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Boosting bass frequencies on a bass guitar.
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author Boosting bass frequencies on a bass guitar.
Euro Trash Bazooka
Hi! I'm wondering whether some wigglers would have some insight as to what I should do here because I keep scratching my head about it and I'm stuck.

I play bass in a three-piece that plays 80's hardcore, so pretty fast, and while the guitarist doesn't use any effects besides the gain from his Marshall head, it all ends up sounding blurry quite quickly when we play live. It's OK on his side as I'm the one who brings the "subtlety" there with the more melodic elements or nuances through that chaos. However, I'm not satisfied with my sound as a whole because fellow bassplaying friends keep telling me my bass doesn't stand out enough during our gigs, or sounds too thin. And I want that big fat rumbling sound that gets clunky at times as well.

I use a Fender Aerodyne bass that I play through an old Maxon Compressor pedal, then a Pearl Noise Suppressor, a Nobels ODR1 and finally a Frantone Peachfuzz. It goes in a Peavey Mark 3 head.

I don't like the pickups on my bass too much but I don't really know whether it is the cause of my problem and whether I should change them. Ideally I'd buy a Rickenbacker bass but it's not within my budget yet. I think the compressor pedal doesn't help much as it tends to cut the low end but I don't push it hard. I do need it though, otherwise it all gets pretty blurry. The Noise Suppressor is totally transparent and mandatory to save me from the buzz created by the compressor. I keep the Peachfuzz in the first 3rd when it comes to the settings and the Nobels pedal is very light as an overdrive as well.

Any idea as to what I should do to try to fix this?

Thank you
i would ditch all the pedals to begin with, especially when you're using one medal to solve the problems that another pedal is causing, when youre not even that satisfied with the problem causing pedal. also, fuzzes tend to make everything indistinct in a live context; they reduce articulation and flatten the signal into a big blob.

first things first is how many watts is that amp head, and what cab are you playing it through? Speaker size is a huge factor in the tone of bass.

i would add a very basic graphic EQ like the boss bass graphic EQ, and work with your guitarist to figure out the frequency ranges where youre both stepping on each others toes. then cut those freqs out of your bass, and boost the other freqs that ARE distinct from the guitar. in your case, it will probably be like 50 hz, 90 hz. i would suggest cutting 300-600 hz, as well as a dip at around 3khz-5khz. then you can boost at like 1 khz and 10khz. this will make the high freqs and plucky attack of the bass peak out over the highest guitar frequencies.

also consider playing with a pick, and if you do feel the necessity to use a compressor, consider one with a wet/dry blend function like those offered from keely. this will let the attack come through while giivng you the sustain of the compressor. if you want some drive, get a bass-specific drive that allows you to tailor the low end more specifically. i tend to think that a very gainy guitar sound goes best with a cleaner bass sound though, as far as "cutting through the mix".

my gut is telling me that your guitar is probably totally fine and so are your pickups, youre just dealing with amplification that leads much to be desired. i would suggest a different amplifier head, maybe like the orange terror bass 500. this has a tube preamp and a lovely natural amplifier drive, that would likely be more than adequate for as drive-y as you wanna get (it can get to sludge metal levels). I think they can be acquired used quite cheaply. And then figure out what cab will give you the low end extension you want. i'd still use a bass eq pedal to do what ive described above, but im thinking a lack of headroom may be a big part of the issue here.
^All good advice. Your thread title mentions boosting bass but that may not be the solution. Less Mids or more presence might be a better solution. Hard to tell without hearing the band But dialing in the EQ like BailyDread mentions will help you find the sweet spot. Looks like that Peavey has a graphic EQ so it should do the job. Dial it in with all pedals off then try to match the pedals to that core amp sound.

Another thing to consider is that distortion, fuzz and overdrive emphasize upper harmonics and neither the Peach Fuzz not the Nobels was made specifically for bass frequencies. So one option is a clean loop so you can blend your dry and distorted signal to keep some of the thump and grind. Another is to find pedals that have a dry/wet blend. Yet another option is a DI box with one out to the pedals and another to the PA directly, but that assumes there is a sound guy available to mix the wet/dry levels appropriately.

