December 30, 2005

Spending money I don't have

On my way up to Massachusetts, I stopped by two shops: Fodera and M Bass. I've been thinking about buying some new instruments for a while, and so now I'm taking the plunge.

First up, Fodera. I have the idea of two basses, mirror opposites of each other (brother basses, if you will) -- one fretted, one fretless. The four string by Vinne that I have is probably one of the best basses I've ever played, so I want the other fretted bass to be in addition to my four, not as a replacement. I talked with Vinnie for a bit, and the direction for the five string fretted is going to be a Monarch style chesnut body (assuming that he has enough quality wood to make it happen) with a walnut burl top and birdseye maple fretboard (mother of pearl block inlays) on a neck thru maple neck, topped off with gold hardware and aero dual coil pickups. The fretless, however, is a bit different. An Imperial style walnut body with a quilted maple top and a mahogany core, a maple neck matched with an ebony fretboard (purpleheart inlays), matched up with black hardware and aero dual coils. The bad news here is that I probably have an eighteen to twenty-four month wait on the order.

John Maghini is the proprietor of M Basses. He's made a few for Anthony, and he came down to the reunion Bass Camp this last year. I've liked his work for a while, and I wanted to give him a shot. What I wanted from him was more of a melody instrument than a traditional bass -- a five string slung tenor/piccolo (A-D-G-C-F). We're going to go with a blak walnut body and a myrtle burl top, a three piece 32" maple neck with an ebony fingerboard and abalone inlays. The hardware will be black and/or myrtle burl to match the top. Normally, I want my basses to be somewhat sedate in appearance, blending into the background, but this bass is more of a "look at me" instrument, as I really expect to be using it to carry the melody. The other good thing here is that I should get this one 'round about October or so.

Posted by Casper at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2005

A little on the sad side...

Rate My Axe?

Posted by Casper at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2005

New Toy

On the way to rehearsal today, I dropped by Guitar Center to pick up a new piece of equipment. A Boss Looper, to be precise.

A while back, I picked up a JamMan, which does a very similar thing, and loaded it into my rig. I prefer to have a clean signal chain, without needing to run wires from the rig out onto stage and back again. However, I've been less than successful when it comes to programming my footboard to play nicely with the JamMan over MIDI. You'd think that as a computer programmer, I'd be able to get this to work, but apparently not.

What I want to do is to be able to keep a bass line going while I solo. In some of the Canvas tunes (particularly Sahara Dance) having the bass line drop all the way out just sounds empty. Now, I should be able to do both.

Posted by Casper at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

Online museum of musical instruments

A pretty amazing collection, broken down by regions of origin (the upright bass comes from Germany?), material or type.

Thanks to Scott for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2005

World's largest musical instrument

An organ, of sorts, covering about thirty-one and a half acres in a cave.

Thanks to Music Thing for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2005

Wild and wooly things from NAMM

Some of the stranger things from this year's NAMM show.

Posted by Casper at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2005

A Moog history

The impact of viable synthensizers on popular music (and other genres) can not be overestimated. Bob Moog was one of the first inventors of synths to really get it right. Here's a history of his workmanship.

IN THE scheme of things, he is as influential as a Presley, a Pistols or a Beatles. It must be infuriating, then, that nobody pronounces his name correctly. Bob Moog (as in “vogue”) built his first synthesizer module in 1964 and slowly revolutionised what we consider to be music.

Back then any sound that didn’t come out of wood or a piece of string was considered suspect at best, harmful at worst. But Moog had a natural “feel” for what was going on inside a transistor. Hans Fjellestad’s documentary Moog, which opens at the ICA next month, includes a host of keyboard luminaries, from Keith Emerson to Money Mark, queuing up to proclaim Moog’s genius. Personally, I’d like to shake his hand for creating the Moog Wasp, a tiny yellow and black plastic tray that is wonderfully easy to use and makes noises as cheap and fizzy as its name implies.

Thanks to Music Thing for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2004

A gift that keeps on giving

Music Thing reports on an eighteen foot aluminium string instrument capable of causing lots of good feelings, particularly with some female listeners:

...When, in flipping through my Xpander presets, I came to a sound called "THE BEAM" in honor of Huxley's instrument, the expression on her face abruptly changed. When I asked her what was wrong, she blinked for a moment and said, "Please play that again. Louder." I did so, and had the odd experience of watching her eyes glaze over as she half fell into a chair breathing hard. "I...*like* that sound," she managed to get out in a whisper."

