Tag: bass

The Bass Is Not a Guitar

The bass is not a guitar.

I know, I know…. This can be confusing and even controversial. Basses look a lot like guitars, and so many people call the instrument I play the “bass guitar.” From this name, one might deduce that, like the bass flute, a bass guitar is merely a member of the guitar family which sounds lower. I will concede that the guitar and bass might seem similar and even appear to have a common ancestor, but appearances can be deceiving. These two instruments are separate and come from very different lineages. The ancestor of the electric bass is actually the double bass or upright bass, which hails back to the Renaissance, belonging to the violone family (along with the viola da gamba). On the other hand, the modern guitar’s ancestors range from the oud to Spanish instruments such as the guitarra latina and vihuela.


Upright and electric basses do typically feature four strings in the same tuning. Because they share the same note names as the first four strings of the guitar, some might see this as evidence that they are, indeed, related. Our modern guitar tuning was probably derived to accommodate chordal playing. This is why the second string interrupts the pattern of fourths with a third, which makes a whole host of chords possible and simpler to strum across all the strings at once.

To make matters more complicated, Leo Fender is sometimes mistakenly credited with the invention of the electric bass. In 1951, Leo modified his solidbody Telecaster guitar design to create the Precision Bass, so called because the frets allowed for precise intonation while playing. Later, Leo borrowed his offset body design from the Jazzmaster to create the Fender Jazz Bass. Both the Precision and Jazz basses became extremely popular and most modern electric bass designs are in some way based on them. By utilizing standardized patterns for most of his guitars and basses, Fender mastered the art of assembly-line mass production, which helped us all to see the electric bass as a type of guitar, due to the obvious similarities.

The ancestor of the electric bass is actually the double bass or upright bass, which hails back to the Renaissance, belonging to the violone family (along with the viola da gamba).

However, the first known electric bass ever made was the Audiovox Bass Fiddle, created by Paul Tutmarc in the mid 1930s. With the help of two new inventions, the amplifier and magnetic pickup, Tutmarc created the world’s first truly portable bass. While acoustic bass instruments had to be large to reproduce the extremely low fundamentals required, electric instruments changed all of that. Now, a relatively small 18-watt portable package could produce the lowest fundamentals, which had only been possible with instruments such as tubas, pipe organs, huge double basses, and 9′ grand pianos. Tutmarc’s first attempt was a small solidbody upright, but he soon realized that he could build an even more compact bass that could be played horizontally.

Many bass players who would eventually play electric basses exclusively began as upright players, continuing a long tradition that predated the invention of the electric bass by at least two centuries. From my perspective, I come out of a long lineage which began with great upright players like Jymie Merritt and James Jamerson, who switched to the electric bass in the late ’50s, mostly out of convenience. These new smaller and louder instruments were game changing because they allowed constantly touring musicians to hold down a bass role in a more transportable package.

At first, bassists transferred what they were already playing on the upright to electric. But over time, they developed new voices, techniques and approaches specifically tailored to the physical characteristics, sonorities, and capabilities of this instrument. By the time we get to Bootsy Collins, Tony Levin, Louis Johnson, Larry Graham, Jaco Pastorius, Anthony Jackson, Jeff Berlin, Mark King, Marcus Miller, Rich Brown, Victor Wooten, and so many others, there are bassists who play the electric bass exclusively, and who have developed their own astounding techniques for doing so.

The bass has spent over six decades at the forefront of cutting-edge genres from soul to R&B, country, rock, funk, disco, jazz, and fusion. Today, there are countless virtuoso bassists who have never played the guitar or upright bass and have no desire to. The bass is not a guitar or even an upright bass substitute. And it is no longer a thing played out of convenience, but an independent instrument with its own sound and rich lineage.

This 50-Piece Ensemble Is a Model for Modern Music Making

The first time I experienced an orchestra I was 7. A year earlier, a roving teacher visited my class carrying a bag filled with plastic recorders. She gave us a simple challenge: “I’ll be back in a week to see how many of you can play this song without squeaking!” As promised, she returned one week later, and miraculously I made the cut. My reward was to be enrolled at the Newham Academy of Music in London. A week later, another teacher handed me a tiny violin and said, “If you can play the song I just taught you by next week without squeaking, you can stay.” I noticed a trend—squeaking on any instrument was bad. A year later, I was on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with about 50 other kids. Our orchestra was called Da Capo, which means “from the beginning.”


Over the next four decades as a composer, I continued to have close encounters with orchestras: London Symphony Orchestra at 19, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at 40, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra at 45. It became apparent to me, even at 19, how exceedingly difficult it was for people who looked like me to become involved in the orchestral world—a world created around an enduring European tradition which rarely took us into account. This was true of all the various institutions, and even nations, that populated the long road travelled towards becoming an orchestral musician or composer. And to a large extent, this is still true today.

Due to my early experiences in Da Capo, or my fascination with the idea that 50 to 80 people could all work together in sync to create music, I had always dreamt of an orchestra that could be representative of the actual residents—and sounds—of the city where it resided.

Philadelphia’s Public Orchestra offers an alternative to traditional classical ensembles, with room for all instruments and backgrounds.

The Public Orchestra, one module of Rehearsing Philadelphia, an expansive musical project/meta score created by American artist and composer Ari Benjamin Meyers and funded and produced by a quorum of local institutions, had that same goal in mind. Thus, when they offered me the musical director gig it was an easy yes! See more about this massive project and Ari’s manifesto for it here.

