How I EQ my Basses

Tone is a highly subjective matter of taste with no universal rights and wrongs. How you should approach the tone of your bass depends on many factors such as your gear, technique, band, style of music, acoustics and size of the stage & venue, etc. I can’t guide you through a walkthrough of absolute tonal success, but I will talk about my approach which might inspire you to develop your own.

Please remember that a good tone starts with a good setup; check How I Setup My Basses if you need to.

Principles

I do my main tonal setup by leaving my bass flat and tweaking the EQ of the amp. I use the EQ of my bass for minor tweaks during the gig, which involves tiny boost & cuts here and there (we will talk about this later). The idea is, it is hard (sometimes impossible) to turn back to your amp, tweak the sound, and get back to playing. But it is very easy to make a small adjustments via the onboard EQ with a small hand gesture.

Another reason is; once you cut a frequency, you can’t put it back any more. Think of old dirty strings that don’t ring that well any more – no matter how much you boost your treble, you can’t make them sound sparky when slapping. The same applies to your bass EQ. If you cut some frequencies onboard, you can’t put them back on the amp. Therefore, having a flat EQ on the bass initially is important in terms of frequency abundance as well.

The distance between the amp & your standing point is very important. Assuming that you have a mid sized amp, you should be staying around 2m away from your amp in order you can hear yourself. If you are too close, you will be standing behind the point where the sound is actually formed, and you won’t hear yourself well while your band members complain that the bass is too loud. If the stage is small and you can’t get the ideal distance, you might be better off using the amp as a DI only and mainly hearing yourself from the monitor speakers. Or, in-ear monitors. So, keep your distance (if possible) while shaping your EQ and playing on stage.

Your rig isn’t the only factor shaping your sound. The venue size & shape, ceiling height, stage material, amp placement and many other factors play a role on how you sound. You should imagine your bass + head + cabinets + the entire environment as a big giant rig producing your sound. Whatever you setup on the amp is only a starting point for your sound. Since you can’t shape your material environment, you’ll shape your amp EQ so that the amp -> material environment will produce the sound you want. Whatever EQ sounds good at home might sound bad on stage, or some EQ sounding good on a certain venue can sound bad on another venue. This means that you can’t have a fixed global EQ setting which works everywhere. You can have a certain sound you like, but how you’ll achieve this sound EQ-wise will differ from venue to venue. So you need to learn and love the EQ.

How you sound alone will differ from how you sound in the mix. After doing your initial EQ, be prepared to tweak it further after you play all together. Another point is; how you sound outside will differ from how you hear yourself on the stage. After setting your amp EQ to your taste, you are going to need to trust the sound guy for how you sound outside. Talk to him/her about your sound preference, but let him/her be the final judge. I also recommend sending him/her your flat signal so they can add / subtract frequencies more accurately (another reason to leave your bass EQ flat initially). Many amps have a pre/post switch or a dry out output (pin or XLR) to enable that.

Amp EQ

Having covered the principles, we can move forward and tweak the EQ on the amp.

Start of by setting your bass flat. If you have a passive bass, you’ll want to leave the EQ wide open. If you have an active bass, you’ll want all EQ knobs centered. If you have a StingRay Classic and don’t have a center detent, good luck finding the flat spot.

Set your amp EQ flat as well. If you like the sound coming out with the flat setup, then fine! Don’t play with anything. You may get off with a good sound using a flat EQ at times. However, you’ll need to tweak the EQ in many other cases.

You need to be aware of the gain knob that most amps have. This knob will set the strength of the initial signal coming from your bass. A very low gain setting will leave you sounding weak. A very high gain setting will overpower the amp so you can’t distinguish the nuances of your technique. You need to find a sweet spot inbetween; where you sound strong enough to be satisfied while you can still hear your nuances. In many cases, gain & volume on the amp need to be balanced simultaneously. This means, the amount of gain you’ll need will be different on low & high volume situations. On my Aguilar ToneHammer 500, I tend to set the gain at 10 o’clock while the master volume is around 12.

In terms of EQ setup, you need to know what each frequency does. In case your amp has 4 EQ knobs;

  • Bass will define how boomy your sound is – think of the subwoofers
  • Low mid will define how punchy your sound is – think of the Precision Bass sound
  • High mid will define the nasal / bite amount of your sound – think of Jaco
  • Treble will define your presence in terms of string / fret noise – think of the top end of slapping

In case your amp has 3 EQ knobs;

  • Bass will command your bass + a bit of the low mids
  • Mid will command your low + high mids
  • Treble will commad a bit of the high mids + your treble

In case your amp has 2 EQ knobs;

  • Bass will command your bass + low mids
  • Treble will command your high mids + treble

Different amps will have their knobs set at different frequencies; the information above is just a casual general guide.

Some amps have the option to switch to a graphic EQ. Now this is where you have the most control, but it might be overkill for many players which are not sound engineers. Talkbass has a good explanation of frequencies , but I rarely get there on live situations. If I’m in the studio, I leave that level of granularity to the sound engineers anyway.

As a general principle, cutting gives better results than boosting. If your bass sounds too boomy and you can’t hear your highs, cut the bass instead of boosting the treble. If your bass sounds too punchy and you can’t get enough bite, cut the low mids instead of boosting the high mids. You get the idea. Perceived frequency balance is as valid as actual frequency balance – when you cut the treble, people will perceive the sound to be “boomier” despite you didn’t boost the bass frequencies, and you don’t overpower anything, ending up sounding cleaner.

Most of the time, a little cut or boost goes a long way. If you feel like you need extreme EQ changes, chances are you don’t have the correct rig to produce the sound you like.

Bass EQ

Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass

After making the guitar flat and setting the amp to give a traditional Jazz Bass tone, I did the following tricks to expand the tonal palette.

  • Passive mode, 50% balance, treble on gives a traditional Jazz Bass tone. Ideal for many genres like latin, pop, funk, etc.
  • Passive mode with emphasis on the bridge pickup gives a good Jaco tone.
  • Passive mode with emphasis on the neck and treble cut leans towards a vintage Precision Bass tone. Can be used on blues, classic rock, R&B, reggae, etc.
  • Active mode, 50% balance with flat EQ gives a modern finger style tone which cuts through the mix. Add some mids to taste.
  • Active mode, 50% balance with a slight bass & treble boost gives a good slap tone, leaning towards Marcus Miller.
  • Active mode with emphasis on the bridge pickup and slight bass & treble boost gives a nasal bite leaning towards StingRay.
  • Active mode with emphasis on the neck pickup, bass & mid boost and treble cut gives a modern warm bass tone; suitable for loud rock bands.

Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass

I used this bass in active mode. By default, I boosted the bass & treble knobs by about 20% and setup the amp accordingly because the knobs are boost only.

  • Cutting the bridge pickup by 10% and boosting the treble by 10% leans towards a warm sound; ideal for rock & blues.
  • Cutting the neck pickup by 10% and boosting the bass by 10% leans towards a biting sound; ideal for nasal soloing or cutting through the mix.
  • Cutting the neck pickup by 10% alone leans towards a Jaco sound.

