3, 2, 1 let’s jam

I find playing the u-bass very satisfying, in an “unproductive” sort of way. Playing the simple but very catchy riff from “Seven Nation Army,” or a stereotypical boogie-woogie bass line with a I-IV-V chord progression, isn’t useful for my more serious musical pursuits but it sure is fun.

On Christmas Eve my spouse and I went through her list of Christmas songs she’d arranged for dulcimer — with me awkwardly just playing the melodies by ear rather than reading the music, or trying to figure out a proper bassline on the fly. It was pretty awful and I didn’t even realize just how goofy that was until she pointed it out, but again, it was fun. I still have to think about what notes are where, and even which strings are which notes — after my violin indoctrination it’s hard not to think GDAE from low to high, rather than EADG on the bass. But I’m developing a pretty decent sense of relative intervals, which is useful for playing by ear and improvising.

I’ve got the u-bass downstairs in a case, under my desk, so I can plug it in and process it in the DAW. The Musician’s Gear baritone uke case is exactly a perfect fit for a Hadean UKB-23, though without a strap attached, so I’ve bought a Fender Quick Grip strap because the current one is a pain to attach/detach. But I’m still considering a wall hanger as a more convenient alternative.

I’ve worked out a pretty good default effects chain with noise gate, compression, EQ and some optional subtle “vibe” modulation. It brings out the tone that I like while de-emphasizing finger noise (which can be quite a lot more than a standard bass due to polyurethane strings and piezo pickup), and it makes a good starting point if I want to add additional FX. Certain kinds of convolution and spectral processing are more to my liking than distortion/fuzz, which surprises me a bit. Reverb/delay really only work for slow stuff plunked out in higher positions on the upper string. I have yet to try running it through the modular — I expect Lacrima Versio will suit it very well, Beads might, and Rings could be extremely fun if I can get it to track the pitch.

Other things I’ve found satisfying:

  • A new office chair that hasn’t had its padding and upholstery completely worn out. Plus the arms raise up to get out of the way of desks, dogs, and stringed instruments. Thanks dear 🙂
  • How the heating pad melted the tension out of my lower back this morning. It’s been increasingly painful for the last couple of days, but heat made it much better.
  • Having a pile of books to read (between Christmas gifts, preorders that came up, and the Spectres series of essays on music and sound).
  • “Completing” my Isao Tomita collection — at least covering the eight albums I had on 8-track, cassette or LP when I was younger, plus Daphnis et Chloe, Storm from the East and Nasca Fantasy. If I happen to run into Sound Creature somewhere I might grab that.

I’m turning my attention next to collecting other music I used to have:

  • Jean-Michel Jarre: Oxygène, Équinoxe and Rendez-Vous. I already have the wonderfully weird Zoolook. I find a lot of his other stuff much less compelling, honestly.
  • Kraftwerk: when I was a kid I had a cassette called Robots which was a Capitol Records compilation of several of their hits up to that point. (It took some searching to find that version; it’s not in the Wikipedia list.) I could just go for that, or individually pick up Radio-Activity, Trans-Europe Express, and Der Man-Maschine (since there are a few more good ones on those).
  • The Yellowjackets: Four Corners. The group wobbled between jazz fusion and smooth jazz — as opposed to Spyro Gyra, which pretty much did both at the same time and sometimes it worked. I generally prefer my jazz chunky style. But this album is far more on the fusion side, closer to an updated Weather Report, with a bit of funk and more synth. These days I mostly prefer the jazz and metal-influenced chiptune prog rock (!) of Seajeff, Kartmaze, Danimal Cannon, Stemage etc. — but I can has a nostalge.