I'm just sayin', that's all...

Posted by Casper at 07:24 PM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2004

Lotsa freaky instruments....

Music Thing has been on a roll when it comes to strange and bizzare guitars.

Posted by Casper at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2004

Another interesting guitar

The naked lady bass.

Posted by Casper at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2004

This is just wrong

Of course this is used for warming up on a guitar. What did you think it was for?

Posted by Casper at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2004

World's biggest subwoofer

It's made from bricks, 60 cubic meters inside, and probably loud enough to cause sterility in large animals.

Thanks to Tom W for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2004

Hosing my footboard

I've been working on trying to get my footboard to talk with both the MPX-1 and the JamMan. I managed to get it to work once, and then didn't think about it again. I was checking my rig to make sure that everything was going to work for tomorrow's gig when I accidently dumped the entire program on the footboard. I haven't been able to get it back as of yet, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do for the solo piece tomorrow.

Posted by Casper at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

Wireless MIDI

If this works, what an advancement this would be. I really like having the freedom to be wireless on stage -- even if I don't have a lot of real estate, not having to worry about tripping on a cable is worth it's weight in gold. I've thought about adding a MIDI pickup to one of my basses for some time, but if that happens, I'm going to be shackled to wires. Maybe not anymore.

Thanks to Brad for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2004

A real drum machine

Beatles AdP.E.A.R.T is a drum machine you have to see to believe.

Thanks to David for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2004

Vendor mania

While I was at BPL, I had to check out the vendor floor. I can't remember who said it, but this was basically a NAMM show just for bassists. Vinny and Joey from Fodera were there, as was Jon. Also around were Ibanez, Fender, Lni 6, Roland, Ampeg, Lakland, Hartke, G&K, Aguillar, Epiphani, Ashdown -- well, lots of people. Here are some thoughts that I have on the gear I saw:

  • Line 6: They have produced a bass that has modeling on board. Roll the knob, you get a Fender J. Another turn, Rickenbacker, or a pseudo-upright (the neck is fretted, so there's only so much it can do). Instead of having a blend knob (to balance the bridge pickup and the neck pickup on a J, for instance), the blend approximated moving the pickup forwards or backwards under the strings. My take on it is that the wood is okay, and the modeling is about 80% there. I'd use for a chessy cover band, but that's about it.
  • Kustom Amplficiation: Good for being loud. Big as all get out, too. Didn't care for the sound all that much, though.
  • There were quite a few boutique resellers displaying their wares. Next time I head up to NYC, I might have to pay them a visit
  • Ashdown: I'm in the market for some new cabinets, so I checked out all the vendors. Epifani's are still my favorite, but those are some serious bucks. Ashdown's cabinets had a good sound, though. Very nice and clean.
  • Roland: I talked with the tech rep about Roland's MIDI pickup for bass, asking if there were any plans to provide a model that could be mounted entirely inside the body of a bass as a part of the pre-amp (instead of leaving a controller taped onto the body). He indicated that there may be something in the future, but not right now.
  • Lectrosonics: They are working on an advanced digitial wireless system. This would be good thing for me, as I've hunting for a good solution (that's still being supported) for sometime.
  • Ampeg: They are coming out with a new amplifier that I rather liked. Two rack spaces, analog controls with digital memory. Roll the knobs to the setting you want, save them, change to something else, save those -- up to four settings, all which can be selected by a foot controller. No audible drop when changing programs, nor any audible delay in making the switch. Very nice indeed.
Posted by Casper at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2004

Getting my baby back

After having my Fodera fall down and go boom, the treble control didn't work as well as I would have liked, so I dropped off my bass with Joey a few weeks ago. Today, I hiked back up to get it.

As a side note, the trip took about five and a half hours (instead of a normal three and a half). Traffic was really bad: the NJ turnpike was backed up into Maryland!

So I got there a bit late, but Joey and Vinny were still around. They handed me my bass back, having replaced the treble pot, redressed the frets and fixed my strap locks. And, again, they did it gratis.

