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Posted 29 December 2003 - 12:27 AM
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1. WHAT’S WHAT ON A BASS?
2. WHICH BASS IS BEST FOR A BEGINNER? click
3. WHICH AMP IS BEST FOR A BEGINNER? click
4. CAN I PLAY A BASS THROUGH A GUITAR AMP? click
5. WHAT IS AN AMPLIFIER AND WHAT IS A PREAMP? click
6. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF AMPLIFIERS? click
7. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPEAKERS? click
8. DOES MY AMP AND SPEAKER BOX HAVE TO BE THE SAME BRAND? click
9. OHMS/ IMPEDANCE click
10. HOW DO I USE MY EQ/ TONE SHAPING? click
11. WHAT IS CLIPPING/ DISTORTION? click
12. WHAT ARE SOME GOOD THINGS TO START LEARNING? click
13. ACCESSORIES click
14. USING EFFECTS WITH BASS click
15. HOW DO ADJUST THE HEIGHT OF MY STRINGS AND I FIX THE INTONATION OF MY BASS? click
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Posted 29 December 2003 - 02:15 PM
Bass Player magazine recently published a special on four string basses priced under US$800. Here is a summary of that special. Please note that this is for information purposes only and no claims are being made as to the quality of these basses.
Here are some thoughts from our regulars, in no particular order
Randall says “I would recommend the best bass a beginner can afford. As we all know it is quite a bit easier to learn on a quality instrument. I don't think the brand name per se is that important, although I would also suggest that one NOT spend thousands of dollars on a bass until the student has actually committed to the instrument.”
Jammasterpete says “Bass I recommend are any standard fender (i.e. Jazz Bass or P-bass) or Ibanez GSR-200.”
Taffaroo says “First set your self a budget, go as high as you can afford. Obviously more cash gets you more bass and paying more for a bass to start with saves you money in the long run as you WILL upgrade in the future! However if your a bit strapped for cash go second hand. As for makes Squier, Epiphone, Ibanez and Yamaha are all decent for a beginner or if you've got cash to splash go for Fender, Rickenbacker, Warwick or MusicMan to name but a few.”
Joshmog says “Yamaha make some great basses for the money, but if you don’t wanna go used Yamaha is a good bet. If you don’t mind used basses MIM Fender basses are good.”
Boycie says “Well, I say it's a good idea to go for a decent bass to begin with. I'm talking second-hand Mexi Fender etc...about that level. I say this because they are unarguably easier to play than their poorly engineered cheaper brothers (Squier etc), and so a newbie to bass will be more likely to stick with it if they have a better bass. Another reason for buying a higher quality instrument is that they have a better resale value dollar for dollar - you'll get a higher percentage of what you spent back if you decide to sell it (in case you decide bass is not for you!)”
Junior says “I'm kind of split in two!!! I believe that a beginner should get the best bass he/she can get for the money he/she has available... without spending to much. There is always the chance that they give up playing within six months. So if they had spend too much it'll only be a waste of money. I would strongly suggest to look into used for starter as they'll probably get a better bass for the money. I don't recommend; Squier, low end Yamaha, Ibanez or Washburn."
Mr K says “Squier P-Bass (make sure it's a good one, the bad ones are awful). They are cheap enough and good for beginners.”
Elliemollet says “I started (and still am) on a Squier p-bass. While not the best, I’ve found it good enough. However I’ve tried other Squiers and the quality is not consistent, so I think I got a good one. Having tried some of the cheaper Ibanezes at the shop, I would say these could make a nice beginner bass, not too pricey but good enough to last a beginner until they start to get a bit more serious.”
Modred says “Anything that is cheap and feels comfy. Ibanez and Epiphone are good for this.”
FunkOnCrack says “Yamaha RBX270, cheap, sounds pretty good.”
Pointmanwlu says “My first bass was an Ibanez GSR-205, which I have absolutely no problem recommending to people who are thinking about starting up. It's a five-stringer, and those that just want to stick to 4-strings they should get the GSR-200 model. It’s a very cheap bass that they will get lots of use out of.”
Dansbass says “I would recommend the Vintage Musicman Stingray copy (can't quite remember the model number) It has a humbucker (albeit not the greatest) sounds pretty smooth, and has a good neck on it. And you have to remember that it has those classic looks!!”
Minimaul says “If price is a big factor, which it usually is, I would recommend a Peavey, or Squier. Although some people will argue that you'll just need to upgrade later, so you should get the expensive stuff, the truth of the matter is: If you get a cheap bass, you're going to upgrade eventually if you love playing bass. And , if you get a expensive bass you're going to upgrade eventually too. Hence "GAS." Once you're in, you're in for life. I started on a Peavey Foundation, I still have it. And I jam regularly with it. It's strong, sturdy, and through rain, shine, sleet or snow. She'll be there for me.”
Zaro says “Schecter basses seem to be good quality for the money, and a really good beginner brand is Brice (rondomusic.com)”
Tuning Spork says “For short-scale lovers and converting guitarists, the Epiphone EB-0 seems to do a good job, and is fairly reliable. Fender MIM basses are very good lower-end things too.”
Papa Felix says "I would have to say whatever axe feels comfortable to the player..if you don't have alot of cash to spend on a bass any low end model of Ibanez, Epiphone, or Japanese Fender would probably do. If ya got cash go for a Rick!!"
Ben Bloggs says “My brother plays a Squier P-Bass. Its ok, it works but after a year it’s starting to fall apart (broken pick guard). Its fine for a beginner I guess but it probably won’t last long. I’ve had good experiences so far with Yamaha basses. The cheap ones are still ok, the necks feel a bit crappy but they also work well and aren’t too expensive.”
Nevermind9403 says “Squier P-Bass Special (what I have) or Ibanez”
Slammerbass says “For true beginners, I’d recommend Squier P-Bass, or the equivalent. It's not the best but if you’re a beginner and not sure about how far you wanna go with this start cheap and then when you know what you want go far something better. I think Ibanez also makes a pretty nice bass.”
Paulie Jay says “Get the most expensive bass you can afford. It’s easier to learn on a well made bass, and if you decide you don’t want to continue playing there’s a better chance of recouping your money when you sell it. Just try out a few basses, see what feels good then open your wallet!”
Posted 29 December 2003 - 02:48 PM
Here's what our regulars think
Junior says “I don't recommend that a beginner get a very expensive amp. Get the most powerful you can for your money. Look into Peavey, very reliable amp for the money. I'll recommend them any day.”
Boycie says “Well, having hopefully spent more on the bass, I can only say that a small amp is probably the only option. You'll only need a little 'un for the first few months... it's when you get practicing with a drummer that you'll need to upgrade, I manage with 200 watts fine. Look at Peavey if you want a reliable (but 'boring' amp) for a good price (i.e. TKO 115). Laney is also particularly good, although they are British and so may be hard to find in the USA etc. Most other brands are really too expensive for a beginner if they expect to get a substantial volume of sound.”
