BassGuitar 125 January 2016

May 26, 2018 | Author: qsd | Category: Bass Guitar, Leisure, Entertainment (General)
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Bass Guitar Magazine 125 - January 2016...



WIN Nikki Sixx's signature Schecter, worth over £900!





STATUS QUO JEFF BERLIN EVE GUITARS www.bassguitarmagazine www. .com UK £4.35 Issue 125 January 2016


9 7 7 14 14 7 6 5 21 21 0 54 54




EDITOR Joel McIver, [email protected] SUB-EDITORS Kate Puttick, Nick Robbins

TECHNICAL CONSULTANT Stuart Clayton CONTRIBUTORS Bob Battersby, Angus Batey, Duff Battye, Andy Baxter, Nick Beggs, Jeff Berlin, Jamie Blaine, Silvia Bluejay, Mike Brooks, Joe Burcaw, Dave Clarke, Stuart Clayton, Ben Cooper, Joe Daly, Hywel Davies, Jon D’Auria, David Etheridge, Mike Flynn, Paul Geary, Ian Glasper, Joel Graham, Ruth Goller, Spencer Grady, Paolo Gregoletto, Hugh Gulland, Chris Hanby, Andy Hughes, Ken Hunt, Kevin Johnson, Steve Lawson, Phil Mann, Lee Marlow, George Martin, Michael McKeegan, Stewart McKinsey, Greg Moffitt, Chris Mugan, Ellen O'Reilly, Franc O’Shea, Harry Paterson, Raz Rauf, Alison Richter, Steven Rosen, Kevin Sanders, Amit Sharma, Joe Shooman, Rob Statham, Jon Thorne, Freddy Villano, Ray Walker, Alex Webster, Sam Wise ADVERTISING SALES Guy Meredith GRAPHIC DESIGN Steve Dawson AD DESIGN Matt Smith COVER PHOTOGRAPH Tina Korhonen STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY Eckie OPERATIONS DIRECTOR James Folkard ASSISTANT PUBLISHER Ruth Burgess PUBLISHER Wes Stanton ACCOUNTS Dave Deo SUBSCRIPTIONS 01926 339808, [email protected]

SUBSCRIPTION RATE UK £64.20 For all subscription offers and overseas prices visit or call 01926 339808 Printed in the UK © Blaze Publishing Ltd 2015. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system or integrated into any other publication, database or commercial program without the express permission of the publishers in writing. Under no circumstances should this publication and its contents be sold, loaned out or used by way of trade, or stored or transmitted as an electronic file without the publishers prior written approval.

id you want to be a rock star when you were young? Of course you did: so did we all. Thank God most of us were playing air bass with tennis rackets in the bedroom mirror long before YouTube was invented. But did any of us ever think what it would really be like to hit the commercial jackpot as a bass player? The tourbuses, the long-haul flights, the screaming fans banging on the windows of your limo... and that’s before we even get into bass technique and gear. All is revealed about life in the hottest of hot new bands this issue, as we meet Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons, whose sold-out UK arena tour last month saw them play in front of hundreds of thousands of fans. Is Ben retaining a reasonable sanity level? Read and find out... Our oft-repeated mission to include all of bass life in BGM  peaks this issue with a plethora of interviews and columns from people and players in the know. Look at the genres we’ve stuffed into the magazine you’re holding: metal (Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe), jazz (Michael Janisch and Jeff Berlin), rock (Rhino Edwards), pop (Lucy Shaw) and everything else (the ace bassists in Bassically Speaking). We’ve got representatives from the Musicians’ Union, Rockschool and Basschat delivering their wisdom; the best bass tutors in two continents providing you with bass education at all levels; and a mind-blowing gear review section, covering ground from a £4,000 fretless bass to a £59 fuzz pedal. What are you waiting for? Thank you for making this year so amazing, and see you in 2016! Joel McIver, editor

52 Little Guitar Works Torzal Jazz

56 Burns Club Series Bison

48 GEAR Pedulla Buzz Fretless


Pedulla Buzz Fretless

Time to bring back that “Don’t fret: Mike Brooks never does” quip


Little Guitar Works Torzal Jazz

While Blaze Publishing Ltd prides itself on the quality of the information its publications provide, the company reserves the right not to be held legally responsible for any mistakes or inaccuracies found within the text of this publication. Bass Guitar Magazine is an independent publication and as such does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of manufacturers or distributors of the products contained within. All trademarks are acknowledged.


Burns Club Series Bison


‘Swiss Kev’ Sanders heads to Mitteleuropa to test this precision-engineered bass box

You’re twisting my melons, man – well, my bass neck anyway. Kev Sanders investigates


Distributed to the news trade by Comag Magazine Marketing, West Drayton, Middlesex, UB7 7QE

PUBLISHED BY Blaze Publishing Ltd. Lawrence House, Morrell Street, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 5SZ Bass Guitar Magazine  is proud to support the Music Industries Association.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

Straight outta 1965... McIver tackles a vintage beast

60 64

Schertler Bass Fidelity B15 Combo

Ashdown Dr Green Pedalboard

Brooksy gives Ashdown’s new effects range the stomp of approval





Front Line

Looking for advice from pro bassists who actually play bass for a living? Read and learn: our four-bassist team is here to help

36 Michael Janisch

       R        E        N        N        I        G        E        B


Ellen O’Reilly


Paul Geary

Three’s the key: into third position with Ellen’s killer pentatonics series

Dead notes and harmonics explored by funkmaster Geary

76        E        T        A        I        D        E        M        R        E        T        N        I

32 Nikki Sixx, Mötley Crüe

38    r    o    n    n    o     C     ’     O     b    o     R     ©

Lucy Shaw, Squeeze


Franc O’Shea

Unpacking exotic scales? Don’t forget your toothbrush, says Franc


Philip Mann


David Etheridge

Harmonics, both real and artificial, with double bass guru David

Nikki Sixx, Mötley Crüe


Lucy Shaw, Squeeze


Rhino Edwards, Status Quo


Jeff Berlin



Rhino Edwards, Status Quo


Mike Brooks

Fighting the tone wars with covers pro Brooks

Steve Lawson

Turn that racket down, warns effects warlock Lawson

Cool cat Lucy updates Joel McIver on life in one of the UK’s most revered acts

Quo bassist Rhino on his solo career and forthcoming London Bass Guitar Show appearance

Michael Janisch

The Whirlwind Records founder and jazz fusion legend talks bass with Mike Flynn

Rob Statham

Double thumbing with digitally dexterous bass ace Phil

Ben McKee, Imagine Dragons

Amit Sharma says farewell to metal madman Nikki Sixx, whose band is finally calling it a day after 100 million album sales and counting. Sub-editors rejoice! No more ö and ü hassle!


80        D        E        C        N        A        V        D        A

No. 1 albums around the world; endless Grammy, Billboard and American Music awards; sold-out arena tours around the UK and Europe. And that’s all in a period of three years. Joel McIver meets bassist Ben McKee and finds out what it’s l ike to hold down the low end in the hottest new rock band on the planet


Commander Clayton takes us further into Lydian territory

Ramping up your fingerboard knowledge with Obi-Wan Statham


Stuart Clayton

The maestro reveals plans for his tribute album to the late, great Jack Bruce


NOW DETAILS PAGE 82 Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


LOW DOWN          E          H          T

News and views from the bass world, collated by BGM’s team of i ntrepid newshounds


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

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CREAM OF THE CROP At the end of September, writes Mike Brooks , Sotheby’s in the heart of London was the scene of an auction of 35 items consisting of various memorabilia, lyrics, basses and some rather swanky items of clothing and costume that had belonged to the one and only Jack Bruce. All were selected by Jack himself prior to his death last year. A percentage of the proceeds are to be donated to the EACH charity, based in East Anglia, close to the Bruce home and a charity with which Jack had an affiliation. Although the auction also included memorabilia from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi He ndrix, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and the Sex Pistols among others, the Jack Brucerelated items formed a sizeable chunk of the catalogue. These ranged from signed manuscript lyrics and poems to stage outfits, fetching between £500 and £1500; a watch from Ringo St arr, presented to each member of the All-Starr band in 1997; Jack’s Hammond B3 and Leslie cabinet; a 19th century harmonium; and of course, the significant basses in Jack’s own collection. It was slightly odd to see these basses in this context, having seen them less than two years ago when I interviewed Jack at his home for the cover of our 100th iss ue, yet here they were, up for sale. With the likes of Jimmy Page in attendance and bids coming in on the phones and online, there was a great deal of interest. Naturally, the bass collection garnered the most attention: none sold below the sort of prices you would expect, especially considering the large number of Jack and Cream collectors bidding on them. Highlights? Well, Item 16 was a Czechoslovakian double bass that fetched a pric e of £4,375 – quite reasonable considering what some upright players are willing to spend o n a fine handmade instrument. Item 23 was the first electric bass, a well-used Aria Pro II SB1000 in natural ash finish. This model is no stranger to these pages, Jack being a leading exponent of the instrument at the s ame time as Duran Duran’s John Taylor was slinging his SB1000s around. The bass reached a total price of £3,750, more than other examples of the model would cost second-hand: the provenance of ownership always carries a premium. A Fender six-string bass in sunburst finish from 1996 commanded a price of £3,250, while a cherry red Gibson SG-Z from 1999 cos t the winning bidder £4,375. Then we reached the Warwick instruments, certainly the most identifiable Bruce basses in modern times – after all, he suggested the recognisable up per horn on the Warwick Thumb. First up was a fretless Thumb from 1986, which brought in £9,750, although a five-string fretless from 1989 remained unsold despite reaching a bid of £6,500 during the auction process. A signature fretless four-string from 1990 attracted a winning price of £6,875. The final two basse s – the Cream Reunion SG-style bass from 2005, and another uniquely made from Brazilian rosewood – reached bids of £5,500 and £75,000 respectively, although the final catalogue shows that the sales weren’t completed. Some of Jack’s instruments have obviously remained with the family: I noted that his Fender Precision, said to bear serial number 008, was not on the auction list, along with certain other Warwick instruments. As with any instrument owned by a bass legend, living or dead, it’s not until you play them for yourself that you realise just how much of the sound and tone associated with the player and their instruments, truly came from their hands, their head and their heart. That’s why they’re life’s originals. God bless you Jack!

ANDY MAN Session veteran and educator

Andy Irvine returns with Bass Mechanics: Crucial Groove, the Warwick clinician extraordinaire’s first TrueFire DVD. With 35 lessons covering 159 minutes, the course covers 12 crucial concepts and techniques designed to help you develop a well-rounded playing vocabulary for the stage, st udio, and creative process. Chapters include Palm Muting, Soft Touch, Note Duration, Adding Expression & Emotion, The Dog House Technique, Ghost Notes, Double Thumb Technique, Leaving Space: Using Restraint, Slap Bass Basics, Glissando Approaches, The Funky Grease, and Vocalizing Your Bass Lines. He also guides you through 12 Groove Applications, organised into seven groups and demonstrated over rhythm tracks. Info:

BRIDGE WORK The Bass Centre has announced

the arrival of the Babicz Full Contact Bass Bridge for Gibson basses. With complete contact between strings and body, they tell us, Gibson players will see improvements in sustain, tonal quality and performance. The patented eCAM saddle allows string height and intonation to be set with pinpoint precision, without adding space or air gaps between the saddle and the body of the guitar. Adjustments are firmly secured via a dual locking mechanism. The same bridge used on Gibson’s new 2015 Thunderbird and SG basses, the Babicz FCH 3-Point unit comes in chrome, black and gold finishes and comes with three mounting studs, optional 1/8” shim plate, adjustment wrench and installation instructions. Info:

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016



REPORT: JACO  PREMIERE, LOS ANGELES, 22 NOVEMBER It’s a balmy evening, and standing in the lobby of LA’s uber-hip Theater at Ace Hotel, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo couldn’t hide his elation if he tried, writes Joe Daly. After six long years, Jaco – the revelatory Jaco Pastorius documentary that Robert financed, co-wrote and produced – finally premieres tonight, replete with all of the trappings of a full-on Hollywood event. Beneath a neon psychedelic poster of Jaco, designed by Robert’s wife Chloe, a parade of familiar faces cross the red carpet – a virtual who’s who of bass guitarists, including Verdine White (Earth, Wind And Fire), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Whitesnake), Leland Sklar and Duff McKagan (Guns N’Roses, Velvet Revolver). Billy Idol, Steve Stevens and members of Jaco’s family, including sons John Pastorius IV and Felix Pastorius, are also in attendance, along with a sold-out crowd of 1,600 euphorically noisy punters. Flea greets the audience and then Robert, director Paul Marchand and Jaco’s son John introduce the film before the lights dim and the opening credits roll. The first scene is difficult to watch: jazz titan Jerry Jemmott is filming a teaching video with Jaco, who appears confused and somewhat overwhelmed, in jarring contrast to the man who spent his career unironically proclaiming himself to be the greatest bass player in the world. Jaco’s inability to process simple questions underscores the dramatic extent of his decline, and it ensconces the rest of the movie in a tragic cloak. The movie then winds back to Jaco’s early years growing up in Fort Lauderdale, beset with an absentee father and a mother who often struggled to provide the most basic necessities for her children. Through the narration of family members and new archival footage, one sees that Jaco’s life was steeped in tension from the b eginning – a tension which he would soon filter through the prism of his bass. His early years playing in Wayne Cochran’s comically over-the-top soul band eventually lead him to a solo record deal and finally to his transfixing evolution with the insurgent jazz merchants Weather Report. Adhering closely to the documentary format, a star-studded panoply of legends – including Sting, Carlos Santana, Bootsy Collins, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Flea – explain not just the scope of Jaco’s influence, but how his compositional outlook and dexterous technicalities so completely transcended


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

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what any bassist had previously attempted. Stylistically, Jaco would enter a realm where his influences were no longer distinguishable – all you heard was Jaco. But the film covers far more than the music: it spins a deeply engrossing narrative that explores the rich nuances in Jaco’s personality that were too often eclipsed by his boastful stage swagger and later his mercurial and troubled behaviours. Few could even attempt to conjure Jaco’s eye-popping onstage theatricality, but his unquenchable thirst for the late Weather Report organist Joe Zawinul’s infrequent validation gathered a storm of insecurities beneath the surface. Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine and Joni Mitchell deliver the richest insights into Jaco’s humour, fears and his creative vision: Joni’s account of seeing Jaco for the last time is utterly heartbreaking. By the end of his life in 1987, the world’s greatest bassist was 35 years old, homeless and living in a park in Florida. One acutely disastrous television interview features a barelycoherent Jaco slurring, weaving and interrupting recording engineer Peter Yianilos, who is entirely incapable of masking his horror. And yet while such vignettes underscore the dramatic depth of his struggles, the movie also boasts a number of playful, irreverent and laugh-out-loud moments, showcasing a captivating 360-degree view of this enthralling and enigmatic figure. Rhythm technicians will revel in the insights and commentary into Jaco’s compositional achievements – but one need not play bass or love jazz to appreciate this wholly absorbing story. It’s also about Jaco as a father, an artist and a victim of mental illness. The grisly extent of Jaco’s death is never discussed, nor is his drug abuse explored with much specificity, but this was never going to be that sort of expose. With the focus squarely on the man, the documentary is arresting, emotional and packed with so much great music that you’ll be digging into the Jaco catalogue that same day. Essential viewing for music fans of all genres.

APPY DAYS MI titans Thomann has launched

a free

app, available for download for tablet and smartphone from the Google Play Store and the iTunes Store for Android and iOS. Bassists can use the app to browse Thomann’s entire warehouse containing more than 76,000 different items. We searched for ‘bass’ and got 5,000 results... dive in! Info:

Thanks to the fine folks at Westside

Distribution, we have a Nikki Sixx Signature Schecter bass, finished in black and worth £930, for the lucky reader who can answer this simple question: Mötley Crüe’s 1981 debut album was called: A Too B Too

Young To Vote Fast For Love

C Too

Slow For Lunch

Answers to competition or to Bass Competition at the usual Blaze postal address by 26 January.

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016



HOOKED Peter Hook & The Light are to perform Joy Division and New Order’s Factory Records compilation albums Substance live, sequentially and in their entireties. The first concert takes place at the Barrowlands in Glasgow on 15 September before a hometown show at the O2 Apollo in Manchester on 16 September. The final date will take place in London at the Kentish Town Forum on Saturday 17 September. Released in August 1987, New Order’s Substance was originally conceived as a way for Factory Records boss, Tony Wilson, to play the New Order singles on the CD player of his new Jaguar. Substance became the best-selling New Order album ever upon its release, the double LP going on to sell two million copies in America alone. Info:

BAYWATCH Every month, keen bass-spotter Ray Walker brings us an online bargain. This month: a Sandberg Panther Price: £550


This is a rarity for eBay – a German-made Sandberg Panther at an eye-popping price. Its walnut/maple/walnut top placed on a mahogany body supposedly gives it a warmer, fuller tone. Its zero fret is intended to give open notes the consistency of fretted ones. On the downside, the pickups are Sandberg rather than Delano. The neck has a narrow profile, which makes it easy to play but may not be to everyone’s taste, of course. Whether you’re looking to upgrade or simply incite jealousy in your bass peers, this bass is worth investigation.

Danelectro is reissuing the iconic Longhorn bass, based on the original 1950s design. Including the instantly recognisable dual lipstick pickup configuration and adding an all-black finish to the familiar copperburst, the new Longhorn (RRP £499) also features a traditional bridge with rosewood saddle, stacked individual volume and tone controls, and a 24 fret fingerboard. Info:


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


SPEAKING Bassists reveal the tricks of their trade faster than a snapping D string

GEAR BASSES Fender FSR 1975 Jazz reissue EFFECTS  None AMPS Ashdown ABM 500 2x10 combo

GARY THISTLETHWAITE 24/7, BLUE JUICE, THE FABULOUS PICASSO BROTHERS, THE REGGIE MENTAL BAND I’m an all-rounder: I’ve had to learn most styles of bass playing

playing with fingers and plectrum. I love to search for unusual melodic solutions but still keeping my style heavily rhythmic, deflagrating and loud: I love to push the amps over the limit. The secret of playing bass well is being glued to the bass drum and flirting with the other melodic instruments. I especially love playing Fenders, but I love to experiment and play different instruments for several songs, as it happened on Fertile, the upcoming record on which I played several bass guitars, including a Rickenbacker.

because I play everything from Steely Dan to Merle Haggard to Bob Marley. I don’t play five- or six-string basses – I haven’t really needed to. I’ve had a five-string but I had to change how I played too much and I couldn’t relax with it. I detune my E string to D and C if I need to get down a bit lower. There are many secrets to playing the bass well: listen to loads of different music, learn all the techniques, play as many styles as you can. If you’re playing live, listen to what’s going on around you – and smile. My first bass was a Wilson. My favourite bass to date is my 1975 Fender Jazz reissue: I’ve had a Badass bridge put on it and had it sprayed sunburst. It’s fairly light and well balanced. Love it! My bass heroes? Of course Jaco and Stanley, but I have so many, from Glen Knowles who let me try his Gibson EB-0 bass when I was about eight years old, to James Jamerson, Tommy Cogbill, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Henry Strzelecki, Glenn Hughes, Julian Crampton, Ed Poole, Ray Brown… the list is endless. Want to hear a great story? In 1988, the band I played in were playing at a club in Newport News, Virginia. Patty, a friend of ours, turned up with her two friends Reggie and Joe, who she had toured with. I soon realised that I was in the presence of two of the finest musicians (and people) on the planet. After the show they told me to check out their little brother Victor who had just moved to Nashville where we also lived. When I got home I called him to ask if he gave lessons. “Yes I do,” he politely said and asked for $20 an hour. “Sounds good,” I thought. My wife dropped me off outside the humble abode… of Victor Wooten. I had a Kubicki Ex-Factor at the time – Victor asked to try it and I tried his. “Fodera?” I asked. “Where are these made?” ‘Brooklyn,’ he replied. The bass was amazing, but even more amazing was his modesty. At no time did he make me feel any lower than him as a player. One hour turned into two. When I finally did leave, he wouldn’t take a penny more than agreed. A big thank you to Joseph, Reggie and Victor Wooten – you are amazing. But an even bigger thanks to my wife Gina, who sat in the car with our three daughters for over an hour, for being very patient and understanding.

