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Ask Willis

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Meet Willis

Hey Willis,
On my GWB1 basses I play with EXL D’addario strings but not with the exactly same gauge.
I’m using the EXL 170: 045 – 065- 080 – 100 – 130
Is there a big difference in sound between the EXL 165 and the EX 170 or is it only a comfort reason ?
And after how many hours or days of bass playing do you change your strings ?
Thanks for all,
Alex

Hey Alex,
I think you would notice an improvement with the difference being the 085, 105 and for me I use the 135 b-string.
It’s a common misconception that smaller strings will improve the action and playability of a bass.
Here’s what happens:
There’s less tension on smaller strings. Since they are looser, they vibrate in a wider path.
Because their vibration path is wider, it’s necessary to raise the strings to prevent buzzing.
Raise the strings and they’re farther away from the pickup and have less output. Which means,
you have a tendency to play them harder to get more sound – which, in turn, makes them buzz, etc.
A bigger string has more tension and and allows you to actually have lower action because
it’s vibration path is smaller and is less likely to buzz. The bigger string is more for the pickup to “see”
so you have more output – plus it’s closer to the pickup for more output as well.
At a certain point, more tension prevents a fretless note from attaining that characteristic fretless “buzz”,
since it’s not allowed to “breathe”. So I find the 045, 056, 085, 105, 135 balances all these factors.

I’ll generally change strings after about 3 concerts – 6 hours of playing.

—-

Hey Willis,
I wanted to ask how you cleanly articulate some of the fast low notes in your solos.
I’ve tried to play fast passages the B string and I noticed it gets really muddy.
Does that have to do with your right hand technique?
Also, do you like to add reverb to your bass when playing expressive melodies like a ballad?
If so, what type of reverb to you go for?
Thanks,
Aaron

Hey Aaron,
There’s a lot of elements that go into getting a good, articulate sound out of the B string.
Let’s start with the b-string itself. The D’Addario .135 I use is a little bigger than most but check the above
answer for the effect size and tension plays in getting tone.
Next, one of the unique aspects of my signature bass is that the string to string balance is weighted
towards the b-string. Its magnet is closest to the surface of the pickup so it’s the loudest string.
This allows my right hand to not have to compensate to get notes on the B-string to speak.
The headstock on my bass is configured 2+3. This allows us to move the tuners another 3/4″ away
from the nut, resulting in a longer string and load-bearing tension.
Finally, the body is a bolt-on, light Japanese Ash which reenforces low frequencies but still has the
right balance of grain properties that don’t make it “mushy”.
Of course, you still need technique, but having all these advantages doesn’t hurt.

Depending on the amount of sonic space available – I usually start with some kind of clean sounding Plate reverb,
about 2 – 2.5 seconds, no early reflections and full diffusion. The real key is to EQ the reverb itself. The low frequencies
can quickly become muddy. I use a high-pass filter at around 450hz to make sure the lowest notes don’t go rumbling around.

—-

Hey Willis,
Did you attend Northern Arizona University
thanks,
Kevin

Hey Kevin,
You mean the Fightin’ Lumberjacks? High altitude Flagstaff, Saturday afternoons at the Walkup Sydome?
Nah, I went to North Texas State University.

—-

Hey Willis
I’ve been watching videos over and over and I can not slap correctly, read through your Ask Willis database but to no avail. Every time I slap I get a clank sound instead of the the sound I was aiming for.  What can I be doing wrong?

Hey Johnny,
You’re about 20+ years too late 😉
My slapping ability reached its peak around 1985 and quickly died once I started writing my own music.
Anyway, I can only guess that it could be a setup problem with your bass. Most (fretted) basses, if they’re reasonably set up will produce a decent slap sound – and at least give you something to start with. Try out some friends’ basses or even some in a music store.
There’s plenty of slap instruction floating around the interwebs – make sure to eliminate the instrument as the problem first.

