The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek

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.


Recycling Strings

Many bassists (including myself) don't change the strings on some of their basses very often. My main players get a regular rotation, but the flatwounds on my fretless are . . . vintage. When they do come off the instrument, though, they're usually useless to the player. In my case, I usually cut them at the tuning peg for easy removal, so I can't practically return those strings to a bass later. That's why it's good to have viable alternatives to using these strings after they're done vibrating:

  • Recycling them for Mardi Gras throws - as detailed by Benjamin Strange at Strange Guitarworks, you can donate them to be used in beads and such coming off the floats.
  • Recycling them for jewelry - I've actually donated a set to Restrung Jewelry, and a portion of the proceeds goes to the New Orleans Musicians Aid Fund (a WONDERFUL cause).
  • Recycling them for playing - Janek Gwizdala recently promoted a wonderful cause to get strings to those who might not otherwise have access.

No matter how often you change the strings, think about these programs before your strings hit the trash can.


iOS Gets Better Audio Support Behind The Scenes

This announcement wasn't a big deal at yesterday's Apple event, but the support for registered audio streams shared amongst apps in iOS 7 is a huge deal. While it doesn't look like Audiobus or Jack needs to abandon ship any time soon, the possibilities for multitasking and sharing audio between apps seem promising. More plug-ins, more possibilities . . . and probably the need to buy newer  hardware (the new iOS doesn't support all features for anything but the latest Apple hardware). And, of course, my Alesis IODock doesn't support the newest connectors. Feh.

Nevertheless, I think this is the point where the hardware is fast enough and the multitasking availability means that tablets and phones start replacing laptops onstage at a faster pace. Less boot time, cheaper, and the touch interface beats out the need for hauling the laptop around. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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New Google Play

I use Google Play occasionally - it syncs well from no matter where I get my music (Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Bandcamp, etc.), and I can stream it from my work computer without effort. That said, I'm not sure I'll pay the 9.99/month they're asking for their new streaming/radio service (h/t to Lifehacker). It sounds like it has a decent radio and discovery service, but honestly - I've got a TON of music uploaded to Google Play already, and I still find myself happening across albums I bought and promptly forgot or haven't spent enough time with. Music just isn't water to me yet, I guess. The redesign itself looks good, and the service stopped randomly creating playlists off of random tracks, which is a bonus. So thanks for that - but I'm not subscribing.


JACK Comes to iOS

Currently missing the boat on Audiobus 'cause my iOS devices are too old (time for new stuff, I know - gimme a minute), but here comes news that popular open source audio/MIDI linker JACK is on iOS now.

And it handles MIDI and audio and more here, too.

And it's free.

And it works on my old devices.

Oh, this is good news. Can't wait to see what apps become compliant so very, very soon. The SDK implementation process looks super easy. And that's a good thing. Thanks for saving my old devices!

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All On A Mardi Gras Day

Just some quick notes on this:

  • four tracks of bass
    • slap bass attempting to replicate a bass and snare drum
    • palm-muted and thumbed bass for the bass line
    • some chords in there
    • the lead line
  • I play the wrong instrument to be in a brass band, so I had to make some adjustments
  • I'm a transplant - please forgive any trespasses. I just heard the song and tried to make it work as a solo bass piece
  • Happy Mardi Gras!


Amazon Giving You Free MP3 Storage For Previous Purchased CDs

Oh, hi New Year. How ya doin'? More on bass later - I've assembled a decent looping rig and am working on stuff now. Like I said, more later

TechCrunch announced Amazon's AutoRip service today, basically giving you a central storage area for all the songs you ever purchased in any form from Amazon. That means you can now store your music collection in one of three central areas - Apple servers (for a fee with Match), Google (free for their purchases, to a limit for everything else), and Amazon (basically stuff you bought from them).

Meaning that media matters little anymore. Doesn't matter how you bought it, these three will make it convenient for you to get.

Why? Because they want you to buy from them in the future. They want their place to be instinctual for you to visit and to purchase from.

Seems nice, but we've seen people pull right back for this kind of media before (right, Amazon?). So I still plan on syncing my server to Google Play for mobile use that still leaves copies for my own personal satisfaction at home.

I'm more intrigued by seeing exactly what I've purchased from Amazon. And a little creeped that they remember better than I do.


Audiobus Coming Next Week

iOS devices can be great music-making tools, but the inability to chain the audio signal path through multiple devices hampers usage a bit, especially live. Which is why this app thrills me. It also extends the viability of my 1st-gen iPad a bit, thanks to iOS 5 compatibility.

So basically, this app runs audio through other apps already on the iOS device in specified input, effect, or output slots. I'm seeing possibilities here as an effects processor for audio signal, more tonal options for soft synths, and just the ability to mess things up sound-wise.

It'll be a long week until I can get my hands on this.


To China with You!

Nope, I'm not shipping jobs overseas. However, Wiley Publishing recently licensed my book Teach Yourself VISUALLY Bass Guitar to receive a Chinese translation and publish, expected some time next year. Honestly, I just want to see what it ends up looking like. I'm also hoping for a press tour - not likely, but I can dream.


Vishnu’s Bicycle

Last track on the album, and probably the easiest one to mix. Things just seemed to fall into place for this track, and I love the breezy feel it has. We also managed a pretty good breakdown in the middle, considering we couldn't all have eye contact in the studio. Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoyed the album (and might even purchase it 🙂 ).