Fodera Emperor Standard Classic 5

Here is how I setup the initial tone of my Fodera. Leaving the bass and the amp flat, I leave the pickup balance at 50% and switch to single coil mode. In this position, I tweak the EQ of my amp aiming at a good slap sound leaning towards Marcus Miller. Once I’m happy with that, I can tweak my bass from song to song aiming at different sounds.

Examples:

  • Humbucker mode, %100 neck pickup, slight treble boost will lean towards a precision bass sound. Passive tone cut gets me into motown territory.
  • Single coil mode with centered pickup balance will give me a good Jazz Bass tone. Great for finger style & slapping.
  • Single coil mode, %75 bridge pickup, mid boost will give a nice solo tone.
  • Humbucker mode, %75 bridge pickup, slight bass boost will give a nice StingRay-ish tone. If I don’t boost the bass, I get a good framework for compressed fuzz effects as well.

Lakland 55-02 Deluxe

Here is how I setup the initial tone of my Lakland. I start toning my instrument by leaving the EQ flat, balancing the neck & bridge coils at 50% and tweaking the amp until I get a 70’s Jazz Bass sound. Starting from that point;

  • Neck pickup solo, slight treble cut and slight mid boost gives a good classic P sound. This setting got a lot of praise at my first rehearsal with a rock band.
  • Neck pickup & front bridge coils balanced at 50% with treble cut gives a good sub bass sound. Ideal for reggae, R&B, dance and similar genres.
  • Neck pickup & back bridge coils balanced at 50% with flat EQ gives a good J sound (starting point). Ideal for finger style, funk and slapping.
  • Back bridge coils at 75% balance with slight treble boost gives a good solo tone.
  • Humbucker at 75% with flat EQ produces an agreeable Jaco tone.
  • Humbucker at 75% with slight treble & bass boost produces an agreeable StingRay tone.

I never solo the humbucker pickup; because compared to a StingRay, it’s position is slightly closer to the bridge. I advise mixing the humbucker with the neck pickup to preserve the punchiness you’d expect from a StingRay.

MusicMan StingRay Classic

Here are some tonal approaches I used when I had this instrument.

  • For a balanced mid oriented tone, leave bass & treble flat or reduce equally. Ideal for latin, jazz, pop, etc.
  • For a vintage tone, leave the bass flat and cut the treble. The idea is; vintage amps couldn’t produce the treble tones like the tweeters today; therefore it is vital to cut the trebles. That’s ideal for vintage blues / rock songs. A slight bass boost would lean towards a warmer sound.
  • For a modern rock tone, boost the bass and leave the treble flat. That will fill the lower frequencies like a wall.
  • For a sub bass tone, boost the bass and cut the treble. Ideal for R&B, reggae or electronic situations.
  • For slapping or soloing, leave the bass flat and boost the treble. In a 3 band EQ, I would prefer to boost the bass & treble and leave the mids alone; but on a 2 band instrument, this is the best I onboard approach I could think of.
  • For chords, cut the bass and boost the treble. That gives a baritone guitar oriented sound if you play beyond the 10th fret.

Those are not hard wired rules, of course; just my experiments on my former StingRay.

In case you have a hard time pinpointing the flat spot, you can measure the 50% spot of each pot and put a sticker there which points up. That way, you can tell the flat spot easier when playing live.

Sandberg California VM5

Some songs from the pop rock oriented repertoire of The Flat Band;

  • RHCP: 0% blended humbucker. Thats’s how I lean towards a StingRay.
  • Fly Me To The Moon: -50% blended single coil. That leans towards a traditional Jazz Bass sound.
  • All Shook Up: -100% blend (neck solo), mid boost, treble cut. That leans towards a traditional Precision Bass sound.
  • Ele Güne Karşı: +25% blended single coil, bass boost. That leans towards a nasal Jazz Bass sound.
  • Hung Up: -100% blend (neck solo), bass boost, treble cut. That gives a deep sub bass suitable for pop and electronic.
  • Walk of Life: -100% Blend (neck solo), treble off. That gives a motown oriented Precision Bass sound.

Some songs from the latin oriented Jozi Levi Brazil Project;

  • For a deep surdo tone; I use -50% blend in Humbucker. That gives a low-mid emphasized tone which resembles the Brazilian surdo drums.
  • For dynamic latin songs like Mais Que Nada or Ponteio, I use a 0% blend (balanced) in humbucker mode. That gives a Jaco-ish nasal tone in steroids. Single coil would lean towards Jaco.

I never solo the humbucker pickup; because compared to a StingRay, it’s position is slightly closer to the bridge. I advise mixing the humbucker with the neck pickup to preserve the punchiness you’d expect from a StingRay.

For soloing, +25% blend in single coil gives the best result. For Muse oriented tones, +25% blend in Humbucker mode gives the best result.

Misc.

Active basses with 2 / 4 band EQ’s or passive basses will require different approaches, obviously. But how I approach my basses can inspire you into the right direction.

Note that your hand placement and technique also plays a great role in terms of shaping your tone. Leaving your pickup balance centered, try playing close to the neck and attack the strings softly with the meaty part of your fingers – this will produce a very warm and deep tone. Now, play close to the bridge and attack the strings with the top of your fingers as if you would scratch / claw the pickup. This will produce a very bright tone and will also allow you to play 16th notes tighter. Now, play between the neck – bridge pickup with the side of your fingers. This will produce a low mid oriented balanced sound.

The combination of amp EQ, bass EQ and your hand technique will define your initial sound output, and the venue will shape the rest. I have provided my own initial preferences, but you’ll need to work out your own over time and with experience.

Pedalboard EQ

After you are happy with your amp EQ and how you can shape the sound with your bass, you can set the EQ of individual effect pedals. Don’t attempt setting the EQ’s of your pedals earlier.

Muse Bass

In case you would be interested in getting an agreeable Muse tone, check my post Muse Bass Sound where I share my hits and misses.

Solo Bass

I published a video, where I take two short bass solos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1B1Cb6JK_c . I received a few questions about my bass solo tone, so here is the answer.

I was using a Fender American Jazz Bass V with alder body & rosewood fingerboard, all stock. The neck pickup was about 25% off, bridge pickup was on full, and the tone was about 50% off.

The signal ran into the EHX Freeze pedal, which I used to freeze the bass note before starting the solo. That ensures that the bottom end doesn’t get lost during the bass solo. Note that the pedal can be used in chord change situations as well. In my case, I was soloing over a single chord.

After that, the signal ran into the most vital element of the chain: Mr. Black Supermoon. It is a hauntingly beautiful reverb / sway pedal, and this pedal is probably what you were wondering about. That’s how I create the atmospheric sound of the solo. Reverb was pointing at 1 o’clock, and sway & decay were pointing at 3 o’clock.

Finally, the signal ran into my Mark Bass amp. The EQ was flat, VLE pointing at 8 o’clock and VLC pointing at 10 o’clock.

The combination of Freeze & Supermoon can really open up new horizons. I highly recommend tinkering with them.

