A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Black Friday / Cyber Monday 2016

Consumerism – ahem – the holiday shopping season is upon us. I don’t usually go all-in, but this year, I grabbed two things that I plan to use with my bass, even if not in a direct manner.


On Black Friday, I grabbed a digital camcorder. I’ve wanted one for a while, and since attending the Metal in Strange Places conference this year with the wife, I decided to pull the trigger.

The problem I was looking to solve is this: the panelists and presenters are smart. They share interesting and enlightening information about metal that would never occur to me. Once they’ve had their say, that info is gone. Its resides somewhere between them and the memories of their audience. I hate that. I hate that once its been said, its done, and no one will be able to hear and learn from those moments again.

I videoed my wife‘s panel this year. She was part of “Looking for Metal: Rethinking Methodologies in Metal Studies” and spoke about netnographies in metal research, a new concept which are essentially online ethnographies. The quality from my little recorder wasn’t very good though, and the battery only lasts for an hour and 15 mins before needing a recharge – its not removable. I did a separate video for Maisie Kaiser, who presented “The Myth of ‘Genderblindness’ in Metal Culture“. I used her phone and it does seem to have come out better. She shared it online, and it looks and sounds good.

I wanted to record all of it though. I spent a while looking at different ways to do this and spoke with Nelson Varas-Diaz, a metal video documentarian who produced “The Distorted Island: Heavy Metal and Community in Puerto Rico” and “The Metal Islands: Culture, History and Politics in Caribbean Heavy Metal Music“. He suggested a DSLR camera, which we have, but research led me to rule it out. DSLRs can record video, but in order to avoid paying some kind of increase for their sales due to reclassification, they’re limited to 10-minute videos, which simply won’t work for panels that last more than an hour, and audience questions.

Canon VIXIA HF R700 Camcorder Review and Test (Camcorder for Vlogging)

So, I found a deal on a Canon Vixia HF R700 camcorder. It retails for about $299 on Amazon, but they had a sale on Black Friday that lowered it to $199. I almost bought it there, but I looked around more and lo-and-behold, Best Buy, of all places, had it for $169 – along with a free 32 gig class 10 SDHC memory card, so I drove to the one 10 mins from our place and got it there.

My aim is to use it to record conferences that wifey presents at, and now, I also plan on using it to record bass exercises and playthroughs from the Hal Leonard Bass Method. Hopefully, as I share them, we’ll notice me getting better at them. I can’t make any promises though. I believe I can also connect it to my PC to use it for video lessons, should I go in that direction. I’m seriously considering approaching Anthony Wellington for that, after chatting with Frank Smith, one of his students, who put the bug in my ear. I do plan on grabbing a shotgun microphone for better sound quality if I’m far from the front of any panels, and extra batteries and a charger. The camcorder can use up to 128 gig memory cards, so that might also be in the cards for the future.

akai-pro-mpk-mini-mkiiOn Cyber Monday, I did grab something directly musical from Amazon. I’ve wanted to experiment with coupling simple melodies and beats with my bass practice. I have some free software, like the Hydrogen drum machine, Reaper DAW and Audacity – which shares features with Reaper – and Amplitube 4. They’re a little tedious to use with a computer keyboard, however. I found a “lightning deal” on an Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key USB MIDI Controller, or, as I like to think of it – a drum machine and keyboard interface for all of that instrument software above. It usually sells for $99 on Amazon, but with the lightning deal, was $79. I decided to go for it. Lightning deals are basically limited-time and limited-quantity sales. Amazon offers a particular number of an item for a specified duration – it looks like its usually 3-4 hours. When either the time passes or the number of units being offered is grabbed up, the deal ends. So, in the future, expect some sloppy uploads from me with elementary bass and other sloppy virtual instruments. I might even use both pieces of loot and video the Akai controller.

AKAI MPK Mini mkII – Demo and Feature Review

I hope some of you were able to grab stuff you’ve been looking at over the crazy shopping weekend. If history is any indication, my next splurge will be in about 5 years – that’s the last time I grabbed significant stuff to experiment with. This year my tally is the acoustic bass and the Akai. The camcorder doesn’t really count as a musical device.


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