—-

Hey Willis!
I went to gig that you played several years ago. During the gig the drummer was sometimes screwing up the time a little. And I think at a certain point you got tired of that and decided to start playing “your own” time. Man it was so rock solid that you could hear that every note that wouldn’t be played with you would be wrong. Now my question is could you tell how you’ve developed this amazing sense of time and do you maybe have some exercises to develop this? Thanks in advance for your time.
Greetings,
RB

Hey Roald,
Hmmmmmm, I guess I wasn’t very discreet with my attitude that nite 😉
I would say that I got the most improvement in my sense of time by working with the minimum necessary.
A long time ago, I discovered that the “hearbeat” of a drummer was his hi-hat. Kick drums, snares, accents,
crashes – etc; all of those can and should be unpredictable but what always remains constant is the hi-hat.
The other thing is that the hi-hat is most audible in between the beats – even if it’s always playing you pretty much
only hear it in between bass drums and snares, etc. In the context of the drum kit – it’s also kind of soft.
So I recommend trying to imitate that experience when you practice. Program a drum machine to only play hi-hat –
but only put it on the “ands” (the 2nd of every eight note pair). And also turn the volume down. As well as being more
realistic, this gives you the responsibility to provide the downbeats and back beats while still listening in between for how to adjust (if necessary).
Nowadays it’s possible to practice almost any kind of feel with an audio or midi of a full-on, perfectly mixed
drum groove. But then you become dependent on a perfectly mixed, perfectly played groove for your sense of time and feel.
By eliminating all but what’s necessary, you can develop a sense of time that other musicians can rely on.

—-

Hey Willis!
Just a quick note to say thanks very much for all your time replying to our questions!
I’m getting on really well now with the Ultimate Ear Training!! Thanks for writing that one!
I know you like the GS112 cabs, in fact, I have the very two you played at the Mansons clinic in Exeter where we met a couple of years ago.
BUT I am struggling for volume! Do you insist on me getting a 3rd 112 or have you tried the GS410 and don’t like it?
Should I go for the GS410 or should I get that 3rd GS112??
My Eden wt550 WILL run a 2ohm load, but I always thought the more separate cabs you have, the tone quality drops with all the connections involved.
All the best,
Rob

Hey Rob,
Thanks for the email and great to hear about your progress.
The tone quality drop you’re concerned about doesn’t come from the additional connections but in how
hard you make the amp work. Even if it’s only one cabinet, if an amp is working close to the limit of it’s abilities,
the tone and responsiveness will suffer.
Since that 300 watt WT can handle it, I would definitely try a 3rd GS112.
The 3rd cab will be closer to your torso so even if the system is only a little louder, you’ll perceive more volume.
Also, you could try putting a couple of 1/2 wood strips between the GS112’s and turning them on their sides.
This will get them even higher and could help focus the sound where you want to hear and feel it.
When I use only two GS112’s with my DB750 – it’s fine for most of the night but still there are some moments
where that 3rd cabinet make all the difference.
The problem with adding a 410 is that once you start mixing cabinets, then you run into differences in efficiency and unless you have a separate amp for each cabinet, getting the right balance between them will be extremely difficult.

—-

Hey Willis,
I have a question about  my righthand technique which I could not extract completely from your video and U-tube clinics etc. I play with two fingers and the question is: If play an eight note bebop line over 2,3,4 or even over 5 strings, does the right hand fingering change each time you change to another string when the line is descending? For example somewhere on the G string to a place on the low B string? In other words do you rake always when you play a descending line in whatever kind style, groove and line etc? Also, if you play ascending, do you start with different fingers (from a two finger players perspective). I mean do you play an ascending line starting with the first finger but also with the second? In other words, is it the way you play descending the reason to play ascending, starting with the first or second finger of the right hand?
Thanks and greetings from Rik

Hey Rik,
For descending, yes, it’s always raking with the first finger to cross strings descending.
For ascending (crossing strings going up) I always play the first note on the new string with the 3rd finger.
I never “cross up” my fingers. In order to take advantage of the 3rd finger, it’s always is resting on next string up and is ready to go.
My descending technique is no different than anyone else’s. The hardest thing to do on bass is to cross strings going up. That’s what the 3rd finger takes care of for me.