For the record, here is a picture of my entire pedalboard from that gig: https://www.instagram.com/p/BGYVVZZrgnB/?taken-by=keremkoseoglu . Before you ask, yes, the cat is also part of the board and is named as “ToneCat”.

Lakland 55-02 Deluxe Review

If you have read my past blog posts, you probably know that I have purchased & sold more basses than I would like to admit. Each bass I buy looks promising in some way, but I get dissatisfied by some other aspect; so I replace it with another one.

With every new replacement, I got closer to perfection. This time, I have a Lakland 55-02 Deluxe; which feels like the closest I ever got to the perfect combination of my criteria. I would like to share them with you.

Price

First of all, Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is an affordable bass. Even if it’s broken or stolen, it can be replaced with a broken heart but without a broken bank account. I can also leave it to the roadie or at the stage unattended without worrying too much. If you ever owned a boutique bass, you know the struggle: The stress of caring for your instrument can overcome the joy of playing it. As an active musician on the go, I ended up playing my backup instrument more than my main. However, an affordable high quality stunt bass is like the best of both worlds: You love your instrument and don’t worry too much about it.

For the record, here is a guide on deciding if a commodity is too expensive for you: Is That Too Expensive?

Quality

Don’t let the price tag fool you. Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is not your typical low profile overseas instrument. Although the woodwork is done in Indonesia; the final assembly, plek work and QA is made in the USA. Once again, you get the best of both worlds: A high quality instrument with an agreeable price.

And I can really feel the quality. The plek work is good enough to support a very low action setup without buzz, and the 35″ scale provides a very clear B string which I happen to use a lot.

The high quality feeling depends on a good setup though. In case you are wondering how I setup my Lakland, check my post How I Setup My Basses

Versatility

Tonewise, this bass is a chameleon. It can mimic the P, PJ, J, Jaco and StingRay sounds very nicely. Lakland fairly admits that the bass was designed to mimic those classic models in the first place. The overall design of the bass and the advanced coil split capabilities of the humbucker offers a tonal versatility second to none.

In case you are wondering how I tone my Lakland, check my post How I EQ my Basses

To increase the versatility even more, Lakland lets you select your mid frequency via a dipswitch on the board of the guitar. In case you are wondering about the frequencies, here is a comparison chart of Lakland with some alternative preamps (source).

– LH3: Bass 12dB @ 125 Hz, Mid 18dB @ 225-1100 Hz, Treble 12dB @ 1.250 Hz
– OBP-3: Bass 18dB @ 40 Hz, Mid 16dB @ 400/800 Hz, Treble 16dB @ 6.500 Hz
– NTMB: Bass 14dB @ 30 Hz, Mid 10dB @ 250/500/800 Hz, Treble 16dB @ 1.000 Hz

For the record; there is a famous video of a Lakland demonstration where its tone is compared to the respective classic bass guitars. Lakland has also published sound samples recorded with a 55-02.

Silence

Beyond the versatility of this bass guitar, one thing that really pleases me is the silence. Due to the pickup design, there is no hum involved. The neck pickup has two coils with opposing polarities within, and the bridge humbucker has four coils with opposing polarities within. As a result of that design; you don’t get any hum whichever pickup combination you choose. Considering that even some very expensive high end basses have humming single coil pickups, that’s a major benefit for me.

Delicacies

To be fair, I would also like to share some of my observed delicacies.

35″ is a good choice for a nice tight B string; however, it also means that the rest of the strings are tight as well. This can be tiring for unaccustomed fingers. I started using a pick on fast paced rock songs; which is luckily something that I’m used to.

Talking about strings; stringing a 35″ bass through the body means that I have limited options of XL strings. However, stringing through the bridge is also possible – I simply prefer otherwise. Not because of any tone difference though – I merely like the idea of the strings pressing the bridge to the body more than strings pulling the bridge off the body.

Conclusion

Lakland 55-02 Deluxe is so good that it makes me wonder about the 100% USA made 55-14 or 55-94. After a certain price point, you get diminished returns for your instrument. I expect the physical and tonal differences between a 55-02 & 55-94 to be much less than the price difference. That’s also the case with batch produced vs custom shop instruments of other brands. With a custom shop instrument; the wood and workmanship consistency and quality is definitely there. However, a lucky purchase of a production instrument of the same model can get close enough to make you wonder why the other one is so expensive. In my conjectural opinion, the comparison between 55-02 and 55-94 would be similar because they share the same specs, the exact same electronics and production after-touches such as plek implementation.

A quote from the forums says “A Skyline is all you need, a USA is all you want.” Another quote says “85% of the bass at 50% of the cost”. I think that those summarise the deal. I owned & sold a 55-02 before, and regretted it over time. As of today, my Lakland 55-02 is my main stunt bass.

In case you are looking for an affordable high-quality instrument with unbeatable versatility, I definitely recommend listing the Lakland 55-02 Deluxe among your alternatives.

If you live in Turkey, I can recommend getting one from Limon Muzik. I ordered my Lakland in the afternoon over WhatsApp, and I had it in my hand on the next morning. Great staff too.

How I Setup My Basses

I would like to share how I maintain and setup my beloved bass guitars.

Although this article focuses on the basses I possess, the same approach can be projected to any bass.

Topics in this post contain highly subjective preferences. Your might (and probably will) differ from mine, but the general principles will be useful.

Specs

Detailed spec options of my Fodera ESS5 can be found at http://www.fodera.com/emperor-standard-classic/ . My bass happens to have an alder body with black finish, maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. I have two Fodera/Duncan alnico humbuckers which can be switched to single coils.

Another bass I will cover in this post is my Lakland 55-02, which can be inspected at https://www.lakland.com/55-02.htm .

Generally speaking; ash + maple produce a brighter tone with a pronounced top end, typically preferred for slapping. However, slapping is not the only application – many non-slapping bassist prefer this combination as well. Alder + rosewood produce a warmer tone with pronounced low mids. In both cases, you can even out things to a certain degree using EQ. Maple reflects too much of the fret & finger noise for my taste, so I prefer alder + rosewood.

Ceramic humbuckers produce a modern tone typically preferred by metal / progressive / etc players, while alnico (“al”uminum + “ni”ckel + “co”pper) produce a vintage tone. I seem to prefer alnico.

Rest of my gear can be seen at Pinterest .

String Choice

I prefer to use medium gauge uncoated nickel roundwound strings.

Light gauges feel like rubber under my hands, and heavy gauges consume a lot of finger stamina. Medium gauges provide a happy balance.

Coated strings have a longer life span than uncoated strings. However, the ones I tried so far sounded dull to me. They also have limited grounding capabilities because the metal of the string can’t touch the skin. On certain situations, I hear sparky electric clicks through the amp when I move my hands up & down, which is obviously not desirable. Therefore, I prefer uncoated strings.

Steel strings are too bright for my taste, and they wear the frets much faster than some other materials. They also have a very strong magentic pull – the pickups of my Fodera seem to pull steel strings so much that the B string sounds off-pitch despite the perfect setup. I assume that cobalt strings would have an even greater magnetic pull. Therefore, I prefer nickel strings.

