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So ya wanna be a Key-Bass Player... (tips and whatever..)


tarkus

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Familiarize with bass guitar.

Understand the dynamics of the instrument. Play a bass, nothing fancy, but always good to experience for yourself.

 

Find a patch that best represents the "bass" you are looking for.

 

Practice a run, walk or vamp. Practice a song. Maybe just bass and no other stuff. Isolate before you incorporate.

 

Practice with a drummer or a track. Improvise with same.

 

If you have a zone-mapping keyboard, split the board : left hand bass, right hand (whatever).

 

If you can run separate instrument OUTs from your keyboard, route your bass patch into a Bass Amp. If not, try to EQ your bass patch as a separate instrument.

 

Sustain pedals can help:

When thumping away on a single note, rather than immediate decay, the sustain pedal allows you to ride the note. More of a strummed feel than a choppy attack/decay.

 

Another tip: Monophinic Bass - less clutter, more concise. Add the sustain pedal = fluid.

 

The layered bass patch: Midi up two or more bass patches (I prefer two mono patches depending on the sound I'm looking for).

Usually a sampled bass + an Analog Synth Bass will fatten nicely.

 

Two keyboards: not really a solution, but more G.A.S.

If you can't split your boards, or run separate OUTs, the second board will help.

 

Again - I'll reccomend a bass amp or sub-woofer. Even though I play in stereo, be it a PA or a KP200s, the bass does get clustered with everything else.

 

Treat your keyboard bass like a real bass. You wouldn't have a bass player plug into your Keyboard amp?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a bass player who used to also do a lot of live keyboard playing (after fifteen years of mostly-bass playing first), I will add an often overlooked item:

 

TURN OFF THE REVERB!!!!!

 

bass should NEVER have reverb... except in rare cases (there are ALWAYS exceptions to EVERY rule :-)).

 

When I set up Performances (splits/layers/etc.), the very first thing I do is set the Reverb to zero on any bass patch. I have no idea why they would have reverb to start with, but I guess it sounds impressive in the store.

 

Reverb messes up the "tighness" of the bass for most pop/rock genres (and many other genres as well). If you want to add atmosphere to the bass or have it sound less forward, use chorusing instead (in moderation).

 

Although I once did keyboard bass in order to be able to add one or more other parts in the right hand, I now use backing tracks (audio, not MIDI) instead. This is because we no longer have a full-time keyboardist, so the benefits of filling in key parts are minimal as so many parts remain unfilled (as I must also carry the bass load!). So now, I tend to just do keyboard bass when I want a sound or style that is not appropriate to bass guitar. It is harder to control the keyboard bass sound in the context of the overall band mix, but the original post has some tips that should help. I still think it's harder to get a good groove with the drummer than with actual vibrating strings.

 

I almost always layer two bass patches, if it's a bass synth sound that I'm after. ON the occasions when I must substitute a passable bass guitar on the keys, I generally layer that as well, as it helps to disguise any obvious artefacts of sampling. The Yamaha Motif ES has some very convincing bass guitar sounds, and some excellent slap style sounds within that patch group. The Motif XS did not significantly modify the bass guitar sample set compared to the other instrument groups.

 

I'm not personally a fan of layering bass guitar with synth bass, as it's difficult to get them to blend well and they tend to muddy up the note transitions when combined. Yet I do it anyway on some songs, always questioning whether the audience is going to think it sucks :-).

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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I would actually recommend 2 keyboards as I would tend to use the full range of the bass in some circumstances, and to use the entire range of a piano patch at times as another example - sometimes there are intros or breakdowns that might need high register bass or low register keyboards...
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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That's a good point. One of the most time-consuming things I did when I still had an 88-key board was choreographing where to sit each voice for full coverage of the parts. I couldn't get by on less than 88 keys for sure, but often had to modify a part or place it a non-intuitive part of the keyboard in order for it to "fit" with the other parts.

