There are certain items that every bass player (and guitar, for that matter) should have available to them. We’re not just talking about spare strings and extra picks here. All of these items are a vital part of a prepared bassist’s toolkit, and they can save your life in the heat of the moment. Because as we all know, things happen when you least expect them to — so you want to be as prepared as possible. These are some of the must-have bass guitar accessories.
You gotta stay in tune! Tuning technology has come a long way, and these days there are a variety of options to suit your setup. Pedal tuners are amazing, as they have a number of functions like down-tuning and strobe tuning (accurate!), and LEDs for dark stage atmospheres. They can also provide a quick way to mute your signal. As far as bass guitar accessories go, this should be at the top of every list.
If you don’t want to have anything on the floor you can always go with a clip-on tuner. They usually provide the same amount of tuning options as pedal tuners, but clip on to the headstock and gauge vibration. This means they don’t sit in line of your output signal, and also free up space on your pedalboard. They’re ergonomic, easy, and also provide options for tunings other than 440Hz standard making them useful for any application.
The third, and least convenient, option is to use a regular chromatic tuner. Their accuracy is not in question, and some even come with a metronome for practicing. But if you need to tune up or alter tunings during the set quickly they can be a cumbersome, implausible, and difficult to see.
Guitars are machines that occasionally need to be tuned up, and I’m not referring to pitch. There will come a time when you need to make adjustments, whether it’s to the action, neck relief, intonation, or something else. Tech kits come with everything you’ll need to make sure your basses are set up and ready to go for every show and recording session. They include Allen wrenches (hex keys), multi-screwdrivers, gauges, rulers, a string cutter, and a convenient carry pouch. And most, if not all, also include a setup guide to help you out with information if you need it.
D.I. and Preamp Pedal
This is one of the most useful bass guitar accessories, and every bassist should have a solid D.I./preamp pedal so they don’t have to rely on whatever gear the house has to offer. Some D.I.s come with overdrive, which can add harmonics to your sound on certain passages or help it cut above the mix overall. Many of them also offer EQ and compression as well. You can use them in conjunction with an amp and blend the sounds so that you get the weight and punch of the amplifier with the midrange of going direct. Or you can use the direct signal into an amp modeler to get your ideal sound.
Cleaning products might not be glamorous, but they are an inexpensive and worthwhile investment. At the very least you’ll want to have string (for extending string life), body, and fretboard cleaner (reduces decay and gunk buildup), a few polishing cloths, and a fret cleaning cloth. Some also include body wax. With this combination you can keep your axe shining from headstock to bridge whether on the stage or in the studio.
A guitar is an investment, and just like any other investment you want to ensure you do everything you can to protect it. Gig bags are better than nothing, but. there is no substitute for a hardshell case. It will keep your bass safe in transport and provides compartments for storing things like cables, strings, picks, and pedals.
Aside from a good case, there might not be any better piece of gear that will protect your bass guitar than straplocks. After all, one of the worst feelings in the world is when your strap comes loose and your bass drops to the floor. There are many types, some you install onto the strap screws on your guitar, and some come included with the strap (like the DiMarzio ClipLock).
A good strap is another essential that might not be sexy but is a necessity. There are many different kinds of straps and materials that compose them like nylon, neoprene, and leather for example. Some even come with pickholders so you don’t have to keep them on the amp on a mic stand. There are also weight-relieving straps that help take some of the burden off of the back and shoulders during long playing sessions.
A good stand is useful for a number of reasons. You can keep your backup bass on it so you can swap out quickly so you won’t have to keep it in your case or even worse – lean it against your amplifier.
It should absolutely go without saying that you want to take every precaution possible to protect your hearing. Bass players are often located in close proximity to the drums, with the cymbals normally right around ear level.
Anything is better than nothing, and the standard foam earplugs are certainly capable. But it’s a great investment to spend some money on custom molded earplugs designed for the live musician. These will attenuate the SPL without too much of the occlusion effect, and also have a much better overall frequency balance. A good set of earplugs are especially important for players who sing, as they will allow you to monitor a more balanced overall frequency response. It’s a worthwhile investment for playing live shows, recording sessions, and even for attending concerts.