Amp Shop/Bass Exchange, North Hollywood, CA

By Happy Jack Nicole and Silvia Bluejay

We visited Bass Exchange after it was recommended to us while we were at NAMM. The shop is filled with basses, guitars, amplification and lots and lots of accessories and components; that in itself is spectacular enough.

Bass Exchange (6)

Bass Exchange (2)

Bass Exchange (3)

Bass Exchange (4)

There is also a small stage at the front. That night, Rudy Sarzo was meant to perform – it was a shame we needed to be out of town by early afternoon and had to miss him.

Bass Exchange (5)

Bass Exchange also has a workshop area where repairs, setups and all other kinds of magic are performed on guitars and amplification; stringed instruments are in the capable hands of luthier Tina Wood, here on the left with me.

Tina and Silvia

Once in the shop, we were unexpectedly introduced to not one but two high-end guitar makers – Hiro Miura, luthier and owner of Miura Guitars, and the team from Universum Guitars, Alexandr Doroshenko and Pavel Masterov.

This is Happy Jack’s review of some instruments from Universum, with my photos. My notes on Miura, with photos, follow it.


So we’ve done two hard days at NAMM in Anaheim followed by two days’ recovery in Pasadena and the Hollywood Hills. Time to head for San Francisco by the scenic route.

But a bunch of British bass players at NAMM have been telling us about this great shop called Amp Shop / Bass Exchange on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, which is pretty much on our drive to Santa Barbara, so we decide to call in for 15 minutes, maybe half an hour.

Two hours later we stagger back out into the outrageous late January sunshine with the temperatures soaring past 80F. That was pretty intense. The shop is in a typically LA wasteland of auto repair shops, which begs the question of what it’s doing there. Turns out that there are four serious recording studios within walking distance, plus a bunch of rehearsal rooms. People like Marcus Miller and Joe Walsh are regular visitors.

The main man is Gary Roudenko, a Ukrainian guy who has just done the full four days at NAMM. He has injured his wrist and can’t play worth a damn just now, but he’s a lively and engaging chap and he’s very keen to ensure that we enjoy our visit to his shop.

“While you were at NAMM, did you see Universum Guitars?” he asks us. Silvia had but I had not. And? “Well these guys here, they ARE Universum!” he says, pointing at two chaps who have just walked into the shop.

[Silvia had not just seen Universum at NAMM, she had actually taken photos of them – here they are.]
Universum @ NAMM (1)

Universum @ NAMM (2)

Universum @ NAMM (3)

Gary hands me a heavy, hollowbody 4-string P/J bass – the Epsilon – with some very distinctive design features. There’s a bizarre shell-shaped inlay covering a void in the upper bout, intended to represent the Fibonacci Series (ask your Mum). There’s a very canny twin-truss rod system with one being adjusted from an exposed wheel between frets 23 & 24 and the other hiding under a brass badge just beyond the nut.

There’s a knurled dome near the rear strap button which unscrews from the bass to reveal a Special Tool (a familiar concept to those of you who have rebuilt Japanese motorbikes) which will adjust the truss rods, the saddles at the bridge, and the individual string heights at the nut. I thought only Warwick did engineering this thoughtful and this practical?

Universum Guitars  - natural Epsilon Bass (1)

Universum Guitars  - natural Epsilon Bass (2)

Universum Guitars  - natural Epsilon Bass (3)

All this leads inevitably to a bunch of questions, and the answers lead off in some unexpected directions. This bass was designed not by a bass player or a luthier, but by a mathematician – Aleksandr Doroshenko. The precise shape and internal bracing were all determined by his calculations which involved, amongst other things, using both the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Series resulting in the weird shell-like design. The void beneath that design is apparently intended to focus and tune out the bad sounds and leave only the good sounds.

We were in California.

The bass plays and sounded exactly as you would expect a high-end (>£3000) bass to be. The controls are Volume / Blend / Tone and both V and T are slightly on/off, whereas the Blend works very effectively. The bass is fine to play and sounds good, but doesn’t particularly blow me away, so Gary hands me a rather heavier 5-string version.

Universum Guitars  - red Epsilon Bass (2)

Universum Guitars  - red Epsilon Bass (3)

Universum Guitars  - red Epsilon Bass (1)

Universum Guitars  - red Epsilon Bass (4)

Universum Guitars  - red Epsilon Bass (5)

Universum Guitars  - red Epsilon Bass (6)

Universum Guitars  - red Epsilon Bass (7)

I always carry a set of fishing scales when visiting guitar shops and shows, because so few people in the music biz seem to recognise that weight matters, especially as you get older. Gary is fascinated to watch me weighing his stock, and keen to know the results. The 4-string is 10.5lbs and the 5-string is 11lbs. Gary repeats a line that I have heard many times before, to the effect that a heavier bass sounds better, but he adds to that the claim that the extra mass produces a tauter low B on the 5-string (dunno about that, but I’m willing to listen) and also that heavy basses sound better as they age (dunno about that, and Mama didn’t raise no stupid children).

The 5-string is every bit as good as the 4-string but still doesn’t set my world on fire, so Gary hurries out of the playing booth and returns with another 4-string P/J. Where the first one was a very blonde maple bass, this one is a much darker wood and finish, but otherwise they are identical.

Universum Guitars  -  dark Epsilon Bass (1)

Universum Guitars  -  dark Epsilon Bass (3)

Universum Guitars  -  dark Epsilon Bass (2)

Universum Guitars  -  dark Epsilon Bass (4)

Chalk and cheese, guys, chalk and cheese.  The next time someone tells you that the strings and pickups are all that matter, tell him he’s wrong. The ‘dark’ bass simply could not have sounded any more different … warm and inviting, responsive in ways that the ‘blonde’ bass couldn’t match, this was the “sound in your head” when you think of bass. Well, for me anyway.

By now Gary is openly laughing.  He tells me that he feels exactly the same about the ‘dark’ bass and was keen to see my reaction. He’s delighted at the look on my face and my obvious reluctance to let go of the bass. I weigh this bass since it feels much lighter; 10.5lbs, so it’s exactly the same as its blonde sister.  The better a bass plays, the less it seems to weigh … who knew?

For a company who have only been going for two years, Universum have come a long way and design their instruments with confidence and a fair degree of panache.  Despite my protestations that I can’t play guitar to save my life, they start showing me all the guitars they had on their stand at NAMM.

