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

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!


Daft Punk Follow-up and Bass Porn

First, Music Thing is reporting that the touch screens from Daft Punk's Grammy performance were Lemur controllers, although it agrees with me that they were miming along with the track.  I thought the pads looked a little monochromatic compared to the units from the Jazzmutant page, but it's an interesting insight.  I still want one.

Beat-up BassI also wanted to include a little bass porn today. This comes courtesy of the Inside Home Recording blog - they produce a podcast I listen to fairly regularly. I just love basses like this because, as the writer put it, "it's a player's bass—some collectors would weep at its condition." It's been played and used well, and it's still holding up and making music. These are as much heirlooms as musical instruments - as long as whoever inherits it keeps playing it.


An Amazingly Bass-Free Holiday

I've been without a bass guitar for approximately four days now, and while I managed to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, it still wasn't pleasant.  I found myself contemplating whether my new string orders had come in and if I should try a new preamp with my Jazz bass.  I pondered slapping a graphite neck on my Stingray, and how it would affect the sound.  I contemplated what I should take to a practice on Sunday - the P-bass, obviously, but would I need anything else?  My eyes drifted towards guitar stores, music stores, even pawn shops.  I could distract myself with the iPod and "Spook Country," but it was a temporary solution.  After pulling in to home, making sure everything was intact, and taking everything in, the bass was in my hands and I was trying to pick out some of the lines I'd heard on the trip back.I may just have to get a Steinberger for the road. 


That First Bass Guitar

I mentioned that I was going to start going over some stuff from my bass book now that I've got a copy back in my hands, and a good place to start is actually getting that first bass.

There's a reason most folks start learning to play on crappy instruments. You're just starting this journey, you're not entirely sure you're going to keep going, and you don't want to waste a lot of money in the process. Totally understandable. That's the reasons there's such a big market for rental band and orchestra instruments - parents balk at paying the hundreds of dollars required for a good instrument, knowing that their child will probably not become the next John Coltrane and put that saxophone to use outside of their mandatory music class (if they're lucky enough to have one in this day and age of school arts and music cuts). So the instrument goes back, the family is out only a little bit of money, and everybody's happy.

I don't remember my first bass being a total piece of crap, but I'm sure that looking back on it now I probably would. It was a sunburst P-Bass copy I bought from some random resident of Marion, IN who had taken out an ad in The Trader. The price was $100. I don't think I overpaid, but I didn't get a deal either. I eventually traded it for a J.B. Player P-Bass copy (thanks to some not-so-gentle prodding from a bass teacher who also owned the instrument and the store selling it), and then that went to purchase my first "real" bass, a Fender JP-90. Those three instruments taught me a few things to look for in beginner instruments:

  • A slightly rounded fretboard - the first bass I owned was completely flat, and as a result it was difficult to play. Fingerboards should have a slight curvature, or radius, so look for it. This is really only a concern for low-end instruments - it's a given at everything but the bargain basement level.
  • Well-maintained instrument - if you're buying a used instrument, make sure it's clean and cared for before you purchase it. The neck should be straight, the electronics should be clean and sound clear, and it should be free of major cracks or holes. These things will only become major problems later and keep you from learning as quickly as you could.
  • Body-mounted output jack - The part of the guitar that you plug in should be located on the body, or at least in a metal pickguard. On the JP-90, the jack was located on a one-ply plastic pickguard, and I was constantly bugging the student radio engineer to solder it back into place after I broke it yet again. Guitar cords will strain these jacks, and they're a pain to repair repeatedly.
  • Get an amp - yes, you can't play the instrument by itself and expect to get any decent results. If you're worried about expending a lot of money, get a headphone amp or small practice amp. Beginners shouldn't be trusted with full amp stacks, anyway.

If I were starting out a new player today, I'd encourage them to get a Made-In-Mexico Fender Precision or Jazz bass with a small (30-50 watt) practice amp. It's enough power to get heard without disturbing surrounding life. That's only about $400, and it should retain a decent amount of resale value in case you want to pass it on and get something else.

Why you'd want to is beyond me, but that's a different matter.