music, music.bass

How I Use Compressors

Compressors are great helpers to help us maintain the balance of our sound. Depending on how we set it, a compressor can increase the volume of silent notes, decrease the volume of loud notes, or do both simultaneously.

This article is a general compression guide for beginners.

There are expensive studio compressors, affordable compressor pedals, DAW compressor plug-ins, etc. In this article, we will be focusing on simple every day compressor pedals.

Although I am a bass player, the principles in this article can be applied to any instrument.

What Is A Compressor?

“A compressor is basically a pedal to balance the volume of your signal. When a signal is too loud, a compressor limits or squishes this spike to a more reasonable level. When a signal is too soft or starts to fade, a compressor can boost the signal to even out dynamics.” (Reverb)

Compression Parameters

The terms change from pedal to pedal, but here is a general overview of the controls we have on a typical compressor.

Threshold determines the scope of compression. A low threshold rate means that the compressor will cover silent notes. A high threshold rate means that the compressor will ignore silent notes and focus on louder notes only.

Attack time determines how fast the compressor will react after we play a note exceeding the threshold. A fast attack time means that the compressor will react as soon as it hears the note. A slow attach time means that; after hearing the note, the compressor will let the attack & note ring a little, and activate afterwards.

Release time lets us determine how fast the compressor will deactivate. A fast release time means that, when it hears just a few notes outside of the threshold, the compressor will deactivate itself. A slow release time means that, even after hearing notes outside the threshold, the compressor will stay activate a little longer.

Rate determines the force of compression. 2:1 is a light compression rate of 50%. “It indicates that a signal exceeding the threshold by 2 dB will be attenuated down to 1 dB above the threshold, or a signal exceeding the threshold by 8 dB will be attenuated down to 4 dB above it.” (UAudio) Following the same logic, 4:1 is a medium compression rate, 8:1 is a strong compression rate, 20:1 / ∞:1 can be considered as a brick wall limiter.

How I Use Them

How you would use a compressor depends on your purpose.

Invariability

One of my purposes is to achieve a constant, ever-flowing bass sound without any volume deviation – imagine typical Muse or electronic bass lines. For this purpose;

  •  Threshold should be very low, because I want to cover every single note
  •  Attack time should be fast, because I am aiming at a sustained constant volume; I don’t want any peaks when I attack the strings
  • Release time should be slow, because I don’t want to deactivate the compressor due to some silent notes in-between
  • Rate can be set medium / high

Limiter

Another purpose is to use the compressor as a limiter to prevent volume peaks due to technique, slapping or mischievous pedals.

  • Threshold should be high, because I’m focusing on volume peaks only
  • Attack time should be as fast as possible, because I want to “catch” the peak
  • Release time can be relatively fast; because after catching the peak, things can get back to normal
  • Rate should be as high as possible, because I’m willing to create a volume cap

Boundaries

Another purpose is to even out the strings and notes on the bass without eating the tone and dynamics too much. For this purpose;

  • Threshold should be medium, because I want to keep some of my dynamics
  • Attack time should be medium for the same reason
  • Release time should be medium for the same reason
  • Rate can be low, around 2:1 or 4:1

Conclusion

A compressor is an optional, but very welcome addition to my pedalboard setup. If I have free space, I feel safe having a compressor set to “limiter” mode; and the sound guys enjoy the controlled bass sound.

My compressors of choice can be seen on my bass gear list.

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music, music.bass

G&L M-2500 Review

I have owned and played an M-2500 long enough to confidently write a review. In a nutshell; I highly recommend it as a simple and modern P & MM hybrid.

Specs

M-2500 is an active solid body bass with a 34″ scale length, two MFD humbucker pickups, a high mass bridge with string-through-body option, volume & blend controls and boost/cut 3 band EQ. This bass doesn’t have a passive switch.

The neck pickup is placed to the P-bass sweet spot. The bridge pickup is almost placed to the MM sweet spot – it’s a bit closer to the bridge for obvious spacing reasons. Visual pickup position comparison can be found here .

