Two camps, two schools of thought
By Jon Liebman
Week of February 3, 2020
It was fun running into fellow Detroiter Al Turner at the NAMM show last month. As soon as I saw him, I asked if he would do a follow-up interview with me. He immediately agreed, and we published his hot-off-the-presses interview this week.
After listening to Al tell me about what he’s been up to with his recordings, working with Earl Klugh and Kem, future projects, etc., we got to talking about bass gear. When the subject of amps came up, Al told me about his rig, and also about how much he likes using in-ear monitors in addition to his onstage amp.
That kind of setup isn’t really new. The trend I’ve been spotting more and more, though, is people using in-ears instead of an amp, even in arena-sized venues.
Then my mind went to the opposite end of the spectrum: What about practicing? When you practice at home, do you amplify your sound in any way, or is it just you and the bass?
There are definitely two schools of thought on this subject.
We hear many bass players incessantly reciting their mantra, “Sound comes from the hands.” Others, however, argue that their true sound just can’t be heard without an amp. Sometimes, even, more than just an amp.
Personally, I seldom if ever use an amp to practice, as I don’t find it necessary. My guitar-playing son, on the other hand, always used to insist that he needed to practice with his amp, or else his sound just wasn’t authentic. (Subsequently, the “Dad” in me kept asking him to please turn it down!)
If your sound is defined by a bunch of processors, and you just can’t make anything happen without your pedalboard, rackmount modules, and whatever else you need, I get that.
But I’m talking about the music, not the effects. Can you just practice the music till you’ve got it down, then inject the processors and stuff after the fact?
“What about getting a good tone?” you ask. Yes, of course. That’s an absolute must. But again, that’s after the fact, and it’s not what I’m talking about.
Here’s my real question:
How important is it to play through an amp (and stuff) when you’re practicing your scales and modes, grooving, soloing, improvising, string crossings, sight reading or anything else that’s music-related?
Maybe I’m missing something, but I say, “Not at all.”
How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Al here.