September 2015 Bass Notes
UPRIGHT BASS SPECIALISTS... ON THE WEB SINCE 1997
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The Gollihur Music Difference
I'm very aware that there are lots of places, particularly online, that you can spend your bass dollars. If you have a local mom-and-pop music shop, I don't mind losing your business to them; we should support our local "bricks and mortar" stores whenever possible. But for those upright bass items you can only easily find online, we work hard to always be your first place to shop.
As I was assembling the latest shipment of Krivo pickups this morning into our custom packaging, it occurred to me that it was a perfect example of how we do that. Here we have a specialized upright bass product, hand-made in the USA. Only a few stores even carry it. Could you find it somewhere else, maybe at eBay, or at another online store? Probably. You might even find it a dollar or two cheaper.
But here's where the difference is: We don't just want you to buy it -- we want you to love using it. We want you to be able to open it up, install it yourself without difficulty, get great sound without frustration, and have everything you will need to do so already in the box.
On the left is how everyone else, to my knowledge, ships the pickup. It's how Jason at Krivo provides it - a hand-made pickup in a bubble-wrap packet. On the right is what you get from Gollihur Music when you order a Krivo:
Now, are these extras expensive? Not really; all told, the box, sticker, jack mount kit and printed paper don't cost me a significant amount of money. But what hopefully makes the difference is that I saved you the the time figuring out what parts you'll need for the jack mount kit (and sourced them for you so you don't need to make a trip to the hardware store). And I fussed with the pickup to determine what you need to know to have a successful install, and shared that information with you before you had to ask. And I went through the trouble (just this morning, in fact) to pack it all into a nice box that will protect the pickup -- and give you the feeling that we really care about the impression you get when you open a package we've sent to you.
- The Pickup, wrapped in the bubble-wrap packet
- Packed into a retail-style cardboard container with peanuts to protect it in shipping
- A special 4-piece jack mount kit for easily mounting the jack to your tailpiece
- An instruction sheet, written by yours truly, so you don't have to go it alone
We don't just do this for the Krivo, of course. You get tip sheets, extra stuff, and in-depth instructions for all sorts of things you buy from us -- strings, bridges, preamps, pickups, amplifiers, bass buggies and wheels, bows... the list goes on. We strive to provide you with the answers you need before you've even asked the questions. (But we're also here to answer the questions we didn't anticipate!)
This is the philosophy that has driven the way we do things from the very beginning, when Bob first started shipping K&K Pickups back in 1997 -- and is the basis of what I continue to make a guiding principle today. I sincerely hope that you notice "The Gollihur Music Difference," and know that we will continually strive to exceed your expectations every day.
Special Sale ENDS September 30th, so act fast!
Spirocore and Belcanto string sets are on sale for a limited time - stock up now for the factory authorized "Back to School Sale!"
Spirocores - normally $237.99, on sale for $214.99
Belcantos - normally $289.99, on sale for $259.99
Prices are as marked on the site, and as always, strings SHIP FREE to all 50 states (and have reasonable rates everywhere else)!
SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION PRODUCT!
Gollihur Exclusive NXT "Traditional" Bass
I love the NS Design NXT Basses. They're built solid, sound great, and are set up really well -- and are fun to play. While I feel that the Eminence Bass is much closer to "the real thing" in a more portable format, I'm quite conscious of the need for an instrument that can be played at much higher volumes without feedback problems. And while Ned Steinberger never truly envisioned his basses as a "replacement" for a real upright (he thinks of it more as a "new" instrument that bridges the gap between electric and upright basses), we've long suggested some easy updates for the NXT to make it a bit more, ahem... "authentic." It's also common to replace the inexpensive basic tuners with a more robust machine, like our Hipshot tuners or a set of high-end Schallers.
Since we're an upright bass specialist, rather than a big box music store, I'd think that most of our customers are planning to use this as a more portable analog to their "big" basses, Ned's intentions notwithstanding. So it kind of makes sense to have a version of the NXT that already has those updates done for you, to save you the trouble and extra expense (kind of another example of what I was talking about, in my newsletter intro, above).
Well, guess what? I've worked a deal with NS Design to make it happen!
