Review: Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 4 HH

When we think of consistent and reputable instrument makers, one brand usually springs to mind straight away, and that’s Ernie Ball Music Man. Their legendary StingRay has been a mainstay in the rock, funk and jazz scenes alike for the past half century, and has been donned by bass icons such as Louis Johnson, Gail Ann Dorsey and Bernard Edwards to name just a few.

While the StingRay may be the most popular MusicMan instrument out there, it’s by no means their only solid bass. In fact, since 2003, EBMM have been producing various incarnations of their quirky-looking Bongo bass: a comparatively lighter and differently contoured instrument than the StingRay, but with the same amount of that characteristic punchiness.

The Bongo represents everything a 21st century bass guitar should be: well balanced, comfortable, resonant, and easy to play. The double-cutaway Basswood body design is its aesthetic signature, along with a 24 fret finished maple neck which offers unrestricted access for bassists who enjoy a solo up on high. The new 2021 Bongo, decked out in a cool Harvest Orange finish, boasts two EBMM humbucking pickups, a 4-band EQ, neodymium magnets and an 18V active preamp that equips the instrument with its gloriously resonant and percussive qualities.

The first thing that really struck me about the Bongo bass is how lightweight it is, so if you’re a gigging muso who spends a decent amount of time on stage with a strap hoisted over their nape, you’ll likely appreciate this instrument’s sheer portability.

In terms of sound, the Bongo’s four-band EQ means that you have a world of sonic possibilities at your fingertips, saving you the hassle of trekking over to your amp every time you want to switch up your tone on stage. I started off with all the EQ controls at the centre detent, and as I became more familiar with the playability of the instrument, I began to  experiment with the bass, mids and treble settings to great effect.

It’s no secret that Ernie BallMusic Man hold an untouchable reputation when it comes to crafting tactilely responsive instruments, and the Bongo is no exception to the rule. Even with a set of medium-gauge strings — which can sometimes be a tad slack depending on the bass — the Bongo’s set-up allows you to really dig into the strings to get the most out of those accents, or conversely, play lightly whilst still yielding a clear and even tone.

Moreover, the low end capabilities of this bass are an absolute game-changer: for those who regularly gravitate towards a P-Bass in order to cut through the mix, you’ll be delighted at how well the Bongo fares in this respect. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a more trebly sound, grab a plectrum and enjoy the steely vibes this bass has to offer.

One of the nicest features of the Bongo is the control that lets you pan between the two pickups:
the neck humbucker is a fair bit grittier than the bridge, and lets off an imposing growl that sounds otherworldly when treated with some fuzz or phasing. On the other hand, if you’re a slapper/popper looking for that clean, percussive StingRay sound, you’ll want to pan closer towards the bridge pickup.

The Bongo’s exceptionally lightweight Basswood body affords it some serious sustaining power, no matter what register you’re playing in. This is perfect for bassists who adhere to the Leland Sklar school of ‘Less Is More’: that is, relying on fewer notes and really letting the harmony do the talking. For the shredders out there, just switch over to that booming neck pickup and get stuck in.

Players who aren’t too accustomed with Ernie Ball basses may need some time to adjust to the fret size, especially if you’re coming from an instrument such as a Jazz Bass with a comparatively thinner neck. However, the slightly larger frets on the Bongo will almost certainly do wonders for your left hand agility in the long run, so just think of this as a technique bolsterer of sorts.

In terms of the aesthetics of the bass, some of the colour schemes on offer may not be everyone’s cup of tea, in which case you can always go for the classic Stealth Black design. Additionally, the contour and overall shape of the bass is fairly quirky, but I guess that’s just part of the left-field approach to guitar craftsmanship that sets Ernie Ball Music Man in a league of their own.

I’d honestly be hard-pressed to name another bass that’s as ergonomic yet versatile as the EBMM Bongo Bass HH. While it’s usually been associated with progressive metal bassists such as John Myung and Jari Kainulainen, I personally think that the Bongo has heaps more to offer across a variety of genres, and wouldn’t be surprised to see many a funk rocker sporting it in the not-too-distant future.

At its current price point, the Bongo may be a bit steep for some; however, if you’re after durability, portability and purity of tone, then it may well be worth some serious consideration.