While I was there, they mentioned Bass Player Live, a symposium of bass players in NYC over the weekend. Vinny suggested that I should go.

Posted by Casper at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2004

The impact of digital technology on recording music

The advent of quality, inexpensive recording hardware/software available for home use has revolutioned the face of the music industry:

Digital technology has changed everything about the process of making music: From the way artists compose and record their songs, to the way these works are distributed. Apple Computer's GarageBand, Sony's ACID and other powerful yet easy-to-use software programs let professional musicians write and record music whenever and wherever the muse strikes. On the tour bus. In the dressing room. Even on the plane.

"Recording with Pro Tools made me feel more like a 14-year-old punk rocker than I have in years,'' said [Tim] Quirk [of Too Much Joy], 39, who by day is RealNetworks' executive music editor in San Francisco. "There are no rules and no restrictions. Even if you wanted to do things before, you were physically limited in how much you could pull off.''

Now, he says, ``If you can think of something, you can pull it off.''

Speaking as one of the people with a home setup, it's a lot of fun, too.

Thanks to Gerd for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

Yet another strange guitar

Flipped GuitarI can't imagine playing one of these. The butt of the body block the top frets; this is pretty clearly only for show.

Posted by Casper at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

Who's playing who

Some musicians in Australia have come up with some rather bizarre instruments that they play by moving their fingers and hands into various positions.

In one composition, moving the thumb to bend its sensor will cycle through available samples. Bending the index finger, or the channel control finger, determines which speaker will play the sound (the group uses about eight speakers). The middle finger allows the user to change the start position of a sample, while the fourth finger can trigger a loop.

The much more interesting thought is here:

The programming is very tricky, because Simon's [the computer engineer] not only programming the sounds, he's programming us as well.

The underlying thought deserves a little more attention. How much does the kind of instrument you play influence what kind of music you play?

Take bass guitar, for instance. It's in most forms of modern music (as upright, as sample, as electric, etc.). Same instrument can be made to fit most kinds of music. Then you have something like a trumpet. While I won't say that you can't have a trumpet in a bluegrass band, it's not going to be very common.

So, at the start of a person's musical career, do they select a musical instrument because they like the sound of the instrument? Or do they pick an instrument because they like the way it sounds in context of a musical setting?

I think it's mostly the latter. We don't spend a lot of time listening to unaccompanied instruments (even in classical music, there's a lot more ensemble pieces than solo), so we develop our tastes within a framework. I know that I started drumming because I liked the beat and impact of the rhythm that I heard while listening to harder rock music.

Posted by Casper at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2004

Smaller CD cases

If you own a lot of CDs (I'm not as bad as a few people that I know, but I've got about four digits worth. So, space gets to be an issue after a while.

Thanks to Alex Ross, there's a solution -- gatefold sleeves that take up 1/4 the shelf space. And at $.16 a piece, they won't break the bank, either.

Posted by Casper at 08:38 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2004

Some strange guitars

Strange GuitarA gallery of unusual guitars.

Thanks to Lynn S for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 12:37 AM | Comments (2)

September 30, 2004

A Lego harpsichord

Following in the footsteps of the Lego Spiderman movie, here's a Lego harpsichord. It actually plays.

Thanks to Fred for the tip.

Posted by Casper at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

Earth's hum defined

Sound people have known about ground hum for sometime. Now, scientists have clearly defined what it is.

The persistent noise - at between two and seven milliHertz, way below the threshold of human hearing - is clearly caused by large emissions of energy near or at the Earth's surface.

So, now we can all sleep at night.

Posted by Casper at 05:56 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2004

The original and still the best

Robert Moog is back, making instruments again.

Techno enthusiasts, who generally like to experiment with sounds and manufacture original noises, have reignited interest in the Moog (rhymes with rogue), which can synthesize any sound imaginable. A growing number of hip-hop musicians and producers have also fueled the phenomenon, trying to recapture the rich grooves of Stevie Wonder, Parliament-Funkadelic and other soul and funk masters. Some of today's critically lauded rock bands, like Wilco, are also part of this Moog revival.

Posted by Casper at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2004

Build your own...

Following on from the violin building, how to build your own acoustic guitar as well as how to do a solid body electric.

