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Gear Reviews

There and Back Again My Weekend with the Gruv Gear Stadium Bag by Jonathan Moody

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I’ve been referring to it as my “perfect storm” of gigs; eight in three days. It was probably the only time when I had a legitimate argument for having three amps. Getting through this was going to require a lot of careful planning; I had different gear to use in three different settings, as outlined below:

Friday:
1 – Gig at High School Cabaret (Warwick Streamer LX, PJB Briefcase amp, dress black attire)
2 – Gig at Late Night Cabaret (Warwick Streamer LX, PJB Suitcase amp, effects, dress casual attire)

Saturday:
3 – Rehearsal at Civic Theatre (NS Design CR-5M, PJB Bass Cub amp, no dress code)
4 – Gig at High School Cabaret (Warwick Streamer LX, PJB Briefcase amp, dress black attire)
5 – Gig at Late Night Cabaret (Warwick Streamer LX, PJB Suitcase amp, effects, dress casual attire)

Sunday:
6 – Rehearsal / Service at local Church (Warwick Streamer LX, direct box, dress attire)
7 – Gig at High School Cabaret (Warwick Streamer LX, PJB Briefcase amp, dress black attire)
8 – Rehearsal at Civic Theatre (NS Design CR-5M, PJB Bass Cub amp, no dress code)

As you can see, shoving everything I could into the pockets of a gig bag would not work in this situation. Plus, I’m just not that guy. The bag ends up getting heavy (and with a 6 string bass, it’s already heavy enough), and in my situation, won’t work from gig to gig. So, I carry an “accessory” bag with all of the miscellaneous items, allowing me to take that bag to whatever gig or rehearsal and still have everything I need. For a long time, my bag of choice was the Access PFX-1, which is a great bag for the gigging musician. I don’t know of any other bag that has as much functionality and customization options as it does. However, I quickly realized two things that the PFX-1 didn’t have for my needs; some sizable pockets (the bulk of the pockets are quite small, despite their convenience), and space to hold a theatre score. While you could easily walk into a theatre with the score in your hand (and I’ve done it), the days of inclement weather (I do live in Michigan, after all) have proven a need for a better solution.

Earlier that week I had received my Gruv Gear Stadium Bag, and this weekend seemed the perfect way to see how it compared to the PFX. The Stadium Bag has three good sized areas (all of which have velcro floors which can be taken out to make even bigger spaces), a nice front compartment for a laptop (or theatre score!), a handful of smaller zippered or velcro pockets, and two decent exterior ones. It also has a row in the top compartment for SNAPS compatible items (which I’m told are forthcoming) for more versatility. It sports two “locker style” side openings to get to the bottom section of the bag. My initial complaint is that I’d like to see another row or two of velcro in the main compartment walls to move a shelf up or down just a little, and still retain two spaces. As it sits, if you want a bigger space, you have to take out a velcro shelf and thus lose one area.

It also comes with a rain/weather cover that you can easily put over the entire bag when dealing with that inclement weather I previously mentioned. It’s attached to the bottom of the bag, and easily stows away when not in use. While I had no use for it during the “perfect storm” of gigs, I can say that during the rainy/snowy month of December that it came in handy. You do lose the use of the top carrying handle when deploying the cover, but the other three carrying options are still usable, so it’s really no big deal.

While it doesn’t have the number of pockets as the PFX-1, I quickly found that I preferred the fewer, bigger areas that the Stadium Bag provides. I can throw a couple of bigger items into the different compartments and still have some room, instead of cramming pockets shut and hoping the zipper will close. For someone that carries three instrument cables and a power strip regularly, putting them in one compartment instead of three was nice.

In the field, the bigger compartments proved very useful. On Saturday, I was able to keep two changes of clothes in the bottom of the bag, cords and effects in the middle, and my headphones, power strip and adaptors in the top. The front pocket also held a binder of music, a theatre score and my iPad in addition to some smaller incidental items. Even the interior color of this bag proved useful. While it is Gruv Gear’s signature color of orange, it also serves a double purpose by making it easy to open up the bag and quickly see what is in the compartment. Black interiors are great, but I find myself rifling through everything to find that one cord.

Racing between my car and the venues, I was able to utilize a couple different carrying options that the Stadium Bag offers; backpack straps and the V-Cart option. It also has a carry handle and a shoulder strap, which I didn’t use but assume they function as expected. The nice thing about the V-Cart option is that it can attach to the underside of the cart handle, leaving the front area clear to carry more gear. With that, I was able to put the PJB Suitcase, Warwick bass and Stadium Bag on my V-Cart and walk in to the Late Night Cabaret easily without fighting with a door. This is a big plus because with a bag of this size, it gets heavy when you fill it…especially on gig 5 when load-in is at 11pm.