Nevermind9403 says “It depends. If you are going to play in a band get something big like 100 watts. If you aren’t sure, get something around 30 watts. I don't really have a preference for brand. Just make sure it’s not a cheapo brand like Guitar Research."
Pointmanwlu says “Here, I started out with an Ibanez Soundwave 25, then quickly moved up to an Ibanez Soundwave 65. I would recommend the 65 at the very least - I had to buy the 65-watter within 2 or 3 months after getting the bass and the 25. The 65 has held up well, and it sounds pretty nice - but it’s the highest wattage amp Ibanez makes, so if someone decides to go higher, a Peavey TNT series would be my rec for them.”
Taffaroo says “Go as powerful as you can possibly afford you will only end up upgrading after a year or so or when you’re in a band situation, so I say around 250-300watts. I can’t recommend Ashdown highly enough. If their good enough for John Entwistle and Mark King then their good enough for me!!"
Joshmog says “When just starting out you wanna buy the biggest amp available so you don’t have to upgrade so soon. Something 150-300 watts would be great.
Peavey 1x15 combos are good like the TNT 115 and the TKO. Yorkville make some good combos too.”
Ben Bloggs says “I play through a Marshall B25. It works but isn't really loud enough (even for n00bs). It can’t compete very well with my 50 watt guitar amp.
I have had better experiences with a low-end Behringer amp. I think its only about 25/30 watts still but seems much louder, is very robust, doesn’t distort too much when played loud- its better than the Marshall.
Randall says – “I would suggest the best affordable amp within a reasonable budget. Starting out I would probably suggest a good combo setup. Say a Ampeg 1X15 or 1X12 combo. Very affordable for the first timer.”
Jammasterpete says “ The amp I recommend is the Berhinger Ultrabass BX600. This has no frills just does its job well and for cheap.”
Mr K says “Something small, unless you're sure about learning bass.”
Paulie Jay says – If you are only ever going to play in your bedroom, I suppose 50 watts would be sufficient. There are many different makes of amps of this type and most are fairly similar. Don’t expect them to shake your world! If you are entertaining the notion of ever playing with other musicians then you are going to need more watts than this. Minimum 300 watts, no question. It may seem extreme, but if you don’t make the big purchase up front you are going to end up constantly upgrading and wishing you had a bigger amp. Buy the big one now, instead of progressing through 3 or 4 amps that can’t cut it! Some good brands of 300watt amps include Peavey, Trace Elliot, Ashdown, Warwick, Gallien Krueger, Hartke – and many more.
Tuning Spork says “Stay away from the "beginner" crap or you'll sound terrible. Peaveys are always fun."
Slammerbass says “A 15 Watt Crate amp would probably be a good choice. Once you’ve learned some and are willing to pay for a good amp I'd bump up to a 100W Crate. (I kinda like the Crate Amps)”
Dansbass says “I would recommend any Torque amp for beginners, as they are quite inexpensive, and can stay with you for a long time. If you are just going to be playing in your bedroom, I would recommend the 60 watt Torque bass amp, as it is not terribly loud but still has a good low end and is quite stable sound-wise. For playing with a band, and small gigs, I would recommend the largest bass amp Torque manufacture - model number T2001EB. I have this amp, and it’s pretty darn good!! Very stable, and also quite tweakable!!"
Modred says “Usually Peavey combos. You get a lot for your buck and they last forever.”
Minimaul says “Again with the Peavey. I got a Peavey Minx 110. It's a little 50w 10". That rules for practicing around the house. It even worked well for a small band. Although, once the guitarist showed up, it was time for a new one. But I still have my Minx 110 and use it everyday for practice."
Papa Felix says "A 50 watt harkte or similar."
Funk on Crack says “Practise: Behringer BX108 Thunderbird 15w (not that good but not that bad either).
Gigs: Best you can buy. Even save for what you want. It’s Pointless spending money on something unreliable.”
Posted 29 December 2003 - 02:52 PM
This is not recommended! The speakers of a guitar amp were not designed to handle the low frequencies of the bass. Bass notes take a lot of power to be produced, so the power amp will be running flat out trying to create these tones. This may result in severe damage to the power amp (“frying”) as well as significant speaker damage caused by clipping.
Posted 29 December 2003 - 03:28 PM
An amplifier, specifically, is the thing that gives you your power.
A preamp is the tone shaping circuit (EQ + whatever extras the manufacturer offers). These are usually bundled together into what we call an “amp” or a “head”.
These can also be bought as stand alone units. These would be placed in a rack and positioned on top of the speaker box.
Posted 29 December 2003 - 06:09 PM
There are two basic configurations of bass amps.
COMBO AMPS – These are amplifiers in which all of the components are contained within the one unit. They are generally smaller, cheaper and more portable than head/speaker box setups and are favoured by many club players, home users and people with small cars! For a time combo bass amps were looked down upon because they lacked the power necessary for anything but small gigs, but now definite progress is being made to beef up combo amps (e.g. The SWR Super Redhead is rated at 350 watts).
A popular design for combos is the “kick back” or “monitor” style bass amp combo which sits on the floor and projects the sound up at an angle.
HEAD/ SPEAKERBOX COMBINATION – This is the setup favoured by the majority of bass players. The “head” is the amplifier and preamp combined together. This usually sits on top of the speaker box(es) and is connected with speaker cables. Having a separate head means that the amplifier can be (though it not necessarily is) more powerful than a combo amp. More power means more weight, so splitting the head and speaker box into separate units allows better portability. It also allows you to select the type of speakers that best suit your sound.
Another further configuration is to have the preamp separate from the poweramp. This allows even greater flexibility for tone shaping. Generally both of these units would be set in a rack and placed on top of the speaker box.
Along with the configuration of your amp, there are three basic types of electric circuits that give your amp it’s sonic character.
VALVE/TUBE AMPS – These were the first type of bass amplifiers made. Valves (tubes … it’s the same thing) were once used in all kinds of electrical equipment – radios, televisions – but became obsolete with the advent of solid state transistors. Transistors are smaller, lighter and more reliable and they took the place of valves in all areas of electronics except for the world of music!
Valve heads can provide a rich and warm sound. These types of amps can be pushed into overdrive with pleasing results because the valves provide a “soft-clip” resulting in a more “musical” distortion. Some valve amps are notorious for running “hot” and can be difficult to achieve a clean sound with. On the other hand, they don’t have the “sterile” sound characteristic of some solid state amps, and some manufacturers such as Ampeg have a very distinctive valve tone.
Things to keep in mind - valve amps are usually quite heavy, and you will at some stage have to replace the valves which will be expensive. Care must be taken during transportation that damage to the valves does not occur.
TRANSISTOR/ SOLID STATE AMPLIFIERS – These amplifiers use transistors in place of valves. They are generally lighter to carry and can be a lot smaller in size (though not necessarily).
