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Fretting Hand Specifics

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For this installment, I’d like to get back to basics and share with you some tips that address the mechanics of hand technique. We will focus on the fretting hand this time around as we continue to work at developing and refining the way our hands work together.

If you have ever watched a great classical musician perform, you have probably noticed some key elements in his/her playing. World class classical musicians are some of the most disciplined players with respect to technique. Much of the music they perform demands intense focus, dexterity, and consistency. In spite of the excellence demanded of them, however, a great classical musician stays very relaxed and composed, and these traits allow him/her to remain expressive, dynamic, and musical throughout a performance. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of classical music, it is hard not to appreciate the level of technical mastery demonstrated by its performers.

Obviously, there is a lot to be gained as a bassist if we are to emulate the technical discipline of a classical musician. Interestingly enough, our basic technical approach as an electric bassist virtually mirrors that of a classical guitarist. For example, look at the way a classical guitarist holds his/her hands. Right and left hand positioning is virtually identical to ours. The main difference in the plucking hands is that a classical guitarist plays using his/her fingernails instead of the fingertips. The technique of the fretting hand, however, is basically the same. In this lesson, we will attempt to incorporate the relevant aspects that apply to our fretting hands, specifically.

In most applications, the basic technique of our fretting hand remains unchanged. For example, whether you are using a finger style, slap & pop, or muting approach with the plucking hand, the fretting hand is essentially doing the same thing. I’ve put together a list of 3 general guidelines to follow when working to clean up our fingering

1. Avoid using a “flat fingered” approach.

In other words, try to play more using the tips of the fingers. This involves keeping the fingers of the fretting hand slightly curved. See figure 1:

The reason for this is so you can effectively minimize the surface area coming into contact with the strings and the fingerboard. The result is better intonation and greater accuracy with your fretting hand. To demonstrate this, think about how a fretless bass is played. Playing in tune requires one to pay particular attention to where the string contacts the fingerboard. A move in the slightest direction forward or backward with the fretting finger will pull the pitch out of tune. The more narrow the contact point on our fretting finger, the easier it is to play pitches accurately. Although a fretted bass affords us the room to play in between the frets without fear of pitch variance, this concept is still valid; a flat fingered approach presents a greater risk of our notes “fretting out” if our fingers are too far forward or backward. (Obviously, this rule does not apply if we need to “bar” a chord or some other shape on the bass. In instances like these, it becomes necessary to flatten the fingers at least temporarily.)

2. Keep your thumb generally at the back of the neck.

Whenever possible, try to avoid bringing your thumb over the top of the neck. The higher your thumb is, the more inhibited your reach will be for your fretting fingers, especially when playing the lower pitched strings of your bass. A good place to keep the thumb is somewhere midway at the back of the neck so you can maximize stability and reach. See figure 2:

Although your thumb effectively becomes an anchor for your fretting hand, you DO NOT want to squeeze hard with it! There shouldn’t be any excessive force coming from your thumb when fretting notes on the fingerboard. A good way to test this is to try dropping the thumb off of the neck while your playing. See figure 3:

Ideally, you should still be able to fret the notes using only your other fingers. If you’ve ever felt pain in the thumb joint or palm of your fretting hand, try this test and see just how much you are depending on the squeezing force of your thumb. Just as the plucking hand can benefit from using a movable anchor, so can the fretting hand. While you play, try allowing your thumb to freely slide over the back of the neck in all directions so that it is basically “following” your fretting fingers. This will insure that you are staying relaxed and subsequently offer you maximum reach in all positions.


3. Maintain space between your palm and the back of the neck.

The main purpose of this is to maintain consistency in hand position, regardless of what string you are playing. You will notice that if your palm meets the back of the neck, it naturally pulls your thumb over the top of the neck and turns your fretting fingers to a position less perpendicular to the strings. See figure 4:

This position makes it much harder to play with curved fingers and contributes to a lack of reach because of the raised position of the thumb. To get a feel for a more beneficial hand position, try placing your fretting hand in a relaxed open handed position away from the bass… See figure 5:

…and then simply raise your hand to meet the neck of the bass. As your hand meets the instrument, your thumb should naturally move into position about midway at the back of the neck, and your curved fingers should lay naturally over top of the strings. See figure 6:

This is a great basic hand position to get used to using, and you will want to maintain this position regardless of what strings you are playing on.

