Q&As, Rants, and other Fun Stuff...

it's friday the thirteenth..ahhh!!! actually, i like thirteen. it's my lucky number. well, it's 10am and i wanted to write something before i go out to run my errands - problem is i didn't have any ideas. so i thought maybe i'd get an idea or two by flipping through this month's issue of Bass Player. i did (flip), and i did (get an idea), but it's nothing deep. it's more an observation and a series of questions really.

so here's a few observations. the august issue of Bass Player has 96 pages. that's enough pages to include 3 features plus 1 cover story (Stanley Clarke - yay!!), 7 entries of 'bass notes', 5 workshops, 11 'departments', and a whole lot of ads - at roughly 100 advertisements, there are more ads than pages. this isn't surprising i guess, considering Bass Player, like most other magazines, is trying to stay alive in a highly competative publishing industry that's bound by the rules of capitalism, but with the visual clutter of this many ads, it makes me wonder if these advertisements are simply something that i have to 'put up with' as i read my articles, or if the articles are just the bait used to lure me towards the real content (and purpose) of the magazine. don't get me wrong - i frequently enjoy looking at ads, especially when they have nice pictures of a bass guitar or some other piece of equipment that i may think looks cool (the GK ads are especially effective in making me want a 1,000 watt amp i don't need - i'm totally weak minded that way). but the capitalist dimension of the music industry can be unrelenting (and tiring) too. i actually like the term 'music industry' - it helps me to remember how my mind is constantly caught in a war of influence and manipulation - it's my desire (for their commodities) that's being fought for. yours too.

while i'm in my counting mode, here's another observation not unrelated to the first. let's start with a simple 'true or false' exercise: "Music is all about people". true? BZZZT!! Wrong!! - according to my quickie tally of who's in this month's issue of Bass Player magazine, music (well, music with bass guitars played in it, anyway) is all about 'men' - not 'people'. because the last time i checked, 'people' included women too. no? of about 80 or 90 photographs of people (i didn't count the teeny people in group shots, just pictures of 'individuals') guess how many of these people were women? one. that's including ads. let me say that again another way: about 1.1% of the human beings in this months issue were women, the other 98.9% were men. happily, there's a picture of Mona on page 39 for an advert for Thomastik-Infeld strings.

the one and only...mona!
the one and only...mona!
well actually there's another picture with the statue of liberty holdling an upright but i decided not to count her just to inflate my tally to a whopping two. what does this say about the relationship between women and marketing in contemporary music-culture? if producing desire in me (mimi, a woman who likes bass guitars) is important to them (the people who give us 'stuff to want' - whether it be basses, bass related stuff, the latest musical fashion, 'attitude' or whatever), then why are women almost entirely eliminated from the pages of 'the world's #1 Bass Magazine?' i'm aware that i may be catching Bass Player on a particularly 'bad month'. but still, the implications are not good: are there no women bass players out there? or do we all suck? perhaps we exist, but we don't spend money? or perhaps we spend money but don't know how to read magazines? or perhaps we exist and we spend money, but we'd rather be included as handy visual props for facilitating commerce? these are not rhetorical questions - someone actually knows the answers to them. do you? i don't intend this to antagonize the male readers of this rant - consider this a friendly poke in your side. or, i guess you can be antagonized if you like. but i wanted to remind you all that some weird logic is going on out there, and if you think that this situation can be made better, you're completely right. take care everyone - really, EVERYONE.
        ~ mimi  
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here's a recent email...

>From: Keith
>To: bunnybass@marginX.com
> I just checked out the site...it's awesome!!! Wow!!! You did a really
>good job on the t-shirt page...thanks...a lot...I got really excited
>when I saw the bras and panties...wow...what geogeous girls...but to be
>honest, that's not why I got really excited...you see...I've been a closet
>transexual all this time...when I saw the bras and panties, I knew it was
>something I gotta have...something I gotta wear... something I gotta feel over
>MY...oops...sorry...getting carried away...all I know is whoever is doing
>the production, tell them I want a dozen...AND HURRY IT UP!!!
> K.

this is our keith again. actually, keith's wrong, as usual - i've always kinda suspected that he was a transexual, as have most of my friends. but i think he means transvestite. well, doesn't matter - i always kinda suspected that too. just for the record, i don't have a problem with transexuals or transvestites. i think it's actually the other parts of keith that i sometimes have a problem with... that's okay keith. we still love you. ^_^

keith, can i please show that picture of you in your glam rock band? you know, that one where you look all sexy sexy? pleeeeeze?      
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Q:  hey mimi & friends: i have to ask you something. the other day my girlfriend really pissed me off. she made this remark that the bass is not a real instrument like the cello - she plays cello. she explained to me that she doesn't need a wall outlet to play and that cellos have been around for hundreds of years but basses were invented for pop music. you know, i was really upset but i didn't know what to say either. what do you think? it's still bothering me some. Blessings, B.

