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ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹɐln&#38
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been playing guitar for...at least 20 years now (had to think for a sec lol)

Here's what I learned from the past few months of transitioning:

1. How dynamic bass playing really is.

I miss the natural compression you get from playing distorted guitars. The bass has really shown me how much my picking lacks control... I'm a very fast, hard, and a major downpicker, I've never had to grasp control of how hard/soft I pick. I mean it was eye-opening! The worst part of it (for the style my band is) is that the bass isn't often the center of attention.

2. The bass guitar's scale matters WAY more depending on your tuning??

Currently, I have 2 5-string basses and 1 4-string that are all 34" scale. My band plays in two tunings: C# and Eb (both standard). All 3 basses I have play and sound great in Eb, but when tuning down to C# and I hit a string, the attack is there but it decays REAL fast. I've tried bigger strings, but since they're way bigger than guitar's, the chance of fret buzz quickly escalates compared.

3. Trouble deciding what tone is best.

My setup gives many different tone abilities (My rig: MXR DI+ > Peavey Firebass 700 > Peavey 8x10)

...but I'm going round and round changing my tone from:
-Warm aka treble backed a lot
-Scooped, heading into Korn/Mudvanye territory
-Mild distortion but then getting pissed at the highs I can't get rid of...

I keep ending up dialing everything at 12 O clock, then tweak from there.

4. Other tone issues

-Going between dialing too much low end or not enough
-The low "B string" rumbles the room like crazy compared to the other 4

5. Bass strings are higher off the fretboard?

I have to do the Alex Webster thing and set the strings too close to the fretboard and i'm in clicky-clacky city. Thank god I'm familiar with adjusting the truss rod and intonation.

6. A community for a Metal bassist isn't as grand as a metal community for a guitarist. And yes, I have an account at the Talk Bass forums, but stopped going there after a month when first switching to bass.

Soooo any pointers/comments from other bassists would be very helpful!! Would I benefit from a 35" scale? I'm selling one of my basses to find for a Brice.
 

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Dream Crusher
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21,053 Posts
Dingwall.

Just sayin' :D

1.) Consistency and technique are key when playing bass, even if you're running it through a driven Ampeg amp. I've found that running higher Gain settings on my Edens (both solid state and tube) helps with a consistent attack somewhat, as does making sure I can hear myself so that I don't start slamming the strings hard and actually losing punch and consistency for huge transients.

Also, in metal, make sure your guitarists aren't turning up their bass knobs and washing you out in flub or 'wumph'; it's your job to provide that strong low end, not theirs. Mid boosting around 300-500Hz or so often helps, especially when you're using a pick.

2.) It's all about setup and the bass itself, in my experience. Some basses just 'have it' and have great low Bs and a better sound and feel with low tunings, while the next one on the rack might not. Heavier strings and higher action does help though when tuning down; If you've got a heavy right hand attack (which it sounds like you do) you will want heavy strings and higher action, so consider taking the bottom strings off of a 5-string set and putting them on your 4 for tuning down to C#.

3.) In metal, where the bass usually disappears due to guitarists hogging up the low end, scooping is a death sentence. This is opinion, but I've found it works fairly well in a heavier/busier mix: go for a strong mid/low mid presence, and cut some of the deep bass as that muddies things up live. Don't go overboard with treble either.

It helps if you have a long cable or wireless so you can go hear yourself further away from your amp; bass is very room-dependent and you will often find yourself adjusting tones for different rooms.

4.) Too much low end is mud. If you've got any distortion going, you're going to want to boost your mids as those tend to go quickly in favor of treble when using distortion on bass. String-to-string balance is always problematic; try adjusting your pickup height a little to compensate. The tone knob (if passive) or treble knob (if active) can help by rolling off some of the harsh attack and giving the mids more space to 'punch.'

5.) Setup is important, especially when downtuning and using heavier strings. Too low and everything rattles; too high and it's painful to play. It helps to use a gentler, more consistent attack on the strings rather than pounding the shit out of them, since hitting hard usually kills your sustain and evenness thanks to huge transients that fade quickly and rattle out against the frets. Lighter and more consistent picking is more controllable and actually cuts through a little better since you have a more consistent volume throughout the length of each note. Plus, the lighter you play, the lower you can set the action.

6.) 35" scale might help you. Certainly that extra inch makes downtuning better. Some guys can't get used to it, but I don't really notice the difference unless dealing with a really long stretch on the first four frets.
 
