Yep....That's right, I finally updated this page!!
Scrool down for more tips!!
Since I started Dragonbass.com, I've had several people mention that I should have a page for bass tips. I thought about it for awhile and decided to try it. The problem that I have with tips on playing and maintaining basses is that information is subjective. What works for me might not work for someone else and vice-versa. So try them, change them, and make them work for you.
I don't know what you use for a bass rig, if you use a rack system this will pertain to you. The way I run my bass rig, the preamp is the heart of the rig. It's the connection to the mixing board (I always run direct) So this is the one piece of of equipment that if it breaks, well... you have no connection to the mixing board, people won't be able to hear you, you can't hear yourself, and the night is just going to suck all the way around. There are two cures. On you can carry a direct box, which is about as appealing to me as playing a bass with no strings (LOL) The second in my opinion is the best defense against the "Preamp is blown, now I have no bass sound syndrom" I carry a second preamp in the rack to serve as a back up. While it's in the rack it's right there in case of emergency. Remember the old saying "the show must go on"? So when you buy a new preamp save the old one and leave it in the rack. Most of the time stores don't give you squat for trade in, so just leave it there, it won't cost you anything and you are prepared for the worst desaster that can happen to your bass show.
Learn to work on your own bass.
I believe that it is wise to be able to repair and maintain your own bass. Get to know every nut, screw, wire, and adjustment on your bass. Learn how to set the neck, intonate, solder a wire, even the the string height can change. What happens if you are playing in BFE and something goes wrong with your bass? If you know how to fix it, then it is no problem. If you don't, well then, you are screwed! Like I said earlier,this is what I have found to work for me. Try it and make it work for you. Click on the tip you would like to view.
Once the neck is set the way you like it, I have noticed that I still have to make small adjustments twice a year. Between summer, fall and winter, spring. It is a very small adjustment, but has a big effect on the neck. I can tell when it is time when, the neck starts to buzz a lot, and the intonation will be slightly off. Once the neck is readjusted the intonation usually falls back into place. There is a plethera of information on the internet on how to adjust the neck on your bass, so do a little searching. Just remember lefty loosy, righty tighty. Tighten the neck for more relief, loosen the neck for less relief.
In my opinion, there is nothing worse than an instrument that is out of intonation. When the intonation is off a G when played, will sound out of tune with your band. So you grab your tuner and check the tuning. If the open string is tuned, but the fretted note is not in tune, that is where intonation comes into play. What's even worse is that a bass that is intonated for me might not be intonated for you. Do you push on the string harder or lighter than I do? This is why it is wise to intonate the bass yourself, so that the bass is intonated for you. It is real easy to intonate a bass; it just takes a little patience.
Make sure that the neck is adjusted (this has an effect on intonation), tune the string, and then fret the 12th fret and see what the tuner says. If it is sharp, move the string saddle back to lengthen the string, if it is flat, then move the saddle forward to shorten the string. After every adjustment, retune the string. Sometimes a string won't perfectly intonate, in that case go slightly sharp. The way to look at this is sharp is happy and flat is sad. Happy is less noticeable than sad. It's a trial and error thing, but once you catch on it is usually fairly easy.
Check your string height once in awhile. The set screw in the saddle can slip and cause the string to be too low. Vibrations and playing can cause this to happen. Just turn the screw to the left to raise the string or, if the string is too high, turn it to the right to lower the string. Then recheck your intonation.
Pickup height can have a big effect on how powerful your bass is. The farther away from the strings the pickup is the less power it will have. If you use more than one bass, you can make the basses more evenly powered. You want this so there isn't a big volume difference between basses when you switch. You can take identical basses, with the same pickups, set the hight the same, and the basses will have different volumes. I know this sounds nit picky, but it is a bummer if you switch basses in the middle of the set and the volume changes
It also helps to have the pickup slanted with the pickup closer to the higher strings and farther away from the lower strings (farther away from the E string, closer to the G string). This makes the volume of a high string more even to the volume of a lower string.
The Band that I am in (Paisty Jenny) tunes a half step down, (E flat, A flat, D flat, & G flat)which made the strings not as tight. We also use drop D tuning also which is actually a D flat, I hated the way that strings felt, I really preferred standard tuning. So I was talking to a good friend one time, bitching about how loose these strings were, and he told me the secret about how the bass guitar strings work.
I don't remember the formula, but had something to do with the thickness of the string times the tension of the string equals a certain weight. By loosening the string, I was upsetting the weight of the string. He told me to increase the thickness of the sting to make up for the drop in the tension, thus bringing the weight back up.
