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Piano-like clean bass tone

bfinn19

Member
I have a Mike Lull bass 5 string which was custom built, and built with the intent of having a very clean, bright tone. It has an alder body and maple top, and maple neck. Bartolini preamp, J-style pickups (Dimarzio I think), a million tone options on the bass itself, which I am keeping flat while building this (too many tone options to mess with, IMO)

I am trying to achieve a patch which has a piano like clarity. Think the low notes on a grand piano: Bell-like clarity, no muddiness or distortion, but not too bright on the hi end. If anyone is familiar with Mark Michelle at low-end University, he gets this kind of sound using Warwick basses (400 lbs of pure tone!), which if anything tend to be warmer than some others.

I realize there are probably many ways to skin this cat. I plan to start with the amp alone and start tweaking from there. Suggestions on:
  • Bass amp (or guitar amp) (realizing that the Fx is not known for its plethora of bass amp choices)
  • I often don't use cabs an bass patches, but open to this of course
  • Compression?
  • General EQ guidelines?
And of course strings - I much prefer half-rounds for playability.

Will add in effects once I get the core sound right, of course, but open to blocks that might help with the initial tone

Thanks much
 
Make your EQ smile a little. Not too much or it will be hard to tell what note you're playing. I boost ~4k when I want the super bright type of clarity. Cutting somewhere between 250-750hz depending on the bass will round out / remove mud from the tone and get you closer to the bell like piano tone.

Do not use a Cab. Virtually all bass cab models hurt clarity. A lot of bass tones sound better that way but the piano type thing is all about super clarity. Try getting the tone without an amp first. Amps usually have very defined voicings to them. You shouldn't need one to get your tone. I usually go with a nice DI like an Avalon U5 straight into an interface when I'm going for that type of tone. EQ and Compress and you're done.

These types of tones Do Not Cut after the initial high end clank goes away. You will definitely need to compress to be heard.

Also, conversely at least try boosting 250-750 and you'll find tones that cut through at relatively low volumes. You might like it.
 

pauly

Fractal Fanatic
Hi,

in my opinion, half rounds will not give you that grand piano tone, mainly because piano strings are round wound.
have a look at the fas bass amp(s) which are very capable, and use minimum drive.
thanks
pauly
 

dr bonkers

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
Most of the piano like bass tones that you hear on recordings are either direct through the recording console tones or tones with a parallel path of a DI signal phase aligned with an amp and cab setup.

Most of the amps used for such tones are either solid state or solid state/tube hybrid.

Solid state tones are easy to achieve with the Roland Jazz Chorus model. If you want to achieve solid state power amp with tube preamp, most amp tones like that have been easy to emulate by swapping out the tone stack on that model for one of the tube amp tone stacks.

For cabs, use a bass 4x10 or 1x12. If you have an Axe-fx III, I have a WMAN 1x12 based on an SWR Workingman 12 with tweeter in the defaults, that was personally selected by Rufus Reid, which just slays in that context. I also have the GeekRB 4x10 based on a Gallien Kreuger that is great for that purpose. Those cabs get the resonance like pianos get when that string is resonating with the piano body cavity, if that's the effect you are going for.

The key with the second method is to balance the volume and phase align the DI with the amp signal.

You can use a filter or EQ block to control volume on the DI path and also tone shape the signal. Use the output level on the amp block to control the volume level of that signal and blend to taste.

To get the DI signal phase aligned, use the 100% wet and no feedback signal of a Delay block on the DI path. Use a 31 Hz oscillator tone from your DAW and pan the two paths hard left (DI) and right (Amp+cab) so they are easier to see in the DAW. Play the oscillator tone into the Fractal unit. Record samples. Play with the delay time until peaks and valleys between the DI and amp signals line up perfectly.

Then restore your panning to center on each path. You should have an aligned signal with clarity and resonance.
 
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bfinn19

Member
Thanks for your suggestions. I actually find a pretty nice "clean Fender" sound out of the bassman amps (supposedly poor bass amps) although lacking somewhat in low end. Perhaps with some EQ to boost the bottom?
 

bfinn19

Member
Thanks for your suggestions. I actually find a pretty nice "clean Fender" sound out of the bassman amps (supposedly poor bass amps) although lacking somewhat in low end. Perhaps with some EQ to boost the bottom?
Oh, and bright marcus miller dunlops strings on order...

I love the lack of string noise in half rounds (much preferred on fretless, although Jaco didn't find them needed... wonder if I can EQ the string noise out to a degree?
 

dr bonkers

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
I love the lack of string noise in half rounds (much preferred on fretless, although Jaco didn't find them needed... wonder if I can EQ the string noise out to a degree?
I too am addicted to half rounds or pressure wounds on my 4 strings.

For my 5 string, I have round wounds because the tone is just more resonant with that type of string construction on that diameter string IMHO.

Rather than EQ, I found wood shedding my technique to reduce string noise and using a lighter touch much better sounding in tone than trying to EQ it out. YMMV
 
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