Posted by Casper at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2004

Tips on flying with your instrument

Having lived with the joy of flying with a musical instrument, I pass along some information on ways to make the experience go better to anyone who is about to embark on a plane. Several other people add their experiences to the conversation.

If you are going to fly, I'd suggest you get a copy of the AFM letter -- it may not help with getting past the security screeners, but, at the minimum, it probably won't hurt. The airlines are a different story, though.

Posted by Casper at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

Photo essay of how to make a violin

From the Stradivari school.

Posted by Casper at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2004

The instruments of Harry Partch

A biggunSome of the stranger instruments I have seen, including a marimba eight feet by four feet, which plays a F below the lowest A on an 88 key piano.

Posted by Casper at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

Headphone reviews

A good site if you are looking for headphones. A while back, I was spending a lot of time in studios, so much that I went out and bought a set that fit me well and I could wear for hours on end. Trust me, when you have to play along with a drummer for a few days while he lays down his tracks, comfort becomes a very big issue. This site would have been handy then.

Posted by Casper at 12:48 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2004

The guys at Fodera

I know I've said this before, but the guys at Fodera are just first rate.

One of the reasons why I went to NYC was to get my bass worked on (since the treble control doesn't work anymore). Rob and I boogied up the road as fast as we could, but we didn't get to NYC until 6:30 or so. When we pulled up to Fodera, Joey was heading out to the Bass Extremes show. He said that he would take the bass from me after the show and work on it over the wekend.

So, after the show, we talked about my bass for a bit. I gave it to him to work on (a future trip back is in the works, natch), and he was completely gracious about the whole thing. I really can't say enough good things about these guys.

Posted by Casper at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2004

Why pickups are where they are

I have wondered more than a few times as to why pickups are placed on a guitar body where they are, if it was determined by some kind of science, or placed there "because that's where Fender had them". Now I know.

Posted by Casper at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2004

GuitarNuts

Here's a website dedicated to the intricacies of the guitars, with a heavy emphasis on wiring.

Posted by Casper at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

Long day

I've spent the last day or two reworking my rig. My old rack had eight spaces in it, three for my Ampeg head, one for the Furman, one for the tuner, one to the Lexi effects unit and a space for heat ventilation. After I picked up the JamMan, I've held off from doing anything with it due to the lack of space in my rig.

Old vs. NewTo fix the situation, I ordered an Anvil. Now it's come in -- all twelve spaces of it. And I seriously underestimated how much bigger this new case would be. I can very literally fit the old case inside of the new rig and have quite a bit of room left over.

I'm glad I got the new case, and I think it will very nicely do the job, but I also think it's going to introduce some new problems. Now, I need more real estate on stage (unless I can figure out how much weight the Anvil can support, but I'm sure that isn't going to be my full stack). I already was full to the brim in my old car as it is; I guess I either need to get a bigger car or a trailer for hauling.

-- Update --
I talked with Lee at Cases 2 Go about the weight that the case can bear. He gave me an approximate amount (~80 pounds or so), which should be more than enough for a 4x10. I think we're in business.

-- Update 2 --
I may have spoken too soon. When I loaded it into my car, I learned two things. One, even with wheels, the rig is really heavy. Once I get it in my car, I don't have room for any of my cabinets. I'm going to have to load the rig into my car without front or the back (which would defeat the purpose of have a protective rack in the first place), pick up a 2x10 cabinet, or buy a bigger car.

Posted by Casper at 02:21 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2004

A double gig bag

I ordered a double gig bag from InCase. Hopefully, it should get here within a week or so.

Last year, I flew out to SF for work, and Anthony was kind enough to let me borrow one of his double bags. I've been meaning to pick one up for awhile; I'm just now getting around to it.

Posted by Casper at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2004

New case on the way

I'm ordering a new case to house my rig. I got a 12 space shockmountAnvil from Cases2Go. My old rack had 8 spaces in it and was already full when I picked up the JamMan. I figured that getting a few extra spaces will allow me to add another piece of hardware or two as I go forwards.

Also, it will have wheels. My back is happier already just for hearing about it.

Posted by Casper at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2004

A different style acoustic bass

Mini UprightI found an unusual acoustic bass today while I was tooling around. It's setup in the form and fashion of a 34" scale bass with the layout of an upright.