Here are a couple of other more general points to keep in mind that will aid you in your technical development as a bass player. (These philosophies can be incorporated into your plucking hand technique, as well):

Avoid sharp wrist angles.

The importance of this can not be overemphasized. Sharp wrist angles, combined with tension and fatigue, significantly contribute to bass players’ hand injuries, and these injuries can sometimes be irreversible. Although problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injury, and tendonitis are beyond the scope of this particular lesson, their prevention is aided by the avoidance of excessive stress on the wrists. In general, you want to keep your bass at a height that allows a moderate wrist angle for both hands. You will find that if your bass hangs excessively low, a sharper angle is incurred by the wrist of the fretting hand. If you wear your bass excessively high, the wrist of your plucking hand will incur the sharper angle. Even if a player wears his/her bass somewhere in between, most end up struggling with wrist tension when they are playing in the lowest register of the bass, closest to the headstock.

The problem is exaggerated when a player tries to maintain a large finger stretch in that area, for example the 5 fret stretch from F to A on the E string. See figure 8:

Figures 7 and 8 are examples of the types of wrist angles you should constantly avoid. An alternative solution to covering this distance with an uncomfortable stretch involves “reaching” into each successive note while maintaining the same fingering. Don’t worry about holding your hand in a stretched position; instead, leave your hand in a relaxed state, and as you play your notes in order one at a time, allow your thumb and hand to slide into the next note. You can still maintain a completely legato feel as long as you reach smoothly and quickly. if you use this approach you will protect yourself from injury while maintaining consistent hand position and proper technique.

Stay relaxed.

The benefits of relaxation should be obvious to us as players. The tensing up of our bodies robs us of our endurance, dexterity, and technical agility. However, staying relaxed while playing is often easier said than done. Relaxation begins with the shoulders. Most players that struggle with tension in their playing usually carry most of their tension in their shoulders. Next time you are performing or practicing, take a moment to analyze the height of your shoulders, as well as the level of tension in your forearms and hands. When you stop to take a break in between songs or exercises, relax and analyze this again. If you discover a significant difference in the way your shoulders, arms, and hands look or feel, you probably are playing with too much tension. The only way to get out of this is to “practice relaxing.” As silly as it sounds to “make an effort to relax,” you’ll find that the key is to simply maintain a constant state of awareness of how much tension you are carrying at any given time. You can put this to work for you immediately by incorporating it into your practice routine. While you are practicing, as soon as you recognize that your shoulders or other parts of your body are tensing up, stop playing immediately. Drop your arms to your sides, relax completely, and then lift your hands to the bass and start playing again. As soon as you feel yourself start to tense up again, stop playing and do the same thing. By doing this, you are teaching yourself to become more in tune with your body while becoming more adept at staying relaxed.

I hope that these points will help you to get to the next level in your playing. Please remember that not all of these skills can be developed overnight. Therefore, it is vitally important that you exhibit patience as you work on these. What we don’t want to do is fall into our old habits out of frustration. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes as you are developing, and above all else, make sure to have fun!

Until next time-

Bass Edu

Walking The Bass

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Walking The Bass

I first started playing an acoustic guitar in my band but now find myself working as the custodian of the groove in the bass department, plus keyboards, amplifiers and effects pedals akin to the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. What happened?

When I started off playing musical instruments as a child, life was simple.

There was the harmonica, my favourite sound to inspire random dogs to ‘howl’ along with a simple tune. Then followed descant and treble recorders, my friend Jill’s piano (and anybody else’s come to think of it), the school organ at lunchtimes and a brief awkward dalliance with a cheap violin. Finally, through Hobson’s choice, I settled on the last instrument standing in the school’s musical armoury – an old, unwanted and completely battered French horn. C’est la vie!

I really enjoyed this unusual curly-belled instrument and had lots of fun playing in the school orchestra and brass band, learning a lot about parts and how all the other instruments wove in and out of each other and the incredible melodies and emotions that followed. I was also a member of the school choir in the ‘alto’ department and fell in love with harmonies – it’s just the best!!

Sadly my dalliance with the world of brass had to stop with the installation of fixed ‘cheese-grater’ dental braces. Subsequently, I moved on to the acoustic guitar which allowed me a good deal of independence enabling me to sing and accompany myself with some cool chords. It also ignited my passion for songwriting. 

