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discreet

Does it really matter what gear you have??

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I expressed the following sentiment in a thread about my Trace combo and thought it may be fun to start a new topic on the subject...

"...All these decades spent chasing a 'sound' when in fact it's all in your head - how you sound live is largely down to how everyone else in your band sounds and how good they are at what they do. You can get chronic GAS, spend thousands on gear and attempt to get the 'best' bass tone in the world, but it's all for nothing if your drummer can't play in time, your singer's falling-down drunk, or your guitarist routinely deafens everyone in the room.

If your drummer is really on it and they and the other members of the band know how to play quietly and tastefully and listen to each other, you've got half a chance - and what's more, it won't matter if you're playing a Harley Benton Jazz through a Behringer combo, you will sound great..."

So what do you think? Is the fact that you (and your band) can actually play more important than your choice of bass and amp? Have you (like me) been largely wasting your time and a huge sum of cash on searching for 'that' bass sound, when the whole enterprise is really a fool's errand and a wild goose chase? Should you have been concentrating on your playing instead of trawling the internet for bass guitar porn and spending time on BassChat pontificating about strings and what's good for metal..? O.o

Edited by discreet
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I always think that if you like your gear you are inspired to play  more and have more fun doing it, so yes I think it matters from that point of view. As mentioned elsewhere, I buy gear for me and my enjoyment, not for the audience, my band, or anyone else - though everyone benefits when I feel comfortable with what I'm playing. That said, it has little to do with how much that piece of equipment cost.

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4 minutes ago, ped said:

I always think that if you like your gear you are inspired to play  more and have more fun doing it, so yes I think it matters from that point of view. As mentioned elsewhere, I buy gear for me and my enjoyment, not for the audience, my band, or anyone else - though everyone benefits when I feel comfortable with what I'm playing. That said, it has little to do with how much that piece of equipment cost.

Precisely this. Most of the audience won't even be able to distinguish a Precision's tone from a Jazz's tone so it doesn't really matter to them what you play.

HOWEVER, I play much much better when I actually enjoy my tone and I like hearing the sounds I make. It may be a psychological issue but if I'm enjoying the sound I put out then I'm more likely to play better and enjoy the experience. That happens with most, if not all, musicians - unless they're completely oblivious.

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14 minutes ago, ped said:

I always think that if you like your gear you are inspired to play  more and have more fun doing it, so yes I think it matters from that point of view. As mentioned elsewhere, I buy gear for me and my enjoyment, not for the audience, my band, or anyone else - though everyone benefits when I feel comfortable with what I'm playing. That said, it has little to do with how much that piece of equipment cost.

Yes, there is certainly something in that. Bass guitars that feel good to play are therefore easier to play, and these tend not to be entry-level instruments. Having said that, entry-level instruments are orders of magnitude better now than the entry-level instruments that were available in the 70s when I started playing bass. Kay, anyone? Taxi from the strings to the fretboard, anyone..?

And it's only natural to seek out an amp that sounds good to you, and if you like that sound you're going to be happier producing it on stage. But it took me a very long time to realise that the best sound for an amp live and in concert isn't a sound that you'd want, or even like very much, when you play solo...

Nevertheless I still have GAS for a year-of-birth pre-CBS Precision and a sixties Ampeg B15, even though I know for certain those things aren't going to make me a better player and that owning them and using them live isn't going to make a single iota of difference to my band or how it sounds, and your average punter couldn't care less either! Should I 'invest' around £8-10,000 because of GAS? Or be practical and buy a used Toyota? xD

I'm posting as a player, not as an investor or collector, so I suppose there's the rub...

Edited by discreet
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Also agree. We (myself included) spend far too long agonizing over our gear, instead of putting that time and effort into improving the band. I remember someone telling me years ago that when you get a new instrument / amp etc, you then spend 6 months trying to get it to sound like your old one.

A guy I know in the guitar business told me that sooner or later you reach the age of enlightenment - the point when you realise that chasing after different bits of gear in an effort to sound like something kicks in. At that point, you then realise what a waste of time it's been, and how much better you could play.

