Bass Bomb is the first in a series from our resident bass player and all-around music technology guru Martin Delaney. On his journey, he has learned many things about playing the bass live and shares some useful tips on how to utilise technology, practicality and common sense to make your bass gigs trouble-free.
Playing At Home vs Playing The Gig
This is something that’s been on my mind lately, as I’ve segued from playing bass mostly at home, to playing live more.
I’ve played many live electronic music gigs before, but I’ve learned that, when it comes to bass, the difference between home and live playing is more pronounced than with electronic music – here are some things I’ve learned from this experience!
Fix any issues
The technical things that you might let slide at home won’t pass at the gig.
Bit of buzz somewhere in your signal chain? Gain issues? Sloppy technique on that third song in your set? Don’t wait until soundcheck to address those.
Lose the pedals
At home, when you’re playing bass on your own, pedals are the greatest thing in the world. No need to practice, just stomp on that fuzz pedal and rock out!
This does not always translate well to live situations, where typically the bass is expected to be clean and, well, bassy.
Wireless is a redundant choice at home unless you have a REALLY big bedroom, but it can be so cool at the gig, where you‘ll be free to wander around the stage and violate your singer’s personal space.
It’s also great for soundchecks, where you can play from the back of the room and hear what the audience will hear.
This is one I’ve seen happen so many times, as a musician and VJ. Bring everything you need, and do NOT expect the venue to have the correct power supply for your MacBook, to name one real-world example that I’ve seen.
Bring spare batteries, strings, tools, and a second bass maybe. The more gigs you play, the more likely it is that you’ll run into a situation where something needs to be fixed or replaced.
Amps are nothing but trouble! They’re hard to move around, they can be hissy, and they never sound as good on stage as they do in the studio.
Embrace amp modelling – currently, I’m using plug-ins within Ableton Live and iPadOS to form my signal chain, from the tuner to amp to fx to the compressor. There are also some brilliant hardware modellers around.
If they’ve got floor monitors at the venue, then you’re good to go.
You can’t eat or watch movies while you’re playing at the gig – I hate that! So we have to just look forward to the mini-pizza(s) when you get home.
Make sure you have a well-stocked fridge waiting for you.
Another great thing about gigs as opposed to playing at home is…packing! I love to pack. I’m autistic, maybe it’s something to do with that, who can say? But I love it.
I make a list a day or two ahead, using Apple Notes on my phone, and enjoy the process of packing really slowly, fitting it all in, wanting to go minimal while covering all eventualities. I’m a geek, what can I say?
Noodling – aimless playing around and jamming, and going off-topic musically – is all part of the fun when playing at home. We all do it. But that’s to be strictly avoided during soundcheck, and during the gig, unless you’re playing in some kind of jam band.
There’s no need to fill every moment of silence with bass sludge, no matter how talented you think you are.
You have to wear clothes.
This final item on our list is perhaps the most important of all. I don’t care if you play in just your pants at home, while you get greasy crisp-infused fingers all over the bass neck, but in general, society dictates that performers wear clothes.
I’m not even going to discuss what clothes you should wear…just wear something.
Even Flea keeps his trousers on these days.
Read more of Martin’s tutorials and reviews at www.authory.com/martindelaney