The Cheats Guide to getting a Rickenbacker Bass Sound on a Budget. Tips, Tricks ( Heated Debate).

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valevale Frets: 805
edited July 10 in Bass
Ok, so this is potentially a blatant invitation for the Rickenbacker bass fundamentalists (& mentalists) to come out of the woods with their pointed sticks & call 'heresy!' on the whole debate.

But... at a grand a pop, this is pretty much a bass i am never going to own, & yet i am very curious about what i might be able to do with that sound, within the scope of the musical (& non-musical) things i like to do.

So i am working on the principle that while arguments (valid/invalid) can & will be made about specifications particular to the Ricky basses that will hold water, there will equally always be scope to locate a non-Ricky bass at a desired point along a spectrum of tones, ranging from 'sounding nothing like a RIcky' to 'sounding a lot like a Ricky'.

So rather like going to the opticians to have your eyes tested for new glasses ("is this better with? or without?") can anyone suggest a prescription suited to addressing this challenge.

For example, if we were talking guitars then something like a jangle box & a TC liverpool would be useful if you were searching for that classic 1960s 12string 'beat explosion' Rickenbacker sound.

As far as i know, no such one-stop stompbox exists for emulating the Ricky bass sound, but it may be a case that such a box does exist but it is just not being marketed for that purpose.

Anyway, assuming a modest young bedroom bassist's budget (Squires not Fenders, sub £100 non-boutique pedals, one amp not multiple) what would you suggest?
what she said.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    You're looking for single coil and through neck tones.. not easy on a budget if you want *that* sound.

    I'm going to be a proper heathen and say "have you tried a proper single coil 51P bass type?"
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    (no, not to sound like a Ric, but to get that middy punchy single coil type of tone..)
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  • valevale Frets: 805
    You're looking for single coil and through neck tones.. not easy on a budget if you want *that* sound.

    I'm going to be a proper heathen and say "have you tried a proper single coil 51P bass type?"
    can you define 'through neck tones'? how do you consider they differ from bolt on neck tones?

    only tried bog standard squier & fender precisions & jazzes (with a variety of pickup & bridge subs).
    i confess didn't realise the 51P had anything they don't have. lazy on my part maybe. i'm just so used to fender retaining the basics & tweaking the cosmetics that i wrote that one off as just a precision with a makeover.

    to me Rickenbacker bass is cilppy-clicky, slighty shearing & metallic resonance, bottom end thump. so that would be my direction of travel on this one.
    what she said.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    vale said:
    You're looking for single coil and through neck tones.. not easy on a budget if you want *that* sound.

    I'm going to be a proper heathen and say "have you tried a proper single coil 51P bass type?"
    can you define 'through neck tones'? how do you consider they differ from bolt on neck tones?

    only tried bog standard squier & fender precisions & jazzes (with a variety of pickup & bridge subs).
    i confess didn't realise the 51P had anything they don't have. lazy on my part maybe. i'm just so used to fender retaining the basics & tweaking the cosmetics that i wrote that one off as just a precision with a makeover.

    to me Rickenbacker bass is cilppy-clicky, slighty shearing & metallic resonance, bottom end thump. so that would be my direction of travel on this one.
    The Ric neck goes through the body - the pickups and bridge are all mounted on the same piece of wood as the neck. 

    I personally think trying to emulate the sound of a Ric on a budget is a dark alley to madness.. which is why I suggested the 51P style - it's different, it's got some of that metallic resonance and bottom end thump as it's a single coil pickup - but you can get one for peanuts if you look hard enough or go Partscaster. 

    Here's mine:



    I like the formula so much (that single coil just where it is) that I'm doing another - this one is semi-hollow:



    You can do one as a partcaster on the cheap - and I honestly think it will get you *some* of the sound you are after (more so than anything with hum buckers or jazz style pickups)
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    Meant to say - in terms of pedals, a preamp DI will allow you to do some pretty cool EQ tricks - scooping mids, or (more importantly) boosting mids and adding some 'colour'.

    You want cheap? You want the Behringer BDI21. £30. 

    It's about the best Bass £30 you can spend - it's a clone of the sansamp (sort of) and for the money it's bloody excellent and nothing like the usual tat you'd get for £30.

    https://www.gak.co.uk/en/behringer-bdi-21-bass-amp-modeler-di/988?gclid=CjwKCAjwj4zaBRABEiwA0xwsP1xk3HkE-4FGpLMmRl__ktrAyKPHx-6zcjT1wNJJnNVmobQLSDJwSxoCV9cQAvD_BwE
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  • BranshenBranshen Frets: 796
    I came for the heated debate but it looks like I'm early as @ICBM isn't even here yet.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 31153
    edited July 10
    Branshen said:
    I came for the heated debate but it looks like I'm early as @ICBM isn't even here yet.
    The answer is simple - a Precision and an EQ pedal.

