Should the height be higher than the bass

Setting the bass sound: Tips for beginners for a sensible bass sound

As a beginner, you want to set the ideal bass sound. He should be full, harmonious, assertive at the same time? Here are a few thoughts and tips for you on what to look out for:

Check it: Tips and thoughts for your ideal bass sound

  1. The first to be responsible for sound: your fingers
  2. Sound settings directly on the instrument
  3. Settings on amp and equalizer
  4. It's about frequencies and compromises
  5. Don't let your own ears deceive you

Your sound settings on the bass must please everyone

Everyone has their own taste. And even this statement sounds just as banal as it contains explosive elements. If you want to adjust the bass sound, it's not just about your own sound ideas. Unless you're all alone in some sealed basement where no one can hear you. As a bass player, however, you play a typical band instrument. Inevitably, this means that the bass sound must not only please you, but also others. Not to mention the audience. Well then:

Your signal chain from your fingers to the speakers

The bass sound can be influenced in different ways. Your sound is always the overall result in the signal chain. It has a beginning, then goes through several stages and in the end it should hopefully sound like your ideas. If you want to adjust your bass sound, you should know that no setting in the signal chain is all alone: ​​if you turn a “cogwheel”, it automatically affects the entire “gearbox”. But where is the beginning?

Basis for the successful bass sound: your fingers

Adjusting the bass sound has a lot to do with the way you play. You have bought an electric bass and want to use it to enter the groovy bass section. In order to master this instrument reasonably well, you will have to learn and train a few techniques, especially at the beginning. The special requirement with the bass is the precision in interaction with the correct timing. Together with the drummer you are the engine of the band.

However, the strings are quite thick and will demand a lot from your fingers. Not to forget that the frets are quite far apart, which means that the fingers have to be spread quite a bit. It may take a while for the grasping hand to make friends with it. Controlled play with the touch hand is no less important; It doesn't matter whether you use your fingers or possibly an opening pick.

Why this excursion into the way of playing, even though you want to adjust the bass sound? Well, the playing technique remains at the beginning and end of the sound. With your fingers alone you can and will tickle various different sound variants from your instrument. Although the bass is of course electrically picked up and amplified, the main responsibility for the tone - including the entire bass sound - is your fingers.

The principle is this: if nothing sensible comes in at the beginning, nothing good can come out in the end. Think of it ‘like a sound soup that you want to cook with the appropriate ingredients. No matter how hard you stir in the pot, the soup won't taste good without the right spices and ingredients. Your spices, if you want to adjust the bass sound, are first of all your fingers. And on it goes:

Settings directly on the bass

You can adjust the bass sound directly on your instrument using the knobs (potentiometers). The equipment is very different for the numerous instruments that you can discover on the market. Probably everyone has a volume control - the volume potentiometer - then there are those with bass and treble controls, with balance controls and many other special versions. Some are very simple, others for the treasure hunters on the way to the sacred bass sound.

What they all have in common is that they have one option for regulating the volume and one for the sound on board. Quite honestly, even if some seasoned bass players want to tear their hair off their heads: once set, not much happens to most bass players at this point.

In practice, the tone controls on the instrument are relatively wide, usually even fully turned up. The reason is to send a signal to the amplifier that is as pure as possible. If the frequencies on the instrument itself had already been turned down, the tone control on the amplifier would be pretty meaningless. What else should you send on?

Therefore: Yes, you can adjust your bass sound directly on the instrument. The big question remains to what extent this will help you. What you would like to edit later in the signal chain should not be left to disappear beforehand. It is more important to send the full sound of the pickups as clearly as possible to the next stage. And that brings us to your amplifier:

Sound settings on amplifiers and tone controls

The controls for the sound settings are located on your amplifier - actually in every bass amplifier. This department is called "Equalizer". Often these are just three knobs for bass, middle and treble. Many bass amplifiers are equipped with so-called graphic equalizers. These are then several sliders next to each other, with which you then have even more options to influence individual frequency bands. Okay, we now know where; let's dedicate ourselves to the "how":

Right now you will find that different environments call for just as different attitudes. You may now be sitting at home alone trying to adjust your bass sound. It is very likely that it will sound pleasant to you if you open the highs and basses relatively wide and turn the mids down just as far. Completely understandable, with this setting your bass sounds relatively "full". (No, I'm not starting the soup again.)

