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THE 7 SECRETS OF A GREAT BASS TONE
- Published on Mar 30, 2023 veröffentlicht
- In this lesson we're talking TONE.
And no... I'm not going to be talking about how "the tone is all in your hands".
Instead I'm going to break down the 7 specific things that make up your bass tone - exactly what they are, and the differences between them.
Knowing these 7 bass tone essentials is going to help you understand:
- Exactly how to dial in the tone you want.
- Why you might not be happy with your current tone (and what to do about it).
- What things you'll need to bare in mind when purchasing your next bass.
- And way more...
As always, see you in the shed...
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Comments • 1 583
As a guitar player that dabbles in bass, I'm constantly surprised at how many different tones you can get from the same bass and amp combination, and how many of them are great sounds. So many options.
And if you have always played guitar with a pick, you may be surprised at how many of those tones are available to you with the same settings, just how you touch the strings is different.
My bass teacher didn't change his strings in like years and his strings sounded freaking fantastic. That man is a mystery.
I'm not sure how familiar many arewith the idea of a string library. One of my teachers had a box of manilla envelopes of string sets labeled what they were on and how long they'd been there when he opened a new set of strings he'd start a new envelope and put the empty packet in it. The strings he took off he would boil then oil and air dry and put in their envelope. That way he had dark mellowed sets to pick from when he needed them. Not all situations require bright new strings. I like a good set of broken in strings. I've got a bass right now that has had the same set of strings since 2006 I wipe them with a rag with wd40 on occasion but there is something about that muddy low tone.
Some great tips in there, Scott!
I would have switched #5 Wood for #5 Effects. Wood might be important if oyu play accoustically, but electric, it makes minor difference compared to the other 6 (7 if you add the effects).
Left hand is what you’ve learned, right hand is who you are...
@Levi Figueira ACtuALlY… a piano has many strings.
That's accurate for most!
This hitted me on so many levels, I'm going to say this every time it's possible
@Rick CigarBoxGuitar I'm a leftie playing right handed :)
1: Get a decent bass
2: get a decent amp
3: practice till the skin on your fingertips develops a callous (probably the most important part of creating YOUR individual bass sound)
4 practice your technique to avoid unwanted noise/tones through muting of strings not being played.
New strings are important only if that's your preferred sound. My fav bass player of all time never changed his strings (Bernie Edwards from chic) the result is a wicked low/mid tone with all of the brightness taken out.
The rest is down to your musical skill and knowledge
@John The King Guitars give you 'on the surface' calluses. Basses give you deeper ones (extending further into the skin) so your bass calluses will be softer on the surface. Does that make any sense? I know this because when I play the guitar more often than bass, the callouses are razor thin and can be peeled off every couple of days. Bass calluses don't peel off 😑
Some times strings just rust after 1 year or nickel layer just goes off of them, I hate play on such strings. Also for slap new strings are important and you just do practice more on a new one's.
Frequent strings change on any guitar is just a power of marketing so we suckers spend more and more. Frequent bass strings change ... lol joke
For some reason I only get calluses when i play guitar and i dont with bass
Sherman Lambert I’d also like to know
Scott I love your passion for what you're doing and you're right! I want to add that in the quality of the sound that we are listening in records or in live situations big part of this are sound engineers and the equipment that they have plus what you have... Marcus knows a lot about sound production !! The rig that he has on stage is what a sound engineer would have in a studio recording situation..
Great playing and tone, as always. How on earth do people give thumbs down to your vids? Crazy.
Action/string height (in conjunction with PUP height) are also important elements of tone. Some players like that grindy, buzzy, low action tone (Marcus Miller's early tones like on Sanborn's, "Straight to the Heart", or It seems two handed tapping players like their action low), while higher action (depending on the bass) can give you a thumper tone.
One factor that was not mentioned is the acoustics of the room where you play: its size, and the amount of echo in it. That has a bigger effect on the bass than on many other instruments.
I'm still all about active EQ. I've always liked the brighter, punchier tone I get out of my active EQ, especially with a tonal difference that just shines thru. That said, I think ADDING an active circuit to bass is definitely a no-no, opposed to not buying a bass with an active EQ. Big difference. The SIRE basses have LOTS of variations available, especially with how you can split the pickups on some of their basses.
BTW, my active EQ tends to be pretty neutral unless I'm driving more towards one pick-up than the other or looking for a tonal difference towards bright or bass
i used to be a fan of active , until i realized i could get a EQ pedal that gives me way better control for way cheaper than getting an active circut or a completely active set of pick ups. found an EQ pedal on amazon for 35 bucks , MASSIVE difference on my two passive P-basses. i still got an active bass , but since getting the EQ pedal i've actually had to start using the decibal cut button on my amp when running my active bass through the eq pedal.
Got a Reverend Decision a year ago. It's first passive bass I've ever owned and am now in love with changing the tone per song, even mid-jam. Fingers vs pick also a mega huge difference on the same exact pickup/tone selection. Never liked the active p/u's, I just dealt with it for some reason.
Clear and sorted. Thanks for some down to earth pointers. 🕊🎸
Thank you very much, Scott, for this video. This may be the most important lesson for any bass player and most valuable for how to choose your bass(es).
