Hello. My Name is Jeff, and I am a recovering scoop-aholic. I get a lot of calls and e-mails from fellow bassists pertaining to all sorts of equipment problems. One of the most recessing issues I deal with is walking someone through the steps of setting-up their graphic equalizers (you know, the thing with all the sliding tabs that you arrange to look like a smiley-face). Believe me, I too am guilty of “scooping” my tone from time-to-time. There are times when it is and is not necessary. It’s all about finding the right tones for you. But you should have other tonal palate options at your disposal, so you can get the most out of your amp.
There are many considerations outside the amp that bass players must take into consider such as room acoustics, instrument timbre, and of course, musician prerogative. Many easy-to-use amps we first grow comfortable with have very basic parametric equalizers. But when we make that first leap to a bigger gig, and need a bigger amp, we are presented with a number of options regarding amps, and most of these intermediate to higher-end amplifiers have a graphic equalizer.
With this comes the problem that when we first begin to look at these types of amps, we feel overwhelmed not only by the price-tag and options, but the anxiety of “how the heck do I work this thing?” This article will explain how graphic equalizers work, and how you should approach setting their tone in order to get the most out of your amp.
Graphic Equalizers are set-up in a way so that you can visually perceive the settings of your tones (hence the designation “Graphic”). They allow you to do pretty much the same thing as a Parametric Equalizer, which is adjust the parameters of your tones (hence the designation “Parametric”). However a Graphic Equalizer puts everything into a visual perspective so that you can actually “see” what the tones coming out of the amp should sound like. Graphic Equalizers are given a prefix like “5-band” or “9-band.” The number refers to how many tones you can actually control. Typically speaking, the more “bands” will allow you to tweak the tone ever-so-precisely, and some players favor this. However, some players love the simplicity of a Parametric Equalizer.
There are typically three setting options: Cut, Neutral, and Boost. Neutral is in the middle, sort of like the Equator on a globe. Cut is below that line, where you actually “cut” the parameter of the tone. Boost is above the line, which allows you to “boost” your parameter for that tone. When you slide the tabs into these particular areas, they will do exactly what you think: either “cut” or “boost” the output. By leaving the tab at the “neutral” line, you will leave the signal at the output that is set by your other equipment (your instrument, effects pedals, etc.). Most often, Neutral lines will have a little “click” that will let you know when you have locked it into neutral or when you have taken it out of neutral. Please, by all means, play around with your amp so you know what I’m talking about.
Typically most people just arrange all the sliding tabs into a smiley-face shape. This is what many musicians refer to as “scooping your tone.” This can work for some musicians. Funk players often “scoop” their tone to get the most attack out of their slapping and popping techniques. But this arrangement is not always appealing to every player. However most of the ideal bass sound comes from the Middle tones (ca. 150hz), and a lot of the real “bite” you’re your notes come from around the 2.2khz area. Of course, this is in the middle of the smiley face, or the lowest setting in the mix.
When searching for the tone that is right for you, start from scratch: leave all the settings at the neutral position. Then go from left-to-right, adjusting each tab until you find the right sound. Try playing a two octave scale starting with an open E string, or a three octave scale, if you are playing with a 5 sting, on the open B string. Finding your ideal tone will take some tweaking, especially if you change venues, as each venue has distinct acoustic characteristics that must be compensated for.
It is important to note that if you boost a signal you are actually over-driving that tone. This is caused by the signal being amplified past its typical signal volume, and pushes more signal through the amp. Doing so can add stress on the speakers. However if this is the sound you want, bear in mind that this can cut the speaker’s life-span. For these reasons it’s a good idea to leave the tabs in the neutral position, and just use the tabs for cutting tone except when you have found a room with acoustics that requires boosting, or if you want that sound.
Watch for a blinking light on your amp. Most amps with a Graphic EQ have a “clip” light, which will let you know when you are over-driving the amp and potentially causing some damage. There is also usually a -15db button you can activate, which will cut your output by 15db. Of course, amps vary, and some have a different value for this feature, but it is an easy way to cut your output across the board. An on-board compressor is also occasionally included on many high-end amps, and can help compress your output to avoid causing a lot of damage to your speakers. Ah, isn’t technology wonderful?
