A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Recording & Equipment

Focusrite Scarlett 6i6

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I got a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 audio interface from a seller on Craigslist yesterday. Its the 2nd gen model, which is the new one that has ironed out some issues from the older model. The seller listed the device as being in Stratford, CT, which is about an hour away, without traffic. After emailing, I learned that its actually at his mother’s house in Mt. Vernon, NY, behind Cross County Shopping Center – about 5 mins from my house.

So, wifey and I left Bopps with her grandparents and went to see the device. We met the seller in Mt. Vernon. He was a little older than me – maybe in his late 40s or early 50s. His name is Mike and he’s originally from Queens – he had the accent too.

His mother’s place is falling apart. Its an old Victorian house, and in the snowy dark had looked intimidating from outside. Once the door opened, I could hear my wife’s mental cringe in my head. We had to go up 3 flights to a room to see the 6i6. There were boxes and junk everywhere, the handrail finish on the staircase was partially stripped, like if paint thinner had been run in odd rivulets along it, the floors were in terrible condition, and a young, blonde woman in a bathrobe with her hair wrapped in a towel walked out of a room on the 3rd floor, ran into us going upstairs and exclaimed, “What, there are more people?!”

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Gorilla Tips & GHS Pressurewound Strings

So, I cut down on my practice time a bit over the weekend. I’ve been aiming for at least an hour a day for a while, but because I wore out my fingertips on my fretting hand, I scaled back to about 30 mins. I’m trying to avoid getting a blister or some other annoying wound. This will definitely slow down my completion of the Hal Leonard book. Last week, I realized that if I can finish a page a week, I’ll actually finish Book 1 by the end of May.

I remembered seeing something that I thought was silly around the end of December, on Talkbass. Someone had gotten these little, color-coded, rubbery fingertip casings for Christmas. However, after having to force myself to scale back practice, I can see their benefit. I ended up hunting online and found a set. They’re not multi-colored, but I wasn’t looking for that. They’re called Gorilla Tips Fingertip Protectors.

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Hearing the bass in Amplitube & Reaper

I’ve been taking longer breaks in-between practice runs through the Hal Leonard book to let my fingertips recover. Winter has come, and with it, dry hands. One thing I’ve been doing is looking at recording and DAW software – particularly Audacity and Reaper, because I have both of those and I know I’m using neither to their potential. My curiosity about this was piqued by posts from Shel over at Soundwaves & Spraypaint, who has been looking at different DAWs for her Windows laptop and Android phone & tablet.

An issue that I’ve had since I started using Audacity in Nov 2015 is that while recording, I can’t hear myself play. It wasn’t ideal, but since I generally practice without plugging into an amp, it wasn’t a game-breaker either.

I started watching a really good video tutorial series for Reaper on YouTube from Kenny Gioia, who sounds like Christopher Walken as he guides us through the program. Lesson 5 in the series is about recording. He showed us how to have Reaper play back as we’re playing when the bass is plugged into it. Its called monitoring. I tried it out, and it worked! I even made a slight change and got rid of a tiny bit of latency I heard when testing.

So, after that, I got curious and Googled how to hear what I’m playing live in Audacity. It turns out, there was a way, and it was simple. It was a checkbox in the Preferences screen! All of this time, what I had to do is open Preferences, go to Recording and check Software Playthrough, and uncheck Overdub. I tested it out, and it worked fine.

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Audacity: Uncheck the Overdub box at the top. Check the Software Playthrough box below it. Viola!

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Bass repair cost at Sam Ash in White Plains, NY

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Sometime in 2011 with the EXB-404. Glad I cleaned the room and changed the furniture & paint since then. It was the start of this blog, actually…

I spoke with Sam Ash about my old Ibanez 4-string. The repair person didn’t see anything wrong with the tuning peg that I replaced. That alarmed me, but after a short conversation, it turned out that the repair I did wasn’t bad. He’s just going to finish setting the screw, because at first I was hesitant to drill a hole for it.

It costs $30 for them to look at the electronics, which I know need service, since the 4-string didn’t work with my amp consistently. That price is subtracted from the repair cost, if one is found necessary, which it will be. He also recommended a setup, which costs $75, but jumps to $95 with strings. I’m unclear if that includes the cost of the strings themselves. If not, it costs $20 for them to restring a bass, which I can definitely do for myself.

I told him to hold off on the setup for now, but to just get the electronics working. He’ll call me on Monday, because he’s working on stuff from the end of December still. He’ll give me a quote about what the electronics might cost. I hope its not outrageous, as I need a reliable and decently-priced tech to look at the acoustic as well. We’ll find out next week.

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A visit to Sam Ash

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Its like we were made for each other…

So, back in March, I snapped the tuning peg for the A-string on my old Ibanez 4-string (see the bottom of this post). I ordered a replacement part, which took almost a month to come in from overseas, and it didn’t quite fit. I’ve had it on the back-burner to get it repaired for a while now, and yesterday I set out to get it done… in a week.

The wifeness & I ran up to White Plains and after trying these amazing Japanese crepes, we hit Sam Ash, where I announced my bass’ need for a medic and filled out paperwork to have it admitted. Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t in and won’t be there today either, so I had it assigned to a room where it will wait with other unfortunates until the end of the week when the doctor returns and can give it an examination. I should get a call in about 5 days with a price quote and a diagnosis. I’m sure it will center around two conditions: the broken tuning peg and malfunctioning electronics. There was also talk of an optional procedure: a set-up. The double-meaning of the word has my heard aflutter.

Ultimately, we have to see if the work will exceed the cost of the bass. Its my original, which I got back around 1996 or so, and which lay unloved at my parents’ house for around 15 years before I gave it another shot and started this blog in lieu of writing heartfelt poetry. How far will we go for our first loves?

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We got a drum set

So we drove up north a bit for our friend’s daughter’s 4th birthday. She’s 3 months younger than Bopps. Before we left, we received a delivery. Its a Christmas present for wifey & the Bopps:

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Also, when we got to the birthday party, we found that they also got a drum kit recently! Its a kid’s set. Bopps – and a bunch of other kids – had a blast with it.

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I need to make space in the living room, and then we’ll set up the kit, across from the piano. Its a Pearl Roadshow – the 5-piece rock set. I liked it better than the jazz and fusion sets, which came with slightly smaller hardware. At some point, I want to add double-kick pedals to it, but for now, we’ll see how this goes over with clients during conference calls.

I shopped around and couldn’t find a better price for the kit than $499. Sam Ash, Guitar Center, Amazon, and other online sites all had the same price. Then I did something. I hopped onto eBay and found it there – from Sam Ash. I placed a bid $100 lower than what they were asking for. A few days later, they came back with an offer $70 below the regular price, so I went with it. Its my first time doing an online haggle, but I was happy with the result. That’s just something to keep in mind for those of you who haven’t tried bidding before. I wasn’t expecting anything to come through, but not only did I get the set for $70 off, it arrived in 3 days instead of  a week. 😉


Online drum machine metronomes

So, after that metronome post from yesterday, I had a chat with Shel from Sound Waves & Spray Paint. She’s more finicky about what click sounds she can abide to practice with than I am, which proved lucky. In an attempt to help find a metronome with a click that she can tolerate, I discovered two that passed muster.

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The first is a simple drum machine. It has 8 different drum sounds. Users can pick up to 2 of them to practice with. One of them plays at the beginning of a measure (lets call that, the “1”). The other is used to fill out the rest of the bar. Each measure can have up to 8 beats. It worked well in both Internet Explorer and Chrome.

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