Marianna in blue
Universum Guitars  - z Marianna blue (1)

Universum Guitars  - z Marianna blue (2)

Marianna in green
Universum Guitars  - z Marianna green

Sofia limited edition, created for the Lexus RX 120 advert
Universum Guitars  - z Sofia Limited (1)

Universum Guitars  - z Sofia Limited (2)

Universum Guitars  - z Sofia Limited (3)

Universum Guitars  - z Sofia Limited (4)

Universum Guitars  - z Sofia Limited (5)

Pavel Masterov with Elena Renaissance
Universum Guitars - z Elena Renaissance (1)_Pavel

Universum Guitars - z Elena Renaissance (2)

Universum Guitars - z Elena Renaissance (3)

Galaxy Corona
Universum Guitars - z Galaxy Corona (1)

Universum Guitars - z Galaxy Corona (2)

The range and idiosyncratic nature of their designs is extraordinary, my favourite being the Les Paul shaped Beauty where the top is sculpted to reveal the lines of resonance through the solid body.

[Here it is, presented by Alexandr Doroshenko himself.]
Universum Guitars  - z cream Elena (1) _ Alexandr

Universum Guitars  - z cream Elena (2)

Universum Guitars  - z cream Elena (3)

The weirdest bit though was their solid-body acoustic guitar.  No, that’s not a typo.

The Alpha guitar is a broadly Les Paul shaped electric, but it also features a very odd brass piece near the neck where a steampunk brass key (rather like a key on a trumpet, ish) reveals a hole leading into a void in the solid body, and in that hole is a microphone. The Alpha can be played as an electric, or an amplified acoustic, or a blend of both. Note that this is NOT a Piezo system.

Universum Guitars  - z Elena Alpha (1)

Universum Guitars  - z Elena Alpha (2)

Universum Guitars  - z Elena Alpha (3)

Universum Guitars  - z Elena Alpha (4)

How does it sound? Ridiculously good. We’ve all strummed away at an unplugged electric guitar and marvelled at how weak and weedy the sound is. The Alpha sounded just great, but it was still amplified of course. Who knew what it really sounded like?

So they showed me the prototype, essentially the proof of concept guitar, which was an Alpha but with no electrics … no pickups and no microphone, nothing to plug in.

Universum Guitars - z Elena Alpha Acoustic (1)

Universum Guitars - z Elena Alpha Acoustic (2)

Universum Guitars - z Elena Alpha Acoustic (3)

Then Gary played that, acoustically of course. It sounded like … erm … well, an acoustic guitar. What’s the Ukrainian for “gobsmacked”, guys?

Universum Guitars (43)

Universum Guitars (45)

Universum strap and keyring


The other works of art we were shown and invited to try were two high-end basses by luthier Hiro Miura. After the flamboyant look and unexpected sound of most Universum instruments, Miura Guitars provided an oasis of reassuringly familiar shapes, and equally familiar, but at the same time distinctive, sound.

Hiro with his MB2 5-stringer in Sage Green
Miura Guitars - MB2 bass (6)

And these are the MB2’s luxurious specs:
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: light roasted flame maple
Pick ups: Aguilar Super single
Pre amp: Aguilar OBP-3
Tuners: Hip shot ultra light
Bridge: Hip shot type B
Scale: 34″

Ogling and drooling allowed.

Miura Guitars - MB2 bass (1)

Miura Guitars - MB2 bass (4)

Miura Guitars - MB2 bass (5)

Miura Guitars - MB2 bass (2)

Miura Guitars - MB2 bass (3)

The second bass Hiro showed us is just as GAS-inducing as the first. It’s an MB1 in natural satin finish.

Miura Guitars - MB1 bass (2)

Some equally luxurious specs:
Body: Honduran Mahogany
Top: Honduran Rosewood
Neck: Maple
Finger board: B.E. Maple
Pickups: Nordstrand DB6
Preamp: East U-retro 5-knob DX
Tuner: Hip Shot ultra light
Bridge: Badass
Scale: 34″

Miura Guitars - MB1 bass (3)

Miura Guitars - MB1 bass (1)

Miura Guitars - MB1 bass (4)

Check out Miura Guitars’ website – they also make high-end guitars and pedals loved by the like of Janek Gwizdala.

London Bass Guitar Show 2018 – Part 2

Here is the second part with photos of the best bass event of the year in the UK! The exhibitors are in alphabetical order, although some stands covered more than one company. As usual, almost all of the photos were taken before the doors opened to the general public.

This year I noticed the appearance at several booths of a number of lefty models. I know of a small army of lefty Basschat members and not-yet–members who were hoping to be able to attend and try some basses this time. Well done, exhibitors – please continue this trend.

AC Guitars

The European Guitar Builders were back with their long table in the entrance hall, and Alan Cringean had some new, colourful models on show.

ACG (1)

ACG (2)

ACG (3)

Aguilar Amplification

Spot the coloured cabs amid the traditional-looking blacks and greys.

Aguilar (1)

Aguilar (2)

Aguilar (3)

Anaconda Basses

Anaconda (1)

The purple one… mmm.

Anaconda (2)

Ashdown Engineering

Ashdown (1)

Yes, that’s a luxurious Enfield bass.

Ashdown (1b)

Bass Direct

Where to start? Their large stand had a veritable cornucopia of highly covetable instruments and accessories – Dingwall, Mayones, Elrick, Mtd, Comfort Strapp, and even a Kala U-Bass!

Bass Direct (2)

Bass Direct (6)

Bass Direct (7)

Too many strings? 😉

Bass Direct (8)

Bass Direct (9)

Bass Direct (11)

Bass Direct (13)

Bass Direct (17)

Bass Direct (18)

Bass Direct (19)

Bass Direct (20)

Bass Direct (4)

Basschat

We had MacDaddy, Charic, Ped and Tina taking turns at the Basschat stand. Below MacDaddy and Charic with Transistorbassman.

Basschat (1)

MacDaddy, Ped, Tina, Charic

Basschat (2)

MacDaddy showcases his Snapdragon folding bass.

Basschat - MacDaddy's Snapdragon (1)

Basschat - MacDaddy's Snapdragon (2)

Basschat - MacDaddy's Snapdragon (3)

Bassline Publishing

We missed them.

Bassline Pubs

Bass Guitar Magazine

They were offering the customary great subscription deals with added goodies.

BGM

Chowny Bass

Depressingly, they couldn’t make it on the Saturday…

Chowny (1)

…but were back with a vengeance on the Sunday. Drool!

Chowny (4)

Spot the lefty (yay!)

Chowny (6)

Happy Jack had been chasing that mint green Scott Whitley fretless for months, and finally got it at the show.

Chowny - Happy Jack

Claas Guitars

Alexander Claas from Germany was a new exhibitor at the show, and this small selection of his boutique basses received a lot of interest.

