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Why am I never happy with my tone?

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

  1. Finding the right gear for the tone you have in your head can be difficult because the tone in your head can change all the time. It doesn't change dramatically during a day, it changes little by little. And as soon as you've got the gear which sounds almost like the tone in your head, you will be disappointed the very next day because the tone in your head has been changed a bit. :smug:
    I have had more than 50 basses. I've been always looking for the right sound and finally got to the point when I am about to sell all my nonperfect (for my needs) basses and keep the following:

    Woodandtronics (WT) Custom Single Cut 5-string
    MTD535 with Maple/Rosewood neck and Ash body
    MTD535 with Wenge/Wenge neck and Black Korina body
    Sadowsky UV 5-string with Maple/Rosewood neck and Alder body
    Sadowsky MV 5 with Maple/Maple neck and Ash body
    Status S2 with Neck-through Graphite neck
    78' Fender Jazz/Precision neck
    Washburn AB20 Acoustic Bass Guitar

    I'll also keep Epifani UL502 and 4x10" cab, plus Acoustic Image Focus 2 Series III head. I hope to keep the Schroeder 1210 cab although it has have a lot of problems - all the elements have been changed due to the fact that the elements had blown off (I play mostly old style funk on low level volumes). Other than that Schroeders sound great and they're light.

    Yesterday a great bassplayer from Senegal - Ndioba - played at my studio using my gear. I couldn't believe how good my basses sounded in his hands through my own rig .

    So it's time to keep the gear and start working on my techniques. :bassist:

    By the way - it's hard to believe that you cannot get good slap sound out from your MTD!!! Both of my MTDs are complete funk machines as are the Sadowskys. And they all have just a superb fingerstyle tone.
  2. I cant offer any sound advice, but I hear ya'.
  3. That was a rather beautiful analogy. Thank you, what real eye opener. I've thought of it this way before, but now that I am, I realise I've done this along and not realised it. CHeers. :bassist:
  4. I'll echo some of the above.

    While I LOVE trying gear, my primary rig has been relatively constant for many years. My main continuing search is to get that basic, decent sound in as small and light of a package as I can find without compromising tone.

    It did take me a while to realize that I really liked the sound of an active Jazz Bass (the 'sound in my head') versus the fatter, smoother, more modern sound of many boutique basses. It seems so obvious now (just speaking of my personal tone goals here. I'm sure many have gone the opposite direction also with success), but it took me a while, since I love to try stuff out, and there has always been a certain allure to all that pretty wood and all those knobs and switches and neck laminates, etc., etc. Thank goodness I'm done with that!

    Per our PM's over the last year or so, you can really get into a downward spiral on gear if you are playing at home a lot and not gigging much. Playing in a solo setting can result in focusing on the minutia of tone that literally disappears once on a gig (you start to hear minor dead spots, slight peaks and valleys, and all kinds of stuff that literally disappears four bars into the first tune on a gig). IMO, the worst thing you can do is evaluate and churn gear if you are not regularly gigging (i.e., at least once or twice a week every week). It will drive you nuts and cost you a bunch of money.

    My suggestion is to put the amps and cabs away and play/practice acoustically on your bass (preferably with a metronome). That will refocus your attention on technique, 'finger generated tone', and time. And when you do get to the gig and plug into your rig, I can pretty much guarantee it will sound great (assuming it isn't a totally acoustically horrible room).

    IMO and definitely IME.
  5. Geezerman


    Nov 28, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    i can't say I agree much with the last bit of advice, you will end up losing a lot of the dynamics and end up with a lot of bad habits if you play without an amp for too long, just my .02 worth!
  6. hmmm.... not sure about 'losing dynamics', etc. I find if you can make it sound and feel good acoustically, it just gets better when plugged in.

    However, my amplification is clean and relatively transparant. So, my bass reacts similarly acoustically versus through the amp. I would assume it would be a bit different with other amplification voicings and approaches.