The guitarist in my country band has many lovely instruments, but on our gigs he uses a £100 Telecaster replica, and it sounds just wonderful through a Fender Deluxe 112 Plus solid state combo. Has loads of people coming up and asking him where he got the Tele made too!

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Gotta spend our time and hard earned cash on something.

Might as well be something we love doing / having. 

Edited by Al Krow
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only to a certain extent, a bass player I know has just switched from guitar, he's not got any real love for bass playing, he bought a cheapo Westone and a smallish Laney combo and to be frank he sounds awful, to my ears anyway, a really highish middy sound (bit like knocking on someones front door), when he plays the E string it booms and disappears into the mix when he plays the D string, so decent gear does matter, but, the laws of diminishing returns kicks in very quickly

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22 minutes ago, PaulWarning said:

only to a certain extent, a bass player I know has just switched from guitar, he's not got any real love for bass playing, he bought a cheapo Westone and a smallish Laney combo and to be frank he sounds awful, to my ears anyway, a really highish middy sound (bit like knocking on someones front door), when he plays the E string it booms and disappears into the mix when he plays the D string, so decent gear does matter, but, the laws of diminishing returns kicks in very quickly

If he really has no love for playing bass, it could be just that he's crap at playing bass. But the law of diminishing returns is very important, and that point arrives much earlier today than it did thirty or forty years ago. I could do what I do with a Squier and a Rumble. In fact, I'm doing it with a bitsa Jazz and a Trace combo. I can't shake the notion of doing it with a vintage Fender and an Ampeg SVT, practicalities and financial issues notwithstanding... but my point is, those things really aren't necessary, at least not for me.

Edited by discreet

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I think i would have killed someone by now if I did not have Basschat and nurding about bass as my thing. I agree with your comments completely @discreetbut for the safety of the public and those close to me i will continue my endeavor to spend money on stuff that makes me then want other stuff.

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1 minute ago, KingPrawn said:

I think i would have killed someone by now if I did not have Basschat and nurding about bass as my thing. I agree with your comments completely @discreet but for the safety of the public and those close to me i will continue my endeavor to spend money on stuff that makes me then want other stuff.

Must admit I hadn't thought of that eventuality. Spend money. Buy stuff. Stay out of national news bulletins. Good luck.

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Of course gear matters. I need all the help I can get.

In seriousness. I'm happy if I can get within the ball park of the sound I like. Not too fussed on the actual gear these days. That's why they've got all those knobs on the amps. Songs are the important thing.

 

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One could use the same 'reasoning' over one's transportation ('spensive cars, raucous motorbikes..?). Hifi systems, for the television, even, whilst sounding off about how rubbish the programmes are..? Coffee machines, anyone..? Diminishing returns, probably, and very far from the stuff, in any of these 'genres' enjoyed in the '50s, where folks had exactly the same concerns about their apparat, but didn't know what was to become 'indispensable' a few decades later.
T'will all change in a year/decade/generation from now, as other stuff comes to the fore as being 'indispensable'. A lot of it is, it seems, to me, the 'grass is greener' effect, and emperor's new clothes. Maybe folks, despite 'austerity', have too much disposable income..? 9_9

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9 minutes ago, Low End Bee said:

Songs are the important thing.

Very much so, particularly if you're in an originals band. And it's crucial to find musicians who can interpret those songs in a sympathetic and accessible way and who are not just technically proficient but expressive, too. OK, I'm off to look for another bucket of unicorn poo...

Edited by discreet

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9 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

Maybe folks, despite 'austerity', have too much disposable income..? 9_9

There's that. I don't mind admitting I'd find it difficult to justify spending thousands on a vintage Fender (for example). Especially with a teenage son in the sixth form who is confidently expecting to go to university and an American wife who insists on buying expensive shoes and clothes, even though they make her look like a badger wrapped in a curtain. Generally I think the notion that you 'have to spend your money on something', is decadent. Of course, I might change my mind if a big chunk of change fell into my lap. :)

Edited by discreet
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Yep.

