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Some Tips Learned Over The Years


After 25 years on and off from playing bass guitar, here's a "potpourri" of some neat things I have learned:
  • Avoid nylon or "smooth" straps. With the weight of the bass and movement onstage, the strap will uncomfortably slide all up and down your shoulder, and all night long it'll feel like you've been pulling up your pants onstage. Not a very comfortable feeling.

  • If your strings ever break mysteriously at the bridge, check your saddles. If there are any string "bite" marks, snags or burrs on the saddles, it means that they are wearing down your strings and the constant vibration of the strings makes the burrs act like little saws on the windings of the string. Eventually the core gives in - and POW, there goes a string - and possibly an eyeball.

  • On your bass amp, especially when mic-ing off to a PA system, make sure your gain light doesn't switch to the red LED. This will cause bleedover and your bass sound will come out muddy into the PA. The soundman will hate you if you decide to make tone or level adjustments after he's ran a soundcheck on you.

  • It's not always the guitar cord that is shorting out. Check your wiring and your connection into the bass. It could need cleaning, adjusting, or maybe there's a damaged or loose wire.

  • Never wear sunglasses on stage. You can't see. You WILL trip on a cable, guaranteed, and the audience will think that you're trying to be a rock star. Sunglasses and stage don't mix.

  • Save the beer for in between setlists. Drink water if you're thirsty. If someone offers you a beer just before a setlist, just set it to the side and save it for the next break. Water drinking musicians onstage just look more professional than beer-drinking ones.

  • If you gig out and you break a string in the middle of a song - remember to think fast and compsensate for the notes on the opposite string, even if it means moving all up and down on the fretboard. NEVER STOP PLAYING in the middle of a song. The audience picks up a lot easier than you think on mistakes.

  • NEVER suggest to the band on how great of an idea it would be for you to do a bass solo. First off, you're showing off. Second, you'll look silly if you screw up, and finally, don't rob the time from your band unless they all agree to it.

  • Never play in a club where there's a "house soundman." Guaranteed - they will get paid more than the band, in most cases.

  • Always clean your fretboard when changing out strings. Good time for a serious maintenance look-over. Check to see if the neck needs to be adjusted. Check the nut, make sure it's not cracked or loose. Look for burrs in your saddles.

  • Stage layout - always a good idea to make sure no one is standing to your left if you are a right-handed bass player. I once knocked our keyboard player offstage with the neck of my bass guitar. He didn't speak to me for a week, poor guy.

  • NEVER SING if you feel uncomfortable about it. NEVER HARMONIZE if you're not sure what notes to hit with the lead singer. Avoid "falsetto vocals" if at all possible. Falsetto only belongs when you are driving in the car, ALONE, and with your favorite CD playing.

  • You can allow the "other" bass player in the "other" band to use your bass amp. But NEVER loan out your axe.

  • If you like using a flanger effect, make for the best use out of it - play with a stainless steel pick and let it hit the strings at an angle. The effects are tremendous.

  • Avoid covering songs that are nearly impossible to do. For example, never cover any songs by Styx, Rush, Queen, or Fleetwood Mac. It's just not going to sound good at all.

John Rudolph has been playing bass guitar (on and off) for 25 years and is currently the bass guitarist for his local band, "Shades of Me."