GEAR BASSES Fender Jazz, Fender Precision, Rickenbacker 4003 EFFECTS Death By Audio Fuzz War, Ibanez TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer, Sinister Analog Ultra Lord, Fuzz Dog, Hartke Bass Attack, Electro Harmonix POG, Whammy, Vinteck looper AMPS Fender Bassman, Ampeg SVT Classic, Gallien Krueger 1001RB and MB Fusion 800

LUCA PAIARDI, STEARICA My playing is visceral, instinctive and introspective. I love both


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

BASSICALLY SPEAKING  ©  B    o  r  i     s 

N    a  z   a  r   o  v 



BASS Gibson SG, Fender Precision, Music Man Stingray, Fender Mustang EFFECTS Sansamp Bass Driver DI AMPS Markbass Little Mark Tube 750 Watt with one 1x15 cab and one 2x10 cab

BASSES Fender Jazz, La Bella strings, Velvet Garbo strings, David Gage Realist pickup, Kala U-Bass EFFECTS Markbass 112 combo AMPS Boss OC-2, Boss Chorus, TC Electronic reverb, Mini Moog ring mod, Way Huge analogue delay, Electro Harmonix Q-Tron



My bass style is solid as a rock. I have never had any desire to be


a soloist and frankly I don’t think the bass lends itself to five minute solos, unless of course you’re in the class of Marcus Miller, and very few are. I stick to what I know I can do well,

I am lucky enough to play many differing music genres, which was always my ambition. Putting my own style on whatever I

and that’s holding down a solid groove with great feel and timing to create a platform for the rest of the band and of

am playing is about time, groove and harmony, and this is what I work on a lot. There is no doubt that playing jazz has also hugely

course the song. I’m hopeless at slapping and have no desire to master it. I do appreciate that bass-playing techniques have

aided my playing and I apply a lot of that into my work. I do not play a five-string, only because I haven’t had to use one yet. I’m

evolved to an astonishing level of skill; nevertheless, if you can slap at a million miles an hour, it means nothing to me if it

in love with my Boss OC-2, so that gives me the low end if I ever need it. I’m a b eliever in sticking to the roots of bass with my

doesn’t touch my soul. The secret of playing bass well is locking in with the drums and providing a platform for everyone else

four-string – but if I did have to play a five, then I’d go with the low B instead of the high C. If I have a day off, I love to dedicate

in the band to work on. That sounds like a very simple thing to

it to practising: I spend the whole day working on specifics or


transcribing records, switching between upright and electric and also taking breaks and listening to records. All of this will in turn aid time, rhythm, feel and good knowledge of the music that you are playing, allowing you to express yourself while keeping true to the style and form of the music being played. My favourite bass to date is a 1962 Fender Jazz. My longtime mentor and friend Herbie Flowers has one: the bass he recorded Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ bass-line with. I was lucky enough to play it every week in my lessons with him. It looks

do, but in fact it’s not: it takes self-discipline and a huge degree of concentration to achieve. For me it’s the fundamental basis

beautiful and sounds unbelievable. The greatest bass player that ever lived was Jaco, of course. His music astonishes me, and I’m

of playing great bass guitar, and no amount of flash solos or posturing can mask a crap bass player.

sure every bass player in the world has a record of his. He had a huge influence on everyone he played with, and his concepts of

My favourite bass to date is my 1963 Fender Precision which I’ve owned since 1964. It cost £70 second hand, and it’s played

harmony and rhythm were so ahead of his time.

on numerous hit singles and albums including ‘The Poacher’, widely regarded as one of Ronnie Lane’s greatest songs. I had


the honour of using it on the new Slim Chance album, and I replicated my original bass-line, which I played in 1974. The greatest bass player that ever lived was James Jamerson. He was light years ahead of his time and to this day I’ve never heard anyone touch him in terms of feel and ability to turn a

We released our first EP, Word To The Wise, this year and it’s gone great. I’m also in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

run-of-the-mill pop song into a masterpiece. His playing on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? is nothing short of sublime.

I’ve been the chair holder with the band for two years now – an amazing experience. We have our regular Ronnie Scott’s

Slim Chance’s second album, titled On The Move, has just been released.

residency coming up at the end of this year. I am also in a live electronic band called LONO out of Speakman Sound studios

in London.

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


BASSICALLY SPEAKING  ©   J    a  m  e   s  W  i    l    l    i     a  m  s   , L   i    v   e  W  i    r   e  P   h    o   t    o   g  r   a   p  h    y 

GEAR BASSES Fender Jazz EFFECTS  None AMPS  Peavey Head

PHILIP KROSS BITERS I like a tough tone: I love harmonies and riffs but mainly try doing all these silly things while staying locked up with my drummer. I started out as a guitarist and noodled a lot, then tried it on four-string

 ©  A   l    l     y  n  L    a  i   

bass and found it quite fun. I wouldn’t be opposed to a five-string bass, I just don’t think it’s for this band. Now, a six-string bass? That’s getting ridiculous! To each his own. Primus is a rad band, though. How many strings does that guy play? The secret of playing bass well is to always eat your vegetables, don’t drink, no drugs and always be available. Everyone needs a bassist and by ‘bassist’ I mean a guitarist that is willing to play bass to get the gig! My first bass was a Gibson Thunderbird.


Gibson has always been a favourite of mine. I’m currently playing a Fender but

BASSES Warwick Stage I, Warwick Stage II EFFECTS Big Muff Deluxe AMPS Ampeg SVT-3 Pro, 4x10 Warwick cab

on the lo okout for a Rickenbacker. Phil Lynott is an inspiration to me to always try to be better, to push myself instead of backing down. I also aim to have my tone


JULES ‘MENDEZ’ ECCLESTON COFFEE POT DRIVE I would describe my bass style as rhythmical and groove-based. I have elements of rock, funk,

and style be more like Lemmy’s. I have

reggae and Motown within my playing. These styles of music make me the player I am today. I do

a dirty, heavy bass tone like his. Overall, I just think he’s a badass that gives zero

not play five- or six-string bass because I’ve never needed to get that low deep bass range which a five-string gives you. As for six-string players, I admire them for pushing the bass to its limits.

fucks. When I soundcheck and the dork behind the PA is like ‘Ummm, is your

For me, four-string is the true standard. I would never rule out using a five-string in the future though. I do not slap, but I admire players like Doug Wimbish, Flea and Bo otsy Collins who have

bass supposed to be distorted?’ I’m like, seriously man? I get compliments after a

it down to fine art. I enjoy slapping when jamming or just practising in the bedroom, but for me, playing is all about the song – if it warrants slap bass then it will get it!

lot of our shows from fellow musicians that say they love my tone. My band

My fingers do all the hard work: my thumb just watches and laughs. I grew up learning bas slines through listening to music, not textbooks. I learned rhythm, groove and feeling before

Biters are currently catching our breath

scales. My favourite bass to date is my Warwick Stage II. This bass has so much bottom to it your

from a long West Coast tour and a recent run of shows in the UK. I’ve been in bed

ribcage will shake, but gives amazing clarity to the higher tones. It’s a beast of a bass that I can only let out now and again. If I could get the bass tone of any album ever released, I would choose

since I got home two days ago! I’m beat, so I’m relaxing, but it was really exciting to

Radiohead’s Kid A: from the dirty gritty sound of ‘National Anthem’ to the soft tone of ‘How To Disappear Completely’, this album has it all.

be back in the UK. I have family and good friends there. I was also extremely excited

Play bass every day with the same enthusiasm as the first day you picked it up. Put every inch of your body, mind and soul into it and feel the bass within. In August we released our first single

to see how well our album Electric Blood is being received. Buy our album!

‘Hey Suzy’, which went to #1 in the iTunes blues chart. We have since released our debut album, Edge Of Town. I feel blessed to play in a band with such amazing musicians.

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


F   i     s  h    b    o  n   e   s   G   l     o  v   e  r 


FILTHY, STOMPER, KAV, PROWLER (yes, they have four bassists) Filthy I would describe my bass style as frenzied sloth. I play ‘melodic’ riffs as a lead guitar might. The secret of playing bass well is to blame the drummer at all times. My first bass was an Ibanez that didn’t like being smashed against the floor and stages. My favourite bass to date is my current one: a Steinberger copy I found in a bin. I’m currently having a custom-made Blizzard bass produced. If I could get the bass tone of any album ever released, I would choose Discharge’s Hear Nothing. Stomper My bass style is average at best, I used to be an ultra-busy bassist, up and down the frets like my life depended on it, but then I grew up and stopped b othering. Why play 12 notes when one will suffice? Apathy rules. I play five-string because it’s one string lower. You can be playing E, E, E, E... Where do you go from there? B. One string lower. I do not slap, because it hurts. The greatest bass player that ever lived was Bernard Edwards. Kav I play bass ham-fisted, maybe one step up from a novice: it’s a very handy style for playing while blind drunk, though. I once read in a book a line that went ‘four strings good, five strings bad’, or something like that. Slapping? I’m not in a funk band. Say no more. My bass heroes are Cliff Burton, Geezer Butler, Steve Harris, Bill Nelson and Gary Peacock. The ideal bass tone would be like a recording of a very angry wasp

GEAR BASSES Awful/brillian t Steinberger copy found in a bin, Fender Jazz, Aria CSB-380 EFFECTS Boss TU-2, EHX Big Muff, Boss MT-2, DigiTech Bass Synth, Colorsound Fuzz Wah, Castledine Overdriver, DAM Red Rooster, Ernie Ball VP-JR, DigiTech RV7 reverb, DigiTech DL8 delay, Behringer bass distortion, Bad Monkey distortion, Jim Dunlop Wah Wah AMPS Vox 100 Watt guitar amp, Peavey 400 Watt TKO 115, Fender Rumble

playing a kazoo through the speaker of a teenager’s iPhone on the back seat of the bus. Prowler   I would describe my bass style as unremarkable. I do not play five-string bass because I detune to C, which is usually low enough. I do not slap because like Mariah

Carey’s warbling, it may be technically impressive but sounds crap. My first bass was a Westone Thunder and my bass heroes are Gene Simmons, Steve Harris, Lemmy, Geezer Butler. Greatest bass player ever? Errr, me.


 S    t    a   g   e   d   i    v   e  P   h    o   t    o   g  r   a   p  h    y 

SIMON BAYLISS SUICIDE WATCH I started playing guitar in the late 80s but always found myself drawn to

GEAR BASSES OLP Ernie Ball Stingray, Fender Precision EFFECTS  None AMPS Gallien Krueger 700 Watt RBII head, Gallien Krueger 410 RBH 800 Watt 4x10


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

the bass. As with most people I pick up influences everywhere from classical through to metal. I’m always re-inventing what I play. I also find that I play at 100% of my ability when I’m in the studio and notch that down when I’m playing live, because I can’t help but bounce around the stage like an idiot. I do not play five- or six-string bass, because I don’t have one, it’s as simple as that. I like the idea of a five-string with some really low-end frequencies getting out there, but for the life of me cannot figure out why anyone would want to play a six string for any reason other than looking cool. They don’t, by the way: I’m in a thrash metal band and would probably get slapped if I slapped. That said Suicidal Tendencies got away with it, so watch out for some on the next album! The secret of playing bass well is to understand why you’re playing it. I’ll say that again: understand why you are playing. Too many people think that it’s the ‘tool of ignorance’, whereas I look at it as the link between the melody and the rhythm while being complementary to the song. If the drums are the heartbeat then the bass is the blood that’s being pumped. My first bass was an Axe! Who are they? They used to advertise in Kerrang! in the late 1980s. Very cheap, very nasty, but enough to get me playing. After that I bought an Aria Pro II which served me well for a few years. My bass heroes are Cliff Burton, Steve Harris, Flea and John Deacon. It was such a massive loss when Cliff died, as it looked like he was really starting to influence the musical direction of Metallica; they’ve not really recovered in my opinion. We’re right in the middle of writing the next album: it’s currently shaping up to be awesome (in my opinion).




BASSES Gibson Thunderbirds with EMG pickups EFFECTS None AMPS Markbass Little Mark Rocker 500, Little Mark Tube 800, Momark T1M-HE Tube preamp, Markbass cabs

BASSES Gibson Thunderbirds with EMG pickups EFFECTS None AMPS Markbass Little Mark Rocker 500, Little Mark Tube 800, Momark T1M-HE Tube preamp, Markbass cabs



I do not play five- or six-string basses. I trie d a five-string around

I would describe my bass style as leftfield pop. I’ve always

1990 and it felt alien to me. Since our songs nearly always use standard tuning, stepped a semitone down, there’s no real need for it either. I do use a Hip shot tuned one tone down. I write sometimes with a four-string at home which has no G-string – just a low B, E, A and D. I do slap, because I can, but only for the fun of it and probably for only 0.02 per cent of the gig. Sharlee from Arch Enemy told me once that in metal, slapping is a cardinal sin. Please forgive me. The secret of playing bass well in rock and metal is to know your place in the song. With a fast track, let the drums and guitar take the attention: the bass should hold down the groove and bui ld a solid foundation. If it’s

loved pop music that has a slant to it. I grew up with all the greats, but once I became a bassist, my ears were always drawn to music and bass playing that had something unique to say. Bass playing in pop music in the late 70s and early 80s was a goldmine, with so many great players on landmark albums that still inspire me now. I dabbled with both five- and six-string basses earlier in my career. However, I feel that the bass occupies a certain area in the frequency range: many a gig has been spent fighting with a pianist’s left hand. I respect all that use the thumb, but for me, melodic bass playing has been more a landscape that I love to



medium tempo, you c an riff with the guitars. For slower stuff, the bass has a chance to become the main character. You can introduce a main melody or hook – but you’re still bass. Don’t get too lightweight. Of course, once you step into the realms of experimentation then it’s another world. You’re only limited by imagination. My favourite bass ever is my Gibson Thunderbird, with EMG TB35 pickups, a rosewood fingerboard, a mahogany and walnut neck and body, with solid mahogany body wings. It looks the business and fits our band’s sound spectrum like it should. I have other great basses from LTD: their Phoenix basses are always with me on the road. I also have a Sandberg PM California and a Fender Precision... I’m spoilt! Our new album, Battering Ram, is out now and we’re touring with Motörhead in January.

inhabit. Also being naturally left-handed, my right wrist has never been supple enough to really do it well. I can do a little if a song needs it, but I prefer to play funk lines with fingers digging into the back pickup of my Jazz bass. My first bass was a cheap Japanese 1982 Cimar Jazz. My mum and dad bought it for me for $90, brand new, when I was 13. I still use it a lot live, albeit now sporting a Warmoth neck and Curtis Novak ’62 style pickups. It sounds great. My favourite bass ever to date is my 1962 Fender Jazz. It has so much mojo to it, and sounds good in any situation. My bass heroes are Mick Karn, Jaco Pastorius, Matthew Seligman, Robert Bell, Pino Palladino, Paul Webb, Derek Forbes and David Hayes. As Mark Hollis from Talk Talk once proclaimed: “Before you play two notes, learn to play one note. And don’t play one note unless you have a reason to play it.” I am one third of the electronic chamber ensemble Birds Through Fire with guitarist/singer Robby Aceto and texturalist Paul Smyth. Our debut album, Letters To Thurza, is out now on the Trench Editions label.

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


THE LOWDOWN Rockschool

Applied Improvisation with

Rockschool Symmetrical Scales Part III with Nik Preston: this month, a B flat blues diminished exercise. Get those fingers warmed up!



s an extension of our previous two columns on symmetrical harmony, this month we have an opportunity to apply some diminished ideas to a context. In this example, a B flat blues is our vehicle of choice. A blues is a great sequence to try and apply new harmonic and melodic ideas, as it will be familiar to many of us. The keen-eyed among you will notice that we have a chord built on the sixth degree in bar eight: not your standard I, IV, V progression, but a variation that is often found in jazz, gospel and soul music. When improvising over ‘resolving’ dominant chords we are largely free to choose any of the dominant scales to create melodic ideas, as long as the setting is appropriate. The resolving dominant chords in this sequence are the Bb7 to Eb7, the G7 to Cmin7 and the F7 to Bb7. Although not resolving, the dominant chord built on the fourth degree will also take the half-whole diminished scale – more on the theory behind that concept another time. You’ll remember that the h-w diminished scale gives us the allowable extensions: b9, #9, b5/#11, 13, in addition to the dominant chord tones: 1, 3, 5, b7. Some of these extensions will sound dissonant, but harmonically ‘correct’ as long as they’re applied musically. (If you were to hold a b9 interval in the low register while an accompanist


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

was playing a root position chord, it might well cause some raised eyebrows, but with a little practice you’ll find a balance that’s right for both you and the setting.) I have used a range of scalic (or stepwise) ideas over chords I and V, and phrases made of larger intervals over chords IV and VI, to illustrate how we can go about applying the exercises from the previous column. As always, the idea here is to illustrate how we might go about applying content to context: that’s way more important than learning the actual phrases presented here. However, if you’re not familiar with this kind of harmonic/melodic vocabulary, it can only help. Once you’re familiar enough to play these lines with confidence, I would advise practising at a range of tempos and time feels, and be prepared to experiment with articulation. I’ve included a tempo marking of 210BPM, but that’s purely aspirational and not to be taken too literally to start with. The mighty Joe Hubbard is back next month – until then, take it slowly and have fun!

THE LOWDOWN The MU and Basschat


Working as a musician is a tough gig, say the Musicians’ Union. Here’s how to survive it!


ur industry places a range of pressures on musicians, which can result in physical or psychological harm. Yet this is often dismissed as part of the job. So what basic steps can you take to protect yourself?

