Saturday, December 28, 2013

CLEARING OUT / REBUILDING YOUR STUDIO.... gulp (anyone else done it?)

I'm about to embark on a comprehensive 2014 studio cleanup - and we're talking top to bottom here. The room isn't huge, so a lot of built up stuff has got to got, to make room for an electric drum kit I haven't had set up for several years: I want to get back into some Zen-like co-ordination drumming again.

To do this, I'm actually going to:

1. Pack the studio into boxes as if I was moving house, categorising the contents according to what they are and cataloguing everything
2. Set up the drum kit
3. Reverse engineer the rest of the studio around this, removing everything which isn't studio related.

At the end of the day, there's a lot of other stuff in there which isn't core studio stuff. I'll get some cable clips and guitar hangers for the walls too: really trick it out.

Anyone else attacked this task and won?

Tobias 2014, further developments - the tale of the Bridge...

It's great news - the bridge from Hipshot looked like it was going to cost £80 to ship(!) - but Barrie from BassGear was on the case and secured it as a custom build: brass Type B Hipshot with all the quick release goodness I've got on the other basses (warwick and aria pro II) for £135 - brass and painted black. Sweet!

I'm itching for the bass back with all the goodies onboard: the GR55 doesn't have anything to power it at the moment (I'm thinking I might fit the pickup I have to one of the other basses!), and those modelled bass sounds are calling me to play some Rush... some freebird... some original material!

The bass is going to be a real monster when it's finished. I'm hoping it'll be tap-friendly as well: I have a lot of old tap pieces (I arranged Day At The Beach for bass, also Midnight (both satriani tracks) and learned a few Stu Hamm solos years ago - these usually get practised when I use the Aria as it's strung really light and the bass itself is stupidly playable (it's on 30-50-70-90, a la Mark King!) - thin strings, low action, pro setup did that for that bass.

The 5 string gets 20-40-60-80-100-130 (I like a decent wedge on the B) - Warwick black labels. Great strings, they come up beautifully after a week in Meths!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Toby’s Rebirth: the bridge to 2014

Puns aplenty in this Bass blog… yep, as I mentioned, my 2000s era Tobias Toby Pro-6 is having a makeover – MIDI, Aguilar preamp, the lot – and fortunately Julian the Luthier has been up to his eyeballs in work, so I got the chance to realise that one of the other aspects of the bass I wanted to get right was the bridge.

The original bridge is workmanlike, but I’d really like it to have quick-release ball-end design – like the Warwicks and the old Aria Pro-II – so I can change strings quickly and easily, and indulge the economic side of my personality by not having to unwind (and therefore stress) the ends of the strings. See, I like to leave my used strings in a big vat of meths I keep for the job – leave them there for a couple of weeks, and they come out like new: no rust (no water!), and no skin / oil in them either (this is what makes strings go dead). This means I can keep using the same very reasonably priced Warwick black labels strings up to 5 times (and I do, on the Warwicks) – if the 6 string had the same design of bridge, it’d make life a lot easier, and this is supposed to be about giving an old friend a new start.

So, after some great suggestions from Barrie at Bass Gear in Twyford - looks good in Black: the curves of this bridge should work really well with the bass, and they do a lot of different string spacings, plus there’s a great PDF I could send direct to Julian of the mm-dimensions of the bridges.

I see this refit as a new birth for the bass, a new start – not a new relationship with a bespoke bass (I had considered that already), but a fantastic new lease of life – even when I removed the black clamp holding the GK-3B from the bass, it suddenly looked… well, nicer. I can’t wait to see it with the MIDI pickup fitted properly, all the electronics internal, and the original jack socket AND the 11-pin GK socket available, with the 2 patch change buttons on the lower side.

It also gives me a chance to get the bass set up from the outset as a MIDI bass – fix the fret level problems (they’re not huge, but they are tedious) – get it really humming as a fingerstyle and tap-based instrument. I’ve got other basses to slap, this one is intended to give me the ultimate fingerstyle funk/rock/synth platform to launch into 2014. I think it’ll make a real difference to pick the bass out of the case, set up the GR55 and look really pro.

Anyone out there ever done similar?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Great Tobias Toby Pro-6 Makeover BEGINS! (3 months late!)

The prologue

Way back in the mists of time (2003), Andy bought a Toby Pro-6 – a fine, very reasonably priced 6 string bass. He used it for many years, on many projects, and many bands – including the epic 15,0000 crowd gig with Janeiro in 2005 – and it’s been in use for 10 years. Over time, it’s picked up a few idiosyncracies – including a GK-3B, bracketed on with the pickup glued in place using the nifty shims Roland supply.

Bless em, the Internet Archive wayback machine even still has the Musicyo site on it!

It’s got a good sound, but… it’s always been a bit quiet. I cranked it as high as I could get it - I used to use the Bass POD to boost it further, then when I got the GK3B and GR20 I ran it with the output volume turned up, which made a big difference (and told me the pickups had a pretty good intrinsic tone).

Then I got the GR55 – about 3 months ago. That unit is excellent. My eyes were opened to a world of lower latency, and the modelling… I play the toby, and a vintage precision comes out. Now it’s a rickenbacker. Outrageous. But…

the bass is now in need to upgrade. D’oh, it’s G.A.S. (gear aquisition syndrome, if you haven’t heard of it). I thought I was past that… but there it is, the old familiar feeling.

So I decided it was time for a 10 year tune-up. The whole 9 yards – fix the buzz that appeared at the 15th fret… upgrade the electronics (I started thinking about aguilar preamps)… get the GK3B fitted internally.

This was all about 3 months ago – I approached a luthier in Reading, who initially sounded enthusiastic, then went utterly silent – no response! OK… I post a message to BestBassGear on twitter, and they give me the details of… BassGear (no relation) in Twyford! These guys are much more friendly. Much more interested. And they secure the services of Julian Mullen – round about my birthday in October, we get together at BassGear HQ and talk, discussing how to fit an aguilar OBP-3, 18v of battery AND a GK-3B kit into it.

Then Roland take over a month(!) to ship it! And today… I dropped off the Toby with them! Keep tuned for how this goes – I’m truly excited that this bass, which has served me well for a long, long time, is going to get a comprehensive makeover in every department.