“Mary Ann” – New Standard LaScala Hybrid bass
I bought this bass in 2005 when Nnick Lloyd called me up and told me he had a bass I needed to try. He drove it down and dropped it at my house and told me to hang on to it for a couple of weeks. At first I thought, “gee, that’s really nice of Nnick to do that. What a great guy”. But then after playing the bass for about 30 minutes, I knew that what Nnick really was was smart. He knew me, and he knew what I liked, and he knew he’d never get the bass back…and he never did. That night I made super secret marital arrangements with my wife to the effect that we would find the money to buy the bass, and I would be her slave for life. Our deal worked out pretty well for both of us, I think. The bass is strung with Thomastik Dominant G-D-A and a Spirocore stark E. The pickup is a Fishman Full Circle. Simply put, this is the most wonderful instrument I’ve ever owned in my life, and I often wonder if I’ll ever outgrow it. Whenever I find that I’m limited in the sounds I can produce with this bass, it’s never about the instrument. In addition to having an absolutely gorgeous feel and tone, it also amplifies like a dream. To hear it in action, check out any of the sound clips on the site newer than 2005 (which is almost everything except the Java Men clips and some of the older Harry Pickens Trio stuff). To see and hear it in action, see the youtube video series – it’s featured in all of them. I’ve recommended this model to friends and students, and no one is ever unhappy with them. ‘Nuff said?
“Ginger” – New Standard LaScala Laminate bass
When I bought the NS hybrid, my poor carved Czech bass, a faithful companion for years but now completely outclassed, never got played any more and was relegated to my office at the university where it was used as a teaching bass in my studio. Even there, I missed the feel of the new bass so much that I decided to order a laminate copy of “Mary Ann” and have Nnick set it up exactly the same in every respect – same strings, pickup, setup, etc. Thus “Ginger” was born (the names came later when the laminate bass came into the world as a redhead; see photo above). The laminate bass is a great instrument in its own right, and while no match for the hybrid, plenty of guest artists have gladly made joyful noises on this bass when they borrow it for concerts at the university. Most recently, Christian McBride made it sound like the voice of God when he performed with his trio during the school’s annual jazz festival. The front of this bass is also featured on the front page of this site, and in the intro to many of the videos in the technique series.
Link to the New Standard website: http://www.newstandardbass.com/lascala.htm
Thomastik Infeld Dominant Strings
I’ve played a lot of strings, but was a long time Thomastik Spirocore user until I discovered Dominants. They have everything I love about Spirocores without the few things I hate about Spirocores. The one caveat that keeps many people from using them is that they are prone to breakage if they are removed from a bass and then put back on again. I’ve been lucky with them in that I just don’t take them off; my current set is about 7 years old and they still sound great. To hear them on my bass, check out any of the videos on my video series from 2012-2018. Not only are these videos all recorded with Dominant strings, that are all recorded with the same set.
Fishman Full Circle Pickup
I first saw and heard this pickup in about 2005 when bassist Kristen Korb did a clinic at my school. She was very approachable and after talking to her and playing her bass, I decided to give this pickup a try. I have never looked back. The pickup is still a piezo crystal pickup, but what makes it stand out is the placement of the pickup inside the adjuster wheel. Pickups closer to the bass body (such as the Realist, which wedges under the bridge foot) tend to pick up a lot of body resonance and sound woolly and inarticulate to me. Pickups that sit closer to the top of the bridge (such as the now infamous Fishman BP-100) tend to sound too stringy with too much high end information that has to be rolled off at the EQ stage. The Full Circle is the best compromise I have found in a pickup, and I’ve used them on all my basses ever since 2005.
SansAmp Para Driver
I discovered this little gem as part of a conversation with a number of other bassists on Talkbass.com. Several people reported that it was a magic box that reduced/removed the dreaded “piezo quack” sound that many pickups have. I bought one on a whim, and have had great results with it. I’ve also discovered that it can function as a high pass filter by using a combination of the Rumble and Air switches in conjunction with the Blend function, and it has currently replaced the “fdeck” high pass filter in my signal chain at this point. A warning to those who want to try it for this purpose: it is not nearly as “idiot proof” as the fdeck box, but if you are willing to tinker and experiment, I have found that it is even more versatile.
Phil Jones Super Flightcase combo amp
I had no idea these amps even existed until Tom Bowlus, founder and editor of Bass Gear Magazine, asked me to review it for one of my quarterly articles for the magazine. He had it shipped to my house, I took it to the next Nachbar gig, and before I went to bed that night emailed Tom and asked him how much money I needed to send and to whom to ensure than I never had to send the amp back. It is the perfect match for my bass and my sound, and instantly solved all gear lust at that moment (and ever since) as regards bass amplifiers. Not only is Phil jones an electronic wizard, but he knows bass players. The genius of this amp is that it uses an array of six 5″ drivers to produce the sound, and two of them are pointed upward where the player can hear them directly. Suddenly in one stroke, the biggest problem of double bass amplification – namely, the feedback that occurs when the amplified signal hits the body of the bass – was solved. With this amp, you can sit beside it instead of in front of it, so the sound goes past the body of the bass, but since 1/3 of the speakers are pointed upward, the player can still hear the amplified sound without the bass “hearing it”. I’ve played this amp in every possible situation, including concert halls, outdoor festivals, hole-in-the-wall bars (see Nachbar), and even the Blue Note in NYC, and it always gets the sound. And what’s more, it does it with the EQ section set completely flat when used in conjunction with the next item on the list…
Link to Phil Jones Bass website: http://philjonesbass.com/store/bass/pjps-super-flightcase-bg-300-bass-combo/
The “fdeck” HPF-Pre is a little black box designed by Francis Deck. It does only one thing, but it does it really, really well. What’s that one thing? It rolls off excess low end from your amplified signal, resulting in a cleaner, punchier amplified sound with no flab, which better approximated the natural sound of the bass in an amplified setting. I never play any amplified performance without any more. There’s only one knob on it that matters: just plug in, play, and keep turning that knob until the optimum sound is reached. What could be simpler? For more details, see my BGM review of the unit on the articles page of this site. Every bassist should have one of these.
Link to HF-Pre site: https://sites.google.com/site/hpftechllc/home/hpf-pre