Being heard

In the early 90s I moved to the north of England to study Media & Performance at Salford University and after singing some of my original songs in a lunchtime concert under the moniker of a band called I Never Used To Like Brussel Sprouts I ended up as one of the founding members of a contemporary folk band called Megiddo with some great guys off the degree course in Popular Music and Recording – namely John Smith, Tim Allen and Alan Lowles.

We wrote and performed all our original songs, self-recorded and released an album called On The Outside and toured the UK folk circuit. In those days if you wanted to test out new songs, a good place to go was our local folk club which was based in a pub in a slightly dodgy area in Higher Broughton.

There were no microphones or amplification of any kind – nothing electronic. Everything was acoustic and au natural. You listened to everyone else playing and when it was your turn – you stood up where you were sat – that was your stage.

Of course when we were booked for the bigger gigs we needed amplification for the instruments and vocals to be heard in these vast spaces – but we didn’t use any overt effects or added jiggery pokery with our instruments (two acoustic guitars and a fretless bass – we sounded natural – like us, but louder.

Credit: Steph Magenta ©1995
Megiddo (L-R Suzy Starlite, Tim Allen, John Smith, Alan Lowles)

A few years later, touched by the hand of fate – in a happy, groove-laden serendipitous happening – everything changed and I accidentally got hooked on playing the bass guitar.

I hadn’t been playing that long before my first professional gig, which happened to be with my husband Simon when we toured the UK to promote his second solo album, The Knife.

Credit: Stuart Bebb, Oxford Camera ©2023
Myself and Simon onstage at the Ramsbottom Festival 2015

Simon is a pro and I was in the band because he loved my playing.  

As you know I didn’t start out playing bass as my first instrument and the funny thing is, a lot of other bass players didn’t either…

  • Lemmy had just joined Hawkwind as a guitar player when he found out he was surplus to requirements due to Dave Brock deciding he was going to play lead guitar instead. But when the band’s bass player didn’t show up for one of their free gigs because he wasn’t getting paid, he had also inadvertently left his bass and amp in their van. So, Lemmy stepped in, and played bass for the first time live on stage at a gig! (That does make me laugh…)
  • Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers started out playing the trumpet and was pretty good at it too by all accounts.
  • The Who’s thunderous John Entwistle started out on piano, then moved onto trumpet and French horn before he picked up a bass guitar. (Yey I played French Horn at school)
  • Jaco Pastorius was first and foremost a drummer and only stopped playing after a wrist injury on the soccer field made it more difficult to play – that, and a better drummer had rocked up on the scene, so he stepped aside for this guy to take his place in the band. It was only because the bass player left at the same time that he picked up the bass!
  • Carol Kaye played jazz guitar and by the knock of opportunity, moved onto bass when she filled in for a recording session when another musician didn’t show up!
  • Tina Weymouth – who provided the bass-bedrock of Talking Heads signature sound, started out playing handbells – which has slightly freaked me out as I used to play them when I was a teenager too. Apparently, she taught herself guitar before picking up the bass when she formed the band with David Byrne and her now-husband, drummer Chris Frantz.

It’s all about the sound

Moving forward to today – music is not just about being heard anymore. I’m on a new and exciting trajectory, this time experimenting with my bass guitar making different sounds. From pedals to amplifiers to the big cabinets that house the speakers – you could say I’ve become a ‘cosmic explorer of the sonic palette’!

It sounds extra-terrestrial / inter-dimensional – and sometimes feels just like that!

In the beginning

My first bass guitar set up for the tour with Simon back in 2016 was simple: Mike Lull M4V bass guitar – plugged directly into my Sonic Research ST-300 TurboTuner (a guitar tuner) using the Supertone Mincap ‘A’ guitar cable then with a second cable to the back of the stage where it was plugged straight into an amplifier and speaker cabinet provided for me by the gigs/venues.

Since then I have had two different setups and have gradually added a few more bass guitars to my stable… Oh, and some stunning keyboards too.

What’s all the fuss about pedals?

What are guitar pedals and why use them?

This whole saga began in 2018 when we were touring our debut Starlite & Campbell album ‘Blueberry Pie’. Simon and I had formed a new band and had co-written and produced our first album together.

During the recording process, I played two different bass guitars. A Mike Lull M4V and a black Gretsch ThunderJet, both fitted with flat-wound strings.

