Essential Electric Bass Accessories
By Phil O'Keefe |
Have you ever felt a bit left out? Sometimes it can feel like manufacturers don't pay as much attention to electric bass players as they do to our guitar-playing friends and bandmates, but if you look closer, there's a surprising array of accessories designed specifically for bassists. Some of these are items every bass player needs to have. Like what? Well read on and see for yourself - whether you're a new player just starting out or a highly-experienced bassist, there's bound to be several items on this list that will benefit you.
Case / Gig Bag - Every instrument needs one. Whether you prefer the convenience of a gig bag or the added protection of a hard shell case, make sure you have one or the other for every instrument you own.
Instrument Stand - When it's not in the case or in your hands, your bass should be sitting on a stand.
Picks - Sure, many bassists play with their fingers, but it never hurts to be able to play both ways - and don't underestimate the different tones and sounds you can get just by grabbing a pick - or using a different one.
Electronic Tuner - Tuning by ear is still a good skill to learn, but for quick and accurate tuning, nothing beats a good electronic tuner. Whether clip-on, smartphone app, rack mount or pedal, every bassist should own at least one.
Effects - While pedal makers try to appeal to guitarists with the majority of their releases, there is still a large number of effects pedals that work very well with electric bass - as well as several models designed specifically for bass.
Amplifier - An electric bass without an amplifier is only half an instrument. You need a good amp to go along with your bass.
Rolling Cart or Dolly - Bass amps tend to be large and heavy, and a pain in the posterior to move around. Add in a bass or two, a gig bag and a pedalboard, and the typical gigging bassist needs to haul a lot of stuff. The job gets a lot easier if you have a hand truck, moving dolly, or musician's cart so you can roll your gear around rather than lifting it.
Cables - You'll have a hard time plugging your bass in without a cable. Don't forget the extra cables you'll need for your tuner, effects pedals and (if you use an amp with an external speaker cabinet) speaker cables you might need to complete your rig.
Tune-up / Set-up Toolkit - String winders, screwdrivers, Allen wrenches and other small hand tools are frequently needed for small setup touch-ups and minor repairs and maintenance. Assemble your own collection and keep it in your case or gig bag, or buy a pre-assembled toolkit and you'll be ready the next time you need to work on your bass.
Cleaning And Polishing Supplies - You don't want your bass looking like a guitarist took care of it, do you? Then clean the gunk off it once in a while using the various polishes, cleaning cloths, fretboard conditioners and other products designed for that purpose.
Spare Strings - You never know when you might break one, and if it happens at an inopportune time (like in the middle of a gig or at a recording session) you'll be very sad if you don't have a spare set with you.
Replacement Pickups - What's wrong with the pickups that came with the bass? Maybe nothing - but then again, maybe you want a different sound. Your pickups are the heart of your bass, and installing new ones can change your sound considerably.
Ear Plugs - Since bassists often stand right next to the drummer, good ear plugs are a must - especially if you value your hearing! The worse your drummer is, the more important and valuable they become. Pro Tip: Skip the high-frequency killing foam plugs and spend a few more bucks on a reusable pair of higher-fidelity ear plugs, like the Etymotic ER-20s.
A Second Bass - Seriously. Not only as a backup, but if you string one with roundwounds and the second with flatwounds you'll be able to switch quickly between them and obtain both sounds.
Tablet and Bluetooth Remote "Page Turning" Footswitch Unit - Notice I didn't include this in my Essential Electric Guitar Accessories article. That's because everyone knows the best way to get a guitarist to turn down is to put sheet music in front of them, but since many bass players can actually read music, suggesting something like the Airturn Duo is appropriate here…
Phrase Trainer - Trying to figure out what the heck Les Claypool was playing in that fast passage? Slow it down and work it out with the help of a Phrase Trainer.
Headphone Amp / Smartphone Apps - For those times when you want or need to practice silently, these are indispensable.
Wireless System - Don't be stuck standing tethered to within a few feet of your amp. Get a good wireless system and roam the stage - or the whole venue!
Case Humidifier and Hygrometer - no, it's not as crucial as it is for acoustic guitars, but don't discount the importance of keeping your instrument at the proper humidity level. If you own an acoustic bass guitar, consider these essential instrument accessories.
Strap - Unless you plan on playing only while sitting down, a strap is a must-have accessory for your bass. Pro Tip: Wider straps will help distribute the weight of a heavier instrument over a wider area, making them more comfortable, and can be a good choice for basses.
Strap Locks - Unless you are a glutton for punishment and like to risk damaging your bass, buy a set of these. They're cheap insurance than can save your instrument from expensive damage.
Replacement Parts - Customize your bass with replacement knobs, bridge saddles, tuning machines and other parts to make it truly your own.
While all of these items are important bass accessories, this is by no means an exhaustive list. What other items do you feel are essential accessories for your bass? Be sure to stop by the Harmony Central Bass Forum and tell us all about them! -HC-
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Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.