—-

Hey Willis,
Been a fan for many moons.  I recently purchased a GWB35 and I love it. I put in a Bartolini preamp and that made a big difference. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the Bad Boy (GW1005). I have a small problem with the fretlines. When I got the bass, they were sticking out a bit just like microfrets. I had a very good luthier smooth them out and it was fine. Now I have the odd one creeping up again. Have you come across this and what can I do about it if this is recurring?
Kindest of regards,
Marco

Hey Marco,
Sorry to hear about the fret lines not staying put. I haven’t seen this problem on the GWB35 or the GWB1005.
I’d try just a tiny amount of super-glue to hold them down.
If any of it spills onto the fingerboard – use some fine sandpaper (500+ grit) to even it out.
After that, you can get the glossy look back with some 00 grade steel wool.

—-

Hey willis,
Can you explain a little bit more about strong beat-weak beat concept..especially in 16ths?
Thanks,
Reno

Hey Reno,
The strong-weak beat thing comes from choosing notes in a line that will create harmony.
In any duple or binary note pattern (half notes, quarter notes, eights, 16ths etc) the first note should be a note from the harmony while the 2nd functions differently depending on what kind of line you want to produce. It’s possible to only move in half steps or whole steps from one note to the next while still satisfying the harmony in this manner. This produces very smooth lines and can work in soloing, walking, grooving or playing a fill. A very basic example of quarter notes you can try is here:
http://garywillis.com/pages/lessons/fbh.html

Gear News

Behind the Strings: D’Addario’s Story Comes to Life in “Jim’s Corner” YouTube Series

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Behind the Strings: D'Addario's Story Comes to Life in "Jim's Corner" YouTube Series

Behind the Strings – Jim’s Corner…

D’Addario & Co. proudly announces the launch of “Jim’s Corner,” a captivating new YouTube series telling the 400-year-old story of the D’Addario family creating the world’s largest music accessories company. This series features Jim D’Addario, Founder and Director of Innovation at D’Addario and Co., sharing his family’s remarkable journey from 17th century Italy to a 21st century global enterprise. 

In the first four episodes now available, Jim D’Addario takes viewers back to the beginning, making strings from animal guts and knotting ukulele wire as a family around the television. Countless generations carried the passion forward until the 1970s when the company made it official and never looked back. Jim recounts the creation of strings that inspired legendary riffs, including one by The Who, the launch of Darco strings, the merger with Martin Guitars and the company’s humble beginnings with his wife, Janet and brother, John. Jim D’Addario’s firsthand accounts provide an intimate and personal perspective on the milestones and challenges that shaped D’Addario into the revered brand it is today.

Episode Highlights:

  • Episode 1: The Early Days in Italy and the Move to America
  • Episode 2: Inspiring Iconic Riffs and Legendary Partnerships
  • Episode 3: Launching Darco Strings and Merging with Martin Guitars
  • Episode 4: Building the D’Addario and Co. Legacy

Watch & Subscribe Now:

Join us in celebrating this incredible legacy by watching the first four episodes of “Jim’s Corner” on YouTube. New episodes will drop every month so please subscribe to our channel to ensure you don’t miss any future episodes and exclusive content from D’Addario & Co.: www.youtube.com/@daddarioandco

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Gear News

Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

Aguilar Amplification announces the release of the Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp pedal. Hand serialized 1-100, this exclusive edition celebrates Aguilar’s deep roots in New York City with a tribute to its iconic landmarks and vibrant spirit.

Born in the heart of NYC and raised on the road, the Tone Hammer Preamp DI has been an indispensable tool for bassists seeking inspiring tone and versatility. The new Limited Edition Gold NYC builds on this legacy with striking custom graphics encapsulating the essence of New York City. Featuring iconic landmarks from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building, this pedal is not just a tool, but a piece of art embodying the soul of the city. Each unit features a sharp platinum silkscreen over a stunning matte gold sparkle finish, that is as visually captivating as it is sonically powerful.