Transistor amps are usually cleaner in sound than valve amps because they are harder to overdrive. These amps are particularly favoured by slap players and those looking for a pristine tone at higher volumes. Often criticized for a general lack of character, some manufacturers such as Trace Elliot have created a signature sound using solid state electronics.
These amps are not good for overdriving as the circuit produces “square wave distortion” which is awful to hear and can also damage your speakers.
Things to keep in mind – Transistor amps don’t really offer “vintage” tones (although a Peavey Mark IV is almost a vintage head these days), so if you are looking for a more traditional sound a valve amp may be the way to go.
HYBRID AMPS – These amps combine valves and solid state to give you the best of both worlds. Configurations differ from maker to maker, but often it’s just a case of blending the two sounds (valve and transistor) together to achieve the most satisfying mix.
Posted 30 December 2003 - 03:12 PM
Different speakers have different characteristics and it’s important to decide what kind of tone you want to achieve. Once you have done this you can then go about deciding what size speakers you want.
Speakers come in four basic sizes, though many custom sizes do exist.
8” – These are the least boomy and the most “tight” sounding speakers of the lot. The tone from 8” speakers is very direct. Some people find there’s not enough bottom end produced and if you are using a 5 string bass you make want more oomph. Cabinets can be bought in 2 x 8”, 4 x 8” (“quad box”), 6 x 8” and even 8 x 8” combinations.
10” – One of the most popular speaker sizes. Can handle the bottom end of a 5 string bass and has a very punchy sound. Popular with funk players for their sharp articulation, these are also popular with rock players. Cabinets come in 2 x 10”, 4 x 10” (“quad box”) and 6 x 10”. Quite often a 4 x 10” quad is used in conjunction with a 1 x 15” speaker box.
12” – Next step up in size with a more “round” sound, the trade off being a reduction is punch – but it’s only slight. Many bassists find it hard to choose between 10” and 12” speakers as they have many similarities. Common configurations are 2 x 12” and 4 x 12” (“quad box”)
15” – With a distinctive round and boomy sound 15” speakers have a room filling ability. Favoured by bassists looking for a deep and thick tone, these speakers have clout but not a lot of punch. The larger a speaker is the more you trade off punch and top end clarity. These speakers usually come in 1 x 15” or 2 x 15” cabinets.
OTHERS – there do exist speaker boxes containing 4” speakers (Bose) and 18” speakers, but these are far less common and not something you are likely to see down at your local bass supplier.
BULLETS/ ATTENUATERS – Bullets, high frequency horns, tweeters, whatever you want to call them they pretty much do the same thing. These are a small speaker (quite often made of plastic or aluminium…) which sits between the speakers. They are controlled independently via a dial on the rear of the speaker box and are used to increase the top end (presence) of your sound. They are great for adding definition to your tone but must be used wisely. It is easy to ruin an already good sound with the over-use of a bullet.
Before buying a speaker box with a bullet you should first decide whether you really want one. They certainly add to the expense, particularly if you don’t end up using it!
Posted 30 December 2003 - 03:17 PM
Certainly not! The best thing about having a separate head and speaker box is that you have the freedom to couple a great sounding amp with a great sounding speaker. A lot of manufacturers excel with either speakers or heads – though some do make both to a good standard. The important thing is making sure you have the impedance correct (see next point).
Posted 30 December 2003 - 03:21 PM
A basic knowledge of RESITANCE is important when linking your amplifier to speakers.
Every amp head (usually on the rear) will have a rating for the "minimum speaker load" - or something along those lines. (Maybe "minimum impedance", or just a straight "300 watts into 4 ohms" type listing). Resistance is measured in "ohms". The symbol for ohms is Ω.
It is important that you don't go below the minimum impedance rating. If an amp head has a minimum load of 4Ω, its OK to be at 4Ω and above. If you go below 4Ω (let's say 2Ω) the amp will be drawing too much current and you will destroy the head. It's important when combining speaker boxes that you understand the implications in terms of ohms.
There are two ways of linking cabinets. "Series" and "Parallel". Calculations are different for each.
Series - total resistance = resistance of cabinet 1 + resistance of cabinet 2.
Parallel - is a little more complicated - but it's very important. Multiply the two resistances. Divide your answer by the sum of the two resistances.
Here's a few examples to give you an idea.
Let's say that your amp head has a minimum impedance rating of 300 watts at 4Ω
Let's also say that you have a 300 watt speaker box that is rated at 4 ohms.
All is well. No need to panic. Your amp will be churning out 300 watts of power because the ohms match. Your speaker box is rated at 300 watts, so it can cope with the power.
Now, let’s say that you want to use another speaker box with your setup. If you were to add another 4 ohm speaker box here are the calculations...
If they are linked in series, the resistance would be 4Ω + 4Ω = 8Ω. You would be safe in terms of ohms. But your amp would only be generating 150 watts of power because the resistance is higher. This is not a safety concern, but you may be a little disappointed with the result.
If they were linked in parallel, you would multiply the two resistances (4Ω x 4Ω = 16Ω), then you would divide the answer by the sum of the two resistances ( 4Ω + 4Ω = 8Ω). So what you would have is 16Ω divided by 8Ω which equals 2Ω. This is not good as you fall below the 4 ohm threshold are in danger of blowing your amp! In the case of parallel, you would need to use two 8Ω boxes to get you to the safe limit of 4Ω.
Most amplifiers with multiple speaker outlets are wired in parallel so it's extremely important to be aware of your speaker loads!
Another thing to consider. The higher your impedance, the less actual power you'll get from your amp.
E.G. Amp is rated 300 watts into 4Ω. All you have is a 300 watt 8Ω box. It is perfectly safe to use the speaker box, but what this means in real terms is that you've turned your amp into a 150 watt head. The real work goes into finding the combination of speakers that gives you maximum power at a safe level.
If you'd like a more in-depth presentation on Ohm's law, click on this link. It's a simple slide show on electric circuits which may come in handy.
PS. Impedence, impedance, both spellings are accepted.
Posted 30 December 2003 - 03:22 PM
EQ (equalisation) is a very personal matter. There is no wrong and no right as long as you are happy with your sound (and aren’t giving people headaches!) Settings are not only a matter of taste, but vary significantly from amp to amp and room to room. Many people set a graphic equaliser to a “smiley face” pattern because they just assume that’s how it should be. There are many variables such as what speakers you are using and what kind of room you are in that will effect your EQ settings.
The different types of equalisers are –
SHELVING – This is the simplest kind of EQ control. Often found on CD players and old Hi-Fi systems, it’s just a matter of bass and treble (and sometimes mids).
On a bass amp with shelving EQ there is usually a control for Bass, Middle and Treble. It’s called “shelving” because when you move one of the controls you are effecting all of the wavelengths specific to that control. E.g. the "bass" control may cover all of the low frequencies from 40Hz to 100Hz. When you turn this control up, all of the tone between these wavelengths is boosted.