    (If you mean the Rick bridge pickup, anyway.)

    There’s no special magic to it, it’s just a bass sound. I happen to like the feel, look and sound of a Rick, but any bass with a punchy pickup in the middle will do it.

    Personally I would take the ‘57-style P over the ‘51, the pickup is a little closer to the bridge and hum-cancelling.

    For what it's worth I have humbuckers in my Rick and it still sounds like a Rick...
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • martmart Frets: 2643
    You're looking for single coil and through neck tones.. ...
    So would a set-neck Rick bass not work? ;)
    http://www.rickresource.com/rrp/setneckbasses.html

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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    mart said:
    You're looking for single coil and through neck tones.. ...
    So would a set-neck Rick bass not work? ;)
    http://www.rickresource.com/rrp/setneckbasses.html

    Yes, it would work - but some say that the through neck adds something to the sound.. 

    (Personally I don’t think so)
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 31153
    edited July 10
    mart said:

    So would a set-neck Rick bass not work?
    A set-neck Rick is still going to be expensive. Even a 3000 series is these days (probably due to Franz Ferdinand).

    Bridgehouse said:

    Yes, it would work - but some say that the through neck adds something to the sound.. 

    (Personally I don’t think so)
    I would say not too, although it it is an otherwise odd coincidence that three of my favourite basses - Rick, Thunderbird and Aria SB - are all through-neck despite being quite different otherwise.

    But at the end of the day it goes back to why (for me) there is no real reason to have more than one bass - with a decently punchy pickup in roughly the right place and powerful enough EQ on the amp/pedals, I can get the sound I want.

    If a P-Bass was just a little slimmer and had a slightly smaller neck (both width/depth and possibly scale length) I would probably play one as happily as I do my 4001. I have thought about it - you can get a worthwhile P-Bass for a couple of hundred pounds - but I just like the feel, playability and looks of the Rick more.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • JezWyndJezWynd Frets: 2174
     there is no real reason to have more than one bass - with a decently punchy pickup in roughly the right place and powerful enough EQ on the amp/pedals, I can get the sound I want.

    Exactly, though I'd maybe add a low gain OD to the list for those that want that sound.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    JezWynd said:
     there is no real reason to have more than one bass - with a decently punchy pickup in roughly the right place and powerful enough EQ on the amp/pedals, I can get the sound I want.

    Exactly, though I'd maybe add a low gain OD to the list for those that want that sound.
    A decent preamp Di with some drive will do exactly that - and give the eq flexibility needed for boosting mids etc. I’d probably want one with some compression onboard as well..
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2957
    edited July 10
    vale said:
    Ok, so this is potentially a blatant invitation for the Rickenbacker bass fundamentalists (& mentalists) to come out of the woods with their pointed sticks & call 'heresy!' on the whole debate.
    What brought this on?
    vale said:
    at a grand a pop
    Two grand and, if you want a particular finish, about two years' wait.

    vale said:
    i am very curious about what i might be able to do with that sound, within the scope of the musical (& non-musical) things i like to do.
    Sweeping generalisation #1 - Use that sound to recreate pre-existing uses of it on record or in concert. e.g. The Dukes Of Stratosphear albums used "period correct" gear to emulate the sounds that their songs pastiche. 

    Sweeping generalisation #2 - Use that known sound in a new context to create your own thang.


    vale said:
    Assuming a modest young bedroom bassist's budget, what would you suggest?
    Geddy Lee of Rush repeatedly trots out the story about the heaps of fan mail he received, complimenting the tone of his Rickenbacker bass throughout the album Moving Pictures. (It appears on one song. Everything else is his black early Seventies Fender Jazz Bass.)

    Sooooooooo ... Alder body, maple neck Jazz Bass, plectrum, actual Rickenbacker strings (maybe), aggressive playing attack, slightly dirty amplification. 

    *

    For me, part of the joy of Ricks is their distinctive physical layout. The scale length, string spacing and the gubbins obstructing the middle of the body contribute to the ride. A combination of the sounds and the moves that are most comfortable to make on the fingerboard influence note choices. I will play things on a 4001 that I would never choose to on, say, a Fender or a Warwick.

    The reverse is also true. Some things that I want to do can feel and/or sound wrong on the Rickenbacker. 
    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    You could, of course, ask the very talented @GSPBASSES  to make you a custom body and neck which could have the same scale length, pickup position, bridge, control layout etc etc and you could even do a metal flake finish ;)
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  • GSPBASSESGSPBASSES Frets: 1091

    As it happens, I have a Ricky bass body in stock, made from American red Alder with cream binding. I might even have a neck in the workshop for it. As you can see from the photo is not through neck. It can either be a bolt on, although almost people want a set neck on this type of bass. The body is the twin of a Ricky I made a few years ago, photo below.

