After many years of experience, mistakes, experiments, and conclusions, I think I have something to say…There’s no better master than experience itself. When you experience something, it’s more likely you’ll never forget it. So read on and try to remain prepared for everything that might come.
There are tons of tips I’m able to give you, so this series will be divided into 3 or 4 articles at least. Process each one of them for your own benefit.
11) A Battery can turn into an undesired MUTE feature.
Always include a battery tester and replacement batteries with your gear. It doesn’t have to be a huge tester, just a simple one. Consider changing your instrument batteries every 2 months no matter how much you use them, and never leave your active bass connected because the cable plug closes the circuit and discharges the battery. In relation to effect pedals, I’d recommend using a good power source. Digital effect pedals can easily consume an alkaline battery in 2 hours, which many times is less that the length of a gig, and can become a very expensive way to power up. If you insist on using batteries, always use alkaline batteries. Another option is rechargeable batteries, and make sure to use the most powerful rechargeable batteries.
12) Instrument cables must be changed every two years.
Depending on use and brand, instrument cables must be changed on average every two years. It’s pretty embarrassing to suffer from sound cuts and strange noises in your signal due to the condition of your cables. It’s also worth your time to learn how to fold them so not to damage them. Ask any good sound engineer or roadie and he’ll explain that to you in a couple of seconds.
13) Gig bags and their plastic accessories.
Never use a gig bag that has plastic accessories for the belts…here’s a quick story. I was in Santiago, with my gig bag on my back waiting for the subway to come, when suddenly the plastic where the hangers of my gig bag passed through collapsed and my bass felt down like a stone. My bass neck was on the subway’s track while the body was barely resting on the subway platform. I had about 5 seconds before the train arrived—close call. When I told my friends about this accident, I realized that I was not the only victim. The problem is that plastic is more likely to accumulate stress and suffer from material fatigue. All that bouncing movement when we walk starts to accumulate on every plastic accessory where the weight of the instrument rests. From that day on, I always used metal accessories on my gig bags and nothing has happened in more than 12 years. If the gig bag you are going to buy, or that you already own has plastic accessories…Change them!
14) Use gig bags that “compress” the bass.
Continuing with gig bags, always try to use the type where your instrument is a little bit compressed on both sides and doesn’t allow the instrument to move. Choosing the proper bag for your instrument is something that has to be taken seriously. If the instrument is not compressed, there’s less protection.
15) Wash your hands before grabbing the bass.
This is a simple but important tip. A serious instrumentalist always takes care of their sound in every detail. A dirty, greasy, or sticky string detracts from your sound and your performance. Washing your hands before grabbing the bass also adds to the life of your strings.
16) If all the strings are low or high in pitch for a period of time, don’t adjust with your tuners.
What happens here is that if all your strings are slightly higher, your neck will be convex a little bit. And on the other hand, if all the strings are slightly lower, your bass neck becomes concaved a little bit. This generally occurs when you travel a lot and there are altitude and humidity differences within the cities you are visiting. Make the proper adjustment with your Allen wrench on the truss rod, and then make the final adjustments with your bass tuners and you’ll be all set. That way you won’t be increasing the alteration of the setting and calibration of your neck.
17) More about Straps.
It’s important to talk about the optimum length of your instrument strap. Choose any strap length you want, but consider that if you choose a length that makes you play with your bass in a lower position live than the one you use for studying, it will detract from your performance…things will feel and play differently. I’ve presented this to my students for years.
18) Here are some tips on setting the volume and EQ for your amp.
a) After plugging in your instrument and turning your amp on, set the input gain level at approximately 50% with the master volume in zero.
b) While playing with the standard touch set the master volume to the desired volume.
c) While playing with the standard touch equalize to your desired taste.
d) While playing with the standard touch move the input gain till making the clipping led to blink slightly. From that point, while playing with the standard touch, lower the input gain a little bit till the clipping led stops blinking.
e) Finally, while playing with the standard touch, set the master volume to the desired level.
19) Choose the proper cable connector that goes into your bass.
If you have a bass that has the jack on the bottom (facing the floor), I suggest you choose a 90° or “L” connector. This connector will be much more user friendly in that position because it won’t be making contact when you sit down (which also happens to a slight degree when you are standing up). This happens because a regular straight ¼ inch connector is much longer than a 90° one. If your jack is on the front of the bass, the normal connector is the way to go.
20) Turn off your cell phone!
I know this last tip sounds a little funny, but trust me, it deserves your attention.
Many of the tips I suggest come from my own personal experiences. I remember 20 years ago when I was playing live on television with an artist, and placed my cell phone on top of my amp and forgot to turn it off. Somebody called me, and we could do nothing but continue to play. This was embarrassing, as well as seriously irritating to the director. Bottom line…Turn your phone off.
This is all for now my friends. I’ll see you on the next: “Tips for the Modern Bass Player”, Part Three.