The image below is so useful; I wanted to share it in a post.
The image below is so useful; I wanted to share it in a post.
I had a terrible and constant low frequency whistle noise coming out of my bass pedalboard; even if the guitar is completely turned down. I solved my problem by plugging individual power adapters into problematic pedals.
Detecting the Source of the Noise
Rig hum can have many reasons. Three most significant reasons are; guitar pickup hum, ground loops and power issues.
My bass has split coil pickups, so guitar pickups couldn’t be the source of the noise. Besides; the hum was still there even when I turned the guitar down. So, the bass wasn’t guilty.
Ground loop could have been the reason; however, the hum started after I added some new pedals (not before).
Therefore, I suspected that there was a power issue. The fact that my pedals wouldn’t start up before blinking on and off for a while reinforced that idea.
Detecting Guilty Pedals
For this test, I removed each and every pedal from my pedalboard, and plugged my guitar in directly. No noise / hum at all. Good.
When I power any of those pedals individually via my Joyo Power Supply 2, they add up a little hum. Powering all of them end up producing a powerful hum.
Solving the Problem
I figured out that there was nothing wrong with the pedals. The only problem was; the power supply didn’t agree with the power demands of the pedals.
I disconnected those pedals from the power supply completely, and powered them through their original individual power adapters.
Wham! The hum disappeared. My rig went dead silent.
I figured that I needed a larger multi outlet for my pedalboard now; but it is a small price to pay for rig silence.
Using batteries instead of power adapters is also an agreeable solution, but I don’t want to worry about batteries going dead in the middle of some gig.
In this post, I will subjectively compare two high end basses.
One of them is a Fodera Emperor Standard Classic 5 with an alder body and rosewood fingerboard – everything is stock. The other one is a (discontinued) Fender Custom Classic Jazz Bass V with an alder body, rosewood fingerboard and noiseless Bartolini 57J1 L/S pickups.
Before reading further, you might want to check the following posts for some technical details:
Versatility: Fodera enables me to switch between humbucker / single coil and active / passive modes. It also has a passive cut control which works in both active / passive modes. Therefore, it has more onboard tonal versatility than the Fender.
Noise: Fodera has 60-cycle hum in single coil mode; which can be eliminated in humbucker mode. Fender is totally noiseless. Therefore, Fender has an advantage in cases I need to play in soloed single coil mode. For the record; stacked noiseless pickups are notorious for being weaker – that’s why I keep split coil Bartolini’s on my Fender.
Articulation: Overall; single coil articulation of Fodera is clearer than the Fender.
Effects: Fender has ceramic pickups, which (in my subjective opinion) work better than Fodera’s alnico pickups in case I need to use high gain. The advantage intensifies in single coil mode due to the hum of the Fodera.
Sound: I mainly use 4 sounds.
Neck: Fodera has the most comfortable neck I have ever played.
Price: Fodera is more expensive than the Fender – I think that it is worth it though. Having said that; I should add that they belong to the same price segment.
The Fodera is more versatile, articulate, comfortable and has the edge on bridge sounds. The Fender is completely noiseless, works better with effects, can be carried around insouciantly and has the edge on neck sounds.
As you see, none of the basses is absolutely better than the other. They are simply different. As discussed in Diminishing Returns on Bass Prices ; this would be the case in most situations where you compare two basses from the same price segment.
Frankly; I could pick either of them as my desert island bass. So how would I pick the bass to leave home with?
Currently, my decision mostly depends on the following question: “Can I keep my bass with me all the time today?” If the answer is yes, I pick the Fodera. Otherwise, I pick the Fender. Me being a Fodera artist, this may seem like an obvious choice. However; since the Fodera is harder to replace, I’m holding on to it.
I hope to play them both for many years though. Thus; I keep a spare nameless stunt bass for obviously dangerous situations, such as gigs on the beach.
I talk about diminishing returns on multiple posts about bass prices. I would like to explain what it means. Basically; “diminishing marginal return” means that the difference you get per $ decreases dramatically after a certain price point.
