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Advice on what basses/gear should aspiring Studio/Pros carry to gigs

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by tommixx, Apr 5, 2005.


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  1. I posted this thread in Basses and it wound up as a sticky in Miscellaneous...For that, I am grateful because I think it is important or I would not have said it to begin with....I have had several people email me and tell me to try and post it here so more people will see it as they thought it was valuable info... so I am going to make a few changes and approach it a little differently....if you like this thread let the mods know so that they won't move it...

    I am going to discuss the gear required for a typical recording session or PRO gig which includes the basses I typically carry along with what I think are some OTHER essential items that you should carry ALL THE TIME....I hope that the moderators recognize this for what it is and decide that it does, indeed belong in the Basses section and maybe even sticky it here because of the subject matter....

    I am not suggesting a specific bass/basses and I am not saying that you have to have the gear that I specify to be a sucessful studio or pro player....However, I am trying to illustrate the types of gear that you should have with you based on over 20 years experience as BOTH a Session/Pro player and sucessful engineer.....I would welcome and appreciate the input and thoughts from other session/pro players and hope that this will help the younger (or older for that matter) people that want to be sucessful (ie. working and MAKING A LIVING playing music, you DO NOT have to be a ROCK STAR to make a VERY GOOD living as a professional in this business).....PLEASE participate in any way you see fit.....I would ESPECIALLY like to know what BASSES and OTHER GEAR you PROS out there are carrying to your sessions........

    I should tell you first of all I started playing at about age 5....first band at 13 and was gigging in a semi pro band with guys that were 11 years or more older than me at 14....been an engineer since about the time I was 15.....was on the road as a pro player and/or engineer for about 9 years and I got my Degree from Full Sail in November of 92 as a promise to my grandmother to get a degree.....if I had it to do all over I would have gone to BIT and gotten a double BIT/RIT program under my belt....anyway I think you get the point....

    I have, over the years, worked on Grammy winning projects and have had the priviledge of working with people like Queen, Prince, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Travis Tritt, The B-52's, Tom Dowd, Tom Lord-Alge, Al Schmitt, and Joe Galdo to name just a very few.....I do not say this to impress only to give you an idea of my experience level....

    Please take all of this as my own experience over a 20 plus year career that is still ongoing.......I hope you will Enjoy the read.....

    First of all, I agree with the general consensus about practicing and listening to a LOT of stuff.....I am a bass player but also an engineer and in my engineering gigs I can't tell you how often someone comes through that wants to slap their way or play 16ths through a song that it just doesn't work in!!! BE TASTEFULL!!! In the studio, LESS IS MORE....sometimes silence is more important than a note so the vocal can come through.....

    It is not about how fast or how many notes you can get in...it is about making it fit and making it vibe with the rest of the players ESPECIALLY THE DRUMMER in the context of the song....if you can't lock with that drummer, you ain't no playa.....and most likely you will not be able to KEEP a gig for long.....people may hire you for your chops if it is a solo audition but as soon as the meter starts and you add other people you will be "judged" on your ability to lock it up and keep it grooving....If you want to solo all the time and be a LEAD bass player you may as well go ahead and hire your own backing band NOW and save yourself the frustration and aggravation....

    As far as gear goes (what bass for this sound, what amp for this sound etc...) you HAVE to be able to make chicken salad from chicken Sh** to keep playing with people....the Great thing about Will Lee is that No matter what bass you give him and what you send him through he will STILL SOUND LIKE WILL!! Short story to prove a point.....He went to what he thought was a vocal studio date (he is actually a GREAT singer and does almost as much vocal work as bass work) one day years ago only to find out it was actually a bass session....a potential disaster because he did NOT bring a bass (NEVER happened again) and it was a big session and he was on a tight schedule to get to another session. He did not have time to go home and get one or have one carted over.....

    Anyway, the studio had an old 4 banger that needed strings and was not intonated very well and Will picked it up and said "Let's go for it, where are the charts?"....The reply was "No charts just do some of that Will Lee Sh**!" He did not crack a smile looked right at the producer and said roll the tape....he listened to the track one time making notes on the back of somebodys credit card statement envelope and said "OK, I'm ready when you are".....