You may not be familiar with these two beauties (check out the photos below) but as you would expect they have different sounds (aka tonal characteristics) and volumes (output levels), one being lower (quieter) than the other.

In the studio, you have time to set up each sound and when recording our first album together, Blueberry Pie, I needed a gritty, dirty, fuzzy sound for the solo section of You’re So Good For Me.

For this purpose, I employed the kickass assistance of the Supertone Custom Bass FUZZ by DWJ pedal – which I’ll explain more later – just know that I love it!!

FUZZ!!!!!!!

DWJ Supertone Bass FUZZ pedal
Photo credit: Simon Campbell 

On tour, however, I needed to use this fuzz and swap between two different bass guitars for certain songs. This is where the wonders of technology, pedals and effects start to help you out.

Watch this video of our Starlite Campbell Band concert at The Met in Bury, Manchester to hear the ThunderJet in action. Geek alert: bass solo at 01:56 minutes.

Bass guitars

It’s probably a good place to give you some information on the two basses in question.

Gretsch ThunderJet

This was my first ever bass, chosen because I’ve got really small hands and it has a shorter neck – hence the term short-scale (shorter scale = smaller distance between the frets). I also wanted to have that short thumpy 60s sound, similar to Jack Bruce (Cream), Andy Fraser (Free) and Paul McCartney – (I think you may know which band).

The ThunderJet has a semi-hollow body so it’s not too heavy and has a big fat distinctive and punchy sound.

It’s also one of the best-looking sexy basses Gretsch has ever produced with a throwback to their vintage models and often people will ask me about it after gigs… upstaged or what?

Technical stuff

  • Mahogany body with arched maple top
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Semi-hollow body
  • Dual TV Jones® Thunder’Tron™ pickups
  • Space Control™ bass bridge
  • 30.3-inch scale
  • Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Bass – JF324 – flat wound strings

Gretch ThunderJet bass guitar
Photo credit: Simon Campbell 

Mike Lull M4V

This guitar is ultra-special to me. Not only was it my wedding present from Simon but it was also made by the late great Mike Lull himself.

This is my old friend, the guitar I had imagined, which has been with me from almost the beginning, through endless hours of learning, making mistakes, jumping around with me when the music takes you high. We recorded most of the songs on Blueberry Pie with this bass and have played many a festival stage together, flown on planes and travelled around the world and back again.

The low end has a big attitude for rock and an elegant versatility that lets you slide up the neck as if you were on your knees sliding across a well-oiled floor! Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine it’s an upright double bass too, the sound and thud of the strings taking me to that smoky downtown bar.

The M4V evokes a fantastic classic vintage vibe with all the wonderful attributes of a 60/70s Jazz bass combined with passive electronics, all in a slightly downsized body shape.

Technical stuff

  • Fitted with Hipshot Ultralite tuners with drop D
  • Custom Wound Lindy Fralin Single Coil Pickups
  • Hipshot Aluminium Bridge
  • Mahogany Body
  • Graphite Reinforced Maple Neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Bass – JF344 – flat wound strings

Mike Lull M4V bass guitar
Photo credit: Simon Campbell 

Technical terminology/gear

At this juncture, I also needed to get my head around a few basic technical terms and learn about how things work.

What is that saying: It’s not easy because I haven’t learned it yet.

The guitar pick-up

Have you ever wondered how electric basses make sounds in the first place? It’s a fascinating process and the most important part of your electric guitar’s plugged-in tone. Below is a simple explanation:

  • Guitar strings are made out of a magnetic metal.
  • Underneath the strings sits the ‘pick up’ which is fitted into the body of the guitar.
  • The pick up consists of a coil of wire wrapped around a magnetic pole piece (or pieces).
  • When you pluck/hit a string – it vibrates which generates a voltage in the coil.
  • In a passive bass (more of this later), the pickup(s) are directly connected to volume and tone controls which are then sent to the output of the instrument.

The signal chain

The signal chain is the order in which you place any effects/pedals. At first, I put my tuner first in the chain after the bass guitar the signal can be easily muted for silent tuning.

The pre-amp

This electronic device amplifies a weak signal, such as that from a passive bass.

These are found in bass/guitar amplifiers, studio mixing consoles, domestic HiFis, sometimes within the bass itself (referred to as an active bass) and as external units in the format of a pedal.

