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Why am I never happy with my tone?

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

  1. tallboybass

    tallboybass Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    BTW Tony, what do you think about putting this same question up over in 'Amps'? I think it's a great topic that has a lot of angles to examine.
  2. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    Sure, why not? :D
  3. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Sometimes you just get bored and want to try something new. Sonic variation (no label of "good" or "bad," just different) can stimulate your interest again. So what? Change as much as you want. Most people in the audience won't hear the difference, but if new tone gets you psyched, go for it! Plus it keeps all the gear companies in business.
  4. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    Are you the little devil on my shoulder opposite the angel? :D

  5. tallboybass

    tallboybass Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    I totally get what you're saying, just wondering how much one can change before entering the realm of "chasing one's tail"?

    And yes, I'm talking to myself. :D
  6. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I think we all chase our tail a bit. And, it's true, the audience hears the songs. Your bass tone is personal, or at least, mine is. As long as you're "in the mix", all else is just pure fancy. Not that that's bad.
  7. Mikeyd74


    Jul 28, 2007
    I spent years going through the same thing. I used to just blame it on my gear. I would go to pick up the bass and get a negative feeling because I thought is was going to sound like crap because of the bass I was playing or the amp I had. Then I came to the realization that for the most part it was all in my head.

    There are a few things that have helped me be happier with my tone though.

    1. Realize that if you are in a bad mood that you are most likely going to be unhappy with your tone and when you are unhappy with your tone you will be distracted by that and your playing will suffer as a result. So before you play try to unfocus your mind on things that are bugging you and refocus on what you are about to do and that's playing your bass.

    2. Get that neck and those strings warmed up before you even turn up your amp. Cold strings and a cold bass just don't respond as well. I used to play "cold" on stage and then for three songs I would be thinking, "Man this bass sounds like crap." Then I started warming up my bass on the side of the stage and got the strings all nice and loose and whammo my tone was great from the start. I found it to be the same at home as well.

    3. If you think your tone is lacking a little turn your amp's volume down a bit. That way you end up pushing yourself a little bit more and in turn get more out of your playing.

    When it comes to individual basses you are always going to get different tones. Isn't that the whole point of having different basses anyway. Those differences usually inspire me to play differently from bass to bass which I think is a good thing.
  8. +1 Mike is spot on here. Just settle on one bass and play it like there is no tomorrow. Yes, I said settle. Pick one bass and commit to it. You must love certain things about that bass, so focus on the positive and work that thing. Push your playing on it like never before. Use that bass as a means to create tasty basslines and licks. Slap it, thump it or whatever. Dig in to it and make it sound the way you want it to sound. Like so many bass cats here have mentioned already, no matter what you do, you'll always sound like yourself. So make the bass work for you, make it make you sound better not the other way around.

    If your not playing with a band that often or even at all, write some tunes. Yes, write your own music. All you have to do is get some basic recording gear and a keyboard or a bunch of samples/loops and create some music. Adding your bass to that is one of the most rewarding things you can do and it will elevate your playing to an entirely new level. Trust me, one of the most enjoyable things you can do is composing your own music and then playing bass on it. It can be as fun as playing with a band if not more so. Bassists make the best composers IMO as we hear all the elements in a song, our job is to make everything work together so we have big ears and taste when it comes to playing our parts. We are in the perfect position to write music, from the ground up.:)

    As of late, I have really started to discover that any shortcomings in my sound are directly related to my playing ability, not my bass. Even though some basses are easier to play in certain styles, nothing at this point has made me a better player. The only thing that makes one a better player is hitting the woodshed and really pushing your musicality.

    On the other hand, I have decided that if (or when :scowl:) I slip back into GAS mode again I am taking it all back to the basics of bass - lose everything and get a p-bass. I have had atleast 50 basses since my first p-bass and none of them have had the impact on my playing like that first p-bass did. I basically learned how to play bass on my first p-bass. IMHO a p-bass will clearly put your playing on the spot, no elaborate electronics or esoteric features to split hairs about. A p-bass really is the roots of bass playing, if you can make a p-bass sound good you've figured out what it's all about.