Flatwound strings provide have a very warm, deep tone with no finger noise. Roundwound strings provide clearer high mid & treble frequencies, which I happen to like a lot. That’s also suitable for the music styles I play. Therefore, I prefer roundwound strings over flatwounds.

On my 35″ Lakland, I got to lean towards XL strings because I prefer to string it through the body. With flatwounds, I would have to string them through the bridge though.

Some typical strings I reach out for are;

 

Setup & Maintenance

I change my strings whenever they sound to sound dull to an extent where it can’t be fixed with EQ (what is lost, can’t be put back). If the string change is not part of my periodic maintenance, I change one string at a time to keep the neck constant and apply the maintenance steps (below) after the point of string change. Otherwise, I remove all strings so I can run through the entire maintenance procedure.

Normally, I run a full maintenance once every 6 months, which is based on the following steps.

Wood Maintenance

First of all, I remove all of the strings.

I start with the body. I use an air duster to blow the dust off the cavities of the bass. Then, I clean the body of the guitar with a good guitar polish applied to a clean soft piece of cloth. Afterwards, I dry it off with another piece of cloth.

Next step is the neck maintenance (not fingerboard!). On the basses with finish or gloss necks, I simply clean the neck like I clean the body. If you have a neck without finish, you would need to apply gun stock wax to it as well; the same way you would apply lemon oil to a rosewood fingerboard (coming next).

Next step is fingerboard maintenance, which applies to rosewood only (Fodera). The deal is, rosewood has tiny little horizontal dents all over the fretboard. If the neck gets too dry, those dents tend to grow and turn into cracks. If things get further and the cracks grow as well, you might end up having a ruined neck. Therefore, you need to oil the rosewood fingerboard from time to time. I use lemon oil for that, which I apply to the entire fingerboard generously. Wood between each fret interspace should “drink” a fair amount of lemon oil with the help of a clean cloth. After the entire fretboard is oiled, I let the guitar rest and dry for a day or two. At the end of this period, I dry off any remaining oil from the fingerboard and frets using a clean soft cloth.

If you have a maple fingerboard (Lakland), the fingerboard can simply be cleaned with orange oil.

Jason from Fodera Guitars has a wonderful video on oiling the fingerboard; which you might want to watch if you have never done this before.

String Installation

Next step is to put on the strings. Not much explanation needed here; except keeping the neck in balance. I start with the A string (the middle string), and add an additional string to either side sequentially – which looks like A – E – D – B – G. Then, I tune the strings.

On my Lakland, I particularly start by changing the A string to see if the string is long enough to run through the body. On the headstock, A is the farthest peg; so if I’m good with A, I’m good with any other string.

Neck Relief

Next step is to setup the neck relief. I apply a capo to the first fret and press the first string at the 24th fret. Using a feeler, I measure the distance between the first string and the 8th fret. I have a light touch, therefore my ideal measure is 0.25 mm. In my opinion, this is as close as you can get without any buzz. If you have a harder touch, you might need to adjust the relief as needed.

Neck relief: 0.25 mm @ 8th fret when 1st and last frets are pressed

You need to re-tune your strings after each truss rod adjustment.

If you are not experienced with this setup, get help & training from a luthier or more experienced player on the first few times. Jason from Fodera Guitars has a wonderful video on the subject; which you might want to watch – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgmoRHr2cD8 .

String Height and Spacing

Next step is to adjust the string height via the bridge. Using a measurement tool, I measure the distance between the end of the string and the top of the last fret for each string. Due to my light touch, my ideal distance is 1.25 mm for A D G, 1.50 mm for E and 1.75 mm for B string. The reason why E & B have different heights is; they are stronger strings and they need to be a bit farther away so they don’t overpower weaker strings. If you have a stronger touch, you might need to raise the strings according to taste.

String height: 1.25 1.25 1.25 1.50 1.75 from G to B @ last fret

Most bridge saddles have 2 screws for each string. Make sure that they have the same height. And you need to re-tune your strings after each height change.

If your bridge supports string spacing adjustment, you can adjust to taste. My Fodera has a string spacing of 19mm, which provides a wide comfort. The key is, distance between the middle points of string should be equal. For example, distance between B – E should equal to the distance between E – A. My Lakland has fixed string spacing, which is also fine.

In case you need instruction, I recommend the string height video of Jason from Fodera Guitars.

If you lower a string as much as the bridge allows you to, but still can’t get as low as mentioned above, then your neck angle might not be properly setup. That wouldn’t be the case with a high end boutique bass; however, you might experince that on production basses. The solution is to remove the neck, apply a thin piece of card / wood between the neck & the body at the spot closest to the bridge, re-attach the bridge and re-run the maintenance procedure. A very thin shim goes a long way. This will change the neck angle and let you lower the strings further than before.

If you do a shim operation, you obviously need to go back and restart the setup with the neck relief. If you are not experienced with that, you might get help from a luthier. In case you need instruction, the commercial video of StewMac can give you a good idea.

Buzz Check

After setting up the neck relief and string height properly, you shouldn’t experience any buzzing. Play around some with your regular touch. If you experience buzz between the 1st-12th frets, the neck might need more relief. If you experience buzz between 12-24, the string height might not be enough.

Please note that another reason for buzz might be unleveled frets. Ideally, each fret should have the exact same height all over the fretboard – that’s usually achieved with a plek machine. If some frets are higher than others, those might buzz despite a perfect setup matching your playing style. The quick but poor solution is to increase the distance between the string & frets by playing with the relief or string height. The good solution is to have your frets leveled by an experienced luthier. In case you are wondering, you can watch Stew Mac leveling frets. That’s not something I’d recommend doing on your own.

Pickup Height

Next step is to setup your pickup height. Again, this is a matter of taste. If you set your pickups close to the strings, they will sound hotter. Set them apart, and you’ll get the opposite effect.

Please note that pickups produce magnetic pull. If the pickups are too close to the strings, the magnetic force of the pickups will affect the oscillation of the string and you’ll start to sound out of tune. Some string materials, such as steel and cobalt, are more susceptible to magnetic pull. Some materials, such as nickel, are less susceptible. Pickup type is also a factor: Ceramic pickups tend to produce stronger magnetic fields than alnico pickups.

In any case; the distance between bass strings & the pickup should be greater than the treble strings & the pickup. You wouldn’t want the stronger strings to overpower the weaker strings. We make up the power difference by making the weak string get closer to the pickup so they get heard better.

Here is the string to pickup height chart for my Fodera where the strings are pressed at the last fret:

Front pickup: B: 2.5mm, G: 1.75mm
Back pickup: B: 2.5mm, G: 1.75mm

Here is the string to pickup height chart for my Lakland where the strings are not pressed:

MM pickup: B: 3.969mm, G: 2.778mm 
J pickup: B: 4.366mm, G: 3.572mm

After setting the pickup height, play around your bass through your amp and ensure that all strings sound even. Due to your technique, you might be hitting some strings harder than others – or they might be other factors affecting the string to string balance of your bass. Minor pickup adjustments might be needed accordingly.