GRAPHIC – graphic equalisers are more flexible than shelving, and are the most common type of EQ on a bass amp.
Each slider represents a specific wavelength (band) in your tone. It’s up to you whether you want to boost that wavelength, reduce (cut) it, or leave it flat. The more bands of EQ you have, the more you can control your sound. The downside to this is that if you don’t know the effect of boosting and cutting certain wavelengths it is very easy to ruin your tone. Your best bet is to set all of the sliders flat, then play. Then take it in turns boosting a slider and playing to see what part of your tone is effected. Once you learn what to expect from each slider, tone adjustments can be a lot easier to make.
PARAMETRIC – Strictly speaking, a parametric EQ is the most flexible type of EQ using the least amount of controls. What happens is this:
Use the "frequency" control to select a frequency that you want to boost or cut. There may be several "frequency" controls covering different parts of the bass spectrum. Once you have found the frequency you want to boost or cut (let’s say for example, 80Hz), you then need to select the “Q”. The "Q" set at minimum is the exact frequency that you have selected with the "frequency" control (80 Hz). Turn it up a little and the frequencies above and below your selected frequency will be selected (in our example of 80Hz, turning up the "Q" a little would include 79Hz and 81Hz.) The more you turn up the "Q", the more wavelengths will be added to your selection.
Most bass amps featuring parametric EQ dispense with the "Q" control and are called “semi-parametric”. These are far easier to work with, though not as flexible. A common set up is to have a bass and treble shelving control, with the mids parametric and split into 2 or 3 sections.
The down side of parametric EQ is if there are two separate frequencies that you want to control which are governed by the same "frequency" control knob. You can’t choose both, so you have to decide which is the most important for your sound. Some manufacturers overcome this by making the ranges of the frequency controls overlap.
It s also quite common to have a combination of EQ types on your amp, such as the Graphic/Shelving system offered by Ashdown
This article appeared in Bass Player magazine(Nov 1998) and may assist you in creating the tone you are looking for
Here's what our regulars have to say about tone.
Paulie Jay says “You really should sit down and take the time to see how each tone control effects your sound. This is my EQ setting as of my last gig (I have semi parametric with shelving for bass and treble.) -
Bass – boost 2db
Mids – boosted at…
185Hz - 2 db,
380Hz - 1 db
4.1 kHz - 2 db
Treble – Flat
My amp also has an “enhance” control that boosts the lows and the highs. This is set to just over half. Keep in mind that my main bass produces a lot of top end, plus my speaker boxes have “bullets” (top end attenuators) so I don’t need a lot of boost in the top end. On my bass, I play with both pickups on with a slight bias towards the bridge pickup. I reset my EQ at every gig because every room has a different effect on your amp’s sound.”
Randall says “EQ, to me, is as personal as your instrument choice. I "generally" leave my EQ flat except for a little "high end". I tend to leave my mids low, treble about three quarters and bass about three quarters as well. I up the gain to the point of clipping and then adjust the Master for the room. My amp has a "two channel blend" that gives me a real deep growl, so there's not really much else I need to do."
Mid Low: 5
Mid High: 5
Boycie says “If you're looking for low end, boost the LOW MIDS, not the 'bass'. If you turn the bass knob right up, all you're going to do is overdrive your speaker and that is usually not a good thing! Also, the low-mid frequencies are generally more audible in the mix than the very low bass frequencies. I prefer to keep the 'bass' at about half, obviously boost the lower mids to about 3/4, maintains the middle-mids at about 1/2, curb the mid-highs to about 1/3, and boost the high-mids to 2/3 and the 'treble' to about 3/4."
Taffaroo says “I tend to go through phases where a really like one tone then just go off it. At the moment I’m enjoying a really punchy sound so I keep my treble fairly high and keep my mids and bass in the middle ground."
Papa Felix says "Wide open on 11... Icontrol my tone using the guitars pods and my picking technique...it develops your individual style."
Zaro says “Boosted upper mids, a little of the high piezo, and a lot of low bottom (a huge fan of active electronics). For fretless, just boosted mids and flatwounds."
Ben Bloggs says “I change them every time I play but with the B25 I have bass-8, Mid-6 Treble-6. These probably wont suit other amps.”
Minimaul says “I don't really have a specific tone. Due to the fact that I am a bass playing newb myself. I prefer the low, low lows. I crank the lows and keep the mids and highs down pretty low. I prefer the bass that you can feel in your stomach. The bass that shakes your balls."
Funk on Crack says “My EQ is set flat then raised when you get to the mids to flat on the highs. On my bass the pickup pot is just a bit towards the neck pickup. Mids are flat. Bass is pushed a bit higher than normal with treble flat. Ibanez BTB 6 string through a Hartke HA3500."
Pointmanwlu says “If you aren't cutting through the mix - boost mids!"
Modred says “I usually like to create a V-shape with my EQ band. I find it varies from amp to amp and which bass I am using."
Elliemollett says “ I just fiddle untill I get something I like.”
Slammerbass says “I usually start with my knobs in the middle so it's flat and turn the bass up a bit, then the mid up a bit, then treble down a touch. Currently my bass is +6db, my mids are +3 dbs, and my treble is -6dbs. (Mine is scaled to tell how many dbs you're enhancing or reducing for each band of EQ)"
Joshmog says “I have an 8 band EQ. I just scoop it at the 225-600 hertz mark sometimes I turn down the 1.6 kHz too depending if I’m not loud enough and need to cut through. I also have a contour knob that sweeps the eq, I use this as a cut through knob, if I’m not cutting through I turn it down."
Posted 30 December 2003 - 03:24 PM
When you overdrive your amp you are clipping the circuit. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your amp.
Valve amplifiers tend to produce a "soft clip", which produces a pleasing and musical distortion. This type of distortion can still damage your speakers, but is less likely to at reasonable levels.
Transistor amps produce "square wave" distortion which is a harsh and unmusical clipping that can severely damage your speakers very quickly.
If you are looking to produce a good distorted bass tone, it is best to either buy a good distortion pedal that can handle low bass frequencies or invest in an all tube amp setup.
For an alternative and detailed PDF essay on clipping and it's effects on speakers, click here.
Posted 30 December 2003 - 03:32 PM
Some suggetions from our regulars.
Pointmanwlu says “First thing: 1-finger-per-fret, and learn all the notes on the fretboard for any tunings they might be using (Standard, Drop-D obviously the most common, but some may also need to know C-G-C-F). Also, learn how to use both fingers and a pick. I would have to say some Weezer, maybe some Offspring for the punks, Papa Roach for someone that wants a little more challenge. Oh, and Linkin Park - easy stuff there that everyone knows. I try and tell new players to stay away from the classic rock for a while (Led Zep, etc), save for a few songs. (Pink Floyd - Hey You and Comfortably Numb).