Becoming proficient at setting Graphic Equalizers in order to get the tone we want in various playing situations helps us and thus the band sound our best. The time it takes to become familiar with how our Graphic Equalizer performs at different settings, with different variable such as supplementary equipment, and in venues with different acoustics, will be time well spent.
For those of us who shy away from amps with Graphic Equalizers when shopping for an amp or from Graphic Equalizers in general, taking the time to test drive them in the store will show you the full range of sounds that can be achieved. Store personnel often have spent time checking-out the equipment and can be a big help when it comes to helping us find settings we like. Always remember that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, and always differ to your sponsor (store personnel, etc) should you need help or support.
About Jeff Gorham: Jeff is a Cleartone string and Warwick Bass/Amp endorser. He continues to teach privately, play session recordings and take gigs “when he has time.” His hobbies are spending time with his family and brewing beer. He is also a regular columnist at NoTreble. His former instructors include: Donovan Stokes (Shenandoah Conservatory), Christopher Butler (Memphis Symphony Orchestra), Todd Gallagher (Indiana State University), as well as masterclasses with David Murray (Butler University), Michael Cameron (University of Illinois), Tyrone Wheeler (University of Lousiville), Todd Coolman, Rufus Reid, Mike Pope, and Oteil Burbridge.
Jeff Gorham is a Graduate of the esteemed Indiana State University Music Business program and a candidate for the degree of Juris Doctor at Valparaiso University. Prior to his legal studies, he served an internship working for Music for All, Inc. as a copyright relations figure, where he was a contributing author to their copyright and licensing website. He has been seen playing in many facets across the Midwest as an Orchestra and Jazz bassist, but is most noted for his electric bass work with the popular rock band Situs, who was signed with HM Entertainment before their demise.
Jeff is a Cleartone string and Warwick Bass/Amp endorser. He continues to teach privately, play session recordings and take gigs “when he has time.” His hobbies are spending time with his family and brewing beer. He is also a regular columnist at NoTreble. His former instructors include: Donovan Stokes (Shenandoah Conservatory), Christopher Butler (Memphis Symphony Orchestra), Todd Gallagher (Indiana State University), as well as masterclasses with David Murray (Butler University), Michael Cameron (University of Illinois), Tyrone Wheeler (University of Lousiville), Todd Coolman, Rufus Reid, Mike Pope, and Oteil Burbridge.
Sepsis and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll
By Guest Writer Todd Denick
I was eleven, a little over five feet, and nearly 80 pounds when I struggled to play a 1970 Sunburst Fender Precision a friend leant my dad for many, many years (returning the bass is another story).
My hands were small, the bass felt as though it outweighed a full-grown elephant. I persevered. I grew as a bass player, and of course, grew physically as well. I could handle the bass and grew into a good bass player.
I never thought I would ever have to struggle to play bass again. Maybe, I considered, when I was older, maybe struggling with a little arthritis from playing bass too much, or just slowing down as I aged. In 2019, I was proven wrong, and once again faced a major struggle when it came to playing bass when I not only faced a battle of playing music but faced a life-threatening battle with Sepsis.
Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to an infection. One of every five deaths worldwide are contributed to Sepsis and can kill a healthy person within 24 hours. One can contract Sepsis from a cut that becomes infected, a slight accident during a surgery, splinters, etc. Me? I contracted Sepsis after having an allergic reaction to a very common pain medication used in Germany where I live, Metamizole or Novalgine.
I spent eight weeks in a medically induced coma while the medical team worked to save my life. I spent another three weeks in bed as I worked with therapists to regain my strength so that I could walk, talk, swallow, and move my body again.
Painful months of therapy passed while I learned to walk. Desperation set in as I waited months to be able to eat and drink again. Nerve damage from the medication used to keep me in a medically induced coma threatened my ability to walk normally; threatened my ability to eat and drink; and threatened my ability to return to the bass player I was before Sepsis.
I had the desire to return. Before my illness I played bass in two bands:
The Elephant Circus, an indie band where I played electric bass, and Paddy’s Last Order, an Irish Folk septet where I played the upright bass. The Elephant Circus replaced me – they had shows booked and had to! – and I will be forever grateful that Paddy’s saved my role in the band.
Patients have a lot of free time. As I progressed with walking and talking, I had the desire to retrain my fingers. Polyneuropathy had set in from the medications and Sepsis, and I struggled with my fine motor skills. The way I knew that I could bring back those fine skills was through playing music.