Check out the Bongo 4 HH in all its glory over at Ernie Ball Music Man’s website.

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Check out the Fender Custom Shop’s Prestige Collection for 2021

Fender’s Custom Shop have pulled out all the stops today and unleashed the 2021 Prestige Collection, debuting twelve custom instruments made by some of the finest luthiers working today.

Each instrument in the Prestige Collection is handcrafted by one of the Custom Shop’s coveted Master Builders, and seeks to convey both the personal flair of each luthier and the exquisite build quality afforded by the Fender Custom Shop.

Summary

  • The 2021 Prestige Collection features twelve custom made models, including Telecasters, Stratocasters, Jazzmasters, P Basses and a hybrid Marauder / XII Electric.
  • All instruments are crafted by the Fender Custom Shop’s Master Builders.
  • Each instrument featured in the collection can also be purchased from the Fender Custom Shop.

For all the latest Product News, head here.

Yuriy Shishkov: Leaves of Tears Stratocaster

Embedded with a smattering of diamonds and diopside stones with a silver wire inlay surrounding the body, the Leaves of Tears Stratocaster is certainly one of the more opulent models to feature in the 2021 Prestige Collection. It also boasts gold hardware and a luxurious quilt maple Purple Burst top, while its lipstick tube pickups and sleek aesthetic just scream out class.

Scott Buehl: Acrylic Jazzmaster

A translucent model that functions as Master Builder Scott Buehl’s first-ever acrylic offset, this Jazzmaster features a flame maple neck and ebony fretboard for a striking contrast, while Josefina hand wound pickups making for a guitar that sounds just as good as it looks. Listen to Buehl run through the unique construction process of this one below.

Dale Wilson: Tapestry Telecaster

A collaborative effort between Master Builder Dale Wilson and LA-based visual artist Pamelina, the Tapestry Telecaster places an eye-catching graphic atop of a flame maple / swamp ash body with a hint of burst around the edges of the guitar. It also boasts a flame maple neck and Josefina hand wound OBG and Twisted Tele pickups for a tone that’ll cut through in any live scenario.

Jason Smith: Custom ‘60s P Bass Special

Touted as a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the P Bass and a tribute to ye olde Western ghost towns, the Prestige Custom ’60s P Bass boasts a roasted pine body reclaimed from an old elevator in Minnesota, complete with nail and bolt holes. It’s also loaded with a set of Josefina PJ pickups and a tooled leather hand-painted pickguard, and features a slimmer headstock commonly found on old school Tele basses.

Carlos Lopez: Double Neck Marauder

The whackiest model to be featured in the Prestige Collection, the Double Neck Marauder combines two curios from Fender’s past – the Electric XII and Marauder – and places them into one double-necked beast, complete with an ash body and quarter-sawn maple necks. The guitar was created in collaboration with Paul Frank and features Curtis Novak-built pickups with on-off slider and kill switches, making for a guitar that’s capable of producing some wildly versatile tones.

Kyle McMillin: Custom Burled Redwood Strat

Taking design cues from resin art, the Custom Burled Redwood Strat sees Master Builder Kyle McMillin draw upon furniture and woodworking techniques to craft a visually stunning double-humbucker Stratocaster. With a book-matched redwood top, two-piece roast ash body and AAAA flame maple neck, the guitar also features two Curtis Novak GTX humbuckers with tortoiseshell tops – honestly, this thing deserves to live in the Louvre.

Todd Krause: Box Top Tele

Influenced by the traditional methods used to build a speaker cab, the Box Top Tele features an alder body with a AAAA Birdseye maple top and Honeyburst finish that’s fused into the body with a box joint. Other features include a roasted AAA flame maple neck and hand wound Josefina OBG and Twisted Tele pickups, while the contrasting woods used on the guitar’s body give it a sweet checkered look.

Greg Fessler: Tamo Ash Tele

Complete with a luxurious figured Tamo Ash top and back, this Greg Fessler-made Telecaster boasts two Seymour Duncan Vintage P90s and a AAA roasted Birdseye maple neck. Considering Tamo Ash is no longer available on the market, it goes without saying that this Telecaster is a bit of a rare beast, and look like an absolute dream to play.

