Electric Basses - Selection
'Superleggera' 4 string
Handbuilt by Jon at Shuker Guitars in the Peak district, UK. This is based on the Series 2 model. Constructed with: maple neck, maple/wenge scarf headstock, Indian rosewood fretboard, swamp ash body with spalted Beech drop top. I had a Jazz and a Precision neck made for this bass, and it is fitted with gorgeous Aguilar PJ humcancelling pickups and John East Uni 4 Pre.
'Original' 5 string (headless)
Custom made for me in 2007 by Martin Peterson at the Bass Gallery, UK. Used mainly for recording session work, and theatre pit work where space is usually quite tight. Zebrano wood body with through neck and book-matched flame maple front and back. Macasa ebony fretboard. John East preamp (18v) Uni-Pre 5 with Kent Armstrong pick-ups.
Flamboyant Fretless (5 string)
35" scale 5-string. The wood is madrone burl front and back facings, matching headstock, ash wings. The neck is a 7 piece flamed maple / wenge through-neck topped with an ebony board, with subtle lines in mahogany. Fitted with side LED's that are very useful for pit playing and darker stages. This is fitted with a versatile Schack preamp alongwith Bartolini MM pickups and ABM piezo bridge with piezo preamp.
MIM Fender Jazz - Fretless, fitted with flat-wound Thomastik strings and upgraded Babicz bridge. Used for session recordings and live jazz or pop etc; anytime that lovely fretless "Mwah" sound is required! It is also used as a teaching instrument for introducing the fretless to students.
USA P-bass with a maple neck and finished in metallic blue. Now fitted with black Babicz bridge and Ernie Bass Hybrid slinky. Used for rock/pop gigs and/or when a plectrum is required.
Japanese Precision 70's Reissue. This has a 'B' profile neck (nut width 41.5mm). This P-bass is now set-up for a 'close-to-Motown' sound: Rosewood neck, passive circuitry / Kent Armstrong pick ups, La Bella 0760M (52-110) flat wound strings, high action, bridge-mute, Gotoh bridge, chrome pick-up cover and 'ashtray' bridge cover. I use this bass for a variety gigs but especially for function work if it includes soul, Motown, country etc.
Thanks to Westside Distribution (Glasgow), from November 2019 I have been using Mesa Boogie Bass Amplification in all of my public shows. I have been provided with a lightweight but immensely tone-rich WD-800 head, with two Subway 2x10 cabinets.
For 'extreme' situations that require ultra portability such as small gigs abroad, 'micro' jazz venues etc, I also own a delightful GR AT110 carbon cab. This can be paired with the Mesa head or a feather-weight Quilter Labs Bass Block. I also own a range of backup and spare rigs to provide support on longer tours and supply various tone options for recording sessions.
Both 2x10 Cabinets along with the WD-800 head. Mic'd up with a Sontronics DM-B1 microphone ready for a recording session.
Signal Processing and Effects
Although I regularly perform without any special effects, I have a variety of pedals and effects that satisfies almost every taste and genre of music. For electric bass only gigs, for the sake of portability and weight (particularly useful for city centre gigs where parking is often 'off-site') I typically only take a very small 'processing' pedalboard: Peterson Tuner, Empress Bass (VCA) Compressor and an optional pedal (usually Providence Chorus). Powered via a Ciocks: Adam (hidden underneath).
For gigs where effects / alternative tones are required, I select from a wide range of effects (see list and other pictures below).
DHA: VT1 Di Std - hand-built valve pre-amp (tasteful valve drive tones)
Tech 21: Sansamp Bass Driver + DI
For 'Doubling' gigs (gigs that require both electric and upright basses), see below:
MXR: Bass Auto Q - auto-wah / envelope filter based on the sound of the Cry Baby pedal. This particular pedal has stood-up to the punishment of many gigs.
Rafferty: Fuzz-Orius. An ace fuzz for bass that was specifically based on Jaco's Acoustic 360 fuzz circuit
Boss: OC-5 Octave - With it's refined 'poly mode' that offers numerous enhancements for extended-range playing with the latest tracking technologies, along with the fab vintage mode option (recreation of the legendary mono OC-2 from 1982).
The Future Impact - The superb programmable synth pedal is a much improved replacement to the outdated, over-priced and often troublesome Akai Deep Impact. The Future Impact is the pedal used by Chris Wolstenholme - bass player for Muse.
Jam Pedals: Delay Llama . Uses BBD chips to faithfully reproduce the Panasonic MN3205. Max. delay time: 600 ms
Bright Onion: Blender Looper. Although not an effect, I often use this to blend a wet (affected) and dry (unaffected) bass signal.
In terms of string types, over the years I've tried virtually every option available, including some custom made strings from Australia! Listed below are the strings that I currently use on my electric basses. On my upright bass I use Solo Thomastik Spirocores.
For my Sei Headless bass, I use custom made Diamond Bass 5 String double ball-end stainless steel Hex core 40-120s with tapered B.
For my 5-string Sei Fretless I use Thomastik Jazz flat wounds 43-136's (or 33-100's from a 6 string set if E to C tuning is needed).
For my Motown-style Fender P-Bass I use a set of La Bella 52 - 110's (identical to James Jamerson). These won't ever be changed (unless they snap!).
For my Shuker Bass and USA Fender Precision I use Ernie Hybrid slinky roundwound 45-105s.
In 2017 I visited the Spanish factory that make these fabulous straps. I now own several of the Bass 'Fakey' model and I am happy to endorse there products. The 'Fakey' is suitably wide, well-padded, tough and very-well made. Check out the details and unique adjusting feature by clicking here. They also make a range of vegan straps too.If you visit Spain, why not pop by and pay them a visit too!
My main instrument is a handmade Hungarian Double Bass - approx. 85 years old. It's a fairly large bodied instrument but very easy to get around (approx. 7/8 size). The bass is fitted with a David Gage Realist pick-up for amplifying at live concerts. For studio recording, I have a selection of microphones (low-impedance, cardioid, dynamic microphones and/or condenser microphones) which can be placed and blended to suit the needs of the client.
Bows: I have a small selection, my favourite being and Alfred Knoll 4/4 with black hair (French style).
Recording / Microphones
I often get asked about what mics I use to record bass in the studio. For upright bass I use a Sontronics DM-1B (pictured). This is a mid-range condenser microhone that works well with double bass. There seems to be no discernable peaks or scoops across most of the frequency range of my double bass. In addition, the mic is well-built and designed in the UK. Placement wise, I usually direct the mic just off centre and towards the treble side of the bridge. A distance of about 8 to 10 inches away works well in my small home studio. Depending on the recording, I sometimes also add a SM57 near the fingerboard. For bass guitar, DI is the order of the day for 95% of the recordings I undertake. However, sometimes I like to use the DM-1B to mic a bass cab. Often I use this to blend with a DI signal. A lot depends on the style of the music, and the overall sound stipulated by the client.
Although I won't list all my recording equipment, it's useful to say that I mix any recordings using a pair of Totem Dreamcatchers and A/B with Mordaunt Short Alumni 2s.
If bass synth is needed, I use a Roland GAIA SH01. A great compact 3 octave analogue modelling synth.