#2, I haven't changed the round wound strings on my main bass in 5 years, and I love it. I make sure my hands are clean so the strings don't get all mucky though. But I love the warm, worn in tone they give and the smooth feeling when I play it.
Yes thanks Scott. Exactly what I was thinking the same. I have a Honer 5 string I prefer to play passively. I've never put it through any special amp, but I love the range of sounds I could get with the active switch on. My new Ibanez four string is active only, but I have some experience with both active and passive playing. I do like the sound of the Ibanez when it's active. Of course pick up wise it's jazz and precision each pick up I believe has it's own volume. I guess it's a master volume and tone control that make up the other two. Which something I'm not used to.
Thank you Scott. Having played bass for a while now, I've learned all of those points you listed via trial and error. It's why I've sold (and am selling) all my active basses (4, 5, 6, and 7 string) and play passive 4-strings for the most part these days (church worship). One thing I would have liked to see is what does one do when the playing situation is without an amp - i.e. when the bass signal goes straight to the board (passive or active DI). That being said, this is a great video and I plan on passing it along to our worship leader as a tool for young up-and-coming bass players. Cheers.
The best bass speaker sizes I experience playing during the 1960s was size 12 and 15 inched Jensen speakers. However there was a time I plug my bass guitar into this guy 18 inched bass piggyback amplifier, and that bass tone was extremely full clean and rich with no distortions. We were in a High School auditorium with thousands of people.
I’m surprised you don’t mention compression... while pedals & effects are a different subject, compression is a huge part of my tone, to the point where I have one compressor on all the time, and add others for different songs. Also the active EQ onboard my bass does make it very easy to shape my tone without turning my back on the audience; you shouldn’t dismiss it outright like that.
I have to say that I love my active bass. I disagree with active being a NO. It doesn't fix all your problems although some people think so but I'd say that passive sounds more human and living and active sounds more like a cyborg. It's your job to choose but I prefer by bass active.
Yes I althoug Like my aktive Sound of my Cort Bass.
My bass is always active, no switch offs Unfortunately
As a guitar player, this video made my head EXPLODE!
Amazing video, helped me understand bass a little better
I usually like a bit of a punk/crunchy tone, but recently I’ve been dying for a clean really Wolfy sound like jack Bruce on the first cream album, I thought about just buying an EB-O but I’d rather just get as close as I can get to replicating, this helped man thanks
Others mentioned that already, but I really would like to hear you talking about cables. Same bass, same amp, just different cables. After having tried all the cables from the local guitar shops, I ended up with VOVOX, a Swiss product that is also popular among some pros like Steve Swallow or John Pattitucci. Makes a huge difference in my opinion.
Nice job making this FUN. Playing electric instruments seems to require a science degree sometimes but you make it approachable. I think electric guitar is more difficult in terms of sound. Thanks again!
Seeing your videos in addition to Amos Williams' TesseracT playthroughs have inspired me to learn bass. I starting listening to demos of different pickup styles, and I love the sound you get from soap bar humbuckers. I have a Jackson JS3VQ coming in the mail in a few days, I love the sound of the passive Jackson soapbars. It has a poplar body, maple top, and an active EQ (but with passive pickups). I love the tone of it in demos, I can't wait to get my hands on it in person! I ordered a used Danville 80 watt 12" amp combo to practice through.
Secret 1: Get a P Bass Secret 2: If you can't get a P Bass, get a Jass Bass Secret 3: If you can't get a P or J, get a P modified to be a PJ Secret 4: Learn to play bass Secret 5: Fingers when live, Pick when Recording Secret 6: Quit and manage bass players who are better than you (which is most of them) haha
@James Davis Amen, Brother! The learning never stops!
Got stuck at Secret #4 ... (Shame, 'cause #5 was a good one.)
I totally agree with you on these things. Although I do use electronic bass. It's just my style of playing and I appreciate it for its punchiness. My amp is quite powerful at 350W with 2 - 10's and a horn. It's warm, punchy and not muddy. the EQ is flat with a minor tweak depending on which bass I use. I'm in the accelerator program and it's getting my brain to a whole 'nother level. Thanks so much Scott. I appreciate what you're doing and I've been looking a long time and finally found it. Cheers. B>)
For bass I would say that the room you are listening in is way up there in this list
because alot of places like rehearsal rooms have room modes that can eliminate or enhance bass frequencies
So agree about the tone pot on active basses. Got an Audere preamp on an American Standard Deluxe Jazz 5 with a passive tone pot. Very useful.
It boggles the mind when you start thinking about tone! So many killer examples, from Chris Squire to Jamerson, Entwistle to Geddy Lee, Marcus Miller to Bootsy Collins, Jaco to Louis Johnson, the list goes on and on! All I can say is TRUST YOUR EARS! Play what you hear!
My perfect onboard eq setup is a passive tone control and a active bass control. I've never felt the need to boost the treble but i do like to boost the bass on occasion .
I liked your 6 week old string sound better than the new strings.
Jamerson would boil clean is bass strings!!...