I couldn’t house a bass in my hospital room, or navigate it with all of the tubes running in and out of my body. I hopped on line and ordered a Guitalele. My wife brought it to my bedside and she even remembered to bring a tuner!
When my roommate had therapy, or he slept, I would play the Guitalele, slowly regaining some strength and dexterity. I would play the first three notes of a G scale before having to set the instrument aside. Every little effort exhausted me. That exhaustion led to great doubt. That great doubt reminded me of being manhandled by the 1970 Precision. I don’t know if I recognized that I had been in the same spot thirty years prior, but I knew that if I wanted to play music again, I would need to fight through the formation of aching fingers and rebuilding the callouses I lost white hospitalized.
Nearly four months after being hospitalized, I returned home. My instruments hadn’t moved.
They were available, asking to be played. I saddled up to my upright. I played three notes, my fingers fighting to find the right notes having lost a lot of my muscle memory. Those three notes exhausted me. That was enough for the day.
The following days when I picked up one of my basses, I was able to play a little longer. Thirty seconds turned into a minute; a minute to play along with a 2:30 minute song; a song turned into a set; that set turned into four hour long sets.
With suggestions from my dad, I put together a playlist I called, “Bass Practice” and included songs like “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” by The Jam, “We’ve Gotta Get out of this Place” by The Animals, “Tomorrow” by Morrissey, “I Wanna be Adored” by The Stone Roses, and the holy grail of bass lines, The Who’s “The Real Me”.
Frustration set in quickly and often as I relearned how to play bass, intent on becoming the bass player I was before Sepsis.
The realization struck me that I needed to do something; something to progress, something to become physically and mentally healthy. It took a while to accept, but I realized that setting a 50% goal for myself was the most reasonable approach. If I wanted to play a song, I knew that I would have to progress to be able to play through the song; but, if I set myself a 50% goal, I knew that I could play along with the song and feel an immediate sense of accomplishment.
I applied the same theory to eating and walking. I applied the same theory to writing (my other passion) and that 50% goal turned into a book detailing my experience with Sepsis. In January of 2022, my first book, IT WILL COME: Alaskan Adventures Pale in Comparison to Surviving Sepsis, was published by LALO Publishing.
I am not fully recovered. I don’t know if I ever will be. But, I am still writing and publishing, and I am playing four set evenings with Paddy’s Last Order.
It exhausts me and I do need days to recover after playing a gig, and even though the frustration is still there, still upset that I may not be the same caliber bass player that I once was, I need to remind myself that I’ve fought and won two contested battles with the bass guitar and there is no way that I am quitting.
Sepsis is common, but not commonly diagnosed. Why? Well, it often indicates fault in a professional’s medical practice. Be aware. Ask if it could be Sepsis. If you have any of the symptoms, seek medical attention. Tell the practitioner that you think it could be Sepsis.
You could save your life or the life of a loved one:
S-lurred speech or confusion
E-xtreme shivering or muscle pain
P-assing no urine (in a day)
I-t feels like you’re going to die
S-kin mottled or discoloured
(from the UK Sepsis Trust, www.sepsis.org)
Big Daddy Weave’s Bassist Jay Weaver… A Reader Remembers
Reader Robert Burd shares a personal memory of Jay Weaver, the bass player for Big Daddy Weave.
Featured video… in my opinion, this is Jay’s best bassline, My Story, which is on the Beautiful Offerings album.
Jay Weaver was such an awesome bass player and is still an inspiration to me and I am sure many other bass players. He passed away on January 4th, 2022 at the age of 42.
His brother and fellow band member Mike Weaver announced the news on social media.
A few years ago when I was living in Rapid City, South Dakota, Big Daddy Weave came through with Plumb and We Are Messengers. I was in the 4th row, facing Jay’s side of the stage. At this time, he was in his motorized wheelchair due to having amputations as a result of some medical conditions.
During the show, as usual, the band breaks into moments of worship and prayer with the crowd. There was a gentleman in the seat and row in front of me that was really moved by what was going on and had an obvious emotional reaction. In the middle of the song and moment, I saw Jay looking at this man. He then motioned to his roadie who came over to Jay and took his bass, which was a 5-string Fender.
Jay then noticed he could get down to the crowd via a ramp on that side of the stage.