Chris Fleming: Jazz Telecaster

An amazing tip of the hat to the archtops of old, the Chris Fleming Jazz Telecaster features a spruce top with a chambered mahogany body, as well as a mahogany neck and Brazilian rosewood fretboard. It’s also fitted with a custom-made Fender Jazz Tailpiece and a Tilted Snake headstock as well as a lone neck humbucker and volume control, and is said to be one of the last instruments Fleming will make prior to his retirement this year – and what a way to go.

Vincent Van Trigt: Custom Flamingo Sunset Tele

Featuring artwork by Ian Ward, the Custom Flamingo Sunset Telecaster puts a colourful twist on the Tele by transporting it straight to Happy Hour with its summery design. It features cocktail bar fretboard inlays and a matching painted headstock, as well as a roasted ash body and custom wound Josefina ’63 pickups.

Paul Waller: Sugar Surprise Strat

This Stratocaster sees the Fender Custom Shop teaming up with LA artist Pamelina for another unique design, with its paisley Sugar Skull artwork being luminescent under dark light and providing it with a sweet 3D appearance. It’s also modelled on the specs of a 1963 Strat with an Oval C-shaped neck and roasted alder body, with Josefina hand wound Texas Special single coils allowing access to a bevy of classic tones.

Dennis Galuszka: Custom ‘62 Precision Bass

Encapsulating the appearance of a lone dead tree standing tall in a forest, Dennis Galuszka’s Custom ’62 Precision Bass features the artwork of pyrography artist Madeline Hanlin upon its body. It plays host to a typical alder body and maple neck with split-coil single coil pickups, while a dead tree design also adorns the fretboard of the instrument.

Check out the 2021 Prestige Collection in full over at the Fender Custom Shop today. 

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Splendour In The Grass has been rescheduled to November 2021

Splendour In The Grass’s 20th Anniversary has been rescheduled again from July to November this year.

Keep up to date with all the latest touring news here.

International headliners Gorillaz, The Strokes and Tyler, The Creator are available to perform at the festival when it goes down from Friday 19 – Sunday 21 November, and is highly likely to be their first international shows since the pandemic.

The rest of the lineup is waiting to be confirmed, but no doubt will be announced soon as the new dates are locked in. Whether or not any of the acts included on the original 2020 lineup, including Disclosure, King Krule, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Midnight Oil, Glass Animals and King Princess, will appear on the revised lineup is yet to be disclosed.

“Huge thanks to our headliners for being flexible and to our amazing Splendour community for their ongoing support. We miss you and we can guarantee that when we see you in November it’s going to be worth the wait!” said Splendour In The Grass co-founders Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco.

“We had so hoped to bring you Splendour’s 20th Anniversary edition this July but we can’t stage the event that you know and love within the current restrictions and international border closures.”

The co-founders urge ticket holders to keep their tickets for Splendour In The Grass Spring edition as it’s “the best way to support your favourite artist or event right now.”

Current ticket holders who aren’t able to attend the new dates can apply for a refund now. Moshtix will contact all account holders with more information.

For more details head to the Splendour In The Grass website.

Splendour In The Grass 2021 will go down from November 19 – 21 at the North Byron Bay Parklands. Buy your tickets from Moshtix today.

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Gear Rundown: Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon

Gear Rundown: Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon

Released back in 1973, it’s undeniable that Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon changed the course of popular music forever.

Fusing studio experimentation and technological revolutions such as tape manipulation and synthesisers with hauntingly brilliant songs featuring underlying themes of consumerism, mental health and the modern age, the album spent 741 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 from 1973 to 1988, and influenced millions of musicians all around the world.

Recorded in London’s famous Abbey Road Studios, we take a deep dive into the plethora of equipment used by Pink Floyd to record one of the finest albums in music history.

Discover more Gear Rundowns on classic albums here.

Guitars

‘The Black Strat’ – 1969 Fender Stratocaster 

Gilmour with The Black Strat circa. 1973

Known by fans and music lovers as ‘The Black Strat‘, guitarist David Gilmour’s modified Fender is undoubtedly one of the most iconic Stratocasters of the ’70s, and its role across The Dark Side Of The Moon revolutionised the electric guitar as a studio instrument.