Protecting your ears

Hearing damage is one of the few things that affects all musicians, regardless of where they work. It is a major hazard, so you need to protect your ears at all times. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 means your employer – if you have one – must take steps to protect your hearing. If they don’t, they could face prosecution. If you work freelance, there are still things you can do to protect yourself. Our Musicians’ Hearing Passport, in par tnership with Musicians’ Hearing Services and British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), offers an in-depth examination and report, advice on hearing protection and conservation, and regular check-ups. Looking after your health Working as a professional musician, you should also think of yourself as an athlete, according to physiotherapists who treat music-related injuries.

There are small steps you can take that can help you protect your health in the long run. For example, warm up before you play – whether that’s a practice session, lesson, rehearsal or gig. Take regular breaks from rehearsals, demanding repertoires and schedules. Ensure that you have proper seating which is the correct height for you and allows for movement and rest – most musicians should have a forward-sloping seat. Pay attention to your body, learn to recognise healthy fatigue and stop before it hurts. Accept when you are tired and take a break, and ensure that you get enough sleep and rest. You may consider seeing a specialist, such as a physio, with a music background. MU members can get in touch with BAPAM ( for specialist advice and appointments. Risk assessments Increasingly, musicians are being as ked to provide risk assessments and

this is often being added into contracts. At its most basic, this means listing the tasks you carry out, the possible risks and what you are doing to reduce them. It may also cover how you rehearse and practise, particularly for noise exposure or musculoskeletal matters. Equality at work You have the right to work with dignity and respect. Sadly, a survey

of union members across the arts and entertainment sectors recently found that 56 per cent of the respondents had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against (Creating Without Conflict survey, 2013). This disproportionately affects women and freelancers. If you suspect that you may be the victim of bullying, harassment, stress or inequality, talk to your regional office ( Get in touch The MU provides advice on all of the above, including a risk assessment

template, and more on protecting your hearing and health. Find out more via or, if you are a member, contact your regional office for specialist help.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

Silvia Bluejay from discusses amplification


nless we’re in a position to go completely unplugged, amplification is the other indispensable component in our rig after the bass. Before we put our amps and cabs to good use in our search for the perfect sound, we need to find the most suitable units for the kind of music we play and two main scenarios: practising on our own at home, and playing with our band. It’s necessary to take into account the level of sonic competition (aka those pesky guitars and kick-drums) we have to deal with within the band, but also the venue’s shape, dimension, audience capacity, and even potential turnout on the night. After all, it’s only wise to make sure the band doesn’t turn up to play at the Dog & Duck with a backline fit for Manowar, or indeed the other way round. The choice of heads and cabs available and the p ossible combinations are bewildering. To make matters worse, our choice of effects may work better with certain units rather than others. Amp-hunting also means determining how loud or ‘in your face’ the band want to sound. (Bassist: “11 is too last century. Can I turn up to 12?” Bandmates: “No.”) Amp heads come with the eternal question: valves or solid state? While the difference in the sound and tone obtained through each technology matters a lot, for the gigging bassist the weight of the amp is often equally important. Bassists are constantly trying to travel as light as possible while still sounding good, so the Basschat Amps and Cabs subforum is alive with discussion, inescapably diverging opinions, and advice on the best compromises. Going lightweight is the dominant theme around cabs too: bassists desperately search for cabs that are as light as a feather. The ideal, of course would be cabs that could levitate. Failing that, and if you can’t afford roadies, anything that reduces the risk of injury before getting on stage or after an exhausting gig is a big step forward. We’re lucky enough to have among our members the founders of several influential lightweight cab manufacturing companies, who are also great engineers – and they’re happy to come online to answer questions and gather fee dback from fellow Basschatters. We have given them the third degree on technical specifications, construction materials, the geographic location of their production plants, their cabs’ knobs, handles, wheels, paintwork… and we’re not done just yet. Basschat’s long-scale aficionados looking for suitable amplification know that there’s an additional hurdle to take into account, namely the propensity of the double bass to feed back, usually at the worst possible moments during the gig. Coupled with the need to make sure that the kind of bridge pickup/microphone in use is at least on speaking terms with the preamp, amp and cab of choice, that’s pretty daunting, especially for novices (“there’s a pickup on the bridge? Oh.”) Our double bass fraternity has repeatedly come to the rescue, not just with advice but often also with the loan of equipment for pre-purchase comparisons – or last-minute, on-stage disaster recovery. Those of us who are put off by all this palaver about amplification, and are beginning to wish we had taken up knitting rather than bass playing, can always make a point of opting for direct input into the PA when playing live. I’m sure it’s no surprise to find that Basschat has a popular, long-running thread about that too!

Ben McKee of Las Vegas rockers Imagine Dragons is a bassist in a hugely enviable position. With his band selling out arenas across the planet, and their songs breaking records in an era when the music industry is in its death throes, McKee and his comrades are defeating the paradigm with ease. Joel McIver asks the questions Pics: Tina K


on’t worry if you’ve never

they’ve won dozens of Grammy, Billboard and

an interesting demographic, comprising

heard of the American

other awards for their songwriting, and thus

middle-aged couples, teenagers, gaggles of

rock band Imagine

have some useful lessons for the writers among

female 20-somethings and the usual balding

Dragons: like me, you’re

us. Thirdly, they have a killer bass player in

geezers. There’s a reason for this: their

probably over 40 and

Ben McKee, an affable 30-year-old cove who

songs – some of which, like their massive

lacking the time or energy

has learned pretty much everything there is

2012 hit ‘Radioa ctive’, you’ve heard even if

to dig too deeply into new

to know about bass theory and techniques, but

you think you haven’t – focus strongly on

music. But it’s definitely about time you paid

who understands how unimportant that stuff

build, release and big-venue dynamics. Those

attention to the frankly amazing music of this

is in comparison to the shared communion of a

giant choruses get everyone jumping around,

Nevada-based quartet.

rock chorus.

anchored by massive bass from McKee, who

Why? Firstly, and most importantly, because


BGM meets

McKee backstage at

also delivers a bit of sampler tweakage and

they’ve done the clever thing that so many

the Barclaycard Arena (the Birmingham

highly trained musicians usually forget to do:

NEC in old money), he’s getting ready to

No wonder the guy is in a good mood when

dump the advanced musicology and write

hit the stage in front of 13,000 shrieking

we line him up for a shoot (“My first cover!” he

songs that speak to people. Secondly, because

fans. The Imagine Dragons fanbase is

exults) a few hours before stage time…


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

drums as part of the show.

BASSISTS Ben McKee, Imagine Dragons

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


How are you holding up, Ben? Imagine Dragons have been on the road pretty much constantly since you broke out five years ago. We’re doing great, thanks! The audiences on this tour seem really happy to see us, and the venues are amazing. Our new album, Smoke + Mirrors, has done really well too, so it’s all

looking pretty great. Which basses are you currently using? I’ve been using Sadowskys almost exclusively on this tour. I have a couple of Mike Lulls that I like to play too, but for consistency I only really need two basses on stage for the show, and so I use the Sadowskys. Roger Sadowsky’s a great guy too. I got into them when we were recording a song called ‘Battle Cry’ in 2014 for Transformers: Age Of Extinction , featuring [the composers] Steve

Jablonsky and Hans Zimmer. I had played passive basses before that, but this time I wanted to have a modern active bass tone, so I called up the Sadowsky shop and Roger answered the phone. I told him what was going on and who I was, and that we were going to be doing this project. He asked me a couple of questions about how I liked my basses – and two days later there was one in the studio when we needed it. That’s the bass I have right here: I’ve been using it ever since. The new album was recorded with the Sadowsky and some of the Lulls. You’re using pretty hefty strings there. Yes, it’s tuned B, E, A, D. I go down below E sometimes, and I don’t like to play a fivestring bass because I have small hands. For the new album and that Transformers  song, we really went with a darker, heavier sound – and that low B has really contributed to that. The previous album, Night Visions, was recorded in standard tuning, but when we were playing live, I used a bass tuned down half a step. That half step gave me the range that I needed. When we started working for Transformers , we went with a darker, almost

orchestral metal sound: it almost reminds me of S&M, the Metallica album they recorded with a symphony orchestra. Having that lower range really let us get to those darker, more intense moments on Smoke + Mirrors. Do you use amps and effects live? I do – I have a Matchless Thunderman: I got them to start making bass amps again! That goes into a Bergantino NV412 cab, which I love. For effects, I’ve used Sansamps in the past, and I sometimes use a Malekko B:Assmaster distortion, but I mostly just go straight through. I do use an EHX Bass Microsynth for the intro to ‘Radioactive’. Which basses were you playing before the Sadowsky and the Lulls? There’s a guy called Chris Stambaugh in New Hampshire who’s been building amazing


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

BASSISTS Ben McKee, Imagine Dragons

basses for me for a while. The first bass he

Christmas one year. I loved it: it was my only

built for me was when I was still in college at

bass for the first seven years of my professional

Berklee. My commitment to music surpassed

experience. It was great – it did everything

the equipment I was playing at the time, so

I needed it to do. I totally abused it, though,

my teacher drove me up to New Hampshire to

because I was a little punk kid. At one point I

meet this guy who built basses in his basement,

needed the bass, but it was across the room, so

just a one-man operation. I picked out all the

I grabbed the cable and pulled it towards me,

pieces of wood for my bass – mahogany for the

and of course a bunch of the body broke and

neck, rose myrtle for the top, and so on. It was

the grounding severed. I put it back together

one of those coffee-table basses. Chris built me

with duct tape and used a metal coathanger

a couple of Tele basses and a really interesting

to connect the input to the bridge in order to

semi-acoustic hollowbody that I used for our

ground it – and that actually got rid of some

Grammys performance with [hip-hop artist]

of the buzz that the bass had before. It played

Kendrick Lamar last year. They’re amazing.

better than it ever had.

How did you get into bass?

Who were your influences?

I started playing music when I was a kid. My

Some of the first bass players that I admired

parents made me take piano lessons when I

were Ray Brown and Paul Chambers. Ray


Brown is the definition of solid time. I used to

my dad’s acoustic guitar around the house

listen to him with the Oscar Peterson Trio all

after that. When I got old enough to be in the

the time: for about 12 years all I listened to was

string orchestra at school, I started playing

instrumental jazz from before 1975. I was a big,

violin. There was a string bass player there,

big nerd. I got into the fusion stuff for a while

but he graduated and they knew they were

too – the Yellowjackets and Shakti and all that

going to need another bassist, so because I had

amazing stuff. Victor Wooten was another

learned violin pretty quickly the teacher said,

idol of mine: I spent a long time working out

‘Ben, we need you to learn this instrument

his double thumbing technique. Mike Dirnt

now. You’re a bassist!’ So I started learning

was a big influence too, and James Jamerson,

string bass: I still play it now, there’s string

and Pino Palladino was huge for me. I went

bass on the new album.

through my Jaco phase, as everybody does. But Paul McCartney, James Jamerson and Pino are

When did your first band come along?

the three bass guitarists that I try to channel

When I was playing string bass my friends

stylistically when I’m playing.

started forming a rock band, playing 50s stuff like ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’. I was

You studied at Berklee. What was your goal at

the closest thing to a bass guitarist around,

that point?

and it turned out my dad had a bass guitar

I went to Berklee planning to be a jazz virtuoso.

somewhere that he had traded a lawnmower

It was really what I wanted to do: take crazy

engine for back in the 70s. It was a real

solos and play chords on the bass. But there

no-name piece of crap and the bridge was

was an attitude there, a competitive vibe that

totally broken, so you had to shove quarters

everybody had, where it seemed like people

underneath the saddles to keep the strings off

weren’t really making music to entertain

the fretboard. Then you had to use another

people, they were doing it to show off their

quarter to tune one of the strings, because the

skills and prove that they were better than the

top part of one of the tuners had snapped off,

other people at that school. It kind of turned

leaving just a slot. The action was really high,

me off jazz, so I started taking classes on the

of course, but I’d been playing a really crappy,

music of Joni Mitchell, and the music of the

California public school string bass so I was

Beatles, and the music of Laurel Canyon – all

used to that. So I started playing bass out of

those amazing composers like Warren Zevon

necessity because I was the only bass player in

and Stravinsky. I really got connected to

the county. As soon as I knew how to operate

songwriting, and learning about music that

a bass guitar and a string bass, I had a job.

people who aren’t necessarily musicians can

That was in fifth grade, when I was about nine

relate to.

years old.

You met some of the other members of When did you graduate to a b etter bass guitar?

Imagine Dragons at Berklee, correct?

My first proper bass was a Squier that I got for

Yes. Our guitarist, Wayne Sermon, and

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


BASSISTS Ben McKee, Imagine Dragons

our drummer Daniel Platzman, were both at Berklee with me: we played in a fusion ensemble together called the Eclectic Electrics. It was five electric guitarists, bass and drums, and we would do Bill Evans piano solos arranged for guitars, or horn tracks from Miles Davis’s Birth Of The Cool. We did that for three years at school: it wasn’t something that we needed for credits, it was just a treat that we gave ourselves. What does it cost to study at B erklee?

Berklee is an expensive school. I don’t know what it costs now, but back then I think a semester cost between $30,000 and $40,000, if you didn’t get any scholarships. It was a lot, and you can be there for four years. I was there for three and a half: fortunately, there were a lot of opportunities for scholarships there [www. says that the 2015-16 academic year comes in at around $65k – Ed]. Was it worth it?

I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for that school, although I didn’t actually finish there. I was one semester away from graduating, and our guitarist Wayne had graduated the semester before and called me to say that he had met our singer, Dan Reynolds, and that they’d started making music with some promise. They were going to head out to Las Vegas and dig in and try and make it a career, and I was at a point where I was working hard to get this degree that wasn’t going to help me get the career that I wanted. I didn’t want to teach music. Or write jingles for TV commercials.

That would be way more optimistic than I was thinking at the time. Anyway, I really respected Wayne and his musicianship and style, so when he told me that he was going to devote everything to this, I thought ‘Why not?’ and dropped out of school. He told me that I needed to be in Vegas in two weeks. I didn’t even tell the school I was dropping out, I just packed all my stuff up and left my apartment! I still haven’t gone in and checked my grades for my last semester. We actually have a great relationship with them now: we’ve talked to the president, Roger Brown, a lot, and our fifth touring member Will Wells is a connection that we made through Roger’s recommendation. Are you keen on slap bass?


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

I used to slap, but I haven’t done it in a long time. I was never quite the master of the double thumb, but I definitely got into the slap, pop and tap. Larry Graham and Flea were my two biggest idols as far as that style went. Are you strictly a four-string player?

When I was in college I had a five-string built with a high C, because I was playing a lot of higher stuff. But I don’t really like five-strings for some reason: I think I had some sort of stigma in my mind about five-string players


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

BASSISTS Ben McKee, Imagine Dragons

when I was growing up. I was half purist and half punk. I liked it when you could take a bass straight off the wall and play it: fivestrings were kind of a boutique thing when I was growing up.


and figure out the top 25 that everybody likes.


Have you studied

From that, we figure out what sort of album we want and what these songs say, and then we create that vision and the songs come from there. We’ve definitely grown and evolved a

techniques a lot?

On one level that’s healthy, but if you let that

lot as a band: the place where we all thrive is

When I was in college I was incredibly anti-

run your life, it can get out of control.

when we come together and focus on creating

social: there was a long period of time when

songs that people can get behind and sing and

I would just lock myself in my room. I was

Presumably Imagine Dragons would still have

rock out to. The albums are really about an

practising bass for no less than nine hours a

become successful without advanced bass

experience that you can sing along with, like

day: not working on particularly interesting

chops on your part?

the albums that we grew up with.

music, just on techniques. I used to play

Exactly! Although if you look at some of our

different patterns around a metronome,

early, early stuff, there were some jam-out,

How do you decide on the correct bass parts

and work on classical études. There was a

extended solo bass and keyboard moments.

for the songs?

lot of three-fingered technique when I was

This was well before anyone was remotely

It varies, but I like to have a rough idea of the

practising. It’s useful for jazz solos, so I really

interested in putting our music up on Youtube,

orchestration, which we’ll do a rough MIDI

worked hard on that.

so I think that stuff is pretty impossible to find

version of for the demo in order to test the

at this point.

parts. I like to have that done before I go in and

Do you recommend that kind of rigorous study

record bass, because I like to know what’s going

to BGM  readers?

Is the secret of your band’s success largely

to be happening on top of the bass. The bass

Not as intensely as I did. You have to keep

down to the memorable songs you write?

really needs to lay that harmonic foundation,

some kind of balance. It’s worked out for me

That has a lot to do with it. We do a lot of

and it’s nice to keep some melodic interest

in the long run, but I was deeply unhappy and

songwriting. For every song that makes it to an

in there too. But Imagine Dragons’ songs are

I was having mental breakdowns and I wasn’t

album, there are many more that are thrown out

fairly dense, so you have to be really mindful

socialising at all. If I sat down for 10 minutes,

of the door. We all write: a song will start as a

of where you’re going to put the notes. In order

there would be a nagging voice in my head

demo on somebody’s computer, and we’ll work it

to create the right dynamic range, we start off

saying, ‘Somebody else is practising and they’re

to a point where we have a rough version. When

with no bass at all – and then add two notes

getting better than you. You’d better go start

we go into the studio we go through 150 to 200

here and there, or bass for a single section of

practising, or you’re never gonna have a future’.

of those versions, and make lists of our favourites

the song, for example. It’s all about going on

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


BASSISTS Ben McKee, Imagine Dragons

the journey to get to that point. Pino Palladino is somebody that I really admire in terms of the way he constructs songs: sometimes he’ll play three notes in a whole song, but where those notes are is perfect, as well as the way he develops themes, like in Paul Young’s ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’. The contour of that song is amazing: I really took that song apart and studied it.

What advice would you give our readers about becoming a professional bass player? Know the history of the music that you want to play, and diversify. If you want to play music, you can’t plan on just being able to play one kind of music. Try to broaden your palette, and you’ll find that you’ll fall in love with different kinds of music through that process, even if it’s something that you didn’t know you would like. I never thought I would be listening to George Jones and Hank Williams, but I love their music. I never thought I’d be listening to Louis Armstrong or John Coltrane, but I love that stuff too. There’s so much music out there, and it can be a great source of knowledge, so educate yourself. Also, make sure that you know how to play keyboards. As a bass player nowadays, being able to double on synth is really invaluable if you want to play gigs. Understand samplers too: that’s a good thing for bass players to get into. On some songs I play a sampler, or a keyboard, or a guitar: it’s really about being as diverse as possible and saying yes to opportunities, because you never know where they will lead you.