@Chris Hayworth I will go you one further. They are more alive sounding. People correlate "alive" with fresh and new. Bright. They mean "lively". Dead strings are more "alive". More subtlety readily on tap. I pulled out my ofd reliable last night. A Yamaha FG-441s. My favorite. It has the magic my hands and ears like. I've been playing my new, handmade Yamaha from Japan for the last couple of months. Trying to break it in, 25 years worth in a few weeks. Which is not gonna happen. It was such a relief to pick up my old guitar with the crack that runs from the bridge, to the bout and its Nick Drake level dead strings. It was like the playing part of me had been on vacation. Granted, I was very stoned, having tested a vape pen and accidentally inhaling for too long, thinking it wasn't working. Oops... but I thought: "No wonder these strings and guitar sound so good. They have so much of my DNA on them, they are basically conscious at this point..." and I had that acid style moment, where I was like "OMG! old stings are on the verge of consciousness!"
In reality, they are old and caked with dead skin and other assorted filth, but I'm going to pretend they are alive for awhile and try to develop a dialog :)
I seriously say the older strings sound best. They always sound softer to me.
Of course, same hear. Dirty, strong tone vs clean, cutting, glassy one. I'm all for the first one.
Btw... Boiling them brand new does "lower the bright. Guess they expand a bit to be the equivalent of "worn".
1. Fingers - Multi-faceted aspects to this, but ALL tone comes from the fingers.
a. Consistent right hand technique - Whether you play 1, 2, 3, 4 fingers, with a pick, slap and pop, tap, etc. each attack needs to be uniform as well as volume. This will develop consistent control over your dynamics.
b. Point of attack - Over which pickup/where on the string you play your notes.
c. Technique - Slap, pop, tap, pick, finger, harmonics, etc. Each of these has a different tone in how the string is attacked.
d. Which "version" of the note you play - 10th fret on the low E string, is the same as 5th fret on the A string, is the same as an open D string, yet they all sound different. Depending on what you're going for, this position choice can make a WORLD of difference.
e. Remove buzz/clanking - Fret buzz is WAAYYY too accepted by the bass community. There are -SOME- circumstances where it fits the style, but for the most part it sounds like garbage. Either your left-hand finger placement is off, your right hand technique is too rough, or you don't have a proper setup on your bass. Practice at slower tempos to ensure each note is clean and articulate before you speed things up. If it starts buzzing again, slow down and try again.
2. Mid-range control - A lot of tone from a good bass sound comes from a balanced mid-range frequency spread. It helps fit you into the mix so that you sound more full and not just boomy. Best way to tell if you don't have good mid-range balance is to take a solo/play lines with higher notes. If it sounds like your bass just disappears in the mix with any note higher than the D string, you've got bad mid-range balance. Don't default to the "smiley-face" eq setting, play around with those mids!
3. Mixing your tone alone - You could get the beefest, coolest bass tone practicing at your house and then it turns to absolute mud when you play with a band. This is because there is only so much room in the "sonic space" where frequencies can vibrate and a lot of instruments cross into each other's territories. I used to be in an experimental, progressive, groove metal band and I actually had to use extra high end to cut through everything. By itself it didn't sound great, but with the band it was butter.
4. Not knowing your environment - Bass waves propagate in all the worst ways! Every SINGLE venue will adjust the tone of your bass without touching a single knob. I HATED this while gigging and couldn't understand what was happening and why. There are several ways to combat this, most of which involves being prepared to adjust your tone knobs on your bass, but the biggest one to save you this headache is...
5. COMPRESSION - The secret sauce to make your baby bass sound like a Big Mac. The bass has a MASSIVE dynamic range and can be a huge pain in the ass for all mixing scenarios, but compression helps smooth this out. It took me a long time to understand what the hell it is and what it does, but the short tale is... it makes the louds quieter and the quiets louder, which equals MORE SOUND CONSISTENCY. This really helps with that environment issue.
Everything else in my opinion centers around personal preference of flavor, but across the board no matter what style, type of bass, quality of woods or electronics, types of pickups, or amps used, these are the things that you ALWAYS have in your control to adjust and will ALWAYS affect your tone for the better, no matter your personal style.
Love the lesson! I've been playing for over 40 years now, and would only disagree with a couple of items. Maybe I am old school, but I love the sound of a 15". The multiple 10" cabs sound great until you get down on the E string....then...not so much, imo. Also, my favorite gigging bass ever was a Gibson RD Artist, simply because of the flexibility given by the active electronics. It was, however, crazy heavy, so I ended up using my '63 Jazz most of the time. Now, I am back with an active bass (G & L) because of the neck. To be fair, I don't use the active switch all the time.
My dream set up for tone would be the Gibson, through a Music Man head (tube power) through a combination of 10's and 15's, or maybe one of those old folded horn 2x15 cabs.
Please keep up the good work!
I have an active bass and a passive bass. They're very different, neither is better. To cut through a real heavy band and using a heap of distortion I find active better but for dirty rock tone, I love my passive Thunderbird
Also the thing that I've been missing is the position of the picking hand.
Granted, it was mentioned briefly in the 'fingers' segment, but for me it would be a secret on its own. Exploring with that rather than going with what felt natural made a universe of difference for me.
