Now that the dust has settled on another NAMM show am once again drawn back to December of 1950 when an unassuming bespectacled guy named Clarence opened up his case to roaring laughter. “Nobody will EVER play THAT” was the consensus. The instrument Clarence Leonidas Fender had just unveiled was, of course the worlds first solid body electric bass. It was also the worlds first bass with frets, which is why he dubbed it the “Precision” bass.
Yep, NAMM is always like a giant crystal ball we can look into and view the future of our industry. Turns out more than a few folks DID play Leo’s bass, and we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation were it not for Mr. Fender and his crazy plank with strings!
So, what did the NAMM crystal ball reveal THIS time around? Two overriding themes came into focus:
1) Bass gear is STILL getting smaller and lighter weight, and that’s good news indeed for the gigging bassist. Possibly just as cool is the fact that the gear is NOT sacrificing tone for weight and/or size. The new breed of ultra-light weight bass gear powered by Class-D amp technology and driving air using magnetic fields generated by Neodymium magnet material actually sounds phenomenal. 2) The U-Bass (Uke bass) is here to stay. Yes folks, what was seen by many as a curiosity just a scant few years ago is now the darling of the NAMM show. While many companies are now making ukulele bass models, the originator, Kala, showed some serious dominance at the show. With 4,5, and 6-string models in solid body as well as acoustic models and in many shapes, wood choices, and scale lengths … it’s fair to say there is now a u-bass for EVERYONE. Oh, and if that’s not enough they’ve seriously lowered the entry price-point too.
So the takeaway for working bass players is this: Just admit that that old workhorse rig of a decade or so back might be ready to be put out to pasture … and this part hurts … it ain’t gonna be worth much. Nobody wants bulky, heavy rigs these days, and the price reflects that.
And last, bite the bullet and get a uke-bass (if you are still among the unbelievers). Pick one that fits your budget and music style and don’t look back. You can thank me latter. When you walk into your next Jazz Club gig with a fretless uke-bass and a 1x8 10-pound combo instead of your trusty upright and 4x10 rig your back will be crazy happy. When folks gather around you to marvel at how on earth you are making such amazing tones from such a miniscule rig you’ll feel that crazy happy feeling all the way to the tips of your toes; I’m speaking from experience here, it’s totally awesome. Now go forth use this knowledge and and thrive!