The Public Orchestra of Philly is a complete reimagining of what an orchestra could, or should, be. It began with Ari’s question, “How can we be together?” We considered the vast gamut of musical communities within Philadelphia—jazz, gospel, soul, hip-hop, classical, folk, Indian, Brazilian, Mexican, Cuban, Philipino, Klezmer, Arabic, Korean, West African, and many others—and pondered how these could all be represented and coexist within a 50-piece ensemble. Just two of the orchestra’s members are Tchin, who plays the Native American nose flute, and Matthew Law, who plays the turntables. See our stage plot below for a complete listing of the instruments chosen.

Notation is a useful tool, especially within orchestras, which are notoriously expensive to rehearse. But when considering the musical traditions that exist outside the realm of Western notation—most—it can become a barrier. Not requiring our participants to read music allowed many more musical communities to be included. Repertoire was another area we considered. We knew that the orchestra should perform new works written specifically for it, which would require commissions.

We asked, “What is a composer?” The traditional conventions governing orchestral composition—the typical “top down” hierarchy involving a conductor and score, sections and parts, first and second chairs, and even the idea of pre-composed music—meant that the pool of people who could compose for orchestras was quite limited. However, our composer pool grew exponentially once we reconsidered those. We commissioned five wildly different composers: Ann Carlson (choreographer), Ursula Rucker (performance poet), Xenia Rubinos (Latinx electronic music artist), Ari Benjamin Meyers (the project’s architect), and Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra (97-year-old free jazz luminary).

Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton, and others explored an entire system of conducting with the goal of spontaneous composition in mind. Butch’s system, with its extensive array of gestures, formed the basis of how I chose to interact with the orchestra as its musical director/conductor. With this approach, the orchestra and I were able to create complex improvisations that sound pre-composed, but which actually required zero reading. We asked our composers to create works which could be taught by ear and played from memory. Using these two methods, we were all able to create a dynamic 90-minute show representing Philadelphia.

The result? The three Public Orchestra performances at Cherry Street Pier included some of Philadelphia’s most diverse and genuinely engaged audiences. The compositions performed spanned hip-hop and avant dance, serialism and free jazz, vocal chants and soaring cadenzas, and many other unique mixes unexpected at an orchestra performance. Much like the orchestra itself, these shows didn’t speak to any one traditional or culture. They were soul stirring events, which brought people from all walks of life to experience each other, play and create great art together.

To be continued!

Rig Rundown: The War on Drugs [2022]

Bandleader Adam Granduciel on how single-coils, the Dead’s Wall of Sound, and cascades of chorus build his live tones. Plus, bassist David Hartley gets weird, wild, and wonky.


For nearly two decades and across five albums, The War on Drugs’ founder and frontman Adam Granduciel has narrated our complex modern lives while his band has scored our dreams.

The captivating moods of their music, much like us, morph from dense melancholy to saturated, swirling madness and everywhere in between. Granduciel often layers his Springsteen-meets-Young proletariat prose atop a post-rock soundscape, but the heartbeat of their impressive, expansive live shows is their gear and how it is implemented.

“I could play the whole tour with two or maybe three guitars—a White Falcon, Strat, and maybe a Jazzmaster—but I bring all these out just for fun,” he says with a laugh as he considers his trove of axes.

So, let’s have some fun already! Before a full evening of The War on Drugs’ jams in support of 2021’s I Don’t Live Here Anymore, PG was invited to Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. We covered Granduciel’s growing guitar collection, got the skinny on how Jerry Garcia’s monstrous setup played into the bandleader’s theatre rig, and we took in a cockpit view of his stompbox squadron full of tone ticklers, sizzlers, and wigglers. In addition, bassist David Hartley showed off a trio of Ps, an armada of Ampegs, and demo’d a fuzz that has ended his quest for razing tones.

Brought to you by D’Addario XPND Pedalboard.

Keeping It in the Family

If you’re a fan of Rig Rundowns or Kurt Vile & the Violators, you’ve already seen this Strat. The above Fender American Vintage ’57 reissue was once owned by Jesse Trbovich, who’s flanked Vile for years. Trbovich landed a true-blue ’70s Olympic white Strat and needed to unload this to make room. Granduciel quickly raised his hand as a landing spot because he really enjoyed how comfortably the neck played. And since bonding with it, he likes its low-output single-coils because he can “juice it with pedals.” (It’s worth noting that Trbovich put in a Seymour Duncan Antiquity II Strat Surfer Series in the middle position, allowing him to have hum-canceling operation in the second and fourth position.) All of Granduciel’s electrics take Ernie Ball 2220 Power Slinkys (.011–.048).

It’s the One

“When this thing is in my hands, I can react with it, and it becomes this whole other animal. It can be unwieldy, but this guitar plugged into a cranked Princeton or small tweed sounds incredible,” allows Granduciel. So, as you can imagine, this 1969 Gibson SG is Adam’s right-hand when it comes to recording, but, as he explains later in the video, it doesn’t coexist pleasantly with his live setup. He scooped this gem at Rivington Guitars in New York City.

Story Time

Flip a Coin

Granduciel had lusted after this vintage offset for weeks when seeing it listed on Reverb by Chelsea Guitars. The listing was removed and he thought that it was gone forever. A few months later, he was in NYC and decided to stop into the shop and, low and behold, the sunburst Jazzmaster was on their bench in pieces. Apparently, the original buyer from the Reverb listing was after a birth-year model (1964, as listed on the Reverb page), but when he removed the neck its pocket revealed a 1963 date. He traded in the guitar for a proper ’64 and, fatefully, Granduciel didn’t let a second pass before offering to buy it. Alongside the SG, this is another heavy hitter for recording.