Posted by Casper at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2004

11 string bass

I've seen a nine string bass from John (F# to B-flat). Now here's an eleven string bass (F# to A-flat, I would guess). I can't imagine trying to play this; just the effort of trying to mute the extra strings would seem to defeat any joy of playing.

Posted by Casper at 12:04 AM | Comments (3)

July 09, 2004

Picking up my four string

I went back to Fodera today to get my four string back. I had left it to get the finished worked on the finish of the bass, as well as having them take a look at the frets. I also took up another bass of Anthony's for them to check (and, it was just fine).

Over the years, I've managed to get a few signatures on the back of the headstock, and I wanted them to be protected (as I have already rubbed some of it off while changing strings). Some of the frets had started to get a bit of a buzz, particularly on the first three frets on the E-string.

This time around, I spent some time with Vinnie. Vinnie took a look at the frets and reworked all of them from top to bottom. He told me that I had worn grooves from my strings into the top three frets. Which is something that I knew might happen -- I used to use Rotosounds on this bass, and those strings have a history of chewing up frets.

Once he was done working on the frets, he spent some time setting up my bass. It was interesting watching Vinnie work, particularly in comparison to Joey. Joey works in a rather intuitive fashion -- working by feel, twiddling here, checking the setup by playing. Vinnie, on the other hand, works almost like a scientist -- measuring the string height off the fretboard in several positions, checking the tension of the strings, then playing to hear the sound. I don't think that either way is better, just different. Both in conjunction would probably work out rather well.

While Vinnie was working, he and I talked about guitar construction in general and Foderas in specific. I learned quite a bit from him (the difference between the Fodera models, the best way to string an guitar -- accoustic vs. electric, the resonant qualities of various wood species); actually, talking with him for a while was completely worth the nine hours or so of driving.

Broken HeadstockAnd, on that note, if anyone (hi Mom, Dad!) is wondering why I take the time and effort to drive my bass to NYC to get it worked on (instead of say, shipping it), take a look at the pic to the right. This is a brand new, handmade Fodera bass that was shipped using FedEx. And that's what it looked like when the owner opened up the case. All things being equal, I have no problem driving a few hours.

Joey and I talked about what Fodera's usual policy and procedure is for ordering a new bass. He was saying their turn around time is about 8 to 12 months these days (not the 2+ years I had been expecting). What I was really curious about was the payment process. I'd love a new bass, but I don't know if I could part with several thousand dollars for something I'd eventually get in a year or so. However, he was saying that they usually take a percentage (33% to 50%, depending on the customer and the project -- the more obscure or unusual, the less likely they would be able to unload the instrument in case of problems, so the more they would ask for upfront). But not having to have all of it up front makes picking up one of those things a bit easier.

And, if you'd like to help (hi Mom, Dad), feel free to hit the tip jar on the left hand side at the top of the page....

Posted by Casper at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2004

Who plays what

If you were ever wondering what your favorite guitar player uses as his/her setup, wonder no more. Unfortunately (for me), this site seems very heavily skewed towards lead guitarists. Apparently no bass players are guitar geeks.

Although, if you can make a suggestion, I'd be all sorts of interested....

Posted by Casper at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2004

Epifani

After Rob and I finished up at Fodera, we dropped in on Epifani, a really high end cabinet manufacturer who just happen to be in the same building, one floor down. I've been lusting after their cabinets for sometime now, particularly their Ultralight series.

There are a similarity between the gear that drummers have to lug around and the gear that bass players get to carry -- it's big. However, drums tend to be bulky and light -- bass rigs are big and heavy. Trust me, I've had to carry my gear up and down stairs for years. Well, the nice folk up at Epifani have created a top notch cabinet that weighs about a quarter as much as a regular cabinet does. And that sound wonderful to me.

The two of us dropped by, met Frank and Nick (the main sales guy and the president of the company, respectively), played through a few cabinets, talked about the state of the art and the industry and then left with a few new entries on our wish lists.