There are many different specifications but some are capable of driving a power amplifier (the second stage which amplifies this intermediate signal level to one which can drive a loudspeaker) and/or can be used before the amplifier to modify the sound, volume and tone of the instrument – I will explain more about this in the next instalment.

This brings me to the third pedal I owned.

Lehle RMI BassSwitch IQ DI

Photo credit: Simon Campbell 

The Lehle RMI BassSwitch IQ DI was the centrepiece of my first pedalboard (a metal frame where all the pedals are organised). It was exactly what I needed at the time to help me sort out the technical challenges of playing two different basses with different sounds and volumes

The unit had two channels with separate volume controls enabling me to set the level for each bass by using a foot switch to select channel A or B.

Channel B also has very natural sounding tone controls (or equalisation – EQ) which allowed me to change the tone of the bass in channel B to complement the bass in channel A.

Two effects loops

The unit also has two effects (FX) loops, one switchable and one in all the time for both channels. In the switchable loop, I placed the FUZZ (so I could switch it in and out using the button on the Lehle) and my rarely used Ernie Ball volume pedal in the unswitched.

If you want to see the possibilities of routing and an explanation of FX loops, check out the manual.

The all-important mute switch

My tuner is connected to a dedicated ‘tuner output’ and the Lehle’s output can be muted via another footswitch.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, this mute is critical which enables me to tune up between songs silently as there’s nothing worse than someone audibly tuning up on stage – it’s messy and unprofessional.

The Direct Inject output

There are two outputs from the Lehle, one for the amplifier plus a very high-quality Direct Inject (DI) output which is compatible with mixing consoles, allowing the sound engineer to take the signals right from your pedals before they get to the amplifier.

My bass tone comes from the amplifier and speaker cabinet combination and I always insist it’s miked up for a performance.

There are some instances however that you need the signal to be sent to the live sound system (PA). For example, my Fylde King John acoustic bass is better using this direct method rather than going through the stage amplifier and again, more of this in the next edition!

It is a high-quality piece of kit that you come to expect from Lehle (although now sadly discontinued) and has never let me down. The only thing I have to watch out for is operator error when I’m wearing my big kickass ‘Boots of Rock’.

And finally…

I hope you enjoyed this article – if you have any questions or feedback, it would be cool to hear from you. 

Next up in Walking the Bass Line – I’ll talk a little more about the role of the bass guitar, amplifiers, cabinets and another pedal.

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Bass Books

Ultimate Look at Electric Basses from 1930 to Today

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The Bass Space: Profiles of Classic Electric Basses.

The definitive book for lovers of the low-end. Willie G. Moseley, Senior Writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine, profiles more than 100 historic and unique electric bass models from such makers as Alembic, Danelectro, Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Guild, Hamer, Kramer, Rickenbacker, and many others.

Rare and legendary instruments, from the earliest attempts at amplified basses in the mid-1930s to the cutting-edge instruments of today, are presented in more than 250 color and period photos.

The main feature of this book is the exclusive coverage of historic and one-of-a-kind basses owned and played by such famed musicians as: Bill Black (Elvis Presley), Tim Bogert (Vanilla Fudge), Mark Egan (Pat Metheny Group), John Entwistle (The Who), Paul Goddard (Atlanta Rhythm Section), Bruce Hall (REO Speedwagon), Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Benjamin Orr (The Cars), Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick), Carl Radle (Derek and the Dominos), Gene Simmons (Kiss), Steve Wariner, and others.

The Bass Space: Profiles of Classic Electric Basses is available online at Amazon.com

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June 24 – 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 @sargs_guitars @adamovicbasses @jermsbass @overwaterbasses @ramabass.ok @chris_seldon_guitars @mauriziouberbasses @mikelullcustomguitars @boyarskycg @insidehofnerguitars

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Bass Videos

Gear News: Ibanez & Graph Tech Launch Multi-Scale Bass with Cutting-Edge Tuning

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Gear News: Ibanez & Graph Tech Launch Multi-Scale Bass with Cutting-Edge Tuning

Ibanez & Graph Tech Launch Revolutionary Multi-Scale Bass with Cutting-Edge Tuning Technology.

