Here’s my current set of bass gear. I have the idea of having three bass guitar: one that I like the most, one backup bass that I could take just anywhere and not worry about it and finally one flexible bass for special assignments and studio work. As for amplification, I like a setup where I could take just one part of multiple based on the gig and environment, from a small setup all the way to a 500W+ loud setup with an additional option to plug it into a PA. Concerning effects, I’ve had lots of individual pedals but realized that multi-effect systems are nice as it’s one single unit with only one power source, easy to take it around and they have enough flexibility for storing various settings and use those later.
This is my current main bass guitar: American made Fender Precision Highway One. It’s lightweight (nitro finish), amazing fretboard, modern pickups and Badass II bridge for a good rock sound and overall Precisions cut well in the mix for live playing.
The nitro finish makes this a nice bass as there’s no big layer of poly between the wood and the surface. Long term this bass will get a natural road-worn look rather than the fake ones done at factories. The wood underneath also has a chance to ‘live’ so the tone characteristics will change over time.
Badass bridges make the sound more tight, it takes out some of the classic Precision sound but then again I’m more for a more aggressive modern sound with still a Precision vibe. I was debating for a long time if a single pickup system would work for me as I’ve been used to mix-and match multiple pickups. However, the charm with a P-bass is that you really get that well-known Precision sound and then it’s all up to your fingers and creativity to go from that. Also, changing the tone and volume settings will change the final sound. I put the pickups pretty high and key down the volume for a more clean sound if needed. This bass has the Greasebucket circuit and it took a while to get used to it but I don’t mind about it now, if I take down the highs I get lows with no sudden bump in any other frequencies.
The bass I use for all kinds of gigs and jams where I don’t worry about the bass being smashed and burned is my SX S-P 62 bass. It’s also my backup bass at some gigs. I bought it used a couple of years’ ago for $100. Best $100 I ever spent — paid off the bass after one gig. SX makes a lot of cool bass guitars that bass players pick up for modifications. I was going to mod this one but the pickups sounded really good as well as the bridge. Maybe I switch the J-pickup to a noiseless one if I find a good used one later. I usually like P-J pickup combinations with the P pickup at full blast and J mixed in to get a little bit high-end push.
The fretboard is maple and I’ve adjusted the bridge very low so it sounds clanky so I could get a Steve Harris kind of sound if I want. I usually use DR Lo-Riders as they have a tight tension so they vibrate really well. What else about this bass? Well, it has Alder body which is good, vibrates much better than basswood which is commonly used with Asian made bass guitars. Still not too heavy.
I use the Ibanez ATK 2EX1 as my studio bass and for bass gigs where I need a flexible bass for all kinds of sounds, especially the EBMM Stingray sound. Stingrays are heavy, this one is 3/4 that weight so I could play long gigs with it. I wanted an ATK with a rosewood neck instead of the usual maple so it took a while before I found this special 2EX1 version that was on sale. It has active electronics with very powerful eq settings so I could scope the final sound in many ways. The bridge is pretty big and has a string-through system so the strings could vibrate for a very long time which makes it sound powerful. It’s pretty good for slapping, too, even if it’s a rosewood neck. Also good to get that really big low-end sound for metal and heavy rock, even with DGCF down-tuning that I use from time to time. In general I don’t like active electronics bass guitars — something could go wrong at a gig. But it’s good to have one active electronics bass guitar in your arsenal for ultimate sound tweaking.
If you wonder about the elastic hair band at the headstock: it’s an old trick to put more tension at the strings at the end to bind them down and make the sound more tight. Plus less worry that the strings will pop out from the nut in case I was in a hurry and did a lousy job with the tuner wrap when installing new strings.
I really like MarkBass bass amplifiers of many reasons: they are lightweight, very powerful, they don’t colorized the bass sound unless you want to do it with the controls. And they are black/yellow so you immediately recognize them on-stage.
I use just now a MarkBass CMD121 combo amp, 350W as a combo and full 500W if I add another cab. So I could take it to practices and take an other cab to various gigs if I need more power on-stage. Finally I could send the signal directly from amp to PA as well if I ever need a lot of bass loudness.
The combo weights 26lbs so it’s a no-brainer to carry around. The scoping controls makes it easy to key in Motown like low-end or highly scoped funk sounds.