Posted by Casper at 05:05 PM | Comments (2)

Going back to Fodera

Today was a return visit to Fodera. Four basses were on their way back home to get a little TLC -- two of Anthony's (the Fodera Imperial and the blonde Fodera Emperor), my Fodera and Rob's 5 string. Rob joined me, as well as a friend from work. This was my second trip to see Joey and Vinnie. The previous time was a pretty darn incredible experience, and, while I was hoping this trip would be good, I didn't think it would be quite as good as the last time.

We got there a bit late (traffic around Statten Island), and Joey was already working on some other items in the shop. First off, he worked on Rob's bass. The pickup covers exposed the magnet poles, but that can lead to a buzzing when you dig into the strings and the strings come near the poles, it can lead to a harsh song. Joey replaced the pickup covers with a solid face one, which should take care of this problem. While he was doing this, he told us about the history of the bass. It seems it was built for a session musician who wanted the ability to swap the neck from fretted to fretless at will. He then sold it on E*Bay to a gentleman out in Hawaii (who, in turn, sold it to Rob). And, as a side note, it turns out that the Fodera that Joey plays is the same model and type that Rob plays.

Once the pickup covers had been changed, Joey dressed and treated the fretboard. Next on the list was setting up Rob's bass. Since he had bought it second-hand, it had never really been set up to his style of playing. Joey and Rob worked on it for a bit, and I have to say it has never sounded better.

Having finished Rob's basses, it was Anthony's turn. The Imperial was taken up to change the chips in the pre-amp to a more battery conserving form. The Emperor, on the other hand, had been eating batteries at a remarkable clip -- like one set per month (a more typical rate might be about a minimum of eight to ten weeks when playing heavily. Joey swapped out the pre-amp for a new one.

My baby went on the block next. The main reason why I took the bass up to the shop this time was to get the back of the headstock treated. Over the years, I have had two artists sign the back of the peghead on my main bass. It's been a while, and I can see that the signatures have started to fade. How much of that is due to time passing and how much of that is due to the ink being rubbed off is unknown, but I thought getting it protected can only be a good thing. The last time I went up to the shop, Joey told me they could do it, but I'd have to leave my bass with them for a few days. At the time, I didn't have the opening in my schedule such to allow that kind of down time. That's not an issue now, so I can leave it with them for a few weeks. I also asked them to take a look at the top few frets on the neck, as I think they might be a little seperated from the fretboard. I'll head back up to Brooklyn in a few days to pick it back up.

Joey also looked up the build info on my bass. It was completed on October 1, 1996 for Venneman's in Rockville MD. The top is quilted maple with a mahogany body (and spot of walnut here and there); the fretboard is ebony.

Posted by Casper at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2004

Great article about the history of the P bass

Ed has written a really great article about the history of Leo Fender and the P bass.

Leo Fender didn't actually invent the electric bass, but he was the first to build the instrument in quantity, beginning with the P-Bass in late 1951. This was only about a year and a half after the first Telecaster solidbody electric guitars started rolling off his Fullerton California assembly line. And while Fender's guitars certainly led to the birth of rock and roll, as Jim Roberts explains in his terrific book, How The Fender Bass Changed The World, the P-Bass (as it eventually became popularly known as) influenced all sorts of music besides rock: Motown, R&B, and especially funk would all be virtually unthinkable without the instrument.

While Fender's instruments were born in the early 1950s, it took the following decade for their true virtuosos to appear. The first electric bassists played the instrument like the acoustic bass, whose four-to-the-bar style derives from the instrument that it replaced in the rhythm section, the tuba.

The article goes on to talk about bass techniques and recording approaches. Truly a must read for bass players.

Posted by Casper at 01:13 AM | Comments (1)

June 04, 2004

Lexicon JamMan

I got a new toy! I'm going to play around with it for a bit, and then I'll post back how it goes. Sometime later after I've had some sleep.....

Posted by Casper at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2004

Restringing my Fodera

I restrung my Fodera with a different gauge of strings. I've been playing Fodera's medium lights (.044, .062, .085, .106), but I've been through three sets of strings in the last two months. So I've decided to try a higher gauge of strings (.045, .065, .085, .105) and see if it holds together a little better. As I was stringing the bass, it seemed to me that the E string didn't feel quite right. Looking at the string gauges, it's actually thinner than what I usually use, but there was just something odd about it.

