For bassists, Payne has constructed the El Oso (Spanish for “The Bear”) Bass Distortion, aimed at providing the grit and grind that rock bassists need to be heard and felt in the mix.
Hailing from the northern metropolis of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Heavy Electronics’ Sayer Payne is no stranger to great gear and tone. As an employee and manager of several guitar stores throughout the years, Payne was constantly around pedals that never seemed to completely live up to the standards he expected them to—be it reliability or availability issues, to the astronomical costs that some boutique pieces command. This frustration helped to form Heavy Electronics, a company that has made its mission to craft domestically handbuilt, high-quality analog effects that deliver great tone at reasonable prices. For bassists, Payne has constructed the El Oso (Spanish for “The Bear”) Bass Distortion, aimed at providing the grit and grind that rock bassists need to be heard and felt in the mix.
The El Oso is exceptionally simple to operate. Only three controls grace its front panel—which bares deliciously attractive graphics in an old Vegas motif—for Level (volume), Mix (wet/dry blending), and Gain. Having a wet/dry blending control is an essential tool for bassists who want to craft the perfect bass tone with just the right amount of cut and low-end grind. Hats off to Heavy Electronics for including this in the El Oso.
Top-notch best describes the El Oso’s construction. The pedal sports Neutrik jacks, sturdy and smooth Alpha potentiometers, and true-bypass switching. Inside the pedal’s housing is an expertly soldered PCB board, all-analog components, and a super-clean wiring job to the jacks, LED, and pots. The El Oso’s only PCB-mounted component attached to the housing is the footswitch, making it a simple operation to pull the guts out for any needed repairs or rewiring. That said, Heavy Electronics provides a lifetime warranty for the El Oso, as well as repair and modification services. Power is supplied via an external 9V wall-wart, or from an internal 9V battery.
Don’t Poke The Bear
Using a 1987 USA Kramer Striker bass into a Traynor YBA300 head and matching 8x10 cabinet, I set the pedal’s Mix and Gain controls at noon, and the Level at about 10:30. With the Clutch-esque riffing I was employing, the amount of low-end heft added to the signal was staggering, to say the least. The lows didn’t have a forceful, concrete quality to them. Instead, there was more of a soft, space-filling expansiveness that was warm and fuzzy. Likewise, the midrange stayed completely intact through the entire range of the Mix knob, and it seemed to gain in volume at higher settings of the Gain control.
Speaking of the Gain control, the El Oso’s strongest quality is how perfectly voiced the distortion tones are. At no point—while sweeping through the Gain knob’s entire spectrum—did any of the frequencies in the highs, mids, and lows seem overbearing or harsh. The smooth, rounded nature of the high end was particularly impressive, along with its solid interaction with the Mix control when using various settings in tandem. For example, when I set the Gain and Mix controls to 10:00 (the wet signal presents itself more as you turn the Mix control counterclockwise), the Kramer’s tone thickened up and softened with a warm array of texture in the mids and lows. Yet when I set both controls at 3:00, the lows dropped to their bypassed levels, but the gain transformed into a sharper-sounding beast, with a quicker attack. The highs were still soft and velvety no matter where the controls were set —so soft that some bassists who enjoy quick, crisp, upper mid and high-end snap in their fingerstyle playing might be turned off by its tone. With that in mind, the El Oso wasn’t developed for that brand of player. It’s true heart lies in dirty and fuzzy rock tones, à la Fu Manchu and Kyuss—and it hits those tones amazingly well.
Heavy Electronics is certainly on to something with the El Oso. The warm and vintage qualities of the distortion voicing are some of the most pleasing I’ve heard in a long time—along with being bonehead simple to dial in. The lack of immediate high-end cut may not satisfy bassists looking to slice through with slap and pop techniques, but rock bassists should be in hog heaven with its fuzzy, low-end onslaught.
you’re a bassist with a love for the fuzzy bass sounds of Fu Manchu and Clutch, and want that warm, distorted power in your bass lines.
you need a distortion that cuts with a sharper edge.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
For part two of our crash course in harmony for bassists, we’re talkin’ triads.
As bass players, our job is often to indicate and support what is happening rhythmically and harmonically in the music we’re playing. And to do that, it’s important for us to understand the basics of tonality and how it works. In fact, every bass player must have a strong knowledge of harmony to do their job correctly. This month, we’ll continue last month’s harmony crash course with some more ways to brush up on your ear skills, in italics below, so you can do your low-end job effectively.
The basic building block of harmony is the dyad, which gives us our basic intervals. But the basic building block of tonality is the triad, a grouping of three or more tones (root, 3rd, and 5th) that give us the four chord qualities—major, minor, diminished, and augmented—which you’re probably already familiar with.
Just as with intervals, we should train our ears to recognize chord qualities instantly. Start with two qualities (major and minor). Once you can identify those two correctly about 95 percent of the time, add another. Keep going until you can identify all four qualities consistently.
Another great exercise is to take a melody (either major or minor) and convert it to the opposite quality. Start out with something you know well, like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” This may take a while at first, but the goal is to keep on doing these until you can convert most stuff on the fly instantly.
“This feeling of resolution, in some ways, is the whole point.”
Each chord quality has its own distinct sound, but major and minor are related, and both feel very grounded. Because of the 5th in each, our ears can easily hear which note in the chord is strongest (the root), which gives major and minor a sense of gravity. This feeling persists even if we change the order of the notes (invert the chord).
Have a friend or an app play inversions of major or minor triads. Find the root of each chord by singing it. Work towards being able to identify these triads in root position (root in the bass), first inversion (3rd in the bass), or second inversion (5th in the bass).
Pay attention to bass lines that land on a root, 3rd, or 5th on the first beat of the bar and then practice coming up with your own examples.
Diminished and augmented triads are much more ambiguous. Without a perfect fifth (diminished has a b5 and augmented has a #5), no tone in particular sounds strongest. Thus, both chords lack gravity. In fact, to most of us, every tone sounds equal, like being lost in the woods where every direction appears the same. Both seem to want to move towards something else more stable. When this occurs, it gives a sense of release, or resolution. This feeling of resolution, in some ways, is the whole point.
The top part of a dominant seventh or V7 chord is a diminished triad. For example, a C7 consists of the notes C–E–G–Bb. If you remove the C, we’re left with an E diminished triad. This is where the moving sound, or the desire to resolve, comes from. The important takeaway is that we’re making something very stable—a major chord—and making it less stable when we add the b7, because of the diminished sound, which in turn sets up the need to resolve.
Listening for V–I: On a guitar or keyboard play any major chord, then add a b7 (transforming I to V7) and try to hear where the progression “wants” to go next. Move to the new key (a fifth down) and repeat. After twelve V–I progressions you’ll arrive back at the original key.
The Dominant Gateway: On bass, try playing a walking bass pattern over the cycle of fifths, strategically using a b7 to move to the next key. This foreshadowing is a great voice-leading skill.
That's all for our crash course in harmony. If you take your time with these exercises, you should notice not only your ears improving, but your bass playing too!