 

I can handle multi-octave transposing in my head, even if a treble part is in the lower part of the keyboard and vice-versa, but I could never do what those guys in the 80's did with the older controllers that allowed up to sixteen splits, assigning parts to note ranges that were transposed by other intervals than octave multiples. A "C" is a "C" to me -- even if C2 vs. C3. Playing an "A" to get a "C" is beyond my brain capacity.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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These are all great tips. I have played tons of 'key bass' in numerous situations ranging from rock bands to musical theatre. It all comes down to following the aforementioned terrific guidelines.

 

Idiomatic playing goes a LONG way...

Weasels ripped my flesh. Rzzzzzzz.
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Great ideas. Here's my tuppence.

 

Simple sounds are good. They don't have to be electric bass imitations if they respond appropriately to velocity and can sit with the other sounds. Playing single-triggered bass is different from playing multi-triggered bass. When setting up your sound(s) decide your range ... when playing, don't go out of it. Compression is your friend, reverb/chorus your enemies (usually).

 

Play a mix of legato, staccato, detache. Recycling someone's great comment from the other thread ... the space is more important than the sound. The occasional bend or tied note does a lot to help the bass "sit".

 

Make sure the drummer can hear you. Play what makes the drummer happy. Watch the drummer if you can (and listen of course). Simple playing that may not be heard but can be felt ... that's what you want to aim for.

 

Jerry

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The advice for a bass amp is a good one. When I was in a country band on the road, the bass player doubled on fiddle, so I would have to take over the bass, sometimes switching in the middle of the song. I had a Rhodes Piano Bass and ran it through a second channel of the bass amp. The bass player played an Alembic, so he could set the tone the same as the Rhodes. That way the exchanges were seamless, with the same tone coming from the same place.

 

As you can see, I've always been a proponent for a seperate keyboard for bass. For a while I played a duo with one keyboard, and had to split the board. I was contantly forced to be conscious of where the split was. Now I'll set up the board dedicated to bass to my left hand in an L, and play like that. Gives me the full range of all the instruments.

 

"In the beginning, Adam had the blues, 'cause he was lonesome.

So God helped him and created woman.

 

Now everybody's got the blues."

 

Willie Dixon

 

 

 

 

 

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My favorite is the manual bass tab and lower manual on my xk-system and the two pedal bars. Second fave is to just split the pc1x and use the acoustic bass patch. I just run them through whatever amp I have, since I never get any warning when the bass player can't make it.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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Question...

 

As a long time guitar player now adding keys to his arsenal, what would be a GOOD second keyboard to be able to do something like that?

 

I'm getting ready to either get the Roland Fantom X6 or the Korg M3...so the 2nd keyboard would have to be cheaper.

 

I actually have one of the NEW Roland Juno-D's right now.

How would that be for a second little keyboard?

 

Thanks,

Randy

"Just play!"
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As a bassist myself (I started playing when I was fifteen in the mid-70s on a Hagstrom), I always found synth bass to be a poor substitute for Bass playing. However, in the early 90s I was in a power trio that begged for keyboards in the mix. So, my solution was to dedicate a module to bass, in this case, a Roland S550 sampler. I spent some time sampling my playing, not worrying so much about slides and other artifacts of electric bass, but thumbing and plucking and fingering, the fundamental attack structures. The sampler was used for only bass, and the occasional sound effect (maybe 3 through the whole show).

 

I ran the sampler and my bass into an A/B box, which then ran to my bass rig: DBx 163 ½ rack compressor (one slide control in front, absolutely dummyproof!) into my Yamaha bass preamp with bleedable crossover points, into my power amp du jour, and into my 1x18 Ev bottom and 4x10 Ev top.

 

The sampled bass was amplified exactly as my electric bass, which minimized the tonal differences, and the DBx compressor was a necessity, to tame the transients of the sampled bass. This was a rock band doing half originals and half Jimi Hendrix in the year 2000 (we played our covers as Hendrix would if we were alive today, taking full advantage of technology *as we believed he would*; this was a good blend with our originals which were swinging rock tunes as played by a very jazz-fusion guitarist and a killer drummer blending Bonham and Copeland); basically, we sounded like a cross between Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix (though I was no Zawinul!).