Our new exclusive "NXT Traditional Model" bass has the following unique upgrades from the standard NXT:
We're the only ones who have this very special bass, and we're only getting a limited number of them (to start.) Act fast, and you'll be one of only a handful of lucky players to get a hold of one. We will likely reorder to get more of them if it proves to be a successful product, but they take several months to produce, so supplies will always be limited.
- Strung with NS Electric Traditional Strings for more "upright-timbred" tone
- Fitted with the same high-quality Schaller tuners that come standard on the NS Design CR-grade basses
- Finished in a Gollihur-exclusive "traditional brown" finish for a more conventional upright bass appearance (see finish sample, below!)
- Removable "f-hole" cling decals (if you don't like them, they peel off with no residue) to complete the look
We're currently taking pre-orders for the basses -- put your order in now, we won't charge you for it until they have arrived and we reconfirm with you -- but a pre-order is the only way to hold your bass! They are expected to arrive in late October/early November (subject to be changed).
As always, NS Design instruments SHIP FREE in the Continental USA. Bass includes a robust padded gig bag and a tripod stand. It is compatible with the other stand options available for the NS Design instruments. We also have a hard plastic travel case and a NEW more affordable ATA-Rated hard case available for it.
From the FAQ File
What We Know About Bass Bridges
I've been fielding a lot of questions about bass bridges lately, so I thought I'd refer you to our Bass Bridge FAQ for a refresher. This is a condensed version of our bass bridge article on the FAQ page; click through to the full version for the most detailed information.
Our bridge fitment tips are also included on a page that is included with every string order -- and if you want a copy of our detailed bridge-fitting instructions emailed to you, you can request it on our contact us page.
Where should the bridge be located on my bass?
See those notches in each f-hole? your bridge's feet should be centered on the two inside cuts. Moving it away from the correct position is not a good idea for a variety of reasons, and it could "test" your instrument's structural integrity and tone quality. The bridge should also be centered on the body.
Can I buy a new bridge that fits my bass "out of the box"?
Sorry, but no - they always need to be cut, trimmed, and shaped to fit. Neck angles as well as other construction details result in different bridge heights and widths, even on basses made by the same company. The key issue for choosing a replacement bridge is the width of the feet (see next item for details).
How do I choose the right size bridge?
Look or feel inside your bass through the E string f-hole, and you will see the bass bar, a long piece of wood glued to the inner bass top. Measure from the middle of the bar to the centerline of the bass and double the measurement. That will the correct center-to-center measurement of the bridge's feet to fit your bass, which is the key measurement. Choose a replacement bridge in that range (most basses are 3/4 size, with bridge feet four inches apart when measured from center to center). Height shouldn't be an issue as most bridge blanks are much higher than needed.
Fit: How well should the feet fit?
The bridge feet should be perfectly shaped to match the complex curves of the top of the bass, if you want to have the best sound and stability. It's really a matter of patience -- though there are tricks to do this; email me if you'd like to take a look at the installation instructions I've written, which include some of these "tricks of the trade."
Do I need an adjustable bridge?
There are many reasons for installing an adjustable bridge; here are some of them:
- Carved basses generally move with the seasons, and adjusters allow the player to keep a consistent string height as the bass expands or shrinks.
- Whether carved or laminated, some players prefer different action for differing styles. Adjusters allow you to make those changes for an amplified modern jazz gig on Friday night and an acoustiic bluegrass jam on Sunday.
- Some laminated basses also move a little, but regardless, sometimes it's good to be able to make minute adjustments to "fine tune" the bass to your preference. With a solid bridge, unless you're ready to break out the tools, whatever height to which the bridge is cut is the way it is.
Will adjusters affect the sound of my bass?
Ever so slightly, yes. But it's unlikely to do so in any noticeable way. We've read a scientific study of the affects of adjusters of various materials, but I think you'll find most bassists have chosen adjustable bridges -- including Mark, Christopher, and Bob. We wouldn't use them if they sacrificed our tone.
Don't make your bridge too short and action too low at the bridge. Most players should leave enough height for good tone and room for string "bloom." If your bass is tough to play at the lower positions near the top of the fingerboard, it's the height of the nut that may need addressing (or maybe a little "scoop" in the upper fingerboard -- a job for an experienced luthier).