As always I love all your videos ! Really appreciate your insights
“You want to be plugging into a decent amp. You don’t want to be, you know, plugging into a hamster cage”. A lesson for us all I feel
Minor correction. The neutral setting on an amp depends on the design. There are amps that have passive EQ stacks that are subtractive only. And for them the neutral position is actually all dials set at max. In the same way that a passive tone pot on the bass is neutral when fully open and not taking away any high end.
Other amps have active EQ systems. And generally these amps have a neutral position at half-mast. The EQ allowing both addition and subtraction just like on the active EQ pots of a bass guitar.
If in doubt check the documentation for your amp to see how the EQ section works.
step #8 using a pick vs fingers definitely affects tone. I can't believe Scott doesn't mention that. Also, about strings: round wound vs flat wound. And Rotosounds definitely sound different from Ernie Ball.
I'm so glad I found this video. I'm even more inspired to experiment with my bass playing now
What an excellent Video and Scott your so right. Wish someone had been around to lay out all this hard earned knowledge decades ago. Probably the best video in the world. Well close!
string height might be underestimated here... there's no perfect height for all styles! i.e. you might want the strings to buzz a little when your plucking really hard to accentuate certain notes. however for slap you'd prefer a little more height for snappier pops. all depends on how you actually pluck the strings in the end. for me it makes a big difference and i tend to have my basses set up differently for various styles (even with thicker/lighter strings).
I like how the list on the board magically appears at 2:08, then disappears around 2:28
Gina Martinez just did the same... ugh
hahaha! was wondering the same.
It was a big suprise for me, that the second point were "strings" 😂
I think it's because he didn't change strings until the end, and then edited it back.
Yes, definitely a tone pot. Even if it's not used (and I use the tone pot on my basses but almost never on a guitar) it being there loads the pickups differently and takes out most of the resonant frequency spike before cutoff frequency of the pickups.
Thank you Scott, amazing short version to understand what makes a tone
Ahh! Now I wish someone had told me some of these things waaay earlier 😂 Thanks Scotty ✨
Thank you Scott for the in-depth on bass tone very helpful.
Scott your playing, your knowledge, your personality and your ability to get across what you are trying to get across to your audience, are simply like a cool welcoming OASIS, in a stinky, sweltering and dangerous DESERT of hilarious, horrifying and frankly near-impossible-to-watch YT bass clips.
Question - Do you EVER have an issue with disparate volumes and sound between strings on a bass?
I guess it's a curse. I seem to have similar issues on nearly every bass and elec guitar that I have. Not always the G. It just seems like any issues on bass or guitar. Usually the E's, D's on guitar and the E and G on 4 stg basses.
I have ruined several pickups (elec guitars) trying to move single coil pole pieces that aren't intended to move)
For instance, an 8 year old Fender AmStd Jazz Bass that I just acquired...I have good amp (Mesa mPulse/Ampeg 4x10), have tried new strings, different new strings, every setup adjustment I can come up with; saddles and truss rod, pickups (it IS a J Bass) snugness of every screw on the bass, etc...and the G is just wildly louder, wildly brighter and has wildly less low end fullness, than the D, A, or E. And the E sounds great, like the A and D, but is mighty loud in comparison. THAT I can deal with. But the G just sticks out like a sore thumb. Super irritating. I play with a plectrum and fingers. Mostly plectrums.
This old dog is too set in my ways to believe that this would be my technique. It just isn't. Been playing bass forEVER.
Have you ever had basses with this type of issue? How did YOU deal with it? (other than just getting rid of the thing? which my old friend tim pierce told me I should do when I told him about a high dollar strat type guitar that I have with issues on the 2 E strings. JUST GET RID OF IT! easy for HIM to say)
Keep up the awesome work sir
I think Scott, really nailed the 7 most important ones here. But If I had to add an 8th one, I'd say it's cleanliness of technique and length of fingernails. Tone magically tightens up with a cleaner technique because of reduced fret noise and/or cross string vibrations...
@Aji P i also made my own bass out of poplar with a duel truss carvin neck and use hot dimarzio j bass replacement pick ups , so i don't mean stock.
The amp must bring out the actual acoustic tone of the wood
After all bass generally doesn't have high gain distortion
It is much more of an acoustic instrument than guitar
In rock situations
Some rock players even prefer higher action to get more tone
If you play on your finger tips you will get more tone
@John McMinn n
I think amp and speaker
I also agree Active is not the be all to end all
In fact active is over rated
Trace elliot is a great bass tone
Peavey does a damn good job at simulating it with is newer digital modeling amps
I couldn t be happier with my cheap peavy vs a 1000$ rack and a heavy refrigerator size amp
The guys in my band can not believe how great the speaker technology is with new peavey
I think this is supposed to be part of "fingers"
If you're considering active, a useful comparison to try plugging into a buffered bypass pedal rather than straight into your amp, if there's an improvement, then you'll probably benefit from going active. If your tone changes when using a wireless system and you swap and change between cable and wireless, going active will give you a consistent tone.
There are some awful active EQ circuits though, I'd rather have a simple buffer than a bad eq.
