Ask Damian Erskine: Gear (loopers and straps)

Q: Do you have any tools that you use specifically for practicing?

A: The most useful tool I have at my home studio (for practicing and writing) is my Looper! I use the Boss RC-20 Loopstation (but may have to upgrade this year… it’s seen some abuse and is starting to die.. which has made me hyper-aware of how useful it is!). There is nothing quite as handy as having the ability to set up a chordal vamp for experimenting with playing over changes, laying down a bass line or chord progression and playing with melodic ideas for songs, just tweaking around with weird grooves to try and make unusual loops, etc… It’s the easiest and best way I’ve found to try and emulate a full band for writing to really try and hear what a song might sound like or for practicing to hear how a line might sound against different chords, etc… Everyone really should have a looping device of some sort for practicing. It’s the one piece of gear that I recommend to all of my students…

Q: What is the deal with that double strap you use sometimes?

A: While on a long and busy tour (playing my 6-string Zon), I noticed that the fingers on my left hand kept going numb a few hours into the night. I realized that my strap was really digging into my left shoulder and was either pinching something or cutting off the flow of blood. When I got home I immediately started to fool around with ways to distribute the weight and reduce the pressure on my one shoulder. After a day of futzing around with it I went to a leather shop, got some scraps of leather, “Chicago Screws” & a leather punch. I figured that I would just loop it over the upper horn (which works great for double-cut basses.. I’d have to figure something else out for a single-cut.. possibly another strap button). At that point, it was just a matter of finding the right spot (with the help of my wife) on my back to attach the new strap to the old. The two straps connect at about my right shoulder blade in back. This works wonderfully and allows me to do a number of things. I can:

  • Distribute the weight equally between the two
  • If I push my right elbow down a bit it puts pressure on that strap and pushes the bass out to the left, making for easier upper register access! I noticed that the 2nd strap gave me more control over where the bass hangs on my body!
  • I can also slide the bass from side to side and put more pressure on one shoulder or the other.

All in all, a successful experiment!

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Check out more Ask Damian Erskine columns

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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