I think that this topic is definitely worth a little attention, because it is important for every musician!
I write about it, because I saw one of the worlds best bass players and his sound unfortunately sucked! Well, it definitely was not his fault, because the amp and speakers were organized by the venue. But they should know better and treat world class players with proper equipment!
Sound often is an underestimated part of the whole being-a-musician-thing. It is true that the more you grow as a musician, the more you take care that you sound on your instrument like you want to.
First of all, the most important thing to know is that sound comes from your fingers! Your brain and your musicality make your fingers produce exactly the sound they want to hear, the sound YOU want to hear! That’s why you would still recognize great musicians like Marcus Miller, John Scofield, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, etc. if they would play other instruments and different equipment, because it’s so significant WHAT they play and HOW they play it.
But what is sound and why is it relevant and rather important? It’s simple: as a musician you want the audience to hear what you play. That means that you need an instrument and equipment like cables, amps and speakers to make that happen. The more all this matches your own sound imagination (how you would like to hear yourself), the better it helps you to express your musicality.
What helps in finding your sound is imitating your favorite players. That doesn’t mean to become another Pastorius-Clone, but to check out what they did to sound like they did. Do it with several musicians and you’ll learn much more about your playing technic, choice of instrument and your amp settings more easily. After a while you’ll also figure out what you prefer and you will develop your own playing style.
When it comes to choosing your equipment, you’ll start with what your budget allows. But that’s ok. Start with what’s best for your level and situation. When I started playing bass, I played over a little combo, that was just right to crank up my friends room where we had our first rehearsals. Oh boy, that was fun! It was after a while when I discovered, that I needed a new and better amp… And another bass, ’cause the first bass that I played was a cheap no-name which I gladly borrowed from my bother in law.
Of course you’ll choose an instrument that looks cool and that you can identify yourself with, but also one that you think sounds great, right? And the funny thing is, that you’ll play better when your happy and proud of your things. It’s like walking different when you’re wearing fancy clothes. There’s nothing wrong with that, on contrary: when it helps you to develop, get yourself some decent equipment! I remember playing gigs over really shitty amps and I didn’t feel comfortable the whole night. But when the sound is right, you’ll play much better.
Now go and first figure out your technic, that your able to change the sound in different directions only by changing your playing style… And then go and try different instruments, amps and speakers and also different combinations between them! Amps will sound different with another speaker! And look what your favorite players use and how they get their sound!
As always: when you have any questions, want to share your own experience and/or want to discus things, feel free to contact me and please leave a comments!