 

The keyboard rack consisted of 2 Oberheim Matrix 1000s, a Roland U220, JD990, and MKS 20, Korg M3r and O3r, and my Roland Sampler all controlled by one keyboard: Roland A80, with one sustain pedal, 3 volume pedals, and one modulation pedal. Seeing as I was already juggling between playing bass and keyboards (sometimes in the same tune) and hitting the A/B switch, and bringing all that gear, I felt one keyboard was enough! The A80 could do 4 zones which seemed plenty at the time. The A80 was a bitch of a machine to program, and I never felt I fully understood it (its architecture was very convoluted) or its methodology, but when they released the 8zone A90, I was all over it. (And the A90 was a huge improvement over the A80, not only in terms of programming, which was much more intuitive, but in real-time flexibility. I still use it all the time in my more involved midi rigs.)

 

The beauty of that rig was that I could switch key bass to bass and back, and if you werent looking at me, you would not realize there had been an instrument change. It worked great, and while a bear to program, it was a lot of fun to play.

 

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Question...

 

As a long time guitar player now adding keys to his arsenal, what would be a GOOD second keyboard to be able to do something like that?

 

I'm getting ready to either get the Roland Fantom X6 or the Korg M3...so the 2nd keyboard would have to be cheaper.

 

I actually have one of the NEW Roland Juno-D's right now.

How would that be for a second little keyboard?

 

Thanks,

Randy

 

The Juno-D would be fine as a stand-alone or a controller.

 

You can midi it up to either the Fantom or the Korg to utilize their bass patches as well.

 

Another alternative would be a no frills midi keyboard controller.

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I think you'll find decent bass patches right in the Juno D. I've never had a Roland rompler yet... all the way back to a D-110, that didn't do good at bass. Set 'er low to what you get as a main board, and if you end up playing key bass all night cock it to the left so you don't have to reach up and stretch to play it. Your left hand has to be in a natural position or it's murder after just a couple of hours.

 

Run it through a bass amp. Don't skimp and double it up in your keyboard amp or monitor.

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Set 'er low to what you get as a main board, and if you end up playing key bass all night cock it to the left so you don't have to reach up and stretch to play it. Your left hand has to be in a natural position or it's murder after just a couple of hours.

 

Which kinda argues to a shorter keyboard, say 3 octaves.

Moe

---

 

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I think you'll find decent bass patches right in the Juno D. I've never had a Roland rompler yet... all the way back to a D-110, that didn't do good at bass. Set 'er low to what you get as a main board, and if you end up playing key bass all night cock it to the left so you don't have to reach up and stretch to play it. Your left hand has to be in a natural position or it's murder after just a couple of hours.

 

Run it through a bass amp. Don't skimp and double it up in your keyboard amp or monitor.

 

I learned these two lessons the hard way.

 

The keyboard has to be positioned so there is no strain on your left arm at all. Playing LH Bass on a 4-hour gig on the top (elevated) keyboard will leave your left arm useless for about 24 hours.

 

Now, when I know in advance, I bring a separate stand and bring the keyboard for Bass in at an angle that matches my left wrist. I use my old Ensoniq VFX for LH Bass and it sounds great. I also bring a separate amp and park it next to the drummer.

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. W. C. Fields
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Expression Pedals, Modulation, Aftertouch, Portamento and other apps:

 

The most difficult thing for a keyboardist is to simulate the gliss of a bass guitar.

 

As I mentioned in the other thread: A song that requires a swooping bass note or a gliss, such as "Alive" by Pearl Jam or the subtle gliss notes during "Peg" by Steely Dan are difficult to achieve, but not impossible to "pull-off".

 

A slower portamento can get a reasonable result, but it could muddy up the performance. Use judiciously. Experiment with different porto speeds (some keyboards call this "glide" )

 

Pitch or Mod Wheel: Advantage in a bass-only setting.

Disadvantage: requires taking your right or left hand off the keyboard in a multi-instrument application.

 

Solution: Aftertouch and Expression Pedal

By programming the Aftertouch to "bend" or "Vibrato" - your hands stay on the keys.

 

I also use an Expression Pedal to apply bend or vibrato when needed. Sounds easy, but it takes a bit of practice, espescially if you stand while you play!