A:  hi B. let me think this one out in question form...

* so...are other instruments that require an amplifier also not 'real' musical instruments? electric guitars not? how about electric violins or cellos? (they do exist!) how about acoustic/electric instruments? how about when a classically trained concert pianist jumps from his steinway to a electric keyboard - is the music he plays on the electric instrument suddenly 'not music' anymore? and if it's not, then what is it? or what about acoustic bass guitars? are they 'real', even though they're a direct variant of electric basses?
* or...maybe she's saying that electric basses aren't real because they 'require' something in order to be played (like electricity)? but why would electricity be the determining factor for musical instruments? is this a question of dependency and self-sufficiency? can a cello make music without a bow? how about without strings? don't all instruments require a whole range of supporting technologies in order to function musically?
* or...is she saying that electric musical instruments aren't 'real' because the music they play isn't 'real' music? is 'popular' music (rock and roll, blues, folk, country, etc.) not 'real' music? is classical music, traditionally the repertoire of cellos, the only kind of real music? what other kinds of music aren't 'really real'? which cultures aren't capable of producing music?
* or...does a real instrument have to exist for a few hundred years before finally being 'promoted' into 'instrument' status? so what was the cello before it became 'old enough' to become a 'real instrument'? furniture? a very large paperweight? and isn't the electric bass guitar a variant of guitars? or hasn't the whole 'guitar family' not been around long enough to qualify either?
* hmm...i dunno, B. maybe your girlfriend is right. oh no! i'm not playing a real instrument! aiee!       ~ mimi
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Q:  Dear Mimi, I've been visiting your site quite frequently lately and I'm always impressed with the quality of your photographs. You're an excellent photographer. But I was wondering why the quality of your pictures seem to be so much better than the pictures at other stores. I'm curious about how you take pictures. What kind of camera do you use? Do you use a flash? Any commnents on this would be appreciated. Cheers! H.S., Watertown, NY.

A:  thank you very much, that's very nice of you to say so. actually i'm not the one taking pictures most of the time though. it's usually jon. although i take pictures sometimes, i'm definately the worst picture taker of the three of us (you notice i didn't even call myself a photographer!) and i'll only do it if everyone else is busy or acting like lazy bozos. i decided that i dun like photography. i asked jon to comment on your questions though, since he's the one that's been taking most of the pictures lately:

     when i'm taking pictures of the basses, the thing that i'm thinking about most is what kind of photograph will provide people with the most information about the bass. that's why i like close-up pictures. you can see the dust, bumps, and so on when you're in close. i actually think that guitar stores take pictures from far away on purpose. they don't want you to see the bumps and scratches and dust because if you don't see it then you won't think about it. people usually don't think about it this way, but showing you a 'whole view' of a bass can easily function like an act of misdirection. it may seem as if you're being shown the bass, but of course you're only seeing the bass 'at one level'. most basses look pretty good from far away! obviously it's easier to sell basses like this. but when we started out, both mimi and i agreed to use lots of close up photography anyway. if you do this, you can see the different kinds of textures and materials of the basses. i tend to like this. as i'm taking pictures, i try to visualize what kind of image would help people imagine what the bass feels like when you touch or hold it.
     right now both mimi and i have been using two Fuji digital cameras (MX-2700) - it's a 'regular' consumer-level digital camera without a lot of bells and whistles but it seems to be okay for what we're doing. the camera has a flash but i don't use it. usually just the natural sunlight from the big window in my kitchen looks better. if you look at the picture below, you can see all the 'props' i use for photographing the basses - they include a small dinner table, a little bit of empty white wall, a guitar stand, a black cushion that i ususally use for sitting on (the thing on the chair), the bass's case (sometimes), and an old tablecloth. once in a while i may use a piece of white cardboard to reflect light where it's needed. that's pretty much it.
jon's picture

i'll have to say though, that jon and i have the same camera, but the pictures sure don't come out looking the same. *shrug*   ~mimi

update: since writing this mini-explanation, jon's written a much more extensive 'photo tips' page, specifically focusing on how to take pictures of your bass or guitar. you can see it by
clicking here.      [to the q&a index]

this doesn't have anything to do with basses or bunnies really but just thought i'd share... last sunday i got dragged to the museum. i don't usually like to go to museums, but once i was there i actually kind of enjoyed myself. i spent a lot of time looking at the asian art.