I would expect the quality difference between a 500$ bass and a 2.000$ bass to be much greater than the quality difference between a 2.000$ bass and a 6.000$ bass.
In other words; I would expect a 2.000$ bass to have a much higher quality than a 500$ bass. However; a 6.000$ bass wouldn’t differ that much from a 2.000$ bass.
After a certain point, we can’t even speak about a “better” bass, but we can speak about a “different” bass which is not necessarily better or worse than the cheaper one.
Makes sense, right?
My Fodera vs Fender Custom Shop comparison provides a “case in point” demonstration of diminishing returns. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but none can be considered absolutely “better” than the other.
There is a great debate on the price segment of Fodera basses. Some people think that they are overpriced, some think that they can justify the price tag, and some people own multiple Fodera basses. Apparently, the only consensus is that they aren’t exactly the cheapest purchase option in the bass market. Being a Fodera artist myself, I would like to talk about this matter.
Many other renowned custom builders work within the price range of Fodera as well; therefore, the title of this post could have been “Are custom basses worth the money?”. However; I didn’t want to talk about basses I’ve never played before, so I focused solely on Fodera.
First things first: Value is a subjective concept. Some people drive a Mercedes and can justify its high price with tangible or intangible factors; while others think that it is overpriced and any middle class vehicle can get them from point A to point B.
Same applies to the value of bass guitars; where Fodera can arguably be seen as the Bugatti of the market.
At Fodera, very talented luthiers hand-produce bass guitars using very high quality wood and hardware in a relatively expensive area of the world – NYC. Wage, material cost and overhead per instrument is probably much higher than a typical mass produced factory instrument. Add some profit on top of that. Add some customer service percentage too. Considering that Fodera has a backlog of 9 months on custom instruments, the demand – supply balance certainly seems to be favoring Fodera in terms of an increased price based on brand value as well.
The combination of those factors naturally lead us to the hefty price tags of instruments made by Fodera.
Is it worth it?
To some, yes. Some people enjoy the sound, playability, overall quality, image, etc. of a Fodera so much that they will find the instrument worth it. Some of those are financially fortunate enough to buy one, some not.
To some, no. Some people will find the instrument overpriced and claim that they find a similar sound, playability, overall quality, image, etc. in another instrument.
It all boils down to what you seek in an instrument, and where you can find it. Tangible or intangible; some people seem to find their criteria in a Fodera, and find the instrument worth it. The equation is that simple. Others might find their criteria in another brand (expensive or cheap), which is also totally fine.
Check my Fodera vs Fender Custom Shop comparison to see the reasons why a particular player might prefer the Fodera over a Fender CS or vice versa.
To be fair, we have to consider the law of diminishing marginal returns.
Assuming that a good production bass costs 2.000$ and an entry level Fodera costs 6.000$; some people will find the difference of Fodera worth the additional 4.000$ because this is what they are looking for. This is fine.
Some people will happily settle down with the 2.000$ bass and think that Fodera is overpriced because both sound & play almost identical for them – considering their own requirements. Those people will think that a Fodera is not worth it for them, personally. This is fine as well.
Some people will make a lucky purchase of a 500$ overseas instrument, where the perfect combination occurred; and be perfectly happy with it after a few modifications here and there. They will think that neither the Fodera nor the 2K bass is “worth it”. This is also perfectly fine.
Although I bought my Fodera second-hand, it cost me a small fortune. But was it worth it? To me, yes. Fodera has always been the holy grail of bass guitars for me, and I feel privileged to possess one. The neck simply plays itself, the tone speaks to me, its versatility is very high, and I simply enjoy having & playing a Fodera; it motivates me to play more and better. What more can I ask for?
On the other hand, my secondary bass Yamaha TRB 1005 costs the fraction of a Fodera, and is still a very good bass guitar I happen to enjoy playing a lot! If I can’t take my Fodera to some gig / practice for some reason, that’s where I play my Yamaha; but it also plays & pleases very nicely. The difference is evident, but not dramatic. Despite that, I subjectively think that Fodera is worth its price. Given the choice, I would take my Fodera for most gigs or sessions; and it is the first instrument I reach for when I’m at home.