Modred says “Scales and the notes on their fretboard. Good bands to learn are U2 and Black Sabbath.”
Dansbass says “I would say a beginner should start learning simple scales (blues, pentatonics, that sort of thing) and some simple basslines from songs they like (some Nirvana songs, eg Polly and Breed and Green Day songs like Warning)
Paulie Jay says “Divide your time between learning your fretboard, getting your technique right, and learning what role your bass has in different styles of music. You can kill two birds with the one stone by practising scales and modes. Then at the end of your practise session reward yourself by learning a new song. The easiest songs to learn usually fall in the rock vein – AC/DC is a good place to start (just put on any album - none of them are harder than the other!), but really, you would get more benefit from challenging (but not impossibly hard) basslines. Try a song from a different style each week – maybe this week some Blues (Cold Shot – Stevie Ray Vaughan), then the week after that some punk (Holidays In The Sun – Sex Pistols), then perhaps a little Hard Rock (Paranoid – Black Sabbath), then some pseudo Latin (Smooth – Carlos Santana), then some radio rock (3AM - Matchbox 20), then some 70’s Disco (September – Earth Wind and Fire), then some Rock and Roll (Great Balls Of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis), followed up the next week with some Reggae (Buffalo Soldier – Bob Marley), perhaps some Soul (Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations). You get what I’m saying – mix it up and you’ll learn a lot! And learn to read music.
Funk on Crack says “Scales, learn to read sheet music. Sheet music will give you a huge advantage over somebody who can't read it.
Easy songs: (I'll list a heap)
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Nirvana - Come As You Are
MxPx - Chick Magnet
Young MC - Bust A Move
Jack Johnson - Flake
Pennywise - Brohymn (a classic)
silverchair - Tomorrow
Incubus - Drive
Blink 182 - Every song they ever wrote
Mr K says “U2 have some nice, easy songs. With Or Without You was the first song I learnt.”
Boycie says “Well, it can be no other than Punk, basic rock, grunge etc... simple root note stuff. But it is important not to get stuck in this rut - nobody wants to be playing rote-notes forever! I'd say it is important to look into the Jazz/classic rock scene as soon as possible... Led Zeppelin is as good a place to start as any. In terms of LZ, I'd suggest 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Living Loving Maid'
Elliemollett says “Definitely a host of techniques. These will always come in useful later, and its best to get them covered. For songs, Greenday have some nice simple basslines which move around slightly more than other bands of that genre, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers can provide some good songs to practice slapping etc. It is definitely a plus to learn to read and play from the bass clef, instead of just tablature, and I found that getting the score for a musical (Bugsy Malone in my case) was very helpful, with learning to read bass clef, and where the notes are. Plus they have some nice lines.”
Slammerbass says “Scales, correct finger placement for both right and left hands. "Warning" by Greenday is a good song, so is "Have You Ever" by The Offspring.”
Junior says “Learn your scales. Knowing your scales like the back of your hand will help you getting out of any jam in no time. That'll help you on improvisation as well. Don't discard what seems to be easy song, on the contrary, try to come up with all new bass line for a song. That'll help you find out if you have learn your scales correctly. As far as song suggestion goes it all depend on what you want to play... Great bassline in my view: anything by Iron Maiden, the work of Tommy Shannon from Stevie Ray Vaughaun Double Trouble, Rush and RHCPeppers (for advanced player) but the most important thing to remember is to play the song that you will enjoy...”
Tuning Spork says “Start with the easy stuff, like some Nirvana songs and other simple music. "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty and, in fact, most of the stuff of Full Moon Fever - very easy stuff, as Jeff Lynne ain't exactly a virtuoso. Just don't try Pastorius your first day.”
Minimaul says “I think the first thing a beginner should learn is proper finger techniques. So that the fretboard and strumming become's more familiar. Also, learn some songs that you like. Keep it fun, and mix it up a bit. Work on a song for awhile. Then switch to another. Or practice some scales or finger exercises. Some fun songs that I first learned, regardless if I liked them or not were:
Queen "Another one bites the Dust" ( A Classic! )
AFI - "Death Of Seasons" (mainly the intro of this song)
AFI - "Highschool football hero" (good one for playing with a pick)
Nirvana - "Come as you are"
Joshmog says “Learn some classic songs that everyone’s heard before like Money by Pink Floyd, this was one of the first songs I learned and it was fun, I usually learn whatever song is stuck in my head. Learn some scales too and practice them regularly as a warm up.”
Papa Felix says "Ideally a bass player should know the fundamentals of 6 string guitar, some music theory, and maybe some keyboards. As for songs - whatever bands there into and the seminal stuff... little of everything, 50's, 60's, 70's etc...rock n roll style."
Taffaroo says “To be honest I’ve never learnt theory. Just start learning songs and you'll pick it up as you go along. Good songs to start with are:
Groove Is In The Heart-DeeLite- a nice easy groove
Keep On Rockin In The Free World-Neil Young-easy but sounds cool
Fire-Jimi Hendrix-its easy and you can really 'feel' it when you play
Manic Depression-Jimi Hendrix- again one you can 'feel'
Borris The Spider-The Who- its just fun!!
Black Dog-Led Zeppelin- its tricky but once you break it, its fairly easy
Nevermind9403 says “A beginner should learn how to play the bass like a bass. Learn the proper way so that you don't have problems with your wrists and whatnot. And also so you will not play sloppy. Learn some easy songs to start out and then move on to harder ones. It really depends what your previous experience in music is. I played guitar for a year before I started bass and I didn't need much transition time. Just make sure you learn how to play the right way and learn some theory/songwriting.”
Randall says “Well, obviously the fretboard is the most important "first thing" to learn. Learn it forward and backward, up and down so that you can look at any spot on the fretboard and know exactly what the note is. Scales, Scales and more Scales! As far as the songs, well that is a matter of personal choice although I would highly suggest not taking on anything too taxing right off the bat. Start off easy and work your way up!”
Ben Bloggs says “Learn some damn scales. That way you can find your own basslines. My brother hasn’t learnt any and after a year of playing the best he can manage is punk songs from tabs. In the way of songs just learn what you listen to (so long as the bass is any good). I play Stranglers (try Peaches), RHCP (try Californication or if you prefer the funky stuff Taste the Pain is quite easy.) The key to learning is to balance fun stuff (playing your favourite music) with learning technique (perhaps a slap?) and also get the theory down. Oh and the essential- always try to play with a metronome or something, you need to develop good timing skills as a bass player.
Zaro says “A beginner should learn something he likes, stall most of the scales and mundane exercises until he has the basics of playing down, so that when he learns scales and such, they can be clean and in time.
Posted 30 December 2003 - 09:32 PM
A - CABLES
Good quality cables are an essential part of every bassist’s set up. There’s no point in owning top line amps and basses if you’re going to play through a cut-price lead.