    What followed is an amazing testament to what a bass player SHOULD be and why Will is Will...he locked into the groove with a line that he just made up on the fly without actually even playing with the tape or working out a part or anything....WHILE he was squeezing the strings to get the intonation right!!!!!!!!!!!! The song ended and everybody was so knocked out that nobody stopped the tape!!! Will had to tell them to stop the tape....He looked up at the producer and asked him if he wanted another take and the producer said "Are you Fuc**** NUTS? That was the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen, thats the take.....

    Will looked around the room and thanked everybody for their time and left ON SCHEDULE for his next gig......This happened almost 20 years ago and Will is still 1 of the top players in the game BECAUSE of stuff like this....the lesson here for me was be ready for anything - keep your skills sharper than your gear....get a bass that you are comfortable playing in ANY given situation and keep the things that you HAVE TO HAVE with you at all times and people will find you indispensible in what you do....to this day people call me Mr. Prepared for this very reason.....

    I own GREAT gear and I am EXTREMELY blessed that I do...I know this...but I was not born rich, I was born with "the curse"...I HAVE TO DO WHAT I DO....it is not a choice, it is a necessity and if you feel the same way, FIND a way to get the things that you need to do the job....nothing more, nothing less, and don't except ANYTHING less than what you will be satisfied with because if you do you will never be happy with the result....

    Does that mean go out and buy a Sadowsky bass and the latest T-Funk, and an El Whappo? HEEEELLLLLL NO, not necessarily, those are the tools I think I need at this stage of my career because of the tour I am going out on...Don't do as I do, do what YOU FEEL....play a lot of basses, BUY the ONE THAT SUITS YOU, listen to EVERYTHING and be able to PLAY ANYTHING, LEARN TO READ if you can't, trust your own instincts, and follow your heart and your dreams......believe in yourself, practice, and perservere, those are the things that will take you where you want to go, not a specific bass and cetainly not any specific GEAR......

    I saw Tom Dowd watch a BIG NAME studio player bring in a WHOLE LOT of Road cases and bags on a big session. AFTER the guy finishes getting all the cases in Tom handed him a bottle of water and said "I know you must be tired after moving all this stuff let's take 5 and cool off". (this was in Miami at the time and HOT as he**)

    He sat there for a few minutes and did not say another word just watched the guy sip on his water, after 5 minutes he said "By the way, what are all these cases for, did you get kicked out of the house or something?" The guy looks up and said "Well no I am XXXXX (I can not name names to protect the guy) I'm the Bass player, I'm here for the session, you know?" Tom looks the guy straight in the face and said "Bass Player! With all this sh** I thought you were the producer!! What the he77 are you going to do with all this? Just pick one and let's get to work." Turned around and started to go into the control room.....

    The guy says "Well what do you want me to play?" Tom turned back around looked at the guy and said "I thought you said you were the bass player, so play a bass, let's get to work!" We go into the control room and through the glass we see him taking out stands and cables, Direct Boxes, different preamps, starts taking out basses and putting them on stands........After about 20 minutes, Tom gets up and goes back out into the studio and says "What are you doing? The guy says "Getting everything ready" To which Tom replies "For What? This is a Fu***** recording session not an audition, just pick out a bass and be a fuc**** bass player or we will never make lunch.".....Tommy always had a way with words.....

    The lesson here - never take a LOT of anything to a session unless you are asked to do it....a GOOD 4 and/or a GOOD Extended Range Bass, A good DI (Most studios will have them, BUT, REMEMBER BE PREPARED!!) EXTRA STRINGS AND CABLES, and be ready if asked to play with flats (happens more than you would think because they are not as noisy, even the best technique sometimes is not enough for a picky producer with "Sensitive" ears). Remember this too, good people at the top of their game know good gear from bad, they will feel a LOT more comfortable if you walk in with a professional attitude AND professional gear (though the right attitude will get you out of a LOT of hot water).....