Claas (1)

I was particularly intrigued by the neck on this one. The additional width has a stability and sound-enhancing purpose. This neck was wide but shallow enough not to be uncomfortable to play.

Claas (2)

Claas (3)

Claas (4)

Some serious bolt-on action here.

Claas (5)

Cort Guitars

Wide variety, and affordable instruments. What’s not to like?

Cort (1)

There was even a couple of lefties.

Cort (2)

Cort (5)

Cort (4)

De Gier Guitars

Sander De Gier again showcased his beauties on the European Guitar Builders’ table.

De Gier (1)

De Gier (2)

DR Strings

DRs and Spectors. I could ogle them for hours. 🙂

DR Strings (2)

DR Strings (3)

DR Strings (4)

Duvoisin Guitars

Another first-time exhibitor, from Switzerland. This is Pierre Camilleri with some seriously elegant instruments.

Duvoisin (1)

Duvoisin (3)

Duvoisin (4)

Eich Amplification

Those Bass Boards were again very successful. The only way to take a photo like this was early in the morning.

Eich (2)

Ellio Martina Guitars

The Vanderkley/Martina Dutch corner was, as always, very busy throughout the weekend, with a constant flow of stars and visitors plugging these beauties into Marc’s amps and cabs (scroll down to see those).

Ellio Martina (2)

Ellio Martina (6)

Ellio himself. And I bought one of those bass stands off him at the end of the show, because I think they are very cool. (I would add a link to their website, but production seems to have been discontinued.)

Ellio Martina (8)

Emma Electronic

He’s looking at two people tweaking settings on the Darkglass amp out of shot.

Emma Electronic (2)

Ernie Ball Music Man

Ernie Ball (2)

Ernie Ball (3)

The new show models have steel hardware and use roasted maple.

Ernie Ball (5)

Spot the six-string intruder…

Ernie Ball (6)

Flattley Guitar Pedals

Very new company that created a lot of interest, not just from punters but also from guest stars.

Flattley (2)

Flattley (4)

Flattley (5)

Flattley (6)

Gallien-Krueger

Stylish as always.

Gallien-Kruger (3)

Gillett Guitars

Back by popular demand in the quiet corner by the Auditorium.

Gillett (1)

Gillett (6)

Michael Gillett at work.

Gillett (3)

GR Bass

Red and orange are the new black. See also ProAmp below…

GR Bass (1)

GR Bass (3)

GR Bass (4)

IQS Strings

IQS Strings

Markbass

Oh, yellow is also the new black. Forget Marcus Miller, what we were most fascinated by was the MarkAudio linear array systems!

Markbass (1)

Markbass (2)

Markbass - Jack

Markbass (3)

Marleaux Bass Guitars

Well and truly overwhelmed by lust.

Marleaux (4)

Marleaux (8)

Marleaux (14)

Marleaux (23)

Marleaux (25)

Mercury Hearing

Family-run company, all very nice and patiently explaining their offers. We’re planning a visit.

Mercury (1)

Mercury (2)

Mercury (3)

Music for All

Keep these guys in mind if you want your charity money to do something for music and young people.

Music For All (1)

Music For All (2)

Music For All (3)

Neubauer Guitars

A return to the European Guitar Builders table for Andreas Neubauer, his basses and also endorsee Snow Owl, who was a guest performer.

Neubauer (3)

Nik Huber Guitars

Another EGB regular – Nik Huber and his semi-hollow basses. Love the red one.

Nik Huber

Oliver Lang Instruments

Yes, he was back at the EGB table too, and no, he’s not giving it the thumbs down, he’s proudly showing me one of his gorgeous lefties.

OliverLang (1)

OliverLang (2)

Spot the other lefty.

OliverLang (3)

Orange Amps

Their stand had to be smaller than the humongous one they had at NAMM, but it was still very orange and great fun.

Orange (1)

Orange (2)

Orange (3)

We tried these O-Basses, and were seriously impressed, especially as they are much less expensive than they look and sound.

Orange (5)

Orange (6)

Orange (8)

Peavey

Mark Hedge of Barnes&Mullins, the distributor.

Peavey (1)

Peavey (2)

Peavey (4)

Proamp

Ferrari red!

Proamp

Promenade Music

These are just the basses – they had a lot of accessories and strings too.

Promenade (1)

Promenade (2)

Rikkers

Ferdinand Rikkers was back at the EGB table, and we still can’t get over the lust that that blue-and-natural Treeline bass gives us, every time. That bass is Ferdinand’s own, not for sale. His take on a P-bass is also pretty luscious.

Rikkers (1)

Rikkers (2)

Rotosound

One of the regular exhibitors, with Jason How doing the honours, as always. Great stuff.

Rotosound (3)

Rotosound (1)

Safran Basses

Umut Dal was back with some more beautiful, highly distinctive models. And a lefty.

Safran (1)

Safran (3)

Safran (8)

Safran (9)

Safran (11)

Umut is left-handed but plays both lefty and righty basses either way, upside-down strings and all. I’m very jealous.

Safran (10)

Sandberg Guitars/Bassics

A profusion of lefties. Hats off to you, Sirs.

Sandberg-Bassics (2)

The black-and-crème Enigma is the Chris Childs signature model.

Sandberg-Bassics (1)

And this is a reliced Grand Dark.

Sandberg-Bassics (3)

Sandberg-Bassics (5)

Serek Basses

Serek, from the US, were another new exhibitor. Like Tonetech/Sever, their gear was detained at Heathrow, but unlike them, they managed to get it back for showing on the Sunday.

Serek (1)

Sims Pickups/Enfield Guitars

They look good enough to eat.

SimS (1)

SimS (2)

Martin Sims

SimS (3)

Spector Basses

For those who were disappointed that I wasn’t able to take any decent photos of Spector’s stand at NAMM, here is an extended series.

Spector (1)

Spector (2)

Spector (4)

Spector (7)

Spector (8)

Spector (9)

Spector (10)

Spector (12)

ToneTech Luthier Supplies/Sever Instruments

Tonetech and Sever had to make do with showcasing just a fraction of what they had shipped to London – because most of it was still sitting at Heathrow by the end of the show.

Tonetech (2)

Tonetech (3)

Tonetech (7)

Trace Elliot

Yes, that’s the fabled Elf in prominent position. The cabs are neat too.

Trace

Tuli Basses

Another new name at the show, from Finland. And very beautiful they are.

Tuli (3)

Tuli (4)

Tuli (7)

Tuli (8)

Luthier and owner Aron Bach shows us how even the back of these basses is a work of art.