INSTRUMENT CABLES –
Make sure you buy an instrument cable long enough to give you the freedom to move about should you want to. On the other hand, if the furthest you are going to move from your amp is 10 feet, then there’s no point in buying a 50 footer. The longer the cable, the more the chance of sound degradation.
There has been a surge in the production of single-direction cables (you must plug a specific end into your bass, and the other end into the amp) which the manufacturers swear provide you with a better sound. Do they really give you a better sound? See if you can pick the difference. If you can, then buy one!
SPEAKER CABLES –
DO NOT USE INSTRUMENT CABLES TO CONNECT YOUR AMP TO YOUR SPEAKERBOX! Always use speaker cables. There are many different types of speaker cables and you should check what kind of connection you need before making a purchase. Do you need
Jack – to – jack?
Jack – To – XLR?
Cannon to cannon?
Or something a little trickier like the infamous “Eden” connection?
Whatever the connection, the cables should be as short as practicable. Longer cables mean more chance of sound degradation so it’s well worth getting your speaker cables custom made. It may cost more, but your entire sound - and ability to be heard - rests on the quality of your leads!
B - STRINGS
String choice is a very personal matter. Different gauges of strings suit different players. Different brands of strings provide different tones and varying degrees of quality. It’s not so much a question of “which strings are the best?” as it is “which strings suit me the best?”
The most popular string gauges (for 4 string bass) are 45 – 105 (medium) and 40-100 (medium light). This is not to say you shouldn’t try any other gauge. You may find that a heavy 50 – 110 suits your playing style, or maybe the extra light 30-90 gauge more to your liking. It’s important to try out the different gauges to fully understand what effect they have on your playing.
Once you know what gauge you like, it’s time to start trying different brands. Some offer steel strings, some a blend of nickel and steel – again, it’s up to you to discover what works best with your bass.
Guitar shops rarely offer to sell single bass strings, so you will generally be buying them a pack at a time. Bass strings are expensive when compared to guitar strings, but the upside is that they don’t tend to break as easily! Try not to be swayed too much by product endorsement style advertising for bass strings – make you own decisions!
When Should I Change My Strings? Once again, this is up to you. Some people like the sound of new strings and change them as soon as they lose their zing. Others like the sound of a worn-in set and tend not to change them very often. But if your strings have got to the stage where they are encrusted with dirt and rust and they won’t stay in tune, it’s definitely time to change them! See question 17 for info on changing strings.
C - CLEANERS/POLISH
Keeping your bass clean and in good condition is something you should not take lightly. Layers of dust and grime build up rather quickly and can interfere with your bass’ electrics as well as decreasing string life.
A good practise to get into is wiping down your strings when you’ve finished playing. Sweat, dead skin and body oils are all rubbed into your strings when you play and it doesn’t take long before a noticeable dirtiness becomes obvious on your strings! A lint free cloth will do, though some people like to use string wipes which are impregnated with a cleaning fluid.
The fretboard. When was the last time you took a good close look at the state of your fretboard? You may be surprised at the amount of built up gunk that accumulates under the strings. What you need to do is remove your strings and apply a good lemon oil style fretboard cleaner. Using a lint free cloth and a lot of elbow grease, take the time to clean the fretboard one fret at a time. Get the grime off the wood and polish up that fret wire - a clean fretboard and strings will actually improve your playing ability. Keep lemon oil cleaners off the surface of the body of your bass.
The body. Different finishes may require different cleaners. Oil finished basses will need a wax style preserving treatment at regular intervals while lacquered basses may only require the occasional buff with guitar polish. Be careful of using waxy spray cleaners on lacquered finishes as you may end up with a stubborn build-up. Consult your local music shop as to the type of finish your bass has and which cleaner will work best for you.
Posted 30 December 2003 - 09:48 PM
Here’s what our regulars have to say about using effects with a bass.
Dansbass says “If I was talking about effects to a beginner I would say wait a while until you have a firm grasp of bass playing and then save up your money for a good stompbox or two. Also, stay away from multi effects, they are usually pretty rubbish, and usually cost a good bit more than a good stomper that you would us a lot more. Also, if you don’t have money to burn, stick to brands like Boss and Electro Harmonix, because they are great value for money, sound good, and are known for their reliability. Boutique pedals are good, but for most cases they cost a lot more than a cheaper brand and the quality of the effect is not that much better.
Boycie says “I used to be one of those folk who stood firmly by the theory that bass players do not need effects. But having recently gotten an effects pedal of my own, I can say that they really do no harm! There's no need to go overboard though, and don't go for a multiFX unit (you'll soon grow out of it). If your looking into effects, go for distortion and chorus in particular - they're the big two. Of course, if you're tight for cash then effects are by no means a necessity... one can easily get by without them.
Ben Bloggs says “In my opinion the most you want to use in most cases is a bit of fuzz (listen to Muse). I have tried using wah- its fairly rubbish. My Boss PW-10 has a synth effect on it which sounds quite cool for some songs (deeper underground by Jamiroquai and Climbing Up The Walls by Radiohead). I don’t suggest that n00bs go and spend £100s on FX, the only one I have for guitar is a wah pedal (that also does synth, fuzz and other stuff) and I rarely use it.
Joshmog says “Try before you buy. Someone might prefer this effect over another but different people have different preferences.”
Pointmanwlu says “I love effects - but I still know that you can overuse them. If you use them, use them sparingly throughout a song, during a fill or something when you know that people are going to hear the difference and say "That sounds cool." Or, if you do want to leave the pedal on the entire time, make it a very slight effect, one that colours the tone just enough to be heard - but not so much that it overbears your bass's tone. Of course, distortion is probably the one effect that its alright to leave on for an entire song - depending on what style you play.
Papa Felix says "Maybe a volume pedal - a Morley of course. Other than that 70% of your string tone comes from your fingers in my opinion."
Junior says “I'm not a big fan for effect on bass. I personally think that effect should be kept to a minimal on bass. But that all depend on what kind of music you play.
Randall says “My philosophy on effects is pretty straightforward. It is EXTREMELY easy to "overdo" them and sound mundane. Nothing is better than a clean sounding bass, in my opinion. However, I have no trouble with a little chorus now and again and perhaps a little digital delay. I do not care for the distortion devices at all. Perhaps that is due to playing a Rickenbacker and getting that natural "growl".”
Slammerbass says “I don't use them. If I want a different sound I'll play around with my EQ settings until I find something I like.
Zaro says “Effects are over used, thus use them sparingly or not at all. Most effects tend to drop out the bottom, so mix the original signal with the effected signal if possible. One must also realize that the sound of your bass originates principally from your fingers.
Paulie Jay says “You only have to listen to a band like Parliament to see how much fun a bassist can have with effects. I love using effects – especially effects like T-Wah and Envelope Followers that respond to the intensity of your playing. Any effect can be used on bass, but not any effects pedal! A lot of pedals are designed for guitar and if you plug your bass into them you may lose a lot of bottom end (distortion pedals are notorious for this). So it’s important to try the pedal out before you buy it. Just about the only effect you shouldn’t use on a bass is reverb because it makes the sound very muddy – but apart from that, knock yourself out! But do it tastefully. I am of the firm belief that the effects in Multi Effects units are not of the same quality as stand alone units.