I was notorious for buying & selling too many basses, seeking the instrument that speaks to me. My Fodera has been the final destination of my search; I wish that I could have one earlier. The cost of buying & selling too many instruments could be more than the difference between a decent production bass and a Fodera – another point of view in terms of value.
All in all, the world would be a boring place with only one brand and model, wouldn’t it? We are blessed to have so many alternatives corresponding to different needs and financial positions. The instrument that fulfills your subjective hygiene criteria will be “worth it”.
Tone is a highly subjective matter of taste with no universal rights and wrongs. How you should approach the tone of your bass depends on many factors such as your gear, technique, band, style of music, acoustics and size of the stage & venue, etc. I can’t guide you through a walkthrough of absolute tonal success, but I will talk about my approach which might inspire you to develop your own.
Please remember that a good tone starts with a good setup; check How I Setup My Basses if you need to.
Ideally, I do my main tonal setup by leaving my bass flat and tweaking the EQ of the amp. I use the EQ of my bass for minor tweaks during the gig, which involves tiny boost & cuts here and there (we will talk about this later). The idea is, it is hard (sometimes impossible) to turn back to your amp, tweak the sound, and get back to playing. But it is very easy to make a small adjustments via the onboard EQ with a small hand gesture.
Another reason is; once you cut a frequency, you can’t put it back any more. Think of old dirty strings that don’t ring that well any more – no matter how much you boost your treble, you can’t make them sound sparky when slapping. The same applies to your bass EQ. If you cut some frequencies onboard, you can’t put them back on the amp. Therefore, having a flat EQ on the bass initially is important in terms of frequency abundance as well.
Having said that; I must admit that I occasionally have to leave the amp flat and use my onboard EQ to shape my tone. Typical cases are:
The distance between the amp & your standing point is very important. Assuming that you have a mid sized amp, you should be staying around 2m away from your amp in order you can hear yourself. If you are too close, you will be standing behind the point where the sound is actually formed, and you won’t hear yourself well while your band members complain that the bass is too loud. If the stage is small and you can’t get the ideal distance, you might be better off using the amp as a DI only and mainly hearing yourself from the monitor speakers. Or, in-ear monitors. So, keep your distance (if possible) while shaping your EQ and playing on stage.
Your rig isn’t the only factor shaping your sound. The venue size & shape, ceiling height, stage material, amp placement and many other factors play a role on how you sound. You should imagine your bass + head + cabinets + the entire environment as a big giant rig producing your sound. Whatever you setup on the amp is only a starting point for your sound. Since you can’t shape your material environment, you’ll shape your amp EQ so that the amp -> material environment will produce the sound you want. Whatever EQ sounds good at home might sound bad on stage, or some EQ sounding good on a certain venue can sound bad on another venue. This means that you can’t have a fixed global EQ setting which works everywhere. You can have a certain sound you like, but how you’ll achieve this sound EQ-wise will differ from venue to venue. So you need to learn and love the EQ.
How you sound alone will differ from how you sound in the mix. After doing your initial EQ, be prepared to tweak it further after you play all together. Another point is; how you sound outside will differ from how you hear yourself on the stage. After setting your amp EQ to your taste, you are going to need to trust the sound guy for how you sound outside. Talk to him/her about your sound preference, but let him/her be the final judge. I also recommend sending him/her your flat signal so they can add / subtract frequencies more accurately (another reason to leave your bass EQ flat initially). Many amps have a pre/post switch or a dry out output (pin or XLR) to enable that.
Having covered the principles, we can move forward and tweak the EQ on the amp.
Start of by setting your bass flat. If you have a passive bass, you’ll want to leave the EQ wide open. If you have an active bass, you’ll want all EQ knobs centered. If you have a StingRay Classic and don’t have a center detent, good luck finding the flat spot.
Set your amp EQ flat as well. If you like the sound coming out with the flat setup, then fine! Don’t play with anything. You may get off with a good sound using a flat EQ at times. However, you’ll need to tweak the EQ in many other cases.
