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Tag: bass gear

DOD FX25 Envelope Filter

The DOD FX25 envelope filter pedal has become something of a cult classic – a simple, two-knob auto wah that gives bass players a variety of tones ranging from subtle…

The DOD FX25 envelope filter pedal has become something of a cult classic – a simple, two-knob auto wah that gives bass players a variety of tones ranging from subtle vowel sounds to a full-on funk ‘quack’. The straightforward user interface and low price point make the FX25 a good starting point for bassists looking to experiment with envelope filters. 

There are only two controls on the FX25:

  • Range controls the intensity of the filter effect
  • Sensitivity affects the point at which the effect becomes active (frequently labelled as ‘threshold’ on other envelope filters)

The sensitivity control allows the user to dial-in how subtle (or otherwise) they want the effect to be; as with all envelope filters, the FX25 responds to changes in your plucking hand dynamics and for this reason it’s wise to place it towards the front of your signal chain if you’re using multiple pedals. As all envelope filters and autowah effects react to changes in playing dynamics it’s important that any compression happens after the effect.

The FX25 was manufactured between 1982 and 1997, after which it was replaced by the FX25B; the main difference between the two is that the FX25B has an additional ‘blend’ knob.

The DOD FX25 is now sadly discontinued, but there are plenty floating about on eBay and other second hand gear sites. Here’s an overview of the pedal’s features and a demo of some of the sounds that it’s capable of producing, both on its own and in conjuction with other pedals including octave, fuzz, and distortion:

Part of the pedal’s popularity can be attributed to the fact that Flea used an FX25 during part of his ‘Adventures in Spontaneous Jamming and Techinques’ instructional video. It can be heard here during a jam with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith:

 


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The Gear Paradox (feat. Fight Club)

Uh-oh, it’s another post about gear. The main questions that you might have are: Why are you trying to use a Whammy pedal as a pillow? What the hell does…

Uh-oh, it’s another post about gear.

The main questions that you might have are:

  1. Why are you trying to use a Whammy pedal as a pillow?
  2. What the hell does this have to do with Fight Club?

Both of these can be answered by watching the following gear-orientated soliloquy:

T.H.Palmer’s famous self-esteem poem advises ‘If at first you don’t succeed then try, try again’, which is exactly what I’m doing in an attempt to confront my own gear addiction. For the back story on my struggles with gear hoarding, take a look at the post that started it all, The Gear Fallacy.

Having failed spectacularly to keep my 2016 resolution of not purchasing any new equipment I decided to give it another shot and, at the time of writing, I’ve been ‘clean’ for almost 6 months.

But I haven’t won my battle yet. I’m still confounded by what I’ve named ‘The Gear Paradox’.

What the hell is ‘The Gear Paradox’?

Just when you thought that I couldn’t be any more pretentious I drop this on you. I’m sorry.

Simply put, The Gear Paradox expresses the difficulty in reconciling the knowledge that fixating over gear is a waste of time with the desire to have an appropriate sound for every musical situation, which necessitates a certain amount of attention to detail when it comes to equipment.

I don’t yet have a solution to this conundrum, but here are some facts ideas that have helped me to work out how I feel about gear and manage my addictive, equipment-hoarding tendencies. Maybe some of these will ring true for you:

  • 90% of ‘your’ sound is down to you: your fingers, your technique, your sense of time, your harmonic knowledge and how ‘big’ your ears are. Gear accounts for only 10%. Many players invert these percentages and perpetually change their basses/strings/pickups/amps/pedals in an attempt to solve problems in their playing.
  • There is a perception that possessing rare or expensive gear somehow makes you a better player. This is exacerbated by the superficial nature of image-based social media platforms that allow us to engage in a perpetual show of one-upmanship and endlessly fixate on what others have rather than focusing on our own progress.
  • Your band and your audience don’t care about your gear – they want you to show up on time, play the right notes and make everyone in the room feel good; if you can’t fulfil those 3 objectives then the type of magnets used in your pickups really pales into insignificance.

One analogy about the importance of gear (or lack thereof) is from world class producer/arranger/writer/educator Richard Niles (I couldn’t find the original quote so I’m paraphrasing, but the essence is the same):

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re making music with a guitar, a bass or a computer – it’s the music that’s important. It’s like having a delicious meal in a restaurant and asking the chef what sort of spoon they used to stir the soup.”

Stop worrying about spoons and instead work out what ingredients are missing from your soup.