MFD pickups provide adjustable pole pieces. This means; you can adjust the height of individual poles for a precisely balanced sound across all strings. Details of my preferred MFD height setup can be found here .

Compared to 19mm basses, string spacing is relatively narrow; making fast lines easier. I wouldn’t call the neck “chunky”, but you definitely feel the wood in your hand.

Sound

Soloing the neck pickup, the bass sounds like a P-bass on steroids. When I was in the market for a new bass, I was actually looking for a P-bass vibe. M-2500 neck pickup doesn’t sound exactly like a P-bass, you need to buy the real thing for that. However; it subjectively doubles the mid-thumpy-sweetness of the P-bass in a modern and powerful way due to the pickup specs. I preferred M-2500 over the P-bass, but that’s beacuse I like modern and powerful bass tones. Other players, especially vintage purists, might prefer otherwise.

This setting is ideal for blues, rock, motown, R&B, reggae, etc. settings where you would normally reach out for a P-bass.

Soloing the bridge pickup, I feel like I’m somewhere between the StingRay bite and Jaco burp. Compared to the StingRay, the pickup is placed a little closer to the bridge. The back coil is right in the middle of 60/70 Jazz Bass pickup positions, while the front coil is right behind the 60 Jazz Bass pickup position. As a result, you get somewhere between a thin StingRay / fat Jaco tone.

Unlike some “pickup-too-close-to-the-bridge” basses I played before; this setting is very usable on its own for soloing, playing chords and many other burpiness applications.

Pickup balance produces a scooped tone typically seen at J basses, but the humbuckers obviously produce a different tone than your average standard Jazz Bass. This mid-scoop provides a good playground for pop / funk / slap, or settings where you want to play hide & seek in the mix. A little deviation towards the neck gets close to a PJ sound, while a little deviation towards the bridge gets close to the Jaco burp; both usable to support the band.

Obviously, you can get many other sounds by blending the pickups and tapping the EQ.

Although the M-2500 lacks the passive option, I honestly didn’t miss it at all. Vintage purists might, though.

Comparison

L-2500

For those who follow G&L closely, L-2500 has arguably been their flagship bass for a long time. With the M-2500, they took the same body & pickups and replaced the relatively complicated EQ system with a simple boost/cut 3 band EQ. The pickups are wound 12% less; taking the aggression under control.

I like things to be as simple as possible without compromising the required functionality. Although L-2500 is very versatile, its switching system has always been a turn-off for me. I wouldn’t want to mess with 18 switch combinations to nail the tone I want; whether I’m recording or playing live. Having a 2 band cut-only EQ also feels like a limitation on the stage – I can’t always walk to the amp or kneel to the pedalboard to boost my frequencies.

Obviously, those are personal preferences; there are countless bass players out there who are extremely happy with their L-2500 basses. But in my humble opinion; M-2500 eliminates the disadvantages of L-2500 and replaces them with perks.

Ed Friedman has made a great M-2500 vs L-2500 video , I recommend it for an audio-based comparison.

Sandberg VM

My first attempt to have a P & MM combo bass was my custom designed Sandberg California VM 5 . Although it was a well made bass, I feel like the M-2500 is a closer shot for the purpose.

Jazz Bass

The two-pickup setting made me literally compare the M-2500 with a Jazz Bass when I did the purchase. The neck pickup of M-2500 satisfied me much better than the neck pickup of the Jazz Bass in terms of getting the P-Bass thump. Likewise, the bridge pickup produces a much stronger and deeper burp than the J-Bass.

However; combining the pickups, the J-Bass slap sound satisfied me more than the M-2500. Plus, the single coil pickups of the J-Bass are more articulate; providing a better toolkit for corresponding purposes.

Well, humbuckers vs single coils, what can I say? You can fatten single coils with some EQ boost, but humbuckers are naturally fat and strong. You can thin out humbuckers with some EQ cut, but single coils are naturally articulate and sparky.