The top of the bridge -- string spacing and slots
The spacing of modern 3/4 size instruments varies from 7/8" to over one inch, and can be dependent on the fingerboard width and personal preference.
Additional Tips for a healthy bridge and strings
- Keep an eye on the attitude of the bridge; it should be perpendicular to the top of the bass. Over time, bridges "lean." The usual result is a bridge that isn't in full contact with the bass, and/or a warped bridge. Correct it as needed; loosening tension a little and applying a firm, gentle push to realign it is a good idea.
- Concerning the depth of the indentations (not "slots!") for the strings. They should be no deeper than 1/2 the diameter of the string, deep enough to keep the string in place but not so deep as to "pinch" the string, which can interfere with tone (and separate string windings).
- Sharp edges and narrow slots can snag or choke the string and damage it, as well as grab the bridge and move it as you tune.
- Graphite (rub some onto the position using a soft lead pencil) lubricates the slot and helps keep things smooth.
NEW PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT
Some new items in our stable of bass products...
ATA Hard Case for NS Design Basses NS Design does make an ATA case for their basses. But it's hard to justify its somewhat high price tag, especially if you're using it with an NXT. We've now sourced an American-Made case for a much better price. Heavy-duty hardware, reinforced edges, and a perfect fit for the NS Basses. Even has a cool exclusive color -- specifically built for Gollihur Music!
Acoustic Image Series 4PLUS CLARUS SL and SL-R instrument amplifier - We covered this newly reintroduced amp in depth in our last newsletter -- but it's been exceeding customer expectations and we wanted to remind you about it. With the new Flex-style preamp (with 4-band EQ), 650 watts of power, and a really friendly price tag, this could be the most budget-friendly way to break into transparent Acoustic Image sound ever created! The Clarus SL-R adds digital effects (reverb and delay) to the diminuitive Clarus SL.
Clarus SL $549 · Clarus SL-R $649
TVM50 Battery Powered Musical Instrument Amplifier - I've been asked many times about battery-powered bass amps, for those who need to play campground gigs, outdoor festivals, and the like. There are very few options -- but for reinforcement purposes, this one might just be the ticket... (1x10 combo, 50w)
Euphonic Audio Micro/Wizzy 10/Backpack Bundle w/cables - This is the current, high-powered, 2-channel Micro Amp, packaged with the Wizzy 10 speaker, and a padded backpack which holds the speaker, amp, and your additional accessories -- which will include the free speaker cable and DI breakout cable that we'll throw in for you! A super-compact, robust rig for upright and/or electric basses.
Limited number available, for just $1299 with FREE US SHIPPING!
Sounding Good in the Studio
So you've hashed out your parts and you're ready to record. How do you get the best results when it's time to go into the studio?
Recording the upright bass seems to be a mythical art form, based on many experiences I've had at studios. It happens to me a lot: I walk in, and with wide eyes, the engineer tells me it's their first time recording an upright. I recently had a discussion with a customer who had just completed a record at a fairly prestigious studio (where I've also done tracks,) and we had a long discussion about our mutual distaste with the micing techniques used. So, I thought it would be a good idea to throw out a few general ideas for those just getting started recording upright bass. We spend so much time, and money, getting that perfect sound out of your bass... wouldn't it be nice to hear that replicated "on tape?"
As with any recording, we're aiming to faithfully mimic the sound that our instrument makes; so if you're not happy with the sound of your bass, it's better to address that issue at the source rather than try to "fix" it through EQ. If you're recording outside of a controlled studio environment, remember that the sound of the room is paramount. You must be sure that it is properly dampened, and don't play into a corner -- it will only serve to build up bass frequencies and make a mushy sounding recording. When I track for people at home, I find that laying a nice thick blanket over a bi-fold door makes a great sound baffle, but anything that you can do to tame excess sound reflections will help.
Microphone selection can vary widely for bass. I prefer a ribbon mic but I know many that are happier with a condenser. While dynamic mics can work well at rejecting other sounds (such as drums if you're tracking the whole band live), they also pick up much less of the "nuance" and "air" of the instrument. Remember that the bass is a full-range instrument, and we need to pick up the upper frequencies (not just the lows) to capture the string articulation and fingerboard interaction.