(Your soup might already have all the right ingredients, it just needs to simmer for longer).

What’s The Best Bass For Metal?

This nebulous question (and others in a similar vein) crops up again and again across the length and breadth of the internet. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen the comments underneath virtuoso bass performances asking questions about what brand of strings or which pickups the player is using – the phrase ‘barking up the wrong tree’ doesn’t even come close.

Sax supremo Bob Reynolds deals with this far more eloquently than I ever will:

The War of Art‘ is well worth it, by the way.

Contrary to what the internet would like you to believe you don’t become a great Gospel player because your headstock has ‘MTD’ on it, you don’t get the bass chair on a show in a London theatre by owning an Overwater and having a multi-scale fanned-fret Dingwall won’t make your metal playing any heavier.

There is no substitute for doing the work; I say this as someone who, in spite of 17 years of playing, still has a TON of work to do and avoids doing it by writing blog posts and filming silly videos. Do as I say, not as I do.

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All The Gear, No Idea: 18 Months With The Noble Preamp

Having previously documented my struggles with gear addiction (the post on my issue with hoarding equipment can be found HERE), I’ve decided to make 2017 the year that I do…

Having previously documented my struggles with gear addiction (the post on my issue with hoarding equipment can be found HERE), I’ve decided to make 2017 the year that I do something positive with the numerous bits of kit that I’ve stockpiled over the last few years. It seems that the most pragmatic approach to neutralising my urge to buy shiny new gear is to actually sit down and make full use of the things that I already own – I’ve definitely been guilty of testing new pedals for the first time on a gig, which is something I’d suggest that you NEVER, EVER do (my bandmates are very long-suffering).

Here’s my first attempt at an in-depth gear review. I chose to start with the Noble Preamp DI, which has been a staple of my setup since I bought it 18 months ago. It’s probably the piece of gear that I get asked the most questions about from other musicians, sound engineers and producers whenever I take it to a gig or record with it – which is pretty much all the time:

 

Built like a tank and with a number of very practical features for the working bassist, the Noble is by no means a ‘magic bullet’ but definitely falls into what I’d term the ‘Swiss army knife’ category for gear; it cuts down the time that I need to spend thinking about what gear to take on a gig, and actually reduces the number of items that I need to pack in the car or lug on public transport.

Noble Preamp Pros

  • Rugged construction (bonus points for the light-up power button and logo)
  • High impedance jack input handles electric and upright bass equally well
  • Extremely clean, noise-free xlr out signal
  • Simple but musical (and useable) EQ controls
  • Individual power supplies for up to 6 pedals
  • Analogue warmth provided by two REAL TUBES

Cons

  • Only for sale direct from Noble – hard to try before you buy
  • Price tag represents a fairly serious investment for most players

 

Interested in finding out more about the Noble Preamp? Visit the Noble Amps website or feel free to ask me a question in the comments section.

 

 

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Groove Of The Week #35: Tribal Tech – ‘Face First’

More New Gear, No New Ideas – Confessions Of A String Tickler – R.I.P Rod Here’s where we left off last time. Meet the latest family member: Oops. So much…

More New Gear, No New Ideas – Confessions Of A String Tickler – R.I.P Rod

Here’s where we left off last time. Meet the latest family member:

Oops. So much for the self-imposed gear ban, then. I also made sweeping statements in an earlier post about how I’d never go fretless. So how am I going to justify the purchase of an Ibanez Gary Willis fretless?

Well… It was cheap. The Ibanez GWB35 has a strong reputation for being a good value fretless, and I felt like it was a worthwhile investment. Given my recent conversion to Jaco-ism it was only a matter of time before my resolve weakened and I gave into the lure of the fretless bass, although I won’t be gigging it anytime soon – whilst previous owners have made some positive alterations to the bass, such as stripping away the original ‘none more black’ finish (so it closely resembles the more expensive GWB1005), the nut was re-cut at some point and the action got set so low that the strings were practically touching the fretboard. In spite of my best setup efforts, the bass isn’t playing as I’d like it to so it’s heading off to my local tech for some serious attention.

But hang on, isn’t low action a desirable thing? Surely it means that our fretting hand has less work to do and prevents our plucking hand from wasting energy – doesn’t Gary Willis himself state that digging in too much is “the worst thing you can do on a fretless”?

I agree, up to a point. But if it’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s ‘string ticklers’.