If the priority is to get beefy tones leaning towards P / MM sounds, M-2500 has the upper hand. If the priority is to get thinner articulated sounds with that J vibe & slappiness, Jazz Bass has the upper hand.

StingRay 5 HS

In a nutshell; G&L has a great P-Bass tone and an acceptable StingRay~ish tone, while the StingRay has (obviously) a great StingRay tone and an acceptable P-Bass tone.

However, the P-Bass tone of the StingRay is more authentic than the StingRay tone of the G&L.

Comparing those two; if a P-Bass tone is a higher priority, I would get the G&L. If the StingRay tone is a higher priority, I would get the StingRay. In case of equal priorities, I would probably pick the StingRay.

Conclusion

M-2500 has easily joined my team of beloved bass guitars.

If you want a modern sounding P-MM~ish combo with a simple interface, I recommend including the M-2500 in your candidate list.

For further M-2500 reviews, I recommend checking Ed Friedman and Notreble .

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music, music.bass, music.guitar

How I Got Rid of Pedalboard Noise

I had a terrible and constant low frequency whistle noise coming out of my bass pedalboard; even if the guitar is completely turned down. I solved my problem by plugging individual power adapters into problematic pedals.

Detecting the Source of the Noise

Rig hum can have many reasons. Three most significant reasons are; guitar pickup hum, ground loops and power issues.

My bass has split coil pickups, so guitar pickups couldn’t be the source of the noise. Besides; the hum was still there even when I turned the guitar down. So, the bass wasn’t guilty.

Ground loop could have been the reason; however, the hum started after I added some new pedals (not before).

Therefore, I suspected that there was a power issue. The fact that my pedals wouldn’t start up before blinking on and off for a while reinforced that idea.

Detecting Guilty Pedals

For this test, I removed each and every pedal from my pedalboard, and plugged my guitar in directly. No noise / hum at all. Good.

Afterwards, I started adding pedals one by one. Eventually, I discovered that 3 EHX pedals were the source of the hum: Pitch Fork, SuperEgo and Freeze.

When I power any of those pedals individually via my Joyo Power Supply 2, they add up a little hum. Powering all of them end up producing a powerful hum.

Solving the Problem

I figured out that there was nothing wrong with the pedals. The only problem was; the power supply didn’t agree with the power demands of the pedals.

I disconnected those pedals from the power supply completely, and powered them through their original individual power adapters.

Wham! The hum disappeared. My rig went dead silent.

I figured that I needed a larger multi outlet for my pedalboard now; but it is a small price to pay for rig silence.

Using batteries instead of power adapters is also an agreeable solution, but I don’t want to worry about batteries going dead in the middle of some gig.

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music, music.bass

Fodera vs Fender Custom Shop

In this post, I will subjectively compare two high end basses.

One of them is a Fodera Emperor Standard Classic 5 with an alder body and rosewood fingerboard – everything is stock. The other one is a (discontinued) Fender Custom Classic Jazz Bass V with an alder body, rosewood fingerboard and noiseless Bartolini 57J1 L/S pickups.

Before reading further, you might want to check the following posts for some technical details:

Comparison

Versatility: Fodera enables me to switch between humbucker / single coil and active / passive modes. It also has a passive cut control which works in both active / passive modes. Therefore, it has more onboard tonal versatility than the Fender.

Noise: Fodera has 60-cycle hum in single coil mode; which can be eliminated in humbucker mode. Fender is totally noiseless. Therefore, Fender has an advantage in cases I need to play in soloed single coil mode. For the record; stacked noiseless pickups are notorious for being weaker – that’s why I keep split coil Bartolini’s on my Fender.

Articulation: Overall; single coil articulation of Fodera is clearer than the Fender.

Effects: Fender has ceramic pickups, which (in my subjective opinion) work better than Fodera’s alnico pickups in case I need to use high gain. The advantage intensifies in single coil mode due to the hum of the Fodera.

