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Good Vibrations: Repair and Beyond With Chris Brandt

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In my last article I posed a leading question to the readers…

A magnetic pickup on an electric bass (or guitar) can not hear wood resonance yet if you plug it in and stand back and listen you CAN hear wood resonance. How does the pickup do it?

Jonathon M. sent a great answer and it opens up a rich way of better understanding the electric bass. He shared:

“In short, the resonance of the wood dictates how the strings vibrate. The resonant characteristics of the wood cause some frequencies to dampen (zero) and others to resonate (pole). The magnetic pickups only react to the magnetic field vibrations caused by the strings, which is entirely determined by the “pole/zero” characteristics of the wood (and the neck joint, bridge mass/material, nut material, etc.). There’s plenty more physics behind the sound of any instrument, but that’s beyond the scope of this question. Thanks for the great question!”

Jonathon’s answer gets to the idea that there is a circulation between the energy in vibrating strings and the energy in the vibration of all the rest of the bass. This continuous circulation of energy shapes the tonal properties arising from the body, neck, bridge, and other parts as well, but it also sets up the flex characteristics principally of the neck. These flex characteristics can effect how low the action can be adjusted and it varies from bass to bass, even on instruments which appear to be identical.  Same model, same wood, same everything, yet they aren’t the same and each has to be adjusted for its own best performance.

The electric bass is a system of great complexity and nuance and over the next few articles I’ll discuss some of these subtle and interesting factors. You could say that the vibration in a bass circulates with all of the other vibration in a bass and this  accounts for its complexity. It is a sophisticated system. But all of this complexity is balanced by an elegant simplicity as well. The energy (vibration or resonance) flowing back and forth between the body and strings is totaled up within the string vibration. Here you can think of the strings as a delivery system for carrying the resonance from the body and neck to the pickups. Strings do a lot of multi-tasking, and I’ll discuss this in a future article. The complexity within the cross-resonating body might be comparable to the ripple patterns from raindrops on the surface of a pond but this doesn’t bother the strings a bit. They are happy with all of it and the strings pass this energy to the pickups which are like the front door to the rest of the system. This sophisticated system makes for elegance and simplicity and there is tremendous complexity as well.

Here’s what’s cool. Once the pickup comes into the picture, we cross into a historic revolution within the development of stringed instruments. You see, we now have the emergence of an entirely new pathway to get sound to the human ear! By now we’ve all grown up with electric instruments so it is easy to take them for granted, but if you think about the slow development of musical instruments over many centuries you can begin to see how revolutionary this new technology really is. The power of a bass is no longer confined by the acoustic limitations of the pre-electric instrument and the physical capacity of the person playing it.  There are enormous new tonal possibilities and it revolutionizes what is now possible in terms of range extension.  This business of range is particularly important for the bass because dropping down into low registers has always been hard to do acoustically. This is a big subject and I’ll discuss it more in a future article.

But beyond all this, there is an even more revolutionary effect and it might not necessarily seem obvious. You see, the sound or energy produced by an amplifier becomes a second source of the energy which enters the bass. The first source of energy is the bass player playing the strings but the second source of energy is the sound from the speakers inundating the bass itself. It re-circulates energy back into the bass almost as a form of arco, arco in the sense that a violin bow can indefinitely keep a flow of energy going into the violin. So I think of the energy from amplification as an intrinsic component of the electric bass itself and this “second” source of energy is why an electric bass feels as if it physically comes to life when it is plugged in. This too creates something new in the history of stringed instruments.

Knowledge is power and this is the key to appreciating how fantastic the electric bass really is. I hope that interested bass players will find it helpful to picture how energy moves through out the bass and that this now gets us ready to start talking about all sorts of practical questions having to do with set ups and adjustments, repairs and modifications, differences in construction and much else as well. If you have a few questions about repairs or set ups go ahead and send them my way and we’ll get started.

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Bass Books

Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

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Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

I was intrigued when The Bastard Instrument showed up on my desk… let’s dig in!

When we dive into the history of our beloved instrument, the bass, we find roots that go back as far as the 15th century. This instrument was a member of the violin family and was for the longest time, an acoustic instrument. As the years passed and music changed, there was a need for the instrument to evolve and the electric bass was born.

Comparatively, the electric bass is a relatively new instrument with its earliest appearances dating back to the 1930s and it is exciting to be an electric bass player while this history unfolds around us. Fortunately for us and future generations to come, Professor Brian F. Wright has taken on the herculean task of documenting the trajectory of the electric bass with this excellent book.

The Bastard Instrument presents an extraordinary amount of fine details about the instrument itself, the development of the amplification to handle its output, the pioneers that dared play it, the rapidly evolving music that flourished because of its presence and so much more. 

When I first started reading this book, I noticed that it felt a tad academic, like a textbook (it might be one someday) or a doctoral thesis, but to present all this information accurately, this approach is more than appropriate. Another detail that might be a bit of a spoiler is that the book only gets us up to the late ’60s. I was left wanting more as we know that so much has happened in the bass world since that time frame; I hope there is another volume in the works to get us up to the present!

All in all, “The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass” is a must-read for all of us who play electric bass and understand its essential place in music.

I found that there was a lot that I already knew but also quite a bit that I was unaware of. I believe that to know and understand where you are, you must know the history of exactly how you got here.

Highly recommended.

The Bastard Instrument is available at Amazon.com (beginning July 2024)

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @meridian_guitars @adamovicbasses @anacondabasses @mgbassguitars @xylembassguitar @officialspector @edwinpaanakker @alesvychodilbasses @boyarskycg @dmarkguitars

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

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IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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