Tuli (6)

Vanderkley Amplification

The other half of the Dutch corner (with Ellio Martina). Marc Vanderkley only attends one show, the LBGS, and usually goes home to Holland having sold everything.

Vanderkley (2)

Warwick Basses

A small but significant presence. There was still no sign of the Idolmaker bass, of which only a few have been built; they are all currently in the US. However, we did get a guitar. Idolmaker basses will reach Europe later in the year; for now, we can GAS for that Dolphin, those Streamers, those Thumbs and those Corvettes, especially the purple one.

Warwick (2)

Warwick (3)

Warwick (4)

What, it’s over already? Roll on next year!

London Bass Guitar Show 2018 – Part 1

This year the London Bass Guitar Show had a different look, the main exhibitor area having been divided into smaller areas through floor-to-ceiling partitions. The new layout had the function of dampening the noise and gathering together similar exhibitors, creating, for instance, an Amplification Zone and an Instrument Zone. As always, in addition to the exhibitor areas, there was a packed schedule of performances and masterclasses, a corner with microphones and seats where we could enjoy talks and demos by highly esteemed luthiers, and a bass setup room. By popular demand, Scott’s Bass Lessons returned with its star guests and their very successful workshops.

This first part of my blog will try to show the new general look, and focus on what was going on in the areas not dedicated to exhibitors: on stage, in the luthier zone, and backstage. We’ll deal with each exhibitor booth in some detail in Part 2.

Despite the heavy snow preventing travel in much of the country on the Saturday, the show was very well attended. For many of us, The London Bass Guitar Show is an unmissable annual appointment not just with GAS-inducing gear and amazing stars and educators, but also with many bass-playing friends and acquaintances we only rarely see in person. Given the dreadful state of many main roads throughout the country and the disruption in public transport, I was genuinely surprised to see how full all the rooms were only a few minutes after the doors opened to the general public on the Saturday.

Now, with me being so little, and panoramic shots being difficult to take this year due to the new layout, there would be no point in posting images of people’s backs taken at peak times. The photos below – and in fact most of the photos in this blog – were taken before the doors opened to the general public.

The entrance hall

The lift doors and the cloakroom were behind these stands.

General Views (1) - Entrance Hall 1
(Incidentally, the guys at the Mercury stand were really nice!)

The entrance hall again, now looking towards the door to what used to be the Gear Hall. The customary long table dedicated the European Guitar Builders was again there. (More, much more on the EGB to follow in Part 2!)
General Views (1) - Entrance Hall 2

The Exhibitors’ area

Walk through the Main Hall door, and you see in front of you a small area with the entrance to Scott’s Bass Lessons and some stands, all being busily set up for the day.
General views (2) SBL

Turn left, and there is a corridor with two doors on the right.
General Views - corridor (1)

This is the same corridor seen from the other end – the doors are now on the left.
General Views - corridor (2)

The two doors led to two separate rooms, one dedicated to amplification, the other to basses and accessories.

The Instrument Zone
General Views (3) - Instrument Room 1

The door to the corridor seen from inside the Instrument Zone.
General Views (3) - Instrument Room 2

The Amp Zone
General Views (4) - amp room

The Luthiers’ Room

Next to the cafe area there were seats, a desk and a microphone: that was the Luthier’s ‘Room’. This photo was taken at the beginning of one of Martin Sims’ talks.
General views - luthier zone (1)

The view from the side of the desk at a quiet time between talks.
General views - luthier zone (2)

This area of the show was by far my favourite this year. As a rather technically-minded person, I am never tired of listening to highly respected luthiers explaining not just the physics, acoustics and electronics involved in creating and playing a bass, and the different nature and uses of tone woods, but also the processes that led to the luthiers’ individual choices in designing and building their instruments.

The list included talks by Sheldon Dingwall of Dingwall Guitars with Christian Sturgess, Alan Cringean of AC Guitars and Colin Cunningham, Martin Sims and Nick Smith of SimS Pickups, and Rob Erlick of Elrick Bass Guitars. Chris May of Overwater Basses was mentioned in the programme but was unfortunately blocked in Cumbria by the snow, and couldn’t attend.

Sheldon Dingwall

Sheldon Dingwall was joined by Christian Sturgess of Brutai and his beautiful red 5-string Combustion for a talk about the best way to do a setup on Saturday, and tone woods on Sunday.

Sheldon

Christian played along to his band’s songs to show us many different playing styles on his Combustion.

Christian

Despite the background noise, the footage below is thoroughly fascinating.

Setup explained

Tone woods – do they make a difference?

Now watch the company’s proper youtube series: Dingwall Guitars Setup Series – playlist
 

Martin Sims and Nick Smith

Yes, those are highly covetable Enfield basses!

SimS (1)

SimS (2)

SimS (3)

SimS (5)

Martin shows the simple, totally retro-fittable design of the Super Quad
SimS (4)

Watch the guys demo the Super Quad and explain how it influences tone.

Have a look at Martin Sims’ Youtube channel too.

Rob Erlick

Rob

I wish I could show my footage of Rob Erlick debunking some bass-building myths in a thoroughly fascinating way, but the background noise during his talk was so loud that my recordings are virtually inaudible and, regrettably, unpublishable. Such a shame. Have a look at his company’s Youtube instead – some good stuff there. Erlick Bass Guitars on Youtube

Despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to attend Alan Cringean’s talk – too many events to juggle! I’ll make sure to make his seminar a priority if he’s back next year. And while I’m at it, I’ll also make sure to have a look at the Ultimate Bass Setup room, which was another thing I missed this year. Judging by the crowds I saw leaving the room at the end of each seminar, it must have been very popular.
Third thing not to miss next time: the Scott’s Bass Lessons room, where seminars are always oversubscribed and it feels both rude and awkward to enter after the doors are closed.

Performances and Masterclasses

Bobby Vega
Bobby Vega (0)

Bobby Vega (1)

Chris Childs
Chris Childs & band

Chris Childs

Guy Pratt
Guy Pratt

Joe Hubbard
Joe Hubbard on stage

Joe Hubbard

Snow Owl
Snow Owl on stage

Snow Owl

Steve Lawson
Steve Lawson

Yolanda Charles
Yolanda's band

Yolanda on stage

Yolanda Charles

Mini-performances and interviews were happening at some booths too.

