Band Equipment Issues

What a crazy night last night with the band! When you hear a band, you don’t think of everything that is involved with making that sound, and all the potential failure points in the equipment.

My bass rig alone…. the sound goes from the bass guitar to my wireless unit. There is a wireless receiver on my rig that sends the sound to my effects/preamp pedal, then to the amplifier, and then to my speaker. If the wireless fails, I have a cable to connect the bass to the rig. If the pedal fails I can bypass it and go directly to the amplifier. If the amplifier fails there is another in the car. If the speaker fails, I can play through the P.A. system. If one of the many cables fail, we have backup cables.

If the bass fails though…. oh my. I have another but it’s useless when it’s back at home. But, my new bass is new, and it’s doing great! What could go wrong? Ha!

<technical stuff coming> Mine is an active bass, which means it has electronics which allow me to adjust the bass and treble levels with knobs on the bass itself. This requires a 9 volt battery which is connected to the works by two tiny wires, one of which broke last night. When the connection is broken, no sounds come out of the bass, none at all. A passive bass, on the other hand, passes the signal only to a volume control, and the knob that allows you to switch back and forth between the two pickups, the electronic bars that pick up the vibrations from the strings. No battery is required, and there is less chance of mechanical failure <end technical stuff>

The picture above is the back of my bass with the wiring exposed. You can see the battery connection above with a red wire attached, and the silver end of the black wire dangling in the air. What a weak point with those tiny wires, since you will be pulling it out and changing the battery before every gig!

We have a small travel guitar in the car as an emergency solution, which we used since we were unable to get a last minute loaner bass. I played “bass” on Joel’s guitar, while he played the little emergency guitar. And, to add to the excitement, we were all set up to use a drum machine since our drummer and both backup drummers were unavailable. This would have been fine and we practiced with it all week, but we were expecting our usual bass and guitar sounds to go with it.

I am not a guitar player! It has six thin little strings all close together and feels very small and strange in my hands. I was so proud of myself that I was able to figure it out on the fly, and after a few songs I was getting the hang on it and doing ok. It plays an octave higher than a bass though and lacks that rich, full sound, but we were still able to make music! Whew, what a crazy night. Thank goodness we were where most of our gringo fans hang out and everyone was very understanding and seemed to have a great time dancing anyway.

But, our band equipment, I have my rig, and Joel has a similar one that is even more complicated. We have a microphone on the bass drum, and all three of us have vocal microphones. All these sounds, the vocals, guitar, bass, and bass drum are all sent to a mixing board. From there they are adjusted for levels and various other adjustments and then sent to three systems, the main P.A. speakers that the audience hears, a system of monitor speakers that we use to hear ourselves, and then the bass system that supports the bass and the bass drum. I also have a guitar monitor speaker on my side of the stage since with drums between us, sometimes I can’t hear what the guitar is doing over there.

Many bands play only through their own guitar and bass rigs, and the vocals are sent to a house P.A. system, but you are at the mercy of only what you can hear from where you are standing and minimal adjustments are possible. A lot of thought and equipment has gone into our system and it works great, and sounds clear and strong at any volume, no matter how loud we crank it up. We play for you all, but we also play for ourselves and when it sounds awesome we get really happy. This is why we haul all that equipment and spend hours every day practicing. If you are going to do something, IMO, you may as well make it as good as you possibly can!

I am SO SO SO thankful for Joel who has now rewired my bass to turn it into a passive bass, no battery required, and for all his expertise, and experience, and knowledge, and the countless hours he has spent with me practicing and teaching and keeping our standards high. A year ago I never could have pulled off what I did last night.

Oh, and I can’t forget to include my speaker. The cabinet is a bit beat up from countless trips to gigs, but that Faitel speaker inside is amazing!

When everything works I am very proud of what we can do! And from now on, the other bass will be in the car just in case.

This is retirement?! 😁

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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7 Responses to Band Equipment Issues

  1. CAMILO QUELQUEJEU says:

    I LOVE THE FACT THAT YOU NOW HAVE YOUR OWN , INDEPENDENT SOURCE OF INCOME !

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    • Ha! The band is a great retirement hobby, but definitely not a viable plan to make money. That’s why all (non retired) musicians have to have day jobs.

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      • CAMILO QUELQUEJEU says:

        MAYBE YOU SHOULD THINK OF OPENING YOUR OWN MUSIC BAR, SINCE APPARENTLY THIS MIGHT BE THE BEST WAY OF REALLY MAKING A LIVING !
        AND YOU WOULDN’T EVEN HAVE TO TRANSPORT YOUR EQUIPMENT !
        IN ANY CASE, I AM CERTAIN THAT YOU ARE HAVING A GREAT TIME .

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  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    Definition of a musician: — Someone who loads $5,000 worth of equipment into a $500 dollar car to drive 100 miles to play in a $50 gig!

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    • There is so much truth to this! But it’s even worse for us because we needed a bigger car to haul the gear which is worth that much and more. But I’m happy to report the rewired bass did great tonight, our other substitute dummer was fantastic, and we kicked a** in front of a happy, full house audience. I wish you could have been there. 😊

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