The Tone Hammer is an essential preamp/direct box for every bassist’s toolbox. The Tone Hammer features fully sweepable midrange frequencies in addition to bass and treble controls. With the Tone Hammer’s pristine D.I. players are set for either studio or stage. To give this tone shaping unit the ultimate flexibility we introduce our proprietary Adaptive Gain Shaping circuitry (AGS). AGS allows the player to kick in an additional gain structure and EQ with the “stomp” of a button. You can go from modern slap sounds to vintage or overdriven. 18-volt operation gives the Tone Hammer plenty of headroom to reproduce the most dynamic playing styles. Separate gain and master controls allow players to dial in just the right gain structure for any instrument.

Aguilar Amplification’s Jordan Cortese adds, “With only 100 hand-numbered units available, this third iteration of our NYC edition Tone Hammer is a collector’s dream. “It’s a homage to our city’s monumental influence on music and culture and celebrates the craftsmanship and the story of Aguilar”. 

Street price: $299.99 For more information, please visit www.aguilaramp.com

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Bass Videos

Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

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Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

Spector, a leading authority in bass guitar design, unveils new additions to its product line: Euro CST, Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt On basses.

Euro CST:
The Euro CST introduces all-new tonewoods, electronics, and finish combinations never seen in the Euro Series, drawing inspiration from Spector’s Woodstock, NY-based Custom Shop. Each Euro CST instrument is meticulously crafted using premium materials, featuring a striking, highly figured Poplar Burl top, a resonant European Ash body, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck paired with an Ebony fingerboard adorned with laminated Abalone Crown inlays.

Euro CST basses are equipped with a lightweight aluminum bridge for precise and reliable intonation. Premium active EMG X Series pickups deliver the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that defines the Spector sound. These basses also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp. Developed in collaboration with Darkglass Electronics, this preamp captures the classic “Spector growl,” heard on countless iconic recordings, with added versatility.

Euro CST basses are available in 4- and 5-string models in four distinct high gloss finishes: Natural, Natural Black Burst, Natural Red Burst, and Natural Violet Burst.

Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt-On:
The Euro LX offers all the features that have made the Spector name famous around the globe. Inspired by the iconic NS-2, Euro LX basses feature a fully carved and contoured body, high-grade tonewoods, and professional-grade electronics and hardware. For the first time ever, players can now choose between neck-thru and bolt-on construction in the Euro LX range.  

Each Euro LX bass, regardless of construction, is crafted using premium materials, including a European Alder body, figured European Maple top, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck combined with a Rosewood fingerboard for strength, stability, and sustain. Euro LX basses are then outfitted with a lightweight, aluminum bridge for spot-on, reliable intonation. Premium active pickups from EMG provide the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that Spector is known for. Like the Euro CST basses, these instruments also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp.

The newly revised Euro LX range is available in four distinct, hand-rubbed stains, including Transparent Black, Natural Sunburst, Haunted Moss, and Nightshade. Each of these colors features a durable and comfortable matte finish.  

John Stippell, Director, Korg Bass Division, remarks, “I’m thrilled to announce the latest additions to the renowned Euro Range. The CST Series, our new premium offering, features new and unique wood combinations and unprecedented features. The beloved LX Series is now better than ever with the introduction of Bolt-On models, vibrant new color options, and the all-new Spector Legacy Preamp, delivering the classic Spector tone with unmatched precision.”

For more information, visit spectorbass.com.

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Luthier Spotlight: Garry Beers, GGB Basses

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Luthier Spotlight - Garry Beers, GGB Basses

Meet Garry Beers, Luthier and owner of GGB Basses…

Bass Musician Magazine: How did you get your start in music?

