Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Why do they always......

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by gweimer, Aug 21, 2000.


  1. gweimer

    gweimer

    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    This is somewhat of a complaint/question topic. I just received a tape of a couple of bass players I've never heard much from, but a lot about - Jeff Berlin and Michael Manring (Mike, if you read this, no offense). For starters, both of these guys make me want to throw my basses in the fireplace, and break every one of my fingers. I think these guys outplay me even in MY wildest fantasies! What my beef is why virtuoso bassists ALWAYS seem to go for exactly the same sound and approach. Actually, that's not entirely true of Manring; what I heard from him was incredibly lyrical, and had a really nice flow to it. But, I digress.....does every bassist think that to sound great, you need to have that tight, 10" speaker, squeezed fart tone? And why do they always play what my wife refers to (and I don't always disagree with her) as "glorified finger exercises"? Is it only those guys that don't sing that do this? I mean, I don't find a bass version of Clapton's "Crossroads" solo all that exciting. Or am I being unfair? After all, Jack Bruce and Glenn Hughes (two of THE BEST singers in the biz) focus more on a total sound. Jack Bruce surprised me after Cream by really working on composition, and actually laid back on the bass in doing so. Is there an unwritten code that the creme-de-la-creme must sound as one another? Can I assume that Victor Wooten falls into the same boat? Am I just a raving lunatic with nothing better to do than nitpick on guys who have done what I could not?

    Enlighten me.....
     
  2. JazznFunk

    JazznFunk Supporting Member

    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    I'm by no means a virtuoso, but I *am* a proud member of the fart-tone bass club. *lol* I am assuming you're referring to a tone heavy on the midrange? The main reason for this is that, in my experience, this is a tone that cuts through the rest of the band like a knife. All too often it seems guitarists usually hog the high end and some of the midrange, and the damn kick drum is usually up way too high, so the bass has got to fit in somewhere. A tight, punchy low-end with a blossoming midrange is my tone of choice. You always have a bit more presence with a bumped midrange than without it. Of course, if you DON'T want to cut thru the band, then cutting the midrange is a great option.
    Most people say this sounds pretty damn ugly by itself, but I happen to think it's a beautiful tone. It really makes a fretless sing too. I play fretless pretty much exclusively, in mostly fusion and funk-oriented rock settings, so this tone tends to work very well. Of course, I couldn't stand hearing this tone in every situation. If Krist Novoselic from Nirvana had used this tone, it would have really changed the impact of the music. Conversely, I love the grinding tone on Nirvana records, as well as stuff from Pearl Jam, Tool, and other bands of the like. Heck, I love ANY bass tone. They're all great, but I have a certain preference for the high-midrange type tone.

    Oh well, back to more fart-tone finger exercises. :-D
     
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I tend to agree with the last poster - if you're playing a solos or a bass feature, then you actually want to be "heard" and you need definition in this area to get the pitch of the note across. This to me is the classic electric bass sound that allows you to be heard - I often hear upright players with a great sound or tone, but when it comes to a solo, it's often difficult to actually hear what notes they are playing and therefore, what ideas they are using. But if I hear an electric bassist with the midrange emphasised, I can always hear what they are doing and there is also less tendency in the audience to go to the bar or start a conversation with their friends! ;)
     
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Just a PS to say that this thread really shows up the futility of some of the dicussions on boards like this. One person will be striving for a tone that another really hates. So when people say which bass, which amp, which strings etc. I should buy? Unless they specify what type of music or "sound" they want, it's all a waste of time! ;)
     
  5. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    Count me in as another member of FTUA; as mentioned, mids allow the bass to cut through the mix & be distinct & punchy.
    ...that usually works for me.

    As for the other question-
    ...hmmmmm. Well, I'm re-reading ASCENSION(Coltrane bio)& the author talks about Fusion vs. Rock. He sez it's a given that the Fusioneers had better chops, better knowledge of harmony, better improv skills, better technique, blah than their Rock counterparts. Yet, Fusion never captured the amount of fans that a 1/2-ass Rock band could....and Fusion WAS geared at the Rock audience.
    I don't really have an answer(as I'm listening to Billy Cobham's INNER CONFLICTS from '78)...
    Personally, I never got into "Bass" albums, "Guitar" albums, "Drum" albums, etc. Records that are "chops-for-chops" sake get pretty boring quick(to me). Nevertheless, there are bass-led albums out there that are "musical"(ie, one wouldn't suspect it was a bassist's album).
     
  6. gweimer

    gweimer

    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    But why focus on that high-mid area? When I did big rooms, I wanted to cut through the mix, and my settings always leaned on the high end (suppress anything under 100Hz, boost 250Hz, suppress 500-1000Hz, squeeze a little extra at 1500Hz, etc.), but I don't recall sounding that flat. Tom Petersson has a great rock/pop sound that cuts through without going into squeezed fart territory.
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yeah but who's Tom Petersson - I've never seen him mentioned as a great bass player or heard anything he's played on? And what do you mean by "flat" - the bassists you complain about, don't sound "flat" to me, in any way.