So on a four string bass I was using .045 -.100, I switched to a .050 - .105 and couldn't believe the difference. On my five strings I use .050 - .105 for the E,A,D,G, and I use a .130 for the B string. So if your band uses any kind of drop tuning, move up the thickness of your strings to make them not as wobbly.
I usually clean my strings after every show, bass strings are expensive and I want them to last as long as possible. Alcohol is a good cleaner, and carrying everything around that I needed to clean my strings was a pain. I was in a drug store one time, and noticed these little alcohol pads, a box of a hundred was only a couple bucks (don't remember what I paid last time, but it wasn't much) easy to carry around, use it, and throw it away. They are like the alcohol pads your doctor uses. To protect my bass from the alcohol, I slip a towel under the strings, open an alcohol pad, and run it up and down the length of the sting, then throw the pad away. It works great, and it is making my strings last longer.
When you are rockin' out a person tends to sweat. We all know what happens to metal when it is covered in sweat, it RUSTS. You look at a lot of older guitars and basses you will see rusty screws and hardware. I like my basses to look nice, yea they get a few scars now and then from playing live (I like to call it character) other than that, I take very good care of them. Twice a year I tear them down for a deep cleaning. and part of that deep cleaning is rust control. To do this I take all the metal parts, lay them on a towel and hose them down with WD-40, (don't hose the parts down while on the bass, take the parts off first!) don't use a light spray, I mean soak them, especially the bridge. I let it soak for 5-10 minutes then wipe them down (basically dry them off), then I reinstall the parts back on the bass. I've done this for years and I have basses that are 15 years old that have no rust on the hardware. It works good, so if you don't like rust, give it a try. Another good reason for doing this is that it keeps all of the screws and set screws well lubricated making them easy to adjust.
Protect Your Equipment
So you are saying to yourself, what do you mean "protect your equipment". I am talking about theft. Paisty Jenny does a lot of multi band shows, There are many cases, guitars, and verious gear of all kinds. While you are waiting to go on stage or setting up it would be easy for someone to grab a case and head to their car with it. This bothered me, So I thought of my solution, a logo painted on everything, the big bands do it why shouldn't I?
I bought some posterboard and cut out a stencil of the logo that I created for myself. Now every guitar case, rack, and box of mine has my logo PAINTED on it. My friends like to laugh at me, but it would be tricky getting a way with Theft when there is a big white logo to be seen, and if they did get away, try taking a painted logo off. Not to mention It looks professional.
Let There Be Light!
Most stages are dark, and sometimes they are really dark in between songs. So making a emergency fix or trying to find something on a dark stage is almost impossible. Ever tried to find a flashlight real quick? Here is the Dragonbass cure. Get your bass playing paws on a mini mag flashlight, it comes with a holder that fits on your belt (no you don't want to wear it on your belt and look like the bass playing maintenance man!) if you have a rack bass amp mount it (the holder) on the inside of your rack within easy reach. The flashlight is always there and you don't have to look for it when you need it real quick. If youy don't use a rack system just find another place to put the flash light so you know where it is at all times.
The Graphite Tuning cure
Have you ever tried to tune your bass and you turn the tuner and nothing happens? Then the string finally moves and it jumps in tuning way past where you wanted to tune? If this happens to you, the string is sticking in the nut. This can be caused by two things, the first is an improperly cut or worn nut, which will mean you need to take it to a repair shop to be recut or replaced. The second reason could be that the string is just sticking in the nut, which is easily cured.
Loosen the string that is sticking and remove it from the slot that it sets in on the nut, then take a sharpened pencil (pencils are made of graphite, which is a good lubricant) and run the pencil back and forth in the slot. Set the string back in the slot and tune the string back to pitch. If the string was just sticking, this should cure it. Every onc in a while repeat these step because the graphite does wear off.
Can't stop the rain!
If you play a lot of outdoor shows in the summer, one thing you have to worry about is the threat of rain. You can pray for dry weather all you want, but when the weather decides to rain there's nothing you can do but try to keep your equipment dry. I always carry a roll of plastic drop cloth like you get for a couple bucks at the hardware store. When there is a chance of rain I'll stick it on stage under my speakers so that it is easy to get to. The plastic and some duct tape and you can keep your equipment dry till after the rain or you get it put away.
This month's tip doesn't deal with the bass specifically, but does effect part of your show. A lot of bands use an Intro Disc of some sort. You've spent the time creating an intro disc that you like, you set up at the venue and you are ready to load the disc and start playing, then it happens, you can't find the disc. It's five minutes to show time and the disc was left at the rehearsal place or someones home, now you don't have your prized intro. There is a way to avoid this ever happening again. Give everyone in the band a copy of the intro disc to keep in a guitar case, gig bag, or where ever you can store the disc. This way if one disc is lost or forgotten, you always have a back up.