He used his wheelchair and came down the ramp and right to the row of this gentleman in front of me. The man looked up as by this time he had been crouched over. Jay opened his arms and the man collapsed into Jay and it seemed like an eternity, but Jay and this man were in serious prayer and communication. I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion watching all this, as I had been going through some serious struggles myself. They hugged and Jay went right back up the ramp, got his bass from the roadie, got back into his position on stage, and picked up into the song and worship that had been going on.
After the show, I said hello to the man in front of me and just smiled as did he.
Jay was a wonderful person and I have seen many tributes from other musicians who knew him. I was privileged to have seen him play quite a few times as BDW came to Rapid City a lot. My last encounter was when they came to play the Hills Alive festival and I watched Jay come off the bus in his wheelchair via the special access. He had his wife and kids and the little one was in his lap; you could tell he was such a proud father and husband. I could have gone over and talked about bass gear and so on, but I did not want to interrupt his family time.
Here’s a link to a beautiful tribute done a few months ago at an awards show.
And now, Michael Bloodgood recently passed away.
He too was an incredible bass player and singer for decades in the band Bloodgood. (Note: The editor of Bass Musician was scheduled to speak with Michael one week prior to him having a massive stroke, from which he never recovered.)
I just hope there can be some sort of recognition for these amazing bass players and people.
In fact, there are some great bass players in the Christian music scene. One example is JR Collins of Crowder. I am a huge fan, plus he also raps and is the musical director of the band. My hope is that this genre of music and awesome talent is not excluded from the public eye. I am a Christian and I play bass at my church but I also play in a metal band and also a 3-piece rock band writing originals.
R.I.P. Jay Weaver
The Ultimate Guide to Performing Onstage – A School of Rock Article Written by Katie Farmer
The Ultimate Guide to Performing Onstage…
Remember the first time you went to a concert and thought, “I want to do that”? Or maybe the show inspired you to practice and write more, or to form a band or pick up an instrument for the first time.
Think about some of the most memorable concerts you ever attended. Which bands would you pay almost any amount of money to see? Now think, what is it about those bands or shows that really stood out to you? What would you like to take from that and add to your own performances? What is the power of stage presence? How can it affect the quality of a show and the audience’s experience? Why is it beneficial to assess your performance?
In this article we will discuss all of those questions and define what good stage presence and a good performance is by looking at examples of some of the greatest performances of all time. Also, we’ll discuss strategies, tips and tricks that you can start working on today.
So, what is a good stage performance? A good stage performance is when you and your band feel comfortable enough to have fun on stage, and connect with your audience. And of course, being able to play the material, but that goes without saying.
WHAT IS A GOOD STAGE PERFORMANCE?
Queen’s Live Aid performance in 1985 is considered one of the greatest live performances of all time and “can now officially be claimed as the world’s favorite live performance” according to ticketsourse.com, with “136,901,330 total YouTube views, 4,812,000 annual YouTube searches, and 1,427,500 annual Google searches.” (The World’s Greatest Live Performances by Andrew Stuckey)
SO, WHAT MADE IT SO GREAT? FIND OUT HERE
Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together
By Guest Contributor, Dr. Rich Atkins
Custom Basses and Aerosol Art Come Together…
I used to ride the 7 Train to Manhattan quite a lot, and every time just as the tracks started to go underground, before the Hunters Point station, I would see a building covered with fascinating and intricate murals and street art. Later on, I discovered that it was the 5Pointz Building in Long Island City, Queens. Over the years I would take my family and guests there to visit and see the art. After a number of visits, I discovered that this “Street Art Mecca” was the result of MeresOne’s work; he was the Curator. I had an instant affinity for his signature light bulb artwork and pondered a way to immortalize it.
Fast forward a number of years to 2015 when I wanted to assemble a custom-built bass.
I got the parts from Warmoth and other suppliers. The new instrument required the naked wood to be painted, and I knew exactly what I wanted on it. This would be a fretless 4-string painted red-to-black. Meres proposed having multiple faces on the front and one big one on the back that would be facing up when the bass was in its stand.
I chose Warmoth’s Z Bass body and neck, adding a Schaller bridge, DiMarzio J+P pickups, and Hipshot tuners. After Meres painted the base coat and then the lightbulb faces, Raj at Haven Auto Body in Port Washington masked and clear-coated the instrument. Finally, I took it to Sal Tine, The Guitar Fix, for assembly and setup.
In 2020, I was ready for the second round.
