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Friday
Dec232011

EffectsBay.com

Check it out!  The good people over at EffectsBay.com featured my pedalboard today on "Pedal Line Friday"!! 

EffectsBay.com is one of those sites that I check in with everyday.  It's got great information on pedal mods, pedal demos, where to buy pedals, etc. - if it's about effects, they talk about it on effectsbay.com.

Check them out and follow them on twitter @effectsbay 

Tuesday
Nov222011

Rig Rundown: Hunter Hall

Kicking off the "Rig Rundown" series is the man, the myth, the legend...Hunter Hall.  Hunter is an amazingly talented bassist and vocalist who can also be seen playing guitar and keys from time to time.  He's played on various studio albums and with tons of bands over the years.  Check out his latest record, "Comfort and Joy" from his band Folk Angel.

 

Monday
Nov142011

Plutoneium Bass Chi-Wah-Wah Demo

I had a request over on TalkBass to do a demo on the Plutoneium Bass Chi-Wah-Wah pedal.  If you want to see any other demos or have any questions - just let me know!

Friday
Nov112011

True Bypass Pedalboard Demo

Here's a quick run through of some of the basic sounds I use on my pedalboard.  Stay tuned for more in-depth posts on each individual pedal.

Friday
Nov042011

1979 Martin EB-18

In the late 70's, C.F. Martin & Company decided to get into the electric guitar and electric bass game.  Since I was born in the same year that this bass was made, I can't really commentate on how it was perceived.  All I know is it couldn't have made that big of a splash in the market because they stopped making this bass a few years later.  Everything I've read about the EB-18 is that it looked "too plain", "didn't stand out", etc. so Martin decided to nix the electric bass and focus on acoustic instruments.

For me, I took a chance and bought this bass partly because of it's unique features.  I've always been a fan of Martin acoustic guitars, so I wanted to get my hands on a Martin bass.  The interesting headstock and bodyshape always bring out the questions and comments when I play this bass live.  The headstock is stamped with "CFM" on the front, and the back has the full "C.F. Martin & Co." logo.  The logo is also woodburned into the neckjoint.  I found this one through an online consignment store and luckily it came from a single owner, and looked like it had been in storage for the last twenty years.  Since I took a chance on buying this bass, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from it.  When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the accessories on this bass. 

It came stock with a Leo Quan Badass bridge, Schaller tuners, and a brass nut - giving this bass a very solid and big tone.  Right out of the case the neck needed zero adjustments, the frets were in great shape, and when I set it up, the intonation was almost dead on.  I guess it holds true that if you build it well and use good materials, it should hold up like that over 30 years.

One of the strongest features on this bass is the pickup.  It came with a single DiMarzio DP120 humbucking pickup, one volume knob, one tone knob, and a toggle switch.  The best part is the toggle switch.  It cuts out one of the coils in the pickup taking the tone from bright and crisp to super bassy.  For me, it's like having a Fender Jazz and a P-bass in one.  It makes for one versatile sounding bass for long gigs.  I use Ernie Ball Flatwound strings to give me that old school, Motown sound and to help prolong the neck and fret life so this bass can stay in the roatation for another thirty years!

I've seen varying reports of how many were actually produced, but it seems to fall between 800-1100 total.  Martin stopped production on the EB-18 in 1983.  If you run across this bass on eBay or find one in a pawn shop, I would definitely buy it.  It's a well-built, unique bass with a very versatile tone...and it just looks cool.

 

Tuesday
Nov012011

The Pedalboard is now complete...

The new true bypass pedalboard from BradyCases.com is wired up and ready to go!

Sunday
Oct302011

Getting Better On Your Own

When I was six years old I can remember cutting the strings off my dad’s tennis racket and attaching one of his belts to it to make my first “guitar”.  I faked playing along to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” on the radio.  I finally got my first real electric guitar (a Washburn Lyon, by the way...) when I was 12.  It wasn’t until six years later that I moved over to bass.  For someone who grew up wanting to play music for as long as I can remember, it’s a little odd that I never sought out any professional training on how to play.

If you’re like me, a self-taught, converted guitarist, it can be difficult to know how to get better at bass.  When you don’t know scales or theory, the only way to get better is to play, and play a lot.  Play with any band that will have you - it will make you better.  If you can’t find a band, try starting one.  Play with the best drummers you can find...even if you can’t keep up because it will make you better.  Practicing with a metronome is another guaranteed way to make you a better player.  I’ll get into all of these tips in more detail with some help from some guest bass bloggers over the next few months. 

