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Rig Rundown - Panic at the Disco's Nicole Row

Funky custom Js and punchy Ps help this low-end maven earn gigs and nail tones from Motown to Miley and all points in between.

Facing a mandatory shelter-in-place ordinance to limit the spread of COVID-19, PG enacted a hybrid approach to filming and producing Rig Rundowns. This is the 36th video in that format.

The Musician’s Institute grad—who’s backed up the likes of Miley Cyrus, Fat Joe, Ty Dollar Sign, Dallas Austin, Remy Ma, Aussie Troye Sivan, and (normally) touring with Panic at the Disco—bassist Nicole Row carved out some time just before releasing her debut solo single “Headspace,” to virtually welcome PG’s Chris Kies into her Cali tone retreat. In this Rig Rundown, she goes through her stable of Ps, Js, and custom basses, details how the neck profile dictated her connection to the Jazz model, and details her powerful pedalboard that amps up the snarl, bite, and oomph.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 2

Possibly Nicole’s freshest bass is this custom Marco Bass Guitars TFL 4 model that she scored during quarantine and has yet to gig with it. While luthier Marco Cortes does have base models he builds off, he doesn’t produce the same instrument twice so some notable highlights on this model are the handwound single-coils, 34.5" scale, maple neck and fretboard with large block inlays, and its relic’d forest green finish. She plays exclusively with her fingers and uses Thomastik-Infeld strings in 4- or 5-string sets.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 3

“If it’s my choice and my sound, it’s this bass.” Nicole’s sweet baby is this 1990s Fender Marcus Miller Signature Jazz Bass outfitted with an onboard Sadowsky preamp that “bumps and is really funky and bright” (probably why she only plays it in active mode). She’s owned this one the longest so she feels most comfortable playing when it’s in her hands making it her fly bass, her session bass, and her show bass.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 4

“This bass would sit well with Vulfpeck because it’s bright and excels at staccato funky parts,” says Row about the above Fender American Performer Jazz Bass in the popping satin surf green.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 5

Here is Nicole’s contemporary Fender P that’s been upgraded with a set of passive Bartolini P-bass pickups.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 6

If you’ve seen Nicole Row onstage supporting Brandon Urie and the rest of Panic at the Disco, you’ve seen her thumping on this Fender American Elite Jazz 5-string. “I’ve started to really rely on it with Panic because it cut through (the mix) and has more high range than most of my basses.”

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 7

Nicole met luthier L. Ellis Hahn at NAMM while she was still apprenticing under bass-building legend Roger Sadowsky. She’s since navigated her own career and started designing under the L.E.H. Guitars banner. So far she has one model (available in 4- or 5-string) called the Offset and features a 34" scale, 21 frets, a weight-reduced body with chambers towards the neck for improved balance, a Nordstrand 3-band preamp custom wired to “boost only” with graphic fader EQ, and Nordstrand BigRig5 (bridge) and NP5 (neck) pickups.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 8

Typically, on tour with Panic, Nicole would be rocking the 1000-watt Eich T-1000, but for at-home (and most non-arena gigs) she’s happy playing the above T-500.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 9

Again, on tour she cranks her Eich heads through cabs stacked with 10" and 15" speakers, but for home jams like this Rundown, she’s been bonding with their 112XS cab outfitted with a ceramic speaker.

Nicole Row Rig Rundown Photo 10

By bass standards, this is a massive board! However, these half-dozen pedals allow Nicole to cover all her bases (pun intended) for any gig, session, or audition. For her Panic days, two of her most-kicked pedals are the Aguilar Fuzzistor and Darkglass Vintage Microtubes for band’s nasty, snarling indie-rock anthems. She uses the EBS OctaBass for its lower-voiced grumbles and when stacked with other pedals can mimic a vintage synth. For silkier, underwater tones, she’ll engage the EBS DPhaser and when it’s popping off in funkytown she’ll hit the MXR Bass Envelope Filter. And at the behest of her bass-playing homies, she recently acquired the Noble Dual Vacuum Tube Preamp/DI Box.

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For at least a decade, the classic Ampeg SVT was the dominant bass amp for power and tone.

Photo courtesy of ampeg.com

From the giant, hefty beasts of yore to their modern, ultra-portable equivalents, bass amps have come a long way. So, what's next?

Bassists are often quite well-informed about the details of their instruments, down to the finest technical specs. Many of us have had our share of intense discussions about the most minute differences between one instrument and another. (And sometimes those are interrupted by someone saying, "It's all in the fingers.") But right behind our backs, at the end of our output cables, there is a world of tone-shaping that we either simply ignore or just don't want to dive into too deeply. Turning a gear discussion from bass to amp is a perfect way to bring it to an abrupt end.

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Flexible filtering options and a vicious fuzz distinguish the Tool bass master’s signature fuzz-wah.

Great quality filters that sound good independently or combined. Retains low end through the filter spectrum. Ability to control wah and switch on fuzz simultaneously. Very solid construction.

Fairly heavy. A bit expensive.

$299

Dunlop JCT95 Justin Chancellor Cry Baby Wah
jimdunlop.com

4.5
4
4
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Options for self-expression through pedals are almost endless these days. It’s almost hard to imagine a sonic void that can’t be filled by a single pedal or some combination of them. But when I told bass-playing colleagues about the new Dunlop Justin Chancellor Cry Baby—which combines wah and fuzz tuned specifically for bass—the reaction was universal curiosity and marvel. It seems Dunlop is scratching an itch bass players have been feeling for quite some time.

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