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

Propellerheads Reason and Rack Extensions

Many months ago, I sold my Digitech Bass Whammy pedal to some lucky soul in Detroit. It was a cool effect, but I just didn't use it that much. I didn't really expect the effect to come back into my life (and that particular pedal hasn't - just the overall effect), but Reason's Polar has done just that. Check out the video to see exactly what's going on there. And that's why Rack Extensions make Reason so much more fantastic. It finally allows 3rd-party developers into Reason's walled garden, and I'm having loads of fun playing with what's now available. The best part is that, combined with my SoftStep, I have the Whammy effects back (without messing with a finicky pedal). So very cool.


New IMN Podcast and Some Quick Music Reviews

The new IMN podcast is up - download it or listen at the site or on WFYI HD2, Thursdays at 4pm and 10pm.

Picked up some new recordings over the past week through the magic of eMusic and the CD store. The notable standouts include Julie Slick's self-titled debut and the Stanley Clarke Band's latest release. Slick melds the brawny, muscular tone she displayed at the Adrian Belew show at Radio Radio some months back with intriguing, well-composed tracks featured a ton of guest artists. This one comes highly recommended. As for Clarke's disc, I actually heard the first track via WWOZ without knowing who it was and was intrigued by the modern rock elements the song incorporated within the jazz framework. But pair Clarke with pianist Hiromi and the other great musicians on the disc, and that kind of ingenuity makes sense. Good stuff all around. Finally, I'm just getting into the new Trombone Shorty disc - it doesn't quite capture the fiery presence Troy Andrews has live, but it still communicates what you can expect from his outfit. Pick it up, but I'd definitely be looking for the next live show.

Back to playing with the new Propellerheads software - the new drum and loop tools are great, and Record sports an auto-tune function now. Use with discretion, please.


In Praise of Video Tutorials

I'm getting a little more time to practice (courtesy of my soon-returning-practice-schedule-containing notebooks and some Meshell Ndegeocello bass line transcriptions), which also means that I'm getting a little more time to play around with Record as both a recording program and as a virtual amp. The program hasn't surpassed the Ampeg as my amp of choice, but the SansAmp into the program gets a credible sound. Also helping me get a credible sound are some good video tutorials from the Propellerhead folks - I'm really enjoying the short, focused topics both the company and their product specialist provides.

Sure, I'm still not recording anything longer than your average ringtone, but it's a little easier. Plus, I've got a patch that turns my bass and a random mic into a nice vocoder. And it's better than listening to the new version of "We Are The World."


Notes on the Bass-cation

Last weekend in Chicago provided some fruitful bass moments, including the following instances:

  • A fantastic show from Mehsell Ndegeocello - The Old Town School of Folk Music was a wonderfully intimate venue for the show, and Ndegeocello responded with some amazing songs. Highlights included a delicate bass-and-guitar reading of "Talk To Me" from her debut album, her covers of "Dirty Mind" and "Love You Down," and aggressive takes on material from her new album "Devil's Halo." I caught the second of two sets, and I can only think the first set warmed her band up for an exceptional second effort.
  • A magnificently brutal show from Mastodon and Dethklok at the Aragon Ballroom - The bands seemed to respond to that night's videotaping of the shows to put on a singular display of force and precision. Mastodon played their latest album front to back and then tossed in some of their later material. Dethklok balanced their songs with the requisite animated skits to create a multi-layered experience. It was metal that was at once expertly played and self-aware of some of the cliches in the genre. They didn't take it too seriously - they just went out and played it well.
  • The purchases of a new Bass Blogger distortion pedal and a Nordstrand MusicMan pickup - The pedal has an unfortunate name, but I can't argue with the fuzz sound I get out of it. And I'll report back on the pickup once it's installed in my Stingray, but I'm looking forward to some really good things. Bass Club Chicago was a great host and let me try a few pedals before deciding the Bass Blogger was the pedal for me. Thanks, folks!
  • Not quite a bass moment, but the Propellerheads Producer's Conference was a good time and a valuable way to pick up some tricks and tips on using Record.

Aside from a creepy hotel, the whole trip was a smashing success. Now to get back to playing with the new toys.


New Podcast Is Up, and Propellerhead Producers Conference

The new IMN podcast is up - download it or listen at the site or on WFYI HD2 Thursdays at 4pm.