Id you have an active system and it sounds brighter an more agressive than the sound you like with a ~6metre cable, put a 470pF capacitor between the hot to the active buffer/eq and maybe a 500kOhm resistor in parallel with that. This should simulate the capacitance of the cable and a lower impedance amp imput than the active requires.
Excellent video Scott. I agree on all these, especially the fingers and wood parts. LOL. I play a Fender USA Dimension 4 string and it pretty much sounds any way I want it to and I never change a setting and don't use any pedals. It's all in the fingers. :-)
Such good sound advice! Thank you Scott.
Great video, Scott, thank you! One thing: you put wood in there as a tone factor, which it is, but a less controllable one unless you want to get a different bass, which may or may not be a deal breaker for some people. But if we're addressing that level of factors, shouldn't finish also be a factor? A hard, glossy finish is going to sound at least moderately different than, say, a tung-oil finish. And along similar lines, how about bolt-on neck vs. neck-through designs? Along with wood, those may all sort of fall under the larger category of "less-alterable physical characteristics of your bass" - but they all play a role in shaping that tone.
Nice lesson! A lot of what you said applies to a 6 string guitar as well.
How you set the gain (amount of breakup) and compression (none being the default option) will have huge effect.
My #1 is always use Rotosound round wound Swing 66 strings. They were made for Entwistle, Gave Chris Squire and Geddy Lee great sound. You need to play carefully; the round wound strings are very unforgiving to fingers slipping on the string. Using tome and neck pickup, I can get them to sound close to a flat wound, but I cannot makes flat wound sound like a round wound. I also generally prefer active setups, but I would override this rule if playing one of the new RICs with the triangular pickups, They just sound great the way they are. My BTB575 (with Bartolini II pickups and preamp) with the bass up a little, and high end a little less; for the most part I leave the mids alone. I had it plugged into the passive input of a 400-watt Peavey amp, and it sounded like an angry ent; it gave out a wooden growl that knocked a decoration off the wall, and I could easily be heard. I actually had a few people tell me they likes the sound of my bass. It didn't sound good in the active input.I now also have an SR1305 with Nordstrom big singles), and I like to play it in active mode through my practice Tech 21 VT bass or in performances through Mark Bass little tube 600 head and a Mark Bass 4x10 vented in the front, and a Peavey 1x15 ported in the front. Again, I followed rule #1 on both basses. I prefer the sound of the GTG a bit more, but the wide neck sometimes is hard and my small finger joints. The SD neck is slender and fast, but it's a bolt-on neck, and I generally prefer neck-through guitars and basses. The SR is also a lot easier to play comfortably for a long time.
Hey man, great video! Totally agree with you, except partially with the active pickups... I played passive bass for some years now, and this year I got myself set of EMG Js.. Man, they sound really incredible both when jamming and in the mix. However, I don't use them in an active circuit, the pickups themselves are active, but the volume-tone circuit is passive. Yes, they give you the option for an active EQ, but I was skeptic... (as I was anti active pickups and circuits for a long time). The pickups are very bright (Marcus Miller bright) and the tone pot is VERY useful; they tend to compress a little bit compared to standard Fender Js, but that helps me stand better in the mix. Especially as I use to record with just DI and preamp. Of course, fingers are paramount, how clear you play and stop the strings, the way you lock with the drums, etc...!!
Regarding where you pluck the string, i.e. towards the bridge or towards the neck, Jack Casady refers to that as the "speaking length of the string". Very important ingredient of dynamic playing on bass - or guitar for that matter.
Also, take into account, tone wood makes a huge difference when acoustic basses / guitars are concerned.
Dude.... Awesome, awesome information. First time hearing someone's opinion about active and passive. Good stuff, thanks
Nice video. Very helpful (and reminds me that I should put a new set of strings on!)
But after watching it, I have some questions: you mentioned the importance of the tone pot and the EQ section on the amp. But then, you also said that the active circuit does not help: you said it gives a different tone, but not a better tone.
Nevertheless, isn't the active circuit just like the EQ? And isn't the treble knob of the active circuit sort of like the tone pot? (I say "sort of" because I don't think a tone pot can boost the treble,but when we turn the treble knob down from the neutral position, isn't it functioning like a tone pot, which cuts the high?)
So, all in all, my question is that, what is the difference between the EQ on the preamp and the EQ of the active circuit? And my second question is, what's the difference between the treble knob of the EQ and the tone pot?
Thanks a lot for all your great videos. You are definitely the best bass teacher, Scott.
@Jonathan Herrera Thanks for explanation. I wonder, than, if we want to achieve the same "effect" of the tone knob, we will need to adjust probably all 3 (bass, mid treble) knobs of the EQ?
