Most people who know me or have seen me play know that I have a pretty complicated set up. Especially considering most bass players are trying to carry the bare minimum for amplification. Effects, synth bass and looping are generally reserved for higher paying situations where someone else is doing the setting up. Local club and church situations are lucky to get an amplifier. But I have a different way of seeing things.
I recently did a church service at a local Seventh Day Adventist church. It was a very easy service with music that was not too challenging and didn’t require more than a bass running naked through an amplifier. Since this was the case, I decided to set up just that. The laptop would get to take a break for this one. I was unlikely to start creating loops and improvising over them in this service.
Part way through the service, the keyboard player turned to me and points out that there is supposed to be a saxophonist to play Oh Come On Come Emanuel (this was a Christmas Sabbath service). Well, the he was nowhere to be found so I was asked (told) me to play the melody. I had never played the song before, let alone the melody. But I have been blessed to have a pretty decent ear so I figured it out and I think it turned out cool. The congregation didn’t cringe or anything negative. But I can’t help but think that I could have made it better had I set up my full rig. I could have added some delay and/or flange effects on my bass sound. Or maybe I could have stacked a lead synth sound on top of my bass sound. Or maybe I could have done swells with my expression pedal. None of these things were available to me at the time because my laptop was chillin in the corner in my book bag probably mocking me the whole time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a capable bass player. I can make an old Squire bass with 20 year old strings running through a Gorilla amp sound hot. But I choose to play some of the best equipment available because it makes my job easier. It allowed me to hear different things and explore new textures and timbres. I don’t need to be able to run effects, play backing tracks, trigger drum loops and play a harmonica solo on most of my gigs. But there is that situation where any one of these things would make a huge difference and add value to what I do. It’s called being prepared to give your best. If I do just one of these things and makes a situation better, who do you think will get called the next time, me or the bass player who just brings an amplifier to run their bass?
We as musicians must realize that everyone can play. There are many people that play circles around me. How are you going to make yourself more valuable to a particular situation? How will you stand out? That is why I will drag my whole rig to every gig from now on.