Sound: I mainly use 4 sounds.

  • P-bass sound: Fender nails this sound better because I must use the Fodera in humbucker mode when I solo the neck pickup (due to hum).
  • J-bass sound: I would say that Fodera and Fender go head-to-head producing an acceptable J-bass sound.
  • Jaco sound: Emphasizing the bridge humbucker, the Jaco sound of the Fodera pleases me better than the Fender.
  • Solo sound: Single coil bridge pickup of the Fodera is more articulate and preferable than the Fender. However, it will hum. Therefore; Fender takes the lead in case noise would be a problem.

Neck: Fodera has the most comfortable neck I have ever played.

Price: Fodera is more expensive than the Fender – I think that it is worth it though. Having said that; I should add that they belong to the same price segment.

Conclusion

The Fodera is more versatile, articulate, comfortable and has the edge on bridge sounds. The Fender is completely noiseless, works better with effects, can be carried around insouciantly and has the edge on neck sounds.

As you see, none of the basses is absolutely better than the other. They are simply different. As discussed in Diminishing Returns on Bass Prices ; this would be the case in most situations where you compare two basses from the same price segment.

Frankly; I could pick either of them as my desert island bass. So how would I pick the bass to leave home with?

Currently, my decision mostly depends on the following question: “Can I keep my bass with me all the time today?” If the answer is yes, I pick the Fodera. Otherwise, I pick the Fender. Me being a Fodera artist, this may seem like an obvious choice. However; since the Fodera is harder to replace, I’m holding on to it.

I hope to play them both for many years though. Thus; I keep a spare nameless stunt bass for obviously dangerous situations, such as gigs on the beach.

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Diminishing Returns on Bass Prices

I talk about diminishing returns on multiple posts about bass prices. I would like to explain what it means. Basically; “diminishing marginal return” means that the difference you get per $ decreases dramatically after a certain price point.

I would expect the quality difference between a 500$ bass and a 2.000$ bass to be much greater than the quality difference between a 2.000$ bass and a 6.000$ bass.

In other words; I would expect a 2.000$ bass to have a much higher quality than a 500$ bass. However; a 6.000$ bass wouldn’t differ that much from a 2.000$ bass.

After a certain point, we can’t even speak about a “better” bass, but we can speak about a “different” bass which is not necessarily better or worse than the cheaper one.

Here is a chart demonstrating the idea.

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Makes sense, right?

My Fodera vs Fender Custom Shop comparison provides a “case in point” demonstration of diminishing returns. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but none can be considered absolutely “better” than the other.

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music, music.bass

Is Fodera Worth The Money?

There is a great debate on the price segment of Fodera basses. Some people think that they are overpriced, some think that they can justify the price tag, and some people own multiple Fodera basses. Apparently, the only consensus is that they aren’t exactly the cheapest purchase option in the bass market. Being a Fodera artist myself, I would like to talk about this matter.

Many other renowned custom builders work within the price range of Fodera as well; therefore, the title of this post could have been “Are custom basses worth the money?”. However; I didn’t want to talk about basses I’ve never played before, so I focused solely on Fodera.

Value

First things first: Value is a subjective concept. Some people drive a Mercedes and can justify its high price with tangible or intangible factors; while others think that it is overpriced and any middle class vehicle can get them from point A to point B.

Same applies to the value of bass guitars; where Fodera can arguably be seen as the Bugatti of the market.

At Fodera, very talented luthiers hand-produce bass guitars using very high quality wood and hardware in a relatively expensive area of the world – NYC. Wage, material cost and overhead per instrument is probably much higher than a typical mass produced factory instrument. Add some profit on top of that. Add some customer service percentage too. Considering that Fodera has a backlog of 9 months on custom instruments, the demand – supply balance certainly seems to be favoring Fodera in terms of an increased price based on brand value as well.