     

    The pink Ricky is fitted with Seymour Duncan PJ quarter pounders, powered up by top range actives by East Electronics. This combination of pickups and preamp can cover just about any sound you're looking for, although not quite Ricky, but almost. The owner of this bass plays in several different bands, from heavy metal to a Frank Sinatra big band and country, he also played the bass in a Modern Jazz Quartet.




    I also have a 52 P-Bass not the one in the photo but a identical one, plus I also have a near semi 52 P-Bass as per the one @Bridgehouse has.


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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    My 51Semi is nearly ready for build up now. Been gathering parts over the last few months and tho I’ve not been in any rush to do it, I’m pushing on with it now. It’s light. Real light, and will add yet another dimension to it...
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  • valevale Frets: 805
    many thanks for the interesting comments & feedback on this thread, people.

    i thought it would be either part subs (high mass bridge & particular output pickups) or cheeky tricks like putting a big dense metal cover over the midway pickup, or wiring pickups out of phase. or pedals (janglebox or slight metallic flanging, even a ringmod).

    so am surprised that most advice has been to do with the amp end. apart from dialing in a mid scoop i had felt the amp would be too late in the chain (can't draw out what isn't there).
    but i totally value those opinions as you have all had many more years experience with much more gear to be able to call on tone. so will start there.

    the behringer looks ace so will hit the youtube demos. i have just bought a used line 6 pocket pod for guitars & bass, so will muck around with that initially, as it seems quite decent for a budget amp&fx sim. but good to know the behringer will hit the spot (or near to) & isn't expensive & if Line 6 doesn't.

    re new wood, have never been a fan of full scale fender basses. chunky precision etc necks i can't manage. i also find them ugly & planky looking, but that's just taste.
    neckwise a jazz is do-able up to the 10th but after that widen/deepen beyond my comfort zone.
    so i am committed to shortscales with skinny necks.
    but hopefully those recommendations will be useful to someone without my fickle needs, or someone who is happy with their fender/squier/etc but interested in signature ricky tone.

    the classic 'fretboard mission creep' in the last posts made me smile. clearly a luthier hand-built custom rickenbacker is the only realistic budget solution to this problem.
    without doubt they are beautiful custom basses, & may well be the right answer for someone, but a shade (& some) beyond my current means. even in baby pink (swoons!).

    btw i get the point some have made that they don't only do one sound, but it's that cliche'd clunky scoopy metallic thing that i think is the thing they do better than most, & which has become a kind of lazy shorthand for all they do. a fair point acknowledged.
    what she said.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    @vale - my 51P in surf green pictured above, and the semi hollow are both @GSPBASSES  and both cost well under £500 to finish and build.. I suspect the Ric that Graham pictured above would be similar - much much cheaper than you would imagine.....
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2957
    vale said:
    fender basses ... ugly & planky looking
    This is the essence of most Fender electric guitars and basses.

    vale said:
    putting a big dense metal cover over the midway pickup
    On early Rickenbacker basses, the "metal cover" is actually the ends of two horseshoe magnets. (Yer actual 1930s technology.) On later examples, the pickup was redesigned. Consequently, the part in the space formerly occupied by the magnets is plastic. 

    vale said:
    i am committed to short scales with skinny necks.
    Short scale for reasons of finger reach or in the hope that the neck depth will remain shallow? 

    On examples of the Charvel CX 492 with the "toothpaste" logo decal and Fender headstock outline, the neck is incredibly shallow. For you, the likely downside of this particular neck is that its string spacing is decidedly Precision.

    vale said:
    a luthier hand-built custom rickenbacker is the only realistic budget solution to this problem.
    Not so. Even as I type, there is a mildly abused Hondo II 4001-style project bass, listed on eBay for a starting price of one hundred and not many quid. It will need a good deal of work and parts throwing at it. The finished result will never match the real thing but it might manage a passable Cliff Burton or Peter Hook sound.
    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • GSPBASSESGSPBASSES Frets: 1091
    "Fretboard Mission Creep"
            I don’t know what to say about that, been called some things in my life but a Creep.

     

    @Bridgehouse mentioned me so I go to investigate why I've been named, having read through the post, I thought I have a Ricky body and neck, so I thought if you fancy partcaster build, this would be a cheap option for you. I don't think there's anything creepy about that.

     

    And by the way that hand built pink Ricky would not be a cheap option, it costs considerably more than a real Ricky.