Becky Baldwin at Chowny Bass
Becky Baldwin & Stephen Chown

Alex Lofoco at GRBass
Alex Lofoco

Bobby Vega at IQS/Proamp
Bobby Vega (2)

Shez Raja at Warwick
Shez Raja

Lorenzo Feliciati talks to fans in the Amp Zone
Lorenzo Feliciati

Clive Newnham at Anaconda Basses
Clive Newnham

Chris Attwell with Ellio Martina and Marc Vanderkley
Chris Attwell

Backstage

Bobby Vega (again!) and his shark
Bobby Vega

Peter Hook and his Shergold Marathon
Hooky

With BGM editor Joel McIver
Joel & Hooky

Dave Marks
Dave Marks (4c)

That moment when Hooky photobombs you on the Auditorium stage at the LBGS…
Dave Marks (13)

Mo Foster, laughing at someone’s t-shirt.
Mo Foster

Two special basses

I followed the progress of the signatures on this Musicman SUB throughout the weekend.

Signed SUB (1)

Signed SUB (2)

Signed SUB (3)

Signed SUB (4)

The title of this section should probably have been ‘five special basses’, considering that the following is not one but actually four basses! This is Roland Kaschube of Bass Professor not just lifting the instrument but actually playing it, at the Eich stand.

Four-neck bass (1)

Four-neck bass (3)

I guess it doesn’t get much lighter even when you take off the strings…

Four-neck bass (4)

Four-neck bass (5)

 

More gear to follow in Part 2 – the booths. Stay tuned!

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NAMM 2018, Part 4 – Beyond Bass

The last part of my NAMM blog series includes booths that were not specifically aimed at bass players, but managed to attract our attention and intrigue us even amid the chaos and cacophony. You’ll also see some bass amplification, as well as a few well known faces we spotted randomly at booths.

Aguilar Amplification

The guys were doing good business even early in the morning.

Aguilar

Aim Gifts

These are music-themed lamps that change colour. Rather nice.

Aim Gifts (1)

Aim Gifts (2)

Aim Gifts (3)

Aim Gifts (4)

Allparts

Buy all the bits loose, chuck them in your suitcase, assemble the bass once at home.

Allparts

Ashdown Engineering

Ashdown

Bergantino Audio Systems

Bergantino

Calton Cases

If you buy a colourful one you won’t lose sight of your instrument, even when you want to!

Calton Cases (1)

Calton Cases (2)

EBS Sweden AB

EBS (1)

EBS (2)

EBS (3)

Ernie Ball Musicman

Another colourful booth.

Ernie (1)

Ernie (2)
(Photo by Happy Jack)

Funguy Mojo Guitars

Weird and very interesting.

Funguy (1)

Funguy (3)

GHS Strings

GHS

Gotoh

Gotoh (1)

Gotoh (2)

Gotoh (3)

Guitar Grip

This appeals to the metalhead in me! And they have right and left hands.

Guitar Grip (1)

Guitar Grip (2)

Guitar Grip (3)

Harris Musical Products

Besides the fancy plectrums, they also sell picks by the pound, for those who are always losing them.

Harris (1)

Harris (2)

Harris (4)

Heliarc

One theme we noticed at NAMM 2018 was the number of booths offering aluminium-based guitars. This is the one we liked best.

Heliarc (3)

Heliarc (4)

Heliarc (5)

Heliarc (7)

Jam Pedals

Each of these is a work of art in itself!

Jam Pedals (1)

Jam Pedals (3)

Jam Pedals (4)

Jam Pedals (5)

Jocavi Acoustic Panels

Beats the egg cartons of yore.

Jocavi (4)

Jocavi (2)

Jocavi (3)

Laney

Laney

Luthiers Beyond Limits

A special section for original designs.

Klein Guitars

Luthiers Beyond Limits - Klein Guitars (1)

This is still Klein Guitars, despite the poster in the background.

Luthiers Beyond Limits - Klein Guitars (2)

Pagelli Guitars

Luthiers Beyond Limits - Pagelli

Marshall

Yes, they had the wall of Marshalls, and people were having their photo taken in front of it, while playing their favourite air guitar.

Marshall

One Control

Small, elegant and colour-coded. But you need tiny feet to operate a pedalboard full of these.

One Control (1)

One Control (2)

One Control (3)

OnkartGromt

OnkartGromt (2)

Orange

You definitely couldn’t miss the Orange booth. Excellent for finding your way around the hall. Oh, and the gear was great too.

Orange (1)

Orange (2)

Orange (3)

Orange (4)

Orange (5)

Orange (6)

Orange (7)

Poly Expressive

The solution to a crowded pedalboard: it’s flat, it’s smooth, and you can slide your foot on the correct controls without hitting the wrong ones. The piece of paper with the effect names is customisable.

Poly Expressive (1)

Poly Expressive (2)

Poly Expressive (3)

Poly Expressive (4)

Powersoft

I’ll have all of those, please.

Powersoft (1)

Powersoft (2)

RCF

RCF (1)

RCF (2)

Rip Tie

A number of different solutions for keeping cables tidy. Colourful and customisable.

Rip Tie (2)

Rip Tie (3)

Rip Tie (4)

Rozini

Happy Jack really liked the Tanajura – percussion you can plug into an amp.

Rozini (2)

Rozini (1)

Rozini (3)

Rozini (4)

Schaller

Schaller (1)

Schaller (2)

Slaperoo

Another weird percussion instrument that makes perfect sense: you plug it into an amp, and then you can slap it with your ‘plucking’ hand, change the pitch with your ‘fretting’ hand (the holes mark the notes), or place it on a flat surface and use it as a normal percussion instrument.

Slaperoo (2)

Slaperoo (3)

Slaperoo (4)

This is the double bass version! He is sliding his foot along the bottom of the stick.

Slaperoo (5)

Swing Guitars

While the basses look normal, the guitars certainly don’t.

Swing guitars (1)

Swing guitars (2)

Tsunami Cables

Seemingly bullet-proof.

Tsunami Cables (1)

Tsunami Cables (2)

Tsunami Cables (3)

Wingman

Another clever accessory for pedalboards: add wings to knobs, and turn then with your feet.

Wingman (1)

Wingman (2)

Wingman (3)

Wingman (4)

Wittner

The photo below was taken early in the morning, when the metronomes were off.

https://flic.kr/p/24JFLKf

Then, during the show, they were all activated.

Wittner (2)

No two metronomes were ticking in unison! 😀

Wittner (4)

Zoom

The choice of recording devices, and weird bits to add on top, is fascinating.

Zoom (1)

Zoom (3)

Zoom (4)

Zoom H1n (2)

Woodwind and Brass

The area was much quieter than it could have been! Some Chinese companies alongside more traditional European names and US distributors.