Down Under with Terry

During a 2018 tour of Australia, Granduciel scored this 1966 Fender Jazzmaster that looks swanky with a matching black headstock. He claims the rhythm circuit in this one “sounds killer,” while the lead circuit is “super bright and used on ‘Occasional Rain.’” In addition to being a remarkable instrument, he loves that it reminds him of a short span of time that included a wonderful tour of Down Under, earning a Grammy for Best Rock Album, and the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

Checked Past

Cracks aren’t meant to be beautiful, especially on guitars, but looking at the ’66’s backside reveals a twisted thumbprint.

Fly, Firebird Fly

This 1965 non-reverse Firebird was upgraded by its previous owner with a set of Lollar P-90s. If you recall the last Rundown with TWOD, Granduciel added a Bigsby, but that has since been removed.

Ol’ Reliable

This Fender American Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster has been a dependable dynamo for Adam. He prefers it because he knows what he’s going to get sonically and he can throw it around without worry. The newer pickups offer a snarlier tone, so it gets used for songs like “Pain,” and the top-end sear helps him cut through the seven-piece live band.

Hummingbird Season

This new-ish Gibson Hummingbird gets busted out for C# tunes and features a LR Baggs M1 soundhole pickup.

Bastion of Tone

Not quite the famed Wall of Sound procured by the Dead and audio engineer Owsley “Bear” Stanley, but Granduciel’s evolving setup is heading in that direction.

Alembic Ace

Since our last Rundown, Adam has ditched the Hiwatts (although he admits to enjoying that era of TWOD) for the Alembic F-2B Stereo Preamp that was used by Jerry Garcia and David Gilmour. He describes its circuity as mimicking the front end of a Fender Dual Showman. “There’s just so much clean headroom and they’re so creamy. And I don’t know what it is, but single-coils and P-90s just come to life here in a way that other amps don’t, so maybe that’s why Jerry and David used them so much.” The Mesa/Boogie Stereo Simul-Class 295 powers the Alembic. He does run a direct line signal from the F-2B to FOH for a clean DI option.

Take a Guess

In the video, Granduciel challenged me to guess how many speakers are in the oversized cab, and I said four. Seemed logical but, as he quickly pointed out, the Marshall 2041 Lead Organ has only a pair of Celestion (pre-rola) 12″ speakers. The Alembic runs through this pillar of power.

Fender Firepower

The other side of Adam’s grand equation is a 1960s Fender Bandmaster head that hits a Marshall 1960BV 4×12.

The Swart Solution

As we alluded earlier, his beloved 1969 SG doesn’t jive with his Alembic-Fender setup, so he incorporates its humbuckers into his live rig by plugging into the 5W Swart STR-Tremolo. The SG and Swart typically dance for “Thinking of a Place,” but Granduciel admits to kicking it on with the Fenders during the heat of battle and treating it like a tremolo pedal for parts of “Pressure” and other jams. To the right of the Swart you’ll notice a pair of Rockman Tom Scholz (yeah, the Boston legend) Power Soak attenuators throttling the Alembic and Fender.

Keeping Time in the Loop

The band uses this AKAI Professional MPC Live II for additional drum machines for the show.

User Input

They are harnessed by four Boss FV-500L Foot Volume Pedals controlled by Adam that allow him to bring the samples into the room mix. Additionally, the band syncs their modulation to it, so everyone is locked in. (The MPC clocks or syncs the pulsing of the tremolo for the band. Adam uses a Lightfoot Labs Goatkeeper 2, while bassist David Hartley uses a Malekko Goatkeeper.)

Horseshoe of Madness

Here’s a crow’s-nest view of Adam Granduciel’s massive pedal playground.

Bradshaw’s Boardroom

Most of what Adam does with his feet is simplified by this Custom Audio Electronics R-ST 24 + 2x PSS MIDI controller.

The Fun Begins

Here’s one of the sections of Granduciel’s expanding pedalboard that includes a Wren and Cuff Tri Pie 70, a MXR/Custom Audio Electronics Boost/Line Driver, an Ernie Ball Expression Tremolo, anElectro-Harmonix 1440 Stereo Looper, a Lightfoot Labs Goatkeeper 2, a Strymon TimeLine, a Boss DC-3 Digital Dimension, and a Morley ABC Pro (for switching amps). A Boss TU-3s Chromatic Tuner keeps his guitars in check.

To the Moon, Adam, to the Moon!

Here’s the meat and potatoes of Granduciel’s spreading stomp setup: (top left) a Boss FT-2 Dynamic Filter, another MXR/Custom Audio Electronics Boost/Line Driver, DigiTech Hardwire RV-7 Stereo Reverb, ADA Flanger, JHS Bun Runner, J. Rockett Audio Designs Archer, MXR Flanger, Moutainking Electronics Loud Box, Crowther Audio Prunes & Custard, a Fulltone OCD, and a trifecta of Eventides that rest on the right side—a Space, TimeFactor, and H9. Everything gets current by either a MXR Custom Audio Electronics MC403 Power System or the Eventide PowerMax.

Clovis the Rough Rider

At first glance, you’d probably mistake this for a ’60s or ’70s Fender P, but as bassist David Hartley attests, this is a 2002 Fender Precision named Clovis that he acquired brand new almost two decades ago. Part of Clovis’ charm for Hartley is that it’s the lightest P he’s ever held, making their “Evening With” shows a little easier on the back. It’s stock aside from him swapping out the standard anodized gold pickguard for the tortoiseshell. He uses La Bella 760FS Deep Talkin’ Bass Flats (.045–.105).

Jam Like Jamerson

Another 4-string that does a lot of heavy lifting for Hartley is this 1983 Fender Fullerton ’62 Reissue Precision Bass. While this one isn’t as light as the previous P, he does love how much it sustains.

