Here’s all sorts of bass-related stuff. Technique, gear, rants, bassists, blah blah blah.


OK, gear. We gotta talk GEAR, because it’s BASS, and BASS has some awesome GEAR.

The very first bass I got was a 1966 Fender Precision, with OHSC and a Fender MusicMaster Bass amp – I think it had a 10 inch speaker – for Christmas, 1978. My mother paid $700 for the whole setup from Leon Rhodes, an Opry and session bassist in Nashville, and I was set for life.

My first amp

Along the way I picked up and sold a Steinberger L2 in the 80s and a blue Jackson/Charvel bass, and I had a purple Fender fretless Jazz bass (MIM, which is Fender lingo for Made in Mexico. Here’s a secret: MIM basses are made in Mexico by Mexicans, and MIA [Made in America] are made in Los Angeles by Mexicans).

I never had a lot of money to buy any guitars, so I have never owned more than 3 at anytime in my life (including now). I am sort of halfway on the lookout for an ESP LTD B1006 or 416SM (not the RB series – fanned frets look cool but I can’t imagine chording on one). They’re very hard to find – I came across one about 4 years ago and KICK myself for not getting it then,

Back to the vintage P.

When I was 18 my drummer and I decided to refinish my roadworn and beat all to hell P Bass. We stripped off the sunburst and then I chickened out before we took it to a body shop to have it painted hot electric pink. Yeah. So we put a stain on it to seal and I kept the P Bass until I switched to 6 string basses in 2012, when I no longer played it and it sat in its case for about a year, then I decided to sell it because 1) A bass like that should be PLAYED, not sitting in it’s case; and 2) I will never go back to playing 4 string basses.

My 1966 Precision bass (with Badass II bridge)
Chaometry playing the “Taste of Chicago,” July, 2010. Jeff on drums, Michael Boe on guitar and off to Michael’s right, Sally Freels on keyboards.
Me playing with Chaometry at the Music Zone in Chicago, March, 2010.
Pickup dates: 11-27-66 and 11-23-66

My first 6 string bass was an ESP LTD B206SM, which was an awesome feeling and sounding bass. The neck was wide but had a flattened profile, making it easy to play. It was the first 6 I played that was easy for me. Usually 6 string basses felt bulky, unwieldy and slow, like I had to work way too hard for every note. Not this bass. It is the first (but not the last) 6 string I would call fast, easy to play and fun. The ESP LTD B206SM is a 6 string that feels goooood.

The ESP LTD B206SM – the bass that made me switch to 6.

Next I got an ESP LTD prototype, a B336-SR, red six string beauty. Unfortunately, I bought that bass off of a seller on eBay and it had a neck issue that was never disclosed; basically the neck was a banana. It was playable, but some upper notes were buzzy and clanky. No one was able to fix it, so it went as part of a trade (worth about $100).

My beautiful ESP LTD prototype B336-SR (one of 3 ever made)… with the banana for a neck.

I wanted to get a Bongo 6 HS but when I tried them, I found the string spacing at the bridge to be too wide, causing me to miss a lot of notes with my plucking hand – not good. So I forgot about the Bongo and came across the Yamaha John Myung Signature II bass guitar – the RBXJM2.

My Yamaha RBXJM2 – “Bliss”

I wanted to get a Bongo 6 HS but when I tried them, I found the string spacing at the bridge to be too wide, causing me to miss a lot of notes with my plucking hand – not good. So I forgot about the Bongo and came across the Yamaha John Myung Signature II bass guitar – the RBXJM2.

What a stunner!

Fantastic. The bass is an absolute shred monster. I purchased another one as a backup/practice bass of the same color, got matching cases, had them stung with the same strings, setup by the same tech, outfitted with the same Frefx – they even have the same straps, straplocks and batteries changed at the same time.

In 2018 I bought my second fretless, an unlined Carvin LB76f bass guitar. I love playing fretless and will be including it more and more in videos and recording.

My unlined fretless Carvin LB76f.

I don’t like any surprises with my bass – I don’t want to have to think about the instrument at all while playing. It should disappear completely while playing it so that all I am thinking about it the next section and where my hand has to be. Anything else is sure to cause me to screw up – any stray thought at all and TRAIN WRECK.

It’s a reason I enjoy playing really difficult pieces as opposed to simple ones – I bore easily. I have musical ADD. If the music isn’t constantly changing and filled with challenges, my mind drifts and TRAIN WRECK. Simpler songs tend to do that to me… the difficult ones do not give my mind the chance to act up.

As for future guitars, I would like to own a graphite neck Modulus Q6 but they are very expensive and I probably won’t be getting one, oh, and a Rickenbacker 4080 6 or 12. And I’m not going to get one of those for the same reason.

The Modulus Q6. If anyone is interested, my birthday is May 8th – thanks!
And there is nothing more prog than the Rick 4080.

