Heavy Music with a Hollow Body Bass?
Q: Here’s my problem: I’m a big fan of archtop guitars and I love the lighter tonal quality. I also don’t like playing solid body basses since they don’t go well with my slightly weaker left shoulder (which is made worse since I’m left-handed but play right-handed). That’s not the real problem though. The big problem is that the band is a hardcore/heavy metal/alternative rock band, and the bass I use is more suited for pop/jazz – a Hofner that was my first and only bass guitar, and I can’t bring myself to purchase another bass. So my question is this: is it possible for me to play heavy metal/hard rock music on a hollow body bass without sounding incredibly out of place? Can the airy tone of my notes go with the heavy sound of the genre or will I sound perpetually out of place?
A: Interesting question! While I don’t have direct experience, I have an educated guess. That guess is that you can make anything work, but in this case, you may have to get creative if you have feedback issues.
As far as the tone goes, you will most definitely have to tweak some EQ to get a more “metal” tone out of your bass. That can likely be achieved on your rig and/or with an EQ pedal – and possibly other effects, depending on what you want. For metal, you really just need it to cut. A little clank goes a long way in a metal band.
While I am no master tone-o-phile, I have found that most of the magic for bass players lives in the mid-range. I tend to run everything flat and tweak HI-mids for clarity and LOW-mids for punch. You may actually decide to lower your bass setting, which serves to enhance the highs as well.
A decent EQ pedal or DI with a good EQ can really help you to dial in the tone you need.
Playing with a pick will also help with your attack greatly.
Now for the acoustic properties… My bet is that your situation will result in feedback. I don’t know whether Hofners have a tendency toward feedback, but most acoustic instruments do. I spent years touring with a great banjoist/slide guitarist, Tony Furtado. He actually filled his banjo with bar rags and coasters, which completely eliminated feedback but didn’t alter his amplified sound. It most certainly did alter his acoustic tone, but we were a loud band so it didn’t matter. Again, not being that familiar with the Hofner bass, I’m not sure if this would be an issue for you.
If it is an issue, you will have a hard time getting around it as there is no way to stop the feedback loop without cracking the bass open somehow and filling it, basically turning it into a solid body.
Aesthetically, I think it might be kind of cool, but I’ve always loved Hofners and have wanted a real one for some time. I hope that helped at least a little bit.
Readers, this is one of the more interesting questions I’ve received, and I’d love to hear your take on it. Please share your thoughts, experience and solutions in the comments.