Find the Note

And occasionally you’ll see Hartley put down all the guardrails and dance with this Fender Tony Franklin Fretless Precision Bass. The connection with this one came through when he heard how much vocal tonality it has. It’s a highly expressive instrument.

Ampeg Assault

The Ps come to life thanks to this boulder of bass tone: a pair of Ampeg Heritage 50th Anniversary SVT amps that hit an Ampeg Heritage SVT-810AV. The SVT on the left is a backup and Hartley plugs into the normal channels.

Simple but Not

Prior to this run, Hartley toyed with the idea of just plugging his Ps into a DI and his Ampeg. Clearly, that plan changed and he’s probably having more fun because of it. His stomp station contains a pair of Boss GE-7 Equalizers (one to help Clovis pop a bit more and the other helps brighten up the ambient drone of the Gamechanger), an Eventide H9, a Gamechanger Audio Plus Sustain Pedal, a Mountainking Electronics Megalith, a Malekko Goatkeeper, a Keeley Super Mod Workstation, and a MXR Phase 90. A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps his Ps sounding right.

Rig Rundown: Mammoth WVH

Wolf Van Halen and longtime master builder Chip Ellis discuss prototypes for EVH’s SA-126 and Wolfgang bass. Plus, the rest of the band show off their rockin’ wares.


Following in a parent’s professional footsteps is daunting. Imagine re-treading that ground in the public eye. Now conceptualize walking in the footsteps of one of the greatest guitarists to ever live. Succeeding on any level seems impossible. So where do you start when trying to find your own voice on an instrument your dad basically reconstructed?

“The main thing, when I started doing this, was that I wanted to find my own sort of sound and not do everything dad did,” says Wolfgang Van Halen. “When it came to guitar, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to sound like myself.”

After 15 years in the family band (and working alongside Mark Tremonti for his solo project), that’s what Wolf did when he wrote and tracked all the instruments on the 15 songs for his debut album, Mammoth WVH, released last year. (The title is a nod to the original name of his father’s and uncle’s iconic band during 1972-’74.)

Things have changed since we last checked out Wolf’s setup. Back in 2012, when PG got the special treat of swooping into Bridgestone Arena to check out the rigs of Eddie and Wolf. We got to see the various Wolfgang models dad brought out, and Wolf’s custom-made one-off basses constructed by master builder Chip Ellis.

Now Wolf is playing guitar and singing lead. He’s flanked by two additional guitarists (Frank Sidoris and Jon Jourdan), while bass and drums are handled by Ronnie Ficarro and Garrett Whitlock (respectively). There’s still a lot of his dad’s thumbprint on the band’s setup, but there’s two new things afoot. This tour saw two new prototypes unveiled: a signature semi-hollow for Wolf and beefy, humbucker-loaded basses were being road-tested (or, as the Van Halens say, in the “crash-testing phase”).

“Through writing and recording that first album, and having fun, I ended up tracking most with a 335 and that semi-hollowbody sound became the baseline for all of Mammoth WVH,” says Wolf. So, he and Ellis sought to combine reverence for the EVH legacy with something fresh for not only Wolf’s sound but to expand the company’s appeal. “I want to make something that has the DNA of the EVH brand, but something that they don’t offer.”

Before a headlining show at the Signal in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on May 17th, PG traveled south down I-24 to see what was percolating in the EVH and WVH camps. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Ellis and Van Halen, who talked about the development of the new SA-126 semi-hollow guitar and then focused on the new thunder-stick 4-string prototype that’s being “crash tested” by bandmate Ronnie Ficarro. Additionally, we cover the setups of riff warriors Sidoris (also of Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators) and Jourdan (To Whom It May), who fly the EVH flag but bring their own shine.

[Brought to you by D’Addario XS Electric Strings.]

Mammoth Signature

The basis for Mammoth WVH’s core guitar tone was formed around a Gibson ES-335. Wolf tracked with that guitar the most and it helped him find his own sound, separate from his father’s. But wanting to keep things in the family, he and longtime Fender/EVH master builder Chip Ellis aimed to put the 335 heartbeat into a Wolfgang package.

Some notable Easter eggs in the guitar’s design are fret inlays that appear as M (looking down the neck) but also work as W—or E— depending on your eye angle. The SA-126 model name honors Eddie’s birthday (1/26/55). The f-hole is actually a subtle e-hole, and these guitars feature eye-hook strap buttons. (The first prototype had standard strap buttons and a side-mounted input jack, but has since been changed.)

Each one of the guitars you’ll see have different neck profiles, pickup voicings with varying heat levels (although all are humbuckers), tonewoods, and finishes. It’s worth noting that the pickups Wolf and Chip are enjoying the most are not the hottest. They said in the video that dialing back the output allowed the instrument to have a fuller, wider sound. Additional known specs (which could change at any minute) include quilted maple tops (but standard maple on this one), ebony fretboards, brass harmonica-style bridges, and 24.75″ scale lengths, and for this run all the prototypes took EVH Premium Strings (.009 –.042). (D’Addario manufactures all EVH-brand guitar strings.)

This guitar is the third prototype and was special for Wolf and Chip to put together. Eddie’s main live axe during Van Halen’s last tour was a white relic’d Wolfgang model, so they wanted to do something honoring his legacy. “It was emotional, and it felt great to build this guitar,” declares Ellis. “It was a full-circle kind of moment for me.”

Old But New

Here’s a close-up of the relic’d body for Wolf’s third SA-126 prototype, showing off the e-hole.