This time, I wanted to go with a five-string fretted Gecko model. The procedure was the same, using MeresOne artwork, Raj for clear coating, and Sal Tine for assembly. This new bass is black and has Seymour Duncan active soap bar pickups, a Schaller bridge, and hipshot machine heads.
The wood selection for both guitars was Eastern Hard Maple (Acer saccharum), which is a very strong, hard, heavy, and dense wood. The grain is closed and offers a very bright tone with great stability, sustain, and a lot of bite. Maple is the most traditional Fender neck wood.
Both instruments play beautifully and provide such different sounds and feels.
The fretless plays smooth as silk, with a warm tone and a clean, organic sound with the perfect amount of “mwah” when the bridge pickup is emphasized. The Gecko has a bright punch, coupled with a serious growl. The seemingly endless sustain coupled with 17mm spacing makes it an easy joy to play.
Dr. Rich Atkins is the Director of the corporate training firm, Improving Communications in the US, UK, and Ireland. He plays 4- and 5-string fretted and fretless bass as well as Chapman Stick with Porch Light and Hat Trixx, two Long Island dance cover bands.
Smart Touring for Emerging Musicians: Keys for a Lucrative Tour
Submission by Mike Wright, Founder and CEO of SongCast
Touring the Right Way – Six Tips for an Effective Tour
Most bands would count a successful tour as one where the band members all get along (for the most part) and the band connects with fans. While both of those outcomes are great, a tour also needs to make money, especially if the band is planning future tours.
Bands that are starting out or don’t have massive followings can’t really negotiate pricing with club or concert hall owners. There’s no leverage on their side, so they’ll be paid the typical amounts for each show. So for a band to protect their profits they have to carefully manage expenses. You want to develop a fan base, and spend money when necessary, but the band has to survive.
Following these six tips can help musicians enjoy their tour and hopefully bring home some case when the road trip is finally over:
- Stay for cheap. Lodging costs eat up a lot of your budget, but you can’t all sleep in the van, so you need a decent play to rest for the night. Consider booking rooms before leaving on the tour, and then checking rates frequently to see if you can find a cheaper alternative. Sites such as Expedia and Hotels Tonight offer good last-minute rates, which can help you grab a nicer hotel for less money. Also look for free Wi-Fi and take advantage of free breakfasts if available. Going out for pancakes for five people can easily cost $60 or more, so grab any freebies.
- Bring your own food. Even if your food tastes are Chipotle and Arby’s, you still want to avoid a constant stream of fast food. The costs will add up, and you’re going to feel sluggish after a while. Eating out is a massive touring expense, so try to bring your own food (within reason) to help avoid a constant drain on the budget. Buy some snacks at Costco, and bring your own water bottle and fill it up whenever you can. Dropping $20 on snacks and water at every gas station will really add up over a long summer tour.
- Sling that merchandise. Selling merchandise isn’t just about earning some extra money, it’s a way to create “walking billboards” and grow a fan base. You should always have merchandise on hand while you’re on the road, both at the gigs and during any restaurant or gas stop. Never miss an opportunity to pull in some cash.
- Embrace efficiency. A long road trip means a lot of fun miles traveled, but that also means costs in terms of gas and maintenance for your vehicle. Pick a van/SUV that gets decent mileage and try to avoid a trailer unless absolutely necessary, as it will drop down your MPG. Have the vehicle inspected and fixed before the tour begins and set aside some budget for any unexpected issues.
- Avoid the bar tabs. Unless the club lets you all drink for free, then you should avoid knocking back drinks before, during, or after the show. It is fine to have some celebratory drinks every once in a while, but if the whole band has 15 drinks a night, you’re looking at $150 or more just in bar money. BYOB if you need a beverage to loosen up before a show, but don’t burn all of the money you received for a gig on pricey cocktails and craft beers.
- Contact the local press. Local TV and radio stations need to fill dead blocks of time – there’s simply not enough news. Contact local stations about your upcoming show and they just might give you a free plug. Be sure to talk about what makes your band unique so the news has a decent “hook” for your story. Hustling for this type of publicity can get people in the door, and more money in your pocket.
These six tips aren’t meant to turn an amazing tour into a penny-pinching and painful odyssey. However, making money is important for the band’s success. The bandmates need money to pay their bills, you need to pay for better mics and equipment, and you need to reach more fans.
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