While it’s now famously decked out with a black pickguard, during the recording of The Dark Side Of The Moon, Gilmour still had the original white pickguard installed on the guitar.

The instrument also had the original stock pickups during recording, although at one point Gilmour had a Gibson PAF wired into the middle pickup position.

Key modifications to the guitar included the addition of a ’63 neck, as well as a custom switch which allowed Gilmour to blend the tones of all three pickups at once, an effect which can be heard at various points across the record.

Bill Lewis Custom Guitar

Acquired in California while on the Atom Heart Mother Tour in 1970, Gilmour used a custom made guitar by renowned luthier Bill Lewis for various solos on The Dark Side Of The Moon, most notably employing the full 24 frets of the instrument in the latter section of ‘Money’.

Featuring a Honduran Mahogany body, dual humbuckers, and an ebony fretboard, Gilmour still owns the instrument to this day.

Fender 1000 Twin Neck Pedal Steel

Tuned to an open G ( D G D G B E ) in the studio, Gilmour employed this twin neck pedal steel to record the slide guitar on ‘Breathe’ and the incredible ‘The Great Gig In The Sky.’

Bass

1970 Fender Precision Bass

Purchased in 1970 after his previous instrument was stolen on tour, Roger Waters’ Precision Bass almost matches Gilmour’s black Strat at the time, although both instruments would be extensively reworked later.

Throughout the recording of The Dark Side Of The Moon, Waters modified the bass by adding a Charvel neck with a maple fretboard, as well as adding a set of Kluson tuners to the new neck for extra stability.

Amplifiers 

To achieve the creamy, saturated tones heard across the album, Gilmour used a selection of Hiwatt DR103 All Purpose 100W heads, which were fitted out with Mullard EL34 power tubes and ECC83 pre-amp tubes.

For cleaner tones, Gilmour used a silverface Fender Twin Reverb combo, ocassionally plugging into Maestro Rover and Leslie Rotating Speaker Cabinets to create a swirling, ethereal guitar tone.

Waters’ Hiwatt Head

On bass, Waters plugged into a Hiwatt Custom 100 head which fed two WEM Super Starfinder 4×12 cabinets.

Waters also employed the use of a HH Electronic IC 100 solid state preamp, with the tremolo and echo from the unit being a key element midway through ‘One Of These Days’ from the band’s 1971 album Meddle.

Effects

The use of effects units across The Dark Side Of The Moon totally changed the way that musicians approached recording guitars.

Instead of focusing on a dry, overdriven tone that was popular at the time, Gilmour emphasised his expressive playing by treating his guitar with several effects units, making him one of the first guitarists to fully make use of the wonders of a pedalboard.

Gilmour’s EMS Synthi Hi-Fli Prototype

Gilmour’s main tools throughout the recording of the album included the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face (heard on ‘Money’ and ‘Time’), a Colorsound Powerboost overdrive, a Univox Uni-Vibe, a Binson Echorec II (which made use of a magnetic disk as opposed to a tape), a Kepex Tremolo Processor (heard on ‘Money’), and an EMS Synthi Hi-Fli, a prototype multi-effects unit with effects such as ring modulation, octave shifting, and auto-wah built in.

Live, Gilmour added a Dearmond volume pedal and a Vox Wah pedal, which can be seen above with his Fuzz Face and Uni-Vibe.

Keyboards / Synthesisers 

Probably one of the most groundbreaking aspects of The Dark Side Of The Moon was keyboardist Richard Wright’s extensive experimentation with synthesisers.

A relatively new musical concept at the time, Wright fully embraced the synthesiser as the sound of the future, with classic synths such as the Moog Minimoog and ARP String Ensemble being heard across the record.

In addition, Wright experimented with processing effects through his other keyboards, notably plugging a wah-wah pedal into his Wurlitzer electric piano to sweep filter frequencies on some tracks.

In this image of Wright’s live setup from around the recording of The Dark Side Of The Moon, you can see Wright using an ARP String Ensemble, a Farfisa organ, a Wurlitzer electric piano, a Hohner D6 Clavinet, two Minimoogs, and a Hamond B3 Organ.