You need to be aware of the gain knob that most amps have. This knob will set the strength of the initial signal coming from your bass. A very low gain setting will leave you sounding weak. A very high gain setting will overpower the amp so you can’t distinguish the nuances of your technique. You need to find a sweet spot inbetween; where you sound strong enough to be satisfied while you can still hear your nuances. In many cases, gain & volume on the amp need to be balanced simultaneously. This means, the amount of gain you’ll need will be different on low & high volume situations. On my Aguilar ToneHammer 500, I tend to set the gain at 10 o’clock while the master volume is around 12.
In terms of EQ setup, you need to know what each frequency does. In case your amp has 4 EQ knobs;
In case your amp has 3 EQ knobs;
In case your amp has 2 EQ knobs;
Different amps will have their knobs set at different frequencies; the information above is just a casual general guide.
Some amps have the option to switch to a graphic EQ. Now this is where you have the most control, but it might be overkill for many players which are not sound engineers. Talkbass has a good explanation of frequencies , but I rarely get there on live situations. If I’m in the studio, I leave that level of granularity to the sound engineers anyway.
Here is a good bass graphic EQ frequency chart (source unknown):
As a general principle, cutting gives better results than boosting. If your bass sounds too boomy and you can’t hear your highs, cut the bass instead of boosting the treble. If your bass sounds too punchy and you can’t get enough bite, cut the low mids instead of boosting the high mids. You get the idea. Perceived frequency balance is as valid as actual frequency balance – when you cut the treble, people will perceive the sound to be “boomier” despite you didn’t boost the bass frequencies, and you don’t overpower anything, ending up sounding cleaner.
Most of the time, a little cut or boost goes a long way. If you feel like you need extreme EQ changes, chances are you don’t have the correct rig to produce the sound you like.
The settings below would cover my experience with two pickup bass guitars, including Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass, Fender Custom Classic V, Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass, Fodera Emperor Standard Classic 5 and Yamaha TRB 1005.
If the EQ of the bass is boost only (like Fender Marcus Miller or F-Bass), I start by a slight boost on each knob so I have room to cut frequencies. Amp tweaking might be needed accordingly. Otherwise, I start with a flat bass EQ.
First, I solo the neck pickup and setup the amp EQ so that I hear a nice P-Bass sound with some low-mid thump. That’s my starting point.
Then, I balance the pickups flat (with a flat guitar EQ) and ensure that I’m getting a balanced slap tone. Since balanced pickups phase each other out, they provide a natural mid scoop suitable for slapping.
Then, I emphasize the bridge pickup by about 55% (with a slight bass boost on the guitar) and ensure that I have enough punch; minor amp EQ tweaking is encouraged.
Then, I emphasize the neck pickup by about 55% (with a flat guitar EQ) and ensure that I have enough bite; minor amp EQ tweaking is encouraged.
Starting from that point;
During a gig, I either go straight with the P-Bass sound, or I get into the J bass zone and stay there.
Here is how I setup the initial tone of my Lakland. I start toning my instrument by leaving the EQ flat, balancing the neck & bridge coils at 50% and tweaking the amp until I get a 70’s Jazz Bass sound. Starting from that point;
I never solo the humbucker pickup; because compared to a StingRay, it’s position is slightly closer to the bridge. I advise mixing the humbucker with the neck pickup to preserve the punchiness you’d expect from a StingRay.
Here are some tonal approaches I used when I had this instrument.
Those are not hard wired rules, of course; just my experiments on my former StingRay.
In case you have a hard time pinpointing the flat spot, you can measure the 50% spot of each pot and put a sticker there which points up. That way, you can tell the flat spot easier when playing live.
Some songs from the pop rock oriented repertoire of The Flat Band;
Some songs from the latin oriented Jozi Levi Brazil Project;
I never solo the humbucker pickup; because compared to a StingRay, it’s position is slightly closer to the bridge. I advise mixing the humbucker with the neck pickup to preserve the punchiness you’d expect from a StingRay.
For soloing, +25% blend in single coil gives the best result. For Muse oriented tones, +25% blend in Humbucker mode gives the best result.