The combination of those factors naturally lead us to the hefty price tags of instruments made by Fodera.

Is it worth it?

To some, yes. Some people enjoy the sound, playability, overall quality, image, etc. of a Fodera so much that they will find the instrument worth it. Some of those are financially fortunate enough to buy one, some not.

To some, no. Some people will find the instrument overpriced and claim that they find a similar sound, playability, overall quality, image, etc. in another instrument.

It all boils down to what you seek in an instrument, and where you can find it. Tangible or intangible; some people seem to find their criteria in a Fodera, and find the instrument worth it. The equation is that simple. Others might find their criteria in another brand (expensive or cheap), which is also totally fine.

Check my Fodera vs Fender Custom Shop comparison to see the reasons why a particular player might prefer the Fodera over a Fender CS or vice versa.

Diminishing Returns

To be fair, we have to consider the law of diminishing marginal returns.

Assuming that a good production bass costs 2.000$ and an entry level Fodera costs 6.000$; some people will find the difference of Fodera worth the additional 4.000$ because this is what they are looking for. This is fine.

Some people will happily settle down with the 2.000$ bass and think that Fodera is overpriced because both sound & play almost identical for them – considering their own requirements. Those people will think that a Fodera is not worth it for them, personally. This is fine as well.

Some people will make a lucky purchase of a 500$ overseas instrument, where the perfect combination occurred; and be perfectly happy with it after a few modifications here and there. They will think that neither the Fodera nor the 2K bass is “worth it”. This is also perfectly fine.

My Subjective Opinion

Although I bought my Fodera second-hand, it cost me a small fortune. But was it worth it?

Fodera has always been the holy grail of bass guitars for me, and I felt privileged to possess one. The neck simply plays itself, the tone speaks to me, its versatility is very high, and I simply enjoyed having & playing a Fodera; it motivated me to play more and better. What more can I ask for, right?

Well, the equation is not that simple. A bass is not all about sound, you need to consider other factors as well.

Here are some pro’s of owning a Fodera:

  • You get a perfectly built instrument which sounds and plays great
  • Your GAS will probably be under control after owning a Fodera, other basses can’t easily attract you any more
  • Despite its price; owning a Fodera in the first place can be cheaper than buying & selling many basses; looking for the perfect bass
  • You may impress some other musicians, if that’s your goal

As you would expect, here are the con’s; mostly due to the Fodera being an expensive & irreplaceable instrument:

  • If you lose it, you not only lose an instrument you love, but you also lose a great amount of hard earned money (monetary apprehension)
  • You can’t travel with it insouciantly (damage apprehension)
  • You can’t leave it on the stage / studio / trunk insouciantly (theft apprehension)
  • You may find yourself gigging with your unaccustomed stunt guitar more
  • Although the resell value is pretty high, you may have a hard time finding a customer due to its price
  • If you got it second-hand, it might be an ad-hoc instrument and might not fit your own requirements perfectly
  • Many people never heard of the brand Fodera before (unlike Fender); you might have some recognition issues

Although I enjoy my Fodera a lot, I must say that the cons may outweigh the pros for you. Considering the diminishing returns on bass prices, I suggest considering that a well made production instrument can provide most of the pro’s and eliminate most of the con’s above.

Having said that, my production basses cost the fraction of a Fodera, and are still very good bass guitars I happen to enjoy playing a lot! Quality surplus of the Fodera is evident, but not dramatic.

Despite that, I subjectively think that Fodera is worth its price. Just make sure that your potential anxiety due to it’s price won’t overweigh the joy it would bring. After all, we make music to feel better, don’t we?

Conclusion

All in all, the world would be a boring place with only one brand and model, wouldn’t it? We are blessed to have so many alternatives corresponding to different needs and financial positions. The instrument that fulfills your subjective hygiene criteria will be “worth it”.

That being said; I think that it is important to distinguish between needs & desires when making a purchase, and decide wisely what is within your budget and what is not.

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