Therapy? bassist and cover star Mike locks and loads
Gearing up for the release of a new album and getting ready to hit
the road in support of it is always an exciting time for any musician,
with new songs to play, new faces to impress and hopefully a newish
approach to the shows. On the quest to make sure every show is an
absolute banger, I've recently been doing a bit of work rejigging my rig,
refreshing some of the more tired-sounding equipment and hopefully
further consolidating the live sound. I've been a bit of a snob in the
past when it comes to gear: if it didn't have the requisite logo and
sizeable dimensions, it wasn't going anywhere near our stage. Recently,
however, researching the world of compact amps and having heard
great things from many fellow bassists, I've finally taken the plunge
with some new lightweight amps. So far so good: the market for killer-
sounding, solidly constructed yet portable amps seems to thriving, with
loads of relatively inexpensive options. As of last week the new rig has
been assembled and, although it's probably half the size of the old one,
it will be packing twice as much wattage. Also I've finally bitten the
bullet with regard to wireless systems, and have invested in a brand
new one, which should help the onstage action happen a little more
effortlessly. We're quite an active band onstage, and there have been
too many Spinal Tap-esque moments as of the last few years. Again,
technology has come on so far from my last foray into radio gear and
I've seen some amazingly well thought out, well constructed systems.
All this new gear will be a bit useless if the playing dynamics are no
good, of course, so I've made a concerted effort to relearn a few of our
older songs in similar tunings. The thought behind that is that there
should now be fewer guitar changes during the set. I've seen some
great live shows drag when each player changes guitars at the end of
every song, so hopefully when we hit the road in the coming months
we'll be packing more power, less weight and hopefully looking a little
lighter round the feet. Isn't that what it's all about - a better sonic and
visual experience for the people who are there to enjoy the show?
T H E E X T E N D E D - R A N G E S P E C I A L I S T
Ten fingers, ten strings, advises ERB ninja Stew
I've written previously about how one note will have a different
character when played on different parts of the neck, and now I would
like to take that idea further. When playing across the neck you need
to have consistency in your technique, but also in the articulation of
the notes that you play. This becomes a greater challenge as we play
lower and move to bigger strings, because the notes open more slowly,
and also because these notes are the easiest to choke out. Articulating a
note involves both hands: consider how the note is activated (plucked,
slapped, tapped) and how it is fretted, plus how the string is stopped.
By now I hope you have explored how hitting the string at
different points (closer to the bridge, closer to the neck, over the neck)
has a different effect upon how the note opens and how it decays.
As you play in different areas of the neck or different ranges on the
same string, focus on how best to get the notes to speak. But as you're
listening to the initial attack, try and pay attention to what your other
hand is doing. Notice that if you play closer to the fret or away from
it, or if you're holding the string down with the meat of your finger or
fretting with a smaller surface of the fingertip, what this does to the
way the string vibrates and how this translates to what comes out of
your speaker.
A good exercise is to take a bass-line or a phrase that you are
comfortable with and can use multiple fingerings to execute, and then
start to transpose it. Play it in the same register but in different places
on the neck. Play it in higher and lower registers. Play it faster and
slower. As you move it somewhere new, strive for consistency. It will
not sound the same in any two places, so rather than focusing on trying
to make it sound the same, work on executing the part evenly and in a
way which the ear accepts in each area you take on. Learning to make
your fingers move the way you want is a challenge, but presenting the
notes in a way that is consistent is a whole other level of obsession. You
will find that it does more for your playing than you might imagine. + search 'Stewart McKinsey'
bass guitar magazine
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