Lastly you might want to think about the notes you are playing. If the guitar player is taking up a lot of space on his E and A string it might be hard to find space for the bass. I’m in a power trio with a bassist who likes a mid range tone and I end up playing a lot on the lower register so I know the issue of fighting for that sonic space. But we often coordinate our parts to leave space for the other instrument, whether it's one person playing the part up/down an octave, muting to cut down on sustain, cutting out notes to leave more space, or just reducing distortion.
Euro Trash Bazooka
All interesting pieces of advices, thank you.

There are two things written on the back of the head: 400 watts and 130W.
And I use various cabs, depending on what's available where I play. Often they're 4x10 cabs. I wish there were bigger one but it gets overkill quickly in small venues and when you can't carry them around in your car...

I thought about the graohic EQ pedal as well but I also thought that the more pedals the worst... A friend of mine just uses a Peachfuzz and a Rat and has a killer tone. But I don't want to steal his game, haha.
And actually, yes, the Peachfuzz lets much more bass go through than usual for a fuzz pedal (and I don't use it to make my sound woolly or anything like that...) And I only play with a pick, never with my fingers.

And yes, our guitarist plays power chords 98% of the time so while I go all over the neck, to the octave and all, I feel like I never stand out enough.

I do not want a tube head. Took one on tour once, broke down after two gigs. While I love tube amps, I don't like them for gigs, they're too unreliable and fragile as far as I am concerned. I still have one, but I have to get it fixed as after I changed the tubes for newer ones (the same that were in the head), it still didn't work. Not cool.

So I'll try to borrow an EQ pedal and check whether it improves something, and I'll also try to start over from the beginning pedalwise. I do believe that less is more, but I just don't know how to get where I want anymore.

Thanks a lot for your time and insight, it's very appreciated!
...My first thought was along the lines of BaileyDread, but then I wondered: Have you ever demo'ed the EHX Knockout? Marketed as a kind of EQ for guitarists (does the 'Strat to a Gibson" pickup-type thing), I use it VERY SPARINGLY on bass and.. it's simply massive. Although on bass it is more accentuated in the very low range, it SEEMS to do the "turn my 4x10s into a 1x18" very well. Thunderous lows, out of the way of the guitar... just beware the huuuuuge output level.
Understood about the preference for avoiding tubes for live rig, that is definitely a position that many take and it’s understandable. Since you are using the cabs available to you, I think you definitely will be well served with a bass eq pedal, bc you will have some flexibility about your tone with each setup. Some cabs might need a bigger bass boost than others etc. it’s important to note that it’s not just adding the eq pedal that will help you, but really learning how to use it and tailor its settings to the particular room that will make the difference.

Personally, I think you might be best served by going the route of a preamp and a power amp, and tweaking your rig to be a bit more “PA system” than “bass amp”. Crown or QSC power amps can be acquired off reverb and Craigslist for dirt cheap and they’re reliable as Monday morning. For a preamp, you could do any number of things. There are lots of offerings from sans amp and all other kinds of manufacturers I believe. Then you can get a small cabinet that is more full range, like something with a tweeter or something. There are instructions online for building your own cabs with 1x15”, 1x12” and 1 tweeter, for example. More portable than a 4x10. I don’t know any off hand but I’m sure with some research it could be found. Perhaps the forums of electrical audio, where a lot of DIY punk musicians get quite technical about tone. The point would be that if you could get a portable, powerful rig that had a more full frequency response and a lot of headroom, your bass could be the more melodic and expansive aspect of your band, whereas the guitar is really holding down the mids. A PA type rig would also let any distortion tones you come up with have more uniqueness, and would also be helpful for maintainers and servicing because you only have to lug the part that needs repair. If the power amp isn’t broken, just get the pre serviced. Etc.