For now, let’s talk about a fairly simple way to get better at playing the bass.

This exercise is something that anyone can do. It will take everyone varying times to complete it, and some people will get more out of it than others, but it’s good to do regardless of your ability.  It’s a little like telling a room full of people to go outside and run a mile.  Most people can do it.  Some can do it in under five minutes wearing flip flops.  Others won’t make it to the end of the street and it will take them weeks or months to build up to completing the mile.

Here’s the idea.  Pick a handful of songs from bands you are currently listening to, bass players you like, or your all-time favorite bands.  Then learn the basslines to those songs by ear.  Listen to them over and over with your bass and figure out the bassline.  Don’t find the tabs online.  That’s like running the mile on someone else’s back.

By playing the bass parts of other players, you will be surprised by how many things you will learn.  Notes to play over certain chords, when not to play, right and left hand techniques that you’ve never thought of, and the list goes on and on.  As you figure out the bassline, think about what you would have played for that song.  It’s also a really good exercise to try to mimic the bassist’s tone on the song.  Mess with your EQ and dial in some effects until you get close.  I’ve found that being versatile with your equipment gives you a better flexibility in your live performance, as well as when recording to find the sound you’re looking for.

Whatever you do, don’t try to do this on laptop speakers.  I spent around $80 for a little Boston Acoustics laptop speaker set.  Two small desk speakers and a powered subwoofer that you can crank while trying to make out the bass parts.

Here are the five songs that I’m going to learn:

1. Cake  “The Winter” from the album Showroom of Compassion

Cake has been one of my favorite bands since the first time I heard “The Distance”.  Their bass player, Gabe Nelson, is incredible.  Just about every Cake song centers around a catchy, pocket-groove bassline played on some flatwound strings.  See Cake play live, you won’t be disappointed.

2. Adele  “He Won’t Go” from the album 21

This is my favorite song on the album, and the bass part is Pino Palladino at his best.  A great example of an insane pocket bass groove.  Pino is one of my all time favorite bassists.  He plays stuff that I would’ve never thought of, stuff that takes me a lot of practice to even be able to play, and he plays a lot of different styles of music well.  He also knows when NOT to play and when less is more.  There will be a lot of Pino talk on this site.  If you don’t have D’Angelo’s album Voodoo - you need to buy it now.  Pino’s bass parts on “Playa Playa”, “Devil’s Pie”, and “The Line” to name a few will make you a better bass player.

3. John Mayer  “In Repair” from the album Continuum

I’m a big fan of this song and it’s overall feel.  Charlie Hunter on his 8 string bass-electric guitar hybrid.  It’s pretty amazing to watch him play that thing.  You should really check out the video “One Song, One Day”.  It shows John Mayer, Charlie Hunter, and Steve Jordan getting together in the studio to write the song.

4. Hall & Oates  “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” from the album Private Eyes

Yep. I’m going Hall & Oates on ya.  T-Bone Wolk was as solid as they come on the bass.  Daryl Hall referred to Wolk as the “ampersand” of Hall & Oates when T-Bone passed away last year.  Check out the Very Best of Hall & Oates for a trip down memory lane.  You’ll be surprised how many great songs these guys wrote - it’s impressive.

5. 311  “Don’t Tread On Me” from the album Don’t Tread On Me

Last, but certainly not least - you’ve got to have something from P-Nut.  I worked at a local drugstore when I was 15, and the assistant manager gave me the 311 Grassroots album, and I’ve been a fan ever since.  When I started playing bass, I developed a whole new appreciation for this band.  P-Nut has a unique tone, very versatile playing style, and his plucking hand work is amazing.  Listening to 311 has made me get a lot better at my right hand attack.  This song also shows how well they go back and forth from a heavy, straight-ahead drive to a pocket groove.  Something to add to your music bucket list: see 311 on 311 day (March 11th).  The 2012 show is in Vegas.  Start training for it now - because they play 60+ songs. It’s one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had, hands down.  

Alright, let’s get to work!

Thursday
Oct132011

True Bypass Pedalboard...aka "The Death Star"

My new pedalboard from Brady Cases arrived today! Check out the quick preview below, and I'll post an update as soon as I wire it up this week!