However, this attitude is also notorious among musicians. It is known as the "bathtub setting". Has to do with the shape that the equalizer then shows. The problem starts with this setting as soon as the other band musicians join in. After all, they also claim their share of the sound cake. (Okay, so now the soup is turning into cake.) The result is that your bass sounds washed out and difficult to identify.

If the bass - in a band context - is emphasized too much, this creates an unpleasant sound bubble. You feel like you've been sending the bass through an echo device over and over again. Everything washed out, not to speak of sound any more. Or to put it in other words: "Muuuuuuhhhhhuuuuhhhhlm".

If you emphasize the highs, you penetrate the typical frequency range of the other instruments. And they don't really like to put up with it. It makes sense to pull the mids higher in the band structure. In a sense, you are turning the bathtub upside down.

So the bottom line is that you'll be adjusting your bass sound in at least two different ways. Just for yourself, so that you feel comfortable while practicing; and once for playing with the band, so that your overall sound can sound tidy and differentiated.

A little tip on the side: If you have created different bass sounds for different scenarios, just take Handy your mobile phone and take a photo of the position of the controls. So you can go back to it again and again without long deliberations.

Setting the right bass sound: It's all about frequencies

Let's assume that you are interested in playing together in a band. This in turn means that you have to keep some frequency ranges free for the other stage protagonists. Simply duplicating or superimposing one another is pointless.

In the unspectacular case, this would ensure a completely washed-out sound; in the worst case, the identical frequencies even cancel each other out. That means, you pound the strings like a fool, the drummer hits the bass drum, but nothing gets through to the audience, except maybe a somewhat strangely flat feeling in the stomach. So it's time to set the right bass sound.

Conversely, the scenario becomes even more confused: You play different notes, the drummer not, at least not on the bass drum. This means that not all sounds are inaudibly extinguished. Just the doubled. You can already imagine the stupid eyes from which the audience gawks at you when every third or fourth note is missing from your bass run. Just not there.

If you're lucky, they'll think with a pounding understanding that you're a beginner and need a little more time. If they're not so nice, they'll think you're a hopeless dilettante. You practiced like a madman, rehearsed and delivered precisely. Logically speaking, you are actually completely innocent. The only solution: adjust the bass sound sensibly, separate the bass and bass drum from each other.

By the way: different pitch means different loudness.

Especially with bass, the pitch is perceived significantly differently. High bass tones are - untreated (!) - initially louder than the low tones. The low tones, on the other hand, tend to sound undifferentiated. Your wish, however, should be to play with reasonably the same basic volume across all areas despite all the exemplary dynamics.

Your natural adversaries: your ears

The worst enemy in the bass department is your own ears. The bass tones move in a range that the human ear cannot really differentiate. Actually, the listening flaps are completely unsuitable for the deep bass tones. And that has massive implications if you want to adjust your bass sound.

The usual electric bass sounds in the frequency range between 40 and 1,500 Hz. The healthy human ear can perceive tones in the range between 30 Hz and 20,000 Hz, but cannot really classify the lower edge areas. That is, the bass plays on the very edge.

This is why the deep bass notes are so difficult to identify when trying to tune your bass sound. Now, however, the so-called overtones are added. Every tone - also with the electric bass - consists of a fundamental tone and overtones that resonate at the same time. In this sense, the "root" has nothing to do with the root of a key, harmony or chord. This is the name given to the sounding basic tone.

Above this, the overtones are layered as a natural component of each individual tone. These are the vibrations that automatically join a keynote. And the usual bass sounds in the overtones in the range up to about 5,000 Hz. Amazing finding: If you play low tones, you cannot hear them in reality. It is your brain that creates an overall acoustic picture from the overtones. If you want to set your optimal bass sound, your hearing identifies itself as a natural impostor.

In addition, the ears tire quickly. That means: If you do magic on your bass sound, you should always do it in short stages. Then take breaks again, let the listening flaps catch a breath and listen again. Doesn't make sense if you're cheating on yourself.

Problems with adjusting the bass sound: Different room acoustics

There is another problem: every room sounds different. If you design your ideal bass sound at home or in the rehearsal room and are then convinced of the end result, that doesn't mean anything for the stage. Suddenly it sounds completely different again. So not "the stage", but the bass. Now you don't have to race back and forth with all your equipment if you want to set your optimal bass sound. Just be aware of the fact that the result will be different from room to room.

Keywords: bass, sound settings, string instruments, sound settings electric bass