FAQ #2 – How do I get my bass sound

This is probably the most asked question, so I will try to resume my setup.

Bass: Usually it’s my Rickenbacker 4001 CS. It’s a Chris Squire signature limited edition of 1000 and mine is #605. It was manufactured on the 30th January 1996.

Other basses are:

  • early 70’s Fiesta Red Fender Jazz Bass
  • late 90’s transparent amber Zon Sonus 8 eight-string bass
  • defretted sunburst jazz bass copy
  • early 90’s Warwick Thumb bass 5 – neck-through, bubinga-wenge, bartolini pickups
  • Japanese Fender VI

Strings: I prefer the exact strings Chris Squire uses – Rotosound RS66LD “swing bass” (stainless steel, .45-.105 gauge). However I experiment some other brands, but the important thing is that I try to use very new strings when I am about to record. Chris Squire uses a new set of strings for every gig, that would be optimal but I can’t do that. I got a really nice sound with Dean Markley Blue Steels (Parallels) and recently I used really cheap strings from Warwick and they sound great. The main features are:

  • roundwound (always)
  • .45-.105 (always)
  • stainless steel (nearly always)
  • brand new (according to my possibilities)

One last word about the gauge. Some of you may think to get lighter gauge because .45-.105 is too “hard”. Really… it’s a) very relative b) a matter of practice. The fact is that a lighter gauge will not have the ability to sound the same. Try to win the ease to play the gauge that you feel it sounds better with your bass. Practice will be where you gain the technique, the ability to play it, rather than picking an “easier” gauge and be limited on sound.  I don’t have the strongest fingers on earth so .45-.105 can’t be that scary… try to play the double-bass and you will look to electric bass strings in another perspective :).

Pick: I use Jim Dunlop’s Herco Flex 75 – it’s a grey-silver nylon pick. It’s the same pick used by Chris Squire. I will write an article dedicated to picking technique.

Amplifier: On most of the videos I plug my bass to my Sansamp Bass Driver DI. It’s a preamp/DI box with controls similar to a valve tube bass head. The knob settings vary and here you may follow your ears… I just make sure that I adjust the “Level” output to the input on my soundcard and that I “Blend” 100% (maximum) of the signal through the preamp (no dry signal). “Bass”, “Treble” and “Presence” are most likely 12 o’clock (+/- 2 hours) and I will add “Drive” if I want a dirtier, saturated sound.

I used on a couple of videos a real valve-tube bass head. My Ampeg SVT II pro (also a limited edition model). I only took it’s preamp output (no speaker and microphone) and it sounds brilliant, but the Sansamp is really good and practical for using at home.

Effects: Whenever I needed effects, I got them from software plugins such as Guitar Rig. These are specific situations and they are not really part of “my sound” because they depend of the application I am using them. I only used a real pedal on “Amazing Grace” solo because I couldn’t find a satisfactory plugin by then. On the clip “On the Silent Wings of Freedom” I installed at the time a demo version of Guitar Rig (2 or 3) and I combined 2 effects to emulate Chris Squire’s effect. The “Autofilter” effect dubbed the original “Mutron III” envelope filter pedal, and I added a Chorus preset that I seem to hear blended on the original Tormato recording (possibly made from an Eventide harmonizer). I couldn’t save the settings but it’s difficult to adjust the filter controls on that plugin because it’s very sensitive to changes. I am currently building a Mutron-like pedal that I hope will do the trick in the future.

So, the signal path is really straight forward bass-sansamp-computer. For me the most important points are the quality of the bass, the strings and the (pre)amp. Those really can affect your sound. I would really advise you to work the sound from these 3 elements rather than from effect tweaking because once you get your sound from the bass-strings-amp combination, then you can be sure that your sound will work good with effects, and perhaps most important – without!

Finally, don’t forget one last thing and maybe the most important factor on your sound – You. The way you play will affect your sound. As guitar luthier Mike Tobias said about Chris (and this is not word by word, but it’s on a Guitar World interview from September 1987) and goes like this: “Most of the tone comes from his fingers. Whether it’s the Rickenbacker or another instrument, it will still be the sound of Chris Squire playing bass”


Published by Miguel Falcão


12 thoughts on “FAQ #2 – How do I get my bass sound

  1. Hi, Miguel. What you are doing with Chris’ music is great. I mean, I think he is a bit underrated, and honestly, his approach to bass is unique. I tend to discuss this with other bass players.
    It’s good to see, in your videos and the comments on them, that there are lots of Squire’s fans out there.
    Looking forward to the picking article! ;)

    1. Thanks for writing!

      I think Chris maybe can be underrated by some faction of pick-haters or fusion-virtuoso lovers… but really I think he has the most dedicated fans I ever seen for a bass player. But I agree with you that he deserves all the recognition in the world for what he made with the bass guitar and musically with Yes!

      Article will be out in some weeks , I hope after I complete CttE

      Best regards!


  2. Miguel, Great work. Always loved Chris Squires bass lines, but I have really been getting into the science of his sound once I picked up a rickenbacker. His picking tecnique is definately something to get used to. Its hard for me to gauge just have much thumb he is applying when picking near the bridge. I end up getting an overly mutted sound.

  3. Oi Miguel!

    very nice website meu rickenbackerian amigo,stereo wiring and bi-amp is a MUST for squire’s sound too. :-)
    + the “magic” pedal

    1. Hi Fabian! It’s been a long time!… btw I tried to send my bass to Rickenbacker for the stereo wiring but it’s a very difficult process to send the bass. Maybe if I will get a stereo model sometime. The malleko still does wonders though :))



      1. Hey Miguel.. love your playing. What Malleko pedals are you using to get the stereo sound?

      2. Hello Brian. The CS bass is not wired stereo so I don’t use the Malekko for that. However, on the Close To The Edge clip (part IV) I split the sound by overdubbing the bass pickup clean with the treble pickup with the Malekko b:assmaster (a kind of Maestro Brassmaster clone) to achieve that sustained fuzz, without losing the bottom.

        Merry Xmas!


  4. Your sound is great and very similar to CS

    Can’t wait for your explanation to picking technique….

    1. Hello! Sorry for the late reply. The picking video is still on waiting line but not forgotten. Meanwhile I invite you to take a look to my latest new original song. All the best! M

  5. Hi Miguel, love your playing. Do you think CS used just the treble pick-up for any songs? I notice you use that pick-up for Roundabout, Looking Around and Astral Traveller.

    There was tumour his treble pick-up wasn’t even connected or wired up when he booked it in for an overhaul!


    1. It’s my guess that it might be just a rumour, but Chris has stated in an interview that the his treble pickup has a very weak signal, so it could be it. However, as he uses his shiny Rotosounds, added to amplification and his own technique, the overall sound is really bright. On the starlicks video I remember he switched to the treble pickup to demonstrate that bass riff. Hope this helps! Thanks!

  6. I have a Rickenbacker 4003s mono wiring and dots in the neck. Main problemI have is that there is always a lot of hum and buzz. I also have 2 jazz basses and a Hagstrom Scanbass, all with single coil pickups. They are all quiet, but my Rick makes a lot of noise! In forums about Rickenbacker basses I also read a lot about this problem.
    Do you have this problem?
    Do you know a way to solve this hum and buzz sounds?

    Hope to hear from you!

    Greatings from Ab

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