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Four FAQs for Beginning Bass Players

1. How are basses tuned?

Four-string electric and upright basses are tuned in perfect fourths, E A D G from low to high. Five-string basses commonly add a low B, but some add a high C instead of the low B. Six-string basses usually have both the high C and the low B. Seven-string basses add an F# to the six-string layout. Eight-string basses are like 12-string guitars. There’s an extra string added to each of the four standard strings, with the second set tuned an octave higher. 12-string basses add two “octave” strings to the pair, making four sets of three strings.

2. What is the difference between J Bass pickups, P Bass pickups & soapbars?

The P in P Bass pickups stands for Precision Bass. They are made of two single-coil pickups that are offset so they each pick up vibrations from two different strings. The signal is combined before it reaches the volume and tone controls. Each single-coil is wound in opposite directions to reduce hum. Basses usually have one P Bass pickup.

The J in J Bass pickups stands for Jazz Bass. They are made in one piece that picks up vibrations from all four strings. J Bass pickups are single-coils, and J Bass pickups usually have two of them; one near the neck and one by the bridge.

Soapbar pickups owe their name to their shape. These one-piece pickups are about twice as wide as J Bass pickups and can be wired as either single-coils or humbuckers.
Jazz Bass, J Bass, Precision Bass, and P Bass are trademarks of FMIC. All rights reserved. FMIC is neither affiliated with nor endorses any non-FMIC products.

3. What’s the difference between bass strings?

There are two main flavors of bass strings: roundwound and flatwound. All wound strings are made by wrapping layers of wire around a core wire. Roundwound strings use a round wire as the wrap; flatwound strings use a flat ribbon wire. Roundwound strings deliver brighter sounds, but can emphasize squeaks. Flatwound strings have a duller sound with less extra noise.

Flatwound strings tend to keep a more consistent tone longer. Here’s an extra tip: you can rejuvenate your roundwound strings by boiling them in vinegar or a mild detergent solution. It really works.

4. What is Biamping?

Biamping splits the signal from the bass preamp using a crossover. The highs are split from the lows and each is sent to a different power stage in the amp, and to separate speaker cabs. Low frequencies require more power to deliver the same volume, so this is ideal for situations where you have one cab with smaller drivers (4 x 10) for the highs and another cab with meatier speakers (4 x 15) for the lows.

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