Couple of points to clarify here. The "active" preamp on a bass is similar in general ways to the preamp section of the average bass head, BUT its place in the signal chain is important. The preamp on the bass is "buffering" the bass's signal, lowering significantly its output impedance and thus diminishing the negative impact on fidelity of the instrument cable's capacitance. Well designed active basses are much less sensitive to cable length and quality as compared to passive basses. Secondly, the tone knob is substantially different in its effect on the bass's frequency response than the typical "treble" control on a preamp, whether in the bass or in an amp. The tone knob's performance is the product of a complex relationship between the pickups, the pots, and the capacitor in the circuit. The result, though, is a fairly shallow slope lowpass filter with a slight resonant peak at the cutoff. The average treble control, by contrast, is either a shelving control at a fixed (often quite high) cutoff frequency or a wide-Q bell filter at a relatively high center frequency. Either way, the impact on frequency response (and thus, tone) is often audibly quite different
you make great content, thank you for that. In regards to active pickups. It is my understanding is the active electronics aside from the tone controls are a low gain with very high input impedance amplifier(Hi-Z) . By having the pickups drive a high input impedance you mitigate the inductances and capacitances created by the pickup coil or at least change the frequency of the resonances of it to be outside the range of audio that is being produced .This will even out the frequency response and flatten the tone. You can make cheap pickups better with active electronics . The reason the standard bas or guitar amp is not super Hi-z is because that makes them more sensitive to voltage than current which makes it more sensitive to noise , that is why microphones are low-z. you can avoid the noise by placing the hi-z imput stage of the amplification right next to the source in which in this case is the pickups hence putting active electronics inside the guitar. If I were to design a pickup and active electronics system . I would design the pickups with less windings for less inductance which means less resonances, but would be very weak. This would be a terrible pickup to be used passively , it would only work well with active electronics. I don't think switching the active electronics on and off with a pickup that works well as passive pickups is a good A/B comparison for active pickups.
Yo Scott, great video. Many aspects to tone for sure. Got me a Sire V7 ash on ash in sunburst I know you know how awesome they are but I only recently twigged the tone pot works in active and passive modes. My poor Steinberger Xl2 has had to take a break, funny getting use to a headstock again. BTW... You didn't mention carbon graphite, but that's a kinda niche thing. Respect, Brian.
I would also say number 8 Pedals, there are some effects (which contribute to your tone) that you can't get out of an amp, and a pedal could give it to you.
Great video, I finally understood pickups 🔥 love the content also.
Thanks for this guiding list Scott. How about low vs high action set up. As beginner I’m kind of torn between little buzz in low action and easier playability in high action. Does action height matter in tone?
Hey! It sure can affect the tone.. Check this video out where Scott goes through his setup in more detail, I think it'd be useful for you!
#8: Facial Expression.
Bass-Face is key 😂👍🏻
Thanks, I’m none the wiser ! 😂👍
Tone is in the grimace
i actually changed my bass strings yesterday, and am very happy with the sound it gets. I never changed them in 12 years, because i never liked the new sound on an electric guitar... but for my bass this sound is much better
Thank you for playing the same passage for each tone comparison group.
Thanks for tuning in dude!
More you could add : palm mute and string wrap mutes and that bit of foam near the bridge. But compressor really important and as you say EQ. Great job Scott 👍
Being a member of your site and looking at other bass videos and even listening to tv commercials have opened up my ears to pick up diffrent styles of playing. For example Ive noticed you like getting a very raspy sound out of your bass where someone like Jeff Berlin likes a more clean sound. Ive also picked up some beautiful flat wound precision bass tones in many tv commercials where the sound is more like an old tighr upright sound. Alot more of this is in the hands of the player and not in the electronics. Bobby Vega for example gave me renewed respect for playing with a pic. He makes his old fenders sound just beautiful!
The room you're in has a big effect on the sound of your bass out front. Hard surfaces reflect bass and make you sound boomy. Soft surfaces like soft curtains, soft furnishing and crowds of people, soak up low frequencies and stop the bass sounding boomy.
Scalelength actually makes a huge difference. Shorter scalelengths sound quite mellow while longer scalelengths sound clunky, almost bone-y.
This is one of the few thing I believe to be actuall non-bs, opposed to factors like wood-type.
I mean, there is a reason, why the D-string on the 6th fret sounds different than the G-string on the 1st.
I has to be related to the scale length, the gauge or the tension in the strings.
Unfortunatelly, you can't change one without affecting at least one of the others
As a Luthier I build both Active and Passive basses .. the advantage the Active's have is onboard EQ if your AMP or Soundman aren't doing it
fantastic tips as always - thanks, Scott
I am so happy you did this video, I see so many Bass players making crazy Bass decisions lol. It’s all about the Bass Chef.
Totally agree with regards to active circuitry - more trouble than its worth. I don't even keep a battery in my bass.
Um I use active circuitry and I am the bassist and lead vocalist of my hard rock and metal band and it comes handy to help me cut through the mix
This video is fascinating. I've been playing for almost a year now, and it's a regular struggle to get the right tone. I only found out today that my Sterling Music Man Stingray was an active bass, and so the flat battery was *killing* the tone, giving it so much acoustic twang. I have but both the treble and high mid on my Fender Rumble 40 amp to absolute 0, because otherwise it makes the tone feel hollow. I play metal songs, and so while my bass tone is *close* to what I play, it never feels quite right. It's difficult to put it into words, but it never has the same warmth and fullness that yours has.