Just a thought! it should be noted that I am not a bassist and this is kind of just shooting some ideas out there, since you say you aren't sure what you want to go with anymore. to me, that means start from the ground up with your amplification. a pre + power amp means that you basically only need to worry about the pre as far as where your tone is coming from. those crown or QSC power amps are very flat and basically just take whatever you feed em and amplify it. they also are very flexible with their outputs and can basically feed any cab or speaker system, provided the wattage capacity of the speakers in the cab is above the wattage of the power amp.

if you have the funds, I would GREATLY recommend you look into the Hilbish design beta preamp. it's based off of the sunn beta lead. all solid state, and it fuckin kills!!

here's a sample:
I would ditch the compressor, or at least, ditch *that* compressor - it seems it's causing more problems than it's solving. You would then have no need of the noise suppressor. I'd also go easy on the overdrive and distortion - it will muddy up the bass if you're not careful, and all those harmonics will overlap with your guitarist. Try to find something where you can *blend* the distortion and clean signals together. And because I am of a certain age, I'd throw a chorus into the mix - something like the ol' Boss Digital Dimension, where it's not too obviously "swirly". But that's just me... wink

As for amp, you generally need bags more power than your guitarist. Unless you really want it, then I wouldn't bother with tubes. Just pick up one of the ubiquitous Class D tiny-but-powerful (500W+) amps. Try out some different cabs too, if you can. If you have the funds, the flexibility of a 1x15" and a 2x10" might be worth investigating - and you don't necessarily need to use both all the time, depending on the circumstances of each gig.
Does your bass have active electronics? Don't know if that's still a thing as I don't play much anymore, but my old 80's Westone sounds like you describe when I engage the circuitry.

Else, I'd echo what the others are saying: cut the fuzz and work on your arrangements.
I've played bass for decades, and listen to hardcore including the classics. Previous posters have dropped some serious knowledge worth following up deeply, especially the issues of pedals, eq, and headroom. I'll add some more contextual comments to playing bass live in a fast loud band:
* Get as far away from your amp as possible. The further you are, the better you'll hear how it sounds. Buy some long leads. If I see a band play and they walk out into the pit while playing, listening to themselves, I know it's going to sound reasonable.
* Solid state amp head overdrive sucks. I'm not talking about the Drive effect knob but when you've turned the amp up so loud that the circuits are distorting in a 'wasn't designed to do that' way. Same with speaker cone distortion (for guitarists it can be cool but not us). Make sure your rig has enough power to avoid this. You can pick it when things get blurry, buzzy, and you keep turning up but it doesn't get louder just 'meh' sounding. See previous posts on PA amps.
* Wear ear plugs. Start with musicians plugs from a music store, then upgrade to custom ones made by an audiologist. This will eliminate ear canal and drum distortion as a variable impacting your assessment of tone. Good plugs act like a volume knob that turns it all down equally, so you hear everything more clearly.
* Never finalise your tone shaping unless the full band is going full tilt. That's the context your instrument is being heard, so you need to assess how it sounds and tweak in that context too. I like changing how I play my bass lines during the song to check the changes can be heard, like dropping from playing 1/16s down to 1/4s or less.
* Everyone should turn down. Convince the guitarist to set his level according to how loud the drummer can play, then you match accordingly. I have never successfully pulled this off in the hardcore scene though!
* Genk is good. The mid range clanging tone from relatively fresh round wound strings cuts through the mix.
* Start off finding a good enough tone without pedals. Something boring yet clear. Each pedal you turn on, assess how much clarity you lose and if it's worth it.
* Resonance is bad. Any rig in any room, if turned up loud enough, will hit some resonant frequencies, where that note sounds way louder than the others. Use reductive eq to tame these, otherwise all everyone hears is the resonant notes of your rig rather than your full playing.
I'd like to hear a demo if you have one.
Some people use two amps, one for distortion/pedals and one for clean bass but eq'd for the low end only. You could get a similar effect using a mixer at the end of your pedal chain.

I think the Mark III is only 150W so you might want to look into a more powerful amp. You can find good deals on solid state 500-1000W GK's and Ampegs.
Euro Trash Bazooka wrote:

There are two things written on the back of the head: 400 watts and 130W.

I believe 400 watts is the power consumption, and 130 watts is the output.

If you don't like your amp or it's simply not loud enough, you usually can't fix it with pedals. For loud aggressive music, you almost cannot have enough wattage. (Although beware of drastic mismatches between amp wattage and the ratings of the club speaker cabinets).