    It all probably goes back to Jaco and the way his sound influenced the vast majority of technically minded bass players at the time, who have then gone on to teach future generations, and so on..
     
  8. Jennifer

    Jennifer

    Jul 31, 2000
    Erie, Illinois
    Gweimer, keep all basses away from the fireplace! This is probably a bit off of the main discussion, but when I heard you talking about "glorified finger exercises", it made me think about the time I saw Yngwie Malmsteen in concert. They say the guy is great and all, but geez, GIVE ME SOME RYTHYM! Anytime I hear anyone playing a bleeding, blinding solo, on any instrument, the question always comes to my mind "Is he Yngwieing?". Sorry for the digression.
     
  9. gweimer

    gweimer

    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    Bruce, I only use Tom Petersson as a sound reference. I love Cheap Trick, and Tom is a tastefully simple pop/rock player. He has a sound, though, that cuts through the din, and that was my point. You may have a point about all roads leading to Jaco, though. Is it "tradition" that drives everyone to that sound? Maybe it's a partial curse that Jaco left with us - play great, sound (fill in your own description here :D). I guess it's a matter of taste.

    Now, about the content issues.......
     
  10. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i agree - i hate the pattitucci tone as well as the fart sound that most players get, though i am a big fan of boosted midrange. the problem is that usually you boost the mids a little and you sound like jaco quickl, no matter what you try. i think a big reason for this is that there aren't too many variables in a lot of player's rigs, even just in the cabinet department. small rig - 2x10" or 1x15". medium rig - 4x10". big rig 8x10" or 4x10" and 1x15". and that's just speakers. i never liked the way 10" speakers sounded with bass, that's why i use guitar cabs (4x12" and aluminum cones), and for the low end, i use pa subs (18" speakers). the tone i get is usually substantially different from the jaco sound, which suits me perfectly.

    i think another reason is that alot of players, even advanced players (especially advanced players), are pretty conservative with their tone. i mean, lets face it, most bassists who try to have their own sound are looked down upon.
     
  11. Wow, Ed. Once again, brilliantly said. I agree with every word.
    I think, though, that the original point of this thread was not so much an objection to what a particular player was trying to say, but to the tone of voice they were using, if you will. I know that I, for one, am much less receptive to a message from someone if they're talking to me in an annoying or condescending tone.
     
  12. JazznFunk

    JazznFunk Supporting Member

    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    John,
    So the fact I strive for my own unique tone will get me nowhere in my music career? I can tell the difference between Jaco, Michael Manring, Victor, Alain Caron, Vic Bailey, and Patitucci just by way of their tones. They are unique, and we don't look down on them. :-D All those guys have a timbre that is very midrangy, but still unique even though they are all using settings that are most likely in the same ballpark. Everyone's equipment responds differently to the skin on their fingers as well as the unique attack and picking technique each player has. No two players are going to sound exactly alike, even if they use the exact same equipment and setup.
    So is it not possible to have a unique tone that has a heavy emphasis on the midrange? And is it wrong to try to strive for a unique tone? This isn't intended to be a flame, just something I've been wondering for a while. :-D
     
  13. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    hey, i'm all for a unique tone. if you look at my profile, you'll see that i have probably one of the most unique rigs on the board. i use guitar cabs and pa subs, bass and guitar preamps, basssynths and a vg-8. and i definitely dig the midrange :D. i have to use it, with two guitarsynth players.

    however, i know from my limited experience and the experience of my professional friends that if they try to come to a gig with a "unique" tone, they are going to be met with resistance from the other players, where such resistance wouldn't present itself if they were guitarists. i have been met with severe resistance to my tonality-exploring endeavors in many projects that i have worked in - thankfully the project that i am in now and have been in for the past 6 years consists of some more enlightened individuals.

    it seems to me that, in general, the creativity expressed in tone is, in my experience, at best secondary to other aspects of a player's playing palette as far as many bass players are concerned. victor wooten may have his own tone, but that tone is going to be present, relatively unchanged, on most of his recordings. the bass on ufo tofu sounds pretty much the same as the bass on a lot of show of hands, to me. pattitucci is the same way. he has his own tone on electric, a tone that is too often emulated/copied in the "modern-jazz" style, imo, and that tone that he has is the only tone he seems to use. obviously there are exceptions to this rule, like michael manring, who has and uses a huge tonal palette on the recordings i have heard.

    another problem that i see is that while the pros may develop a sound for themselves that has elements of uniqueness, the developing bassist tends to gravitate to an existing sound, and stay with it, to the exclusion of any experimentation. this experimentation should be encouraged, but it isn't, seemingly, rather discouraged. it seems to me that in many bassists' quest for "THE TONE" it is forgotten that there are many more than just one. :D

    i am much more a fan of the tonal diversity that many of the rock guys achieved who took their playing seriously, like geddy lee or chris squire, or billy sheehan. geddy lee's tone hasn't been the same, or even that similar, on any 2 rush albums from a farewell to kings on. sh!t a good argument could be made about the diversity of his tone on every album. same with chris squire.
     
