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Why am I never happy with my tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tony G, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    I use some of the nicest gear I've ever had the privilege to own yet I'm still not happy. My MTD has great fingerstyle tone, but not the killer slap tone I crave. My Nordy has a very good slap tone, but I can't seem to find a fingerstyle tone I like. My MIJ '75 RI Jazz, my baby, has a middle of the road tone right in between the two. Why is it so hard to have one bass that does it all? I prefer to spend the vast majority of my time with one bass, in a sense to make in an extension of myself. But I'm simply never happy anymore with my the tones I get. I know this is the basses forum, but this goes for amps as well. I'm fairly happy with my LMII. It has a great sound and a versatile eq. But I seem to have my issues with cabs as well. I've used a number of different Epifani cabs and now use Bergantino cabs. Both the epi and berg cabs were/are great, but each of them have their pluses and minuses as well.

    Why can't I get the tone in my head? Does it not exist? Should I just learn to live with what I sound like?
  2. TFunkadelic


    Apr 9, 2006
    Play more, worry less. I've found that in my years on saxophone, as well as bass, I'm happiest (and indeed content) with my tone when I'm in tip top playing shape.

    We all have our own voice, and as long as you're investing your all in what you feel, it will sound good. For me, it was similar to becoming comfortable myself as a person. We're all different, and we all do our best when we're our best individual selves.

    I used to want to sound like Coltrane and Jaco, but I'm happy with my own voice now.

    Sorry if that was a "deeper" answer than you were looking for.
  3. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    You're answer was perfect. This thread is over. :)
  4. Slax


    Nov 5, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    Completely agree. When I'm "in the zone" or whatever you call it and my playing is to my liking, I notice my tone seems better too. I was recording myself today and found this was true. When I first started practicing to warm up, my tone was "meh" at best but after I was warmed up it seemed a lot better.

    I've been fighting with finding the "right" tone since I started playing bass. It seems my tone changes vastly from year to year. Every time it changes, eventually I find something I don't like. I'm guessing it just goes with changing as a person too.

    I was actually thinking of making a very similar thread to this right before I got home and then saw this one. Awesome. :)
  5. Reckless


    Jun 19, 2008
    I get into this states were I become unhappy with my tone. I get out of them by reminding myself that we all have our own personal voice to the instrument. As stated by TFunkadelic, we all have our own voice.
  6. Do you think it might be the technique on your pluckin hand? I wasn't happy with my tone for a long time until I learned to control my plucking hand. Really concentrating on dynamics helped improve my ability to create the breathing wall of sound music is meant to be. Of course, it may be that your equipment does not have the tone you wish in which case you should go find what you like and buy it
  7. selfblessed


    Dec 29, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Because you are not happy with your self. ;)

    Sorry I could not resist.

    Just play. You will create your tone when you aren't thinking about it. Kinda like a groove...well for me at least...if I go whoa that's groovin what am I doing? Then start to analyze it bam...its gone.
  8. DaveF


    Dec 22, 2007
    New Westminster, BC
    Play more gigs. You'd be surprised how high-end your stuff actually is when you see what garbage people are playing with. My friend makes his '80's solid-state amp and SX guitar sound HUGE. It's ALL about attitude!!!

    My personal kryptonite is when I'm sitting at home listening to just the bass really intently. I start to hear "problems" with whatever I'm using. Get out there!
  9. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    You know, some basses are more suited to slap and others to fingerstyle...

    Part of the reason I play a Line6 Variax.

    Anyway, if you're looking for the sound in your head, you might try one of these.

  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Let other people play your gear and listen to it. That'll help narrow down the problem. If they can get the sound you want with your gear...


    While I do have a lot of basses, I don't go from bass to bass in search of anything other than a nice bass that sounds like it sounds and plays well. If you try to get basses to sound like they don't sound, it can be very frustrating.

    IME technique is KEY. Once you figure out what you want and how to get it technique-wise, the rest is relatively easy. I've worked on getting a brighter sound, thinner sound, thumpier sound, deeper sound, whatever... just by altering how and where I strike the strings and mute.

    A bass that doesn't require much if any EQ to get a great basic sound is also a big plus. Then understanding how to manipulate EQ and pickups can just add more options.

    Other than setting basses up for me and figuring out which strings will work best for me on each bass, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about basses.

    This part might sound like an ad and feel free to ignore it: my main basses don't have an overly strong "signature tone" that's hard to get away from. As such, I have a ton of versatily at my fingertips. I think this is very important for a "do everything" bass.

