HELP US, RHONDA
Bass Player|January 2021
Current Jeff Beck and former Prince bassist Rhonda Smith is a force of nature, even faced with a pandemic. Listen up as she reports from the front line of the low end...
Joel McIver 

How are you dealing with a year off the road, Rhonda?

Well, Jeff has a record that they were going to release, and his tour is rescheduled until April 2021, so while we’re waiting for that to happen I’ve been playing a lot of bass and writing a lot. I have Pro Tools here at home, so when I want to record, I can just bang it out right here. I have a record of my own in the works too, so I’m looking to get some singles done and get them released in the best way in the current climate.

Is a Paul Reed Smith still your go-to bass?

Yes it is—I’m still rocking that Gary Grainger PRS. Those Private Stock one-piece basses are so incredible, and mine is just part of my hands now. It was love at first sight for me. If somebody thinks they can beat it, they’re welcome to try, ha ha! I have a second one that’s exactly the same, but in white, as my backup. I also have a five-string version of the same bass, because some songs just sound amazing with that low B string, especially in an auditorium where you can take advantage of the dynamic range. It’s so powerful, although I use it sparingly. Normally I’ll take the five and the four out with Jeff, or all three basses if we’re out for longer.

What other gear do you use?

I use Aguilar, too. I love their stuff, especially the big touring heads—they’re just amazing. They have a really strong presence around the world, which is important if you’re touring: You want to use really great amps, but some companies don’t have any overseas support because they’re so small. In that case, if you have a situation where your gear breaks, you’re done, but the Aguilar guys really have their stuff together.

When you don’t have access to your preferred amps, which is the most unreliable hired-in gear?

Usually it’s the speakers that are the problem, because they’ve been trashed. I’ve found that some backline companies check the heads when they come back in after a show or tour, but they don’t check the cabinets at a stage volume level. When the volume is at one or two, it sounds okay, but when you put it up to stage level, it’s fried. This happens all the time. And they don’t service the cabs often enough either—they just roll them in and roll them out. Of course, no-one says to them, ‘Oh, I blew your cabinet at the gig last night’, ha ha!

Do you take both heads and cabs out on tour with you?

With Jeff, we tour continually all over Europe and the US, so we always have a main rig and a backup. We’ll keep the same rigs for the entire tour: I take two Aguilar heads. I don’t use in-ears with Jeff. I’ve used in-ears with other artists such as Prince, and in the house band on several television shows back in the day, but not with Jeff. I prefer not to when I play live, because it’s bass, which your readers will understand. With Jeff, you listen and you love what you hear, with all the nuances smack right there.

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