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The Bass Geek

The Cassingle Makes a Triumphant Return (to Carnival)

Yep, I helped produce a small-batch, artisanal cassingle for the Krewe of Spank (as part of the 2015 Krewe Du Vieux parade that took place 1/31/2015).

The Cassingle!

The Cassingle!

The krewe captured the entire theme at the 504 Not Found app site (probably NSFW, just a heads-up), and you can see reviews of the parade itself (including pictures of the spectacular float) in a few different locations:

For this throw, I took the stellar graphics and script from some of the other krewe members and a preferred-to-stay-unnamed vocal talent and put it to music. Since we had to face the fact that most folks don't own cassette players anymore (although the good folks at National Audio Company and Cassetro came through like champs to produce the cassettes for said players), the krewe also made the audio part of the app, and I've posted it on my SoundCloud. Enjoy.


My New Book!

Cover for iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies

Yes, I just turned in the first draft of my new book (also featuring the contributions of author and all-around electronic music guru Mike Levine) iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies to the good folks at Wiley Publishing.

Like most For Dummies books, the title pretty much tells it all - this books shows musicians how to integrate their iPhone or iPad into their music-making process (beyond taking a bunch of on-gig selfies - why am I seeing so many of these recently?). Using your iOS device as a virtual synthesizer, guitar rig, recording studio, far-out freaky noise-making machine - it's all in there.

And the best part was playing with these toys as I was writing it. So many apps making so many beautiful noises!

So now I'm waiting for the author review process, where we go back over all the copy Mike and I contributed and make sure it actually makes sense, then send it off for the magic printing/e-book process. Look for the final publishing date early next year (pre-order for the holiday season, maybe?).

I'll talk more about the book as it gets closer to the publishing date. Quite frankly, I'm a little done with extended writing for a bit (the book tops out just over 400 pages).

In the most pressing update, though, I once again discovered the #sitarfunkfail hashtag, thanks to some Twitter policy changes. That, my friends, is a modern miracle.


In the Far-Distant Future . . .

When I help produce the Podcast, I frequently joked that Indianapolis bands never break up. A reunion show always waits in the future, maybe short-term, maybe distant. But like an animal returning to an instinctual home, devoid of any active intent but motivated by something more base and primal, the band will come together for at least one more show. Probably. Time eventually prevents these reunions, and I lack the facilities to perform the full research to make this a full-fledged scientific theory or law. But there you go.

The Playboy Psychonauts validated this rule last month with a weird one-off reunion at IndyPopCon. I would already be in town for work, so the timing was right. And why not stage a reunion show at a place the band never played before (the Indianapolis Convention Center) for a group of folks who never experienced the act before (since the band stopped playing three years earlier and we never focused on conventions). Everybody loves sitar-based lounge covers with a weird twist and no vocal audience interaction! CAN'T MISS. Add the fact that I had to borrow a guitar strap from headliners Paul and Storm (SO PROFESSIONAL), and we were set for glory!

While the reception was indeed pretty positive (I wish I could find the successive tweets that birthed an initial reaction of #sitarfunkfail and the next tweet where we finally won them over, but Twitter won't let me search for that hashtag - HOW DO YOU LOSE THE #SITARFUNKFAIL HASHTAG?!), the whole event made it worth it to meet Joel Hodgson from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and receive some good words about the music we don't know when we'll play again. Which was also fun to explain to the folks who bought the album after the performance (I couldn't resist the mention of the Bandcamp site and an added "Hodor" - I knew the crowd).

So there you go. Until next time.

(Photo courtesy of Mark Rice)


Where Did My Guitar Stand Go?

I usually leave a guitar stand in the car because I always forget one if I leave it at home. Plenty of stands at home, leave one in the car, and I'm good. So I should have taken the missing stand as a sign when I first noticed it. But no, I just counted it as a lost item at a bar gig (who hasn't done that) and kept going. So it's a good thing I left early for that gig in Baton Rouge - ostensibly, it was to visit a pretty good music store there. But the 4-hour lead time let me:

  • Visit said store
  • Get to the gig early and realize parking was awful due to the fun run/festival downtown
  • Discover my nearly flat tire
  • Look for the jack (also taken out of the car with the guitar stand during a car detailing - at least it wasn't my fault)
  • Get everything aired up enough to get to a tire store
  • Wait for the tire replacement
  • Get back downtown
  • Walk too far due to the aforementioned festival parking situation
  • Play a decent gig
  • Drive back to New Orleans
  • Figure out how to reset the low tire pressure indicator so that it didn't keep coming on and freaking me out at 3am on the drive through rural Louisiana

I write now because enough distance and time exists between said occurrence and now. And that's why I always leave early - for crappy stuff like this. From now on, guitar stands are my canary in a coalmine.


Connecting Your Headphones

Apple buying Beats and looking into new headphone connections shouldn't be a big deal. Apple bought Beats for the music streaming and personnel as much as the headphones (which are NOT GOOD AT ALL PLEASE LOOK INTO KLIPSCH OR AKG OR SENNHEISER OR SOMETHING ELSE), and the 3.5mm connection was never an audiophile choice for headphones. The jack works because it's small, portable, and easily implemented. Why not look into new technologies or connections (using something besides Beats headphones, of course)? And remember, of course, that connection types don't necessarily help audio quality (remember when the Playstation was the audiophile choice because of . . . RCA connectors?!). Let the new technology happen, and remember that source material, good headphones, and the signal chain mean just as much as the connector.


My New Bass Ramp!


The New Bass Ramp!

The New Bass Ramp!