That song sounded like cats being tortured by Yoko Ono screaming at them whilst scraping her nails on a blackboard  but the bass players tone was epic and the bubinga really made a difference said no one ever.*

*Apart from a few BCers of course

 

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Youre only as good as the combined total sound of your band.

What equipment you use to get that total sound will have an effect if used and implemented correctly.

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My perception regards gear changed a few years ago. I had loads of gear and was constantly tone chasing. That was until I borrowed a Behringer head and beaten up 1x12 cab. It sounded fine and had done hundreds of gigs. I just thought “what am I doing?” So I sold all the big gear, the rack mount compressor and other stuff and bought a Rumble...which sounded superb, and I had a few quid left over.

A comfortable feeling bass is number one priority then an amp that can be heard, neither of which need to cost a lot. But most importantly, a good band.

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7 minutes ago, la bam said:

You're only as good as the combined total sound of your band.

Yes, this. It's what your audience hears, after all. We have to remember that non-musicians (and non-drummers) hear a band as one sound, much like the single sound of an orchestra and don't differentiate between instruments. OK, a singer is obvious as people tend to listen to the words, but everything else is a combined effect. So everything has to work and everyone has to be on the ball. Having said that, in my experience the one thing most likely to make punters think you're not a very good band is a drummer that can't play in time, can't properly do fills, plays too many fills, plays too loud or gets too drunk... or all of the above. :)

Edited by discreet
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If you’re half decent, you should be able to make any old piece of crap sound okayish.

Nobody is home so I thought I’d make a noise. Plugged in a cheap tanglewood les Paul type thing into an old knackered Marshall combo and cranked it up, sounded great! 

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Maybe it depends on how old you are as to how much you appreciate having the things you want. Growing up in the 50's, teenager in the 60's. I think all my clothes were hand-me-downs until my teens. I can remember jeans coming into fashion and wanting a pair of shoes that weren't for school. I envied the kids who had a new bike, mine was a bitsa.

The guitar shop in Brum had 1 Stratocaster on the wall that you were allowed to stare at. Bass cabs were all self built monstrosities. Bass guitars were mostly cheap European models.

So now I really do appreciate having decent gear. I look after it and enjoy it daily.

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I remember many moons ago I was gigging with a  beat up old 90w Carlsboro Combo and an old Encore P Bass which was surprisingly nice to play cost me £100 for both amp and bass....a good friend and fellow bassist was gigging with his band with a £1000 Ampeg stack and a Musicman Bass of about a grand and he would often compliment me on my sound and say he had all this expensive gear and mine was cheapo budget second hand crap but sounded better than him lol.....I would say its all in the fingers....feel is everything.

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I I use a small amount of compression annd a bit of drive usually. Tonight I will go with nothing biut a flat amp from a passive bass at open mic and see if I can hack it.

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I don't like having to search for a good sound. I just want to plug in and it's there. IME it's easier to do that with good, well matched, gear.

Getting a good bass sound isn't about obsessing about the "sound in your head". Depending on how good your imagination is "the sound in your head" has an equal chance of making you sound completely crap as it has of making you sound good. Self delusion is a dangerous thing. I've seen players who think they're getting the best sound ever, who actually sound terrible. It's important that we sound good to others, which means we have to listen to the sound we are actually making in conjunction with the sound they are making. If you want an "extreme" bass sound then you have made a very small target for yourself. For a more traditional bass sound just focus on not sounding bad and you'll sound great in a band.

You'll get more gigs by being a good player. So what you play is always more important than how you sound.

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there are no other basses that have all the features of my custom Shukers, so yes it does matter for me.

Does it matter for the punters? I think so, they may not know why 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' doesn't sound as good played on a normal 4 string - no drop D - but they will notice.

Same as the metal solo's I needed a 2 octave neck for. The punters will hear the difference if they are played an octave lower.

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