So all in all, the Stadium Bag by Gruv Gear proved to be a very worthwhile investment in helping keep me organized as I navigated the “perfect storm” of gigs that weekend. It has quickly become my “go to” bag; it’s currently sitting in the corner of my room, full of gear for my church gig and current theatre run. This bag was made with some real world applications in mind and it shows in its ease of use and functionality.

For more information on the Gruv Gear Stadium Bag, visit gruvgear.com

Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers

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String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as Amazon.com

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

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Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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Gear

New Joe Dart Bass From Sterling By Music Man

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Sterling by Music Man introduces the Joe Dart Artist Series Bass (“Joe Dart”), named after and designed in collaboration with the celebrated Vulfpeck bassist.

Above photo credit: JORDAN THIBEAUX

This highly-anticipated model marks the debut of the Dart bass in the Sterling by Music Man lineup, paying homage to the Ernie Ball Music Man original that all funk players know and love. The bass embodies many of the original model’s distinctive features, from its iconic minimalist design to the passive electronics.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The design process prioritized reliability, playability, and accessibility at the forefront. Constructed from the timeless Sterling body, the Dart features a slightly smaller neck profile, offering a clean tone within a comfortable package. The body is crafted from soft maple wood for clarity and warmth while the natural finish emphasizes the simple yet unique look.

Engineered for straightforward performance, this passive bass features a ceramic humbucking bridge pickup and a single ‘toaster’ knob for volume control. Reliable with a classic tone, it’s perfect for playing in the pocket. The Dart is strung with the all-new Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Flatwound Electric Bass Strings for the smoothest feel and a mellow sound.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The Sterling by Music Man Joe Dart Bass is a special “Timed Edition” release, exclusively available for order on the Sterling by Music Man website for just one month. Each bass is made to order, with the window closing on May 31st and shipping starting in November. A dedicated countdown timer will indicate the remaining time for purchase on the product page. Additionally, the back of the headstock will be marked with a “2024 Crop” stamp to commemorate the harvest year for this special, one-of-a-kind release. 

The Joe Dart Bass is priced at $399.99 (MAP) and can be ordered globally at https://sterlingbymusicman.com/products/joe-dart. 

To learn more about Joe Dart, visit the official Vulfpeck artist site here https://www.vulfpeck.com/.


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Gear Reviews

The Frank Brocklehurst 6-String Fretless Bass Build

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The Frank Brocklehurst 6 String Fretless Bass Build

A few months ago, my Ken Bebensee 6-string fretted bass needed some TLC. You know, the one rocking those Pink Neon strings! I scoured my Connecticut neighborhood for a top-notch luthier and got pointed to Frank Brocklehurst, F Brock Music. He swung by my place, scooped up the bass, and boom, returned it the next day, good as new. Not only that, he showed up with a custom 5-string fretted bass that blew me away. I couldn’t resist asking if he could whip up a 6-string fretless for me. 

Alright, let’s break down the process here. We’ve got our raw materials: Mahogany, Maple, and Holly. Fun fact – the Mahogany and Maple have been chilling in the wood vault for a solid 13 years. Frank is serious about his wood; they buy it, stash it away, and keep an eye on it to make sure it’s stable.  

First up, they’re tackling the Mahogany. Frank glues it together, then lets it sit for a few days to let everything settle and the glue to fully dry. After that, it’s onto the thickness planer and sander to get it nice and flat for the CNC machine. The CNC machine’s the real star here – it’s gonna carve out the body chambers and volume control cavity like a pro.

While the Mahogany’s doing its thing, Frank goes onto the neck core. Three pieces of quartersawn maple are coming together for this bad boy. Quartersawn means the grain’s going vertical. He is also sneaking in some graphite rods under the fingerboard for stability and to avoid any dead spots. The truss rod is going to be two-way adjustable, and the CNC machine’s doing its magic to make sure everything’s just right.

Screenshot

Now, onto the design phase. Frank uses CAD software to plan out the body shape, neck pocket, chambering, and those cool f-holes. I had this idea for trapezoid F-holes, just to do something different. The CAD software also helps us map out the neck shape, graphite channels, and truss-rod channel with pinpoint accuracy.

Once everything’s planned out, it’s CNC time again. Frank cuts out the body outline, neck pocket, and the trapezoid F-holes. Then it’s a mix of hand sanding and power tools to get that neck just how we like it. Oh, and those f holes? We’re going for trapezoids of different sizes – gotta keep things interesting.