Let’s get one thing straight: Gary Willis is, in my opinion, a total genius. He has one of the most highly evolved right hand approaches around, is an absolute master of playing across a huge dynamic spectrum and (to my ears, at least) is one of the few fretless bassists who doesn’t stand in the shadow of Jaco.*

But I disagree with his views on tone production – Willis advocates playing with a light touch and cranking the amp to get appropriate onstage volume, while I believe that giving the string more energy (notice I didn’t use the phrase ‘playing harder’) results in more authoritative playing and a superior tone.

Tone is in the ear of the beholder, as it were.

*For reference, the late Percy Jones is pretty much the only other fretless player who really grabs my attention. Sorry, Pino.

The Right Stuff

This was crystallised for me during a clinic given by Todd Johnson when I was at university (some readers will already be aware that Todd Studied extensively with Gary, so their right hand philosophies are similar). Todd was discussing the ‘floating thumb’ technique and advocating playing with a light touch and letting the amp do the work, and he demonstrated this by playing an Earth, Wind and Fire groove. Whilst there was no debating that he was playing the right notes in time and in the correct order there was something missing – it didn’t groove in the same way that Verdine White’s version does.

The reason? In my opinion, the right hand wasn’t being viewed as the principle source of the sound.

I say this as a reformed string tickler. Check out my mark sheet from an assessment at university:

Ouch.

Nothing makes you go home and get your shit together quicker than seeing the words WEAK TONE used to describe your playing.

Never again.

Fusion, With A Capital ‘F’

Anyway, here’s Groove of the Week #35, which features yours truly playing one of Gary Willis’ most famous lines with a not-so-light touch:

And here is the ‘Face First’ transcription:

gotw-35-face-first

As with the groove from Jaco’s ‘Come On, Come Over’ that was transcribed in the last post, Gary’s line on ‘Face First’ features frequent use of right hand raking to play ghost notes. I’ve chosen to notate the open strings that I rake rather than attempting to pitch the muted notes.

Rest In Peace, Rod Temperton

On Wednesday we lost Rod Temperton. Who? Keyboard player in 1970’s disco outfit Heatwave and pop writer extraordinaire. He wrote this:

And this:

AND this:

Probably the funkiest man to come out of Cleethorpes. You’ll be sorely missed, Rod.

MJ’s ‘Off The Wall’ album is one of my go-to CDs for driving to and from gigs – expect to see a few of Louis Johnson’s classic lines appearing on the transcriptions page over the coming months.

 

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Panic Stations! (or, the perils of lending gear)

I recently got a call from a fellow bassist asking if he could borrow a bass for a recording, on the basis that he needed something with a bit more…

I recently got a call from a fellow bassist asking if he could borrow a bass for a recording, on the basis that he needed something with a bit more ‘grunt’ than his jazz bass. As I’ve known the guy for a good few years (we regularly cover for each other if one of us is double-booked) I agreed – I was actually quite flattered to have gear that is deemed desirable by other players. I dropped the bass off with him and went on my way…

On the night after the session, I get a call from said friend. I duly ask how the recording went and how the bass sounded. This is the response I get:

“Well, that’s actually why I’m calling… I didn’t use the bass in the end because I somehow managed to leave it on a train…”

For a second I thought I’d somehow misheard him, but no. He left it on a train.

He offers to stump up the money for a new bass if mine doesn’t get recovered. It’s worth mentioning at this point that the bass in question is a 1980s Japanese Fender Precision, so not the easiest thing to replace. Since I bought it (for a very reasonable price) a year ago it’s become my main gigging bass for all occasions.

So, after much apologising by my friend it turns out that the bass was left on a Friday evening train heading into London. He’s tried to get in touch with the lost property office but they’re shut for the weekend. Cue what feels like the longest two days ever waiting for Monday morning to come around.

7.30am Monday and I’m waiting for news on the bass. It transpires that there’s a backlog in lost property and I won’t find out if my bass has been found until the next day. Cue much swearing and speculative searches of eBay/Gumtree to see if anyone’s nicked it and is trying to make a quick sale.

Tuesday I’m in a studio recording some Motown stuff (I can’t think of a date when an old P-bass would be more appropriate, but such is life.) When tracking is done I leave the studio and turn on my phone… I soon get a phone call from my friend informing me that the P-bass was safe and sound and that he was on the way to pick it up for me. Cue massive relief, no more sleepless nights and (marginally) less hair loss.

All this leads me to the following question: Should I refuse to lend out gear in the future? Quite probably.

Anyway, rant over.

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