Garry Beers: I played acoustic guitar as a kid with my mates at school. We decided that one of us should play bass, so we had a contest where the one who knew the least guitar chords would buy a bass – so I lost the contest, bought my first bass, and became the only bass player in the neighborhood. Soon after, I met Andrew Farriss, who had heard that I had a bass, and a few days later, I was jamming with Andrew and Jon Farriss.

Are you still an active player?

Yes, I am still actively writing music and playing bass sessions. I also have an LA-based original band called Ashenmoon.

How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass? 

I did woodwork in High School and always enjoyed making all sorts of things out of wood.

After finishing high school, I took a course in electronics for a year or so and learned enough to understand basic circuits in guitars, amplifiers, and effects. The best way to learn is to deconstruct and study, so my dad’s garage was littered with old junked radios and any instrument parts I could find. 

My first guitars were more like Frankenstein-type creations made out of parts I found here and there. I didn’t really try to build a bass from scratch until I perfected my Quad pickup design and got my patent.

How do you select the woods you choose to build with?

I only use woods that were used at Fender in the 50s, which are my favorite basses and guitars of all time. All my GGB basses are modeled in some way from my INXS bass- a 1958 Fender Precision bass I bought in 1985 in Chicago. I call her “Old Faithful,” and she has an Alder wood body with a maple neck. All of my GGB basses are select Alder wood bodies that I have had extra dried, so they match the resonance of “Old Faithful,” as she has had 66 years to lose all her moisture and become more resonant and alive-sounding. I use plain old Maple necks that I carefully select, and again, I dry the necks to make them sing a little more.

Tell us about your pickups.

I started working on my Quad coil design back in Australia in the ‘90s and then put it to bed, so to speak, until I found an old pickup winding machine at a swap meet here in LA. I taught myself enough about pickup winding to build my first prototype design and worked towards my patented Quad coil design by trial and error. Nordstrand Audio builds the pickups for me here in SOCAL.

What is the reaction of players who pick up your basses?

I build the basses to feel like an old friend. They look and feel vintage, and when you plug them in, you discover the array of vintage sounds available to you from just one pickup. Most of the players I have contact with are established professional players, and they all love the basses. Freddie Washington and Nick Seymour from Crowded House are a couple of players with GGB Basses in their hands.

What are a few things that you are proud of in your instruments and would consider unique?

I would say I am most proud of the patented Quad pickup design. I own the patent from 4 through to 10-string. So far, I have only built 4 and 5-string pickups, but the design is a winner. Split Humbucker / Reverse Split Humbucker / Full Humbucker / Single coil Neck / Single coil bridge. All these sounds come from one passive pickup. I am very proud that my perseverance and desire to have this pickup have made it a reality. Being able to have these sounds in one bass enables the player to have one bass in the studio and on the stage. The only place you can have the GGB Quad pickup is in one of my GGB Basses.

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

I offer three body shapes and about ten different color options – all based on the ‘50s and early ‘60s custom guitar and car paint styles. I have always been a lover of P basses, but my favorite bass I build is now my XS-1 model- which is a custom Jazz bass body style. It is pretty sexy and is a light, well-balanced, and great-feeling body shape. The other body styles are the XS-2, which is a custom Jazzmaster body and has been the most popular so far- and the XS-3, which is the standard P bass body style. I also offer an XS-58, which is a replica of my “Old Faithful” ‘58 P bass. They are currently available to order now and should be available soon.

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

I don’t really consider myself a Luthier in the traditional sense. I just love to build things and tinker. I was always looking to improve things, whether it was a guitar, an amp, a pedal board, or a car. So my advice is to always be curious and learn the basics of what you want to build, and the rest should follow once you decide what you want to say as a designer/builder. People are lucky these days that you can learn pretty much anything from talented people on the internet, but nothing replaces working with and learning from real people in real situations. Seek out like-minded builders and start a discussion.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Have a good hard think about what you want to say as a player. What is your style, both musically and as a player? There are so many instruments available. Do the research, play the instruments that fit your criteria, and make a decision. But make sure you try a GGB Bass!   With all the sound choices my basses offer, with a simple turn of a knob, you may find it easier to find “your” sound.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

Well, the company is brand new, and at this point, it is just me, so getting this far in the manufacturing process and now having these amazing basses in my hands is a great achievement, but now comes all the business stuff!! 

