James Jamerson’s Uncluttered Bass Rig

I’ve written before about my constant battle with an affliction called Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). It’s an almost compulsive need to purchase new equipment in the firm belief that the new item, be it a guitar, amp, or effect pedal, will be the spark that ignites stale monotony into inspired genius. Sometimes it works, but I find that more often, buying new equipment is just a substitute for doing the hard work required to be creative.

This isn’t unique to musicians. Most hobbies require some type of equipment, and therefore present the temptation to acquire more or better gear. We’ve covered the topic of breaking up with a hobby, but an alternative is to simply try to do more with less.

Over the weekend I happened to watch a fascinating documentary called Standing in the Shadows of Motown and I was inspired by the minimal amount of equipment that James Jamerson used. His bass playing on hit songs such as “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” helped define the Motown sound, and completely revolutionized the role of bass in popular music. Jamerson’s influence permeates so much of modern music that it would be nearly impossible to list it all, yet his bass rig was very minimalist. Just an upright acoustic bass, and later his 1962 Fender Precision Bass were all he used for most of his studio recordings. The bass was simply plugged directly into the mixing console.

One of my resolutions for 2010 is to buy less hobby-related equipment. Instead, I’m going to try to follow Jamerson’s example, and look for ways to do more with less.

17 Comments for “James Jamerson’s Uncluttered Bass Rig”

  1. posted by lorna on

    I agree.
    I love to do craft, and like a lot of craftpeople, in the end, my hobby became buying supplies for my hobby.
    I also resolve to use up much of what I have and have a good look at my work before buying too much more.
    I believe less is more………….rewarding.

  2. posted by Lose That Girl on

    My hobby is genealogy — which requires the accumulation of documents, photos and other mementos. It’s great to scan and keep things digitally but there is something to holding the actual item in your hands. It’s a losing battle at times.

  3. posted by Mary Canfield on

    Oooo! I have Standing in the Shadows of Motown on my list. I can’t wait to see it!

    My husband is a drummer, so he has a lot of pieces. Big pieces! He also has a piano and a keyboard, also big pieces. However, he doesn’t have a whole lot else, so I really can’t complain. I’m the one with the most clutter! :(

  4. posted by Anita on

    I’ve been trying to break my boyfriend of this habit. We’re both amateur photographers, and he’s constantly drooling over new cameras, lenses, tripod heads and pretty much any kind of photo and lighting equipment in lieu of actually going out and shooting. He’s hasn’t got tons of gear, true, but what he does have is very good quality and is more than enough for most of his purposes.

    For Christmas, I got him Jim Krause’s Photo Idea Index (http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obid.....tterer-20/ 2 frames and a print card from our regular photo printing shop, and challanged him to a “photo of the month” project whereby we’d go out for a photo walk together at least once a month (though I’m aimimg for every week for myself), and we’d each put our best shot of the month in the frame. I’m hoping that’ll get us both more inspired…

  5. Avatar of

    posted by Sky on

    My husband is a tool fanatic! Every new job requires new tools. He has so many that he can’t find what he needs so he buys more. YIKES!! One day, I will organize the garage and he will be shocked at the duplicates he has! LOL!

  6. posted by Loren on

    I hobby as a crafter/drawer/painter general artist too but I realized I had WAY more stuff than I would ever need. I gave away all my acrylic paints (that I hadn’t touched in 12 months) in favor of a good set of water colors and a set of markers. Because that’s basically all I ever use. I also managed to give away BAGS of cheap yarn (I couldn’t possibly have used it all) with the promise that anything purchased in the future would be good quality and serve a purpose.

  7. posted by OogieM on

    To Anita – Why not also check out @dailyshoot on Twitter? Every day a new assignment is posted to your twitter account and you are supposed to upload your photo for the day someplace (I use Flickr) and twitter a message about it with the assignment hashtag. You can go to http://dailyshoot.com/ to see the most recent uploads and also see the history of previous photos.

    I got a new camera for Christmas and I’m doing this exercise at least for a while to force me to learn all the new features of my new camera.

    On other crafting. I scrapbook, knit, spin, weave, quilt, sew all of which have large equipment needs. My goal is to use up all my supplies this year but I can still buy tools if I plan to use them on at least 2 projects. I also did an inventory of scrapbook supplies and am working on the fiber stuff so I really know what I have. Ravelry is great for keeping track of your fiber inventory.