    Sometimes you have to step back to move forward - if that makes any sense.:D

    Paul Theriault
  9. TheJohnG


    May 21, 2008
    I have my ups and downs like the rest, but I have no hope of getting new gear so I do what I can.
    One of my most practiced and preached tactics is to always put the basses volume and tone controls at around 7 or 8. Dial in your amp from there. This way you can bump a little more treble/boost from your bass as needed per the song.
    Practicing at home, alone, pretty much sucks either way. Live tone with a band is the goal for me.
  10. Exactly. The more familiar and intimate you are with a given instrument, the better you will feel about your sound.

    Try not playing/practicing for 2 weeks. Then go back and plug in!! Your tone will be gash. Your fingers will not be explosive. Everything will be clunky, awkward. Fast forward 3 weeks, where you've played at least 1-2 hours everyday. See, doesn't that sound/feel better?????

    It's worse on an acoustic instrument like my viola. If I take even 3 days off, my tone is unappealing to my ear and fingers. ;)

  11. That is indeed the perfect answer. Don't agonize over something in your head - go out and play and enjoy what you actually sound like.
  12. tallboybass

    tallboybass Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    Anybody try playing another instrument to get some perspective back? I'm a decent drummer and a lousy guitar player, but after spending some time away from bass I get a better appreciation of what can be done with a bass and also an appreciation for the gear I already have. (everything sounds good after playing a Korean Strat through a cheap amp) :)
  13. LP75


    Aug 29, 2006
    You make two great points here, and here is my personal experience with them:

    I worked out my technique and "my tone" beginning with my first inexpensive gear, and as I progressed, so did my gear - item-by-item, buiding as I went - yet my particular sound (which my bandmates all liked) was *mainly* in my approach to playing even moreso than my gear. I settled on a good quality (yet not overly expensive) bass and amp rig that I kept the same for over a decade while continuing to develop "my tone", and although the results were quite good, I began to plan my next gear move to compliment the sound I had come to know as my own.

    When I got the opportunity with a few extra $$, I invested in the bass that most suited the "sound in my head" and in my hands.

    Now my tone is very close to 100% the way I have always imagined it. The only place to go with it in terms of gear would be more elaborate and expensive amplification *IF I could justify it* by being a full-time pro with big money. As it stands, I am quite happy to use the gear I have, and continue to improve how and what I can play with it.
  14. LowBSix

    LowBSix Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 25, 2008
    818 ~ 805 ~ L.A.
    Endorsing Artist: GHS Strings
    MESA 2x10 or 4x10 and/or both...
  15. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Maybe you're in the wrong band?

    IME when the other dudes don't know how to leave space, you'll be forever trying to chisel through their wall of noise.
  16. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006

    Unfortunately this has been the case with virtually every band I've been in, but my current band isn't too bad about that considering we are only a trio right now.
  17. vroc38


    Jan 5, 2006

    There can be hundreds of great bass tones in your head, several for every musical situation. They can all work equally well from an audience perspective. If you feel like changing things up, have at it, there's never been a better time. And like Ukiah said, change might help you stay excited about playing that standard *again* for the 10,000th time! I'm always tweaking not to find that one particular tone in my head but to find the next one.
  18. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    It's threads like this that make Talkbass invaluable. :bassist:

    The one thing that amazes me is the amount of bassist that continually buy and sell the exact same basses.:eek:
  19. mellowgerman

    mellowgerman Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2008
    Orlando, FL
    i don't know if it's been suggested yet, but try a dark starred jazz bass, you might like it:)
    it would still preserve the jazz bass tone to a certain extent, but give you the versatility of the dark stars.
  20. 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
    It's really funny that for some the answers, as posted is, try *THIS* piece of gear! :D

    Whereas for others (and I agree with this perspective) it's mostly *inside* the player.
    With regard to the OP - the man has incredible gear. It ain't an issue with the gear here, it's a factor of Tony, just as with myself, it's a factor of *me*.

    An MTD won't make me sound like Andrew Gouche, any more than a '63 Jazz will make me sound like Jaco.

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