Tuesday
Oct112011

Take Your Pick

I very rarely play with a pick these days, but I wore some picks down to a nub in my early bass days.  Like many bassists, I'm a converted guitarist, and I was a lot more comfortable with a pick in my right hand.  Every time I tried to convert to fingerstyle plucking I would get so frustrated and quickly revert back to the good ol' pick.  It wasn't until a band I was in had a legit record label showcase opportunity that I knew I had to make the switch to playing with my fingers.  I took a few songs and played them over and over until I was comfortable playing them without a pick.  After that I made up a few simple right hand exercises to do each day, and then I was in business.

To me, playing with my fingers just sounds better.  It also gives me more control over the tonal dynamics in the attack on my strings, and it gives me more low end to my sound.  In my opinion, whether or not you play with a pick should be determined by the sound you are looking for.  You can get some very cool sounds by playing with a pick and rolling off the tone knob, but for me it's not the everyday sound I'm looking for.  However, some kinds of music do sound better with the pick-style attack and tone...i.e. metal.   

I usually opt for a pick when a song calls for a really driving bass part throughout the entire song.  A good example would be something like Reptilia by the Strokes.  If I'm going to be driving 8th or 16th notes throughout the whole song, it's a lot easier to stay on time with a pick.  I always like to think that I can do it on my own, but it never fails...about two and half minutes into the song my hand feels like it's on fire and I start getting behind in the bassline.  I've crapped out a few times in a live show where I didn't have a pick on me and I ran out of gas towards the end of a set and we decided to throw in a cover that drives 8th notes the entire time.  Or the new drummer is playing one of the songs way too fast and you desperately needed a pick just to keep up.  My main band, The Mark Cuban Missile Crisis, plays the Turkey Trot 5K race every year in Downtown Dallas on Thanksgiving and it's always really cold to start the morning.  I usually play that entire show with a pick because I can't feel my fingers!

I don't always play with a pick, but when I do...I play a Dunlop.  I like the Dunlop Tortex .88's aka the "green ones".  The have this matte/powder finish that allows you to grip the pick really well even when your hands start to sweat a little bit.  I also like them because they get a little pliable over time and they will conform to the way you hold it.

If you've never tried to make the switch from a pick to fingerstyle - do it.  Do it now, and throw away all of your picks until you are comfortable playing with your fingers.  Be patient because it can take some time.  Once you've got the hang of it, you can go buy another pack of picks for those certain songs where it fits.  Or if you've never experimented with a pick at all, you should give it a shot.  Either way, you should know how to play both styles.  I think it was Flea who said something along the lines of "you should know how to play slap bass...even if you never do it."  Same thing applies here...it's just good to know.

Sunday
Oct092011

Click-Less Effect Switch / True Bypass Kit

If you use a fair amount of pedals, you know the two biggest beatdowns can be the tone-loss from non true-bypass pedals and the loud click or pop that you get when you activate certain pedals.  The good people over at Jack Deville Electronics have tackled both problems.

I met Jack at the Dallas Guitar Show this spring and was really skepitcal on his true bypass retrofit kits.  I figured that it wouldn't be a "true" true-bypass, and I figured there was no way I could install these myself with zero experience with a soldering gun.  After talking to Jack for 5 minutes, I got even more skeptical...when I found out he was a Portland Trailblazers fan and was going to the Mavs playoff game in Dallas that night to see Portland.  Since I knew the Trailblazers were going to lose in the first round to my Mavericks, I took pity on the guy and bought a few true-bypass kits and a click-less effect switch.

I have been extremely impressed with both kits.  It took about 30 minutes to retrofit a Boss ODB-3 with the true bypass kit, and that's because I've never used a soldering gun before and I was trying to not burn down my garage.  The second pedal I did only took 10 minutes.  It made a noticeable difference in the tone.  Jack says his kits are "true" true bypass - and I believe him.  I'm not an electrician, and I don't know all the ins-and-outs, but I can hear a noticeable improvement in the pedals that I've retrofitted.

The click-less effect switch takes mere minutes to install and can be a game changer for those of you like me that play in the worship world.  No more loud clicks of the tap tempo before a song starts (usually during the prayer) and having the people in the first few rows awkwardly look over at you.  I changed out my drive pedal because I'm always having to turn that pedal on before the first song for a big intro and it makes a loud pop.  Not anymore!

They're only $25 or $30 for the kits and worth every penny.  Check them out.