My biggest problem right now is my five string bass, which is a Lindo PDB 5-String. The B and E strings have *far* too much resonance, vibrating so much it over-rides the notes when playing with open strings. The issue isn't muting, as I've gotten the hang of string muting and anchoring my thumb when need be. The bass only has two nobs, which control the volumes of the two pickups, as it's a passive bass. I keep the equalisation settings on my Fender Rumble 40 the same. What should I do?
I was seeking for my 6 string Bass. And I was sending 3 Basses back tonthe Store, because IT was not my Sound.
At least I found IT in the Bass of CORT.
All Others i didnt Like even with many Tests with AMP and Effekts.
How to unlock the secret tone that makes up bass gods:
Make sure it’s in tune ;)
I think of active as a pre amp that also adds some EQ ing , depending on the brand
Unfortunately a lot of pre amps sound like overdrive distortion
New Peavey VYper amps are fool proof great speaker nice sustain
Hi Scott - So what about neck through versus bolt on? Isn't this a key part of tone?
Hey Scott, good video - you could have mentioned room acoustics because some venues can really kill tone! Maybe a separate video? Cheers Davo
Nice vid! Just to ask, how much does the quality of the cable from bass to amp and, if applicable, from amp to speaker affect tone? Difficult to answer I know - I’ve played with some pretty good ‘cheap’ cables and some pretty rubbish expensive ones. I’m guessing just a case of trying a load and picking your fave as dissecting each cable isn’t an option?
i agree with almost everything, but i would have added scale length instead of wood. the wood does make a difference but its sooooo subtle in a mix that it almost doesnt matter. there are some woods to avoid like pine and plywood that deaden your sustain but otherwise the tone pot basically does what the wood does and then some. by rolling the tone pot 1 or 2 places, you essentially compensate for a different wood. now scale length not only effects your tension and your action, but it changes your needed string girth and therefore tone. a shortscale bass with 105's will be hella floppy and to get a tight string you gotta go like 120's to get any tightness and 120's sound deeper, more mass above the pickup. but for low low tunings you need a long scale so you can get a clean clarity without bridge cables muddying your mix. same amp and pickups and strings on a shorty scale VS quake bass is a HUGE factor and the lower you tune the more difference it makes. also string guage would have been good to mention in the "strings" section. a set of 115's in standard E sounds and plays VERY different than a set of 95's. actually, when i switched to stringjoy strings (not a sponsor...would be nice though, please send me money or strings plz) the available guages changed how i play. i fell in love with monster heavy strings and it changed the tightness, and my attack response is faster, i can lower the action without rattle, beefier sound, and i can play more aggressive without string oscillation. you go hardcore beast mode on a set of 125's in drop A and well, its more like flop-A. your tuning jumps from G# to A# every other slap. you put some 145's on and you can beat the ass off that bass and never drop out of tune.
I play drums and bass and I often play with bassists who cut off so much mid and treble that it's practically inaudible... a woolly burble. So, a note from a drummer: Just cause it's a bass doesn't mean it's all about bass. Remember that unless you're playing solo, your sound is part of a mix and to cut through, to complement what's played alongside you... You may find that 'perfect sound' solo is far from perfect when the other instruments start filling up the mids and highs. If you've only a whisper in that range it'll get absorbed and your sound ends up lacking the definition to cut through (dub being the exception.)
Sometimes it isn't the bassist to blame here, but the soundman who takes all the highs and mids out. I like highs and mids because I have 24 frets worth of notes, some obviously higher and I like the character they bring. A lot of times the mids are cut to avoid a muddy mix, but the highs are cut, too, and when I move up, I can no longer hear myself, which is more than frustrating. I also use a lot of effects, some of them needing those highs and mids, luckily some of those effects, like the synth and shimmer cut through the mix fairly well, others like envelope filters somewhat less so. And you make a fantastic point about where that bassist's tone that they like personally sits in the overall mix! That was a big omission, IMO, from the lesson. Whateverbthe tone, it has to be practical.
Watson's Bubble yes and this is a recent thing that seems to coincide with tether sudden obsession for old P basses.
What do you think about going direct without an amp? I have been experimenting with a Behringer bad DI with a built in amp modeler, and I have been surprisingly pleased with my live sound.
Such great content man you are an inspiration
i can tell this is a fresh video, scott you are improving a lot with your talking style, more dynamic and attractive! well done!
I've got a humbucker on the neck and a precision pickup in the bridge (both EMGX's) and love how it's thick but still punchy. Maybe do a video changing placement of the pickups?
On pickups, woods, etc... there's really no good, better, best. There's only different. Your tone is what works for you. Just remember that what works on stage might not work so well in the studio and vice/versa and of course the different playing styles make a huge difference in how the rest of the setup responds. I also constantly lament those who do not understand that the amp and speakers are as much a part of the instrument as the strings are. More particularly for guitars but also for bass. My bass sounds kinda thin and wimpy played into a DI but through even a relatively low grade amp (but with good, clean circuit paths!), it is a different animal.
I like your advice on how to EQ an amp: „Put everything to 12 o‘clock - not the volume.“ 😂😂😂
@TimTrOn3000 But couldn't you just make '10' louder? 😉
I just replied to my old post...i guess i really agree with me 8D
I. Love how this starts , guitarists think head room is how much overdrive is added to their gainstage. Where as an engineer sees that as fullness of sound , in the sound spectrum .
