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Finding your tone


Petethebassman

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Hi all, here's one thing I've thought about a lot lately: how does one go about finding one's sound? Of course, your choice of gear is a part of the equation, but I mean the tone you get with just your hands & the bass. The reason I've been thinking about tone is that for 11 years I've had the same Ampeg rig (SVT-II head+ 8x10 cab), and that's all I've used. This setup does in no way offer flat response or uncolored tone, I'm quite aware that Ampeg gear has a definitive sonic signature. With my present band I've been forced to step out of my “comfort zone” and use whatever amp is provided by the venue or plug straight into the PA for gigs (lack of suitable transport for the Ampeg stuff).

 

At first I was struggling, I felt naked onstage without my amp behind me. And tone-wise it felt really strange as I had gotten so used to the Ampeg sound. But you know what? After playing gigs this way for a couple months I feel that my control of my tone (the “tone in your hands”) has vastly improved, I can now get a fairly consistent tone out of whatever gear I play through: of course, once in a while I have to play through an amp with crappy sound, but that just makes me work harder. What do you think?

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Sounds like you're doing just fine. :thu:

 

I played with a guitarist who would plug into anything, even the PA. He still always sounded the same.

 

Granted, he wasn't trying to play with over saturated distortion or anything (he usually played a flatwound-strung '59 Epiphone Zephyr Regent hollowbody with a slightly overdriven Scotty Moore-ish sound), but you get my point.

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Any acoustic musician is alone with his instrument and is forced to find a sound with only his axe, his hands, and in some instances, his lips and lungs. This process should be NO DIFFERENT for an electric musician, just with a few extra links in the signal path tacked on the end. I have posted my idea for the "signal path" of a musical idea for a bassist or other electric musician before, and it goes like this:

 

Your 'sound' begins in your heart. It is organized by your mind and relayed to your hands. Your hands coax your ideas out of your instrument, transferring them from flesh to wire to disturbances in the magnetic field of your pickups. Here is the first point in the process where your gear has ANYTHING to do with your sound, five steps along in the process. Do ya feel me there, brah? The pickups send your sound through the onboard EQ, then out to the amp, through its EQ, and finally on to the speakers. The idea here is that your sound, your purest voice on your instrument, comes from within, and the job of your outward gear is to get out of the way of that sound, or to help shape it, color it, and direct it in a purposeful way.

 

Some crappy gear can hobble your sound, and some effects, etc. can make your sound really take off, but you should still sound like you. The greatest guitarist I have ever known was a total gear junkie - Soldano preamp, Mesa Dual Rectifier amp, Marshall cabinets, and a Bradshaw switching system running a twenty-space rack that looked straight out of NORAD. And yet, he could be over at someone else's place and pick up a Taiwanese Strat copy with rusty strings, plug it into a 15-watt Squier amp, and rock the house. Why? Well, being a genius on the guitar doesn't hurt, but he was not a slave to all that gear. He used it - it didn't use him. On this occasion I remember the guitar's owner laughing and saying, "Dammit, how come it doesn't sound like that when I play it? Well, I guess I can't blame the guitar anymore."

 

Never, EVER get fooled into thinking that gear is the only thing that affects your sound. Not that you are, Pete, but I'm just soapboxing here. Your voice on an instrument begins in your heart and is projected outward; it doesn't come IN from a new amp or stompbox. Look inward, grasshopper. Any musician should be able to plug direct and instantly sound like himself.

 

Jaco recorded direct into the board...

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."

 

Les Paul

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Finding your tone....It sounds like you have a good approach going...As far as finding your "sound", it wasn't until I started playing original music and crafting my own lines that I felt like I had a sound...I think with enough practice and playing out you are bound to find your tone and sound. If your tone is working for you, go with it.
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I agree that you're definitely going in the right direction. In fact, the more conscious I become of "my sound" (or, really, sounds), the less gear-conscious & gear-dependent I get. I definitely want the "right" bass, and a good cable, but after that, simpler is better.
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"My tone" is in my head. It's always been there.

 

Every hour of practice and every piece of equipment is aimed at getting the sound of the bass that I visualize in my head out into the world.

 

I'm getting closer every day (after 35+ years) and now sound pretty much the same no matter what instrument or amp I am playing through.

 

That's a good thing.

 

The ongoing quest for gear is so that everyone in the room will hear the same sound that I am hearing.

 

And with my new subwoofer, even the deaf people (bandleaders not included :D )will also be able to hear it! ;)

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I pretty much always sound like me no matter what rig I use. I don't think I have a particular tone, per se... I'm just not really picky about the amp I use. As long as the bass is audible in the mix, I'll always sound like myself.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Well, those of you who know me on here know that I am always trying new gear. Sometimes looking for sound, sometimes just looing for a change. I think I am going to make myself settle down with what I have now - SWR Grand Prix, DigiTech Multi-effects, AKG Wireless, QASC PLX 1602, and a SWR 4X10.

 

I have always thought that people know when it's me playing - for better or worse. I think I would - to a certain extent - sound like me no matter what I was playing on or through.

 

I do enjoy the "quest" though........

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I can get what I want with my two basses, Digitech BP200, and Peavey TNT 115, with my MicroBass handling the mids and highs.

 

Sometimes, it's just the 115 with the basses. Good enough for me, thanks. Well, a six string in the mix would be nice... :)

 

Yes! It's been confirmed! I'm replacing the supposedly wimpy John Myung in Dream Theatre! Yeah! Let's start some bonfires... http://www.freeadpower.org/~mrsmiles/contrib/corky/corkysm60.gifhttp://216.40.249.192/s/contrib/ruinkai/FIREdevil.gif

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Between left-hand and right-hand technique, right hand position, timing, and phrasing, I sound pretty much the same through most gear.

 

I think I play BETTER on certain basses, as a matter of being familiar with an instrument, but I do not think anyone besides myself could tell much of a diffence in tone.

 

All that said, I think the one piece of gear that has a huge impact on tone is strings. I'm still addicted to those DR Highbeams. :)

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Regarding the DR Highbeams:

 

I agree, they sound about the same as others.

 

But I'll reinforce that they last a LOT longer, and they do feel different. There's a certain "bounce" to them that is hard to quantify. Also, they have the right amount of "gritty-ness" on the fingers.

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