You’ve spent literally years on the road at this point. Any tips on retaining sanity while touring? Focus on health and wellbeing. It’s challenging to maintain connections while you’re on the road, so be prepared to lose some relationships, which won’t be easy to deal with. Find balance, which will help you to find energy when you’re at your darkest and most depressed and you need to get off the tourbus and play. Go into town: walk about a bit, it’ll brighten your mood. There are lots of experiences to have on the road... it’s all about what you make of them! Imagine Dragons will be touring the world in 2016. Smoke + Mirrors  is out now on Interscope. Info: www.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

PERMANENT VACATION American rock legends Mötley Crüe have finally quit playing live shows. Amit Sharma catches up with bassist Nikki Sixx to find out what’s next for the bassist who died, was brought back to life and wrote a hit song about it, all in one day… ou know, I get a lot of


flak,” chuckles Nikki Sixx. “People say, ‘Nikki Sixx can’t play bass!’ And I always laugh. It’s like, I’ve been playing arenas for 34 years – sure, I’m not a

good bass player. You know… 120 million records sold, but definitely not a good bassist. Yeah, I get it.” When you sit down with Mötley Crüe’s bass player, who formed the band in 1981 with drummer Tommy Lee, you soon realise that he rejoices in proving his doubters wrong. His band played their farewell UK tour this November – and just in case anyone thinks they’re telling porkies, the four members have signed a legally binding ‘cessation of touring’ death pact. This is it, the end of an era. There’s no turning back. “Well, I’ll be back, but never with Crüe,” says the Californian, sitting by the coffee table in his plush room at Kensington’s Royal Garden Hotel. “Not even the smallest chance. I don’t want to, none of us want to. The phone calls will start, I’m sure the snakes


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

BASSISTS Nikki Sixx, Mötley Crüe

and parasites will come out saying, ‘Hey man, what about just five shows at Wembley? You’ll each make this much...’ and I’ll be like, ‘No!’ I’m really adamant about it. The money’s not important, but the legacy is. Age is a cruel monster when it comes to rock bands: what happens is that people grow and change. Me and Tommy [Lee, drums] don’t even listen to the same music, he likes electronic stuff, I’m really into 70s rock. Vince [Neil, vocals] is really into the classics and makes a little blues. Our common ground is Mötley Crüe. But there isn’t as much common ground these days, and that’s not gonna get any better. The band will end, the movie will come out shortly after, and then we’ll be sat here talking about my other band Sixx:A.M. We want to leave it now, before we end up like one of those bands with no original members. That’s sad to me – when you see two versions of the same band. It’s just so weird for the fans.” The man raises a good point: no fan wants to see their favourite band dissolve into a weak-willed, half-arsed tribute act. Sometimes it’s good to quit while you’re ahead. And that’s precisely what the Sunset Strip’s most notorious sons are doing: preserving their integrity before the cruel monster Sixx speaks of can set its wretched talons upon their name. Since forming in 1981, the hair metal heroes, synonymous with sleazy odes to decadence, also practised what they preached: at one point, Sixx was pronounced dead after a heroin overdose, only to come back to life courtesy of a cardiac adrenaline shot, writing the hit song ‘Kickstart My Heart’ just hours later. But Sixx is open about past mistakes – and how to learn from them without regret. “It’s all part of the story,” says Sixx. “Mine was a version of rebellion based on abandonment and a deep brooding sense that


life is poetry. I think I was a living, breathing nightmare, to be honest. I probably wasn’t a pleasant person, with a temper prone to violence. I knocked this guy out in Australia a few weeks ago, and my wife was sat on top of me in the bedroom saying, ‘You can’t keep hitting people!’ And I go, ‘They insulted me and that’s what happens!’ And then she asked if I was ever going to stop, to which I said I didn’t know… “My bass style and ethics – whether through sobriety, drug addiction, being a parent or a good friend – are down to the fact that I believe you can do whatever you want with your life. Sometimes that can have repercussions that in my case ended up in drug overdose and death. I’m not saying everyone should go through the stop light, I’m saying tread lightly with the fact you can do whatever your heart tells you. Follow your path. There was an American mythologist and psychologist called Joseph Campbell and his call to arms was ‘follow your bliss’. Follow what you love and you will find yourself on the right path.”

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


BASSISTS Nikki Sixx, Mötley Crüe

It’s a practice that has certainly worked out well for the four-stringer. He briefly contemplated guitar as a young teen, at which point he stole one from a shop – but soon realised it was the bass he was born to play and sold


it. (“That ’76 gold top Les

“My set-up is still pretty simple,” he shrugs. “I’ve been with Ampeg most of my career, and apart from that, I just use a little compression. It’s a real low and bitey type of sound, which works well because I play really aggressively. Sometimes I’ll put a distortion pedal in

Paul would be worth so much

there to bring a little dirt in.

now!” he adds.) It was the instrument’s ability

“When I get flak, what they’re saying is

I like my bass to sound closer to a guitar than a

to change the context of melody that inspired

‘You should be more flamboyant’. But if you

standard bass, at least for what I play in Crüe. I

him, almost like a greater force within the

listen to AC/DC, it would be out of place. Or

find it really cuts through. And when I do walks,

recordings that were shaping his life.

imagine if Pete Way was moving all over

they sound really fucked up, like the early Black

the fretboard in UFO? It wouldn’t be right.

Sabbath songs where the bass would be blowing

I wanted that thing which could change

Luckily with Sixx:A.M. it isn’t out of place.

up! I think if it was any quieter, I wouldn’t have

everything with one note. With a lot of

There is a progressive element to that band

the same feel.”

the Crüe stuff – like ‘Too Young To Fall In

and macabre undertones that allow for really

Love’ – if you listen, it’s the bass that moves.

interesting melodies. On our last record,

more than aware of the clock that ticks inside all

The guitar part I wrote just stays the same.

I played six months straight with just my

of us. After all, he’s already died once and been

So the melody moves with the bass, and

fingers. I wouldn’t use a pick, unless I was with

lucky enough to tell the tale. If that doesn’t put

understanding that was how I began to write

Mötley Crüe. It brought out another side of

things into perspective, nothing will.

songs. My first bass was a Rickenbacker. I

me, something that was a bit more rhythmic,

“I understand age,” he says. “I’m experiencing

didn’t want it, I didn’t like it, but it was all

almost a little funky. People had never heard

the reality that there are more years behind me

I could afford. I actually wanted a Gibson

me play like that! Then I’d start using the pick,

than in front of me. Unless some miracle drug


which would sound more like stuff you hear

comes along where I can take a shot every week

on Jack White or Lenny Kravitz records.”

for a month and get another 30 years. That

“I was playing guitar and it was fun, but

As Sixx began to broaden his musical horizons, he explored the immortal 70s rock

When it comes to gear, Sixx favours the

At 56, Sixx looks remarkably young, but he’s

would be great – but that’s not gonna happen in

of Aerosmith and UFO and developed an

simpler things, just like in his note choices:

my time, so I need to cherish what I have. Like

ear for songs that affect people. He decided

a solid wall of sound with little need for any

I said, the money’s not important to me. The

to stick with the ‘less is more’ school of bass

intense parametric tonal sculpting. You could

legacy is.”

playing – serving the song instead of seeking

say he’s a fairly straightforward, ‘plug in and

opportunities to stand out as an individual.

play’ kinda guy.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


     N      A      M      N      O      H      T      A      R      A      M 036

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

BASSISTS  Michael Janisch

 Mike Flynn interviews jazz bassist, label owner and producer Mike Janisch


ew bassists have made as

like a Bill Withers covers band and the wind

dramatic an impact on

band. I played trombone in the marching

all these beat-up soldiers of the scene. I was

the British jazz scene

band; I was a drummer in one of the combos;

touring with a hip-hop band from Berklee at

over the last 10 years as

and also played double bass and electric bass .”

the time on electric bass, and I got a little bit

Michael Janisch. A road-

The tragic death of Janisch’s younger

“I went to New York,” he says, “and I saw

disillusioned, so I went on a bit of a wander.

toughened virtuoso on

brother, a drummer, brought their rapidly

I was jumping between New York and the

both upright and electric

developing family band to an end. He then

midwest and trying to have some fun again,

bass, it’s apt that the recent release of his

put his energy into American football,

because it had been intense. I’d done two

second solo album, Paradigm Shift , marks the

channeling his aggression into the sport

degrees in five and a half years.”

end of a hectic decade that began with his

to get through this difficult time. Studying

arrival in London on a speculative trip. He

a degree in history around the same time

and headed to the UK, where he immediately

ended up staying and setting up his own

fuelled Janisch’s interest in politics and

found himself in the heart of the music

label, Whirlwind Recordings, in 2010, to

debating, and then an injury in his third year

scene. “I went to the jazz jam at the Jazz Café

release his debut solo album Purpose Built.

saw him retire from sports too. “There was a

in London and played electric and double

Five years later the label now boasts over 60

three-year period where I didn’t play bass,” he

bass. Glinda Powell, who is the mother

releases, with Janisch as producer on the

recalls. “I remember almost saying goodbye

and manager of [singer/trumpeter] Chantz

vast majority.

to it. I had loc ked it up in my room and I was

Powell, heard me. This was right when the

like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to be doing music

Jamie Cullum thing was going nuts, and

imaginative double album, a funky

now’… it was really sad. But t hen a year and a

Universal were signing a lot of other young

amalgam of early Weather Report-style

half later I went back into it and I got hooked

artists in hopes of them being stars – so

electro-acoustic jazz, electronically treated

– I went insane…”

Chantz was going to be the trumpeter and

Paradigm Shift  is an ambitious and

soundscapes and solo bass interludes. He’s

Finishing his history degree in Mankato,

At this time he met Sarah, his British wife,

tap-dancing singer guy from New Orleans.

joined by saxophonist Paul Booth (previously

Minnesota, Janisch immediately transferred

I joined his band that day and we started

with Steve Winwood and Carlos Santana,)

to La Crosse, Wisconsin and started a music

playing all over Europe, which is when I met

electronics wizard Alex Bonney, and a trio

degree. His reinvigorated love of music

guys like Paul Booth. It was insane!”

of young American jazz stars including

became intense. “I grabbed the electric and

trumpeter Jason Palmer, keyboardist Leo

grabbed the upright and just went mental

Gear-wise Janisch needs to cover a lot of musical bases, but in fact he only uses two

Genovese and drummer

key workhorse instruments.

Colin Stranahan. This

“I’m currently playing on

transatlantically-inclined line-up is typical of Janisch’s modus operandi: he has constantly sought to build artistically vibrant bridges between the US and UK jazz scenes for the benefit of both. It’s testimony to his work ethic and


a Christopher Chinese double bass: it’s about 20 years old now,” he tells us. “People are surprised when I say that – they usually think that I have something from the 1800s. For electric bass, I have a two-octave four-string Fender Jazz.

organisational prowess that

It was a model they only

he and his Paradigm Shift  band

made from 2005 to 2009,

has just completed a 20-plus date UK tour – in

for four months,” he says. “My routine was to

I think. I use Ashdown amps, currently an

these tough times, no mean feat.

start practising o n Sunday, and then I would

Electric Blue 180 for both instruments; a Full

practise until Thursday night, and on Friday

Circle in the round double bass pickup; and

early musical experiences. He was a classical

This endurance stems from Janisch’s

I would let myself go out… it was nuts. I

D’Addario Helicore medium gauge double

pianist until the age of 15, when the

learned every scale you can imagine, all sorts

bass E, A and D strings plus a Zyex G string

constant cycle of six months of practice on

of stuff. I wish I would have had some les sons

from D’Addario. For electric I use D’Addario

a demanding classical piece, performance

at that time, because I was going so far in one

as well. I also endorse Planet Waves cables,

and theory testing caused the first of several

direction that over time I’ve had to fix a few

although I’m starting to talk with Vovox –

burnouts in his life. While he became

things. I’m talking about physical things, just

their cables are amazing. I also use a Carbo

a highly accomplished pianist, he had a

to keep your body in check and to be able to

double bass bow, the ones made of carbon

simultaneous love of sports – track and field,

execute things better. That was a big thing.”

fibre. I have a Boss RC-300 loop station and

basketball and American football. “I was

Janisch stayed a year and a half in

I’m working up some solo pieces featuring

seen as a weirdo,” he tells BGM , “because on

Wisconsin and continued his rapid

double and electric bass. It’s a lot of gear to

the one hand I would get in a fight with the

development before he decided to send an

lug around to gigs!”

jocks if they picked on the musicians, but I

audition tape to Berklee College of Music.

was a musician geek too! So I was an anti-

He was accepted with a full scholarship and

schedule and the man himself in demand

bully, because I straddled both worlds. But I

also gained a place at the Mancini Institute

more than ever as both sideman and

got burned out as a pianist: there was a lot of

in Los Angeles, where he was tutored by jazz

bandleader, Janisch is an inspiring example

pressure, because my hometown [Ellsworth,

heavyweights such as trumpeter Terence

of how to survive – and indeed thrive – in

Wisconsin] is like a musical powerhouse.

Blanchard and bass don Christian McBride.

today’s ever shifting musical landscape. Keep

We had an amazing music department and a

He followed this with a degree in double bass

an eye out for him.

great educator who would churn kids out and

performance and music business in Boston,

send them to New York, to the Philadelphia

but found that he’d pushed himself so hard he


Philharmonic. I was in a lot of covers bands,

had another ‘burn out phas e’.

With the Whirlwind label’s busy release

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


BASSISTS Lucy Shaw, Squeeze


'm influenced by all sorts of music, from classical music and jazz through to pop, hip-hop and Motown. I find that four strings are all I need for the type of music I play,

and I generally prefer older basses, which rules out many five- or six-stringed instruments. I actually find a six-string a bit of a stretch for my siz e hands. If I need lower notes it’s usually in the context of a more dub-sounding piece, and I would use something like an octave divider pedal. I love a bit of slap bass when it’s played like Larry Graham does on There’s A Riot Goin’ On , but it’s not really part of the musical style I get to play with Squeeze. Maybe on the next album! It’s all about the groove for me – listening, and supporting the other band musicians, rather than trying to take centre stage. In one of my first bands, the keyboard player, Jason Knight, gave me some good advice: ‘bass is basic’. That’s always stayed with me. It’s okay to have maybe one moment in a song where the bass sticks out a bit, but generally I think it’s best to do the accompanying job without really being noticed. Saying that, I love a bit of spontaneity and free improvisation. My first bass was an old semi-acoustic Hohner, which originally belonged to my dad. My favourite bass to date i s my 18th-century Dodd double bass: it makes a rich, beautiful acoustic sound and is a real treat to p lay. My bass heroes are Ca rol Kaye, Gail Ann Dorsey, James Jamerson, Paul McCartney, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, George Porter Jr of the Mete rs and Wilton Felder, the sax and bass player from the Crusaders, who played session bass on many Motown tracks including the Jackson 5’s iconic ‘I  ©  R    o   b    O   '     C    o  n  n   o  r 

Want You Back’. The greatest bass player that ever lived is John Bentley, previously of Squeeze. How does one fill those shoes? It’s a dream to play in Squeeze and I feel

SHAW THING Bass maestro Lucy Shaw tells BGM what it’s like to share the stage with – arguably – the coolest British pop band of all time, Squeeze 038

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

so honoured to get the chance to share the stage with them all. It’s a joy to play with a drummer you really lock in with, and I’m looking forward to touring with Simon Hanson – we’ve played together a lot in the past, and we’re in the groove! There are moments when I play with Squeeze and Simon particularly, and it feels a s if we’re all almost mind-reading. Our new album, Cradle To The Grave , was released in Octob er. Danny Baker’s TV series, titled Cradle To Grave , which features the songs, was broadcast in September – it’s really funny, I highly recommend it. We will tour the US next spring followed by some UK summer festival dates. Info:


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

BASSISTS Rhino Edwards, Status Quo

John ‘Rhino’ Edwards of Status Quo has released his second solo album, Rhino’s Revenge II , just in time for his appearance at the 2016 London Bass Guitar Show. Joel McIver meets the wild beast


ohn ‘Rhino’ Edwards is no

and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, so when he

for Andy Fraser they’re good enough for me.

slouch. As we prepare to

says that his current bass is the best one he’s

Andy is the reason I’m talking to you now. I

ask why there’s been a

ever played, you need to take that seriously.

was playing guitar in a band when I was a kid,

15-year gap between his

“I recorded the album with the Status Stealth

and I heard him on the radio and went to see

first solo album and the

prototype that I’ve had since 1996,” he explains.

Free play. After 15 minutes I said, ‘That’s it, no

new one, Rhino’s Revenge

“I use it whenever I can – it’s the best bass I’ve

more guitar for me, I’m a bass player!’ It was a

II, he sees the cheeky

ever had. I was using Status before I was in

real epiphany. My dad saw an advert for a band

question coming and says: “It was that difficult

Quo, they work so well for me. I also used a

who wanted a bass player, so I borrowed a bass

second album! Look, all the stars had to align,

Gibson EB3 on the record, although it was a pig

and went down there. I couldn’t understand

and I don’t give a toss if no one likes it, I had

to keep in tune! It’s got no bottom end but it has

why I got the gig when I hadn’t played bass

the most amazing time doing it. I’m over the

tons of honk and cut. And the other thing I did

before, but later I found out that I was the only

moon, Brian, as they say! It takes me a long

in the studio, which you never see in this day

one who turned up for the audition! It was

time to write a song: I’m not a gifted lyricist so I

and age, was use an Ampeg SVT, which was

meant to be...”

have to spend a hell of a lot of time on them.

incredibly loud, even for me. I didn’t even like

But I’m thrilled with the way it came out.”

walking past it.”

Recorded over an 11-day stint at the Chapel

Normally, Rhino looks elsewhere for

Is he looking forward to his appearance at the London Bass Guitar Show in 2016? “I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ll be

studios near Louth in Lincolnshire, Rhino’s

his amplification, he adds: “I’ve been using

searching for the fourth chord!” he chuckles,

Revenge II was recorded with Rhino’s sons Max

Markbass for five years: I was complete and

adding: “I go to the LBGS most years, although

on drums and Freddie on guitar, alongside

utter Marshall before that until I decided it was

sometimes the sound reminds me of a load of

Matthew Starritt on guitar and harp and Rhino’s

time for a change. The Markbass is so versatile,

angry wasps, with all the slapping that’s going

daughter Mae on backing vocals. “I decided

and it’s never let me down, it’s the most

on. I do like Larry Graham though, I was there

about four years ago that I wanted my kids to

incredible gear.”

for the first Graham Central Station album,

play on the record,” says the great man. “I really

Across his career, he’s used several

you know. Personally I’ve never been the most

love the way they play: we all grew up on Free

prestigious basses, some of which fared better

technical bass player. To me it’s all in the fingers

and Zappa and the same bands, because – for

than others. “My first bass of any note was a

and in the heart, and if you haven’t got it, you

better or worse – I passed all my influences on

Rickenbacker 4001 which I managed to smash

haven’t got it. A lot of it is in the strings too: I

to them. There’s a synchronicity there: it was

to bits on stage,” he recalls. “This was before I

use Status strings now, and I used to use Trace

one of the most incredible experiences ever,

was in Quo. My band had been recording, and

Elliot strings but they don’t make them any

and we really got into it. Instead of doing it on

I’d been up for three days and I basically passed

more. I’ve got one set left, which I’m saving for

a computer, we actually played live, horror of

out on stage and fell on top of it. Rickies don’t

my next solo album in another 15 years!”

horrors! In this day and age that’s not common.

have the strongest necks, do they? I’ve still got

The kids didn’t need any telling. I was totally

a couple now, a ’74 and a ’76.”

confident with what they did.” It’s been 28 years since Rhino joined Status Quo, having previously played with Space

Does he ever play extended-range basses?

