Played A Huge Festival Gig On A $120 Cheap Bass AND This Happened
I was a beginner, had a cheap bass in my hands.
For this one, we need to go back to August 2005.
My band was booked to play a major gig at the Belgrade Beer Fest, one of the big festivals in Europe at the time.
Needless to say, I was nervous, and for a reason.
Even though we were all just beginners, playing seriously only for a couple of years at the time, an amazing thing happened. Two things actually.
Before we go into that, I need to tell you more about me and the bass I was playing at the time.
My First Cheap Bass: Aria Jazz Bass
I played this gig, which was one of my first gigs ever actually, on a jazz bass guitar “copy” type of instrument that goes under the name Aria.
Now, I’ve heard that this bass in particular that I had, has nothing to do with basses made in Japan in the 90s that also had a brand Aria stamped on it, which were quite good actually as I’m told (haven’t played one).
I remember this bass guitar costing me around $120, new in the store and it had Aria stamped on the headstock. It was a jazz bass type, with standard two passive pickups, tone controls – all the usual stuff.
It wasn’t terrible, but you could feel it was a cheap bass.
I remember that headstock had a poor finish, felt like it was cut roughly, and also bass had very high action. The strings had a distance from the fretboard that was not comfortable to play.
The interesting thing happened, actually two.
1. I got comments from senior musicians, bassists from other big-name bands, that my bass sounded great!?
They were wondering which one is it.
I would show and tell, and they were like: Are you kiddin’?
They couldn’t believe it was a $120 bass.
But it was.
There was this trick I used, which I’ve used several times later on when playing other gigs which proved very effective in making my cheap bass sound much better.
2. The second thing that happened: there was a mosh pit during our RHCP Covers set (check out the video below).🤘
Here’s A Rare Video – Cheap Bass Performance
This was one of the best days of my life.
…and not because I always dreamt of playing in my underwear in front of thousand people LOL.
This is the moment I knew I wanted to be a musician.
I can still remember how it felt hearing the bass roar and shake the whole stage on each and every note.
That gig was one of my dreams that came true!
Here’s a video where we’re performing a cover of RHCP – Otherside (with a twist in the middle!):
How I Got A Cheap Bass To Sound Good
This is how I got the cheap $120 to sound good: I had brand new strings on it.
That’s it, so simple!
After this gig, I would always slap on a new set of strings whenever there was an important gig to play.
When it comes to bass strings, I like to use these ones that have the standard gauge:
If you’re looking to get your bass to sound good, besides bass itself and the amp – strings are extremely important.
Sometimes bass players overlook strings, even get to like the “old bass strings sound”.
But strings matter so much when it comes to the bass sound.
If you get more used to the new strings sound, you’ll start noticing it more and more in live performance videos of the bands you like.
I get it that bass strings cost a lot more than strings for a guitar.
But if you’re about to play an important gig or plan a recording session – throw on a new set day or two before and see how it goes.
That way you’ll leave enough time for strings to settle in and still have them sounding new.
It’s Not Just The Strings
Of course, it’s not just the gear that helps you sound good when playing bass.
I think it’s important to strike a Balance of Basics as I like to call it.
Knowing how to set up a decent tone on your bass and amp, using the right gear like fresh strings, and not having too many pedals or unnecessary effects on.
Next, you need to work on your bass technique, things like muting, dynamics, and everything play a huge role in your overall performance.
Finally, to strike the perfect balance: play as much or as little as it’s needed for the song.
Having strong foundations like practicing how to consistently play quarter or eighth notes, and be able to do it along with music helps.
In my Bass Guitar 101 course, I pretty much insist on all the basics and getting in the practice hours.
This course has playing assignments all the way through, because I know how important it is not to skim through this stuff.
If you’re a beginner or would like to officially start from the ground up, check out how you can become a member of the Bass Road Academy, where you’ll get access to all my bass courses inside:
I borrow a bass from a legendary bass player, it was his 70s American Jazz Bass.
I needed it for a recording session.
One of the strings broke during the session. 😳
When returning the bass, I told him about it.
He responded: “Wow, that’s so strange! Those were new strings, I’ve only just put them on recently. It’s been only a year or two. Strange – I never break strings.”
He’s so wise and old school.
And he doesn’t like the new strings sound, so the advice in this post is definitely not for everyone.
Just sharing what works for me.
Writing this post made me realize two important lessons learned from this experience:
1. Beginner bass players CAN join a band and play gigs
2. You don’t really need an expensive bass (though it’s nice to have one!) to sound good
In the video above I’m pretty much a beginner.
At that time I might have been playing bass for only a couple of years, same as my bandmates.
Yet there I am – on a big stage having fun.
So if you ever thought that you needed to be a Pro Bassist in order to join a band, that’s simply not true.
It is doable to practice for a couple of years until you can hold a groove, and then join a local band.
Also if you thought you can’t play gigs with a cheap, beginner bass – well that’s simply not true.
I did it many times and I’ve seen pro musicians play “cheap” instruments on stage all the time – they would do it for fun and experimentation.
We musicians can be hard on ourselves, limiting what we could have done with false beliefs about our skills, gear, musicality you name it.
So if you ever wanted to join a band, but never got around to it – why don’t you try it?
Answer an ad, get an audition and see f you can start playing with a local band.
It’s worth it getting out of your comfort zone.