Heavy Music with a Hollow Body Bass?

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.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. My exact opinion. Boost the mids, add a nice blend of sturation, play with a pick

  2. A hofner bass will get the job done, it has a great deep bass and clear treble. It’s very easy to tweak but i personally would not play hard rock on it. Maybe because i’m not used to the short scale instruments. I own a HI series and whenever i try to make it sound crunchier i lose a lot of bass presence. I think this bass suits best for classic rock, blues or jazz. It all depends on each player’s preferences though.

  3. Why don’t you just try it out and let your ears tell you if it works on not?

  4. Check out deerhoof, their bassist gets some crazy heavy sounds out of a hofner.

  5. Allen Woody is a nice for low end tone too.I love the bottom I get from mine!!

  6. Not the same genre of heavy music, but Tim Skolds used a Gretch hollow body bass when he was in Marilyn Manson – it was about the same size as him though!

  7. Check out Kadavar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzLBBDh2dJ4); their ex-bassist used an Epiphone Rivoli which is semi-hollow. If it’s the sustain block that makes the difference you might want to try a Hofner Violin Bass – CT (http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/reviews/bass_guitars/hofner/5001_contemporary_beatle_bass/). I’ve never played one but it seems worth trying.
    Btw: I always find it amazing when bands use instruments which are non-standard in their genre.

  8. String type is a possible factor (flatwound v. roundwound). And could feedback be reduced by filling in the f – holes with black painted wood? I’m sure a guitar customized could do this. Just a suggestion. Love Hofner and hollowbodies in general. Used to own a vintage Harmony H22 single cutaway bass like Ronnie Lane’s. I miss it.

  9. because of the lack of f-holes i dont think itll be a large problem, particularly if youre not using valves/heavy overdrive. as long as youre just messing around with EQ you should be fine (:

  10. Oh. No f – holes on the Hofner violin bass. My bad!

  11. Why not? Marko Hiettala (Nightwish) Used to play a Warwick Infinity with F holes through a Sansamp GT2 pedal. If the weight of a solid bass is an issue , Gruv Gear has the Duo strap , which distributes the weight of the instrument between the two shoulders.

  12. I am interested in hollowbody basses because of the feel and vibe they have. I mostly play metal, but a particularly melodic and quirky genre that is folk metal. I have looked up some demos and I especially thought the Warwick Star Bass had an awesome tone (I watched Ryan Martinie bang away on one). He played with a bright and modern tone but the woodiness and resonance of the hollowbody sound was still present. and the two very different tonal worlds played off from one another really well.

  13. Your Technique, Dynamics and the way you play will give you a heavy sound, If the instrument helps you do that, why not?

  14. Hey there guys! I play hard rock-stoner-metal or something, with a Jack Casady. Love it. Right now recording an album with it and an orange terror bass and a 410 by orange as well. Will post as soon as i can in our facebook. Check it if you want. Nacar, from madrid. Cheers!

  15. Jack Casady with a Boss MetalZone, done.

  16. I play metal with a Gretsch 5440LS hollow body bass. I run it into a stock TS9 Tube Screamer and I think it sounds great. I regularly get compliments on my tone. I recommend using steel wound strings for extra punch. After that, it all in your playing style and EQ.

  17. I don´t know from where the question author is from, but here in Brazil, musical instruments are pretty much expensive: taxes are high and even those made in Asia with better quality are expensive, so buy another bass could really be a problem here. If you cannot affor another bass, can you afford equipments suggested by Damian?
    I agree with Gabriel Lapoint bellow: just try it and if it doesn´t work, well… save the money and go for the right one for your style.

  18. Well I do hope the person who asked this question gets to see my answer because I play punk (really nasty freeform type stuff too) and I use a fretless hollowbody. I’ve found that everyone needs to worry about their own sound whether you like dark, bright, light or heavy its all about what you like and if it fits what you like its sits well with your playing style making you fit into any band better than say playing someone else’s bass.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rtQcKCBIlw Fat Mike plays a Dan Electro semi-hollow, honestly I call anything solidbody an electric cello because it doesn’t truly reach a bass tone.

  19. Karl

    Get some gnarly effects!

  20. ken

    the Hoffner has no F holes so i dont think feedback is going to be a problem however i just bought an Allan Woody Epiphone which is a hollow body and it soiunds awesome very growley and lots of BOTTOM!!!

  21. patrick f coleman

    rondo music as a hofner copy bass for under 200.00 which stands up to every copy I’ve run into so far.. w. F holes you can fill in if you choose. feels just like a hofner..intonates really well, and sounds sweet to me.

  22. Enrique

    When I was using a Rickenbacker 4001 I used the Ric-O- Sound device with two amps,
    a Fender Pro Reverb and a Marshall 100w head with an Electro Voice spkr. in a homemade cab. Thus the bridge p/u was directed to the Fender whereas the neck p/u went to the Marshall. The peculiar experimentation allowed for versatility in midrange while
    allowing the bass to be a bass. This worked well in studios and in small dance hall/auditoriums but not so well in smaller “elbow room” venues. But then the 4001 is not hollow, so I cannot tell how this might sound with acoustic basses such as the J. Casady
    Epiphone or the Hofner “Beatle bass”. The Feedback problem haunts hollow guitars and basses. Grand Funk’s Mark Farner stuffed his Messenger guitar with foam rubber and put tape over the f-holes. This made for an ugly guitar but it controlled the feedback.
    Chambered solid bodies don’t seem to have this problem.

  23. Hollowbody basses Are just pure Magic & fun… They van serve any genre of music; with their electric capabilities (magnetic pickups!) & a good amp, you just pay some extra care on (unwanted!) feedback.. My Epi & Ibanez (artcore) hollow-basses never gave me any worries in ‘heavy’ music…