  8. posted by Mike on

    Jamerson had a great point, one lost on gearhead musicians today. A quality bass should sound pretty good plugged buck naked into the amp all by itself.

    One of my basses passes this test; the other does not, and needs an effects pedal to sound good. My electric guitars are terrible in the nude, but my Ovation acoustic sounds brilliant plugged or unplugged. It’s all in the quality of the instrument.

  9. posted by Charley on

    As a performing musician i can relate. I scaled down last year so that I have one really nice acoustic guitar, an amp/PA, a really nice electric guitar, and an electric bass. All three can be played thru my amp/PA. No pedals. I dumped alot of guitars last year and, thanks to the depreciation that occurs similar to a used car, it made me quite angry to lose that much money. That keeps me from acquiring again.

    – Charley

  10. posted by chacha1 on

    “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” is A GREAT MOVIE. And the tip about making do with less is good too. :-)

    I have an ongoing control in place, I’m not allowed to shop for craft/art supplies unless a) I have used something up completely or b) I need something specific for a time-sensitive project or c) I’ve completed a sizable project. And even then I have a spending cap.

    I spent years accumulating all sorts of craft/art stuff, gradually upgrading as my skills improved, and ended up shipping boxes of it to my sister for use in her middle-school art classes … she had an annual supply budget of $300, can you believe it? For five classes a day.

    Anyway, I think most of us only have time/talent to excel at one art or craft … figuring out which one is the most important/enjoyable for us should precede any reorganization, then we know how to focus our collections.

  11. posted by Magchunk on

    Totally reminds me of my dad, a drummer. Granted, even a basic drum kit has many pieces (and he ABHORS electronic drums). His hobby is restoring old drums and reselling them (at some point, when he’s done playing with them!). So the music room at my folk’s house is stuffed to the brim with drums and drum parts. It’s finally starting to drive me mom batty, so I imagine this will start to thin out in 2010 but man he sure has fun with it.

    My hobbies (writing, reading, interior design obsession) are more paper-based. But home improvement supplies are starting to creep in. Time to make sure I’m keeping only the essentials!

  12. posted by Thirtysomething Finance on

    I’ve been a guitarist for 15 years or so and know your GAS pain all too well! I recently sold off a bunch of boutique pedals (and am trying to sell a bunch more) and streamlined to a Line 6 M-13 multi-effect board. For an amateur guitarist like me, it’s good enough and would be more than enough for just about any guitarist to get by. It’s good to unclutter sometimes!

  13. posted by Jim DuBois on

    I am an artist, and find sometimes I get the most out of a simple basic brush or pen and some regular paper. It helps me concentrate on the essentials to not be overwhelmed by my tools.

  14. posted by Dave on bass on

    I am a bassist myself, and while I’ve had my bouts with GAS (half a dozen basses, packed pedalboard and multiple amp rigs? about 5 years ago, absolutely), I am currently pared way down and just as happy. I have only one bass right now – recently returned to 4-string after years of 6s, for one thing – and my only amp is a Phil Jones Briefcase, a 100-watt combo with a pair of 5″ speakers which sounds great even though it won’t fill a gig on its own, I have a tuner and OD pedal as well, but am even replacing those with a single unit that does a couple things. It’s so nice to be able to just carry everything in one trip, plus I’m more inclined to want to play a small venue these days anyway – maybe I’m just gettin’ old prematurely (I’m 32).

  15. posted by mamalace on

    I thought this was so funny and timely. My husband and myself actually own a music retail store and even though we resell the stuff my husband still has GAS as most of our customers do. It ebbs and flows through life it seems, younger musicians want all the cool stuff, then after you gigged around for 20 years you learn to do with less. But what I tell mostly wives (as women seem to be happy with one guitar), there are WAY worse things your husband could be doing with the money!

  16. posted by Anita on

    @OogieM – thanks for the idea! It’s always great to find out about photography resources I didn’t know existed :)

    My schedule is pretty packed right now, so I’m not sure if I can stick to a daily photo project; I am, however, trying to do a Project 52 type of thing based on the Photo Idea Index.

    Also: if you’re looking for another good learning resource, I’d recommend Digital Photography School (http://digital-photography-school.com/). They have good articles and a fun forum, plus weekly assignments and weekend photo challenges to keep you shooting. Have fun with your new camera!!

  17. posted by True Up » Archive » Textile Stew: 1/27/10 on

    [...] loved this article on “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” on Unclutterer … not at all about fabric but oh so applicable to our [...]

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