Buy a bass for "tone" or for "feel"?

as i yet again contemplate another bass i absolutely do not need, i am trying to sort this out:

do we buy a bass for how it sounds, or how it feels? (or both?)

it seems like you can make any bass sound like anything via pedals, digital workflows, etc… but feel is feel? or is it more about the sounds you can generate live on stage vs. in a studio where you have (i think?) total control over everything? obviously there is no black & white answer to this but just kind of wondering if i am thinking about all of this in a way that makes sense?

i have never done any music production so i may be way way way off on all of this.


I can get the sound I want out of either my Jazz Bass or P Bass by tweaking the patch in my HX Stomp. You have to invest the time in learning how Helix software works.

Modeling has come a long way. A pickup IMHO just turns the vibration of the string into sound (other opinions are available). Shaping that sound can be done very powerfully in lots of ways in my case in the Helix unit or as other do with Amplitude in the computer.

My priorities:

  1. Does the bass look cool
  2. Does the neck feel right
  3. Is it 9lbs ish or less


Edit: you should definitely buy an Aerodyne because they look fabulous on you :wink:


I would say (get ready for it…) it depends!!

I’m going to get that tattooed on my body.

I got my J bass for how it felt. It was the most comfortable J neck to play on. The sound was not great, so I had to do some pickup swapping. It’s still too heavy. But the neck and playing feel is still my favorite.

I got the P bass for how it sounded.
It had the old, punchy, mid-rangey vibe. I got the P bass I could afford that sounded good, which was a 50’s reissue. I would have preferred the '65 P bass that I played in Telluride on tour one time that was up for $4,000.
I had no money and no business buying it, but the narrower, thinner necks of the 60s feel better in my hands.

But I still love and play that 50s reissue allllll the time.
It’s my main axe because it has the sound.

So, you know, it depends.


wait… are you suggesting that playing a bass is less about hard science, facts, data, specs, metrics, etc… and more about a innate, sensate connection to the thing in your hands?

next you are gonna tell me that buying a really nice bass will not make me a better player or some other silliness like that.

(hash tag wink emoji)


Tone is the cheapest upgrade on any basses. If you like how the Fender Ultra pickup sound, you can buy the pickup and put it on your Squier and come pretty close, that said the Squier pickups should already be in the 80% neighborhood of the Fender Ultra pickups already. You can go another route of 3rd party upgrades like Fralin, Seymour Duncan, EMG, Delano, etc. Also remember, basses may sound different playing by itself and in the mix, some basses really shine in the mix.

What separate the Premium to the Entry level instruments to me are the looks and feels. The extra hands on hours spent on the bass separate the finished feel of the bass and usually better aesthetic components as well. That’s one of the reason why factory relic are so expensive. The instrument feels like it’s been played everyday for 20 years. How it feels would inspires the way you play.

I’m not into the sound/ tone augmentation via pedal yet in general. I don’t like to dramatically put any kind of drive or fuzz on my bass tone. From time to time I like some Wah Wah but it’s specific to songs I play and I’m not hip enough to use the modelers too, lol.


Yeah, tone just isn’t the biggest concern for me with basses. It’s just so easy to change and modify; it’s a distant third at best behind feel and look.


Fully agree with Barney’s prio list. It’s more the type of pickups/bass that could make a difference, but tone you can easily modify with pedals or plugins. I never really understood why people are so invested with changing pickups on bass or guitars either. :person_shrugging:

Look & feel are most important for me personally.


Me too but my limit is 8 lbs :slight_smile:


My first bass was a Yamaha TRBX174, it plays great but it didn’t make the sound i wanted, no matter how much i played with things and it also doesn’t slap well no matter how much i played with the setup. I got a JBass for slap and i like the tone for some things but it’s still not the sound i love. I finally got a pbass and it’s the sound i love! I play it about 98% of the time.