I know the Peach Fuzz is a good guitar fuzz, but I don't know of anybody using it for bass. I would try to upgrade your amp (as far as wattage) and then look for a different effect pedal. The Peach Fuzz is an expensive pedal and selling it could help you purchase a better amp, if funds are a problem.

I agree a tube amp is not necessary for bass. It's more important for guitar players, IMO.

When in doubt, it doesn't hurt to look at the equipment of bass players you like, and copy their equipment. What amps are the good local bass players using, through those 'house' cabinets?
K2000 wrote:
Euro Trash Bazooka wrote:

There are two things written on the back of the head: 400 watts and 130W.

I believe 400 watts is the power consumption, and 130 watts is the output.

130W bass output is almost certainly not enough to keep up with a (noisy) guitarist. I would look at 500W+ so that you have headroom and flexibility.
Just me
I run 2 300 watt Peavey heads. I run 2 15" black Widows, 4 10" and 2 mid drivers. In 4 cabs. Only use a BBE unit for outboard effects. Can cut the rig in half or smaller for smaller venues. My bass has vintage DiMarzio neck P-bass pup and a Bartolini J-bass pup on the bridge. No tone control, that is handled by the EQ in the heads. Can be very clear and bright or shake out your fillings.
Years ago, in a similar situation I found out that actually cutting a bit on the lows but boosting the low mids help me to fatten the bass sound in the band at load volume. This doing into a 15" (loaded with Celestion orange label speaker (really sharp), and a 2 or 4*10" loaded with Celestion green label). With this never got a complain about my 6 string bass sounding too muddy or thin on lows or harsh on the highs.
Euro Trash Bazooka
So many useful info, thank you all so much.

I have access to Sunn Concert Bass heads in my practice space. I don't like them much to be honest. Also, carrying cabs around, whatever their size, is not an option. I live in a flat in the city centre, our car is small and not a pick-up or a SUV, and I have back problems. Also, the bass has passive pick-ups.

I have a Peach Fuzz clone with an extra blend added to it but it doesn't like the OG one. I find it muddier. Maybe an EQ pedal would be useful with it. Also, maybe I'm trying to convince myself the compressor pedal is important because it sounds so good with my guitar.

And I never push my head higher than 3 on the volume knob, it's useless. I don't need to sound louder than everyone else, I just need to sound right.

I'm going to start from scratch again I believe. From no effects to one of two THAT I really like and limit myself to that, and an EQ pedal maybe. Less is more indeed. Thank you!
Yes Powder
Euro Trash Bazooka wrote:
I have a Peach Fuzz clone with an extra blend added to it but it doesn't like the OG one. I find it muddier. Maybe an EQ pedal would be useful with it. Also, maybe I'm trying to convince myself the compressor pedal is important because it sounds so good with my guitar.

If you insist on using pedals (don’t worry, I undsrstand; I do it all the time), ditch either the compressor or the fuzz. Fuzz pedals already squash dynamics a great deal, so putting a compressor between your guitar and the fuzz is at best redundant, and at (more likely) worst muddying up your sound to the point of being perceived as one long, noisy drone in a live setting.
Also, what kind of setting do you have the PeachFuzz set to? I ask because I’ve seen more players than I care to count turn their gain up way too high— sometimes all the way, so it sounds great and heavy when they’re practicing, but they end up drowning themselves out in a mix or live setting. Less is often more with fuzz in my experience, especially when using it on bass.

So yeah: pick one pedal— your compressor or fuzz— and go with that one.
Euro Trash Bazooka
I use pedals because I don't want to make my amp head overdrive by turning it too loud (especially since it won't bring anything nice to the equation as there are no tubes involved) and I find the sound of the bass itself very underwhelming. And say, if you turn all the knobs on the bass to the max, they start cancelling each other and the sound turns less bright, more deaf and dull in the last 10%, it's really annoying...