    If you're ever in Maryland I can demonstrate everything above. It's only hard until you figure it out.
  11. gkbass13

    gkbass13 Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2006
    lets hang out tony, i'll be the guy to play your gear and let you listen;-) haha.

    i go through phases all the time. i loved my lakland JO, but hated the slap tone with fralin pickups after awhile, so the search continues. i also sold my gk700rb thinking i would find somethign else, btu i really really loved that tone through my epifani cabs....might even buy one again.

    it happens.

    i would say the unfortunate reality of your situation gear wise might be a maple ash marcus esque take ona nordy....slap city.
    and a mellower wood combination on an mtd...no such luck in the slap department.

    how about some nordstrand dual coils for the mtd?
  12. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    This just made my night. Great post. Tony, thanks for starting a great thread.
  13. bakeronbass


    Apr 3, 2007
    Humboldt Ca
    Endorsing Artist; Schroeder Cabinets
    great advice:bassist:
  14. Tone is a very subjective subject, but you seem to have an idea of what you want and it frustrates you that you can't seem to get it.

    I know this, that when I was playing my Ibanez BTB405QM, I never worried about my tone because I was happy with the way it sounded. Then I decided to get a Lakland 55-01, had high hopes for it because of it's so called tone. I had convinced myself that it had great tone, when in actuality it sounded very anemic, so I bought a Carvin LB75AP, because I new Carvin's could get all these different tones. I spent all of 4 mths. trying to get a decent gigable sound out of that bass, to the point where I'd brought it back to the Carvin store I bought it from, but they wouldn't give me a refund because I'd gone way beyond the 10 day return policy. Well you know, it sometimes takes longer than 10 days to get a sound that you like. I mean after all it sounded great in the store, but live - it sucked.

    Finally, the '08' MIA Fender Jazz V came available and I jumped on it. The tone is awesome, slapping and popping is the best - super loud and clear. The Jazz growl is there and I don't even have to do anything to make sound good, it just does.

    But you know what, that Ibanez BTB405QM, still sounds great when I decide to give it a whirl. Sometimes we need to just be happy with what we've got, because it's more than enough that we'll ever need. You've got great equipment, be thankful, alot of guys would give their left nut for it. Start enjoying, life is too short to be so picky, because after all there is no such tone as the perfect tone.:smug:
  15. YCBass

    YCBass Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    It's been covered and that's why you said this thread is over but I thought I'd chime in anyway...

    The only time I notice that this or that isn't quite right is when I'm sitting in my apartment playing by myself, that's when I notice all the tiniest of nuances. But what I also notice is that I don't hear any of that when I play with a band, most of the frequencies (or what have you) that you don't like tend to disappear when other instruments are present and you just focus on groovin'.

    Lots of great answers in this thread but I think playing will end your unhappiness/dilemma faster than any of the other suggested methods. IMHO.

  16. ROON


    Aug 5, 2006
    Sydney, Australia
    Killer finger style tone + slap tone = STINGRAY. :cool:
  17. 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
    You have tone-GAS. It can never be satisfied.
  18. phatbass30


    Dec 24, 2006
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Groove is in the heart!!!
    i am always happy with my tone. but i'm still and always searching for THE best tone for myself. i was using a MM stingray 5 for 11 years, the best tone for me. then i found the Warwick streamer stage 1, i used it for 3 years, and realized that its the tone that i was missing with my great MM. but it didn't end there, that's when i found my Sadowsky MS5. it has the tone that i was missing with the Warwick. its like evolution for me, i just keep on searching for the right one. just when i thought i already got it, something came up in my mind, i know that i still need some more. Sads are great basses, but i got mine not that perfect. i have to do some fret leveling to get the low and no buzz action that i wanted. i switched to Single Coils and now i ordered a Marcus Retro preamp. its just the search for the ultimate tone doesn't end. but it doesn't mean that i'm not happy. i am very happy and greatfull to have these great basses with me. but i just can't stop, its also like learning how to play the bass, it doesn't stop, it evolves. IMHO.
  19. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    I'm also very picky about tone. Too picky really. I have found the LMII + Epi UL115 is the best sounding rig I can afford that is portable. In terms of bass my P bass with np4s and Labella flats leaves me very satisfied. I am not nearly picky about the bass guitar as I am about amp tone. Have no clue why.
  20. Nuthin' is over until we say it's over! :D

    Your problem is the same one that plagues us all at some point. Last weekend I played a 2 nighter at a club. 1st night I couldn't pull out a usable tone if you put a gun to my head. After the gig we go home & leave our gear set up. come back the next day late with no time to make adjustments. I have the same bass as the previous night, same cable same earplugs, stage position etc. Kick off the first tune and what do you know? My tone is Killin'.
    Was it the gear or was it in my head? I do use certain basses for specific size rooms or situations but I feel that my overall mood and well being (or lack thereof) has a huge effect on my preception of my tone and my performance.

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