The pbass plays great, but so do my other basses. My Sire M7 can make almost any tone you could desire but i don’t feel like sitting there and playing with knobs, i want to play music and with my pbass, i only have to turn one knob to get the sound i want. :slight_smile:

That’s just me, everyone has different reasons for why they buy/play what they do. I don’t really care much how basses look, i don’t spend a lot of time looking at them… but my pbass is orange which is pretty awesome :smiley:


God’s own truth. My M5 is a massive tone monster. Some say there’s no such thing as too much. This thing proves it.


It needs presets with rotary actuators :laughing: Every time i need a different tone for a song i think “It took me a long time to find that, i don’t want to change anything” :joy:

It’s great for playing/recording but if i was going to gig with it, i think i’d have to glue the knobs in one spot :thinking: lol

1 Like

Hmmm, I don’t have that problem. Essentially, I switch between pup splits and tweak my tone in by ear. Pretty quick and easy after some experimenting with what you want to hear. Of course, room acoustics come into play, but still.

1 Like

The problem is the difference between what sounds good when you’re adjusting the knobs and what sounds good in a mix. Sometimes i’m very particular about that sound and when i find just the right sound, i don’t want to change it :slight_smile:

It’s not like i can’t do it but it’s like when you get the seat in your car adjusted just right and someone moves it :laughing:

and there’s no room, i don’t play through an amp/cab so it’s even more noticeable. :slight_smile:

1 Like

It depends on particular circumstances. If you’re recording to a backing track, like either a cover or an original song played by band mates, you’ve got time to dial in the tone that sounds best to you in the mix.

If you’re playing live, you have the benefit of rehearsing and hearing/dialing in the tone that works in the mix, whether using amps or a PA system.

Still, the myriad possibilities of tonal variance are there as a menu, not a meal. In other words, a player can choose the settings that work for a certain tune(s) and, with a bit of practice, call up that setting(s) pretty quickly. At least, that’s been my experience. Like everything else, mileage varies.

1 Like

Interesting question.

Every Carvin/Kiesel I’ve bought has been for neither tone nor feel, but for… artistry, I suppose? I just absolutely love the Carvin/Kiesel aesthetic. But… every Ibanez I’ve bought has been because of how the instrument feels; the shape of the neck, the contours of the body, etc. Conversely, every Fender I’ve bought has been because of the tone; I wanted that authentic “Fender” sound (yes, even the Dimensions). Except for my Aerodyne, which is drop dead sexy, I’ve never bought a Fender solely for the look or feel of it (there was an aspect of “that’s an effing cool looking bass” with the Dimensions, but that wasn’t the sole buying decision).

So I suppose like many others in this thread, I’m ultimately going to fall back on the standard BassBuzz answer of “it depends”. :slight_smile:


Playability is number one for me. How a bass feels and plays is make-or-break, above all things. This comes down to how easily it gives up the notes: neck shape, body shape, fret size, overall weight, balance, truss rod access, bridge adjustability - all the things big and small that make playing as transparent as it can be.

If the bass “fights” me or comes up short in any of the above criteria, it’s a hard pass.

Then, if it happens to be classically beautiful to look at, that’s a plus, but it sure ain’t a driving criterion for me. I’d much sooner go with a plainer-looking bass than one that is all hat and no cattle, so to speak.


Some bass like the ‘51 is neither do me but it scores big in the aesthetic and nostalgia value. Although I love me some Wilton Felder’s vibe from time to time, lol.

1 Like

If I were going to rate the three on a scale of 1-10 for importance, I would say the feel is a solid 10/10, with looks being about 7/10, and tone maybe 2. It’s just so easy to modify the tone with EQ and effects, and once in the mix it’s really amazing how little the original bass tone matters. If anything, the amp sim (or real amp, if you spend for a really good one), compression and EQ you use matters more.


Yeah! In post, everything sounds like either a P bass or a Jazz bass. It’s sad but mostly true. Another camp is the crisps aggressive tone of Music Man bass. No one mix it any other ways, it seems. :laughing:

1 Like

I am a hobbyist and even I can mix any of those into one that will work for the other, too, and only bass players or sound engineers would ever notice. Some might make it easier but in the end, the end result is all that matters.

1 Like