Posted by Casper at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2004

Tobias bass

The other day, I was at the Guitar Center in Rockville MD. They had this pretty nice blue Tobias five string bass hanging on the wall in their used pile. I will be the first to admit that I regularly shop the used sections of music shops, hunting for deals. In fact, my two major basses I grabbed out of a used pile. Anyway, this particular Tobias was one of the ones made by Gibson and not by Michael. Ergo, it's crap.

I don't know what the deal is with Gibson's acquisitions, but almost everything they buy becomes worthless. Trace Elliot used to be a great Brit-Pop sounding amplifier; now, they're great doorstops. Not to mention that they stopped carrying any kind of amps that aren't for acoustic guitars (see here vs. here). Toby's were great basses (if they weren't, Gibson probably wouldn't have bought them). However, none of the original Tobias staff is making these guitars anymore. And, after a while, Michael started making basses again pretty much to reclaim his own good name.

Gibson's not alone on this. Kubicki sold his design to Fender, and Fender basically dumbed down the electronics.

I'm not sure why manufacturers choose to do this; perhaps to try and squeeze a few more bucks out of the buyers. You might think they wouldn't be so shortsighted; more people may buy, but they will also not get what they are expecting, so more people will end up unhappy.

Posted by Casper at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2004

Fodera strings

Last night, I was trying to restring my bass (from when I went through a G string at my last show. When I break a string, I usually try to replace the entire set, to keep the sound even. But, this time I hosed things up royally. First, I string up the D string in the G slot (Fodera does not label their strings individually), so I wasted that string. Then, when I was trying to do up the G string, I cut it too short, and thus killed off that wire.

Bass Techs really earn their money.

Posted by Casper at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2004

New earplugs

I finally got my earplugs from the doc today. Hopefully, this should keep the tinnitus at bay for a while longer.

-- Update --
I tried them out tonight, and I have to say that I'm a fan. The overall db level was lower, and I was able to hear what was going on better. The mids were clearer, the highs brighter. Thumbs up all around.

Posted by Casper at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2004

Tour Supply

I got a delivery from Tour Supply in yesterday. For those of you that haven't heard of this place, I'd recommend it for performing musicians. They specialize in carrying all the small things that you need to get through gigs. For example, I just received a few rolls of gaffer's tape (much like duct tape, but not so sticky when you pull it up, so it's okay to use on cables and cords), a brick of nine volt batteries and some velcro cable ties.

Stop by and check them out, and tell them that I said "Hi"...

Posted by Casper at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2004

New wireless unit

I picked up another Sennheiser digital wireless unit a few days ago and it just got in today. It wasn't that I either really needed it or wanted it; it was just that it was on a deep discount for being "blemished". Since they don't make these things anymore, I thought it would be a good idea to maybe pick up some extras for parts (in case I have to cannabalize parts). I also went ahead and order the rackmount kits for both units from Sennheiser. I suppose that when they get in, I'll be rewiring my rig...

Posted by Casper at 03:37 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2004

Message from Kubicki

I just got off the phone with Phil Kubicki (who made my fretless). At the end of 2003, I did my annual maintenance of my basses (restrung, swapped batteries, oiled and polished the woods, etc.). I had called Phil a few days before I started, because I wasn't completely sure as to the material of the fretboard and how to treat it. He didn't get back with me in time, so I guessed it was ebony and proceed to use boiled linseed oil on the wood.

Well, it turns out I was about half right. The fretboard is made of ebony, but he recommended that I use mineral oil instead of linseed oil (on the grounds that linseed oil would make the fretboard sticky). His suggestion was to rub mineral oil into the fretboard and then let it dry overnight. The recommendation that I was following was to rub linseed oil into the fretboard, let it dry for about ten minutes and then rub off the oil to prevent the board from oversaturating and getting sticky.

I suppose at the end of this year, I'll try Phil's approach.

Posted by Casper at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

Bid on X-Wire

I finally found an X-Wire wireless unit on EBay. I've been looking for one of these for about the last year or two; they are supposed to be the best wireless units ever made. Unfortunately, the company that put them together went bankrupt, so EBay is pretty much the only place to find them anymore. Sennheiser bought the leftovers once X-Wire collapsed, remanufactured the product into a much smaller, lower quality unit, but it didn't do very well (particularly for the price -- ~$800!) and they have since dropped the product. You can still pick them up here and there, and I recently did (as I was begining to dispair to ever find an X-Wire and the price was down to about $300). But, if I can get this X-Wire, then I'll happily pack the Sennheiser back up and return it for a refund (even a partial one would be cool).