Rhino’s Revenge II is out now on Molano Music. Rhino will

be touring the UK and Europe in February 2016.

“No,” he says emphatically. “I do a drop D,

occasionally, but if four strings were e nough

Bass Guitar Magazine December 2016


BASSISTS Jeff Berlin


engaging and funny: his kind of humour really appealed to me. He made me laugh from the first minute, and I loved him even more after that. He was my hero, my big brother and my musical guide. We had a band together, although it never recorded: just a couple of gigs around LA with Bruce Gary from the Knack on drums, Jack on bass and me on guitar. It was awesome. He sang and played with his usual intensity. We did a lot of songs from Songs For A Tailor  and Out Of The Storm . Songs For A Wailer is a pun I came up with

as I reflected on Jack and his songs. Jack wailed when he sang: I coined a phrase, ‘Scottish soul’, which is what he sang, and I wanted to honour his legacy. I didn’t really want to go into the Cream stuff that much because it’s already been done. The producer John McCracken has been spearheading this project in terms of the PledgeMusic campaign and the younger set of musicians – great players all – who I might not normally recruit to the album because I would normally use what I call my jazz mainstays.  © 

E    c  k   i     e 


Ginger Baker, Chad Smith, Bobby Caldwell and Gary Husband have been invited to play drums on the album, and Mark King is going to sing on it. I would love to have Ringo Starr play on it too, because he has a feel that I have admired for ages, and also because Jack played with him, of course. For one song, I’m planning to have five or six bass players come in: the song is ‘Smiles And Grins’ from 1971, which has an ostinato bass-line. I want to invite Paul McCartney to play four bars of the ostinato, followed by four bars by Sting, and Flea, and an upright bassist like Dave Holland, and Les Claypool – and so on. There would be no tone adjustments: each part would just flow into the next. It would be our chance as

The mighty Jeff Berlin, fusion veteran, is releasing a tribute album to the late Jack Bruce. The great man tells us about his new release, Songs For A Wailer 

bassists to pay tribute. I wanted to do this when Jack was still here. We talked about recording together for years and years, but sadly time waits for no man. When he passed away, I told myself that I might have missed the opportunity to work with him while he was alive, but that I would honour


ack Bruce was my greatest

happening. It affected me so deeply, and I was so

his memory now that he’s gone – and really do

influence as a bass player. I

taken with Jack’s bass playing in that wonderful

justice to his songs. I didn’t want to do a Cream

worshipped the musical

trio. We all loved Cream, and I understood why

covers record: I want this record to encompass

flow that he heard. If you

Jack was so great.

as many years of Jack’s career as possible, even

listen to Cream’s records,

I first met Jack around 1977. I was in

before Cream. I have an arrangement of a song

and notice the bass-lines in

England with Bill Bruford, recording with him.

called ‘Over The Cliff’ that I want to do. The

a lot of the live music, Jack

I mentioned my admiration for Jack to John

music is flowing out of me like never before, and

was in an ‘attitude of flow’. For me, that is the

Hiseman (a legendary UK drummer and friend

I can’t wait for you to hear it.

highest state a musician can be in, and I caught

of mine) who asked if I wanted to meet him. So

onto that as a kid – not realising what was going

Jack came down to Ronnie Scott’s to meet me,


on, just that something magnificent was

and we hung out that evening. He was instantly


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

WOODSHED Douglas Mullen, Eve Guitars

Mike Brooks heads north of the border for a chat with ace bass luthier Douglas Mullen of Eve Guitars ronted by the effervescent luthier Douglas Mullen, bass


For many bassists, the perfect chance to try an Eve bass in the flesh will

brand Eve Guitars have created something of a wave

be by visiting the London Bass Guitar Show in March. The LBGS experience

over the past few years. As Dougie explains, an Eve bass

is always rewarding for Dougie, with visitors becoming potential customers.

is made with love, care and attention to detail.

“The shows are an absolute joy,” Dougie says. “It’s one of the few times that

It was the limitations of his own bass that led Dougie

I’m not in the workshop at the weekend! Our newest bass, the Iona, was

to dip his toe into the waters of luthiery. “I became

designed as a direct result of customer conversations. We’ve found that the

interested in building bass guitars in the early 90s, when

shows act as a showroom: customers want to talk to us, play a number of

the limitations of my own bass became quite apparent,” he tells  BGM . “It could

different models and then make an informed choice once they’ve had time

no longer match what I required, so I investigated the possibility of building

to consider the options and price. You can also purchase an Eve instrument

my own instrument. I knew the sound I was after, I loved Jaco’s tone and

from Bass Gear in Twyford.”

the crunch of Les Claypool’s Carl Thompson bass. They were early signposts

“We’re often asked how long a build will take,” he adds. “That depends on

towards what I was looking for, but I also wanted a thick low end with

how many orders we have ongoing currently, and the complexity of the order.

plenty of definition and singing mids. The bass also had to be exceptionally

Our custom Elite range tend to take a little longer as the construction is very

comfortable and easy to play. I’ve been astounded by how many basses are

involved with angled set necks and exotic woods. Our Iona and Classic bolt-on

difficult to play – they may offer the tonal value you require, but you find yourself fighting with the instrument rather than playing it. The idea wasn’t a career choice: it was simply to solve a particular problem at the time.” Back then, there was no internet to consult, so the path to becoming an instrument builder was akin to learning the art of alchemy – or s o it seemed to Dougie at the time. “I’m entirely self-taught,” he tells us. “Luthiers were like some mythical creatures you only heard about in low whispers in affluent playing circles: they were difficult to track down to seek advice from, so I had to apply some logical thinking and simply make my best guess as to how to make an instrument. I was nearing the end of high s chool and when I told my woodwork teacher about my plans, he laughed and said that I was on my own as I could barely make a spice rack – which was entirely true. As the build progressed, though, he saw my conviction and gave me advice, eventually becoming a great, supportive mentor.” Having a bass custom-built can be a dream come true, but also a worrying process for some, wondering if their specification will match the sound in their head. Thankfully, Dougie is on hand for advice. “I discuss every aspect with the customer before an order is placed,” he explains. “We may know one or two things about how something will sound with a particular combination that they may not be aware of. Being a small business means we can experiment with these things without blowing the business model out of kilter. “Eve Guitars exists to serve the individual and respond to challenges, with a strong sense of design and character in both sound and look. We spend months designing every aspect to make sure that it is functional first, then consider the aesthetics once the actual problem has been s olved. Good design is not about how something looks, but how it functions. Every single Eve bass is made by hand, which is very labour intensive, but we try to keep prices at a human level. We produce around 20 instruments a year, which is testament to the amount of handcraft in every single bass. Nothing ships unless we think it deserves to carry the Eve logo.”

January 2016 Bass Guitar Magazine


WOODSHED Douglas Mullen, Eve Guitars

designs tend to have a working time of approximately 12 weeks, with the Elite

something beautiful with high quality materials and precise workmanship,

usually taking a little longer than this. We like to send customers photos of the

I think it deserves to be b e shown in its natural state, rather rather than buried under

build in progress to keep them appraised of the situation: this gives them an

paint and lacquer. lacquer. Of course, c ourse, this is down to personal p ersonal taste, but when

insight into the work involved in the production of their instrument.”

you have such a variety of stunning woods available with unique sound

It won’t have escaped your attention that Eve instruments are extremely

properties, I think they deserve respect. Firstly, we design the s ound character

organic, timber-based affairs – none of your s olid colour spray jobs here.

of the bass and the choice of pick-ups and woods are paramount in this. As

Dougie is forthright in his decision de cision to go down this route. “If you’re building

you can accent the fundamental with different tops, laminates and stripes, this adds an exciting dynamic to the rich aesthetic, which is enhanced with our unique oil and wax finish to give an unbelievably luxurious feel. We don’t offer spray finish on any of our instruments, but we’ve experimented with many finishes and settled on Danish Oil and Paste Wax as it produces an exceptionally exceptionall y high quality finish which is easy to maintain, doesn’t crack or chip and feels great under the hands.” With such a wealth of knowledge to hand, we thought we’d ask Dougie to come up with his ideal ‘bass recipe’, were he to build a bass for himself. The fiery luthier replies, replies, “I’ve only ever built three basses for myself in 22 years: with orders getting in the way I’ve never got around to it, so I suppose I’m due a new one! I’ve been be en thinking for a while of an eight-string double-octave fretless bass. I love Jeff Ament’s work on Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten, and I’ve always wondered if that would work as a fretless. My ideal sp ec would incorporate a spalted beech top: I bought several s everal chunks of this stunning wood a few years ago and I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it. The figure is outstanding and beech has a nice snappy tone. I’d match that with an iroko body as it’s a great tonewood. I experimented with some last year and was blown away by the sound.” In such challenging times, it’s reassuring to see a bass company making a real go of things – and with Dougie’s tenacity and keen eye for producing a quality product, Eve Guitars will surely be around for a long time to come. “We live in a very noisy and crowded world,” he obs erves, “and it can be difficult to get your voice heard in any industry that’s established as much as the guitar market is. You need to offer something that nobody else does, and that’s our key advantage: personal adaptability. I believe in making the greatest instruments we can, with soul and integrity. Passion and love are built into each bass. We believe in the true art and craft of instrument making, which isn’t driven by market forces or the bottom line. The customer can be assured that only a single pair of hands has made their Eve bass from start to finish. When you buy an Eve, that’s what you’re supporting.”


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

GEAR Introduction




Little Guitar Works

Buzz Fretless

Torzal Jazz





Club Series Bison

Bass Fidelity B15 Combo


ehold our world-beating bass gear review section, where we bring you the crop of each month’s new, interesting or otherwise relevant bass guitars, bass amplifiers, bass speakers and bass effects. Occasionally we’ll review a guitar effect if it’s particularly useful for bassists, and we’ll test recording equipment and general accessories every now and then as well, but generally speaking, this zone is for bassspecific gear. We take the ratings that we give each item very seriously. BGM  is  is the only print magazine devoted to bass in this country, and we have readers from all over the world, so we’re responsible about our conclusions. If a product is worth your investigation, we’ll say so; if it’s flawed in s ome way, we won’t hold back from making that clear. We’re not beholden to advertisers in any way and our conclusions are entirely independent of the views of manufacturers, musicians and distributors. When you read about a bass-related product here, you know you’re getting a sensible, balanced review from an experienced bass tester. Value for money is at the top of our agenda in these cash-strapped times, but on the other hand, we believe in paying for quality. Right, that’s enough from me. Remember, this is just about the only place that it’s good to have GAS!* Joel McIver, editor *GAS = Gear Acquisition Syndrome (a malaise often suffered by bass players)

64 Ashdown

Dr Green Pedalboard

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


PEDULLA Buzz Fretless  If you’re going to do something, do it well, as the saying goes – and Michael Pedulla has done just that. Mike Brooks checks out the ‘buzz’ on the street Bass Direct


ichael Pedulla has been celebrating 40 years of making his finely handcrafted instruments this year, and there is reason to celebrate. Trends come and go, but Pedulla instruments remain as revered today as ever. We don’t see too many of them on this side of the

pond, but fortunately for us, the fine chaps at Bass Direct here in the UK thought it about time that Pedulla basses were more visible to bass players here. Let’s dig in…

Build Quality The Buzz’s curved body with its deep cutaways, slim horns and mild contouring feels incredibly functional, and with both the body and neck finished in a glorious purple high gloss finish, this custom ordered bass already scores big points in the looks department, the gloss emphasising the colouring to the max. The AAAAA solid quilted maple body wings and three-piece maple laminate through-neck merely add to what is already an eye-catching but tastefully assembled instrument. The bass sits perfectly against the player’s body, despite only minor chamfering to the top body bout, and feels very comfortable.

Comfort has obviously been a major consideration, and although the basic MVP/Buzz design hasn’t changed radically over the la st 35 to 40 years, it is very much a winning formula – as the overall playability is stunning, irrespective of the fact that this is a fretless instrument. The balance and tilt factor are excellent, but the neck is where the action is really at. With a 40mm nut width, the fingerboard is hardly broad but in combination with the shallow ‘D’ neck profile and neck dept h, there is enough timber to feel substantial without detracting from the comfort factor.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

GEAR Pedulla Buzz Fretless Price £3,999

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION Price | £3,999 Made in | USA Body | Solid AAAAA maple Neck | Three-piece maple, 34” scale Neck joint | Through-neck Nut width | 40mm Fingerboard | Ebony (polyester coated) Frets | 24 Pickups | Bartolini soapbars x 2 Electronics | Bartolini preamp, three-band EQ Controls | Volume, pickup pan, bass (boost/cut +/-15dB), treble (boost/cut +/-15dB), mid boost/ cut switch (adjustable internally) Hardware | Black chrome Gotoh tuners, black ABM three-way adjustable bridge Weight | 4.2kg Case/gig bag included? | Yes, hardcase Left-hand option available? | Yes

WHAT WE THINK Plus | Extremely desirable fretless bass that ticks all of the boxes Minus | The price tag is prohibitive, but fretless basses don’t come much better than this Overall | If fretless is your preferred choice, you couldn’t want for more. Try one, you may  just be conv erted!


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


GEAR Pedulla Buzz Fretless Price £3,999


The unlined ebony fingerboard has been coated with a polyester lacquer, which some players may not enjoy: however, this not only offers protection to the ebony but gives the notes a ringing quality, projecting everything you play with more presence and sustain. The only position markers are white side dots along the top edge, adding to the Buzz’s minimal fuss in terms of appearance. Black hardware has been used throughout: the ABM bridge allows the player to adjust the 19mm string spacing using rolling saddles. The active Bartolini circuitry and soapbar pickups are well matched with controls for volume, pickup pan, bass boost/cut (+/-15dB), treble boost/cut (+/-15dB) and a midrange boost/cut toggle switch. Located inside the control cavity are adjustable trimpots for the level of boost and cut to the midrange and overall output of the circuitry.

Sounds and Playability Michael Pedulla claims that he uses these electronics only to amplify the natural characteristics of the strings and woods. Well, on this showing, he’s definitely hit a home run. Fretless basses tend to have a more woody sound, with the string naturally vibrating and coming into contact with the fingerboard, and this particular Buzz has an amazing tone from start


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

to finish. The maple body and neck resonate like crazy and harmonically, this bass sings – there’s no other way to describe it. The pickups convey every nuance of your playing, so if your fretless technique is a little rusty, expect every mistake to jump out at you! If you want bottom-end thunder to reduce the intrinsic mids and ‘mwah’ that fretless basses emit, this provides it. If some extra top-end sizzle is in order to accentuate those melodic lines and make them stand out, there is plenty of boost headroom. Kicking in the midrange boost and cut needs a little experimentation depending on your playing situation, but the trimpots are easily adjusted and you can tailor the midrange to your exact requirements. I found the neck to be incredibly playable: the lacquer gave the board a sleek slipperiness that I enjoyed, while the hardness of the surface and underlying timber provided an audible shimmer that illustrated the overall tonal character.

Conclusion There are no two ways about it: this is a bass of the highest quality, a seriously top-end instrument, just as Pedullas always have been. You almost don’t want to play it for fear of marking the bass and its hyperglossy fingerboard. The instrument is a joy to play and fits the player like a glove. At almost four grand, it’s a serious expense – but if fretless bass is your passion, why not indulge it? Buy with confidence.

LITTLE GUITAR WORKS Torzal Jazz Bass Direct

Kev Sanders tries the wrist-friendly Torzal – a hand-built Jazz-style bass with a twist


here’s an element of stamina involved in playing bass that’s often overlooked. Many players, myself included, have had to cancel shows or ‘dep’ out gigs because of painful injury caused by sustained playing. The most common problem is carpal tunnel syndrome, often caused by working the fingers hard while the wrists are bent at an unnatural angle. Good pos ture and technique will help alleviate this to some extent, but as luthier Jerome Little says: “Instead of asking our bodies to adapt to the instrument, wouldn’t it be easier to ada pt the instrument to our bodies?” The Torzal Jazz does just that.

Build Quality Regardless of the unusual neck design, the Torzal Jazz is obviously a classy bass that uses top quality materials, electronics and hardware. The alder body is a take on the familiar Jazz shape, but slightly smaller, slimmer and


lighter than the original. For me, alder is the perfect wood for a bass: more focused than mahogany, warmer than hard maple and lighter in weight than both. It’s also a very ‘green’ choice, and although it usually lacks an attractive grain pattern, on a bass like this with a solid colour finish, that’s obviously not an issue.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

GEAR Little Guitar Works Torzal Jazz £2,250

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION Price | £2,250 Made in | US Body | Alder Neck | Maple, 34” scale Neck joint | Bolt on Nut width | 38mm Fingerboard | Rosewood Frets | 20 Pickups | Nordstrand NJ4se x2 Electronics | Passive Controls | Volume, volume, tone Hardware | Hipshot lightweight chrome Weight | 3.6kg Case/gig bag included? | Yes Left-hand option available? | No

WHAT WE THINK Plus | Well-made, great-sounding instrument that addresses most of the physical problems inherent in bass playing Minus | You may never want to go back to playing a bass with a ‘normal’ neck! Overall | A top-quality, hand-made bass that your wrists and back will love almost as much as your ears


January 2016 Bass Guitar Magazine


GEAR Little Guitar Works Torzal Jazz £2,250

On the front, the traditional tortoiseshell scratchplate complements both the chrome hardware and the flawless satin Olympic White finish beautifully. On the back, the body is gently recessed in an arc behind the neck join, allowing comfortable access to the 12th fret and above. Helped by the instrument’s lack of mass, balance either when standing or sitting is perfect, again helping to alleviate pressure on your fretting hand. And so to that neck. It’s made from quarter-sawn maple and has a normal truss-rod system, adjustable from the body end. To add to its rigidity, the fretboard is made from two rosewood laminates. A glance at the fretting and neat abalone dot markers reveals that both are immaculately inlaid and polished. The twist is created by rotating the angle of the neck at the nut in relation to the top of the bass by -20 degrees, while angling the bridge by +15 degrees by setting it on top of a rosewood wedge. This gives an overall twist of 35 degrees, an amount carefully calculated to allow a far more natural position for both left and right hands, reducing tension in the wrists and ultimately lowering the risk of injury. In keeping with the theme of an instrument that your osteopath and chiropractor will love, the whole bass is incredibly light, something that’s enhanced by the lightweight hipshot tuners and a ‘B’ style bridge.

Sounds and Playability In much the same way that playing a Dingwall bass with its fanned frets can seem a bit daunting at first, initially picking up and playing the Torzal can be a bit unnerving. But you really don’t need to adjust your playing style at all. Ignore the twist in the neck: you’ll quickly adapt and find that after a short time you don’t even notice it. For me, the most off-putting thing for the first few minutes was that in half and first position I couldn’t see the fingers of my left hand, which was scary, at least for a moment. But once you’ve overcome this initial adjustment, you’ll quickly start to focus on the sound of the bass – and you’ll soon realise that there’s nothing lightweight about that.