Speaking of pickups (how's that for a segue?), while I would never use my pickup as my main source in the studio, I do like to take a DI from my pickup output; mixing this with my mic signal in small amounts can really help tighten up the low end in a recording and give the bass a bit more punch in the mix. But be careful how much you use, as too much of this "direct" sound can leave your doghouse sounding like a big old P-bass.
Once you've chosen a microphone, the more important question is raised... "where should you put it?" Mic placement can easily make or break a recording. I see a lot of engineers simply stick a mic six inches directly in front of the f hole. Hey, if what you want is a tubby, indistinct bass sound, then this is a great spot! First off, the sound of the inside of the bass body is all "BOOM" and no detail. Also, the frequencies that make up the sound of a bass take a little bit of time to mature, since they are quite long wavelengths -- so you won't capture the true timbre of the instrument by micing that close.
I prefer to start with the mic 18" or so away from the bass and pointed dead at the bridge. I then do some tests for tone, and adjust from there. You'll always have to experiment to find the best sound from each particular bass; it helps to have someone out front of the bass listening for where the sweet spot is -- so you can point the mic there. For my bass it likes to be close to center, shifted up about a foot above the bridge, and angled down towards the fingerboard. The big key with mic placement is to take your time and really listen. Hear with your ears, not your eyes -- and as with so many things on double basses: there are no rules.
Like most things, it all comes down to experimentation and experience. But walking into a session with some ideas of how to get the most accurate representation of your bass can save a lot of time and aggravation. Engineers usually know best, but for those times that they are "out of their comfort zone," some preparation and a little homework can help you point them in the right direction.
Christopher is an oft-recorded bassist, and appears on recordings by Bill Haley Jr. and the Comets, Lovers League, Hotsy Totsy, The Kelly Campbell Trio, and countless other artists. He's also a talented guitarist and singer, and next week he is releasing his solo record of "Dance Music for the Old at Heart" -- covers and originals "steeped strongly in the piedmont and delta fingerstyle blues traditions." Check it out!
A Change in Seasons...
Where does the time go? We're already in back-to-school season, and it seems like we'll be seeing Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday merchandise hitting the shelves in just days (Halloween stuff is already out). It's hitting me particularly hard, as my daughter has just started kindergarten just last week. Time really flies, doesn't it?
Those who have been our musical friends for a while might remember, a little over 4 years ago, when we moved our office from our location in Ocean View to our new (leased) space in Sewell, New Jersey. What you may not know is that that move was always intended to be temporary; the long-term plan has always been to build a new, permanent office for Gollihur Music near my home (now that Bob has transitioned into full-time retirement).
I'm very happy to say that -- after much planning, red tape, and anxiety -- we've broken ground on our new building. We're using pole construction to keep costs down (and create a space that has useful, open space for storage and packing). And we hope to incorporate cost- and environment-friendly features like passive lighting (skylights) and solar panels, where we can.
I'll be sure to keep you posted if anything connected to our eventual move affects you (it shouldn't). We're crossing our fingers for a pretty seamless transition as we move -- we even hope to keep our current phone numbers. Move-in is still several months away, anyway. There's a lot of t's to dot and i's to cross (wait... stop... reverse that!) between now and then.
Onward and upward!
Reading to the End Can Be Rewarding
FREE HAT with purchase over $300!
Our newest cap is cool; it's a nice all-season, "unstructured" cotton hat - no plastic 'n' foam trucker hats for us, thank you very much. It is nice and soft, almost a "pre-worn" sort of feel. It features a buckled adjustable band in the back, so one size truly does fit all (adults).
The hat is normally $13.95 -- but until October 15 (or we run out of hats), you can get it for FREE if you put it in a cart worth $300 or more. Doesn't matter what; some strings, a bunch of accessories, a pickup set -- whatever, if the cart totals over $300, the price of the hat automatically drops to $0.
(And as a reminder, if you drop the Fishman FT-1 Clip-On Electronic Tuner (regularly $27.45) into that same cart, the tuner will ALSO be FREE! That's two awesome bonus deals in one order!)
Limit of 1 hat and 1 tuner per order, while supplies last.
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