Amps, So yeah, I’m a Trace Elliot head. It was sometime in the late 80s and one of the last times I’d ever see my friend Tim. He was in my three piece band (sort of, he stood us up more than once in the 3 piece prompting impromptu unplugged/unhinged live sets) and another band that gigged often. I went to see them at a bar in Nashville off Nolensville Rd. Anyhow his bass player had a full brand-new Trace stack. Two big cabs (probably both 4×10’s) and a UV-lit head, I could not tell you what model – but it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and I had to have it. My wallet did not see it that way.

I had used amps by Peavey, Fender, and Gallien-Krueger but I’d always wanted that TRACE.

My first big rig: hartke cabs, Behringer eq and compressor, GK 400RB-IV and a Roland VF-1 effects unit (the Roland JV1010 synth was for the PK-5 bass pedals).

I joined a prog band here in Chicago back in 2007 with a crappy Crate amp when they bought me a Hartke 2×10 and a 1×15 cabs as a Christmas present – WOW! I bought a GK 400RB to drive them, added some Behringer compression and a parametric eq, plus a Roland VF-1 effects until and I was set!

Flash forward to 2011. I bought my first Trace Elliot amp – an AH500X with flight case from a guy on A local guy was selling 2 Trace cabinets – a 4×10 1048 and a 2×15 1528 (both red stripe). Below is the full stack – the Trace Elliot 1528 2×15 on the bottom, the 1048 4×10 on top of that, the AH500X Series V dual mono amp, each separate channel driving each cab, blended together with the crossover settings and configuration on the back of the head. On top of that is an AH250S Series 6 head, eq’d for upper frequencies. I bought it for $65 off of Craigslist, the only issue being that the eq volume slider was sticky. I paired it with a (get this) $60 4052h Bright Box, sold to me by a guy off of Craigslist who wanted to sell it and some junky head together, so I convinced him I’d give him the full price and he could keep the stereo. The only issue is one of the drivers had come loose in thecab. I sent it off to British Audio Service, and $85 later, have a minty Bright Box to top off the highs.

Heavy Duty Judy.
Judy, the Trace combo amp (I played bass pedals through it) and my MST3k Markbass themed pedalboard.

Since then I’ve added a Trace Elliot 4052h “Bright Box” and a second Trace Elliot AH250S head, and run a dual mono amp setup – one signal goes to the AH500X, which is eq’d for the lows and mids into the 4×10 and 2×15 cabs, while the other signal goes to my AH250S into the Bright Box – and it is eq’d for high frequencies.

My main rigs power plants – an AH500X Series V driving my 4×10 and 2×15 cabs,
and an AH250S driving the Bright Box.

My big rig, named “Heavy Duty Judy,” breaks things. The band next to ours came to rehearsal to find their shelves knocked from the wall because of the bass. They nailed them to the wall, so the bass knocked everything from the nailed up shelves. They gave up.

I also purchased and have since sold a 4×10 Trace 200 watt combo amp and have no plans to buy anymore Trace amps… but you never know!

My old Trace 4×10 200 watt combo – the back breaker!

Effects. My first effect pedal was a Boss bass eq that I used with my P bass and an old Peavey TNT 130 for years. My next effect purchase was a Boss ME-50b multi-effects pedal, but I never liked it as much as I thought I would because it seemed difficult to use and setup (for me, anyways). So I bought the next model up (GT-6B), but wound up selling it as well and went with separates.

At one point I probably had the biggest set of Markbass effects pedals on the planet: Markbass Compressore, Distorsore, Chorus/Flanger, Superbooster, RIverbero, and Mini-Distortion pedals on a custom pedalboard.

My Markbass pedals in my new (to me) Furman SPB-8C powered pedal board with case.
My homemade pedalboard – Markbass colors and MST3K.

I kept that for a few years and then recently decided to go back to a single multi-effects unit, and bought a TC Electronic Nova System. It is primarily for guitar, but works great for bass. Being a split signal guy.

I send one bass signal to the effects unit, while a second bass signal goes unaffected out to the amps. I eq them separately and blend them with a small mixer on my board, and I get two mono signals to feed to my amps or DAW.

My current split-brained pedalboard with my TC Electronic Nova System, Switch-3, Radial Twin City ABY and Mackie mixer.

The signal chain is bass -> tuner -> ABY box -> channel A goes to the TC Electronic Nova System, then right and left out to channels 1 and 2 of my mini Mackie mixer, where it is eq’d further. Channel B goes straight from my ABY box to the mixer channel 3 where it isn’t eq’d, and I blend the affected and unaffected signal on the mixer.

After everything is blended and eq’d on the mixer, one channel goes to one channel out on my pedalboard and then to my amp or USB interface, and the other channel goes from the mixer to the left channel of my pedlaboard and then out. So I’ve got one signal coming in, splitting, then being sent out dual mono blended clean and affected signals to my two amp rig, or stereo inputs on my Scarlett Focusrite 2i2.