Bakun Musical Services

Brass - Backun

Buffet Crampon

Brass - Buffet Crampon (2)

Brass - Buffet Crampon (1)

Cannonball Musical Instruments

Brass - Cannonball

Eastman Winds

Brass - Eastman (2)

Brass - Eastman (1)

Opus Music

Brass - Opus (1)

Brass - Opus (4)

Brass - Opus (2)

Well, this was big.

Brass - Opus (3)

I do mean big! Hopefully not too heavy, though.

Brass - Opus (3b)

Weissenberg

Brass - Weissenberg (1)

Brass - Weissenberg (2)

The Drums Section

There was a thoroughly captivating area dedicated to drums and percussion. We loved it.

Ludwig Drums

Drums - Ludwig

Remo Colortone

Drums - Remo Colortone (1)

Drums - Remo Colortone (2)

Sabian

Need a cymbal? Have a few hundred instead.

Drums - Sabian (1)

Drums - Sabian (3)

Drums - Sabian (4)
(Photo by Happy Jack)

Drums - Sabian (5)
(Photo by Happy Jack)

Tama

Drums - Tama (1)

Drums - Tama (3)

Zildjian and Vic Firth

Drums - Zildjan Vic Firth (1)

(Photos below by Happy Jack)

Drums - Zildjan Vic Firth (3)

Drums - Zildjan Vic Firth (4)

Drums - Zildjan Vic Firth (5)

Tempted to buy one of these spiral cymbals for your drummer? We were.

Drums - Zildjan Vic Firth (6)

Stars at Booths

Random signings and performances! There were many more, but these are the ones we could take photos of.

Happy Jack spotted Bootsy at three different stands while he was walking around. Perhaps Bootsy was secretly following him.

Bootsy

On Friday, the Tsunami Cables booth had none other than Cody Wright and Andy Irvine playing bass together to the delight of bystanders.

Cody Wright and Andy Irvine

Lee Sklar was being interviewed at the Warwick booth.

Lee Sklar

Skid Row were signing autographs at the Reunion Blues booth.

Skid Row

There was a lot more happening than I’ve managed to show here, but there is a limit to how many photos can be published from one event! Thank you for reading so far.

Next, the London Bass Guitar Show 2018!

NAMM 2018 Part 3 – Bass!!

The hall that holds much of the gear we GASsing musicians are there to ogle/stalk/drool over/lust after (delete as appropriate) is located on the ground floor in the main centre. The hall is, in fact, made up by four adjacent mega-halls linked by large doorways. We worked out that it’s a rectangle the size of no fewer than 22 football pitches, to which a further, corner-shaped area is added at one end.

Have a look at the show’s detailed exhibitor map.

Hall D – occupying one quarter of that huge rectangle plus the corner area – was the one where most of the electric bass action was taking place, although a lot of the stands dedicated to electric stringed instruments exhibited their newest models of both basses and guitars in the same space. The stands showcasing amplification, effects and accessories were also targeted to both bassists and guitarists. (I’m placing most of those stands Part 4, to avoid making this already humongous section even bigger.)

Happy Jack and I were at the show on the Thursday to help out Stephen Chown and David Konig of Retrovibe at the Chowny Bass stand (they would be joined by endorsee Scott Whitley from Friday onwards). For the rest of the show we were free to roam as Bass Guitar Magazine reporters and, above all, as kids in a candy store on a permanent sugar rush.

The following are photos of only some of the exhibiting companies. Although I saw most booths, I didn’t manage to visit every single one at times where the crowds were thin enough to allow acceptable photography. All the gear booths were well worth a visit – often a protracted one! While most names were familiar the world over, some booths were clearly targeted at the US market, and their companies (usually resellers of mass-produced instruments) were virtually unknown, or perhaps simply known by a different name, in Europe. In this Part 3 I have concentrated on the companies that are better known to us in the UK.

There were also a lot of double basses, and a booth showcasing special, dedicated amplification, as well as a booth selling a cool accessory – scroll to the bottom to see a few photos.

Most of the models on show on each booth were new for 2018, and had their first ever outing at NAMM.


ACGuitars

There were some new beauties at on Alan Cringean’s show table in the Boutique Guitar Showcase area. How we GASsed…

ACG (1)

ACG (2)

ACG (3)

ACG (4)


Aria

They look good enough to eat, and Happy Jack played a few of them – they sound and play equally good.

Aria (1)

Aria (5)

Aria (2)

Aria (3)

Aria (4)


Chowny Bass Guitars

We spent a day with this stand as our main base, and we liked what we saw!

Chowny (1)

Chowny (2)

Chowny (3)

There was an Aguilar rig and a PJB headphone amp, making sure that we could have two people trying the basses without annoying each other (that was a task our neighbouring booth had seemingly decided to take on).

Chowny (4)

David Konig, Stephen Chown, Happy Jack

Chowny Stand (1)

David

Chowny Stand (4)_PS

Scott Whitley

Chowny (7)

Davie504, who was there to demonstrate his new signature EVO Retrovibe, but enjoyed playing all of the Chowny models on show.

Chowny (6)

Pascal Mulot

Chowny (5)

The roaming team from Andertons Music Company interviewing Stephen

Chowny Stand (5)

One of the less busy times at the booth

Chowny (8)


Cort Guitars

It was a large booth – I concentrated on the basses section.

Cort (1)

Cort (2)


Dingwall Guitars

Drool, drool and drool again.

Dingwall (9)

Dingwall (1)

Dingwall (2)

Dingwall (3)

Dingwall (4)

Dingwall (5)

Dingwall (6)

Dingwall (7)

Dingwall (8)

This was the special Darkglass model, at the company’s booth.

Dingwall (11)


Abasi Guitars/Falbo Designs

Both companies usually collaborate to create guitars, but we spotted this bass prototype that looked very intriguing.

Falbo (1)

Falbo (2)

Falbo (3)

Falbo (4)

Falbo (5)
(Photo by Happy Jack)


F-Bass

Very elegant models, as always, and they even had a lefty.

F-Bass (1)

F-Bass (2)

F-Bass (3)


Fodera

The Brooklyn company had lots of models, and also samples of the various woods and trimmings they use.

Fodera (2)

Fodera (1)

Fodera (3)

Fodera (4)

Fodera (5)

Fodera (6)

Fodera (7)


Hipshot

Once again, I concentrated on their bass section, and I saw my first lefty Hipshot detuner in situ.

