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Tone Chasing


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I’ve tried many times to play bass using a pick for a preferred method on some rock songs but I think I’ve discovered a problem … 

 

My finger tone is so huge deep and full ( yet clear ) I don’t think I will ever be happy pick playing purely on the less full sound. 
 

Has anyone else discovered they have an unusually full deep finger tone sound ( maybe it’s playing a soft touch for speed, or my big old digits )

 

Baffled to why so many great bass players in rock use a pick and are happy with the less than full tone or do I have a unique tone perhaps ? 

Im happy to not pick but not being able to even get close to a full deep tone I think it’s fingers only for me 

Maybe up my speed technique too so the pick need is gone ?

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Pick playing definitely has it's place, but I find I can be much more articulate with finger playing. Some of the faster songs I totally like to angle my hand straight down towards the frets and dig in to get that nice clicky clacky sound that I absolutely love. But in some of the slower or more chilled songs, I can almost pluck the strings for that lovely smoothe deep full tone. I just can't get anything like that amount of control with a pick. 

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33 minutes ago, Newfoundfreedom said:

Pick playing definitely has it's place, but I find I can be much more articulate with finger playing. Some of the faster songs I totally like to angle my hand straight down towards the frets and dig in to get that nice clicky clacky sound that I absolutely love. But in some of the slower or more chilled songs, I can almost pluck the strings for that lovely smoothe deep full tone. I just can't get anything like that amount of control with a pick. 

Smooth and deep full tone, yep that’s my finger tone. Impossible to get close using a pick as I’ve tried.

 

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, nilebodgers said:

It always sounds thin and clacky when I try playing with a pick. I’d like to be able to do it, but it just doesn’t work for me.

How does Nate in Foo Fighters get a full tone ( Ashdown user ) and pick player ? 
 

Mine is definitely not full, I can make it bassy but that’s different to full 

Edited by BassAdder27
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I don't think there's a right or wrong way, whatever you prefer, it is possible to get a deep tone with a pick, Macca and Carol Kaye for instance, well I think they do.

I prefer a pick, I think it cuts thought the mix better and suits the style of music I play (punk generally) and having converted from the dark side that is what I was used to, and I've not had enough reason to change

can of worms.jpg

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Perhaps using a ton of compression would help ? 
 

There must be a reason that fingers bring out more of the fundamental for longer ( slow attack ) and hence we hear this full bass tone 

I can achieve the same bass EQ with a pick but it’s not as complete a sound if that makes sense, down to fast pick attack on the string I guess 

In drumming comparisons it’s like the felt pad on a bass drum pedal ( finger ) compared to the plastic ? bass pedal pad .. ( pick ) fast and bright bass tone 

 

Not trying to re- invent anything but curious to why so many pick players don’t miss that fullness of the tone yet can still be punchy and bright 

 

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3 hours ago, BassAdder27 said:

How does Nate in Foo Fighters get a full tone ( Ashdown user ) and pick player ? 
 

Mine is definitely not full, I can make it bassy but that’s different to full 

The Quarterpounder pickups I reckon must have a big influence on that. Not sure if he uses the Shape feature as well, but those QPs are very full on the low-end, plus have a good amount of highs so maybe he doesn`t have a lot of treble added in.

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My experience over the years of playing with both fingers and a plectrum is that to get a similar tone when switching between the 2 techniques is to use a thicker plectrum. For me, a 2.0mm plectrum retains the depth of tone you get from playing with fingers but has some extra bite in the high end. 

 

Not all plectrums sound the same - I find that the thinner the plectrum, the thinner the bass tone is.

And conversely, the thicker your plectrum the thicker your tone. 

 

In my experience anything under 1.0mm just makes the bass sound thinner and more guitar like. For year I used 1.5mm which have more tonal weight than anything under 1.0mm, but once I'd tried 2.0mm I  knew I'd found the balance that works when switching between the 2 techniques without losing the depth and weight of the bass tone. 

 

These are my current go to plectrum, virtually impossible to drop and they don't suck any low end from your sound. 

Jim Dunlop 450P2.00 Prime Grip Delrin 500 Picks, 2 mm

 

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Posted (edited)

Ok with the following EQ adjustments I’m getting close ( I think ) 

 

Using my ABM600 head 

 

Pull down 340hz completely to fatten sound.

Back off main mids slightly ( adjust to be heard in band context ) 

Engage Dynamic Compressor and set at 3 o clock ( lots of compression) 

Pbass tone backed off slightly and use a JD Nylon 1.5mm pick 


That is starting to sound nearer to want I’m chasing and the Compressor seems to be playing a valuable part to removing the pick attack 

Edited by BassAdder27
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5 minutes ago, BassAdder27 said:

That is starting to sound nearer to want I’m chasing and the Compressor seems to be playing a valuable part to removing the pick attack 

 

It could well be. Some compressors can darken your tone depending on what type they are (VCA, Optical, FET etc) and whether they're multi-band or not. The low frequencies in a bass signal have much more energy than the high frequencies, so assuming it's a single band compressor, when the signal crosses the threshold the compression clamps down on everything and pulls the highs and lows down equally by the ratio value. This results in a perceived loss of high end frequencies. It's not a fault, it's just how some comps work. If you're using the compression all the time you can just EQ some treble back in if you want it :)

