Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To Change or Not to Change

The time to enter the studio is near, and I'm being forced to make a decision that I finally voiced with Daniel (He needs a nickname to distinguish him from Mr. Catsnatcher. That's how we roll. When you have 2 Matts, make one of them "Mattfi," but I digress...). I have been exceedingly pleased with my bass tones. After we played the first Distractions show back in '07, I bought a new amp and changed the original strings on my bass. I don't know when I felt I was sounding better than when I was playing a much more expensive bass through a much bigger and more expensive vintage amp, but it was shortly thereafter.

Now, on the way into the studio, I'm trying to decide if I should change my strings or not. The argument not to change stems from James Jamerson, who recorded all of the electric bass parts for Motown on one set of strings on the same bass. They sound great with a very worn-in sound. With that in mind, since I'm happy with the sound I'm getting, why change it? The other side of the argument is Mike Watt, who breaks strings so regularly in his live shows that he is definitely always playing on a new set of strings. I would say that I hope my bass sounds for this record mimic Double Nickels on the Dime more than Motown, and I'm also afraid that the tone I love so much won't come through on the record as it definitely didn't on Whimsical in Reverse (though, admittedly, we're playing in a completely different ballgame now).

But the conundrum doesn't stop there. A bass doesn't usually sound like a bass should with new strings on it. There's a metallic sound in the way the strings pronounce slurs when you don't carefully move your fingers along them, more like an acoustic guitar does.

I plan on buying new strings this evening and popping in a movie while I change them, but the reservations I have are not completely done away with. And who can remember what gauge or brand of strings to buy from one time to the next if one waits so long to change them?

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