12 essential live bass playing tips

We've all been caught out at gigs for some of the most stupid reasons. Assuming that you've arrived with all gear present here are a few suggestions to help prevent a gig from becoming memorable for all the wrong reasons.

  • Always use a good quality instrument cable - don't skimp on this. Cheap cables introduce noise, reduce the lower frequency response and are prone to breaking down. Same goes for cheap jack plugs if you make or repair your own.
  • Always loop your cable through your guitar strap and round the amp handle. Standing on your lead and unplugging yourself or walking towards the front of the stage and disconnecting yourself is something no player should ever experience.
  • If you're working with a PA crew then always be as friendly and patient as possible with all involved. They hold the power to make you sound great or rubbish out front so it's not worth taking the risk of upsetting them.
  • If using supplied backline always check that the master volume (and input volume if there's a separate one) is down before you plug into the amp head or combo. Many a sound engineer has suffered near heart failure when an open circuit is plugged into. This could upset him/her too (see above).
  • If you're working from a setlist then be sure the song titles are big enough to see during the show. Don't rely on ballpoint pens or anything red as most coloured lights turn this invisible. Black marker is usually the best bet particularly if the list is on the floor. Hide it behind your monitor if you can.
  • Always carry adjustment keys for the bridge saddle on your bass. There is far more vibration present in a bass guitar than a regular six-string electric and this means screws tend to move and your intonation can be compromised quite a lot so regularly check your set-up.
  • Always carry a torch. Even when spotlights are on, plugging leads into the back of your amp and cabinet can be a case of feeling your way in the dark. When your other half wants to get you a present ask for a Maglite as they still look cool.
  • Always carry spares. Check tuner battery regularly and if it's getting low, change it. Take along a second bass in case you break a string and a set of strings, particularly if you don't carry a spare instrument.
  • Don't lean your bass or spare against your rig as someone will jolt it and give it a dent. Always use a stand.
  • Never put drinks on top of your amplification. Many an amp head has died in a flash as spilt liquid seeps within and causes a short circuit. Nasty business.
  • Always try to have your combo or speaker cabinet placed squarely on the floor of the stage. Tilting it back or putting it on the drum riser will alter its characteristics in many ways, mostly bad.
  • Stage lights can be blinding so always remember where your foot pedals are. Stepping back on them accidentally or tripping over them is the ultimate indignity.