Ibanez Bass, renowned for pushing the boundaries of innovation in the music industry, is proud to announce an exciting collaboration with Graph Tech Guitar Labs, pioneers in instrument technology. Together, they introduce the revolutionary SRMS725 5-string Multi-scale Electric Bass and SRMS720 4-string Multi-scale Electric Bass featuring Graph Tech’s cutting-edge Ratio® Machine Heads.

The SRMS725 & SRMS720, part of the esteemed Bass Workshop series, represent a fusion of unparalleled craftsmanship and state-of-the-art engineering. Boasting a mesmerizing Blue Chameleon finish, this instrument embodies elegance and performance.

At the heart of this collaboration lies Graph Tech’s Ratio Machine Heads – a game-changer in the world of bass tuning. Unlike traditional machine heads, (which use a single gear ratio for all strings, such as 20:1) Ratio® Machine Heads employ a calibrated gear ratio for each string position. Why? Every string reacts differently to tuning adjustments, making the Low E or B on a bass hard to dial in the tuning because they are so sensitive to any adjustment. Fine-tuning where you need it. With every string having the same feel and response, players experience unparalleled control over their instrument’s tuning, resulting in a predictable, precise tuning experience with the musician in total control. 1 turn = 1 tone on every string. This same feel and response carries over to ratio-equipped electric and acoustic guitars.

We found RATIO® machine heads to be extraordinarily accurate, and we were particularly impressed with how easy drop tuning is with them, especially when dropping to D on the fourth string and to A on the fifth.,” says Ibanez. “This characteristic makes RATIO® tuners incredibly well suited for hard rock and other heavier sounds, so we thought they’d be a perfect match for our SRMS720 and SRMS725 basses. We’re also aware that Graph Tech is entirely committed to continuous product innovation, which fully aligns with our philosophy at Ibanez. .”

Innovation has always been at the core of Graph Tech’s philosophy,” says Dave Dunwoodie, President at Graph Tech Guitar Labs. “With Ratio® Machine Heads, we’ve reimagined the tuning experience, providing musicians with a tool that enhances their creativity and expression. Teaming up with Ibanez to bring this technology to the SRMS725 & SRMS720 represents a milestone in our journey to redefine industry standards.

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Features

Bergantino Welcomes Michael Byrnes to Their Family of Artists

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Bergantino Welcomes Michael Byrnes to Their Family of Artists

Interview and photo courtesy of Holly Bergantino of Bergantino Audio Systems

With an expansive live show and touring, Mt. Joy bassist Michael Byrnes shares his experiences with the joyful, high-energy band!

Michael Byrnes has kept quite a busy touring schedule for the past few years with his band, Mt. Joy. With a philosophy of trial and error, he’s developed quite the routines for touring, learning musical instruments, and finding the right sound. While on the road, we were fortunate to have him share his thoughts on his music, history, and path as a musician/composer. 

Let’s start from the very beginning, like all good stories. What first drew
you to music as well as the bass? 

My parents required my sister and I to play an instrument.  I started on piano and really didn’t like it so when I wanted to quit my parents made me switch to another instrument and I chose drums.  Then as I got older and started forming bands there were never any bass players.  When I turned 17 I bought a bass and started getting lessons.  I think with drums I loved music and I loved the idea of playing music but when I started playing bass I really got lost in it.  I was completely hooked.

Can you tell us where you learned about music, singing, and composing?

A bit from teachers and school but honestly I learned the most from just going out and trying it.  I still feel like most of the time I don’t know what I am doing but I do know that if I try things I will learn.  

What other instruments do you play?

A bit of drums but that’s it.  For composing I play a lot of things but I fake it till I make and what I can’t fake I will ask a friend! 

I know you are also a composer for film and video. Can you share more
about this with us?

Pretty new to it at the moment.  It is weirdly similar to the role of a bass player in the band.  You are using music to emphasize and lift up the storyline.  Which I feel I do with the bass in a band setting.  Kind of putting my efforts into lifting the song and the other musicians on it.

Everybody loves talking about gear. How do you achieve your “fat” sound?

I just tinker till it’s fat lol.  Right now solid-state amps have been helping me get there a little quicker than tube amps.  That’s why I have been using the Bergantino Forté HP2 –  Otherwise I have to say the cliche because it is true…. It’s in the hands.  

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that you’d like
to explore on the bass.

I like to think of myself as a pretty catchy bass player.  I need to ask my bandmates to confirm!  But I think when improvising and writing bass parts I always am trying to sneak little earworms into the music.   I want to explore 5-string more!