Backside Burns

A look around back reveals some impressive scars.

The Crown

A shot of the SA-126 headstock.

First Offering

This is Wolf’s first SA-126 prototype. It originally came with a side-mounted input jack and standard strap buttons. However, they’ve since moved the jack to the top (like an offset Fender or ES-style guitar) and opted for the eye-hook strap buttons made famous by Eddie.

Smokey Signature

And here’s the second prototype Chip Ellis built for Wolf, featuring a crisp ’burst glowing like a campfire all night and day.

Keeping It in the Family

It’s no surprise that Wolf is plugging into an EVH stack. His amp of choice for Mammoth is the EVH 5150III 50W 6L6 head matched with a EVH 5150III 4×12 loaded with Celestion G12 EVH 20W speakers. He mentions in the video that he normally lives in the blue channel and only hits the red one for solos.

Stripes

“There’s not too much I need from pedals, but it’s more for fun,” concedes Van Halen. He enlisted every EVH pedal (aside from the 5150 Overdrive that will show up later) for this run, plus a few extras. The Dunlop EVH95 Eddie Van Halen Signature EVH Cry Baby gets worked out for the solo of “You’ll Be the One.” (The recorded solo is through a talk box, but Wolf thought the wah was a simpler stand-in for live performances.) The MXR EVH 5150 Chorus and the MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90 have become interchangeable for him. The song “Think It Over” has become a testing ground between the two modulation effects. The MXR EVH117 Flanger gets sprinkled in for select moments, like during “Mr. Ed.” For the solo in “Distance,” he always uses the Boss DD-3 Digital Delay and the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath.

Can’t Put It Down

“Chip did all the relic’ing, aging, and sanding of the neck and it just feels amazing. It’s hard to put that guitar down,” says Jon Jourdan. The above EVH Wolfgang is a discontinued offering, but he can’t deviate from it because of his connection to this instrument and the sturdiness of the stop-tail bridge that allows him to really dig in with his picking hand. Jourdan plays this guitar for all the standard-tuned songs.

Silver Bird

Here’s Jourdan’s PRS Custom 24 Platinum model that is decked out in an anniversary-year-only finish and boasts a 5-way rotary knob in lieu of a standard pickup selector. It comes with the company’s 58/15 humbuckers and is completely stock. Both of his guitars take Dunlop Performance+ strings (.011–.052).

British 5150

Like Wolf, Jourdan is running an 50W EVH 5150 head. His tube flavor (EL34) brings a little British bluster to the band’s sound. “We all use the 50-watt heads, so even when everything is straight up the middle everything fits in the mix and everyone has a lane,” he observes. Similar to his guitar-playing bandmates, Jourdan’s 5150 head hits an EVH 5150III 4×12 loaded with Celestion G12 EVH 20W speakers.

Open Auditions

In the video, Jourdan admits the style and design of his board makes pedal swaps a bit more work, but that doesn’t stop him from testing out new tone treats. Before this run, he traded in the Frost Giant Electronics Yama for another boost and is already looking to find a nastier, wilder fuzz in place of the Walrus Audio Iron Horse V3. The rest of the stable includes an Electronic Audio Experiments Halberd (used for “Stone”), MXR EVH117 Flanger, and Eventide H9. A Fortin Mini Zuul Noise Gate cleans up the amp and a Peterson StroboStomp HD keeps his guitars in check. A Boss ES-8 Effects Switching System is the reins for the whole system.

I’m the One

“This has actually been a longstanding project with the EVH line and it was something Ed was very passionate about when he was still with us. He was a closet bass player and loved chasing bass tones,” says Chip Ellis.

EVH has hinted at production bass models ever since Chip built several prototypes for Wolf during his run as VH bassist from 2005 to 2020. But no matter the level of buzz generated by public interest, nothing materialized. Then, in early February, they teased the upcoming tour by posting a photo of bassist Ronnie Ficarro rocking a 4-string with the caption: “Check out that sweet Wolfgang bass prototype.”

The current evolution of the company’s bass design dives off the EVH striped basses built for Wolfgang in the 2010s. The pickups are big, hot, monster-rock humbuckers that weigh about a half-pound each. “One of the earliest prototypes had a swimming-pool route and Ed kept wanting to move the pickups further and further apart because we kept getting a bigger variety of tones,” said Ellis.

Both prototypes have mahogany bodies, maple necks, and rosewood fretboards. The neck profiles are pretty close to the ones played by Wolf with Van Halen. A big-mass bridge anchors the strings and there’s actually a blend control between the pickups rather than a standard selector. (There’s a detent that lets you know when you’re in the middle, engaging both pickups.) The volume is push-pull, to coil-tap the pickups, too. Ronnie’s been riding this one during standard or drop-D tunings, since it comes equipped with a handy Hipshot Bass Xtender Key.

Bottoms Up

In a pinch, the bass’ headstock could double as a bottle opener.

Burst into Burst

The finish on prototype No. 2 almost has a Magic-Eye effect, with the opposing bursts rushing in towards each other. Another difference between No. 1 is the inclusion of a standard pickup selector (removing the blend control for a tone knob). Outfitted again with a Hipshot Bass Xtender Key, Ronnie jams on this for D-standard and drop-C songs.

Familiar and Loud

Ronnie Ficarro has been plugging the prototype Wolfgang basses into this Fender Super Bassman 300W head. The coolest part of this rig is that fact is that it’s the exact one Wolf used on the final Van Halen tour with his pops. The numbers you see above the knobs are Wolf’s settings from that VH run, and Ronnie thought it’d be a cool tip of the cap to leave those on the faceplate. In the video, Ficarro admits to being a Rig Rundown fanatic. When he’s feeling a Green Day, uh, day, he’ll open his phone and reference a screen shot of Mike Dirnt’s settings from the Rig Rundown we did in 2013.

