The bass gui­tar is an often for­got­ten, but cru­cially impor­tant part of any band or rhythm sec­tion. Peo­ple may think that you sim­ply plug in a bass and go for it — not the case. Just like any art form, there are a whole range of extended tech­niques and tone tips that apply to this sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile instrument.

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This train­ing arti­cle will cover an even more neglected aspect of the bass gui­tar in church — tone. The bass gui­tar oper­ates in some fun­da­men­tally sim­i­lar ways to an elec­tric gui­tar — both use forms of ampli­fi­ca­tion to achieve their desired sound, and neglect­ing the tone shap­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties of the bass severely lim­its what you can achieve as a band. Here are a few main tips to help craft your per­fect bass tone and how it can con­tribute to your music.

Effects

The effects realm is dom­i­nated by elec­tric gui­tarists, with key­board play­ers in a close sec­ond. How­ever, there are a few effects that a bass player can use to achieve great results.

  • The first most impor­tant floor based stomp box, regard­less of instru­ment is the tuner. Good tone starts when your instru­ment is in tune — the bass is no excep­tion. Stay­ing in tune also means keep­ing your strings fresh. old ones will sound dull and lack presence.

  • An EQ pedal will make shap­ing your tone a breeze and allows for on-​the-​fly adjust­ment of your tone depend­ing on your venue or space

  • Many bassists have found cre­ative ways of using drive and fuzz ped­als. The low end rum­ble of a bass com­bined with a prop­erly dialed in gain pedal will add a huge amount of depth to your tone. Even just a sliver of over­drive will round out your tone and give it the bite to cut through the mix when required

  • Exper­i­ment with mod­u­la­tion effects like delays and reverbs, but don’t expect them to be utilised in con­ven­tional music gen­res. The bass is built to occupy lower, less dis­tinct fre­quency ranges, and by design, mod­u­la­tion effects will make these fre­quen­cies harder to hear. Still, there are play­ers who have found ways to make mod­u­la­tion effects a core part of their tone. Check out Tool’s bassist Justin Chan­cel­lor and his bass rig:

Amp tone controls

It’s impor­tant to squeeze the most out of your amp’s tone con­trols. Those knobs and but­tons are on your amp for a rea­son! Bassists should focus on the lows and mids, dial­ing in just enough of the bass fre­quen­cies to be felt with­out get­ting muddy. The mid range fre­quen­cies will help your bass to “push out” of the mix, and your notes will become even more dis­tinct the more mids you dial in. The tre­ble con­trols should be used to add “sparkle” to the top of the note — just a touch of tre­ble in the right amount can really add a lot to your tone.

Genre

When you dial in your tone, con­sider what genre you’re play­ing for. Most church music doesn’t place huge impor­tance on your bass tone, but it’s more than likely you’ll need to fill out space, in which case, you’d focus more of lower fre­quen­cies. Some music requires the bass to be almost like a lead instru­ment — par­tic­u­larly pro­gres­sive jazz or rock, in which case you’d focus on the mid range. Pick the right tone for the right occasion.

When you put these three ele­ments together, and with a bit of exper­i­men­ta­tion and research, you’ll eas­ily be able to trans­late that per­fect tone your hear in your head into some real music. The key is to per­se­vere, lis­ten to lots and lots of dif­fer­ent gen­res of music and always seek to fur­ther your­self and your instru­ment. Never take the bass for granted as the instru­ment no one would miss — you’ll notice when it’s gone!

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What are some tips you’ve heard to achieve a great bass tone? Com­ment below and have your say!