Hipshot (1)

Hipshot (2)

Hipshot (3)

Hipshot (4)

Hipshot (5)

Hipshot (6)


Höfner

The German company opted to place its booth in the quiet Acoustic Section, surrounded by cellos, violins and double basses. The models below are very nice re-issues. Strangely, no lefties around…

Hofner stand (1)

Hofner stand (2)

Hofners (1)

Hofners (2)

Hofners (3)


Ibanez

Huge, GAS-inducing booth!

Ibanez (2)

Ibanez (1)

Ibanez (3)

Ibanez (4)

Ibanez (5)

The star of the bass section was the new not-too-long-scale upright.

Ibanez (6)

Ibanez (7)

Ibanez (8)


Kala U-Bass

For those who like a double bass-like sound but don’t want the bulk.

Kala (3)

Kala (6)

Kala (9)

Kala (1)

Kala (2)

Kala (5)

Those bass uke strings have a nylon core and silver-plated windings, and we were so intrigued we ordered some once we were back home.

Kala (7)


Kiesel Guitars

Headless bonanza! And a lefty too.

Kiesel (1)

Kiesel (2)

Kiesel (3)

Kiesel (4)


Markbass

Extremely busy stand at all times, except very early in the morning, when I took these photos.

Markbass (1)

Markbass (3)

Markbass (4)

Markbass (5)


Maruszczyk Instruments

Adrian recognised us from the London Bass Guitar Show, and we loved every one of his basses again.

Maruszczyk (1)

Maruszczyk (2)

Maruszczyk (3)

Maruszczyk (4)

Maruszczyk (6)


Mayones Guitars & Basses

This was another very busy stand, only possible to photograph early in the morning, when entering it was forbidden.

Mayones (1)

Mayones (2)

Yes, I had to do a double take on this, but it’s undeniably cool.

Mayones (4)


NS Design

Unmistakable modern take on stringed instruments. No lefties at the booth, but I have one at home.

NS Design (1)

NS Design (2)

NS Design (3)

NS Design (4)

NS Design (5)


Phil Jones Bass

We’re big fans of PJB’s, and were happy to have a chat with Phil himself.

PJB (1)

PJB (2)

PJB (3)

PJB (6)

PJB (5)

PJB (4)

Phil Jones with Happy Jack

25 Jan - NAMM Day 1 (8)


Rickenbacker

You could not fail to notice the Rickenbacker booth – unlike all other booths, there were no seats, no amplification, nowhere to plug the instruments into, and in fact, the instruments were secured to their hooks. However, we got to talk to John Hall and were shown into the special quiet room at the back, where Happy Jack put the new 4003S/5 through its paces.

Rickenbacker 4003S-5 (2b)
(Photo by Happy Jack)

Righties

Rickenbacker (2)

Lefties! (We thank you, Sir Paul McCartney.)

Rickenbacker (1)

Do not try to play this instrument.

Rickenbacker (3)
(Photo by Happy Jack)

The new 4003S/5

Rickenbacker 4003S-5 (0b)
(Photo by Happy Jack)

John Hall with Happy Jack

26 Jan - NAMM Day 2, Rickenbacker (2)

26 Jan - NAMM Day 2, Rickenbacker (4)

https://flic.kr/p/23tFNfj


Ritter Instruments

We expect no less than this from Jens! More on that bass below.

Ritter (1)

These guitars have had tight dresses sewn on.

Ritter (2)

Ritter (3)

Ritter (5)

Ritter (6)

Swarovski jewels.

Ritter (7)

This one made me want to bite into it!

Ritter (8)

Very special bass – the equation on the fingerboard is real and can be solved.

Ritter (11)

Ritter (12)


SimS Guitars and Pickups

Great to see the guys doing great at NAMM too!

Nick ‘Doctor of the Bass’ Smith and Martin Sims

SimS (1)

SimS (2)

SimS (3)

Nick with Happy Jack

SimS (4)

Rudy Sarzo created a large crowd when he performed and signed autographs at the booth. I sneaked through to get this shot.

SimS Stand (6b)


Stonefield

Another good company we were happy to see at NAMM after meeting them for the first time at the LBGS 2016. They even have a lefty model on show – spot it!

Stonefield (1)

Stonefield (2)


Vigier Guitars UK

We finally had the opportunity to see a full Vigier stand, as opposed to just a few models as part of a mixed display.

Vigier (3)

Vigier (2)

Vigier (1)

Vigier (4)


Warwick Bass

If I thought I was over my Warwick addiction, I was wrong. I seem to have spent a lot of time ogling and taking photos of everything at their large booth. And I would like all of those models, please – left-handed if you don’t mind.

Warwick (3)

Warwick (1)

Warwick (2)

Warwick (4)

Warwick’s rational solution for messy pedalboards

Warwick (5)

Warwick (6)

Warwick (7)

Warwick (8)

The only thing I wasn’t able to see, touch or photograph is the new Idolmaker model – 4 and 5 strings – because it hadn’t arrived from Germany! Hopefully it was eventually released by Customs, but I wasn’t at the show during the weekend. All I could do is take a photo of the Framus guitar models it was inspired by. I will hopefully have better luck at this year’s LBGS.

Warwick (9)


The Double Basses

Double basses and other orchestral instruments seemed to be, with some exceptions, the domain of Chinese companies at NAMM. And very nice they were.

Firephoenix

Double basses (1)


Maple Leaf Strings

Double basses (2)


Krutz Strings

Double basses (3)


Eastman Strings

Double basses (4)

Double basses (5)
(Photo by Happy Jack)


Christopher String Instruments

Have double bass, will travel.

Double Bass - dismantled (1)

Double Bass - dismantled (2)


Sonusphere

You can smile at the shape of these speakers, but they sound absolutely great.

Double bass - Sonusphere (1)

Double bass - Sonusphere (2)

Double bass - Sonusphere (3)

Double bass - Sonusphere (4)

Double bass - Sonusphere (5)


RC Williams Musical Instruments

Have double bass, will wheel it around. Rick Williams demonstrates.

Double Bass - RC Williams (2)

Double Bass - RC Williams (3)

Double Bass - RC Williams (4)

Double Bass - RC Williams (5)

There was much more bass-related ‘stuff’ to see, but really, you had to be there. 😉

Stay tuned for Part 4.

NAMM 2018, Part 2 – A general look

2018 has been the year I finally attended the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in Anaheim, California for the first time. Held at the end of January, it’s the first music-related show of the year and the largest, as well as the broadest in scope. The footprint of the show is huge, as it sprawls through several campuses, all hosting a seemingly infinite variety of seminars, talks, press conferences, networking meetups, live concerts and more. The main building is the Anaheim Convention Center, with gear halls on the ground floor, basement and part of the upper floor, and vast seminar/quiet rooms on the rest of the upper floor; in addition, the show continues in hotels and venues next door. The entrance to the complex is a garden which provides, with its palms, fountain and some seating, a pleasant common area for rest and relaxation.