    However, +1 in that practice techniques and approaches are obviously a personal choice, and what works for one might not work for another. The only downside I've experienced is that you can get a little sloppy with muting the strings you aren't playing if you aren't careful (especially if practicing slap technique), since those low level 'sympathetic vibrations' are hard to hear acoustically.

    My main point was to not focus on the nuances of a rig in a solo setting. It can really drive you insane sometimes if you aren't gigging much.
  7. mrkreuzschlitz


    Jun 30, 2008
    Dacula, GA
    Don't forget, a lot of the time that tone that you hear and love is produced/really helped by the studio.
  8. I was given this advice when I first started playing bass, and quite often I practice acoustically. When I try basses in shops, I have always done so acoustically first, then with an amp. If a bass sounds naff acoustically, and your technique is lacking, a really good amp will only amplify this fact.
  9. From a technical standpoint, practicing acoustically on an electric is ill-advised. You more often than not tend to play harder and exert more effort from both hands. At least use a headphone amp so you can really relax.
  10. Guys, this isn't a thread about practicing techniques:)

    My ONLY point was that, from what I remember, Tony is not gigging regularly at the moment, and that can lead to 'gear churn' and frustration if you are constantly playing your rig 'out of gigging context'.

    Headphones, acoustic, whatever... the key is to 'break the cycle of overlistening' to your rig in a non-representative solo context (which IMO is part of what Tony is experiencing).
  11. ... :)
  12. Gintaras


    Dec 11, 2004
    Kent Island, Md.
    I went through a period of constantly switching heads and cabs. I liked all my basses but never got the tone that I really wanted from any off them. The final answer for me was strings. Matching the right strings for each bass. This took a while but I finally got there. I have 4 basses and different strings for each one.

    Also I agree with a previous post is that what I am looking for can change day to day. I have some days that my gear sounds fantastic and the next day I don't hear the same thing.
  13. Yes, go practice, gig more, and forget about your gear. I remember reading a quote from Marcus Miller, something like, get your gear right early, then stop thinking about it. You have awesome gear, now just go play it out.
  14. GM60466


    May 20, 2006
    Land of Lakland
    Find the groove, the tone will follow

  15. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    As the others said, forget about gear.
    Sit and play with a comfortable bass, set the amp flat.
    Try different attacks, positions, fingers, until you like what you hear.
  16. Indiana Mike

    Indiana Mike Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2005
  17. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    A key point made above regards "gigging" vs. "playing at home" ... there is so much more refinement to your tone when it's live. It's gotten to a point where I really don't care, at all, what my non-gigging tone sounds like. Both Brad and Ken stated my feelings nicely above:

    I've been very lucky to have found basses that have my basic tone. I can play them absolutely flat and get them to sound like I want them to. I've been very lucky to have found amplification that is relatively clean and reproduces that basic tone of the basses. Anything I can get beyond that basic tone is a bonus for me.

    Of course, you have to be intimate with your gear in order to get the most from it, and that isn't going to happen unless it's in a live setting. How many times has someone written that a Sadowsky (for example) doesn't sound exceptionally good in the shop, but live it kicks *ss? Same types of comments about the MarkBass stuff, too ...

    For me, FBB basses and MarkBass amps/cabs are my "live tone" ideal. Truthfully, I was pretty happy with my older Conklin/Eden set-up and could have used that for a very long time, but this current gear is probably as close to ideal (for me ;)) as I'm ever going to get .... :cool:
  18. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    Yes, that is correct. I am currently in a situation where I'm not gigging as often as I used to and I'm not sure when I'll be in that sort of situation again anytime soon.

    There is a lot of great advice in this thread and I appreciate all who have chimed in on this matter.
  19. lug


    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Why am I never happy with my tone?

    You weren't hugged enough as a child.

    ....hugs Tony G

    There, you will sound wonderful now.
  20. I even feel better now:D

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