In case you need a demo on pickup height, you can watch Jason from Fodera Guitars adjusting his pickups .

Intonation

After making sure that your bass is in perfect tune, it is time to check your intonation. We need to ensure that each string produces the desired frequency on the 12th fret. For example; your E string might be in perfect tune, but if the string length is not correct, it will sound off at the 12th fret and won’t be in tune overall.

For each string;

  • Let the string ring and ensure that it is in tune
  • Press the string on the 12th fret and check your tuner
  • If the note is in tune, move to the next string
  • If the note is flat, you should shorten the string via the bridge
  • If the note is sharp, you should lengthen the string via the bridge

 

In case you need a demo on intonation, you can watch Jason from Fodera Guitars intonate his instrument.

Battery

If you have an active bass, changing your battery every 6 months is a good idea. It is also important not to leave the jack on the bass, otherwise the batteries will drain extremely quickly.

Conclusion

I feel like this is one of the most comprehensive articles I wrote about bass setup. When it comes to music, there are no universal rights & wrongs. What sounds good to someone can sound bad to another person, and what works in a certain context might not work so well in another one. Having said that, I hope that my approaches will give some inspiration to the entire community of bass players.

Note that a good setup is only the first step of a good tone. I recommend you to continue with How I EQ my Basses .

Shaft Da Kapanıyor

Yaklaşık 20 sene boyunca çeşitli oluşumlarla sahne aldığım, hayatımın her döneminden pek çok anımın olduğu Shaft Club da; İstanbul’daki pek çok canlı müzik mekanı gibi kapanıyor. “Her şey nasıl başladıysa öyle biter” diyen Yavuz Çetin’i hatırlıyorum bu haber karşısında, tatlı bir hüzünle.

Peki ama bu canlı müzik mekanları neden birer birer kapanıyor? Bunun genel geçer net cevabını söylemek zor olsa da, bazı subjektif gözlemlerimi paylaşmak istiyorum.

90’larda Müzik

90’larda İstanbul’da sayısız canlı müzik mekanı haftanın 7 günü canlı müzik yapardı. Çok iyi Cover grupları vardı. Aklıma gelen bazı gruplar; Blue Blues Band, Indians, Volvox, Funk Doctors, Soul Stuff, Kangroove, Acil Servis, Athena, Gür Akad Band, …

Bu yıllar, aynı zamanda albümlerin satıldığı ve stüdyoya yatırım yapılarak albümlere büyük bütçeler ayrılabildiği yıllardı. 90’larda çok kaliteli parçaların biraz da yorumlanarak canlı çalınması, o dönemin dinleyicisine büyük keyif veriyordu ki bu mekanlar bu kadar doluyordu.

O kitle, artık kariyer çoluk çocuk sahibi olduğu için gece hayatından biraz çekilmiş gibi gözüküyor. Eğlence tercihleri daha sakin, yemekli mekanlarda dostlarla bir araya gelmeye evrildi.

2000’lerde MP3

Peki sonradan gelen nesil? 2000’li yılların başından itibaren Torrent / paylaşım programları türedi ve kaçak MP3 indirip dinlemek çok kolay hale geldi. Bu kolaya da geniş kitleler ne yazık ki meyletti.

Sonuç? Plak şirketleri, albümlere yapılan yatırımı azaltıp konserlere yapılan yatırımı arttırmaya başladı. Ucuza maledilen, dolayısıyla müzikaliteden ister istemez ödün verilmiş albümleri bedava verip; insanları dansçılar, kostümler, egolar ve ışık gösterileriyle göz kamaştıran biletli konserlere çekme yoluna gitmeye başladılar. Zira MP3 evde dinlenebilir, ama konser atmosferi evde yaşanamaz.

Popüler müzik, artık büyük ölçüde elektronik öğeler içeriyor ve bir sahne gösterisinin sadece bir parçası olmuş durumda. Dolayısıyla; şimdiki nesilde canlı müzik dinleme kültürü epey azaldı gibi. Bir diğer deyişle; davul / bas / gitar / klavye / vokal formatındaki geleneksel bir Rock grubunun çalabileceği parçalar, artık yeni neslin ilgisini çekmiyor. Çünkü o parçaları dinleyerek değil, sahne gösterisine fon müziği olan elektronik ağırlıklı müziği dinleyerek büyüdüler.

O parçaları seven kitleden hala canlı müzik dinleyenler ise, mekanları çevirmeye yetmiyor artık.

Amatör Gruplar

Gözlemlediğim bazı mekanlar, popüler 1-2 grubu hafta sonu yüksek bütçeyle sürekli sahneye çıkarıp, hafta içi ise amatör grupları çıkarma yoluna gittiler. Amatör gruplar, “Vay canına, X’in çaldığı yerde çalacağız, büyük fırsat” duygusuyla düşük bütçelere sahne almayı kabul ettiklerinde, onları dinlemeye gelen arkadaş eş dost sayesinde de mekan biraz olsun bir şeyler kazanabiliyordu.

Ancak bunun da etkisi uzun vadede olumsuz oldu kanımca. Eskiden mekana gitme kavramı vardı. İsim yapmış bir mekana haftanın hangi günü gidersek gidelim, mutlaka kaliteli bir grubun iyi bir müzik yapacağını biliyor olurduk. Dolayısıyla; “canlı müzik dinlemeye çıkmak” kaliteli müzik ve eğlenceli bir gece anlamına geliyordu.

Enstrüman ve eğitim materyalleri artık çok erişilebilir olduğundan, gruplar kısa bir sürede basit bir repertuarla sahne alabilir hale gelebiliyor. Geliyor da, grubu tanımayıp mekana gelişigüzel gelen insanların keyif alacağı bir sonuç çıkıyor mu ortaya?

Genele bakıldığında pek çıkmıyor sanki. Sahne alan grupların ortalamasındaki düşüş, müşteriler arasındaki “canlı müzik” algısını da aşağıya çekti kanımca. Bundan ötürü, canlı müzik vaadeden mekanlara gelişigüzel eğlenmeye gitme olgusu epey darbe yedi.

Biletli Mekanlar

Buna alternatif olarak; insanlara gelişigüzel canlı müzik değil, sevdikleri grup ve sanatçıları biletle izleten mekanlar açıldı. Bunlardan bazıları gösteri merkezi statüsünde, bazıları bardan hallice, bazıları ise 20-30 kişilik samimi mekan formatındalar. Ancak ortak noktaları; grup performanslarını aylık / sezonluk program çerçevesinde bilet satışıyla sunmaları.

Bu formattaki büyük mekanlar, genelde takipçi sayısı yüksek albümlü grupları çıkarmayı tercih ediyor – bazen de yabancı grupları getiriyorlar. Daha mütevazi gruplar ise, küçük butik mekanlarda daha küçük bütçelerle (muhtemelen biletten % alarak) sahne alabiliyor ancak. Bu butik sahnelerde ise ciddi ses sistemleri yok, bir kısmında davul bile yok. Dolayısıyla; oralarda da akustik ağırlıklı küçük ekipler, ufak beste oluşumları veya performanslarına doğaçlama / masal / komedi gibi öğeler katarak merak uyandıran orijinal içerik sergileyenler yer bulabiliyor.

