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Four reasons your Bass Guitar won’t stay in tune:

No matter how good you are at bass, if you’re out of tune during a live gig, the audience – and your bandmates – will be less than impressed. Even if your bass is properly intonated and you’ve used an electronic tuner to tune it up before the first downbeat, a variety of factors may cause you to step on that tuner pedal a little more than you’d like, which can really slow the momentum of your band’s live show. But don’t worry- this post will help you get to the root of the problem. 

Even the highest quality, most expensive instruments won’t stay in tune forever. But if you find your instrument going out of tune a lot during practice – or more importantly, on the gig – take the time to check out the following factors:

  1. The tuning pegs. If your tuners are loose or rattling, this can seriously affect your tuning stability. Make sure all the screws are aligned and tight and that the nut on the tuning peg is nice and snug. Be careful not to over tighten anything- remember, your tuning peg is supposed to be able to move.
  2. The type, age, and gauge of strings. Not all strings are created equal, and some may hold tuning better than others. If your bass is constantly going out of tune, the next time it’s time to change them, try going with a different brand. They may work better for you! If you can’t remember the last time you changed your bass strings, this could be a big reason why it won’t stay in tune. Chances are a fresh set will work wonders. Also, it’s also important to consider your playing style. If you play with a heavy touch and are using lighter gauge strings, or down tuning your bass a lot, it’s probably a good idea to make the move to a heavier string gauge. You can also try playing more gently, but simply switching up your string choice is a lot easier!
  3. The temperature. Your bass is made of wood, and wood is affected by temperature changes. If you’re driving to the gig in freezing weather and then bringing the bass onto a warm stage in a crowded club, it’s going to need some time to settle in. Try tuning your bass before you set your amp, pedals, and other stage gear up, and then tuning it again once you’re ready to start the set. If there are breaks between the first few songs, take the time to check your tuning and make any necessary adjustments. The audience members may think you’re an obsessive tuner, but that sure is better than the alternative- which is you being out of tune and the audience wondering why your band doesn’t sound very good live. 
  4. The nut. Your bass’s nut is extremely important to its tuning stability. Each string needs to be properly seated in the nut slots. A good way to check for this is to tune your bass and listen for a sharp, metallic “pinging” sound as you tune upwards in pitch. This sound means that your string is binding in the nut because the slots are too narrow. The proper fix to this issue is to have a tech modify or widen the slots in the nut or even replace the nut, but there is also a quick DIY fix.

The graphite used in automatic pencils is a great way to lubricate your nut slots so the strings won’t get stuck. Simply remove some slack from your strings and use the pencil to fill in the nut slots. 

Have you had a bass that just won’t stay in tune? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments!

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Are Tube Amps worth it?

Despite their awesome tones, many musicians shy away from using tube amplifiers, instead opting for solid state alternatives. And that’s not a bad thing- solid state amps can sound great too, and it’s all a matter of preference at the end of the day. There are many perceived downsides to tube amplifiers that make potential users hesitant to make the jump. However, these are not necessarily the deal breakers that many make them out to be.

Here are some commonly perceived downsides to using a tube amp and why they might not be as big of a deal as you think.

