With all the chaos of NAMM comes an ominous anticipation for the impending arrival of all the new gear people have discussed/ogled/lusted over for the last few days/weeks/months. Pedals, instruments, amps, leads, pedalboards, software, cases, new materials and the list goes on – there are always updates, new models, reissues of old favourites and of course wild new ideas that seem completely out of nowhere. How does technology and innovation impact you as a bass player though?
Old school vs new school
These debates have raged for years with a number of viewpoints. There are those who swear by their vintage bass and rig and dismiss the need for new gear. ‘Fender (or insert a multitude of brand names here) got it right originally, nothing feels/sounds/plays like my whatever blah blah’ is a common theme for these folk. Then there are the tech/latest gear/always on the hunt crew that embrace innovation and love the marketing/whispers/conjecture/anticipation and then final release of new products. These players seem happy to try new gear and give anything a run. And of course there is somewhere in the middle with players that may own old and new gear, can appreciate everything and have somewhat of an open mind in regards to innovation.
What’s what then?
I can understand all of these three (generalised) viewpoints and the various permutations in between. No matter what your stance, I do personally feel that there should be some openness to technology though, and I really can’t stand the hugely dismissive attitudes, especially when thrusted upon people without much foundation. In no particular order then, here are some general thoughts on how technology helps us as musicians.
Tech for the win!
New materials can be great. Sustainable woods that lessen the strain on the environment, stronger/lighter materials that can improve the durability, playability and weight of instruments or parts and even polymers used in coated strings. Computers and computing becoming more powerful has allowed for added features in effects, power supplies, recording devices, general electronics, amplifiers and more. Mini amps and tiny effects boards are all the rage allowing more options for players with reduced size and (sometimes) cost. Don’t forget the learning aspect – there’s more instructional content available today than ever before! Videos, Skype lessons, PDFS, interactive tutorials - the list goes on.
What about vintage instruments?
I agree that great feeling and sounding older instruments can be quite incredible. There are also plenty that don’t quite cut it, however, and just being ‘old’ or ‘vintage’ doesn’t mean much in that regard. Modern takes on older specs can really be amazing. Using in depth analysis, years of expertise and fine tuned cutting/assembly equipment many modern basses play beautifully and are super consistent due to the materials and processes used. The same can go for effects. Yeah, there’s loads of super cool vintage pedals and rack effects but there are also many faithful recreations that can cover those sounds too. Whatever your mindset it’s hard to deny that technology and innovation hasn’t impacted you as a muso in a positive way in some small way at the very least! We don’t all have to be sporting solar powered amplifiers and lunar dust basses that tune themselves, but next time you baulk at a new piece of gear, maybe give it a chance before going the instant dismissal route.
Check out last month's bass lesson here.