Active basses with 2 / 4 band EQ’s or passive basses will require different approaches, obviously. But how I approach my basses can inspire you into the right direction.
Note that your hand placement and technique also plays a great role in terms of shaping your tone. Leaving your pickup balance centered, try playing close to the neck and attack the strings softly with the meaty part of your fingers – this will produce a very warm and deep tone. Now, play close to the bridge and attack the strings with the top of your fingers as if you would scratch / claw the pickup. This will produce a very bright tone and will also allow you to play 16th notes tighter. Now, play between the neck – bridge pickup with the side of your fingers. This will produce a low mid oriented balanced sound.
The combination of amp EQ, bass EQ and your hand technique will define your initial sound output, and the venue will shape the rest. I have provided my own initial preferences, but you’ll need to work out your own over time and with experience.
After you are happy with your amp EQ and how you can shape the sound with your bass, you can set the EQ of individual effect pedals. Don’t attempt setting the EQ’s of your pedals earlier.
In case you would be interested in getting an agreeable Muse tone, check my post Muse Bass Sound where I share my hits and misses.
I published a video, where I take two short bass solos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1B1Cb6JK_c . I received a few questions about my bass solo tone, so here is the answer.
I was using a Fender American Jazz Bass V with alder body & rosewood fingerboard, all stock. The neck pickup was about 25% off, bridge pickup was on full, and the tone was about 50% off.
The signal ran into the EHX Freeze pedal, which I used to freeze the bass note before starting the solo. That ensures that the bottom end doesn’t get lost during the bass solo. Note that the pedal can be used in chord change situations as well. In my case, I was soloing over a single chord.
After that, the signal ran into the most vital element of the chain: Mr. Black Supermoon. It is a hauntingly beautiful reverb / sway pedal, and this pedal is probably what you were wondering about. That’s how I create the atmospheric sound of the solo. Reverb was pointing at 1 o’clock, and sway & decay were pointing at 3 o’clock.
Finally, the signal ran into my Mark Bass amp. The EQ was flat, VLE pointing at 8 o’clock and VLC pointing at 10 o’clock.
The combination of Freeze & Supermoon can really open up new horizons. I highly recommend tinkering with them.
For the record, here is a picture of my entire pedalboard from that gig: https://www.instagram.com/p/BGYVVZZrgnB/?taken-by=keremkoseoglu . Before you ask, yes, the cat is also part of the board and is named as “ToneCat”.
If you have read my past blog posts, you probably know that I have purchased & sold more basses than I would like to admit. Each bass I buy looks promising in some way, but I get dissatisfied by some other aspect; so I replace it with another one.
With every new replacement, I got closer to perfection. This time, I had a Lakland 55-02 Deluxe; which was promising in terms of fulfilling my criteria. I would like to share my opinions.
First of all, Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is an affordable bass. Even if it’s broken or stolen, it can be replaced with a broken heart but without a broken bank account. I can also leave it to the roadie or at the stage unattended without worrying too much. If you ever owned a boutique bass, you know the struggle: The stress of caring for your instrument can overcome the joy of playing it. As an active musician on the go, I ended up playing my backup instrument more than my main. However, an affordable high quality stunt bass is like the best of both worlds: You love your instrument and don’t worry too much about it.
For the record, here is a guide on deciding if a commodity is too expensive for you: Is That Too Expensive?
Don’t let the price tag fool you. Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is not your typical low profile overseas instrument. Although the woodwork is done in Indonesia; the final assembly, plek work and QA is made in the USA. Once again, you get the best of both worlds: A high quality instrument with an agreeable price.
And I can really feel the quality. The plek work is good enough to support a very low action setup without buzz, and the 35″ scale provides a very clear B string which I happen to use a lot.
The high quality feeling depends on a good setup though. In case you are wondering how I setup my Lakland, check my post How I Setup My Basses
Tonewise, this bass is a chameleon. It can mimic the P, PJ, J, Jaco and StingRay sounds very nicely in the studio (not so much in a live situation – read further). Lakland fairly admits that the bass was designed to mimic those classic models in the first place. The overall design of the bass and the advanced coil split capabilities of the humbucker offers a tonal versatility second to none.