Well the Darkglass plugins I just bought (May 2018) from NeuralDSP are game changers. Both Vintage Plus and B7Kultra V2 virtual pedals for $100. They work great in Garageband – and have given me my new go to sound.

Which means that my gear will be changing to accommodate the sound in live situations. I’ll be getting rid of some things and adding some other things -noticeably a laptop computer and USB interface and maybe a bluetooth foot pedal switch to get this sound live.

It’s a combination of the bass, the Nova System and the effects I get through GB that have given me THE tone I’m looking for (check out my music videos – Yes – Machine Messiah). So big changes coming up, but not sure when.

December 14, 2019

I have some new gear to post about – a Darkglass Vintage Ultra v2 pedal (an always on thing for tone and overdrive) and some bass pedals – a Roland PK-5 midi pedal and a Roland JV-1010 synth.

I’ll be spending all weekend playing with these – and there’s more to come!

Well here are my Roland PKI-5A bass pedals with the JV-1010 synth (I need to get a classic 80s synth card for the Oberheim in Tom Sawyer!). These are amazing pedals that allow me to give an extra push to he low end when needed. I use them on my bass cover of Dream Theater’s “Pull Me Under”) and plan on using them elsewhere. Now I need another Trace amp rig to run these through… the green and black never stop.

In addition to the Darkglass Vintage Ultra V2 and bass pedals/synth, I purchased a TC Electronic “G System” – the big bad flagship – in beautiful red. I ran the Darkglass in the preamp channel of the G System:

Isn’t she lovely?

I used it for about two months, but it wasn’t a good fit for me, so I sold it to buy another TC Electronic Nova System, an Electro-Harmonix Tri-Parallel Mixer (three independent channels with 1 unaffected channel), a Brimstone Audio Crossover Distortion XD-2 and a cheap stereo out pedal (“The BLENDER” – far cheaper than I realized when I bought it on Reverb, that died unexpectedly one day and went straight in the trash), and my cheap-o earplugs:

I eventually sold the Darkglass pedal as it did not have the flexibility of the Brimstone pedal for tone and as overkill as an overdrive, so I will probably get a Darkglass Harmonic Booster or Hyperluminal compressor and a Vintage Ultra or B3k distortion/overdrive – oh, and a blender from SaturnWorks.

In the meantime, Ernie Ball has FINALLY, after literally YEARS of waiting, a John Myung Signature Bongo bass, that I MUST have.. More to follow…

Speaking of gear, I am a member of a large bass community on the Internet and have contributed hundreds of threads, articles and so on. The site is a great resource in general, but something I really don’t understand as a player is why there are extended discussions about “Which P-Bass Should I buy?” or “Here’s my collection of 27 P-Basses,” the supreme and ubiquitous example of something known as GAS – or “gear acquisition syndrome.”

As a collector, I can certainly see why someone would go about gathering several, or several dozen bass guitars – but as a player it stresses and confuses me to no end.

Why would I need so many basses – much less so many basses of the same type?

For one, if I had so many basses I would feel guilty for owning but not playing all of them, then I would be stressed trying to find real reasons to use, say a 1996 sunburst Fender P bass vs a 1984 woodgrain P-Bass. For one, the difference in tone is, honestly, nil. I am certain that there isn’t a single person, who, blindfolded, could tell which was which, much less which P-Bass among 17 are different. And in a band setting or mix, it is entirely undetectable. So why bother?

Also, if a P-Bass has the feel, tone and look a player likes, why have another one? Is there some deficiency in each bass that makes the need to play multiple ones necessary? Not at all. Horse hockey.

Once a player finds the sound and the feel that they like, why look for more? It really puzzles me. What I have found (and your mileage may vary), there are a lot of bassists who love the idea of being a bassist and throw more and more basses into the collection as a distraction from actually playing and practicing on them, like a substitute for effort. After all, it’s easier just to throw gobs of cash at equipment than actually sitting down to practice for hours, ad I suppose it helps quell the lack of practice bc – hey – I’ve got 35 basses – I MUST be able to play.

Ummmm… your mileage may vary, but I don’t get it. I can modify the tone of my Yamaha bass to sound pretty close to anything (especially with so many good digital effects). If I played a bass that I thought was head and shoulders better than my current one, I would get it and drop the old ones.

Indeed the only real difference in basses are fretless and fretted, which can do different things and sound very different. But to have 19 fretless basses or 19 fretted ones, to me, is just weird – unless you are a collector.

Another thing is that if someone has a dozen basses of a different type, practicing on one then going to the other, then another, then another doesn’t afford the player the chance to simply improve by using one instrument (or one type of instrument) because the player has to make adjustments between basses. The strong spacing, or scale may be different. The setup may vary wildly. So why deal with overhead like that – it’s easier to get really good on one type of bass than a dozen types. I don’t get it.

OK – rant over, but I will always be a one bass guy, because I don’t have the overhead of the actual physical differences between instruments to deal with when all I want to do is play and get better.