Mr K says “Can be very cool, but I don't like using them too much.”
Taffaroo says “Stay away from Multi Effects units!!! They are more like toys to be honest with lots of effects you won’t use and the few you do use will sound better with individual pedals. Personally I like a bit of natural overdrive or wah.
Modred says “Effects enhance your sound but they will not make up for poor playing. Use them sparingly and wisely.
Funk on Crack says “If you're going to use them try them out and see if they are actually what you NEED. Stay away from multi effects, especially ZOOM.
Minimaul says “Effects are fun, but can be overkill sometimes. Sometimes, simple is best. Other times, not. If it feels like it fits in a song, use it. Otherwise, don't over due it."
Tuning Spork says “My personal view is mostly anti-effect. I think they're overused, but if used sparingly, they can add a lot to a sound. The fuzz-tone on the bass in The Beatles' "Think For Yourself," for example, is extremely important to the song, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers have their sound greatly enhanced by Flea's wah-wah pedal and Bassballs. But only use them when it's absolutely necessary.
Nevermind9403 “I don't really think you need them so much for bass. That's probably just the music I play though. You might want a distortion pedal.”
Posted 31 December 2003 - 04:41 PM
ADJUSTING STRING HEIGHT
If you are experiencing fret-buzz, or your strings are so high that you find it difficult to play, it may be time to adjust the height of your strings. String height adjustments are made at the bridge (leave that truss rod alone!), and sometimes at the nut on specially equipped basses.
There are different ways to alter the string height – it all depends on what kind of bridge your bass is equipped with.
Some bridges offer individually adjustable string saddles. Some offer a bridge that can be adjusted as a unit. Some offer both!
The best place to start is at the string saddles. If these can be adjusted you will see a small screw hole with a tiny adjustment screw inside.
You may need an Allen key or screwdriver to access the screw. Slacken the strings then make a small adjustment. Make sure you adjust the saddle evenly. Retune the strings and see how you’re going for height. Repeat if necessary.
Some basses offer a fully adjustable bridge which moves up or down as a unit. They are convenient if you want to lower or raise the height of all of the strings but can be tricky to get the hang of. Adjustments usually involve undoing one or two retaining screws, then using an Allen key to adjust the height.
With some bridges it is simply a matter of turning a knob.
Ensure you have slackened the strings before making any adjustment, then retune afterwards.
String height adjustments, new strings, different string gauges and variable weather are all factors which can contribute to bad intonation.
What is it? Intonation is a term used to describe how well the bass is in tune with itself. The best way to check intonation is to plug into an electronic tuner. Tune the bass. Now, play the open G string to make sure it’s still in tune. Next, play the same string at the 12th fret. This is one octave up and the note should be perfectly in tune. If not, you will have to adjust the intonation for that string.
This is done by moving the string saddles either forward towards the nut, or back towards the end of the body. If the note at the 12th fret is sharp, the saddle will need to be moved back. If the note at the 12 fret is flat, the saddle will have to be moved forward.
To move the saddle, you need to detune the string. The saddle can be adjusted from behind the bridge using a screwdriver or Allen key.
Once you have moved the saddle, tune the string and check the note at the 12th fret. Keep making adjustments until the note at the 12th fret is perfectly in tune.
Repeat for all of your strings. Then "play the bass in" for a few minutes and recheck the intonation. It’s a good idea to recheck the intonation the following day too, as sometimes the bass needs to “settle”.
Some older basses (Fender Precisions from the early years for example) have two strings per bridge piece. This can make intonation adjustments difficult because no sooner have you got the G string perfect, the D is now way out! In this case you just have to compromise and get both strings as close as you can.
Posted 31 December 2003 - 04:42 PM
WHAT IS IT? The truss rod runs down the neck of your bass under the fretboard. It is there to counteract the string tension when your bass is all strung and tuned up.
WHEN SHOULD I ADJUST IT? Never. Take it to someone who knows what they are doing.
But if you insist...
The truss rod should only be adjusted in the case of an excessively bowed neck. If you are experiencing fret buzz, try adjusting the string height at the bridge before mucking around with the truss rod.
To check on the condition of the neck, sight it along it’s edge. Do this from the headstock end – the neck will always appear to be bowed from the body end. The neck should be as straight as possible. If it bows forward, or backward (if it bows backwards you’d be lucky to hear anything but buzzing when you play) it may be time for a truss rod adjustment.
Another method of checking the neck for straightness is to hold down the G string at the first fret and also at the fret where the neck joins the body (usually the 15th fret). Now check the gap between the string and the 7th or 8th fret. If it’s more than about 1mm, you may need to tighten the truss rod. If there’s no gap at all and the string is hard up against the frets, you may need to slacken the truss rod.
YES, BUT HOW DO I ADJUST THE THING? Truss rods are usually adjusted from the headstock end. Rickenbackers have a dual truss rod - good luck with it.
You may need to remove a cover for access.
You will need a socket wrench of the appropriate size.
Keep the bass tuned to correct pitch.
Whether tightening or slackening the truss rod, begin by loosening it a touch, then make your first turn.
IMPORTANT – Only make ¼ turns at the most, then check the result. Excessive turning of the truss rod may lead to a messy disaster! If it won’t adjust any further don’t force it. Loosen it off a bit and get your bass down to the nearest bass professional pronto!
Posted 31 December 2003 - 04:43 PM
What you will need –
Strings (well, obviously)
Side cutters (or some kind of string cutter)
Changing strings is really no big deal, and once you’ve done it a few times you should be able to change a whole set fairly quickly. String changes are an excellent opportunity for you to clean the fretboard, the headstock and the body of the bass next to the pickups (see the Accessories section for details on cleaning).
There is a school of thought which says that you should always change your strings one at a time so that your bass’ neck isn’t put under any undue strain. If you own a budget bass, or the neck of your bass is a little on the flexible side, then this should probably be the way you do it. If the neck of your bass is a more solid one, there’s nothing wrong with taking all of the strings off at the same time. The neck on my Warwick Corvette which is featured in these photos is rock solid, so I always get all of the strings off together and give the bass a bit of a clean up.
To remove a string simply detune it. When there’s a fair amount of slackness it should be an easy task to pull the string out of the tuning post. Then just remove the ball end from the bridge. If you have through-body stringing straighten out the wrapped end before pulling it through the body to avoid scratching the surface of your bass.
Next, thread the new string into the bridge (or through the body for through-body stringing). Ensure that it’s the correct string and that it’s in the right position! Pull the wrapped end of the string straight to the headstock. Give yourself a good few inches of spare, then make a cut with the side cutters. Before cutting, really make sure that you have the correct string. Once you have made the cut it may be too late if you’ve made a mistake!
