Monday, 30 June 2014

Bassist magazine feature, January 2000 - "My bass(es) are... Four Wals"

My Basses are...   Four Wals

Steve Weston wanted a Wal. Then he wanted another. And another. Then? Well, we'll let him tell you...

I will never forget the first time I heard a Wal, it was in 1983 and being very ably played by Colin Bass of Camel. I'd had a number of basses over the years, Rickenbacker, Fender, Ibanez etc, but had never quite managed to capture that elusive sound that I wanted from any of them. Anyway there I was watching Camel and I was suddenly being blown away by this amazing bass, loud in the mix without being overpowering, driving, clear and very tight. I decided then and there that I had to have one.
Anyway as it turned out, deciding I had to have one was the easy bit. It actually took me two years of saving, gigging on reduced curry and beer intake (slightly) before I had enough cash to realise my dream, a 1984 Custom 4 string purchased from a reluctant seller in London.

The bass as it was then had a Mahogany body, Electric Wood standard, with Walnut facings and an ebony fretless fingerboard, great looks, and yes, it had that great fretless Wal sound which suited me exactly at the time due to the material we were playing. I later had luthier Pete the Fish at Electric Wood make me a fretted neck so I had some opportunity to change style from time to time. In one form or the other it was my only bass for the next 6/7 years and it never let me down once.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Wal MB4 midi bass

The Wal MB4 MIDI Bass.

The Wal MB4 midi-bass was a relatively short lived collaboration between Electric Wood and Australian bass player/designer Steve Chick.  The system allowed a bass player to control a midi synthesizer directly from the bass with both accurate note tracking with immediate sounding notes.  A common problem for early guitar and bass to midi converters was the so-called "midi-delay" the almost imperceptible (but still noticeable and distracting) delay between hitting a note and the note sounding. This was down to the physics of the leading technology used at the time for sensing the notes.

The main sensor on most synth controllers at the time was the so called "hex pickup". These thin pickups could usually be seen squeezed in between the bridge pickup and the bridge itself - indeed, kits were available allowing you to stick a hex pickup on your own favourite guitar. The triggering delay was caused by the time taken for the midi hex pick-up to sense the note being played. All the information about that note was conveyed to the midi converter by the hex pickup and therein lay its weakness. To sense the pitch of the note, the pickup needed to listen to a few full vibrations of the string. This wasn't such a problem when shredding away at the top of a guitar neck. The time taken for the string to vibrate a couple of times was minimal and imperceptible. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Video Demos

Just what do all those knobs do?

We Wal fans all know just how versatile the Wal bass is - largely down to the visionary design of the active electronics. There are so few other basses that have ever used the type of filters which a Wal Custom bass uses. So if there is a downside to the versatility upside of the Wal tone circuit then it is that the way in which they work may not be familiar. They aren't immediately intuitive to all.

The Wal Custom tone controls are described in more detail in the page on this blog that covers those models. But the drafting of those instructions aren't exactly user friendly. However, the beauty of the internet is that there is a wealth of info out there, particularly on YouTube. 

Here are a few videos of Wals in action. Enjoy.

First up is a video by Jaymi Millard, a serial Wal user and serial groovy bass reviewer on his YouTube channel. Here he is reviewing a 1985 Mk I four string...

Monday, 9 June 2014

My basses: non-Wal basses...

Not all my basses are Wals (or even British) but they all have a story to tell. Featured here on this post are my Frankenjazz project bass which was based on a Signature Jazz Bass I bought off eBay, my Tony Revell hand build acoustic bass and my first ever bass, an Aria SB700 from 1981.

Signature Jazz Bass copy: my Frankenjazz...

Monday, 2 June 2014

My basses: 1978 Wal Pro series bass - PB1291

1978 Wal Pro series bass - PB1291: 

My Pro bass is a "Pro IIE" which was, according to records at Electric Wood, completed on 24 September 1979.  The Pro Series was Wal's first production bass line (hence "Pro") and the IIE signifies twin pickups and active circuitry. Like my Mark I Custom Series Wal this is another beautifully built bass. It has a translucent (strawberry) red finish over a solid ash body that the photos simply do not do justice to.  It is so rich! The body shape and size is similar to the "Custom Series" basses although the forearm chamfer is much more angular than on the Custom Bass. The neck is much the same construction as the newer Wall basses, although with a larger "paddle" style headstock.  However, the neck profiles are quite different - the "Pro" has a comfortable and fast C shaped neck while the "Custom" is rather more "V shaped".  In addition, the neck features carbon fibre stiffening rods within the construction of the neck.