The passive circuitry and Nordstrand pickups work brilliantly together and give you a modern interpretation of all those old Fender tones we know and love. There’s the familiar bark from the back pickup when you play hard near the bridge, perfect for soloing, while turning up the front gives you a smooth, warm tone, full of rich harmonics that are emphasised and flavoured by the high quality of the timbers. The simple passive controls work smoothly and without fuss, and give you more than enough scope to adjust your sound. However extreme you set the bass and treble, you never lose that classy, detailed and accurate sound. Championed by companies such as Dingwall and Sadowsky, this kind of simple passive system has become more and more prevalent on high end instruments of late – and when you try it on a bass like this, it’s obvious why.

Conclusion Without trying a Torzal bass, it’s easy to dismiss the design as the solution to a problem you don’t have. Perhaps if you were to play a bass like this from the start, you never would. But if you already have (or want to avoid) problems with tendonitis, RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome, this could represent a very sound investment – and one that’ll keep you playing bass, rather than spending your time on stage wincing.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

BURNS CLUB SERIES BISON Joel McIver lassos this big-horned steer. Round ’em up! Rawhide! Etc. Sutherland Trading


Burns London

ostalgia is defined in the dictionary as “a yearning for better days gone by”, but in the cynical modern era in which we find ourselves, it’s better defined as an easy way to make people part

with their money. Take this Bison bass, a familiar instrum ent half a century ago, when real men wore orange nylon strides and sideburns resembled bales of hay. Look at those big old horns, flatwound strings and that three-single coil pi ckup configuration. There’s truly nothing modern about it. Is all this Austin Powers-style kitsch designed to make you reach for your wallet in a fit of rose-tinted-spectacles-itis, or is there genuine quality under the hood?



Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

GEAR Burns Club Series Bison £779.99

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION Price | £779.99 Made In | China Body | Indonesian nato, white or black finish Neck | Hardrock maple, 34” Neck joint | Bolt-on Nut width | 40mm Fingerboard | Rosewood Frets | 22 Pickups | Three Burns Nu-sonic Controls | Volume, tone, Wild Dog/Split Sound selector, pickup selector Weight | 4kg Hard case/gigbag included? | Hard case

WHAT WE THINK Plus | Excellent reissue of classic design that feels authentic Minus | Tone options are a tad eccentric Overall | Not just for nostalgists, the new Bison is a killer competitor for anyone looking for that vintage look and feel


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


GEAR Burns Club Series Bison £779.99

Build Quality Pull this curvaceous beauty out of its lovely furry case and marvel at it for a minute. Our review model comes in ‘none more black’, although a white finish is available, and there’s something slightly demonic about the pointy midnight-ness of it that will no doubt appeal to our bassplaying brethren in the heavy metal world. That said, the retro-looking headstock and controls, not to mention those single coils, reveals exactly where the Bison is coming from – the 1960s. Flaws are hard to find. The traditional solid construction that Burns helped to pioneer is still in place, as endorsed by founder Jim Burns on the manufacturer’s website. The frets are well dressed, the bridge and other hardware is immovable and there’s nary a gap between any of the body and neck components. There’s a lot of plastic here, sure, as there is bound to be in any bass of this vintage, but it’s all durable rather than obviously breakable. For around £800, you’re definitely getting respectable quality.

Sounds and Playability The Bison is a big old beast: the dimensions of the body mean that you’ll need to be at least average in height and poundage to play it comfortably. Assuming you’re not challenged in those areas, you’ll find that this bass sits comfortably on strap or lap, leaving you free to attack the flatwound strings with which the Bison comes by default. You may or may not b e a fan of the old railway lines, but for anyone who prefers alternatives, rest assured that flats are a perfect fit for both the bass and its tone options. There’s something quintessentially right about flatwounds on a Bison, for obvious reasons.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

In any case, you’ll be too impressed with the neck to care much about the string choices. It’s a serious contender for bass neck of the year, if there’s such an award category (mayb e we should start one?) Neither too grippy that it prevents expression nor too shreddy that your hand slips off the end, this is one lovely piece of maple. It’s always a sign of a splendid bass neck that the action height seems not to matter, and in fact our review Bison does n’t have the lowest action. But it doesn’t register: we’re having too much fun knocking out a bunch of pentatonic and Motown lines and imagining ourselves in the Hollies in 1967. Control-wise, Bison’s original decision not to complicate things with more than one volume and tone pot still seems wise, especially when you consider the range of presets accessible via the nearest control. With four positions – Wild Dog, Treble, Bass and Split – to play with, plus another four available if you switch the pickup configuration from A to B, you’re in tone heaven. For the record, the options when you’re in A mode are bridge pickup plus a touch of crunch (Wild Dog), bridge (Treble), neck (Bass), neck and bridge (Split). Switch to B and it’s bridge and middle, plus aforementioned grit (Wild Dog), bridge and middle (Treble), neck and middle (Bass) and all three units (Split). Essentially, therefore, the B mode is for more than one pickup, with a concomitant hybrid sound that is a touch fatter and louder than the ‘pure’ A settings. My personal faves are Wild Dog B, with its wider, crunchier sound, and Split B, where all three single-coils are in use. But everyone will have their preferences: the great thing is that the Bison supplies a ton of easily understandable options, a rarity on any pre-1970 bass design.

Conclusion Hats off to Burns London, the current keepers of the Burns flame. They’ve done a fantastic job of replicating the original, fairly ancient Bison, in a way that is faithful to the 1960s instrument but which feels wholly useful to the modern player. Sure, the old look may not appeal to everyone, but who said it needed to...?


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

GEAR Schertler Bass Fidelity B15 Combo £1,164

SCHERTLER Bass Fidelity B15 Combo Swiss make Schertler are known for acoustic gear. Kev Sanders tries out their new electric bass amp Schertler


t’s a familiar story. Markbass, Barefaced, PJB, Vanderkley and now Schertler: these companies and many others

like them all began in the same way. A bass player with a working knowledge of acoustics and electronics is frustrated by the quality and sound of the equipment that’s available and thinks, “I can build something better than this”. So they do. Swiss bassist Steven Schertler began his own company back in the early 80s, developing and making high-quality pickups and preamp systems for acoustic instruments, primarily double bass. That kept him busy for the next 20 years or so b efore he turned his attention to amplification. Initially the

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION Price | €1,599 (approx £1,164) Power | 500W Speaker | 15” plus 1” compression driver Features | Single input with -15db pad and adjustable input impedance control, stereo  jack insert, XLR (balanced line) DI out with pre/ post, 4 band EQ; lo, lo-mid, hi-mid, hi, separate input gain, mute, headphone out with ground lift switch, Class D power amp section, transistor Class A preamp. Weight | 24kg

WHAT WE THINK Plus | Oozes quality, both in terms of studio-like fidelity and flawless construction Minus | No speaker extension facility, fairly expensive Overall | You get what you pay for. An impressive move into the bass amplification market


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


GEAR Schertler Bass Fidelity B15 Combo £1,164

company concentrated on developing high quality multi-channel combos for voice and acoustic instruments but now, following the acquisition of their Italian subsidiary company SR Technology, they’ve moved into the design and manufacture of combo amps for electric bass, as well as some PA equipment. There are three models in the new Bass Fidelity range, the B10 with a single 10” driver and 300W output; the B12 which has 400W and a 12” speaker; and this, the top of the range B15, 500W with single 15” speaker plus one-inch compression driver. Without wishing to stereotype, the quality of the engineering and materials here is as impressive as you’d expect given the B15’s Swiss origins. There’s a clean, precision-engineered feel to this amp, which is apparent in the black anodised aluminium tone and volume pots, with a perfectly-weighted soft ‘click’ as you turn them, and the heavy-duty steel amp chassis and grille. It’s not the most exciting amp to look at, with a subdued grey control panel, but it does have a monochrome industrial feel which reminds me of the German-made Dynachord 1x15 bass combos back in the 80s.



Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

The cabinet is made from dense 25mm birch ply and coated in a hard black textured finish. Inside, it’s braced from front to back and side to side with the same ply, and the interior is neatly lined with thick white acoustic wadding. Good-quality multi-stranded cables connect the drivers and amp, and overall it’s almost as neat on the inside as it is externally. The cast-framed 15” speaker and one-inch compression driver are bolted directly to the front baffle and the cabinet is ported along the bottom. The large bar handles are well placed either side: although it’s not particularly heavy, the amp’s dimensions dictate that it’s a ‘knees bent, back straight’ lift. However, it’s well balanced when you do carry it, and the four chunky rubber feet mean that it sits solidly on the floor when it’s parked. As usual, the mains on/off and ground lift switch are on the back of the amp. Most of the other functions and inputs you’d normally find on the back – along with the single input and headphone socket – have been moved to the front and top of the control panel, with the various gain and EQ controls below on the front. This makes plugging effects into the send and return loop or using the balanced line DI really easy. Personally, I’d like to have seen th is the other way around, with the functions and controls you most often need to fiddle with – such as EQ and gains – on the top of the amp, and the DI, headphone socket and input on the front. I say this because the B15 doesn’t have an extension cab output, so unless you can get it off of the ground – perhaps by sitting it on a flight-case or similar – it’s probably going to be at floor level. While accessing controls such as the effects loop is much easier than normal, if you want to adjust your volume or EQ, you’re going to be on your knees in front of it. So: there’s nothing revolutionary about the design of this amp, it’s not particularly exciting to look at, and even with those big bar handles either side it’s still a little awkward to move around. Once you’ve plugged your bass in, however, you’ll forgive it these minor niggles because it really does sound terrific. There’s a studio-quality accuracy to the sound of the B15 which must be due, at least in part, to the experience which Schertler’s designers have gained developing super-accurate preamps for acoustic instruments. The extended low end in particular is so clean and precise that on several occasions I found myself playing way louder than I realised. This is something I’ve noticed before with very highquality amps, due to a near-total absence of distortion, something that most (although not all) players will love. The Gain stage does allow you to add some grit and grind to the sound, and it works well – but with a class A transistor preamp and class D power amp, the B15 is all about clean, faithful and accurate reproduction of the bass sound. This is probably not the amp for a player who wants crunching valve distortion most of the time. Despite the larger speaker, the midrange is as transparent and detailed as a 10” studio monitor, and although there’s no attenuation for the HF unit, the bi-amp crossover is seamless and the top end sounds like a natural extension of the mids. The four adjustable EQ frequencies (lo, lo-mid, hi-mid and hi) are powerful and well chosen, and give you plenty of scope for quickly finding your sound, even if your bass’s pickups are as wheezing and asthmatic as they are on my old Jazz. Plugging in something a bit more powerful, in this case a six string with EMGs and a pokey 18-volt active preamp, meant that a lot less adjustment was needed from the B15’s EQ section, although I was still able to make the most subtle changes given the smooth, linear nature of the amp’s EQ circuitry. It’s quick and easy to get a good bass sound, and with seemingly limitless headroom, volume isn’t going to be an issue in all but the loudest of live situations. The Bass Fidelity B15 really is a great amp. It’s versatile, and the clean, accurate sound and wide frequency response would make it ideal as a one-stop studio bass amp. However, it’s up against some pretty tough competition. Ashdown’s ABM 115H, the Markbass CMD151 P, Trace’s 1215 and the rather sple ndid Ibanez 1x15 Promethean all offer a great deal for substantially less dosh . However, if amplifying your £3,000 custom bass without anything added or taken away from its sound is your priority, then this is definitely an amp to consider – and if this sounds like you, you’ll no doubt appreciate the quality of materials and build of the B15 too.

ASHDOWN Dr Green Pedalboard Mike Brooks puts the good doctor’s pedals under the knife... Ashdown Engineering




TUNE UP Price | £69 Features | Mute Weight | 481g excluding battery

THE ASPIRIN Price | £69 Features | Input, Ratio, Output Weight | 522g excluding battery

OCTA DOSE Price | £69 Features | Direct, Octave Weight | 581g excluding battery


his recent series of pedals from Ashdown comes under the Dr Green label, designed and engineered here in the UK and manufactured in China, and although the pedals are available as separate units, what we have here is the full bass range housed in a very convenient pedalboard. The unit is solidly cased and well put together: although some players may wish to play around with the order of the effects. The stomp buttons are solid and effective and the pedals themselves are robustly manufactured in their steel casings. Although the chunky controls protrude upwards, in a gigging situation they should be safe from being trampled on by punters who may have had one too many shandies. We have a tuner (Tune Up), compressor (Aspirin), octaver (Octa Dose), fuzz/distortion (Bearded Lady), envelope filter (Doctor’s Note) and reverb (Bass Verb). The input and output are located on the rear of the board and an adapter to power the whole board is supplied. Each pedal has a green LED indicator to show when it’s in use, and all feature true bypass switching to


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016

maintain the quality of your signal. The tuner pedal does everything you could want it to do, with its large, easy-to-read display and mute facility; and for those who use a dropped tuning, this particular pedal will map down three semitones from concert pitch. The quality of each individual effect is very impressive, with no tracking glitches at all: a particular relief with the Octa Dose and Doctor’s Note pedals, as octavers and filters can sometimes have tracking issues. The Octa Dose did start to get a little niggly around low F#, but that’s still an impressive range – unsurprising, considering Ashdown’s experience with the sub-harmonic feature on their amps. The Bearded Lady fuzz and distortion is also very useful, allowing the effect to be added separately in varying degrees to high and low frequencies. In practice, it sounds not too dissimilar from the James LoMenzo distortion released by Ashdown a few years ago. As any effects junkie will tell you, finding combinations of sounds is half the fun, and with five effects on offer there’s plenty of options to play with,

GEAR Ashdown Dr Green Pedalboard £599


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION ASHDOWN DR GREEN PEDALBOARD Price | £599 Made in | China Dimensions | 465mm x 80mm x 95mm (Unit) Power | DC, 9v battery




BEARDED LADY Price | £59 Features | Hi Fuzz, Hi Out, Lo Fuzz, Lo Out Weight | 540g excluding battery

DOCTORS NOTE Price | £69 Features | Mix, Sens, Decay, Q Weight | 522g excluding battery

BASS VERB Price | £99 Features | Mix, Depth Weight | 540g excluding battery

even before you place the pedals in a different order. The compressor has a simple but extremely effective control set: for some truly dynamic funk, use it with the Doctor’s Note envelope filter, plus a smidgeon of fuzz and soon you’ll be creating sounds that Larry Graham would be proud of. The Bass Verb also has plenty to offer, giving your signal depth and a different edge. Although bass reverb isn’t something you will use in every song, when applied sparingly and in the right context, it can prove very effective. An obvious omission here is a chorus/flanger pedal: so far there isn’t a bass variant under the Dr Green label – but maybe the thinking here is that envelope filters and octave pedals have largely replaced them in the bass player’s arsenal. I would suggest that one or two of the pedals might benefit from an extra control to give them a little more flexibility; but, on the whole, the proof is in the listening – and as a collection of bass effects, these pedals are truly pleasing.

WHAT WE THINK Plus | Competitively priced, solidly built and usable sounds Minus | Some players may only require one or two effects as opposed to the whole set-up Overall | A well executed idea by Ashdown that should appeal to a large number of players: the sensible layout and quality of the effects should create a lot of interest

All of the pedals were very well behaved with a selection of passive and active basses. The benefit of this type of set-up compared to a multi-FX unit is that you can take individual pedals out as separate units if you only need one or two for a certain gig, or if space is limited. You can buy the pedals individually and they’re priced very competitively. All in all, this is an impressive set-up: players will get plenty of mileage out of these excellent pedals.


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


Bass Guitar Magazine












Bass Guitar Magazine Presents... Basses You Must Play!  collates a ton of reviews of desirable bass guitars from the BGM archives as part of our magazine’s ongoing mission to make you a better bass player. Whether it’s an £11,000 Fodera you’re after – and why not? – or a bass which you can snap up for a few hundred quid, this is your one-stop shop for all things bass-related, and the perfect companion for our first special edition, BGM Presents... The Ultimate Bass Guide , published last year. Oh, and we’ve thrown in reviews of cool amps and effects pedals too, just to round off the package. Bookended by a foreword and afterword from the great Stuart Hamm and Dave Swift, this publication will take you a long way towards your goal.



TUITION Making you a better bass player


Ellen O’Reilly is a freelance bassist and vocalist currently studying at ICMP. Ellen has extensive experience in gigging, studio and television work.



Paul Geary attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Musicians’ Institute of Technology. He also heads up the Academy Of Contemporary Music’s bass school.



the electric and upright bass world. We’re fortunate enough to have

Stuart Clayton is a professional bassist and writer with over 20 years of experience in the industry. He runs the bass department at BIMM Bristol and Bassline Publishing, which has published a range of tuition and tab books.

some serious talent on the team, from world-class music educators

elcome to our redesigned tuition se ction, in which Bass Guitar Magazine  collates the wit and wisdom of the crème de la crème  of

to experienced touring musicians, who between them have laid down


the low notes in every studio, club and arena in the civilised world. Note


that we’ve divided the columns according to Beginner, Intermediate  and Advanced level for easy reference. Whether you’re looking to improve your playing technique, expand your awareness of theory, set up your rig to sound like your particular bass hero or simply get on a bus and tour, we provide the answers you need here. What are you waiting for? Dive in... Joel McIver, editor

Rob Statham has amassed over 25 years as a professional freelance bass player. He has played in a wide range of musical settings, including jazz, blues, prog and classical, and he has taught for the past three years at Tech Music School.



Head of the Bass Department at BIMM Brighton, Franc has worked with artists such as Steve Howe (Yes), Lisa Moorish, and Mike Lindup (Level 42). Franc uses Jeff Chapman basses and Elites strings.



Say hello to advanced techniques columnist Philip Mann, star of studio and stage. Ready to get those fingers flying? Mann up...



David Etheridge studied double bass at the Royal College of Music. Since then he’s worked with musicians such as Nigel Kennedy and Martin Taylor. David teaches double and electric bass and is the MD of two big bands and a 55-piece jazz orchestra.



Mike has written for BGM since 2004 and has been a bassist since 1987, clocking up over 3000 gigs around the world in the process. He has played for and worked with the likes of Bonnie Tyler and Toyah Willcox, and has a bass collection to rival a small shop.



Steve Lawson is the UK’s most celebrated solo bass guitarist, with 15 years of touring and 36 solo and collaborative albums to his name. He also lectures at colleges around the world.



Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015


TUITION Introduction

BGM Notation Legend The following is a guide to the notation symbols and terminology used in Bass Guitar Magazine  The Stave: most music written for the bass guitar uses the bass clef. The example to the right shows the placement of the notes on the stave. Tablature: this is a graphical representation of the music. Each horizontal line corresponds with a string on the bass guitar, with the lowest line representing the lowest pitched string (E). The numbers represent the frets to be played. Numbers stacked vertically indicate notes that are played together. Where basses with five or six strings are required, the tablature stave will have five or six lines as necessary. Notes shown in brackets indicate that a note has been tied over from a previous bar.






