Inside the Music

Inside the Music is a blog about jazz from an insider; a working musician.  It explores the lessons of life found Inside the Music.

Meeting a new bass: It’s like being on a blind date every night.

The acoustic bass is a unique entity.  While there are, of course, similarities between basses each is individually made and contains its own idiosyncrasies.  Some have a longer scale.  Some have a more narrow neck.  Some have new strings vs older strings, or thinner strings vs. thicker.  Of course, these differences make each bass play and sound differently.  So imagine meeting and being required to perform with a new bass hours later. Such is the life of a traveling bassist.

Over the years I’ve had to balance the benefits of traveling with my bass with the challenges of traveling with my bass.  As a result, there are times when I travel without a bass.  This post is meant to share my thoughts about preparing to play a bass you’ve just met.

Phase I – Ask for what you need

Typically, a bassist has the opportunity to request the equipment required for the performance.  Us this this your advantage.  Anything you really need should be on the rider, understanding that you may get what’s available.  I’m happy to share my full rider if you reach out to me, but I think the most important thing to request is a professional model bass in your size with an adjustable bridge which has been set-up for your style of playing (e.g. jazz).  This should prevent you from getting an inferior quality bass that’s been set up for orchestral playing.  This can make a big difference, so make sure your support team has sent the rider well in advance of the gig.  If you can, communicate directly with the promoter, venue or back line company providing the bass to make sure you are making choices regarding the bass.  Hopefully you’ll get there and have a bass you can work with.

Wan-Bernadel (Chinese bass made in 2003) I used with the Count Basie Orchestra in Wickenburg, AZ

Don’t forget to ask for everything you might need on the gig including a bow, rosin, an adjustable bridge, adjustable end pin, quiver, strings, set up, etc.  Don’t feel bad about asking for the obvious.  Believe me, others in the band will be asking for what they need.  No one else is going to be responsible for your setup and sound.  You don’t have to be a prima donna, but ask for what you need.