Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or NAMM – Day One

NAMM Show Floor (2014) - your source of gear acquisition syndrome

It’s the opening day of Winter NAMM 2017, the music gear event of the year for most musicians I know.  Vendors roll out their latest drool-worthy instruments and gear. And there’s a name for the affliction many musicians emerge from NAMM with – Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).

Umm… Gear Acquisition Syndrome?

Yep, it’s a thing. GAS’s key symptom is a relentless drive to grab your wallet and upgrade all your instruments, gear, and accessories to the shiny new hotness you’ve just played with.  When it comes to GAS afflictees, I’m pretty much a poster child – so it’s a good thing that I’m not attending in person this year.  Restraining my wallet hand is getting easier with age, but from early signs we may need medics at NAMM this year.  It’s gonna be a gear acquisition syndrome outbreak!

Here’s my first two candidates for ‘wallet magnet of the week’.

Continue reading Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or NAMM – Day One

Install a Badass bridge on your bass.

Installing a Badass II bridge in your bass

I’ve installed Badass high-mass bridges in every bass in my collection that will take them. Why? I love ’em to death for their beefy sustain and definition. That said, they often come without string slots cut. This doesn’t exactly make them a drop-in mod, they’ll need some handiwork to install. I avoid the pre-slotted bridges, as cutting them yourself allows you to get a perfect string spacing and fit for your particular bass. If you’ve got an unslotted Badass bridge, here’s a rundown of how to install them.

UPDATE: re-edited this in January 2017 to add pictures (finally!) from a new build.

Continue reading Install a Badass bridge on your bass.

Looping a loop on bass guitar

Loop practice on bass

I recently experimented with an improvised bass loop using a T.C. Electronics Ditto looper pedal I’ve had sitting around for a while. Of course, it was tons of fun. I originally bought the pedal to run simple bass line loops at the front of my pedalboard. It’s helpful for fine-tuning tones and settings without having to play bass at the same time. However, so far I’ve only used it as a test simulator in the studio. I’d secretly been wanting to play around with it more creatively for a while. I wish I hadn’t waited, as live looping is a ton of fun!

Accordingly, I took the plunge and improvised a quick composition live on the spot.  One pass, under a camera’s eye, with the record light on for a bit of pressure.  Enjoy!

Continue reading Looping a loop on bass guitar

An armchair, post-NAMM wishlist.

2014 NAMM Show - Day 3

I always look forward to January, and my annual trip to the NAMM show in Anaheim to gawk at the cutting edge of music hardware (and software).  When I realized my schedule wouldn’t get me to NAMM this month I was bummed, but kept my ears and eyes peeled online. Despite no significant time on the show floor this year, there were a few announcements and developments at NAMM 2015 that still caught my attention. It should come as no surprise that I’m rather focused on effects & amps for guitar & bass. Here’s my video post-NAMM wishlist, with commentary.

Continue reading An armchair, post-NAMM wishlist.

Stomp 01: Pedalboard overview.

pedalboard 4

Love me some pedalboard. I really do.

For decades I refused to use any effects on my bass guitars, being strictly fingers–only when it came to dressing up a note. I can’t deny that self–imposed deprivation helped me master my instrument early on without distractions, and taught me volumes on restraint and articulation I wouldn’t have learned had I jumped right into the effects world. However, after 20-odd years my tone had started to get a bit routine, my phrasing uninspired, and I found myself looking for ways to break out of the rut. Salvation came by way of a critical, distorted bassline I needed to cop for one of my fill-in sessions with a Bay Area electronica band – but cranking preamp gain in my painfully-clean SWR SM–900s was a non-starter. So I grabbed a friend’s Big Muff Pi for the gig, and the rest is history.  Years later, I’ve worked and gigged through so many effect combinations, sizes and themes to my pedals and pedalboards that I’ve got my preferences and sounds down to a pretty solid philosophical, aesthetic and ergonomic art.

Philosophically, it’s all about having *the right* assortment of tonal choices when I need them, easily accessed, with as little impact on my basic tone as possible. I still prefer a tone that’s piano-clean yet asskickingly fat via mostly 18v active basses- any effects are simply additive to my primary fingers/instrument/amp sound.  That way they stick to their role as the spice in my steady diet of groove, never the main course.

Aesthetically, my effects have got to allow me to enhance my normal tone gracefully (compression, EQ, and chorus), distort the signal six ways from Sunday (boost, distortion, overdrive and fuzz), and filter/add to it (envelope, pitch & synth effects).  Efficiency is also a factor (wireless receivers, digital tuners).  And it’s simply got to look clean and usable, not some random tangle of wires and boxes that could be kicked astray with a errant toe.

Ergonomically, my pedalboard has got to be playable like an instrument, portable and reliable, and fast to set up & tear down at gigs.  It needs to be laid out in common pairings/groupings of pedals in close proximity to one another so I can trigger the more complex, multiple effect settings with a single ‘stomp’ (or at least without signficant tap-dancing onstage).

Tall order, but well-filled now in my current pedalboard. Lets take an overview of my main groups of effects.

Continue reading Stomp 01: Pedalboard overview.