Now thread the end of the string into the hole in the string post.
If the ball end of the string falls out of the bridge at this stage don’t worry. Wrap the string firmly around the post once or twice. Make sure you wrap it around the post in the correct direction! No string should touch another string on the headstock.
Affix the ball end into the bridge and tighten up the string to “near enough" pitch.
If you are changing to “piano” style strings (common for the low B on a 5 string) you will need to raise the height of the bridge piece for that string. Conversely, if you are changing from piano style strings to regular strings you will have to lower the string height accordingly.
Next, time to stretch! Plug your bass into a tuner and get the string in tune. Next, stretch the string at about the twelfth fret by pulling it away from the fretboard with your fingers. Be firm, but don’t go nuts. You will be surprised how much play strings will have in them, so don’t worry about breaking them. Stretch the string a few times, then retune it. Stretch it again and retune until you reach the point where the string stops detuning itself. (It might take 5 or 6 goes to get to this stage.) Stretching is important because new strings are prone to going out of tune very easily and it won’t take long (maybe two songs) until you’re way out of tune.
Repeat for each string.
If possible, play your strings in for about 20 minutes, give your bass a final tune, wipe down the strings (get into the habit, it preserves string life) and there you go – one restrung bass!
Don’t just throw your old strings away. Use the packaging to store them in and keep them as an emergency replacement set just in case. Some people like to boil their old strings to give them some life back. Try it out and see what you think.
Posted 31 December 2003 - 04:54 PM
DI stands for “direct injection” (some say “direct input”). D.I. is a means of delivering the tone straight from your bass to the mixing desk of a PA system or recording desk. It changes the output impedance of your signal from high to low so that the mixing desk can handle it. Traditionally, sound engineers will place a microphone in front of a guitarist’s amplifier to get signal from the guitarist to the PA. In the case of bass however, it is preferable to send a balanced signal through a D.I. rather than placing a mic in front of the bassist’s speakers. The reason for this is to provide the sound engineer with a strong and clear signal which can then be adjusted to suit the mix.
There are two methods of D.I.
D.I. BOX - Check out the diagram.
The bassist plugs the bass into the D.I. box “input”. The signal is then split in two. One signal passes on to the bass amp (by connecting a small jack-to-jack cable from the D.I. to the input of the amp), while the other is balanced and sent to the mixing desk via a 3-pin (XLR) cable. What this means is that only the sound of your bass is coming through the PA. Adjusting the tone of the amp will have no effect of the sound of your bass out front. This can be a good thing because most PA systems are much more powerful than your bass amp and a good engineer can produce a great tone. Most sound engineers worth their salt will have at least one DI, but it doesn’t hurt to own one just in case.
There are many different types of D.I.s available from simple passive boxes to powered tone shaping “preamp” style units.
DIRECT LINE OUT FROM YOUR AMP – For some bassists, the sound of their amp is crucial to their tone. If this is the case for you, you should run a line directly from your amp to the PA. Most quality amp heads these days feature a balanced “line out” for D.I. purposes. This is more convenient because it does away with the D.I. box - one less piece of equipment to worry about! The balanced line out is usually located on the rear of the head, but don’t get it mixed up with the speaker outputs! This could spell disaster for your sound guy’s equipment.
The pros and cons of using a direct line out of your amp are actually the same. You have more control over how your bass will sound in the mix via the EQ on your amp, but engineers prefer to get a signal with little or no EQ applied to it. If you have the option of sending the engineer a signal that is unaffected by EQ it will keep him happier. Also, the output signal may be effected by your volume control, so if you are constantly changing your amp’s volume you’ll also be changing the strength of signal from your line out. (This is not always the case though, it just depends on your amp.)
WHAT ALL THIS MEANS –
The idea of using a D.I. box or “line out” is to give the sound engineer a good bass signal with which to create a sound mix. Keeping this in mind, there is no point playing with your amp’s volume set to 10 and drowning out the mix. What will happen is that the sound engineer will just pull your bass out of the mix, resulting in your band not sounding as good as it should. Your amp should only be set to a “stage” volume so that you and your bandmates can hear your bass. Think about facing your amp across the stage so that you aren’t interfering with the front-of-house sound. It may seem a little strange at first (it took me a long time to get comfortable with it) but at the end of the day, if you’re using a D.I. your amp doesn’t need to be heard out front.
What this also means is that you are at the mercy of the sound engineer. You will only sound as good as he allows you to sound. The trick here is using a good sound engineer and keeping him/her happy. Be friendly, helpful and maybe even buy them a beer (but only one!). Remember that most sound engineers are also musicians and can probably play you under the table to boot (in other words, don’t be arrogant) and they just might be able to pull you a good sound!
Posted 02 January 2004 - 06:40 PM
Q: Do I have to know theory to play the bass?
A: Strictly speaking, no you don't. However you aren't likely to get very far without at least a rudimentary understanding of music theory principles.
Q: What theory do I need to know?
A: At the very least you need to know what the different notes are and where to find them on the fretboard of your bass.
Q: OK, what else do I need to know?
A: Let's put it this way - the more you know the more you will be capable of doing.
Q: But isn't music theory just a bunch of rules and stuff that tells me what I can and can't do? I just want to play, I don't want to be tied down by rules.
A: The biggest misconception about music theory is that people imagine that it is a complex set of rules which you must follow - or else! Nothing could be further from the truth. Don't forget that knowledge is power, the more you know the more you can do.
The best way to explain it is to use an analogy. Let's pretend that you are in a foreign city that you've never been to before and you have to drive from one part to another. You can do one of two things -
1 - You can jump in your car and just start driving, trying to bluff your way through. You might experiment by turning down a few side streets which turn out to be dead ends, you may end up stuck in traffic, or you may just end up going around in circles. You might strike it lucky and be able to follow a few obvious signs and muddle through in the long run, but you never really feel in control of the situation, and you just may never get there! This is like a bassist without musical knowledge. Every time he/she tries to break away and try something new he ends up down a dead end street, or just doing the same old things over and over, stumbling and fumbling his way to the end of the song.
2 - You can use a street map. Armed with this knowledge you can take off in any direction and be sure of getting where you want to go. You may decide to go along the most popular streets to play it safe, but if you do decide to experiment by turning off down the narrow side streets at least you know where you're going to end up. You still have the same freedom to go where ever you want to go, it's just that you will also know what the result will be. This is like a bassist with good musical knowledge. He/she can be just as experimental, but will be able to do it with more confidence plus knowledge of what the effects/consequences of choosing certain notes will be.
Good knowledge of theory is essential if you have any aspirations of being a session player. And no, tab does not count as theoretical knowledge.
Now, there's no point in posting endless pages of theory study in this FAQ, so I strongly urge you to get lessons. Click here for some online tutorials, or check out you local music publications for teachers.
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