Benjamin Strange did a great job of describing the crafting and installation process on his site, so I'll focus here on why I actually did it. My practice (and there's NEVER enough practice, but I'm doing what I can) focused recently on right-hand technique, including picking techniques from Matthew Garrison, Steve DiGorgio, and Alex Webster). And I'd been intrigued by bass ramps from seeing a bunch of high-end basses and trying out what Kokomo phenom Eric Hyman had on his Pedulla. So I decided to take the plunge on my Fender Jazz bass.

Mind you, this instrument has already seen the installation of a MIDI pickup, a Hipshot D-Tuner, and some Nordstrand split-coil Jazz-style pickups. So it's already seen some modifications, but the wood and neck on this thing are amazing. I'm just tweaking it a little.

Benjamin does stellar work, and the craftsmanship that went into this is top-notch. The only thing left to do is play, and it plays spectacularly. I've only spent a few hours with it so far, but it already feels natural, and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out. The picking techniques come to me easier (still needs some polish on my end, but that's a given), and it doesn't get in the way of other plucking or slapping closer to the neck. This modification just brings another option to an already wonderful instrument. Looking forward to much more playing on this. Thanks, Benjamin!


New Earplugs

So basically, I'm an idiot.

I've used earplugs from EarEverything for a long time, and they've always served me well. Unless, of course, you lose them 'cause you take them everywhere you go and they fall out of your pocket and you don't realize it. And you've moved out of state and no longer reside near L. Dawn Flinn and her wonderful services. Luckily, a business trip brought me back to Indy and Dawn was able to arrange a sitting for new molds (in a convention center food court of all places). The process was simple, and the new plugs were in my mailbox a few short weeks later.

And with some better feature than the last model:

  • New fiber cord and clip to keep the plugs on your shirt
  • Better cord mounting to keep the plugs attached
  • Better mounting for the dB filters

The 15 dB filters work great for rehearsal and shows, and the fit is perfect. And I'm carrying it around in a bigger, more noticeable pouch so I can remember it better.

'Cause, again, I'm an idiot.


Guitars Do Not Belong In Museums

So the title of this post could probably expand to include all instruments, but most museums lend out famous or rare instruments to be played in public on occasion, and I didn't see a magazine at the airport titled "French Horn Afficianado." I did catch this little gem, though, and it reinforced everything that's wrong with instrument collecting (minus a profile of Jim Irsay).

The close relationship to luxury brand names, the reinforcement of exorbitant price points, the promised access to "forbidden" or otherwise inaccessible goods - it's all there. But if it's going to sit in a glass case and do nothing, it's worthless. It's non-functional. You can own one of Eddie Van Halen's guitars and be no closer to the "Eruption" solo than you were on a Mexican Strat 30 years ago and weren't practicing then, either.

Famous Stradivari instruments may be rare investments, but they get played. By professionals. In public and for the enjoyment of audiences. The instruments in this publication are nowhere near as old or valuable, and they don't deserve to be shut away and made useless for the sake of possession. There are much more lucrative investments, anyway.

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Playing and Gear Update

Part of trying to use too many toys is finding out how they work together. And part of moving into a new place is discovering all kinds of fun buzzing and grounding issues. So I've spent the past few months trying to locate the best places to place gear and try out configurations of pedals. My usually reliable Q-tron had to make a trip back to the EHX factory for reconditioning (the good folks at Webb's Bywater Music suspect a short somewhere after a switch fell out of the housing), and working with the virtual modeling effects on the iPad and Alesis IO dock have been less than satisfactory. Right now, the Loopy software is the only thing I'm happy with, and I've been loving playing at home with that. Not sure how many folks outside my place want to hear it, but it's still fun. But I think I have the placement figured out know so that I can test configurations at home without crappy buzz and hum.

I REALLY want the modeling stuff to work - it would be great to carry the iPad along instead of a huge pedalboard, but especially the response on the envelope filters just isn't the same. The fuzz and chorus seem to work well enough, but it's not fully functional enough. Guess I need to do more tweaking.

The new-to-me Markbass amp has been a wonderful acquisition, though - going up and down steep stairs is much better at one-third the weight and half the size. And it's still way loud enough for the gig. Can't recommend them enough.


Grabbing Your Tools

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a good portion of my Saturday learning more about my instrument from the technical side instead of the musical side. Strange Guitarworks in New Orleans presents a setup workshop the first Saturday of every month, and I was lucky enough to be part of the first class. Check out Benjamin's thoughts on the workshop here - for me, the workshop drove home a couple of concepts:

  • No instrument is perfect - the Jazz bass I used as part of the workshop has been one of my main instruments for several years now, but this workshop showed me where the instrument still had some imperfections and flaws to deal with. That doesn't make it a bad instrument by any means, it just means that nothing is perfect. The setup does show how to deal with those issues and get your instrument as playable as it can possibly be.
  • I have such a long way to go as far as visually assessing instruments. Measurements in hundredths or thousandths of a millimeter can make a difference, and it's not something I'm used to dealing with. Even with my glasses, I'm still not seeing some of these measurements easily. So much experience goes into this kind of work.

The access to the experience, advice, and tools presented in this workshop is invaluable, and I feel more confident tweaking the truss rod or setting up the bridge on my instruments now. This was time well spent, and I can't recommend it to folks in the New Orleans area enough.

I've also started playing with a cover band down here, which means travelling to a bunch of different clubs with different technical setups in the general area. My usual gear tote can be done in one trip (gig bag, pedalboard, and amp on a hand truck). But there have been a couple of times where we had a part go bad and an extra DI box or cable could have helped. I had the gear, but it wasn't in the gig bag. Also, just given the increased distance I'm travelling and the fact that I'm in more bars now, I'm liking the idea of having more solid housings for the gear I bring. So the extra cables and boxes went into a tool box I can move easily on the hand truck, and it's time to break out the hardshell cases again. It might end up being an extra trip, but it's worth it for the extra peace of mind right now. At least until I can get a much smaller amp and ditch the hand truck.