Notes slapped with the thumb are marked with a ‘t’, notes popped with the fingers marked with a ‘p’

Fretting hand slaps are marked ’lh’ and double thumbing upstrokes are shown with an upward pointing arrow

Where necessary, down and upstrokes with the pick will be shown using these symbols (down-up-down-up)

Fretting hand taps are shown with a ‘+’ in a circle. Picking hand taps are shown with ‘+’. Specific fingers will be shown with numbers if necessary






Hammer-ons and pull-offs are shown with a slur over the notes. Only the first note is plucked by the picking hand

Slides are performed by playing the first note then sliding the fretting finger up to the second note

Trills are performed by rapidly alternating between the two notes shown using hammer-ons and pull-offs

The pitch of the note is altered by repeatedly bending the string up and back with the fretting finger







The note is played as a harmonic by lightly touching the string above the fret indicated

Pluck the string while fretting the lower note and placing the edge of the picking hand thumb an octave higher (the note shown in brackets)

The note is bent upwards to the interval specified: ½ = semitone, full = tone

The note is bent up to the interval indicated then released back to its original pitch

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016


T  h  e 



Trivium’s bass ninja Paolo reflects on the year’s best low-frequency performances 2015 has been a hell of a year for bass guitar in rock and metal. Iron

Want to make it as a professional bassist? Listen up as BGM’s world-class bass team reports back from the tourbus

Maiden have released an incredible new album after five years – I’d say that alone makes this year one for the books. Each member of Trivium has a fairly wide array of influences, some shared more than others, but our love for Maiden is equal across the board. They are part of the bedrock that makes up our sound, and with this new album they have just given us a whole lot more to dive


into. Everything you want to


Jazz warrior Ruth ponders those school daze...

hear and then some is on the

People studying music often ask me what the best way is to go about it. A lot of them play with the idea of going to music college, but it’s

record. It’s a bit more polished

not necessarily always the best way to go – every case is different and

overall and the

every person has his or her particular needs. Some people, of course, want a degree for

songwriting more focused

various reasons, but if you just

and energised. They sound

want to be a better player, performer

like they have something to

or composer there are other cheaper

prove once again. Rule

ways, especially

of thumb: if

now that studying is so expensive. I

Maiden can still bring the

had a great time studying jazz

power at their age, there

bass at Middlesex University for

is no excuse for us young

three years: it suited me at the

bands not to! Lamb of God’s VII: Sturm Und Drang makes my list for two reasons. Musically this album is on point, the lyrics carry

time in terms of

the seriousness and turmoil of their recent story while delving

where I was at as a player. It also

into more topics. I am a lyrics dude so this was a big thing for me. Number two, they took a few risks on this album. Having

meant that having moved from a

known them for a bit, I’ve picked up that there is more to their musical palate than just thrash metal. Slayer’s ‘Repentless’ single

different country, I was able to build

is quintessential Slayer: riffs, thrash beats and Tom Araya’s bloodboiling yell. The amazing and severely underrated Gary Holt does

up a network of musicians and friends very quickly. In a learning situation it is vital to have like-minded people around you: it allows you to practise together, live in the same areas, and develop together. This can be a hard thing to do for musicians from abroad who

© Scott Uchida


want to become part of the scene. It was also an awful lot cheaper to study at a college when I was there. It’s quite scary to think that if I

incredible work and honours the band Jeff Hanneman helped to build. I was pretty sure drummer Paul Bostaph would fit back in

were 10 years younger, it simply wouldn’t be an option for me. Many bassists just want to become better at their instrument, and a lot of

with no problems since he has been here before, and I was not disappointed. Megadeth’s ‘Fatal Illusion’ single was amazing too:

them would be better off getting a really good teacher and mentor, and

man, it’s good to hear them firing on all cylinders again on this

studying with them for a longer period of time. With the amount it costs to go to music college, you could afford countless private lessons.

song. It’s got an early Megadeth vibe to it, a cross between songs off Endgame  and Peace Sells . David Ellefson’s bass tone is ripping too!

Also, one-to-one lessons with someone you trust and understand can be so much more effective than sitting in lessons with 20 others. You

Then there’s Ghost and ‘Cirice’. They took a turn back to the slightly more sinister tone of that first record and reminded me why they

get the full attention of one person, which is invaluable. You may miss being part of a community, but you can solve this by attending jam

are so fun to listen to. I think this song proves their music can carry them without needing to see the makeup. The mix by Andy

sessions and meeting people at gigs. Remember that going to a music college is an attractive thought, but it is not your only option.

Wallace is great – he always gets great bass tones in my opinion. Roll on 2016! 


Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016






Ten-string warlock McKinsey asks the big questions

Therapy?’s bass monkey Mike on gear-sharing   m   o   c      d   r    i    b   y   e    l    h   s   a     w   w   w    ©

If you’ve read this column with any regularity, you know I have a propensity to swing into the abstract. No apologising for that, but this is one of those pieces. I’d like you to consider once more your individual aesthetic. We all get into this for a number of reasons. But whatever it is that got you here, to paraphrase the great Buckaroo Banzai, here you are. Now that you’re doing this, stop and think why. Understanding what you’re after can actually lead you to greater happiness, less disappointment and further growth in the ways you’re pursuing. Remember that there are no ‘right’ answers to any of these things. Whether you want to be a virtuoso soloist, a professional in the studio or on stage, a teacher or someone whose greatest joy comes from the experience of making sounds for no-one but you, none of these paths is any more or less valid than any other. But if you’re hoping to be the nastiest groove player in history and you end up in speed metal bands, you’re going to be discontented. We can all benefit from open minds and ears, from exposing ourselves to all manner of music and musicians. I have learned more from being a teacher than as a student: to grow and learn we need to never abandon that. At the same time, we need to look at what it is we want to learn and why. Is your goal to inspire or entertain? Would you like to be a perfect technician, able to reproduce anything you read or hear, or are you seeking your own voice? Do you love one music style to the exclusion of all others, or do you relish the challenge of the new? Some great artists choose to abandon what they love. When Miles Davis was asked why he stopped playing ballads, his answer was, “because I love ballads.” That’s an incredibly powerful statement. At the same time, how many of us are Miles Davis? None of us are locked into one role. Taking a few steps down an unfamiliar path can only benefit us. But why do you do this? www.faceboo + search ‘Stewart McKinsey’

On a recent tour I found myself in the position of sharing a backline with the support act, which was the first time I’ve done so in quite a few years. It’s becoming a norm that makes a lot of practical and financial sense, not to mention freeing up stage room and transport space. So if you fancy stripping down a bit, or doubling up with another bassist, here’s what I’d advise. First up, reach out directly to the player whose gear you will be borrowing (there’s no point in talking to the drummer, for example), say hello, let them know what sort of setup you normally use and work out if you can achieve the right result with theirs. At the gig, get them to talk you through their setup even if you’ve used or own an identical model yourself: it’s always good to be prepared for any quirks or mods that might be lurking. Respect where they have their settings: if there’s a complicated graphic EQ I normally steer well clear and use the basic EQ on my SansAmp pedal. For ease of changeover, basically aim to deal with the input gain and the master volume. Talking Talking of which, never crank the volume beyond where they have it set – your rig might sound great pumped, but driving someone’s pride and joy too hard is normally frowned upon. Also rather than marking your settings on the head, risking cosmetic damage, just take a picture on your phone for quick reference – normally that’s just as easy to see under stage lights. If you want the amp moved, ask first and lug it yourself. It goes without saying to try and bring everything else – leads, cabling, stands and picks – where possible. They’ve already done you a big favour so show that you’ve made as much effort as you could. A bit of common courtesy goes a long way, so say thanks every night and even if it’s not 100 per cent to your sonic tastes be complimentary. Always offer to help with the breakdown and load-out. The bottom line is: treat the player and gear as you would like to be treated yourself, respect their cherished equipment and enjoy using it. That goodwill should go both ways, so return the favour someday if asked. Happy sharing!

Bass Guitar Magazine January 2016



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Beginner’s Theory

   e     i     k    c     E    y     b    c     i     P


Three is the key, explains beginner’s bass ninja Ellen


ello again, bass buddies! Over my past few columns we’ve looked at the first two positions of the major pentatonic scale. This time we’ll move on to position three – and once we get to the end of this series of lessons, I’ll then show you how they all fit together together.. Scales, arpeggios and pentatonics work together and within each other, much like a musical satnav that can help you navigate melodically within a given key. We’ve been working in the key of G major up until this point, which means that for this position, we will start on the note B, the major third of the G major scale. Of course, the best and easiest ways to learn new scales is to play them repeatedly to get the visual shape of the scale into your head. Your hands will grow accustomed to the various shapes until you get to a point where you can just play them without having to think about them too much – this is what’s known as muscle memory. Knowing the shapes is a great little shortcut to use when asked to solo on the fly.



Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015

The first two shapes we looked at were major shapes, so as we were using the one-finger-per-f one-finger-per-fret ret rule, you started fretting with your middle finger. The third major pentatonic position is in a minor shape, so start it on your index finger. finger. The scale degrees you play in position three are third, fifth, sixth, root, ninth third (an octave up), fifth (an octave up) and thirteenth. As we saw in previous columns, the ninth and the thirteenth are simply the second and sixth, played an octave up. These notes in the key of G major are: B, D, E, G, A, B, D, E. The notation I’ve provided shows you how this looks on a scale. As it’s the key of G major, we have an F# in the key signature, even though we don’t play the F# (the seventh) when playing the pentatonic scale. These scales are tools to make music with, so try other major keys as well. Just change the position of the root and away you go! I have also included grids to show you what shape you are playing in position three: the left one highlights the root, which is the fourth note you hit as you ascend the scale. Play around with all these shapes and have fun with them. Enjoy!


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EXAMPLE 1 Let’s start by fretting the E string at the fifth fret and playing the A note. This note is a dotted quaver (eighth note) The dot increases its value by half. We then play a sixteenth note, semiquaver dead note. As you play the dead note, try to dig in with your plucking-hand fingers closer to the bridge and simultaneously release the pressure on your fretting hand finger to dampen and mute the string. This will enable you to play the A dead note at the fifth fret of the E string. Use the first finger of your fretting hand, as this will probably be the strongest. This will take a bit of getting used to. At first you might not actually get a note at all, but rather a dampened sound, or even a partial harmonic. With a bit of practice, the dead note should start to sound like a strong percussive thump on the string, similar to a slapped thumbed note. Set your metronome at 100BPM and begin to repeat that figure, making sure your rhythm and pulse is even.


Dead notes and harmonics explored, with the mighty Geary


his month I will concentrate on dead notes and harmonic technique. A dead note is a percussive attack on a string that helps to create a sound similar to the thumbed note used in slap bass technique. It is particularly useful in projecting rhythm and can dramatically add dimension to any bass-line. The dead note is essentially a technique that has been passed down from the double bass and emulated on the electric bass. Harmonics are really useful and every bassist should have some experience of producing them. Check out Jaco Pastorius’ legendary ‘Portrait Of Tracy’. This composition uses harmonics extensively to project the bass-line. We can also use them to tune each string. A false harmonic is one which is not found at any of the natural node points, so must be created by the use of the plucking hand thumb as an artificial nut.



Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015

EXAMPLE 2 Play the same rhythmical figure on each string across the neck. The first bar starts at the fifth fret playing the D note on the A string. The pattern then moves on to the G note on the D string and finally the C note on the G string. It is really important to keep the timing and pulse accurate, while making sure the dead note has the right amount of percussive tone and attack. Most mobile devices have a sound recorder, so why not record and listen to yourself? This will show what is needed to get the tone just right.

EXAMPLE 3 Here we have a four-bar repeating phrase that uses dead notes mixed with actual pitches to create a bass line. Start this one at 80BPM and raise the tempo during practice to 120BPM. In bar one we start with a dotted eighth note straight into two semiquavers (sixteenth note) dead notes. At the end of bar one we have a B sixteenth note played on the second fret of the A string that leads to the dotted E eighth note in the second bar. This rhythm is repeated in bar two, adding alternative pitches.



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Watch out for the dotted eighth note on A, fifth fret E string leading into the final sixteenth note of that bar played on G, third fret E string. Bar three is the same as bar one. In bar four we add more syncopation based around a sixteenth note pulse on the A note (fifth fret, E string.) The last

figure is a sixteenth note joined to an eighth note, using A and G. Try to make this one sound as funky as possible. Your plucking hand fingers need to be slightly closer to the bridge when playing the notes. This, along with extra pressure and digging in with your fingers, will create the best tone.

EXAMPLE 4 This last example demonstrates how to find prominent harmonics. These are easy to find and play. Remember, harmonics are not always the same pitch as the frets they are played on. For example, the fifth fret of the G string is a C, but the harmonic played here is a G. The correct pitches are shown in the notation. Pluck the E string with your plucking hand index finger, while placing the first finger of your fretting hand over the fifth fret of the E string. Make sure your finger is on the fifth fret, not in front of it as when you play a normal note. As you pluck the string, quickly release the pressure and release the first finger from the fret. With practice you should be able to create a harmonic pitch. Repeat this process across the fretboard making sure your finger is on the fifth fret for the A, D and

G strings. It is more difficult to produce harmonics on the lower strings: as you practise up and down the fretboard on different frets, you should be able to find highe r partial harmonics as well as low ones. Finally, try placing your plucking-hand thumb over the strings and play E, A, D and G. As you pluck the strings, lift the thumb off the string and let it ring out. You should notice a false harmonic. These are really effective when playing actual notes with the fretting hand up and down the neck. Enjoy getting “dead good” with dead notes, and harmonious with harmonics!

Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015



More Lydian mode mayhem from the mighty Clayton


elcome back mode-lovers! Regular readers will recall that in the last issue we began focusing our attention on the Lydian mode, the fourth mode of the major scale. In this issue we’ll look at a longer, more in-depth study piece that uses it. If you’ve successfully completed the material from the previous issue, you should have a good understanding of where it can best be used. If for any reason you missed that particular issue, here’s a quick recap. The Lydian mode is the fourth mode of the major scale. So in the case of the C major scale, which as you know contains only natural notes, that mode would run from F t o F: F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F. The chord that is built on the fourth degree of the major scale is a major seventh chord (Fmaj7) and it is over this chord that the Lydian mode is best used. The distinguishing characteristic of th e Lydian mode is that is almost identical to the major scale, but contains a sharpened fourth. This sharpened fourth (or eleventh if we refer to it as a compound interval) is often used as an extension to the


Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015

TUITION Intermediate Theory

major seventh chord (Fmaj7#11), creating a unique sound. Let’s look at this month’s study piece. The opening Part A section is a chordal part to be played using the chordal fingerstyle technique. The opening chord is a tricky voicing of an Fmaj7#11 chord. I recommend fretting the F on the E string with the first finger, the E on the D string with the second, the C on the A string with the third and the B on the G string with the fourth. This chord moves to a simpler voicing of an Fmaj7 chord in the second half of the bar. I recommend fretting this as follows: F on the E string with the first finger, E on the D string with the second and the A on the G string with the third. In the second bar of the intro, two simpler chords are played over an open A string bass note, which should ring throughout the bar. When playing this entire two-bar line, you can allow all of the notes to ring into one another. At  Part B  a fingerstyle groove begins. This is an almost continuous semiquaver line, with some tricky syncopations. The part is based around the chord tones from the Fmaj7 chord (F, A, C, E) but includes several Bs, the sharpened fourth note that is the distinguishing characteristic of the Lydian mode. The fingerings for this line are much simpler, and so my only advice when learning this part is to work on it slowly and out of time to begin with, then start at a lower tempo, perhaps 70 to 80BPM. Readers of the digital edition of BGM should also check out the video performance of this song as a reference. At Part C a slap groove begins. This requires only basic slap technique, although there are some quite tricky sliding octave figures. When playing these, keep the lower root note fretted as you pop the octave note and slide upwards – this will really t hicken up the sound. The hammer-on figures at the end of the fourth bar of the sequence hit a series



of strong chord tones – E (the major seventh), A (the third), C (the fifth). The final slide up to the B accents the sharpened fourth (or eleventh). The final section of the piece is a repeat of the fingerstyle groove we saw in Part B.

Good luck with tackling this study piece. It’s a quite a challenging part and, as ever with my column, you’ll need to be competent with several key techniques: chordal playing, fingerstyle and slap. Next month we will take a look at the Mixolydian mode. Until then…

Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015


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“SEEING THE FINGERBOARD AS A WHOLE, RATHER THAN A PATCHWORK OF AREAS, WILL GET YOU A LONG WAY ” the 35 available notes is explained by the fact that the same no te can be played at different fret pos itions on different strings. We also, of course, have four open strings, but let’s leave those possibilities aside for now.

Example 1 is a lesson in mapping out note repetitions on the bass. You’ll notice that I have started at the note Bb, the first fret on the A string, as this is where fretted notes start to repeat. All of the notes on the E string below the open A can only be played on the E string in the first four frets, so we start to find more than one fret position for a note once we get on to the A string. As you can see, this means we have two positions available – e.g. first fret on the A string and sixth fret on the E string for a Bb – and then, as we


cross to the next string we begin to have three possibilities – e.g. first fret D string, sixth fret A string, and eleventh fret E string for the note Eb. At the most, for some notes , we have as many as four fret positi ons available, and then, as we cont inue

Ramping up your fingerboard knowledge with Obi-Wan Statham

higher up the neck, this reduces to three, then two, and, fina lly, above the note Bb at the fifteenth fret on the G string, we are back to o nly one available fret position. I haven’t mapped out the entire exercise, so it would be a worthwhile task t o finish the process yourself. Of course, if you have more strings and an extended range – e.g. a five-string bass with a two-octave neck – then you’ll have a little more work to do. Another worthwhile goal to set ourselves is to be able to play any note in a particular key at all available fret positions on every string. For instance, if we think of the scale of C major we firstly tend to think of the one-octave pattern that we are familiar with. But our goal should be t o be able to play any note in the key of


ne easy trap to fall into when

C at all possible fret positions. Example 2  can help in this respe ct; here we are playing all the notes available

playing the bass is to fail to

in the key of C on each string in turn, all the way up to the highest possible fret pos ition. I have illustrated

see the fingerboard as an

this in the key of C on the E, A, and D strings, and so you can finish the exercise by finding all the notes in

integrated whole: instead,

the key of C on the G string. Of co urse, we would normally avoid playing a scale p assage by moving up on

many bassists play in isolated,

one string, but the purpose of this exercise is to become aware of all available notes on each string, no matter

one-octave boxes for each chord

what position on the neck we are at. Ultimately, we should set ourselves the goal of being able to pe rform this

change. Although this can be an effective strategy up to a point, it does mean that we can fall into predictable patterns. If, on the other hand, we can see the entire fingerboard as an integrated whole, regardless of chord or key, then we can find more options available for any given situation. Basic fingerboard knowledge should include knowing how many notes we have at our disposal and being aware of where they repeat at different frets on different strings. For instance, on a standard 20-fret four-string bass it is easy to see that we have 80 fret positions available to us: however, we also need to know how many different notes we have available. In fact, from a low E to the top Eb, we have two octaves and a major seventh in terms of range, which means that 35 different notes are available to us. The discrepancy between the 80 fret positions and


Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015

TUITION Intermediate Techniques

exercise in any key and for any


scale or mode we know. Another useful way of increasing our fingerboard knowledge is a scale exercise that my first teacher, David Miles, introduced me to ( Example 3 ). He called it a ‘round trip’, and it really helped me to know my way round the instrument. The idea is to play any scale or mode


over the entire range of the bass, from the lowest to the highest available note. I have written an example in G Dorian, starting on the lowest G and then p laying two octaves and a fifth to our highest available note in that mode. On the descent, don’t forget to go below our starting note and include the notes in the scale


available beneath the lowest root note, in this case F and E. I’ve tabbed out a particular fingering, but note that it is different on the descent, and that it is only one possible fingering solution for the exercise. It would be worth your while trying the same exercise with other fingering possibilities – there are quite a few different options. Here I have used some


open strings, but in other keys this might not be possible. Try to complete a ‘round t rip’ in any key for all the scales and modes you know. Finally, a useful idea for knowing our pentatonic scales in all areas of the neck is to break them down to five positions, starting from each note of the scale in turn [see Ellen O’Reilly’s columns for an introduction to pentatonics – Ed]. Example 4 shows a G minor pentatonic. The first position starts on the root note on the E string at the third fret and encompasses all available notes of the scale in that position. Then, moving to the second note

get back to the same position we started with but an octave higher. It so happens that in the key of G minor

of the scale – Bb at the sixth

the lowest position starts with the root but, as you can appreciate, this won’t be true in other keys. So make

fret on the E string – we play all

sure you practise this in all keys and get used to the relationship between each of the positions, whichever

available notes from there; this is

note in the scale you are starting from.

the relative major of Bb of course.