  1. Tube life: Nothing lasts forever, and both preamp and power amp tubes will have to be changed out. However, it’s not as often as may think. Depending on how often you play and the amp you’re using, power tubes can last for up to 10,000 hours without needing to be changed. Preamp tubes usually last around five years or even more! So owning an all-tube amp doesn’t mean you’ll be changing tubes all the time. Good tubes are quite durable.
  2. Maintenance and repair: New sets of tubes can be pricey, along with trips to the tech to replace and bias them. With a tube amp, it pays to be proactive about maintenance. Don’t wait for your amp to go quiet before taking it in to a tech. Many tube amp aficionados actually have their tubes changed routinely to prevent any issues, similar to how car owners will take in their vehicles for routine checkups. Owning a tube amp simply requires that more care be given to the maintenance of your equipment, but it’s not much more than simple math. As long as you know the average life expectancy of your set of tubes, and keep track of when they were last changed, you’ll know when the time comes.
  3. Reliability: The simple, plug and play nature of solid state amps makes them highly appealing, especially for those who gig frequently and can’t afford to have a tube go bad during soundcheck. However, most tube amps don’t just give up the ghost on the gig- when tubes are going bad, there are warning signs. Significant drops in output volume, strange noises like squeaks, squeals, hum, feedback, and a weak sound are all signs that the power tubes need to be swapped out. You can also tell by visually inspecting the tubes- if the usual glow is fading or gone, or the tube looks burned, then the tube has reached the end of its life. Preamp tubes are a little more difficult to gauge, but they too will generally exhibit symptoms. Any kind of whistling (tube becomes microphonic), humming or strange noises indicate bad preamp tubes. In any case, a good tech should be able to quickly isolate and rectify the problem. So rest assured- your tube amp will likely not fail on you out of the blue. But it is up to you to inspect your rig before performances and rehearsals to make sure all is as it should be. Gigging with a backup is also a great practice regardless of what kind of amp you use.
  4. Weight: Tube amps are heavy, there’s no doubt about it. Those looking to streamline their rig might find themselves at odds with the size and weight of tube amps. However, not all tube amps are heavy and cumbersome to move, and there are many all-tube micro amps on the market that can get you your tube tone fix without breaking your back. You can also get tube tone in a small package with the Carvin Amplifiers VLD1 Legacy Drive Preamp Pedal, which has real 12Ax7 preamp tubes. The Legacy Drive pedal fits in your gig bag and you can go direct into a mixing board, plug in headphones for practice, or use it to drive a power amp.

In many cases, tube amps do not require the amount of maintenance that they have a reputation for. As long as you properly take care of your gear, owning a tube amp is simple and very well worth it for the tone. Have you ever made the switch to a tube amp after much consideration? If so, how did it work out for you? Let us know in the comments.

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How to survive a gig with a small amp:

Have you ever had to play a gig with an amp that’s completely unsuited for the job? If so, don’t worry- it happens to the best of us, and despite our better judgment. Maybe the sound guy said that an amp will be back lined, only for you to find that it does not have nearly enough power to hang with your band. Or maybe another band on the bill is providing the equipment, but that equipment only works well for them. Or maybe it’s even your fault and you underestimated the amount of rig you would need for the show! Whatever the circumstance, it always helps to have a backup plan if you have to play on a big stage with a small amp. Here are some tips to survive this gigging situation with your sanity (and the amp) intact.

  1. Don’t crank the amp past its limits. If you’re playing through a relatively small solid state amp, cranking it up is the recipe for disaster. Not only will you risk blowing speakers, the bass sound will likely be distorted, harsh and very flat sounding.
  2. Avoid excessive bass frequencies. If your amp is underpowered and you know it, you will need to pay extra attention to your EQ. Dialing a big boomy bottom end works great if you’re running a Carvin Audio B2000 with two BRx10.4 cabinets, but with lower wattage and less speakers, excessive low end utilizes a lot of your amp’s valuable power. Instead, try dropping the bass back and adding in a little more midrange.
  3. Use the PA to your advantage. A good PA system can be a lifesaver in this situation. Have the engineer mic your amp or run a DI from your bass or the amp, if the model you’re using is equipped with one. This will get you heard in the audience and put minimal strain on your amp, since you only need to turn it up enough to serve as your personal monitor. If that’s not cutting it, ask the sound engineer for more bass in your monitor. If the amp you’re using does not have a built-in DI, you can use a quality DI box like Carvin Audio’s FDR60.
  4. Place your amp correctly onstage. Not to feed your ego, but your band mates need to hear your bass (along with the drums) clearly onstage to help them establish chord and song changes and vibe with the overall rhythm and feel of the song. If you are going through the PA, angle your amp towards your band mates, specifically your drummer. If you can, elevate it to ear level so it’s not projecting at everyone’s legs. This will help the show run more smoothly for everyone in your band.

If you show up to the gig happy that you didn’t have to bring your big rig, but then find the amp provided is not going to cut it power or speaker wise, it may seem like a stressful situation. Stay calm and remember that there are some workarounds to this predicament!