Gilmour and Wright toy with an EMS VCS-3

In addition to the aforementioned synths, Pink Floyd made extensive use of the EMS VCS-3, an analogue synthesiser created in 1969 which was a staple of prog-rock bands in the ’70s.

Gilmour, Waters, and Wright used the powerful oscillators, filters, noise generator and sequencer to create an array of electronic sounds across the record, such as the droning heartbeat that opens and closes the album.

The use of the EMS VCS-3  revolutionised the way synths were used in rock music, and above all, simply proved Pink Floyd were a cut above the rest of their time.

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Michael Gudinski, Mushroom Group founder and Australian music industry pioneer, has died aged 68

Michael Gudinski, one of the most important men in the development of the Australian music industry, has passed away overnight at the age of 68.

Gudinski, who founded Mushroom Group at the age of 20 in 1972, would go on to become the driving force behind a number of important publishing, touring and production companies throughout the 20th and 21st century, including Mushroom Records, Frontier Touring, Harbour Agency and more.

Renowned around the world for his passionate attitude towards cultivating homegrown talent and putting Australian acts on the world stage, Gudinski played an integral role in shaping the careers of artists such as Kylie Minogue, Skyhooks, Split Enz and Jimmy Barnes, with many of Australia’s most iconic albums being released under his eye.

In June 2006, Gudinski was made a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for his contributions to the Australian music industry, and was inducted into Music Victoria’s Hall of Fame in 2013.

Just last year, Gudinski took the front foot in the Australian music industry’s response to COVID-19, developing programs and events such as Music From The Home Front, The Sound and The State of Music to continue supporting the industry throughout its darkest days.

‘Michael was renowned for his loyalty and dedication.  His ability to achieve the unachievable against unsurmountable odds was proven time and again and spoke to his absolute passion for his career and life,’ a statement from Mushroom Group reads today.

‘Michael’s family loved him immensely and Michael in turn adored his wife Sue, son Matt and partner Cara, daughter Kate and husband Andrew and their children Nina-Rose and Lulu.  They meant everything to him, and he was immensely proud of them.  Michael often referred to his 200+ staff as the Mushroom Family, with many having clocked decades in his employment.

‘Michael’s legacy will live on through his family and the enormously successful Mushroom Group – an enduring embodiment of decades of passion and determination from an incredible man.

‘The family respectfully ask for privacy in this incredibly difficult time and thank everyone for their support.’

Vale, Gudinski – we’re forever indebted to your work.

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A Jeff Buckley biopic is set to enter production this year

A film centred around the life and career of ’90s alternative icon Jeff Buckley has been confirmed for development this year, as reported by Variety. 

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Titled Everybody Here Wants You, the film will mark the directorial debut of Orian Williams, who previously produced the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic Control and has acted as producer on the upcoming film Creation Stories, which stars Trainspotting’s Ewan Bremner as Creation Records (My Bloody Valentine, Oasis) founder Alan McGee.

Actor and musician Reeve Carney has also been confirmed to assume the role of Buckley in the biopic, which is purported to start filming sometime this Spring via Culmination Productions.

Everybody Here Wants You will be produced by Buckley’s mother Mary Guibert and Alison Raykovich, who currently manages the Buckley estate and acts as VP of Jeff Buckley Music. The film has also been granted full support from the Buckley estate, and as such, will be allowed full access to his music for use throughout the film.

“This will be the only official dramatization of Jeff’s story which I can promise his fans will be true to him and to his legacy,” Guibert said of Everybody Here Wants You in a statement shared today.

“Thankfully, my determination to assemble all the right participants, no matter how long it took, is about to culminate in the best way possible.”

The son of ’70s folk troubadour Tim Buckley, Jeff rose to the spotlight in 1994 with the release of his debut album Grace, which featured singles such as ‘Last Goodbye’, ‘Lover, You Should Have Come Over’ and ‘Hallelujah’. The acclaimed singer and virtuosic guitarist passed away in 1997 after drowning in the Mississippi River at the age of 30, with his unfinished posthumous sophomore album Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk being released the following year.

Revisit our Jeff Buckley Gear Rundown here.

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