I don't turn the fuzz further than 40% on any of its knobs. Again, I want dynamics, not for my sound to be woolly. The fuzz is less important than the overdrive, which I need to act as a boost for the dynamics (hence why I'm using a soft overdrive that I also don't push to the max. The Nobels ODR-1 sounds really soft.) The idea is to get a boost from the overdrive and some dirt from the fuzz, and lose as less dynamics as possible. Hence why I thought about maybe changing the pickups or ultimately my bass as well. I don't think the head itself has any issue besides maybe a power one as depending on which input you decide to use, the settings can be rather finicky. And I don't want to use chorus on my sound either, even if it's just to enhance the highs. I have an Arion bass chorus pedal. It is soft and nice, but there's been a trend in the punk scene from the last 6 years or so which does that everyone wants to drown their guitars and sound in chorus. It makes everyone sound at best the same, at worst pretty bad, and I'm definitely not into that fad and would rather get back to basics.

I'm sorry, I'm opinionated. It's just that I'm beginning to realise that if what I use to play with in the first place doesn't really appeal to me (my bass, which is a good neutral bass I bought from a friend because I needed a bass and that it was available right there) , it might be normal that I can't feel really satisfied with my overall natural sound. Mmmh d'oh!
Have go considered going (mostly) naked into a powered PA speaker? (Like a Mackie, Behringer, QSC, etc.) The typical plastic enclosure, Class D amp, and modern neodymium speaker magnets make for a less back-breaking experience. And bass is somewhat more "hi-fi" than a guitar, so the full bandwidth suits it well.

I've played direct into one often and it sounds great. Takes any pedals you fancy, too. And another benefit is flexibility: if you need more power, just daisy-chain more powered cabs.
Look into Class D amps like Quilter which weigh about 2 kilos and are the size of a lunchbox. They'll have more power than the Peavey and easier to move. But I think you just said that amp loudness isn't the issue...

What kind of bass are you using? Does it sound good unplugged? It's possible that a pickup swap or a different bass might be the solution. Everything in your signal chain contributes to the sound - type of strings, pickups, pedals, amp, type of speakers.
Euro Trash Bazooka
I've never heard of Class D amps before nor seen anyone use one (but I don't play standard venues in general) so I'll look them up.

And yes, the bass sounds OK unplugged...
Lace pickups are worth considering if you want to get more out of those strings and down the cable. Heaps of heavy bands use them because they seem to draw out more top and bottom end. Nate from Converge has signature Lace pickups but I recommend the Alumas, unless you hear his product video and go "that's it!".

Anyone want to add some thoughts on an electronics and pots upgrade? That's beyond me.
I started as a bassist and I just want to chime in on the low-mids advice. Boosting the bass often makes your sound muddy. The low-mids is where the bass actually stands. A parametric equalizer is probably the most useful tool for a bassist.
Likewise I would not recommend a cabinet 15" or 18" speakers for the music that you play. Better have more, smaller speakers.
khakifridge wrote:
Have go considered going (mostly) naked into a powered PA speaker? (Like a Mackie, Behringer, QSC, etc.) The typical plastic enclosure, Class D amp, and modern neodymium speaker magnets make for a less back-breaking experience. And bass is somewhat more "hi-fi" than a guitar, so the full bandwidth suits it well.

I've played direct into one often and it sounds great. Takes any pedals you fancy, too. And another benefit is flexibility: if you need more power, just daisy-chain more powered cabs.

That might be a good idea. In my limited experience, using any overdrives or fuzz's or whatever will behave differently with any amp set-up. A PA set-up will be more straight forward.

I use an old Ampeg guitar amp tube VT-22 ( 2 x 12") w/ Sunn 18" PA cabinet with some pedals in two chains. The guitar amp gives enough character if I want and cuts clean and heavy with the PA cabinet. Then if I want some character I stomp down. I have a Boss Line Switcher for two different effect channels.

Aria Pro II Cardinal 380 >A) Golden Cello>Old Blood Noise Dark Star
" " >B) MXR Blue Box>Boss OC-3>DanElectro Reel Echo

For straight bass either no effects or just the Golden Cello sing. I found the guitar amp w/ 12" sounds pretty distinguished versus the bass amps I own or tried.

I think it all depends on how those effects boxes behave between what ever amp and guitar you use. I'm a synthesist so I don't know much.
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