-- Update --
I didn't get it. I'm hoping another will come around some other day and then I'll bid on that one. So, if anyone happens to know of one for sale, please let me know.

Posted by Casper at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2004

Bass Gear

Not too long ago, I picked up a magazine I saw in the bookstore. Bass Player magazine put out an issue focused entirely on gear -- suggestions on setup, what assorted pros play, a primer on electronics.

The setup info was interesting, but mostly the kind of stuff I had already pickup up along the way (adjust the truss rod a quarter turn at a time to account for seasonal changes, don't overtighten the bolts on a rack, string height, etc.).

As far as the gear section ("Rigs of the Stars!"), Les Claypool, Oteil Burbridge, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke and many others are covered. And, in answer to me wondering how Geddy Lee got his sound, they cover some of the bases here.

Salient points:

  • Geddy plays a '72 Fender Jazz through an Avalon U5 preamp, a Palmer speaker simulator for low-end distortion and a Tech 21 SansAmp RBI. I have a sneaky suspicion that there's probably more than this going on to get the sound I heard, but this is what they have listed.
  • Apparently, Marcus Miller is completely deaf in his right ear. So all his monitors and amps are on his left and he plays stage-left to maintain eye contact with the rest of the band.
  • And it would seem that Flea rarely, if ever, uses any effects.
Posted by Casper at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2003

String consumption

I'm not sure as to what was going on today, but I went through a few sets of strings today. I'll be the first to admit that I have need to change the strings on all my basses for about a month now, but I was hoping to stretch the current set until 2004. This is pretty close, though.

First I snapped my G string on the Fodera while playing Thank U. This makes sense, the song is all slapping and popping (almost all of which occur on the G string). One of the things that I rather like about the Fodera's is the bridge construction. I was able to yank the broken string out of the bridge without missing a beat in the song. I had replaced all the strings on the Fodera during my trip to their shop, so they lasted about three months of pretty heavy playing. I can live with that.

Not too long afterwards, I went through the D string on my Ibanez. I've been playing a lot of pick heavy stuff lately, and I tend to pick just a little up from the bridge (thereby putting lots of strain on the strings). I can't remember when I restrung this bass (which puts the age of those strings somewhere back in March or so). I don't play the 6 string anywhere near as much as I do my Fodera, so that lifespan is not too ridiculous.

For those gearhead bass players out there (a rarity, I know), I use Rotosounds on my six string. I like the really crunchy sound they get after they're a month or two old. It's not a very live sound at all, but it works for me when doing certain rock stuff. On my Fodera, I use Fodera strings. They stay bright and live just about until the point in time when they break.

Posted by Casper at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2003

Field Trip to Fodera

I decided to take the day off (government holiday and all) and take my Fodera up to the shop in Brooklyn NY. After a five hour drive up (lots of traffic problems) and finally finding the Fodera shop (if you didn't know exactly where it is, you would never find it), both myself and a friend of mine met with Joey Lauricella. He was a great guy, made time for me in his busy schedule to take my guitar and fix all that ailed it. Joey was very patient, explaining what he was doing each step of the way, passing out tips for care and feeding of the bass. While he was working on my guitar, he gave the two of us a short tour of the facility, pointed out some of the more famous basses that they happened to have in the shop at the time (one of which was Victor Wooten's tenor bass that he left with Joey and Vinnie to get a little work done on it), and then he introduced us to Vinnie Fodera. The both of them showed us some of the basses that they are currently working on (including a beautiful Emperor with a Brazillian burl rosewood top).

You see, the thing is we are both bassists, but we are small fry. Hell, I'm aspiring to average. But Joey and Vinnie treated us as if we were visiting royalty. Gave us some free stuff to take home, fed us a pretty tasty lunch, was kind and gracious about everything. I can't speaking highly enough about their operation. I'm already a huge fan of their basses, and having met them makes me even more determined to get another one of them. Quality people like that deserve to be rewarded.

Posted by Casper at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)