So this weekend is supposed to be a "bass-cation" for me - concerts in Chicago from Meshell Ndegeocello and Mastodon/Dethklok, with a visit to Dusty Groove and Bass Club Chicago inbetween. Just found out, however, that Propellerheads is throwing a Producer's conference this Saturday as well, and it could fit well into my schedule. Have any readers been to one of these before, and can you tell me if it's worth the time and effort? It's going to be a busy weekend in any case, but this looks like it could be a lot of fun.


Wup Bup, The Electronic Files

wupbupLooks like iTunes and Amazon have the Wup Bup tracks available for download, so feel free to download them at your leisure. Also, the CD can still be purchased at Indy CD and Vinyl and Luna Music here in Indianapolis.

We're still working out the live aspects of the show, but it's looking like Reason is going to be playing a large part of providing the sounds and loops for the show (including, hopefully, my bass). Since I love the program personally, then, I'm a little geeked out about the company (Propellerheads) releasing an audio recording program to work in tandem with the soft synth and sequencing capabilities of Reason. It's going to be a little hard to wait until September for the final product, but it does make my decision to choose a new audio recording software a little more complicated. At least on my laptop, Pro Tools and Logic have another competitor.


Finally Stocked Up

It should be a hard and fast rule for every player.  Always keep an extra set of strings in your gig bag or case, no matter what.  No matter how expensive bass strings can be (up to $75 in most cases for bass guitars, much higher for uprights), you should always keep a set at the ready, and maybe more at home just in case.  I went ahead and splurged on some extra sets - partly because there's a new bass in the stable, and partly because I have to change the strings on the Jazz bass more often to keep things functional on the MIDI side.  With the new Reason program, I want to program some new sounds into the Playboy Psychonauts set, and that means making sure the notes translate well through the MIDI pickup.  The brightness of the new set is the biggest difference-maker in that department, and I just like the sound of them.  Conversely, I've kept the same set on the fretless for a couple years or so because I like the duller, thumpy sound they make.  Strings are a huge part of the sound, and even at $75 they're a lot cheaper, even in the long run, than the $8000 amp I just saw reviewed in Bass Player this month.

Also, I got just around to watching the "special event" of "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" last night after a few days' delay.  It was decent, but I wonder if new episodes in March are still on the horizon given the writers' strike.  I'm probably obligated by my AFM membership to support the writers in this case, but I'd come down on that side anyway. Just because the studios don't (allegedly) make money on Internet content yet doesn't mean the creative types shouldn't be reimbursed for their efforts in making that profit to happen.  Here's to a swift and lucrative resolution.

Finally, anybody know where I can find a Cylon bass guitar?



I'd like to thank the good folks at Propellerheads (creators of Reason) for posting some extensive documentation on their website. The challenge of finding the instructions I needed in a 400+ page PDF more than outweighed the cost I would have incurred by putting my fist through a laptop screen. I'm still a little irritated at the workflow to edit clips in the sequencer, but I suspect that it's the newness of the procedure, and that learning the keyboard shortcuts might be in order.

Even the image of a punched laptop is making me sad. That tells me two things - first, that I'm thankful it never happened, and second, that I need a small vacation.


The Age of Reason

I'm still getting used to some new software - the new edition of Reason is now loaded on my laptop, and I'm try to play around with the new features a little bit. Reason 4 tells you who I am!On first blush, the new Thor sythesizer is pretty spiffy - I was able to tweak some interesting sounds out of it, even though there's a dangerous amount of knobs and controls on it. Since the primary use I have for Reason is live performance, the soft synth capability is key to me. I can appreciate the new tweaks for lanes and vector-based envelopes, but I'm not sure how much I'll use that on stage. Same for the ReGroove function, although I could see the arpeggiator making its way into some of the live patches.

Oh, sure, there's the possibility of using it for actual recorded tracks, but I've learned something about myself - as a songwriter, I seem to make good ringtones. Thirty or forty sketches, about thirty to forty seconds long, and that's what I've got. The scoring project was a step in the right direction, I think, but even then I used more loops than I was really happy with. There's some more music work coming down for me to handle, and I'm going to try and stretch a little bit on that. It specifically involves a lack of loops, so there goes that crutch right there.

I think I'm just used to creating bass lines for the songs I play on. Once I'm past that, it gets a lot harder. Not so much that I want to actually play guitar or anything, but I do want to see what else I could put together on top of the rhythm section.