Is there a shortcut to great sound and feel?
In recent months, we’ve explored neck relief, setup, pickups, and many other details about the tools we bassists use to make music. As important as it is to understand our gear, in the end it’s all about achieving a great feel and sound. That seems straightforward, yet it can be a journey of a lifetime. As we each claw our way toward this squishy goal, we’re bound to wonder: Is there at least a strategy to help us move in the right direction?
Here’s a simple answer: Don’t waste your time reading anything that implies it will give you a short, universal guide to great tone.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no single recipe that applies to everyone. This should be a simple, self-evident truth, yet articles pop up all the time promising to reveal the secret shortcut to standout sound. Guides like this can only make sense if the number of parameters is strictly limited. Think of everything that’s involved on any given gig: The state of your hands, the type of strings, the instrument, your amp and speakers. The room acoustics. Your fellow guitarists’ volume and tone, and the size of the drummer’s kick and toms. The band’s booze level. Your personal mood. The list is endless, and so is the number of paths you can take to achieve stellar tone.
One way to learn about sound is to study the tonal evolution of players you admire. After all, they most likely worked through the same problems as everyone else. The way they solved them might not be a perfect fit for you, but at least their journeys might steer you away from known pitfalls or perhaps inspire you to try something new.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Deep Purple’s Roger Glover—a bassist with one of the most successful and longest careers in rock. My preparations included reading many of his previous interviews, and in the process, I discovered something surprising: His search for tone lasted almost 30 years. Imagine having played on massively successful records and tours, and being an icon for a generation of bassists, yet not liking the sound of your tracks in the studio and being dissatisfied with how your bass projects onstage. That was Roger’s experience for nearly three decades.
He describes himself as a simple player with no technical background, so to improve his tone, his strategy was to keep trying whatever manufacturers offered—and there were many. Of course, this only works when (a) money isn’t an issue and (b) manufacturers are willing to jump through hoops just to get you to try their wares. Lacking these criteria, you’ll need another plan. For most of us, it comes down to practice, study, and always a lot of work.
Roger is an old-school low-ender who started with a P bass and did his most famous work running a Rickenbacker through Marshall stacks. It’s very likely that the instruments he was offered over the years were technically quite similar. (As a luthier, you wouldn’t hand him an active 7-string and blow your once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear him play your handiwork.)
Today he plays an active bass with a 3-band EQ into a non-tube amp driving highly engineered 4x10 cabs. That’s far different from what he started with, which illustrates my point: To find the holy grail, you need to be willing to strike out on new trails and let go of your initial beliefs. In Roger’s case, being 72 means he’s had time to explore many options. No doubt he has also learned to separate fads from those critical details that define his bass tone.
So whenever you see another headline touting shortcuts to greatness, skip the read. Of course, I’m glad you kept reading this through to the end, despite the headline. Good luck on your quest!
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
Mojotone will manufacture and market over 60 of their speaker cabinets and amp kits as “Licensed by Fender.”
This partnership marks Fender's recognition of Mojotone’s dedication to its craft, quality of products, and dependability of knowledge. Beginning November 29th and ranging from $327 - $1,016.
Amplifiers were among the first products to wear the official Fender seal. A qualified electronics technician by trade, Leo Fender developed his iconic amplifiers during the mid-1940s putting innovation at the forefront. To this day, Leo’s influence and innovative spirit can still be heard in today’s amps, as that same iconic, clean Fender tone continues to color new music around the world. As a result, the process for completing the exclusive licensing deal required Fender to carefully audit Mojotone’s amplifier kits, wiring diagrams, electronics, hardware, construction methods, and more to ensure this innovation carried on through the partnership. Mojotone’s many years of intense research, quality production, and favorable reputation solidified the deal.
Mojotone has always been determined to provide its customer base with the most sought-after parts with their insider industry-knowledge. They have spent the last 25 years helping musicians recreate what they deem to be the most famous and easily-recognized tones and aesthetics in the music industry. When purchasing Mojotone products, like Fender products, customers can be assured of unmatched quality and craftsmanship.
For more information, please visit mojotone.com.