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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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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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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 @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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