Who are your influences?

I can’t not mention James Jamerson.  Where would any of us be if it wasn’t for him?  A lesser-known bassist who had a huge effect on me is Ben Kenney.  He is the second bassist in the band Incubus and his playing on the Crow Left the Murder album completely opened me up to the type of bass playing I aspire towards.  When I first started playing I was really just listening to a lot of virtuosic bassists.  I was loving that but I couldn’t see myself realistically playing like that.  It wasn’t from a place of self-doubt I just deep down knew that wasn’t me.  Ben has no problem shredding but I was struck by how much he would influence the song through smaller movements and reharmonizing underneath the band.  His playing isn’t really in your face but from within the music, he could move mountains.   That’s how I want to play.    

What was the first bass you had? Do you still have it?

A MIM Fender Jazz and I do still have it.  It’s in my studio as we speak.  I rarely use it these days but I would never get rid of it.  


(Every bass player’s favorite part of an interview and a read!) Tell us about
your favorite bass or basses. 🙂

I guess I would need to say that MIM Jazz bass even though I don’t play it much.  I feel connected to that one.  Otherwise, I have been playing lots of great amazing basses through the years.  I have a Serek that I always have with me on the road (shout out Jake).   Also have a 70’s Mustang that 8 times out of 10 times is what I use on recordings.  Otherwise, I am always switching it up.  I find that after a while the road I just cycle basses in and out.  Even if I cycle out a P bass for another P bass.  

What led you to Bergantino Audio Systems?

My friend and former roommate Edison is a monster bassist and he would gig with a cab of yours all the time years ago.  Then when I was shopping for a solid state amp the Bergantino Forté HP2 kept popping up.  Then I saw Justin Meldal Johnsen using it on tour with St. Vincent and I thought alright I’ll give it a try!

Can you share a little bit with us about your experience with the Bergantino
forte HP amplifier? I know you had this out on tour in 2023 and I am pretty
certain the forte HP has been to more countries than I have.

It has been great!   I had been touring with a 70’s SVT which was great but from room to room, it was a little inconsistent.  I really was picky with the type of power that we had on stage.  After a while, I thought maybe it is time to just retire this to the studio.  So I got that Forte because I had heard that it isn’t too far of a leap from a tube amp tone-wise.  Plus I knew our crew would be much happier loading a small solid state amp over against the 60 lbs of SVT.  It has sounded great and has really remained pretty much the same from night to night.  Sometimes I catch myself hitting the bright switch depending on the room and occasionally I will use the drive on it.

You have recently added the new Berg NXT410-C speaker cabinet to your
arsenal. Thoughts so far?

It has sounded great in the studio.  I haven’t gotten a chance to take it on the road with us but I am excited to put it through the paces!

You have been touring like a madman all over the world for the past few
years. Any touring advice for other musicians/bass players? And can I go to Dublin, Ireland with you all??

Exercise!  That’s probably the number one thing I can say.  Exercise is what keeps me sane on the road and helps me regulate the ups and downs of it.  Please come to Dublin! I can put you on the guest list! 

It’s a cool story on how the Mt. Joy band has grown so quickly! Tell us
more about Mt. Joy, how it started, where the name comes from, who the
members are and a little bit about this great group?

Our singer and guitarist knew each other in high school and have made music together off and on since.  Once they both found themselves living in LA they decided to record a couple songs and put out a Craigslist ad looking for a bassist.  At the time I had just moved to LA and was looking for anyone to play with.  We linked up and we recorded what would become the first Mt. Joy songs in my house with my friend Caleb producing.  Caleb has since produced our third album and is working on our fourth with us now. Once those songs came out we needed to form a full band to be able to do live shows.  I knew our drummer from gigging around LA and a mutual friend of all of us recommended Jackie.  From then on we’ve been on the road and in the studio.  Even through Covid.

Describe the music style of Mt. Joy for me.

Folk Rock with Jam influences

What are your favorite songs to perform?

Always changing but right now it is ‘Let Loose’

What else do you love to do besides bass?

Exercise!

I always throw in a question about food. What is your favorite food?

I love a good chocolate croissant.

Follow Michael Byrnes:
Instagram: @mikeyblaster

Follow Mt. Joy Band:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mtjoyband
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mtjoyband

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