Just look at the large-scale map!

My photographic documentation of the show is way too vast for a single blog entry. Part 1 of my NAMM series was about the new lefty Dingwall Combustion NG – let’s now go back to the beginning, and have a look around at the place itself in Part 2, before focusing on bass-related booths in Part 3. Part 4 will show a selection of weird and wonderful, not necessarily bass-related, instruments and devices.

The following pictures are mainly of the ground floor, Halls A, B, C and D. Even with the best intentions, I wasn’t able to visit the entire show, let alone take acceptable quality photos of it. Bear in mind that even the images containing people shown here were taken at quiet times: at busy times, there was barely space to walk in the aisles, and no real possibility of photographing the booths.

 

Main Centre

‘Excuse me, what’s the name of the event being held here? I can’t see it anywhere…’

 

Sunny Californian weather – 26°C in January

Entrance Garden (3)

 

Entrance Garden (2)

 

The Foyer

Foyer

 

Equally nice in the evening, when you’re knackered but refuse to go home.

Entrance Garden (1)

 

Some shots of very large gear halls, cute orange vehicles, last-minute checks, and empty isles and stands, before everyone else gets in.

Before The Crowds Get In (1)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (2)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (3)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (4)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (5)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (6)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (7)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (8)

 

Before The Crowds Get In (9)

 

The first wave of attendees has been let in!

Halls - General View (1)

 

Halls - General View (2)

 

Halls - General View (3)

 

Halls - General View (4)

 

The DJ area was something to behold.

Halls - General View (5)

 

Halls - General View (6)

 

Halls - General View (7)

 

Imagine having access to either of the following effects for your pub gig.

Soap bubble machine, on an industrial scale. Distract your drunken punters and they’ll (hopefully) leave your pedalboard alone.

Bubbles in the Air

 

Artificial smoke – LOTS of it. On second thoughts, not recommended for your local – it will trigger their smoke alarm and make your band very unpopular indeed.

Smoke Carpet

 

It’s now time to give the gear booths a closer look – stay tuned for Part 3.

NAMM 2018, part 1 – Bluejay plays the New Left-handed Dingwall Combustion NG

A couple of years ago I interviewed Sheldon Dingwall for Bass Guitar Magazine, and had the opportunity to ask him if he was planning to ever start making left-handed models. To my surprise and delight, he said he was, and would start producing at least one model as soon as the company could afford to add the necessary manufacturing tools to its collection. My GAS instantly hit the ceiling – I would sooner or later be able to see for myself how my hands would react to a 5-string fingerboard with fanned frets, as opposed to only having to rely on opinions expressed by right-handed players. Since then, I’ve kept a close eye on the company’s website and social media announcements: the Combustion range will soon be available as a left-handed option. In January this year, at the NAMM show in Anaheim, I was finally able to play the first ever lefty 5-string Dingwall, the beautiful Nolly Getgood Combustion model in pearl white with black pickguard, of which more later.

First of all, some info about my preferences as a bass player: I am petite and have tiny hands, so I favour basses with small bodies and 34″ scale. I am, however, not too keen on shorter scale. I play mostly 5-strings, and use predominantly fingerstyle and almost exclusively low-tension flatwounds. I find it frustrating when, on certain songs, such setup only produces an indistinct rumble, as opposed to a proper pitch, while I play or fret the low B string. In terms of sound, I like modern rather than traditional.

The Dingwall booth at NAMM 2018 was one of the busiest in Hall D: in addition to the throng of righty fans, I can’t have been the only lefty who descended on the booth just to focus on one bass! In fact, the first time I visited, someone else was already playing it, so I had a drool over – er, I mean a look at – the righty models and then decided to call back later. The second time I was luckier: the area was still very crowded but the bass was available, and so was a seat next to an amp.

Lefty Dingwall Combustion NG (1)R

Lefty Dingwall Combustion NG (2)R

So I pick up the NG – it feels heavy, but hey, I’m a Warwick player for Heaven’s sake, I have no business complaining about weight. I sit down and plug in, while someone else is loudly slapping another amplified Dingwall three feet from me. No point starting a volume war, so I keep my amp quieter: at this stage I don’t even know whether I’m able to play properly on a fanned fingerboard, so I decide to avoid broadcasting any forthcoming fret buzz and bum notes, if possible.

From the first pluck, the low B (roundwound) sounds magnificent: its 37″ scale banishes indistinct rumbles to the dustbin of bass-playing. Fretting that string correctly feels surprisingly comfortable, even with my little short fingers; the trouble starts on the four higher strings. I like to play bass mostly on the first five frets, especially on a fiver, so I place my hand in my usual position near the nut and… can’t find my way around! I’m deliberately only playing a couple of scales and seventh chords. I usually don’t look at my hand while I’m playing, but in this case I realise I have to. I slow down and, with a bit of patience, finally produce the correct notes. Bit of a struggle. Also, I realise that the longer scale – on all strings except the G – is making my fretting hand work harder than on my usual 34″ necks. The bass feels bigger – in fact, is bigger – than my 5-string Corvettes, and its neck is, inevitably, longer to accommodate the longer B and E strings. Maybe I’m simply too little for this bass.

I slowly realise that there’s something my plucking hand is also feeling slightly uncomfortable with. The two pickups, in the neck/middle configuration, are positioned very close to each other and slanted like the frets, so placing my thumb on the top of the neck pickup feels like I’m still plucking too close to the bridge. Presumably just a matter of getting used to it, or indeed ordering the three-pickup configuration instead, but a little disconcerting the first time. And I didn’t think my fingers would be able to notice the single millimetre difference in string spacing between my basses (17mm) and the NG (18mm), but they do. Once again, a trivial issue and, I’m sure, easy to overcome with practice.

I’d love to sit at the booth for another half hour, run through all the sound options offered by the NG’s much-lauded Darkglass Tone Capsule preamp, and play all over the fingerboard as opposed to just the first five frets, but the noise around me is giving me a headache, and a couple of guys are standing nearby, patiently waiting for their turn on the bass, so I decide to hand it back. My GAS, as well as my curiosity, are definitely not over, though. I’d certainly like another, closer look, perhaps if Dingwall comes back to exhibit at the London Bass Guitar Show. Stay tuned.

Bluejay @ Dingwalls Booth, NAMM 2018

That’s me, getting to grips with the NG, with Sheldon Dingwall standing behind me and talking to other NAMM attendees