And headroom is more for keeping clipping out of the mix , so when the mastering engineer gets it he can boost it with out a distorted overtone
For me, active or passive is dependent on what style I am playing. Right now I have to basses: one fretless Ibanez with an active EQ for the standard pickups but it also has a piezo pickup with a tone control. I barely use the regular pickups - the piezo is more than enough and the tone knob does wonders! My other bass is a Sandberg with a maple fretboard (very punchy sound from that), also with an active EQ (bass and treble, no tone). I don't miss a tone knob on that, but I love to be able to control the treble for slapping, and the power you can get from turning the bass knob up is insane!
Worth mentioning is that I am that kind of guy that sets the EQ of the amp flat and don't tweak it. You know that you have good gear if you can do that. That way it will always sound good no matter how you adjust the knobs on your bass
I think sometimes not changing the strings will do the trick. I think active circuits can be really cool. But the main thing missing is time. Sound comes with time. You have to learn to make your instrument sing instead of obsessing over string vs. pickup vs. amp vs. speaker. Just keep playing and practicing until some magic starts to happen, otherwise you'll be always spending on gear and never quite getting there. IMHO
I used to boil my strings to get their brightness back. Was playing live gigs 2 or 3 times a week and could hear the tone drop over the course of a single gig from sweat. Couldn't afford new strings as often as I wanted but that got enough life back into them and would keep them going for a month or so.
I go to a DI box to the mixer and trust the sound guy to put me where I need to be. In ear monitors. Pickup configurations, tone pot, and eq (and pretty much everything else) completely trump what wood the bass is made of. All good things to think about when considering tone. If you start adding effects pedals a whole different discussion about tone happens.
There's no secret. Tonal quality is the outcome of many factors & part of the fun and art of the instrument. Just experiment and develop a tone that works in the context of the material, and something that you enjoy. Someone else's tone may not necessarily work for you or your band mates.
After putting flats on my acoustic/electric, and tapewounds on my fretless, I finally went to flats on my main bass, a Yamaha BBn5 with 18 volt active pickups. But as I was putting them on, I realized the last time I changed my strings was at least 8 years ago because I was in Seattle at the time and I moved to KY 8 years ago. And they sounded fine. I kinda like that new round wound sound, but it goes away so fast, it's pointless to strive for it. I can't afford it and I'd wear out my bass replacing strings. I'm 66 and I can imagine these flats lasting me the rest of my life. :)
The price of liking rounds is astronomical, especially here in Australia
Some contribution for the "passive X active" tone debate and tone pot, I hope it helps: Scott is absolutely right on two things he states there, which I'd like to develop further:
1. They're not "better" than one another, they're just different. Sometimes a song calls for a certain tone where an active circuitry will fit better, other times it will call for passive circuitry. James Jamerson and Anthony Jackson play(ed) passive basses, their tones are massively different and they are (was - in case of Jamerson) amazing players. Marcus Miller, Matt Garrison, Alain Caron and a lot of other players use active circuitry, and they're also amazing players, with massively different tones. I think it's a pointless discussion to make, trying to come up with "better" here, there's no absolute "better", just what fits best for certain circumstances and to our own taste (heck, Scott (almost) never uses active mode and he rocks!)
2. Tone pot even in active circuitry. Guys, he's absolutely right here. I've seen people commenting down here that tone pots don't make sense in active circuitry, but they do, and they do make a LOT of sense. There's a musical and a technical explanation for this, and they're related, so let me start with the musical one: the difference between using a tone pot to cut down highs and pulling down the treble control is usually massively different, you usually hear that a tone pot can "cut" much more tone than treble controls. The technical explanation is that, usually, tone pots have a much lower Q, which means they affect the frequency spectrum more "widely", whereas treble controls use to have a much higher Q - mostly because they need to not interfere too much with the mid control. I'm a very lucky owner of a Sadowsky J-style bass (if you have the opportunity to get one, do it!), and it has both treble control and tone control, and the difference between them (how they interfere in the tone) is massively different, to the point that it's not even worth comparing. And both are immensely useful. Of course, the Sadowsky stock preamp is boost-only, but even then, when you reduce the amount of treble boost is very different, tone-wise, from keeping the treble up and cutting on the tone pot. So I highly recommend people to have a tone control pot, even in active basses. It makes a huge difference.
@Rohan Sylvain he's rarely regarded as one of the top bassists in the world, yet that's how he should be regarded as. I totally agree, hugely underrated.
I love to see someone mention Alain Caron! I know it’s off topic but he’s such an underrated player.
I didn't read all the comments, so it may have been mentioned, but surprisingly Scott didn't mention the "bridge" on his list. The type of bridge and material is huge factor regarding tone! Just the fact that some are "string thru" vs "top load" alone is a major difference. I personally believe the nut material affects tone somewhat as well.....
The active electronics, just gives you an on board preamp. This can help you when you're going through someone else's amp that isn't giving you what you want. Sure it won't completely fix it, but it can make it passable. At the end of the day use whatever gives you the sounds that you hear in your head.