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Posted (edited)

The Ashdown ABM600 onboard compressor  isn’t great but it shows that a compressor with fast attack may work 

So which one to buy as a pedal  ??? 
I did try the Ampeg Opto but they don’t have fast attack times so didn’t see the improved tone 

Edited by BassAdder27
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One thing to consider may be the old maple/rosewood thing. I know many say there’s no difference but at our last rehearsal I used two identical Precisions, same year, same set up, same string make/gauge/age and the difference was quite amazing. The rosewood bass being much deeper, the maple in contrast fitting more “in” with the rest of the band but def not having so much low end push to it, so might be worth looking into?

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2 hours ago, Lozz196 said:

One thing to consider may be the old maple/rosewood thing. I know many say there’s no difference but at our last rehearsal I used two identical Precisions, same year, same set up, same string make/gauge/age and the difference was quite amazing. The rosewood bass being much deeper, the maple in contrast fitting more “in” with the rest of the band but def not having so much low end push to it, so might be worth looking into?

I do have both so I can compare the two .. thanks for the advice 

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2 hours ago, BassAdder27 said:

The Ashdown ABM600 onboard compressor  isn’t great but it shows that a compressor with fast attack may work 

So which one to buy as a pedal  ??? 
I did try the Ampeg Opto but they don’t have fast attack times so didn’t see the improved tone 

 

I don't have any recent experience with the onboard Ashdown compressors so I can't comment. But I'm not surprised that you didn't get on with the Ampeg Opto-comp if you're looking for a fast attack because as its name implies, it's an Optical circuit that is doing the compressing. The main characteristic of optical comps is that they have an inherently slow attack time, relatively speaking, and tend to swell into the note as it crosses the threshold. They are often used on bass to make the tone bloom more, as it seems to be called, but like you I don't care for them personally.

 

If you want a fast attack, one that you can use that to help clip the initial transient, which in turn reduces the initial attack of the note thus softening it a tough, you'd be better off looking for a FET designed unit. I believe the Cali 76 is a FET based circuit but not 100% on that!  The Boss LMB-3 is also a FET based comp and a very highly underrated pedal in its own right. Over the years I've been all round the house with compressors and got down lost down the rabbit hole of multi-band comps with and without parallel compression as well as loads of pedal and a couple of rack units along the way. But I started with the Boss (if we ignore the hideous experience of my Trace Elliot SMX years, the dual band comp on that being about its only saving grace) years ago and thought to myself "oh, it's only a Boss, there must be much better options out there" so I moved it on and spent the next few years going through as many different comp options as I could get my hands on. Then I picked up another one a couple of years ago as a cheapy pedal to use at home. It was then I realised that on some level I'd been trying to get every other comp to sound like the Boss! It has a fixed attack and release, but they are perfect IMO, they're pretty quick (to my ear) but they are spot on for keeping the transient in check while still allowing the character of the bass to come through. They're dead cheap to pick up used, really simple to use and just sound great, big and punchy and they help the bass sit just where it should be in the mix. 

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35 minutes ago, Stub Mandrel said:

Just a thought, but fingerstyle players seem to wander further from the bridge than pick players. Or is it my imagination?

I'm not a typical pick player (I'm primarily fingers but can pick as well) I play right up on the fingerboard sometimes and everywhere in between. 

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, Stub Mandrel said:

Just a thought, but fingerstyle players seem to wander further from the bridge than pick players. Or is it my imagination?

I’m a finger player can’t hold a pick  due to an injury and I do wander all over the plucking/picking area depending on what tone I want. But I don’t anchor my thumb on a pickup, it’s floating and a mute too 

Edited by Bunion
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7 hours ago, BassAdder27 said:

Ok so I’ve ordered the Boss LMB3 pedal to try and see how that works to achieve the same result 

 

Hopefully it'll work for you as well as it works for me! And as with a comps, you're likely to notice or feel it more when playing along with other musicians or to some recorded music. Just ignore the Enhance control knob as it can get noisy, although I sometimes dial in just a little, around 8 o'clock, to add a slight presence to one of my darker sounding basses. 

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Good on ya for chasing tone.  I've only done this in the last few weeks and it's amazing (though I guess hardly surprising) what a difference even a tiny knob tweak can make. And pickup height off the strings.  That's something I've never bothered with before but had to get involved with after fitting active EMG pups to a HB JB40FL. Their height is critical. Relief, string height off board, strings... so many factors.

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2 hours ago, lownote said:

Good on ya for chasing tone.  I've only done this in the last few weeks and it's amazing (though I guess hardly surprising) what a difference even a tiny knob tweak can make. And pickup height off the strings.  That's something I've never bothered with before but had to get involved with after fitting active EMG pups to a HB JB40FL. Their height is critical. Relief, string height off board, strings... so many factors.

 

Set up is a big variable. I wonder how many 'weak' pickups were set too low, or badly balanced odd sounding basses had pickups too high?

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