 

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The Minimoog is renowned for its bass sounds but it does NOT substitute for a bass guitar. If I want to sub for a bass guitar for LH playing, my Moog Source does a far better job. Why?!? HARD SYNC. Detuned sweeping VCOs on the Mini does not work for LH bass. Hard sync on the Source makes a huge difference, as you can get harmonics using the swept hard sync'd VCO that approximates the bass guitar better than a Minimoog can. Now I use my Voyager for LH bass.

 

The biggest compliment I ever got was when a local renowned bass player came to hear our R&B/funk band play. He said he liked the bass playing but looked around and could not find a bass player in the band. Then he saw me come out with a bass guitar for one of the few tunes that needs it, and as soon as I went back behind the keyboards that was when he realized he was hearing LH bass. I love it when I fool a bass player.

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Now, when I know in advance, I bring a separate stand and bring the keyboard for Bass in at an angle that matches my left wrist. I use my old Ensoniq VFX for LH Bass and it sounds great. I also bring a separate amp and park it next to the drummer.

 

Yeah. I'd do something similar. I'd angle the bass synth to my wrist and set the right half on top of whatever piano I was using at the time (CP-80, RD-300s, SL-880) and support the left with a heavy duty music stand flipped horizontally.

 

These days my key bass duties have been mostly in a praise band when the bass player is gone, so I just set up normally. But we don't go until 1:30 am. ;)

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I would actually recommend 2 keyboards as I would tend to use the full range of the bass in some circumstances, and to use the entire range of a piano patch at times as another example - sometimes there are intros or breakdowns that might need high register bass or low register keyboards...

 

Excellent point man. Since I am getting old and lazy, I set up and commit to the bass/key splits on one board. Whatever I cannot reach gets left out. Remix. :)

 

Tone-wise, there are several bass samples I love to tweak and use. A combination of acoustic and synth samples to get a fat round sound. Monophonic works wonders in that regard. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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... I also use an Expression Pedal to apply bend or vibrato when needed. Sounds easy, but it takes a bit of practice, espescially if you stand while you play!

 

+1. A piano-style sustain pedal that offers half-pedalling is actually a convenient continuous controller that works for this purpose. Program it to give you a full step of pitchbend (up or down, at your preference) on full depression. With a little practice you're sliding around like a fretless bass player.

 

Larry.

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freaking great advice from all of you. I'm learning a lot. I've never done dedicated LH bass for a whole gig on a separate board althoguh I can walk in jazz settings. I think its a valuable skill that I should probably work on now that I hear you guys talk about it.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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I meant to mention this earlier, and maybe it was already mentioned amongst some of the earlier posts, but I highly recommend practicing LH and RH parts separately, until you know them so cold you can play them without thinking.

 

Once you are more proficient at combined LH/RH playing, this may no longer be necessary -- though is probably still advisable in many cases. I don't seem to need to do this is much as when I first started, but now my focus is on singing and playing at the same time, and I went through a similar process where now I no longer have as strong of a need to practice parts separately.

 

Practicing against a click or metronome or simply an original recording, will help coordinate your two hands and get your left-side/right-side brain thingie working properly so that you don't have to think so hard when the two hands are doing radically different rhythmic motifs. Instead of focusing on how the two parts relate to each other (which in many cases they don't -- at least closely, as compared to other parts going on), this gets you more into how they relate to the whole, which I personally find makes the whole LH/RH thing easier than on its own.

 

It's especially good if you have a tool for slowing things down while learning. I don't anymore, and miss that, but fortunately my skill set has also advanced enough in recent years that I don't stumble so much when learning at the real tempo. I just wish I could say the same for my long-formant reading skills, as I just am not very successful separating my LH/RH thinking and playing with printed classical literature than when I was younger and primarily working from printed music vs. by ear. If you are working a lot with printed scores, unless your sight reading is phenomenal, it still probably makes sense to perfect each part separately first.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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One other point, since I realise many bands perform with everyone standing up (whether the player wants to or not) for "presentation" reasons.

 

If you are going to play standing up at the gig, do so at home when you practice as well. All of your tactile memories will likely be affected and confused otherwise. It may not be comfortable, and each person is different, but several of my more-advanced keyboardist friends around here (I don't consider myself to have more than rudimentary skills as compared to my bass playing), say the same thing -- that they gig a lot stronger when they practice standing up at home and at rehearsals.