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2957
    GSPBASSES said:
    "Fretboard Mission Creep"
            I don’t know what to say about that, been called some things in my life but a Creep.
    How about a weirdo? Special? :)
    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • valevale Frets: 805
    GSPBASSES said:
    "Fretboard Mission Creep"
            I don’t know what to say about that, been called some things in my life but a Creep.

    @Bridgehouse mentioned me so I go to investigate why I've been named, having read through the post, I thought I have a Ricky body and neck, so I thought if you fancy partcaster build, this would be a cheap option for you. I don't think there's anything creepy about that.

    And by the way that hand built pink Ricky would not be a cheap option, it costs considerably more than a real Ricky.

    Hey @GSPBASSES i think you've got me wrong. 'mission creep' is a thing, not a person.
    no offence intended to you at all. i respect you & your work greatly. hence the swoon declared for the baby pink Ricky.

    see:

    "Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes.[1] Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, stopping only when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_creep

    i was just joking that (as frequently happens in fretboard posts, as subsequent posters up the ante with '...but for a few pounds more you can get...'), an initially outlined budget quickly escalates from the minimal to the extreme within a single thread page.
    so 'mission creep' because that familiar shift from micro to macro budget happened here too.

    but no criticism of any posts. all good stuff, & it's good to have all the options laid out, because other people reading the thread may have different budgets & be up for fancier things.

    anyway, there was genuinely no offence intended & keep up that stellar bass building.
    what she said.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    Has your thinking changed at all @vale or are you considering a Rickenfaker still?
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2957
    vale said:
    Hey @GSPBASSES i think you've got me wrong. i was just joking 
    I suspect that he realised that. His reply was definitely tongue-in-cheek.* Irony and sarcasm do not always come across in type.


    vale said:
    there will ... be scope to locate a non-Ricky bass, at a desired point along a spectrum of tones, ranging from 'sounding nothing like a RIcky' to 'sounding a lot like a Ricky'.
    Sixty years of musical instrument manufacturing history suggests otherwise.

    If somebody had devised an acceptable substitute that retailed for a more affordable price, we would all be using it.


    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • valevale Frets: 805
    edited July 11
    @Bridgehouse

    the black ones look not too bad (coffin-esque, which is quite stately), but it's more the sound than the look that attracts me, hence my curiousity about how i might go about faking it on the cheap.

    but you know where my bass passions lay, even if the violin is about as far away from the ricky as it is possible to be. maybe why mccartney got one, to cover missing sonic territory the violin couldn't reach.

    so i like the sound a real lot, but as a thing, Ricky's are just too long (i'm shortscale for life, i have decided), heavy (that's why i want the violin), way too horny (that 'leaping dildo affair' on the top bout) & (obviously) way too over budget.

    if i won that black one in the irish raffle i would be utterly chuffed & probs have fun playing with it, but it's not something i would go out & buy, even if i had the lolly.

    i could get four violins (black, red, white & purple i think) for the price of one clickingbacker. imagine being able to change your guitar to go with your outfit? la classe!

    but each to their own (madness).
    what she said.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2957
    vale said:
    maybe why mccartney got one, to cover missing sonic territory the violin couldn't reach?
    Perhaps, Rickenbacker saw the commercial potential in giving The Beatles free instruments during their all-conquering U.S. tour? ;)
    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • valevale Frets: 805
    edited July 11
    vale said:
    maybe why mccartney got one, to cover missing sonic territory the violin couldn't reach?
    Perhaps, Rickenbacker saw the commercial potential in giving The Beatles free instruments during their all-conquering U.S. tour?
    true, but he could have just given it away or put it in a cupboard if he didn't rate it, as happened to a lot of their gifted promo gear. there are photos of fender & burns basses in the studio that maybe got used for one song (if that) & were then left to collect dust.

    at that time he was probably the most famous & wealthy bass player in the world, so he could have had anything he wanted (probably just for the asking) but he made that ricky his workhorse, so must have seen something in it.
    what she said.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 2957
    In his own words. (About one third of the way down the page.)

    https://reverb.com/uk/news/interview-paul-mccartney-on-his-life-as-a-bassist
    I fear the Geeks, even when they bear GIFs.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 13591
    There’s at least three separate debates to have here!

    Where to start? Well, there’s a scale length debate and whether short scale vs long scale is about fingers and spans and stretch and comfort or if it’s a case of “what you are used to” and how much it affects the sound.

    Then there’s the violin bass question, its sound, its musical context, and possible alternatives to get that sound..

    Then there’s the original question of clank, midrange and tonal variation that isn’t your run of the mill P or J.. 

    They don’t sound much like Ric questions, but they are - Rics aren’t full scale. Rics have a unique flavour like violin basses, and they aren’t run of the mill...

    FWIW I understand McCartney had the violin as he was in Germany at the time, and what with Hofner being German it’s supply, demand, local market etc etc innit?
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