Monsters of Rock

The Fender Super Bassman smashes into a Fender Bassman Pro 8×10.

Fundamental for Ficarro

Here’s Ronnie’s pretty basic stomp station: a trio of EVH-inspired pedals—MXR EVH 5150 Chorus, MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive, and the MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90—plus an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork for approximating the low B roar that Wolf recorded on the song “Epiphany.” The non-descript silver box is a channel switcher for the Fender Super Bassman, and Ronnie’s basses are centered by the Peterson StroboStomp HD.

The Green Giant

“I never thought I’d become the green guitar guy, but it’s just become my thing over the last few years,” states Sidoris. Frank had his eye on this Gibson Custom 1964 SG Standard reissue for some time. He originally fell for its olive-drab cloak when he saw it on display during the 2020 NAMM Show in Anaheim. Fast forward through two years and Sidoris re-encounters the SG while visiting Nashville, when he sees it listed on Rumble Seat Music’s website. He went to the store and demo’d the guitar, and it was even better than he could imagine. He uses Ernie Ball 2020 Power Slinky Paradigms (.011–.048) across all his axes.

Stealthy Stinger

Sidoris also plugs into an EVH head. His flavor is the sleek EVH 5150III 50S 6L6. And, similar to the band’s other riffers, he’s relying on Celestion G12 EVH 20W speakers, but he opts for the matching EVH 5150III 100S cabinet.

Stompin’ with Sidoris

Along with his pals, Sidoris has an MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90, but changes it up with the inclusion of a DigiTech Whammy Ricochet, Walrus Audio Ages, MXR Carbon Copy, and a Dunlop Volume (X) DVP3. A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps his Gibsons in check and a MXR Smart Gate tames the EVH.

Bass Gear Finds 2022

Need to buy a new bass? Start here.


Spector: NS Pulse II

The NS Pulse II represents the core of Spector’s iconic design. The three-dimensionally carved body is a trademark of the Spector brand and provides a uniquely comfortable playing experience for all bassists. The NS Pulse II basses feature a highly figured Quilted Maple top and Swamp Ash body paired with a three-piece Roasted Maple bolt-on neck, complete with a Macassar Ebony fingerboard. The roasting process results in a neck that provides enhanced stability & resonance, while the Macassar Ebony fingerboard ensures clear note definition and projection. This model is also equipped with EMG active pickups and the Spector TonePump Jr. active pre-amp. This combination yields a range of impressive & aggressive noise-free tones. Additional features like a locking bridge, illuminating side dots, and a custom 12th fret inlay round out an already impressive feature set. NS Pulse II basses are available in three distinct colors, Black Cherry, Black Stain, and Ultra-Violet, each with a durable matte finish.

Spector: NS Pulse II

The NS Pulse II represents the core of Spector’s iconic design. The three-dimensionally carved body is a trademark of the Spector brand and provides a uniquely comfortable playing experience for all bassists. The NS Pulse II basses feature a highly figured Quilted Maple top and Swamp Ash body paired with a three-piece Roasted Maple bolt-on neck, complete with a Macassar Ebony fingerboard. The roasting process results in a neck that provides enhanced stability & resonance, while the Macassar Ebony fingerboard ensures clear note definition and projection. This model is also equipped with EMG active pickups and the Spector TonePump Jr. active pre-amp. This combination yields a range of impressive & aggressive noise-free tones. Additional features like a locking bridge, illuminating side dots, and a custom 12th fret inlay round out an already impressive feature set. NS Pulse II basses are available in three distinct colors, Black Cherry, Black Stain, and Ultra-Violet, each with a durable matte finish.

℮⁵⁰⁰: Exponent 500

Exponent 500 is a new concept Darkglass calls a Powered Platform: a clean amplifier that, once connected, turns into a multi-effect, with fully programmable and presettable signal chains with all the components a professional bassist requires. With its audio interface capabilities and 500W of loud, ultra-clean power, Exponent 500 is an extremely capable solution for every context, all packed in a gorgeous, compact and light housing for maximum portability. Combining every technology Darkglass has developed since their humble beginnings, Exponent 500 is an analog amplifier head with powerful digital signal chain modeling. From all stances: Mechanically, electronically, and with an ever-growing DSP library that has compressors, distortions, modulation, preamps, Impulse Responses and more. Connect to the Darkglass Suite app to adjust the modeled effects, preamps, and cabinet simulation, or use MIDI to control parameters or move between presets.

Exponent 500

Exponent 500 is a new concept Darkglass calls a Powered Platform: a clean amplifier that, once connected, turns into a multi-effect, with fully programmable and presettable signal chains with all the components a professional bassist requires. With its audio interface capabilities and 500W of loud, ultra-clean power, Exponent 500 is an extremely capable solution for every context, all packed in a gorgeous, compact and light housing for maximum portability. Combining every technology Darkglass has developed since their humble beginnings, Exponent 500 is an analog amplifier head with powerful digital signal chain modeling. From all stances: Mechanically, electronically, and with an ever-growing DSP library that has compressors, distortions, modulation, preamps, Impulse Responses and more. Connect to the Darkglass Suite app to adjust the modeled effects, preamps, and cabinet simulation, or use MIDI to control parameters or move between presets.