  14. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    As I've said before, back when I started playing I concentrated more on "tone" than technique; I played a Fender P-bass back then & Chuck Rainey was "my" man. Playing in either Rock/R&B/Soul or Top-40 bands, I always got props about my tone...how I managed to acheive that sound, blahblah. Quite simply, I turned the Bass knob to "10", the Midrange knob to "10", & the Treble knob to "6-10"...depending on the condition of my strings. As usual, I'm gonna stick with sayin' the sound/tone is one's hands...it could be my hands are somehow managing to produce the sound I hear in my head. Just from my past experience, I've found the bass sits better in the mix with some mids(& I know a lotta guys go for that scooped out EQ).
    I've been listening to Liquid Soul's cds the past couple days; check out Ricky Showalter's tone...that's me, that's the kinda cut/punch I want when playing in a band. seriously, check out their stuff(a Funk/R&B/Jazz/Latin blend...anybody know where I could join such an outfit?) ;)
    http://www.liquidsoul.com if interested. Really, for me & what I like, seperation is key. I don't want or like a ton of LOW END(could be drums, bass, &/or guitar, too)where everything is, well, a mess! :D

    JT-
    Personally, Billy Sheehan's tone of late is razor thin; IMO, the bass sound on Niacin's HIGH BIAS is a perfect example on how NOT to record a bass.
    ...and, I dunno...never been a fan of Squire's tone/sound, either.
    I do agree with you bout being more than ONE tone; I mean, Jaco, Patitucci, Wooten, et al might be able to get away with "ONE". For the rest of the faceless, nameless yahoos(yours truly), fitting in with the "correct" sound is important. I only tote ONE bass out...I better be able to coax more than one sound out of it...dig? :D
     
  15. JazznFunk

    JazznFunk Supporting Member

    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    John,
    I can't argue with any of your points at all. Very well put.

    I must say that I have yet to be faced with the kind of "tonal adversity" that you described. No one has ever complained about my tone, or requested that I change it. I'm sure it will happen eventually though, no question. :)

    Keep groovin'.


     
  16. gweimer

    gweimer

    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    I guess it's an old-school thought that a bass player should have only one tone to call his own. In the early days, I'd have said that of Tom Hamilton, but I notice on recent Aerosmith recordings that each song has a different sound. This kind of leads me to my next thought. Is it only when bassists play on their own, as the lead, that these things that bother me occur? I mentioned Jack Bruce and Glenn Hughes earlier; does the fact that they are vocalists change the approach, or am I being narrow in my perspective? I don't like the Grateful Dead, but I've always liked the sound that Phil Lesh gets. Kind of related to this, but has anyone heard John Paul Jones' Zooma release yet? Does this break this kind of stereotype that I'm ranting about?

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that is seems that a bassist who is only a bassist tends to do the same things as others of that ilk; yes, there are some variations amongst them, but to me, it sounds the same. It's a fast plickety-thump funk song, it's a Lisztian exercise in jazz phrasing, or it's an attempt to be a lead guitarist. I will say, though (again, actually), that the Michael Manring I heard was more structured musically, and less self-indulgent.

    By the way, thanks for y'all's input. I find it educational to listen.
     
  17. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    it's not that i get guff about my tone per se, it's more that most guitarists really want to play with a conventional bass player. which i am not. :D. tone is just part of the equation - most guitarists have already decided they don't like me before i even start playing, just by the instruments i play. :D their loss - they might even learn something :D.
     
  18. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    ...dude; I've told ya before, get into a project with NO guitarist(s); trust me, you'll dig it! :D
    I also dug out an old GUITAR PLAYER mag w/ Billy Sheehan on the cover(Dec '86); I felt like re-reading this interview since I kinda railed on him. Interesting read(KungFu would have a field day)...I do recall liking(really liking)his tone/sound on "Goin' Crazy".

    Maybe it's just my imagination-
    Seems that most of us in the FTUA are guys that usually play in R&B/Funk/Jazz type bands...


    Some acoustic babbling-
    Back in the '70s, I loved Ray Brown's tone; Ron Carter? I liked his playing, wasn't thrilled about his tone(I felt it was sorta "nasal-y"). Nowadays, I kinda like Carter's tone, too.
    Eddie Gomez...love his playing, don't really care for his tone.
    ...any insights, Eduardo?
     
  19. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    well, the two guys i'm playing with now are definitely pretty progressive-thinking for guitarists - i think they secretly are pretty psyched to be playing with me (i hope at least). i mean, they've gotten the chance to go to at least 4 namm shows each, because of me. :D

    i'd have a hard time being in a non-guitar band, though, i think - i like guitar too much.

    as for billy sheehan, i really dug what he did on eatem and smile. that was a great album, everything van halen should've been but couldn't be, partially due to mister "1/4 note poundcake".
     
  20. JimK

    JimK

    Dec 12, 1999
    ...uh, those are 1/16 notes on "Poundcake", right? :D
    BTW-there's a bit of a disscussion of MA over at the "Overrated Bassists" thread...been there?