    Personally, I ALWAYS carry a 4 with Flats to EVERY session I do, PLUS my NYC Vintage 4 (with flats or nickels), and was carrying a Warwick Thumb 5 NT but from now on will probably carry my NYC Vintage 4 strung with Sadowsky Flats and my new Sadowsky Ultra Vintage 5. I know a lot of players will mention fretless basses as well...this is my .02 and it goes to MY own personal ability but I have a way of rolling the PUP selector back toward the bridge and playing right on top of the bridge almost with my right hand....do a little EQ adjustment (typically on the bass pre) and use a sliding technique with my left hand that is so close to a fretless sound that I don't carry one. I have dumbfounded engineers and producers for years with this ability but it works for me, and it works for them!! (remember I've been playing almost 35 years now!!) some of you may have even heard this but did not know it...... :D

    I am NOT suggesting at ALL that you should all run out and buy a couple of Sadowskys but alot of pros play them...they are indeed "Fenders on Steroids" and they just suit me better than anything else I have ever had (I'm up to 81 Basses now.....I intend to add a PJ 5 Sadowsky to the flock and I am DONE!!) However, I will say this, there is a certain comfort level that an engineer and/or producer will have when you walk in with quality (as that relates to you of course) gear...it demonstrates a commitment that you have made to your craft.....while you may sound great and be perfectly content with a Fender Squire, I promise you it will NOT inspire an engineer when you walk into a session because he KNOWS that he is going to really have to work to get a decent sound to tape out of it....the more work they have to put into that the more the client pays for that time....the faster you are able to get good bass sounds and start putting stuff down, the more valuable you will become and the better your reputation will be...(and the better the rate you can get as a result!!)

    Aside from my basses I carry a gig bag with extra strings (including flats), GOOD cables (with spares!!), My Demeter Tube DI, an Avalon U5 in a small rack, a six pack of 20 oz PLASTIC bottled Mountain Dews (warm already, thanks for reminding me Joker!!) my Sadowsky outboard preamp, (believe it or not they may have a bass there that they want you to play (especially Vintage stuff or fretless in some cases), in this case I ALWAYS turn them on to the Sadowsky outboard and it usually adds a lot to whatever it is they have, if they DON'T Dig it Don't push it. After all, they are paying you for this you know, be a pro!!

    That is 2 or 3 basses max, a SMALL rack on rollers, and 1 small Bag, I usually can carry ALL of this in 1 or 2 trips.....if the Studio has an intern and I know it I will call when I get there, let them know I'm on premise and ask if they could send out someone to help me load in.....I usually wind up carrying the Single case over my shoulder and my small gig bag (because it has the costliest stuff in it) and we make it in 1 trip EASY....If I go with the 2 bass scenario (I keep a pair in my Incase Dub Bag, I HIGHLY recommend them) I'll carry my small Bag and roll the rack with the bag sitting on top!!

    When I get inside, I AM THE BASS PLAYER!! NOT THE ENGINEER AND NOT THE PRODUCER!! I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH....I am there to put down the line that is written.....PERIOD....IF THEY WANT YOU TO PLAY ANYTHING ELSE THEY WILL TELL YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Alot of times they will give you a creative pass or 2 just to see what you can come up with, sometimes there is NOTHING written and it is up to you to come up with something IN A HURRY!!)

    I try to get there 30 minutes early (if possible) and let them know I'm there and available if they are ready for me to setup... you should ALWAYS get there AT LEAST 15 MINUTES EARLY!! After introductions all around I ask if they want me in the studio or the control room......once they tell me I set up IMMEDIATELY....TIME IS MONEY....my rule is I should be in tune and ready to put something to tape within 15 - 20 minutes max from the time I START setting up....If THEY want to talk LET them....(don't be the cog in the wheel of progress, be the grease that gets the session started) but be a PRO, work while you talk, and don't waste any time.....the better you get at this the more you will work for the same people and the more they will be willing to pay you!!!

    Thanks for Reading!! Now go practice!! YOU CAN DO THIS IF YOU REALY WANT TO!!!

    Like I said this is my own .02 and YMMV....

    Peace,

    T
     
  2. slagbass

    slagbass

    Apr 5, 2005
    Canada
    I've been lurking for a while, but your post convinced me to join - for no other reason than to say... Thanks!
     
  3. echo008

    echo008 Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2004
    Long Island, NY
    Definitely a great read ... I appreciate you taking the time to post this.
    - Tom
     
  4. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    This is a wonderful post, but *it's in the wrong place*. I moved your original thread to Misc because Basses is for technical discussion about, yes, Basses - not about how to get ahead in the music business. We try and avoid threads in the wrong place, and definately don't want duplicate threads.

    Closed, but only for these reasons. As I said, this is great advice!
     



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