The whole electronics including transformers are solid-state so instead of generating heat with the transformers, 90% or so of the incoming current is used for amplification. So you can’t use this one to make omelets.
If I need more air moved at gigs I take with me an Avatar 2×10 Neo cab. That and the 1×12 combo speaker gives me enough raw power for most gigs. This is a Neo cab so it’s light-weight. Avatar makes very good speakers with a tweeter where you could adjust the tweeter output from none to full blast. I tend to have tweeters open half-way to have some high-end come through.
I sometimes just roll in the cab with the Multi-Cart and stack the MarkBass combo on top and have an instant rig on-stage. Some thing 4×10 are best, I like to have little bit more low-end with a 1×12 + 2×10, so I get this plus punch and clarity from the 2×10 speakers.
EFFECTS AND OTHER STUFF
I’ve taken this Zoom B2 pedal to all kinds of jams and gigs. It’s small, I could drop it into my gig bag, has four rechargeable batteries + power input if needed. I have various patches programmed of two kinds: basic sounds and effects. Depending on the unknown amp I could switch between the basic sounds until I get something I like. Then I could push the effects on for those occasions where I need an octaver, chorus, delays, auto-wah and so on. The basic patches have various levels of distortion and amp simulations, from clean up to Sansamp distortion. Most of the patches also have a heavy dose of compression included, as well as the noise gate activated.
I even put a cheat-sheet on top of the unit to remember the effects but I think that list is no longer applicable as I constantly tinker with the effects. It also has a tuner and a built-in drum machine with headphone output for practices. Got it used for $50, a good deal.
For gigs where I control the full rig I take the Boss ME-50 effect system with me. It’s a guitar effect processor but works really well with a bass rig, as well. The nice thing with this effect system is that all the effects could be controlled with potentiometers so I could easily adjust and tweak the effects on-stage. I always have a lot of compression on with the noise gate included. Then I could change the eq levels with the top right settings. I add for some songs a little bit Sansamp like distortion with the distortion unit. The middle modulation unit is for chorus/flanger/univibe/phaser and octaver use. The right section has a delay system; it’s fun what a bass sounds with backwards delay. The controller pedal has volume (default) and various wah-wah settings, ring modulator if you want to sound like Jeff Beck and an octave up/down feature. I sometimes use the reverb module as well, but you need to be careful with reverb and a bass. And it’s amazing what a bass guitar sounds with backwards delay, Uni-vibe, a little bit overdrive + compression and wah-wah.
Anyway, this is for ultimate effect-tweaking on-stage. Most of the time the compressor and noise-gate are the only effects only activated. I confess — I’m a compression junkie.
My effect boxes all have tuners but it’s good to have another tuner in case I just have the bass with me or I want a quick tuneup with a separate tuner. I use just now the brand-new Planet Waves mini-tuners. The attach to the headstock and you can’t barely see the from the front. But as a player I could easily check the back-side of my bass headstock and immediately see the tuning status. As this works with the body vibrations I could turn down the volume and tune the bass. And this is one less component in the audio chain compared with a pedal tuner.
I recently made my own guitar strap. I had a flexible strap purchased from Guitar Center, don’t even remember the strap brand name but it’s made of Neophrene fabric so it flexes on the shoulder. However, guitar straps look so boring so I added a colorful red-black scarf around it. It adds a little bit more cushion plus I doubt anyone else has this kind of a strap. Just for fun next to it is a strap, the first guitar strap I ever purchased in the late seventies. It’s one of the few gear I still have around. And I take it to gigs now and then as there’s a very long bonding between me and that strap.
I have all kind of soft gig bags. But it’s good to have a very good hard case of many reasons. If you travel a long distance with lots of gear in a car, it’s best to protect your bass really well. I also live in an earthquake country (California) and I place my most precious bass in this case. Plus if you attend a very crowded jam with people pushing soft bags around…
Me thinks Fender makes the best hard cases as they are molded for Precision/Jazz bass guitars, have sturdy locks, are not too heavy and otherwise easy to transport.
As for other gear, I use Monster (cheaper version) cables, DR Lo-Riders and Fender stainless steel bass strings, GHS Fast Fret to make the neck and strings nice to play with. I have a pile of rack modules in the studio that I could convert for live stage work but so far there as been no need to drag those with me. And I always place an RF filter between the amp rig and the power outlet.