Bu mekanlar, şu anda kısmen tutunabiliyor gibi gözükse de; bakalım uzun vadede ne olacak…

Sonuç

Son olarak; eskiden canlı müziğin kalesi olarak görülen Beyoğlu’nda ayan beyan gözlemlenebilen değişimi de dile getirmeden olmaz. Bu değişim, Türkiye’nin çehresindeki bir değişimi özetliyor aslında. Sebepleri konusunda pek çok rivayet olmakla birlikte; net sonuç orada (müzikli müziksiz) sayısız mekanın kapanması oldu. Eskiden Beyoğlu’na eğlenmeye giden kitlenin bir kısmı Karaköy’de, bir kısmı ise Kadıköy’de zaman geçirir oldu.

Bu yazının sonunda, değişimin kaçınılmaz olduğunu dile getirmek istiyorum. Bir Çin atasözü; değişim rüzgarları estiğinde kiminin barınak kiminin yeldeğirmeni kurduğunu söyler. Müzik piyasasındaki bu değişim rüzgarlarının kimi nereye götüreceğini hep birlikte göreceğiz.

Gitarda Dip Gürültüsü ve Çözümleri

Eğer gitarınızdan dip gürültüsü geliyorsa, bunun genelde iki sebebi olabilir: Manyetikleriniz veya bulunduğunuz mekanın elektrik sistemi. Bu yazıda, bu problemleri inceleyip olabilecek çözümleri tartışacağız.

Manyetik Kaynaklı Gürültü

Single Coil bir gitar manyetiğinin içerisinde, tek yöne doğru sarılmış bir bobin bulunmaktadır. Bu bobin soldan sağa doğru sarıldıysa +100 polaritede, sağdan sola doğru sarıldıysa -100 polaritede olacaktır.

Manyetiğiniz, radyo antenlerine benzer bir şekilde, havadan yayılan elektromanyetik frekansları algılamaktadır. Eğer odanızda elektromanyetik dalga yayan hiçbir cihaz yoksa ve elektrik tesisatınız da temizse, Single Coil manyetiğinizi hiçbir dip gürültüsü olmadan kullanabilirsiniz.

Ancak; sahneye çıktığınızda işler değişir. Mekanda; buzdolabı, ışık sistemi, ekranlar, vb cihazlar bulunacak ve elektromanyetik dalga yayacaktır. Gitar manyetiğiniz bunlara maruz kaldığında; hiçbir nota vurmasanız bile bir dip gürültüsü yaymaya başlar.

Farklı yönlere dönerek elektromanyetik dalgaların gitarınıza çarpmamasını sağlayabiliyorsanız ve konser boyunca o yönde çalabilecekseniz, sorunu basit bir şekilde çözebilirsiniz. Ancak; bu yöntemin işe yaramayacağı pek çok durum olabilir.

Humbucker manyetikler, bu tarz bir dip gürültüsüne sahip değildir. Bilmeyenler için; Humbucker manyetikler iki Single coil manyetiğin aynı anda çalıştığı bir manyetik türüdür. Humbucker içerisindeki manyetiklerden biri soldan sağa (+100), diğeri ise sağdan sola (-100) sarıldığı için, birbirlerinin polaritesini sıfırlar ve elektromanyetik dalgalardan etkilenmez hale gelirler. Humbucker tonlarını seviyorsanız, Single Coil yerine Humbucker manyetik tercih ederek manyetik kaynaklı dip gürültüsüne sonsuza dek veda edebilirsiniz.

Telecaster veya Jazz Bass gibi iki Single Coil manyetiğe sahip gitarların da manyetikleri genelde ters sarılmıştır (biri soldan sağa, diğeri sağdan sola). İki manyetiği aynı anda etkinleştirerek Humbucker efekti yaratabilir ve dip gürültüsünden kurtulabilirsiniz. Aynısı, Stratocaster gitarların Neck + Mid veya Bridge + Mid şeklindeki ara pozisyonları için de geçerlidir.

Precision Bass‘ta ise Split Coil bir manyetik bulunur. Yani; ikiye bölünmüş tek bir manyetik vardır ve bu parçalar yine birbirinin aksi yönünde sarılmıştır. Humbucker mantığına sahip bu Single Coil manyetik sayesinde, gürültüsü önlenmiş olur. Bu mantığı takip eden ve geliştiren Aguilar, kendi içinde iki zıt sarıma sahip ama Single Coil özelliği taşıyan Jazz Bass manyetikleri üretmektedir. Başka gitarlara yönelik benzer manyetikler üreten başka firmalar da var elbette. Bu tarz manyetikleri tercih ederek; hem Single Coil sound’u alabilir hem de dip gürültüsünü kesebilirsiniz.

MusicMan, HS modellerinde Single Coil manyetiğin yanına bir de Ghost Coil manyetik eklemektedir. Bu manyetik, gövdenin içine gizlidir ve herhangi bir ses üretmez. Tek görevi, Single Coil manyetiğe ters sarımlı bobini ile Humbucking etkisi yaratmak ve dip gürültüsünü kesmektir. Ghost Coil barındıran bir gitar tercih ederek veya gitarınızı modifiye ettirip bir Ghost Coil ekleterek bu çözümü uygulayabilirsiniz.

Lakland 55-02 modellerinde, her bir manyetik Split Coil olarak sarıldığından, hangi manyetik kombinasyonunu seçerseniz seçin dip gürültüsü gelmemektedir.

Ancak; Humbucker, Split Coil veya Ghost Coil çözümlerinin her biri, ton değişikliği anlamına gelmektedir. Vintage Single Coil Sound’undan mümkün mertebe feragat etmek istemiyor ancak yine de dip gürültüsünü kesmek istiyorsanız, o halde yardımcı pedal kullanmayı önerebilirim.

Önerebileceğim ilk pedal, Electro Harmonix’in Hum Debugger pedalı. Bu pedal, manyetiğinizin dip gürültüsünü tespit ederek 60 Hz civarındaki dip gürültüsünü EQ modifikasyonuyla devreden çıkarır ve sisteme temiz bir ses gitmesini sağlar. Forumlarda bu pedalı kullanan bazı kişiler gitarlarının tonunu değiştirdiğini, bazıları değiştirmediğini, bazıları ise ton değişikliğinin (özellikle mix içerisinde) gözardı edilebileceğini söylüyor. Ben bas gitarımda pek bir ton değişikliği hissettiğimi söyleyemem, gayet memnundum.

Bir diğer pedal türü ise, Noise Gate olabilir. Pek çok marka Noise Gate pedalı üretmektedir. Bu pedalların özelliği, belli bir Volume seviyesinin altındaki sinyali sisteme hiç göndermemektir. Bu sayede; gitarı çalmadığınızda, görece düşük bir ses seviyesinde olan dip gürültüsü sisteme gitmeyecektir. Çalmaya başladığınızda dip gürültüsü de sisteme gidecek, ancak kendi notalarınızın Volume’ünün çok altında kaldığından izleyici bunu muhtemelen hissetmeyecek / duymayacaktır. Noise Gate’in dezavantajı ise; dinamik bir çalıma sahipseniz, görece sessiz çalmak istediğiniz notaları da kesme riskidir.