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ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹɐln&#38
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
VERY much appreciative Josh. I'm gonna have to let all that sink in for awhile. If I can sell one of my 34" scales, I have a friend who wants to sell me a 35" Brice!
 

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Canis lupis robertus
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5,706 Posts
As per Josh's #1, I'm going to add to it, something at least as important, especially in metal.

Compression.

Trust me. Compression is a bassist's best friend. You'll have a much better string-to-string balance, and it'll allow you to use EQ and volume settings that you couldn't use half as well without it for ANY situation.

If there's one single thing I'd recommend to any aspiring bass player, it would be compression.
 

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...
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^ Very much that. My dbx 160a compressor was my favourite part of my rig (my bass was #2, and my cab #3), and it was the last part that I sold (out of the parts that I sold, I still have the bass and the tuner pedal :lol: ). A good, clean compressor is essential, even with dirtier bass sounds. When I first hooked it up, everything sounded exactly the same, but my playing sounded better :lol: So I sat around switching the bypass on and off to make sure I wasn't crazy :lol: Whenever people asked why my bass tone sounded so awesome, that was what I pointed to. It just made me sound better and more professional than most other bands we played with, because it made everything even, and helped me cut through without overwhelming everything else.
 

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Thread Killer
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As per Josh's #1, I'm going to add to it, something at least as important, especially in metal.

Compression.

Trust me. Compression is a bassist's best friend. You'll have a much better string-to-string balance, and it'll allow you to use EQ and volume settings that you couldn't use half as well without it for ANY situation.

If there's one single thing I'd recommend to any aspiring bass player, it would be compression.
:agreed: I was just coming to say this..
 

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ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹɐln&#38
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've been wanting either the Maxon CP9 (which is more of a limiter) and I'd totally love a dbx 160a, but I'm gonna have to settle for something cheaper until I can get the great stuff.

I used a 266XL the other night and got a decent setting going. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to squash things without making it sound crappy.

One of my guitarist's wife has an Ashdown compressor pedal. If it can do the job for me well enough, I may buy it off her and keep for it awhile.
 

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I've been wanting either the Maxon CP9 (which is more of a limiter) and I'd totally love a dbx 160a, but I'm gonna have to settle for something cheaper until I can get the great stuff.

I used a 266XL the other night and got a decent setting going. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to squash things without making it sound crappy.

One of my guitarist's wife has an Ashdown compressor pedal. If it can do the job for me well enough, I may buy it off her and keep for it awhile.
I've heard good things done with the 266XL too. To be honest, I've tried a good 3-4 different dbx compressors in various parts of the signal chain, and they all just sound "right" on bass to me. Whatever you end up with, I found a 4:1 compression ratio worked really well for me, though I could have probably pushed it a bit either way and still gotten something decent. It helped that the attack/release on the 160a are fixed.
 

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ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹɐln&#38
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
There's are a really good compressor breakdown on TalkBass. I can't remember the guy's name but I think it's Bongo-something if not just "Bongo."
 

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Dream Crusher
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Bongomania I think is his name. He's got a whole page of compressor reviews.

For what I've done so far I haven't had much use for a compressor, but I appreciate what it can do for a bass player as my Line 6 bass amp is quite compressed on some settings.
 

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Canis lupis robertus
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Using a compressor in a live setting is absolutely fine in my book, but not needed if you have good technique.

It's all in your fingers(more so than with guitars)
I can see this, but to me, it depends.

The heavier the music gets, the more you need compression. Consider, guitars with heavy gain are naturally compressed, so it follows, for consistent bass having compression in heavy music, really, really helps. Just too significant of a dynamic range.
 

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THUNDERBEEEEAR!
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I can see this, but to me, it depends.

The heavier the music gets, the more you need compression. Consider, guitars with heavy gain are naturally compressed, so it follows, for consistent bass having compression in heavy music, really, really helps. Just too significant of a dynamic range.
yes, I agree. I guess I was coming from a jazz/pop/funk/insert here standpoint, in metal though, squash it like Drewsif! There's enough trouble breaking through the wall of guitars as it is with all the gain.
 

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ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹɐln&#38
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I tried out that Ashdown Compressor the other day. I tried some extreme settings and it brought some distortion that wasn't that bad actually. Not sure if I really like it or not yet.
 
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