What are your future plans?

It’s a work in progress. Right now, it’s all about getting the word out and getting the basses into the hands of interested players. I believe in the basses – and the Quad pickup, so hopefully, GGB Basses can become a go-to bass for demanding studio and live players who want sound choices in a gorgeous vintage-style instrument.

Visit online at www.ggbbasses.com

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Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Joyo Monomyth – A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

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Gear Revieww: Joyo Monomyth - A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinions or the content of our reviews. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

Introduction:

The Joyo Monomyth bass preamp pedal is designed to offer bassists a comprehensive range of tonal options, combining modern features with practical functionality. With independent channels for EQ and overdrive, as well as useful additions like a cab sim and DI output, the Monomyth aims to be a versatile tool for both live performances and studio sessions. This review will delve into the pedal’s specifications, controls, and overall performance to determine if it lives up to its promise of delivering quality and flexibility at an affordable price.

Specifications:

– Dimensions: 130 * 110 * 50 mm

– Weight: 442g

– Working Voltage: DC 9V

Controls:

The Joyo Monomyth is equipped with a comprehensive set of controls designed to provide maximum tonal flexibility:

– Voice: Adjusts the character of the overdrive, from distortion to fuzz.

– Blend: Balances the dry and effected signals, crucial for maintaining low-end presence.

– Level: Sets the overall output volume.

– Drive: Controls the amount of gain in the overdrive channel.

– Treble Boost: Enhances high and mid frequencies for clarity in complex passages.

– Gain Boost: Adds extra gain, particularly effective at low gain settings to enhance the low e.

– EQ Function Controls: Features a 6-band graphic EQ plus a master control for precise nal shaping.

– Ground Lift Switch: Helps eliminate ground loop noise.

– Cab Sim Switch: Activates a simulated 8×10″ cab sound.

– LED Light Control: Customizes the pedal’s ambient lighting.

Performance:

The Joyo Monomyth shines in its dual-channel design, offering both a transparent EQ channel and a versatile overdrive channel. The 6-band EQ allows for detailed tonal adjustments, preserving the natural character of your bass while providing ample flexibility. The voice control mimics the functionality of the Darkglass Alpha Omega, shifting from distortion to fuzz, with a sweet spot around the middle for balanced tones.

The blend control is essential for retaining the low end when using distortion, ensuring your bass remains powerful and clear. The treble and gain boosts, available on the overdrive channel, further enhance the pedal’s versatility, making it suitable for everything from subtle drive to full-blown fuzz.

Outputs are plentiful, with a DI and XLR out for direct recording or ampless setups, and a headphone out for convenient practice sessions. The cab sim switch adds a realistic 8×10″ cab sound, enhancing the Monomyth’s utility in live and studio environments.

Pros:

– Versatile Control Set: Offers a wide range of tones, from clean to fuzz.

– Blend Control: Maintains low-end presence.

– Robust Outputs: DI, XLR, and headphone outs make it adaptable for various setups.

– Affordable: Provides high-end functionality at a budget-friendly price.

– Sturdy Construction: Durable build quality ensures reliability.

Cons:

– Plastic Knobs: May feel less premium compared to metal controls.

– Boosts Limited to Overdrive Channel: Treble and gain boosts do not affect the EQ channel.

– Cab Sim only on the XLR out: how cool would it be to also have it on the headphone out?

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Monomyth stands out as a versatile and powerful bass preamp pedal, offering a range of features that cater to both traditional and modern bassists. Its dual-channel design, comprehensive control set, and robust output options make it a valuable tool for achieving a wide spectrum of tones, from clean and warm to heavily distorted. For bassists seeking flexibility, reliability, and excellent value, the Joyo Monomyth is a top contender.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/267.html

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