Tone Hammer 350

The Tone Hammer 350 delivers big, tube-like sound in a compact, easy-to-carry footprint. Boasting a 3 band EQ and 350 watts of power, this little beast gives you classic Aguilar tone in an easy to carry, 3 lb. package. The Tone Hammer 350 has bass, treble, a fully sweepable midrange control for fine-tuning your mids as well as our unique Drive control for added tube-like grit and midrange punch. The Tone Hammer 350 will give you the legendary “Aguilar Sound” while fitting into the accessory pouch of most gig bags – the perfect choice for bass players on the go.

Tone Hammer 350

The Tone Hammer 350 delivers big, tube-like sound in a compact, easy-to-carry footprint. Boasting a 3 band EQ and 350 watts of power, this little beast gives you classic Aguilar tone in an easy to carry, 3 lb. package. The Tone Hammer 350 has bass, treble, a fully sweepable midrange control for fine-tuning your mids as well as our unique Drive control for added tube-like grit and midrange punch. The Tone Hammer 350 will give you the legendary “Aguilar Sound” while fitting into the accessory pouch of most gig bags – the perfect choice for bass players on the go.

MTD Kingston Saratoga Deluxe 5

Flame Maple top, basswood body, maple fretboard, deep cherry bust finish. Also available in a black burst and with an Indian Laurel fingerboard.
34” scale 21 frets, double acting truss rod, classic MTD asymmetrical neck carve, Buzz Feiten Tuning system. Bartolini and Hipshot upgrades are available.
The controls are master volume stacked with passive tone, blend, treble, mid, bass, and an active/passive switch. Available in 4 and 5 string options.
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Ernie Ball Music Man Launches the DarkRay 5-String Bass & the Jason Richardson Artist Series Cutlass

An all-new DarkRay 5-string bass featuring dark glass electronics, plus the latest collaboration with guitar virtuoso Jason Richardson.


DarkRay 5-String Bass

The all-new DarkRay 5-string bass unlocks a new range of sonic capabilities thanks to a growing collaboration with world-renowned bass accessory manufacturer Darkglass Electronics. Available in two new striking finishes, Starry Night, and a limited-to-100 White Sparkle. Starry Night will be available at retail while the White Sparkle is exclusive to the Ernie Ball Music Man Vault. The DarkRay 5 is all about tone and features a new 2-band EQ preamp designed specifically for this 5-string model. It offers three very distinct and useful tones: Clean, Alpha (distortion), and Omega (fuzz), each fully mixable via an onboard gain knob and blend control set to the player’s preference. In addition, the original DarkRay 4 bass will be offered in Starry Night, Obsidian Black, and the exclusive White Sparkle, which is limited-to-25, and only available in the Vault.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_1aRXY5fhY

Jason Richardson Artist Series Cutlass

The 2022 Jason Richardson Artist Series Cutlass guitar collection is the next evolution between the award-winning Ernie Ball Music Man design team, and virtuoso guitarist and composer Jason Richardson. For 2022, the Jason Richardson Cutlass is available in two exciting new finishes, Majora Purple and a limited Empress White. The Majora Purple finish features an exotic burl top, natural wood binding, all gold hardware, and is available through authorized Music Man dealers. The Limited Edition Empress White features a white sparkle finish, black hardware, and is limited-to-25 of each of the 6 and 7-string offerings. These limited edition Empress White instruments are available exclusively in the Ernie Ball Music Man Vault.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mGsfNxn60M

More info at: www.ernieball.com and www.music-man.com.

How to Become a Rhythmic Time Traveler

There’s so much to discuss when it comes to bass playing. One of the most basic and valuable skills to be explored on bass—or any instrument for that matter—is placement, or where exactly to play relative to the beat. To a certain extent, this can be a cultural question, decided by where one was raised or what one was raised upon. However, some musicians are more intentional about their choice of placement, and thus choose to study feel and the multitude of possibilities within.


Rhythm is one of the most misunderstood subjects in music. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “he’s got great rhythm,” or “she can play in 7,” I’d be much closer to being rich. In reality, playing in 7—or 23—will never make up for one’s lack of rhythm! As much as rhythm is misunderstood, feel is an infinitely more enigmatic subject. For most, music either feels good or it doesn’t. The why isn’t easy to put into words.

In some cultures, babies learn to instinctively nod their heads to the beat as young as 6 months old, while in others grown adults sit motionless whilst listening to grooves as deep as canyons. Yet, in our modern culture, rhythm, groove, and feel reign supreme. If there’s one thing that’s true of these elements, it’s that inconsistency sucks. A musician who is unable to be intentional about where they place things is about as much use as a brick layer who suffers the same affliction!

Nowhere is that truer than on the bass. Playing a reggae bass line such as Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” ahead of the beat would be considered a terrible sin. Playing bass way behind the beat on be-bop would be equally as egregious. Some people believe that one is either born with good feel or not. I, however, do not support this view. Great feel, that thing that nobody knows they’re missing until they do, can certainly be improved via osmosis, by spending as much time as possible around those who already have it—if they’ll have you!

The “fat” or “wide beat” may sound like something from a ’90s rap verse, but it’s actually a concept that comes from much older jazz musicians. To such musicians, the beats within a given bar—1-2-3-4, for instance—were not singular fixed entities, but rather ranges. They might intentionally choose to play in front of, right on, behind, or even way … behind the theoretical beat (or grid, as we’ve come to call this in our post-sequencer world). Playing far behind the beat might increase groove and sound relaxed, while playing far in front might sound rushed, urgent, or even uptight.

A musician who is unable to be intentional about where they place things is about as much use as a brick layer who suffers the same affliction!

