Tone Freak.....How much money to throw at gear?

I guess my question is “how much is enough” and how little can you spend to get what you are looking for…
I play a Stingray Musicman 5 but I’m looking for sounds other than this particular sound.


That’s the $1000000 question :joy:
You’ve got a good start with your bass but I totally get what you mean.
I started with a good bass, then I bought another and then I had another bought for me and now I’m thinking about another one !
I bought a decent combo amp which I’ve remained faithful to throughout my short journey and then I bought a Zoom B1four which should have been enough.
And then @T_dub introduced me to the deadly rabbit hole of pedals :joy: and that is certainly a costly Pandora’s box if you allow it to be.
At the present time I have stopped buying pedals as I’m quite happy with swapping and changing between what have.
If I was to start again I would most certainly buy something like the Fender P bass I have, definitely something like the combo I have and probably the Zoom.


I’m considering buying a Helix LT to avoid exactly that. It’s been in my basket for a couple of days now, just need to take a deep breath and click “pay”…


Sounds like a good plan @akos

I really should have been satisfied with the Zoom especially as I never really mastered all its functions.
The strange thing is now I probably spend most of the time practicing with just a tuner and compressor in the mix.


I’m just as guilty as anyone when it comes to acquiring additional pedals and other gear, but I’m going to play the Devil’s Advocate here…

Years ago, I taught a culinary class. I saw many a student invest thousands of dollars on top of the line cookware, cutlery, and small appliances and gadgets, with the delusional idea that this would transform them into an instant gourmet cook. While it’s good to have good quality tools to work with, cooking is an art form just like music, and nobody is born into it. You develop skills through learning and practice. While a good bass and some pedals can add flavor to your playing, just as a top of the line chef’s knife and saucier can make a difference in the product you serve to your guests, nothing replaces practice, practice, practice.

My point is, pedals are great. A good bass that puts out a good tone is great. Have fun, build up your pedalboard. Add basses as you can afford them. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the final product is a result of you, much more than your gear.

Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to be so long. I hope it helps.


Yeah it’s definitely hard to justify these purchases at my skill level (that’s why I haven’t clicked the button yet), but at the same time I’m so itching to hear those cool sounds coming out of my bass… :slight_smile:


Helix will be a good investment. They are expensive but really high quality modeling.

I spend money on gear because I have fun with it. I sell it when I find I am not using it. I have everything I need (actually more than I need); this is mostly about want, not need.


Absolutely true for me as well, even though I have not arrived at the selling part yet :sweat_smile:


it’s a hobby for almost all of us. so yeah, you can always go a little too crazy on a hobby. just don’t drive yourself into the poorhouse and have fun.


Josh likes to point out that gear hardly matters at all. He makes lots of his videos and lessons using entry level bases which still sound great because he plays them well.

This reminds me of a story one of my favorite bassist recently told: Mike Gordon of Phish was at a side gig a few years back and was going to be playing with Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. It was during sound check, and Phil was onstage with his rig, sounding full on classic Phil Lesh tone. Mike asked if he could try Phil’s rig… He used Phil’s bass, Phil’s amp, Phil’s everything, he just took the bass from him and started playing. The moment that he did, the tone changed from sounding like classic Phil Lesh, to sounding like classic Mike Gordon. Lesson of the story is that most of your tone comes from your fingers/technique. Much more so than anything in your equipment.

That hasn’t stopped me from having an ever growing collection of gear that I’ve spent far too much money on… but getting new gear is always fun!


i agree. it depends on what your talking about. gear is not going to make you a better player or write you better songs. it’s not going to cover up for a lack of good technique. but what gear can do, is give you unique ways of expressing yourself musically. no technique is going to reproduce an envelope filter (i know one of you smartasses is going to find a youtube video of some 8 year old doing it now :rofl:). and gear is, lets face it, a lot of fun. so nothing wrong with wanting cool pedals, imo.


i love threads like this because i just realized like 7 of us have said basically the exact same thing :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:


Oh yeah, I tried exactly that strategy. Now I have a Plethora X5 and pedals surrounding it expensive enough to be better. :sweat_smile:


That’s a great story!
It reminds me of something that I saw a long time in the late Jaco Pastorius’ Modern Electric Bass video from back in the 80’s.

During an interview with Jerry Jemmot (another legend), Jaco said that he believes that a lot of your own sound comes from the notes that you choose to play and how you phrase them. Then he gave some examples of some phrase patterns that he commonly used in his playing.
In other words, two people can play the same notes, but sound very different doing it.
At one point in the video, Jaco swaps his fretted fender Jazz for Jerry’s custom fretless and plays the same piece. It still sounded like Jaco fretted or fretless.


Hah yep!

Now I’m going to say something a little different :slight_smile:


This is true to a large extent for basses, agree completely with Josh there. A lot of teachers say this.

This is less true for effects, for certain styles. It’s still true, just true to a lesser extent. The music I like tends to be heavily effected, often distorted, often modulated, sometimes reverby, much of it approaching a glorious wall of noise in crescendoes.

I don’t care who you are, to get to that you need effects, and the type and quality of the effects matter. To not sound like mud, you need that noise to be good tonal noise, not bad noise from low quality effects :slight_smile:


That Stingray 5 is an impressive and versatile instrument. Not to mention, they are super nice!
I suppose if you are looking for something different, that could still cover a lot of territory.
Maybe start by finding a piece of music that has a bass sound that you find unique and then do a little searching to find out what the player used on the recording, then see if there are affordable versions of the instrument that rate well.
A great example might be someone who loves the Jamerson/Babbitt Motown sound but who doesn’t wish to spend much money might find that they can get pretty close with a Squier Classic Vibe 60’s or 60’s Vintage Modified Precision bass, and playing with your amp eq to try to emulate the classic Ampeg voicing.
If you want more of that clanky Geddy Lee sound, you might be able get that from your Stingray, but if not, try diffent Jazz-style basses.
Great sounds don’t necessarily have to break the bank.
Good Luck and Cheers!


Why did you still need the pedals?


For the same reason we need another beer :thinking::grin:


Yep, pretty much! I still like having the multi effects box because there’s a one of everything in there of above average quality to play with. In all fairness the externals mostly aren’t in the multi-box at all: tube overdrive and envelope filter. The only external that’s a duplicate is a fancy compressor with lots of knobs and the multi-effect only has 3 control knobs assignable.

The best tone improvement I’ve had so far is turning up the amp and plucking much more gently. That and trying different elbow positions on the plucking hand rather than resting my arm on the bass.

+1 to everything everyone else has said here. I don’t usually practice with any of the effects. They are mostly for my amusement. I don’t play well enough to get any of them to truly sing. Even though I have an envelope filter I still don’t get anywhere near what I like about that style of music to come out yet. It takes more skill to “play the effect” on top of playing the instrument. I can put on some grit and have a little different tone that’s fun to hear. Otherwise, I find I can spend more time playing with tone than actually improving my skills. It’s not so easy to figure out how to dial in all these things so they don’t just sound like mush.


Got it, thanks. I’ve looked up that Plethora you mentioned, its selection is indeed a bit more limited than the Helix.