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The Gollihur Music Blog
Choosing the Rig for the Gig
When I look back at my gigging adventures over the last forty-five years (yikes!), I can almost always relate my choices of amplification to the gigging period in time. Sure, the financial implications have always factored into choices, especially when I was raising kids and putting them through college, but I still can't make myself buy beyond what I actually need.
In my early days when URB gigs became fewer - as "Fender Bass" was the hot sound for groups - a larger amp was what I needed to have to cut the gig. However, you can never know what gig might pop up; I still remember playing that summer of regular restaurant trio gigs on URB with my big black padded Kustom 3x12 amp dominating the stage. Too bad I had to sell my old Ampeg SB-12 to buy the Kustom for the rock gigs. These memories have been instrumental in my choices of separate amps and speakers, and my preference for two speaker cabs so I can bring two and leave one in the truck if the gig doesn't call for it.
These days I use an Acoustic Image Contra for most URB situations, as volumes are low and often almost acoustic. My big Euphonic Audio rig handles the bass guitar gigs and any URB/EUB situation that the Contra won't cut.
After all those years of skimping on gear because of money, I've definitely come to the conclusion that I will always bring something I'm sure will more than carry the room. When your amp is not powerful enough or cannot be EQ'd sufficiently to cut the gig, you end up trying to compensate by playing harder, which can hurt tone and negatively influences the overall sound.
While I very much appreciate the lower weights of amps and cabs, my philosophy remains "Four sets of good sound is worth a couple extra trips to the van." That's why I have that wonderful little folding hand truck. When my sound sucks I am not a good person to be around, and it gets in the way of my musical joy and creativity that I like to bring to a gig.
What you choose and the level of that gear should largely be influenced by what your actual needs are, and it's always a good idea to try to make the rig flexible. It will also be dependent on the depth of your pockets and whether you view music as a money generating activity or if it has morphed into a "hobby"... as it has for me.
Time for Winter Maintenance...
It's Winter here in New Jersey, the time when we retreat to the warmth of our homes and avoid sticking our noses outside until Spring grows closer. Perhaps I can suggest an alternative to sitting on the couch watching the idiot box (and it has reached new lows in idiocy lately, hasn't it?). I tend to look over all my instruments and equipment and do any required, as well as preventive maintenance, so I can avoid mishaps on stage.
With instruments it's a matter of doing a thorough cleaning, removing the dust bunnies from the pegbox, checking to make sure strings are all healthy from pegbox to tailpiece. You can also examine every area for damage, cracks, scratches that need touching up, etc. (That's not much work with my own two basses, since they are pre-war and both very much look like they've been through a war; I very much doubt I could find any new scratches in amongst all the old ones.) Take a close look at your bridge -- to make sure it's in place and perfectly flat-footed on the top of your instrument -- and maybe renew the graphite at the top of the bridge (and nut) so those strings travel smoothly when being tuned.
The electronics side also needs some attention. If you don't have Electronic Contact Cleaner in your gig bag, it may be a good idea to pick some up and perform a little preventive maintenance; it not only helps to clean away existing corrosion or residue, but can also act as a protectant. Spray each of the jacks in your preamps, stomp boxes, speaker cabinets, and amplifiers (unplug first!) Check batteries in your gear and replace them if necessary. A tip -- stick a piece of masking tape on the back of preamps, electric upright bass battery covers, and stomp boxes with the date when you last replaced the batteries.
Physically checking each amp, cab, and cable is a good idea, looking them over for damage, loose screws, rattling grille covers, etc. Cables can get neglected, too, and they should be examined for cuts and should probably also be checked out for proper operation. I also tend to run through the contents of my gig bag, tossing out expired headache meds and unneeded duplicates, checking that I have duplicates of all the right stuff, my flashlight works, etc. (Note to self: "Add Gig Bag contents" FAQ).
I hope that this gives you something to think about -- besides reality TV -- for these cold winter months. Don't forget to wear gloves to keep those fingertips warm!
A Bassless Blog
This is the time of the year when families come together. Nephews fly in from the west coast with their new wives, stepsons roll in from New Orleans with new tats, and Grandpop Bob and Grandma Joanne take the ride to visit the grandchildren and to verbally joust with my sons and their wives/girlfriends (and add a few pounds). This year should be as joyful for the Gollihur clan as the last, though dampened by the loss of two family members in 2008. They will be missed, but both will live on in our many memories.
We also can't ignore the fact that some families are deep in worry over their job and/or home situations. It's a good time to appreciate our many blessings and, if you can, reach into your wallet to give a helping hand. Our giving has been leaning more to our region, supporting the local food bank and similar good causes. If your situation is stable and liquid, it's a good time to spend money on stuff you need, or perhaps just want, to help the economy recover in a faster pace. If not, I wish you well and hope you can put aside your worries and enjoy the season.
I hope 2009 is not a bassless year for you, there is little like the joy of making music. Enjoy!
Fall and Winter Bass Care
As we begin our march towards Fall and Winter it's time for those in colder and drier climates to start thinking about humidifying their basses... assuming you have a carved instrument. That said, while it it's rarely necessary to be concerned about moisture loss in a laminated instrument, it's not a bad idea to address it anyway, particularly if you use gut strings.
Take a look at my article, HUMIDITY: Do you need to humidify your Upright Bass? in the Upright Bass FAQs on our site, for details about humidification. You can read about ways to judge your need - and be sure that you make your bass happy this winter.
While you're at the FAQ section (accessible from the menu bar under RESOURCES), take a look at some of the other articles we've written. There are a number of topics like Impedance and Ohms, Rosin, changing strings, bridges, Mystery Basses, and more. More articles are in the works! If you have any suggestions for additional FAQs, do let us know.
Summertime! And the living is...
I don't know how it is in your neck of the woods, but in the Jersey Shore area, Summer is when the tourists show up (invade?) And as a result, more opportunities to gig open up. It's time for a string change around here. In fact, I've got to cut a new bridge to replace the unusual articulated bridge a guy sent me to try out. (No, the bridge I'm swapping out didn't pass the "Bob Test," so you won't see it for sale here.)
A good quality bridge makes a huge contribution to your instrument's sound. It is the heart of the instrument, the valuable link that conveys string vibrations to the bass body. Tight-grained maple is the wood of choice, and the fit of the feet to the top of the bass is very important. If your bridge isn't quite perfect, top or bottom, email me and I can respond with a copy of my bridge installation instructions. Perhaps a Summer tune-up is in order for you too!
Enjoy the season... May your grass grow just as green and as tall as you want -- and then stop.
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