But the real magic is in the combinations. Even a drummer who seems to be playing right in the pocket—like Clyde Stubblefield on James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” for instance—can intentionally have each drum landing on a different part of the beat: kick a hair early, snare a hair late, hi-hats right down the middle. And then the bass player—Charles Sherrell on “Funky Drummer”—would play relatively behind all of that! To the listener it just sounds funky, but there are multitudes of microscopic timing complexities that make funk or swing what they actually are. These musicians understood that great feel required getting off the grid, or, rather, knowing where things should lie theoretically, but intentionally placing them where they felt good. They’re like time travelers, able to negotiate the past, present, or future at will.

The actual “grid” came decades later, with the invention of sequencers and quantization. As more music became sequenced the result was more uniformity until, by the mid ’80s, lots of pop music sounded as if it had been created by robots. Ironically, what brought feel back to popular music was hip-hop producers sampling old breaks, like “Funky Drummer!”

By the late ’90s, producers like J Dilla lived “off the grid,” which is why their productions (primarily created on drum machines and sequencers) sounded so alive. Rather than using preset quantization maps (Akai, Steinberg, or Emagic’s futile answers to their sequencers’ lack of feel), Dilla created his own, based on what he heard earlier drummers, like Clyde Stubblefield, doing. Dilla’s work with Slum Village and others created a whole generation of hip-hop inspired drummers and bassists who preferred their grooves wonky, and the rest is history!

So, what should all this mean to the modern bassist? We live in a world where time within music is a thing to be mastered. When you next sit down to transcribe Pettiford, Jameson, or Jaco, etc.—because you certainly should—don’t just listen for the notes and rhythms. Also pay attention to placement and feel. These are just as important. Pay attention to what drummers are doing and consider where you intentionally wish to play relative to them. Practice playing ahead, behind, or right on it, so that you can do any of these intentionally at will. Become a time traveler!

Gibson & Gene Simmons Unveil the Gene Simmons G² Thunderbird Bass

Legendary KISS frontman Gene Simmons partners with Gibson for his first-ever signature artist bass.


The Gene Simmons G² Thunderbird Bass guitar is designed to meet Gene’s performance needs and preferences in stadiums across the globe. Designed for modern bassists, it features the classic Gibson Reverse Thunderbird body and headstock shape. The Gene Simmons G² Thunderbird Bass is voiced with a pair of powerful T-Bird Pickups, each with individual Volume controls and paired with a master Tone control. The bound ebony fretboard features pearloid reverse split diamond inlays. A GraphTech nut and Hipshot Mini-Clover tuners keep the tuning rock-solid, while the other end of the strings anchor to a Hipshot Bass Bridge. The back of the headstock features a G² logo. The Ebony nitrocellulose lacquer finish is paired with Black Chrome hardware and a Mirror Plex truss rod cover with a Mirror Plex pickguard which features a laser engraved custom Gene Simmons logo. A hardshell case is included.

“We are excited to launch the first of many projects together with Gene Simmons!” says Cesar Gueikian, Brand President, Gibson Brands. “The Gibson Gene Simmons G² Thunderbird Bass guitar has been more than a year in the making. It looks and sounds EPIC, and it is unmistakably Gene. Working with him is such a privilege for all of us at Gibson; he is deeply involved in every aspect of developing the guitars and planning our launch. A legendary musician who has touched the lives of generations of music fans, Gene is also a creative and successful entrepreneur. This is the first of many ways in which the G² partnership will be paying tribute to Gene, his iconic status, and continue to inspire new generations of Gibson and Gene Simmons fans to play and create music.

Gene Simmons G2 Thunderbird Bass

Explore the new Gene Simmons G² Thunderbird Bass at www.gibson.com.

Spector Launches NS Pulse II Basses

New NS Pulse II basses add updated colors and wood choices to the Spector NS Pulse Series and are available in four-, five- and six-string models.


Spector Musical Instruments expands its NS Pulse series of basses with the introduction of NS Pulse II instruments, which include several new colors and wood choices, as well as a six-string model. These premium basses are designed to provide a comfortable playing experience for all players, featuring a three-dimensionally carved body that is a trademark of the Spector brand and represents the core of Spector’s iconic design.

New four- and five-string models are available in three durable matte finishes (Black Stain, Black Cherry and Ultra Violet). Six-string models are available in Black Stain only. NS Pulse II basses feature a highly figured quilted maple top and swamp ash body paired with a three-piece roasted maple bolt-on neck, complete with a Macassar ebony fingerboard. The roasting process results in a neck that provides enhanced stability & resonance, while the Macassar ebony fingerboard ensures clear note definition and projection.

These models are also equipped with EMG active pickups and TonePump Jr. pre-amp, a combination that yields a range of impressive and aggressive noise-free tones. Additional features include a locking bridge, illuminating side dots and a custom 12th-fret inlay.

Features

  • Four- and five-string NS Pulse II basses available in Black Stain, Black Cherry and Ultra Violet matte finishes
  • Six-string NS Pulse II basses available in Black Stain matte finish only
  • Swamp ash body with quilted maple top
  • 3-piece roasted maple neck; bolt-on
  • Macassar ebony fingerboard
  • 34-inch scale length on four-string; 35-inch on five- and six-string
  • Spector 12th-fret inlay, illuminating side dots
  • Active pickups: EMG P/J (four-string), EMG 40DC (five-string), EMG 45DC (six-string)
  • Spector TonePump Jr. pre-amp
  • Black hardware

Spector: NS Pulse II

Spector NS Pulse II four-string: $1,299.99.

Spector NS Pulse II five-string: $1,399.99.

Spector NS Pulse II six-string: $1,499.99.

For more information, visit https://www.spectorbass.com/series/pulse-ii-series/.