Anti Stink a Stinky Mic
Have you ever walked up to a mic to sing, and when you breathe in, you smell this....awful smell? After you sing a few lines you figure out that it is the mic! Then you think to your self, Ughh I have to smell this all night long? I've had it happen and it SUCKS! But I have a cure,and it is a simple one
Yes that's right, Febreze that stinky mic. Now don't go ape shit with the sprayer, a little bit will do the trick, and I haven't had it ruin any mics, but I've never let the sound company see me do it either. But it beats the hell out of putting up with a stinky mic!
I can hear you now.....your saying toyourself, REVLON, what the hell does that have to do with locktight? and what's this long haired freak of nature talkin' about? Here is what I am talking about. Clear fingernail polish works great for a nut or set screw that won't stay put. For instance, on one of my basses the set screw on one of the saddles kept falling during a show (the string hight kept lowering it's self) I put a little dab of Clear fingernail polish on the set screw and it moves no more. The thing is with fingernail polish you can get the set screw to move again with a little effort, if you use locktight, it will probably strip out before it moves. Same thing with strap locks. The part of a strap lock that is on your guitar strap is held on by a nut, Put a little polish on it and it won't come loose on it's own. Try it out and see if it works for you.
I used to have a terrible time with my strap buttons on my basses coming loose. I have found a good cure for this. First I went to the hardware store and purchased some all purpose screws about 1-1/2 to 2 inches long, they are kinda gold colored. The benifit of these screws over the factory screws is that not only they are longer but more importantly they have a coarser thread. They will hold better. I use Schaller (damn, I hope I spelled that right!) strap locks, and the head of the screw won't fit into the button that goes on the guitar. You can make the head of the screw narrower with a bench grinder (BEWARE OF YOUR FINGERS!!!) just spin the screw while grinding the edge away. As you are grinding, test fit the screw often, so that you don't make the screw head too small.
Next it's time to install the new screws to your guitar, BEWARE!! don't use extreme force when installing these screws, extreme force can crack your guitar, this leads to bigger problems than a screw that keeps coming loose!! The way I install the new screw, is screw it in till it starts to get real tight, then I back it out and screw it in again. Repeat this until the strap button is tight against the guitar. Don't over tighten as you can strip out your screw hole.
Now if you abuse your bass on stage (yea, I put my basses through the ringer on stage) the new screws can start to come lose also, fix this with a few drops of Elmers probond polyurethane glue. I have basses that I have done this to that the strap buttons haven't came loose for over a year. If you have any questions about this screw operation e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Taking Care of Your Wheels
O.K. I know that I am bad about updating this page, but I learned something this weeekend so I'll will share it with and maybe save ya a few bucks.
Periodically check the casters on your cabinents and cases, make sure the bolts and screws are tight. And then spray the moving parts with some kind of lubricant to keep everything moving freely. Here is why, I was pushing one of my speaker cabs onto the trailer when all of the sudden the cab turned right real sharp and got hard to push. so I investigated, What I found made me saw "W.T.F." 1 nut fell off of the wheel and the weight of the cab twisted the wheel inside the caster totally bending the shit out of it. I found the damn nut not even 6 feet away from where the wheel fell off. So in other words, if I would have checked the casters once in awhile I would have noticed the loose nut and would have tightened it instead of replacing the whole caster.
This past week end (08-19-06) we played an outdoor show in extreme humidity. I've noticed when the humidity is high, the back of the neck on my bass gets real sticky. Years ago I found the perfect cure for a sticky guitar neck....Fret Ease. I know that people usually use it on the strings, well it works great to slicken the back of a sticky neck as well. I just spray it on the back of the neck and wa-la no more sticky neck. You have to be careful of how much you spray on the neck because it can get real slick real fast. with some trial and error, you will figure out just how much to spray on the neck to make it comfortable for you.
What I've done is I took some Velcro and put one side on the can of fret ease, then I put the other side on the inside of my amp rack. So now the can velcros to the inside of the rack so that it is always accessable in case the back of the neck gets sticky.
A Dirty Situation
Recently the power amp that I use to power my speakers on stage strarted acting kinda freaky, like when you would use the volume controls it would crackle alot and it just wasn't as clean sounding as usual. I knew that the pots were dirty and a friend of mine suggested to open up the amp and clean it out. So I opened it up and was surprised by how much dust and crap was in my amp. So I used an air compressor and hose and blew all of the crap out of it, and now it works much, much better. Now remember dragon kids, do this at your own risk, don't use too much air pressure and mess up your amp, I don't want somebody bitching at me cause Troy said to do this. However cleaning the crap out of the amp made a big difference.