 

You're very lucky if you're in a project that doesn't mind its keyboardist sitting down while playing. Though if you also sing, I think standing is better for keeping the vocal chords lined up ideally and having the best breathing and control as well as the best combined vocal and hand coordination while playing and singing. Again, each person is different. Just stuff to think about.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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If you're left-handed, ambidextrous, or don't know, you might experiment with transposing bass patches to the upper part of the keyboard and swapping hands for the bass and treble parts.

 

Whichever way helps you best to get the groove on, is the way to go. Note that some keyboards do not provide much flexibility or range in transposing, but sometimes one can effectively transpose twice by making a custom voice that is transposed from a preset and then tran posing its usage within a performance/mix/multi.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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I'm a full time bassist, I also play keyboards for my own entertainment and composing purposes.

 

The range of a fender bass (bread and butter) is about 3 octaves, each new string added above or below adds 5 notes, if you're going to try to simulate electric bass this is good to remember.

 

Remember that a bassist will generally use his open string notes (E, A, D, G, low B on a 5 string) a lot as passing tones to fill in gaps when he makes big leaps or just for convenience (when he needs to scratch his nose).

 

Remember that hammering on and pulling off are massive aspects in bass playing, its worth learning how to somewhat recreate that on a keyboard and learning how to use them convincingly in your lines.

 

Remember that bass is a rhythm instrument, its more important to keep to the groove (regardless of how simple it is) than to show off with fancy fills and melodic licks.

 

Practice with a drummer or at least a drum machine, the *most* important thing as a bassist is to be able to sync up perfectly with the kick drum.

 

Show some humanity, don't use a slap bass patch.

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Remember that bass is a rhythm instrument, its more important to keep to the groove (regardless of how simple it is) than to show off with fancy fills and melodic licks.

 

I've been filling in until we find a bassist and I've taken the position that right now, it is more important on most songs that the bass is 100% in the pocket and the organ is less of a priority. I work it in if I can but I don't try too much right now. The bass is more important to the other musicians than the organ.

 

We record our rehearsals, so I've been practicing what I want with the organ at home so I'm already there when the bassist shows up.

 

BTW: that was great advice on the open strings, I'm going to work on that.

 

 

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I started playing left hand bass when I bought my first B-3 back in the early 60's. I also took some bass lessons from a bass player named Jymie Merritt, who spent many years playing with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. I was always listening to good rhythm sections and focused on the bass, players like , Ray Brown, Butch Warren, Paul Chambers, as well as B-3 players like Jimmy Smith and Groove Holmes.

 

Actually, today, I am frequently more comfortable playing LH bass on gigs as opposed to playing with a bass player that doesn't know the tunes that well, or struggles with substitute changes, or just isn't a good bass player. I don't even think about playing the bass anymore, it just is sort of automatic and with the adjustable splits on today's keyboards, it is so easy to do. The hardest time I have is convincing a group that I have never played with that a keyboard player can play good LH bass, which rivals a good bass player, when they are anticipating someone playing root -5th- root -5th all night since that is the only thing they have heard key bass players do...... Usually one gig convinces them to call me again.

 

 

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I was too tired to post this last night, and don't want to start an argument, but the "open strings" thingie should be pointed out as being a style preference vs. something set in concrete. I for one avoid open strings as much as possible, for more evenness of tone and fewer notes popping out -- unless that is my actual intent. I prefer not to use the open strings out of sheer laziness, but have been guilty of that as well :-). Anyway, the point is just that it is one of many valid styles, just as some players would avoid hammering-on while others make it a major part of their playing.

 

Organ players of course have the option of using their feet for the bass line :-). I've always admired those who have the talent and coordination for that, but after seeing Joey DeFrancesco with John McLaughlin and Dennis Chambers over a decade ago and then reading an interview with Dennis Chambers later on where he complained that Joey's rhythm was sloppy and messed up the pocket, it is worth reminding oneself that the bass takes priiority :-). Of course Joey was simultaneously playing foot-pedal bass, comping with one hand on the organ, and playing trumpet at the same time with the other hand :-).

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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