Elektrik Kaynaklı Gürültü

Bu ikinci tarz dip gürültüsü, gitarınızın manyetiği ile doğrudan ilişkili değildir. Daha ziyade, mekandaki elektrik altyapısı ve topraklama ile ilgilidir.

Türkiye’deki prizlerde iki soket bulunur. Bunlardan biri elektrik, diğeri topraktır.

İdeal durumda; elektrik sistemine bağlı tüm cihazların elektrik / toprak polaritesi aynı olmalıdır. Ancak; pozitif ve negatif polariteye sahip cihazları aynı altyapıya bağladığınızda; elektrik ve toprak savaşmaya başlar. Bu savaş, hoparlörlere dip gürültüsü olarak yansıyacaktır.

Bu problemi elimine etmenin yolu, cihazları sırayla fişten çekerek problemi neyin yarattığını anlamaktan geçer. Problemli cihaz vazgeçilebilir bir cihaz ise, konser sırasında fişe takmayarak veya (varsa) alternatif bir tesisata takarak problemi çözebilirsiniz.

Bazı DI Box / amfilerde “Ground Switch” diye bir düğme bulunur. Bu düğme, cihazın polaritesini ters çevirmektedir. Tesisattaki cihazların Ground Switch’ine basarak polaritelerini çevirmeyi deneyebilirsiniz. Pek çok örnekte, dip gürültüsünü bu şekilde hallettim.

Metronom Tutturmak

“You can’t hold no groove if you ain’t got no pocket” (Victor Wooten)

Gelen sorular üzerine; enstrüman çalarken metronom tutturmak hakkında ufak bir kılavuz hazırlamak istedim.

Hızlanıp yavaşlamadan sabit bir hızda çalabilmek, müzisyenliğin önemli kriterlerinden biridir. Bu görev daha çok vurmalı çalgılara yüklense de, aslında gruptaki herkes zamanı tutturmaktan sorumludur.

Bu iş, “Inner Clock” denen içsel bir kasa dayalıdır. Bu kas, aynen spor gibi, egzersiz yaptıkça güçlü kalır, yapmadıkça zayıflar. Diğer bir deyişle; sabit hızda çalabilme egzersizleri sürekli yapılmalıdır.

Bu konuda farklı seviyeler vardır. Bazı kişilerde bu kas o kadar gelişmiştir ki, herhangi bir metronom kaynağı olmadan sabit hızda çalabilir. Bazıları tek başına zamanı tam tutturamaz; ancak metronom klikleri üzerine sabit hızda çalabilir. Bazıları metronom kliklerini tutturamaz, ancak bir davulcu veya altyapı üzerine çalıyorsa biraz dalgalanmakla birlikte zamanı tutturabilir. En çok çalışmaya ihtiyaç duyanlar ise, sabit davul / altyapıya rağmen dalgalanma yaşayanlardır.

Peki; bu içsel kasımızı nasıl geliştireceğiz?

Bu işin ilk adımı, metronom ile çalışmaktır. Metronomu (mesela) 90 BPM gibi sabit bir hıza ayarlayıp, sevdiğimiz bir motifi bu klikleri dinleyerek çalabiliriz. Hızlandığımız veya yavaşladığımız noktalarda tekrar metronoma döneriz. Bu şekilde, beyin metronomla senkron olma konusunda eğitilir ve yukarıda bahsettiğimiz kas kuvvetlenmeye başlar. Bu egzersiz, 90 BPM’den farklı hızlarda da yapılmalıdır elbette.

Teknolojinin gelişmesiyle birlikte, “Inner Clock” kasını geliştirecek yardımcı uygulamalar da çıktı tabii. Bu konuda örnek olarak Time Guru adlı uygulamayı verebilirim (başka uygulamalar da var).

Bu uygulama; standart bir metronomun işini yapmanın yanı sıra, metronom vuruşlarının arasında belirleyeceğiz oranda boşluk da bırakabiliyor. Örneğin; “90 BPM’de metronom ver, ancak %50 boşluk bırak” diyebiliyoruz. Bu şekilde, metronomu “TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK TIK” şeklinde duymak yerine “TIK TIK TIK (boş) (boş) TIK TIK (boş) TIK (boş) (boş) TIK” şeklinde duyuyoruz.

Bu da, bizi metronom üzerine çalmaktan metronom olmadan da çalabileceğimiz bir noktaya taşımış oluyor. Beyin; sadece iki vuruş arasında değil, boşluklar üzerinden de senkronize olmaya alışmaya başlıyor. Uzun vadede boşluk oranını arttırarak, herhangi bir metronom kaynağına ihtiyaç duymadan zamanı tutturabileceğimiz bir noktaya yaklaşabiliriz.

Ancak; yürümeden koşmamak lazım. Önce altyapı üzerine sallanmadan çalabilmeli, akabinde metronomla sallanmadan çalabilmeli, ondan sonra bu boşluk bırakma egzersizlerine başlamalıyız.

Spotify vs Apple Music

Being an active musician, I was an advocate of having a music archive of offline MP3 files. However; due to the popularity of stream services, I decided to give it a shot.

Spotify and Apple Music were obvious choices. In terms of hardware, I live in the Apple universe; so Apple Music was supposed to be an obvious choice. On the other hand, I heard many good things about Spotify as well.

I ended up picking Spotify over Apple Music and deleting most of my offline MP3 files.

I would like to share my highly subjective personal comparison experience; where I might have missed some features of the respective services. Nevertheless, the overall comparison could be useful to you.

Spotify

Pros

Public Playlists

Spotify seems to have a much larger database of playlists because users are able to create & publish playlists on will. Therefore, search results are more satisfying in a number of ways.

First of all, I can run a search like “Sunday Morning Country” and I’m almost guaranteed to make a hit.

Another point is, I can discover surprise songs or artists over those playlists because a vast variety of people with different musical tastes put them together.

This is clearly an advantage of Spotify because Apple seems to limit public playlists to curators.

Similar Songs

In terms of discovery, Spotify has a neat feature: If you play a single song, it keeps playing similar songs – unless you disable this feature in settings. This feature carries the discovery option beyond playlists of the community.

I am not aware of such a feature in Apple Music.

Social

Spotify provides basic but neat options in terms of social media. Every Spotify user gets an URL pointing his/her profile (mine is http://open.spotify.com/user/keremkoseoglu ). This URL contains a profile picture and public playlists of the user. It is a good way to give the world an overall impression of what you are listening to, or a cover band could make their setlist public via this feature.

It is also possible to follow Facebook friends over Spotify to see what they are listening to.

As far as I know, Apple Music lacks such features completely.

Free Offline Play

If you want to play your favourite streams offline, Spotify gives this opportunity for free. You can download any stream to your computer or smartphone and listen offline anytime.