museum visit

i also took the digital camera along and i took a picture that i really like of a lotus flower that was floating in the pool in one of the museum courtyards. isn't it a beautiful flower? i must say the lotus is my all time favorite flower.

lotus flower

my friend also took me to the cemetary so i could take some flowers to my relatives' graves. i really like cemetaries in hawaii - everyone leaves such nice flowers. i took another picture of flowers there too.

cemetary flowers

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bunny picnic
we had our second annual BunnyBass picnic recently.. hmm...when was our first? anyhoo, there was lots of good yummy foods and we all had great fun playing our instruments, though we didn't make any good sounding music. next time we'll have to set a limit on how many basses can play at one time.

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Q:  I'm considering buying a 5 string bass, but I'm wondering about the 34" scale length. I keep hearing that 35" makes a big difference for the B string. I'd appreciate any feedback you'd have about the above... F.H.

A:  hi F., i'm happy to share my opinion, but please take it with a grain of salt - i know a lot of people will disagree with me on a lot of these points, so it may be good to ask around...

regarding 34" scale lengths on 5s, i have mixed feelings about it. there are so many factors that go into making a B string sound and feel good. of course, scale length is a major factor. in almost every instance, i feel that the added length makes the string feel tighter, and in most cases gives the low string added clarity. however, this is not to say that i haven't played 34" scale basses with an excellent B string. for instance, the basses that i've played recently with the nicest sounding B strings have both been 34" basses, not 35" - surprise! one was a Spector NS-5, the other was a Zon Legacy. there were great differences in how the B string felt on these two basses though - the Spector's B string felt nice and tight - basically the same in feel to the rest of its strings. the Zon had a slightly softer feel to the B string - not the same as the other strings, but it still _sounded_ excellent. when listening to the bass played through an amplifier, you wouldn't suspect that it was a soft feeling string. so while this wasn't something that bothered me (i felt that i could adjust to this), i'm quite sure this difference in feel may bother other bassists.

one thing that i haven't heard much from bassists regarding 35" scale length basses is how the additional inch changes the feel of the 'other' 4 strings (E, A, D & G). of course, everything else being equal, string tension increases as scale length increases. some people like this. i don't particularly like this. individual notes may have a more 'articulated' sound, but i notice that when i play a 35" bass my phrasing is subtly altered, my playing becomes a bit stiffer and less musical. i also don't particularly like the feel of the increased tension, especially on the higher strings. i don't think this is just me - i've also noticed 35/36" basses having this effect on other players too, although of course there are lots of players out there that play extended scale instruments with no problems at all. upright players, for example, handle a much longer scale length without (hopefully) sounding stiff, but then again, i have a feeling that this is because they learn on a very extended scale length from the very beginning. that is to say, i believe that this is something that is overcome quite naturally with lots of practice. i should also say that i don't feel this way about all extended-range electric basses. the Tung 6 we had a while back, for example, was a 35 incher (with the B string going on 36") and it played like butter. like i said, the sound and playability of a bass have to do with many factors, such as the bass's construction, bridge design, and also the neck. in my own (and very non- scientific) experiments with lots of neck swapping, i've come to the conclusion that the neck contributes A LOT to the feel and tone of the bass (i haven't read much about this - if any of you out there have something to say about this, please write me).

in a nutshell - i guess if i had my free choice of any 5 string bass out there, i'd probably take some time to find a 34" 5 string, looking for that one that plays and sounds great 'regardless' of it's shorter scale length. they do exist, no doubt about it, and i don't believe the current mindset of 'well if it were 35" it would sound even better!' - maybe, maybe not. in general i do think that an extended scale length does result in a clearer- sounding B, but i don't think that in itself automatically makes for a better instrument. 'good sound' is just SO subjective. oh yah, i also have smallish hands, so the playability issue is another thing that i have to consider...

anyhow, i guess that's about all i have to say about this for now. anyone with an opinion on this question, please contribute your point of view. come to think of it, i think i'll post this question to the message board, maybe that'll be helpful...? take care,
        ~ mimi      
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