Next step: gluing that neck into the pocket with some old-school hide glue. It’s got great tonal transfer and can be taken apart later if needed. Then it’s onto hand-carving that neck-body transition.

For the custom-made bridge, Frank uses brass for definition and Ebony for tonal transfer and that warm, woody sound.

BTW, for tunes, Frank went with Hipshot Ultralights with a D Tuner on the low B. This way I can drop to a low A which is a wonderful tone particularly if you are doing any demolition around your house! 

Now it’s time for the side dots. Typically, on most basses, these dots sit right in the middle of the frets. But with this bass, they’re placed around the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th frets.

Frank’s got his pickup hookup. Since the pickup he was building wasn’t ready, he popped in a Nordstrand blade to give it a whirl.

It sounded good, but I was itching for that single-coil vibe! And speaking of pickups, Frank showed me the Holly cover he was cutting to match, along with all the pink wire – talk about attention to detail!

A couple of things, while it is important for me to go passive, it is equally important for me to just go with a volume knob. Tone knobs are really just low-pass filters and the less in the way of a pure sound for me, the better. 

Finally, it’s string time! As usual, I went for the DR Pink Neon strings. Hey, I even have matching pink Cons…Both low tops and high!

Screenshot

Once we’ve got everything tuned up and settled, we’ll give it a day or two and then tweak that truss rod as needed. And voila, we’ve got ourselves a custom-made bass ready to rock and roll.

I want to thank Frank Brocklehurst for creating this 6 string beast for me. 

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Gear Reviews

Review Transcript: BITE Custom Bass – The Black Knight PP Bass

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Review - BITE Custom Bass - The Black Knight PP Bass

This is a written transcript of our video review of the BITE Custom Bass Black Knight PP Bass originally published on March 4, 2024

BITE Custom Bass – The Black Knight PP Bass Review…

Bass Musician Magazine did a review on a Steampunk bass from BITE Guitars about three years ago, it was an amazing instrument, and we were very impressed. Now we’re happy to bring you another BITE bass, the Black Knight PP.

Everybody needs a P-type bass, it’s the standard of bass. If you’re recording, they want you to have a P bass. So why not have something that gives you a little more by having two instead of one P pickup. That’s the idea of this bass, it’s the first thing that leaps out: the double P pickup configuration.

Installing two of their 1000 millivolt split-coil pickups, BITE then went one step further and wired them up in a 4-way parallel/series circuit, a look at the controls reveal a 4-way rotary selector:

The first position, marked “B”, gives you the bridge pickup by itself.

The second position, marked “P”, gives you the bridge and neck pickups in parallel mode, that’s the traditional J-type circuit, it reduces output due to the physical law of parallel circuits.

Position number 3 is marked “N”, it gives you the neck pickup by itself.

And finally, number 4, marked “S”, gives your bridge and neck in a series (humbucking) mode which adds up resistances and thus boosts output. The other two controls are master volume and master tone.

What’s more, like every BITE bass, this one also has a reinforced headstock heel designed to give it extra output and sustain. The BITE website features a graph and explanation of what they have done to the heel, as compared to traditional headstocks.

A look at the body reveals a beautiful Black Blast body finish and underneath that we have alder wood. The bass has a matching headstock with a 4-in-line tuner setup and the traditional bite out of it, so everybody will know what kind of bass you’re playing. The pickguard is 3-ply black, the neck is vintage tinted hard maple and it has a satin speed finish at the back which keeps your thumb from sticking.

On top of that, there’s a clear-coated roasted black locust fretboard with black blocks marking the frets. The nut is a black Graph Tec nut, we’ve got diamond dome control knobs, and the tuners are lightweight compacts with cloverleaf buttons and a 1:17 ratio precision gear. The bridge is a Gotoh brass bridge with 19-millimeter string spacing.

Overall measurements: we’ve got a standard 34″ scale, a 1.65″ width nut and a C neck profile. This bass weighs 8.2 pounds, or 3,7 kilograms for our metric friends, and it uses standard 18% nickel silver frets.

Taking a closer look at the sound, this bass is a joy to play. The BITE proprietary 1000 millivolt pickups deliver an extraordinary amount of output which is surprising considering this is a passive instrument. You may even want to set your amp to active mode because of all of the juice you’re getting out of this guy.

The tonal possibilities are very versatile, it’s a straight P if you want but also much more with those different arrangements of the circuitry. So why have multiple basses when you’ve got one that can give you your basic P plus a lot more?

To sum it up, the Black Knight PP is an amazing instrument. The attention to detail that BITE puts into their basses is second to none. This bass is also amazingly balanced and gorgeous to hold and feel with the satin neck finish.

For more information, visit online at bite.guitars/product/black-knight-pp

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