In theory, Apple provides a similar functionality; but with a catch: Even if you want to create a simple playlist, you must subscribe to iCloud music library, which forcefully uploads your local MP3 files to the cloud and costs ~1$ per month if you exceed 5GB (that includes your contacts, other files, calendars, backups, etc as well). So in practice, Apple makes you lean towards the direction where you pay 1$ per month to create any stream playlist.

Although Apple theoretically provides this functionality for free, Spotify provides it free for real. Therefore, Spotify has the upper hand here.

Superior Interface

This is a highly subjective matter. However; in my opinion, the user interface of Spotify is very good. The fade in / out effect and the dark background gives a smooth feeling.

Apple, on the other hand, has the usual bright white iTunes interface with Apple TV-like shelves of albums and presents tons of ugly scrollbars. It isn’t really pretty.

I wouldn’t pick an application over others just because it has a pretty UI; but it certainly contributes to the overall user experience. This is one of the winning points of Spotify.

Cons

Vendor Lock In

Spotify doesn’t give you an opportunity to download MP3 files. If I decide that I don’t want to pay Spotify any further, I’m left alone without any music file on my computer.

I can keep offline copies of music files on my computer or phone; but those are encrypted and can only be played using the Spotify app.

If you consider Apple Music as a streaming platform, the same applies to Apple as well. However; iTunes platform lets you purchase digital music files as well – which literally are your property and can be downloaded in MP3 format any time you want.

If you would like to purchase legal digital music files for any purpose (like changing the pitch for practicing or syncing into an offline MP3 player), Apple has an edge here because it gives you an option for that. It is not part of the streaming business, but at the end of the day, Spotify feels more like a vendor lock in.

Apple Music

Pros

Single App

Apple has merged various features on one single platform called iTunes. Using only one application, you can stream music, purchase MP3’s, add MP3’s from other sources, rent / purchase movies, stream free Internet radio, etc. iTunes can organise your local file system as well – it breaks music files under folders categorised by artist and album.

Spotify’s application lets you stream music and include local MP3’s and that’s it.

If you are looking for an all-in-one solution, Apple has the distinct advantage here. If you are a best-of-breed picker, you’ll have to compare Spotify and Apple Music alone and ignore other features of iTunes.

Smart Playlist

Smart playlist is an area where Apple has a distinct advantage.

We all can define manual playlists by adding songs one by one. However, Apple gives us the opportunity to write formulas to dynamically create playlists which update themselves automatically as we add new songs to our library.

For instance; I can create a playlist which includes all of my rock songs but excludes songs from the band Beautiful Disaster. This playlist will automatically update itself as I add more rock songs over time.

Another example: I can merge songs of 5 artists + a manually managed playlist under a smart playlist. Whenever I add a new song of those artists or update the manual playlist, the smart playlist is updated automatically.

Spotify doesn’t have such a functionality. The closest you can get is to put your playlist under a folder. By playing the entire folder, you can include songs from all the playlists.

For simple requirements, Apple’s smart playlist feature may look like overkill. However; more advanced users will appreciate this feature.

Sorting Playlists

Apple music playlists can be displayed in a file browser fashion and songs can be sorted by various criteria; such as the last time they were played. This is a very good feature for musicians (like me) who would like to practice their playlists daily – it is a good way to ensure that each song gets practiced. Dozens of other columns can also be added for sorting.

Spotify lets us sort by song name, artist name or date added, and that’s it. I saw users requesting additional columns on forums, but Spotify didn’t do anything about it yet.
In case you need to sort your playlist by peculiar columns or display select columns for a specific playlist, Apple has a distinct advantage at this time.

Cons

Public Playlists

Apple loves controlling things. They are totally in control of their hardware & software, which enables them to create arguably more stable products. They also control the apps on their App Store in order to improve the user experience and prevent malicious bugs / viruses.

It seems like Apple has projected their control tendency towards Apple Music as well. The playlists I have found on Apple Music were created by curators or artists that Apple has picked. As far as I know, rest of the community can’t create publicly searchable playlists.

Result? I feel like I’m limited to the taste of a few people to discover new music; not the entire music community. And the playlists I have inspected felt “sterile”; which means they mostly contain main stream pieces of their respective genre. I was never surprised to discover a peculiarly beautiful song or artist.

Spotify enables it’s community to publicly create playlists and has the edge here.

I generally favour Apple’s control over their hardware & software to provide a stable user experience; but limiting the playlists might have gimped the community contribution.

Artist Overview

When I discover a new artist or simply want to listen to an artist I love, I tend to listen to all of his/her songs; including all the available albums.

In my experience; Apple doesn’t enable such a feature easily. One could do a workaround by creating a playlist including all the albums of the desired artist; but this is simply an extra workload.

Considering that I can listen to the entire library of an artist on Spotify with a simple click, this is a disadvantage on behalf of Apple Music.

iCloud Music Library

Basically, Apple forces us to use its iCloud Music Library service in order to create playlists including songs from Apple Music.

At first sight, this seems reasonable. Apple uses iCloud in any scenario where you need to share content between multiple Apple devices. Your contacts, calendars, etc are all shared over iCloud.

The catch is; if you have offline MP3 files on your computer, activating iCloud Music Library will force-upload them to iCloud as well. And, iCloud offers only 5 GB’s of free space. If you want to upgrade it to 50 GB, you have to pay ~1$ per month.

This might look like small amount, but considering that Apple has 13M subscribers, this strategy leans towards the direction where Apple would earn an extra 13M$ per month.
Spotify, on the other hand, makes playlists available to any device without any additional subscription.

Apple could have easily given us the opportunity to create “Apple Music Only” playlists, but they simply didn’t.

If you don’t have a large number of offline MP3 files, this might not disturb you at all. However; Apple has a notorious history of iCloud file system bugs and posting DRM’s over legally owned MP3 files. Therefore, I subjectively don’t trust Apple with storing any file on iCloud.

Because I don’t want my offline MP3 files anywhere on iCloud, this point is a clear disadvantage for me.

Play Experience

This might be a personal issue due to my location or Internet connection, but I’m not completely satisfied with the listening experience of Apple Music. When I start playing a song, I have to wait a few seconds before it actually starts playing. I have also experienced pauses while listening.

Spotify has provided a seamless listening experience so far.

Although I can’t empirically blame Apple for this issue, I evaluate this as a negative personal user experience.

Verdict

Let’s do a summary of my evaluation.

Spotify offers a great community and a good opportunity to discover new songs & artists; as well as a nice user interface. However, it does nothing but streaming music, and internal playlist options are limited. As of today, it has around 40M paid users.

Apple Music is part of an all-in-one solution; covering streaming, purchasing music, free Internet radio, renting movies, etc. Internal playlist options are very strong. However; its playlists are too sterile – opportunities of discovery are relatively slim. It also lacks community interaction and nudges subscribers towards a paid iCloud account. As of today, it has around 13M paid users.

All in all, I picked Spotify over Apple Music for streaming purposes. Spotify happily accepted my rare local MP3 files as well, and there was no reason to keep the rest of my library (30 GB).

However, I’m still using iTunes to rent movies. That’s another business.