Developing a comprehensive awareness of the fingerboard and beginning to see it as an integrated whole,

Next we would start from the

rather than a patchwork of isolated areas, will go a long way to ensure you always have options available, no

third note, C, and so on until we

matter where you find yourself on the neck. I hope you find these exercises useful in this respect…

Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015





Solo bass with Big Franc, continued: get ready to unpack!


his month we will look at unpacking exotic scales to draw out useful material for creating solos. Since there are so many different scales, you will never get a chance to study, familiarise yourself with, and master them all, but don’t despair – this is the same for every musician on the planet. For example, there are literally hundreds of different Indian raga scales. V.K. Krishna Prasad’s comprehensive tome, Ragas In Indian Music, lists around 1200 of them. Do you think that Indian musicians would learn all these scales? Of course not! It would take several lifetimes to master them all. Most Indian musicians will focus on several ragas and have their favourites, encountering others as a matter of course. Rather than feeling you have to learn hundreds of scales, focus on particular ones, going off personal preference and playing environments. To get the most out of a scale you need to understand its idiosyncrasies, and an effective way to do this is to unpack the scale (that is, methodically explore its structure.) I began this with a Mixolydian b6 scale last time, using an A tonality for the example – but this can be applied to other tonal centres too.

Magazine October 2015 GUITARGuitar MAGAZINE 80 BASS Bass 80



A scale possesses a rich body of structure, which can be transformed into creative musical ideas. Unpacking a scale is not easy, but it doesn't have to be drudgery. As the ancient Chinese Taoist master Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In other words, enjoy and savour every step of the j ourney. The fingering for the A Mixolydian b6, as shown in the tab for Example 1, gives us an interesting view of the symmetrical structure of this scale. On closer inspection, note that the fingering pattern created is exactly the same shape looked at upside down. This is also evident from its tone and semitone structure: T T s T s T T, or 2212122. The formula is the same both forward and retrograde – that is, the Mixolydian b6 has a self-reflective formula. Example 2 highlights the fact that the Mixolydian b6, which is the fifth mode of the melodic minor, is nestled in the centre of the melodic minor system with all the other modes branching out from it. All the other modes reflect another mode in the system when their formulas are turned backwards. In fact, they progressively and systematically radiate out from the Mixolydian b6 in reflecting pairs. Lydian dominant and Locrian natural 2 reflect each other, as do Lydian augmented and the altered scale, and finally so do Dorian b2 and the melodic minor scale. Example 3 demonstrates ascending and then descending the Mixolydian b6 in tetrachords, which is always useful when learning a scales structure. Since the Mixolydian b6 is often called the Hindu scale due to its popularity in Indian music, Example 4 shows a typical pentatonic sometimes used in Indian music whose formula is entirely concomitant with that of the Mixolydian b6. The formula is 1, 3, 4, 5, b7, and is the same as the minor pentatonic scale except it contains a major third instead of a minor third. This scale is alluded to in George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You’ and can be clearly heard in Sheila Chandra’s hit single from 1982, ‘Ever So Lonely’. There are too many pentatonic scales to mention here, but I will focus on the ones that work with the Mixolydian b6 scale. Pentatonic scales are of interest since they can function as simple melodic frameworks that the ear easily

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TUITION Advanced Theory






familiarises itself with. The most common ones are the standard major and minor pentatonic scales , which happen to be related to each other as modes of the same system. Although they work with the Mixolydian b6, they fail to characterise the distinct flavour of this scale, which is defined by the b6. We can, however, alter the major and minor pentatonic scales to make them more interesting and apply these modified pentatonic scales to the Mixolydian b6. Just as the pentatonic scale shown in Example 4 is effectively a minor pentatonic with a major third, we can also create a major pentatonic with a minor third, giving us 1, 2, b3, 5 and 6. This is known as the

Japanese Kumoi scale. Example 5 demonstrates how Kumoi can be applied to the Mixolydian b6. Although Kumoi starts from the fourth degree of th e Mixolydian b6, it still includes its root, so that one of its modes (the fourth) fits with the to nality, giving us a pentatonic of 1, 2, 4, 5 and b6, which highlights the distinctive sound of the Mixolydian b6. Example 6  uses a similar process, but this time the sixth degree of a major pentatonic has been flatted, giving us a scale of 1, 2, 3, 5 and b6. This pentatonic actually works from the root of the Mixolydian b6. Another important aspect when unpacking a scale is to analyse its harmonic implications. Example 7 begins to do just that by exploring the full extent of its tertian structure. The Mixolydian b6 is a heptatonic scale and having seven notes means you can build a thirteenth chord from it. Example 7 shows us that a dominant eleventh with a b13 can be built in this case. Interestingly, there is not only a seventh chord from A, i.e. A, C#, E and G, but also one appears at the b7th of A, which is the note G. So the A7 and the G7 appear to run into each other, a product of the fact that you can also build a seventh chord from the related mode G Lydian dominant. This is highlighted by the choice of fingering I have indicated in the tab. Example 8  highlights this fact further by building seventh chords from each degree of the Mixolydian b6, with the fourth bar showing the direct stepwise relation of the G7 and A7 chords. Since we are using a tonality of A in the particular scale we are unpacking, it is worth making use of the open A string, and Example 9 does just that. By using the open A as a drone, we can explore how the scale can be ascended in thirds, providing yet another insight into its structure. All of these ideas will be useful when I finally put them together into a complete solo. Until next time…

Bass Guitar Magazine 81 BASS GUITAR OctoberMAGAZINE 2015 81



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Double up, says our man Mann



hile the traditional approach to slap bass requires you to strike the string onto the fretboard

with the side of your thumb’s knuckle, double thumbing instead opts for the isolation of the fleshy part of the thumb right next to the string side of your nail. In coming issues we will familiarise ourselves with this technique, initially developing some basic methodology before working towards more advanced passages and developing fluency. Most immediately we associate double thumbing with Victor Wooten, and rightly so. His debut album A Show Of Hands  in 1996 had a huge impact on the bass community. Alain Caron is also a master of the technique. This issue’s examples will focus on developing what can initially be a slightly uncomfortable approach. They are mostly open-string based, with the focus predominantly on the plucking hand. While working through Example 1, ensure your thumb strikes the string over the fretboard: this positioning will allow you to use it as a platform, similar to how you incorporated

Rather than bouncing your thumb on the fundamental in a traditional manner, the execution of double thumbing

the ramp in previous studies. The ‘t’ in the fingering represents the

is actually more akin to using a plectrum, in that the thumb passes through the string and comes to rest on the string below. This positioning allows the thumb to be ideally located to play a second note via an upstroke. Example 2 requires

initial downwards strike: the arrow indicates the upward movement.

you to produce a consistent stream of quavers using this method, while paying par ticular attention to the positioning of the accented notes indicated in the notation. You’ll notice that in each bar the accent moves to a different beat.

Magazine October 2015 GUITARGuitar MAGAZINE 84 BASS Bass 84

TUITION Advanced Techniques

EXAMPLE 3 More or less identical in design to the second, Example 3 again requires you to produce a coherent stream of eighth notes. However, this time you’re required to produce the accents on offbeats rather than downbeats. In order to accurately reproduce them, you’ll need to refocus your attention to concentrate on your upstroke.

“DOUBLE THUMBING IS AKIN TO USING A PLECTRUM, IN THAT THE THUMB PASSES THROUGH THE STRING AND COMES TO REST ON THE STRING BELOW” EXAMPLE 4 The penultimate example requires a simple eighth note ascend and descend through the diatonic contents of a minor pentatonic scale. The primary goal here is to simply initiate some form of consistency and competency with double thumbing via continual repetition of the technique.

EXAMPLE 5 Finally, here’s a straightforward groove that incorporates a few plucks from the index finger of your plucking hand (P1). Work through the phrase and we’ll continue our development in next month’s column. Until then, practise hard!

Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015


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Double bass guru David Etheridge introduces harmonics, both natural and artificial


wrote earlier about harmonics on



the double bass, and how most of them lurk beyond the fingerboard towards the bridge. However, there

are harmonics lurking in the first couple of positions and at various points on the neck that can be useful both when bowing and plucking,


although you’ll get a longer sustain (obviously) when using the b ow. Let’s have a look at them in greater detail. The natural harmonics on the G string can be seen in Example 1. I’ve


written everything except the first bar with an ‘8va’ marking to sh ow that they’re a whole octave higher than written, to save ledger lines. In orchestral music, they may well be notated in treble clef, as in Example 2. Essentially, what you have from

the harmonics is a G9 arpeggio: G, G, D, G, B, D, F, G and A. Over on the D string, Examples 3 and 4 represent the D9 harmonics in bass and treble clef: D, D, A D, F#, A, C, D, and E. On the A string ( Ex-

Try these out, and you’ll notice that the upper harmonics on the E string are rather woolly in sound, so they’re not often used. However, if we take a different approach, we can find these harmonics in more accessible places on the fingerboard. Here are examples on each string (Example 9). Touch the G string at the harmonic node points of G, D, C and B, and you’ll get G, D, G and B going up. The same principle applies to the D, A and E strings: see Examples 10, 11, and 12. In fact there’s even more going on with harmonics at different points on the string – you can get the same note in

amples 5 and 6) the same principle

different positions. How does this work? Essentially we’re dividing the string up into fractions. You know that the

applies for A9: A, A, E, A, C#, E, G, A,

octave harmonic divides the string length into two, so if you pluck the string both above and below the harmonic node

and B. Finally on the E string ( Ex-

point, you’ll get the same pitch. The harmonic at the fifth point (D of the G string, for example) with divide the string

amples 7 and 8), we have E9: E, E, B,

into three: two node points at D a fifth up, and the harmonic D an octave higher in thumb position. Each fraction of the

E, G#, B, D, E and F#.

string is an equal length, so you get the same note.

Magazine October 2015 GUITARGuitar MAGAZINE 086 BASS Bass 086

TUITION Upright Citizen

Here are some examples of this principle: as well as the octave and


fifth harmonics, you’ll get the double octave harmonic a fourth up from the open string (C on the G string, G on the D and so on). When you get to the third, you also have two more


places on the string that will give the same note: the sixth and octave and a third. For instance, you’ll get a high B harmonic on the G string on B, E and octave B, and corresponding F#, C# and G# on the other strings. Example 13 shows the contact points

on each string and the resulting note


in treble clef in each bar. There’s one more to have fun with: the minor third on each string will give you a double octave and a fifth harmonic: Bb, F, C and G on each string provides high D, A, E and B. If you extend back a little more to a


slightly flatter version of those notes you’ll get a higher harmonic still. You will learn an interesting thing about the harmonics that lie under the fingers in the first few positions on the neck: they’re the complete


reverse of the harmonics off the end of the fingerboard. For classical players, this approach has a lot to recommend it: normally at the top end of the register the strings are covered in bass rosin, so fast, accurate playing is hard. In any case, when bowing


harmonics on a double bass it’s best to move the bow closer to the bridge to get clarity and let the pitch truly ring out. Some double bass concertos have entire passages up in the stratosphere, and the range of usable notes is greater than you’d think.


However, we’re still limited to the G9, D9, A9 and E9 chords within that framework. How do we get around this and go even higher? Artificial harmonics. Jaco and Steve Bailey fans will know about things like

harmonic itself, and the other double harmonic near the end of the fingerboard. So this means that if you touch the

pinch harmonics, and we can pro-

string a fourth up from any fingered note, and on any string (in theory, at least – it doesn’t always work on the E string,

duce similar results on double bass.

as you’ve probably realised), you can get the double octave harmonic.

Here’s how it works: if you re-

Obviously, this is too much of a stretch in the lower positions, but once up in thumb position things become pos-

member, you can get a double octave

sible. For this, you’ll have to actually press your thumb onto the string itself, and touch the h armonic a fourth up with

harmonic by touching the string

your third finger. As the relative length of the string decreases, the higher you go and the distance you have to stretch

a fourth up from the open string

will change accordingly (see Example 14.) Remember, everything will be an octave higher than written, including the

itself. You’ve effectively divided the

resulting harmonic! The only drawback with this is that pressing down with the side of your thumb can be painful to

string into four sections: the double

start off with; there’s no pad on the side of your thumb to take the stress. Aficionados of this technique will tell you

harmonic a fourth up, the octave

about the resulting callouses on your thumb. A low playing action helps greatly here, as always.

Bass Guitar Magazine 087 BASS GUITAR OctoberMAGAZINE 2015 087

TUITION Covering The Basses

In some covers bands, you can do a sterling job with a four-string passive bass. All power to those who do so on a regular basis: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a gritty, rounded passive tone, and in many contexts it’s perfect. But after 20 years of doing this full-time, I’ve learned that having a bass, or basses, which can cover all the ground is what is required. As work has diminished on the covers scene, the bands that can cover a wide array of different musical genres, and which have a large repertoire of songs, tend to get more bookings and bigger fees. For my sins, I chose to go down the active bass route as there are more tonal possibilities when it came to clarity, punch and top-end clatter. These are always useful for 80s tunes and dance tunes which incorporate a modicum of slap. Some songs require boosting and cutting to various frequencies at different parts in a song, and I wouldn’t be the first bassist in history to consider mid-EQ the greatest ally in a live context. Of course, it’s possible to over-clutter your sound with on-board EQ, amp EQ and extra EQ from pedals and effects, so keep it simple but effective. Effects can also be very useful – but choose them wisely and don’t overuse them. A little can go a long way.


Covers band veteran Brooksy considers tone


’m sure we’ve all had that feeling of being undervalued by our band at some point. Years ago, I was enjoying a meal with a band prior

to a gig when the inevitable gear chat arose. After much interesting, and some not so interesting, chat to and fro, I mentioned that I was having a bass built at the time, all very nice and exciting. At which point, a member of the band piped up “but bass is bass, you don’t need middle and treble.” I’ll admit I took a minute or two to rein in my initial reaction. As I recall, I told him he didn’t know what he was talking about; if what he said was the case, we’d all be playing one-string basses with the most basic amp, and just a volume control. Looking back, I understand the point he may have been making. In covers bands, we bassists are there to replicate the original bass parts, to a certain extent anyway. We’re not necessarily superstars creating amazing bass tones and writing original bass parts and licks. Most punters don’t necessarily notice what we do, but we are the glue that holds it all together and keeps people dancing. Having a large array of tones and sounds might be wasted on most listeners’ ears, but wouldn’t the world be boring if we all used a tone with no middle or treble to speak of?


Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015

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TUITION Laying Down The Lawson


Don’t sacrifice your tone for volume, warns effects warlock Lawson


verything Louder Than Everyone

happened on LPs at home through half-decent stereos. The sh ift to digital playlists and even worse speakers means that record producers can end up obsessed with relative level and squeeze an album to death. Google ‘Dynamic Range Day’ for a much fuller exploration of the whole area. This is not just a problem with recordings, obviously. It can happen in our pedal signal chain too – either in response to other musicians turning up, or as we tweak one pedal, we end up turning another up and then anothe r, until everything is driving everything else so hard that your bass sound has all the life squashed out of it. The answer is simple: turn down instead of up. Rather than continually pushing the volume up, find the thing that’s loudest and turn it down. Ask your guitarist to drop his volume, instead of turning th e output gain on your distortion up, causing you to hit the front end of your amp even louder and the limiter to kick in. This is why some bassists have massively powerful amplifiers even at relatively modest levels. It’s called ‘headroom’ – having enough capacity for the loudest notes to be a lot louder than the quietest notes without hitting the limits of your pedals or amp. I recently toured with Swedish bass genius Jonas Hellborg, whose power amp weighed more than any combo I’ve ever owned. The weight came from the massively powerful output transformers – not because we were playing at loud volume, but so the amp didn’t squash any of the dynamics from his sound. Carrying an amp that heavy around isn’t easy, but in the never-ending quest for the perfect tone, that’s what Jonas needs to do to get the sound he’s after. We’ve talked before about getting the gain structure of your pedals in order, and how it affects your tone, but it’s important to pay particular attention to dynamic range as our ears trick us into preferring things that are comparatively louder. We hear louder sounds as brighter and more present, and as our ears fatigue, it’s easy to fall into the trick of constantly upping the level throughout a gig or rehearsal. Learning not to is one of the most useful skills you’ll ever master as a musician. Squashing the dynamics can also cover up deficiencies in your ability to control the dynamics with your fingers. So this month’s homework is to experiment with playing more quietly, removing compression, limiters and backing off the gain on overdrive pedals, in order to get more control over the dynamic output of our sound. We can gradually bring it back in over time to serve the style of the music we’re playing, but as we do, hopefully we’ll have a better benchmark for what music can sound like when we don’t squash the life out of it!

Else  was the title of Motörhead’s

third live album, and some seem to have taken it as a mission statement. If you compare recordings from the 70s, 80s, 90s and up to the present day, you’ll hear a gradual increase in the overall volume of everything. Dubbed the ‘loudness wars’ by engineers, the quest for records to stand out on the radio (or these days, when played through terrible laptop or phone speakers) has led to a neverending quest for the loudest records, entirely at the expense of dynamic range. Dynamic range is the difference between the peaks in a recording and the baseline ‘average’ volume of the track (how low does the volume drop after each peak?) and is measured in decibels (dB). A dynamic range of 12dB or more is pretty dynamic, whereas a 5dB dynamic range would be very squashed. Alongside one another with the same output volume, the 5dB one would sound ‘louder’, but once you compensated for the perceived difference in volume by just turning the first one up a bit, the value of the dynamic range becomes very apparent. This was far less of a problem when the majority of listening


Bass Guitar Magazine October 2015

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