by searching(a novel idea:))for info on Percy Jones' bass. Does anyone know anything(more than what's here)about his Ibanez? I vaguely recall them being built in small numbers.
    BTW, I've had a fretless Warick Thumb(BO-5)& it had the most unimpressive fretless tone I've ever heard. I expected the more rear-located PUs to give it some very good growl & mwah, but such was NOT the case. It was thoroughly beaten by a :eek: Dean Edge 4, Spector Rebop 5, Stambaugh 4 & 6(no surprise there)& Piezo'd MM SR-5. This is from an avowed Warwick fan...
  13. I had a beer with Percy Jones at a show in TN. He did have a weird Ibanez. I really think that with him its all in his hands and attack. I was so into him I had 3 fretlesses at one time ONLY!! He's got great tone.

    I had his video which I thought was rather terrible, but he is a quirky, cool player for sure. I would tell you to just stick with what you mentioned. A zon, Pedulla buzz, or a Roscoe would do fine. Another thing is he tunes a 5 to CEADG so his B string is extra taught.

    If I had a fretless I'd go EADGC bc I like the higher moaning registers to be easier to get to.
  14. PSouth


    Mar 15, 2003
    I actually got a Wal a few months ago so...problem solved!
  15. Ok so how does it compare to the sound you were hearing? And I didn't see any pictures either.. ;)