Picking the right bass for your sonic goal

Precision and Jazz are arguably the most popular bass guitars on earth. There are many factors to pick one bass over the other; and your sonic goal is one of them. In this article, I will share my opinion on picking the right bass.

Bass (< 250 Hz): If you are playing dub, reggae, electronic, etc.; you are going to need strong bass frequencies. Neck pickup of a Jazz Bass with flat-wound strings move those sub-woofers like none other. However, you need to EQ the kick drum accordingly and leave the subs to the bass guitar.

Low-mids (250 – 500 Hz): This is the most dominant and default sonic area for bass guitar in popular music – especially if you are a typical support player. A Precision Bass with flat-wound strings occupy this area very well, and can be heard between the kick-snare easily without clashing other instruments for sonic space. Therefore, this is a very attractive area to occupy in crowded bands. That’s why many producers especially like P-basses. You can hear many great players like Duck Dunn, James Jamerson, Michael League, Pino Palladino, Sean Hurley, etc. occupy and use this area well.

Low-mids + bite (500 – 2K Hz): If you like that low-mid thump but want some upper harmonic content/clarity as well, that’s the way to go. This formula is especially attractive if you are playing in a loud ample band (like a power trio) and need to fill out some further sonic space. That’s also the typical choice for many rock bassists. If that’s your goal; you can put round-wound strings on a…

  • …Precision Bass and add some mild overdrive (low-mid emphasis)
  • …Jazz Bass, emphasize the neck pickup slightly (like 5-10%) and boost 500 Hz slightly (bite emphasis)
  • …PJ bass, emphasize the neck pickup and blending the bridge pickup as needed (bite emphasis)

Scoop: This is your sound for slapping. Obviously, you need to get a Jazz Bass with round-wound strings and dime both pickups. Boosting bass & treble on the amp also helps.

High-mids (2K Hz – 6K Hz): This is the “Jaco” domain. Emphasizing that area is useful for chords, soloing or quiet ample bands. You won’t fill out the lows very much, but get clarity and articulation in exchange. I also tend to occupy this area if the keyboard player has a heavy left hand. You can get a J or PJ bass with round-wounds strings, emphasize (or solo) the bridge pickup, and cut the tone control as needed. Fretless basses also sound beautiful in this area.

Obviously, you can achieve those sonic goals with other basses as well; but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

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