In case you are wondering how I tone my Lakland, check my post How I EQ my Basses
To increase the versatility even more, Lakland lets you select your mid frequency via a dipswitch on the board of the guitar. In case you are wondering about the frequencies, here is a comparison chart of Lakland with some alternative preamps (source).
– LH3: Bass 12dB @ 125 Hz, Mid 18dB @ 225-1100 Hz, Treble 12dB @ 1.250 Hz
– OBP-3: Bass 18dB @ 40 Hz, Mid 16dB @ 400/800 Hz, Treble 16dB @ 6.500 Hz
– NTMB: Bass 14dB @ 30 Hz, Mid 10dB @ 250/500/800 Hz, Treble 16dB @ 1.000 Hz
Beyond the versatility of this bass guitar, one thing that really pleases me is the silence. Due to the pickup design, there is no hum involved. The neck pickup has two coils with opposing polarities within, and the bridge humbucker has four coils with opposing polarities within. As a result of that design; you don’t get any hum whichever pickup combination you choose. Considering that even some very expensive high end basses have humming single coil pickups, that’s a major benefit for me.
To be fair, I would also like to share some of my observed delicacies.
35″ is a good choice for a nice tight B string; however, it also means that the rest of the strings are tight as well. This can be tiring for unaccustomed fingers. I started using a pick on fast paced rock songs; which is luckily something that I’m used to.
Talking about strings; stringing a 35″ bass through the body means that I have limited options of XL strings. However, stringing through the bridge is also possible – I simply prefer otherwise. Not because of any tone difference though – I merely like the idea of the strings pressing the bridge to the body more than strings pulling the bridge off the body.
I should also add that I’m not really satisfied with how this bass sounded in a live situation. In my home studio, this bass did mimic other famous basses acceptably well. However; the nuances that define the versatility of this bass got digested and stepped over by loud drums and guitars in a rock band situation. My expectation was to switch from P-Bass to J-Bass to StingRay from song to song, but frankly, I ended up sounding similar in every setting.
A real P-Bass has more emphasis on the punch, a real J-Bass has more emphasis on the growl, and a real StingRay has more emphasis on the snarl. Although the Lakland can lean towards either direction, it didn’t sound exactly like those basses at all in a live situation. Maybe that’s just me; how a bass sounds is a really complex formula including the room, PA, amp, etc. But for the first time in my life, I experienced such a gap between my home studio and a live situation. Don’t take my word for it; read opinions of other people and play the bass for yourself before making a final decision on that matter.
I also felt like this bass sounded a little thin, possibly due to the ash + maple wood combination. I seem to be an alder + rosewood type of guy.
Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is so good that it makes me wonder about the 100% USA made 55-14 or 55-94. After a certain price point, you get diminished returns for your instrument. I expect the physical and tonal differences between a 55-02 & 55-94 to be much less than the price difference. That’s also the case with batch produced vs custom shop instruments of other brands. With a custom shop instrument; the wood and workmanship consistency and quality is definitely there. However, a lucky purchase of a production instrument of the same model can get close enough to make you wonder why the other one is so expensive. In my conjectural opinion, the comparison between 55-02 and 55-94 would be similar because they share the same specs, the exact same electronics and production after-touches such as plek implementation.
A quote from the forums says “A Skyline is all you need, a USA is all you want.” Another quote says “85% of the bass at 50% of the cost”. I think that those summarise the deal.
Lakland 55-02 was my secondary bass for a while, but currently I use a Jazz Bass instead – due to my disappointment in the live setting. In case you are wondering, my main is a Fodera.
In case you are looking for an affordable high-quality instrument with unbeatable versatility, I still recommend listing the Lakland 55-02 Deluxe among your alternatives.
If you live in Turkey, I can recommend getting one from Limon Muzik. I ordered my Lakland in the afternoon over WhatsApp, and I had it in my hand on the next morning. Great staff too.