Hello! I'm Ron Tavalin, a Chicago-based progressive rock/metal bassist and this is my low-end den. Here you'll find music videos, bass guitar information, technique, and whatever else.

I’ve been rather quiet on here lately; I haven’t updated any videos or anything like that and haven’t made any new ones. I have been busy in the background working on Yes’ “Machine Messiah,” and I’ve taken the Darkglass plunge with their awesome Darkglass plugins from NeuralDSP.

I hope to finish up “Machine Messiah” this week – it is a beast – and the Darkglass stuff sounds KILLER!

I’ve dropped my Craigslist band advert and it’s really bumming me out. OK – not CL or the ad, but the lack of bands in the area who play Liquid Tension, Vai, Dream Theater, Zappa, etc. VERY disheartening. I’ve been looking for more than 2 years without anything – in a city of 3 million. Zero. Zilch. Nada. That’s really depressing.

Still, I am soldiering on as best I can, although for the past few weeks it has been an uphill push to stay motivated in this “no-playing-prog-metal” town.

More to follow soon (I hope!)

This week has seen a return of Project Alcazar and my work on a new tune. I sent the basic tracks off this afternoon and Chris really liked them, so now I’ve got the basic ideas together and will develop them.

The tracks for the last tune sound awesome – I can’t wait til they’re released. This new song will feature Mark Zonder on drums as well, and I’m looking forward to putting my bass to his kit.

I’ve kinda shifted away from interest in the Roland GR-55 synth (largely due to price… yeee-ouch!) to something far more economical and potentially better sounding.

I’m commandeering one of our daughters unused iPad 4’s to set up Garageband and some plugins and see of an iPad, a bluetooth footswitch and a USB interface can replace my pedalboard completely – and add synthesized sampled basses and amp modeling on top of it (there is a dedicated Rickenbacker 4003 bass sampled software with amp modeling for $99 – a Rick for $99 with the samples approved by Rickenbacker).

Can it replace the pedalboard and bring me the stuff a synth bass will offer? And then some?

Yes. Oh yes.

I have chronic issues sleeping due to stress (if I wake up I can’t go back), so Wednesday night April 3 was about the 6th day in a row of really bad sleep and I let my boss know that I wouldn’t be in Thursday AM. I had already planned on taking off Friday April 5 and Monday April 8, but couldn’t hang on til the official time off began.

So Thursday afternoon I worked on a Project Alcazar song, and Genesis “Eleventh Earl of Mar” from a new video (I’m going to pull the existing one and redo it soon). The next day I worked on it some more, was as giddy as a school girl about my progress, then excitedly sent off my recordings.

SHOTS FIRED! MAN DOWN!

Let’s just say that Chris didn’t share my enthusiasm, but mostly for technical recording reasons. So I did some fiddling around and found that my Mackie passive mixer, the one on my pedalboard, is a huge bass TONE SUCK. I ran direct from my Radial ABY to the DAW and it sounded great. Now I have to redo my pedalboard, and find a better way to blend stuff

I was a bit bummed out, and did not work on the Project at all Friday night, much preferring to spend time watching goofy Youtube videos and not playing bass. OK, I watched some Scott’s Bass Lessons videos on Youtube (which are EXCELLENT), but that doesn’t count – check out his website at https://scottsbasslessons.com/).

Saturday morning I worked on the song some more and re-recorded some stuff, but still didn’t really feel like playing that much and only practiced about 2 hours.

Sunday I woke up and redid the majority of the song, and this time Chris loved it. I was set to go to the Plini show at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge as keyboardist Robert Bone’s guest. He and a friend picked me up at 5:15 Sunday night and we went into the rainy city for below par burgers, overpriced beer, and little else… until PLINI!

They encored with Electric Sunrise…!

The INCREDIBLE Simon Grove did 6 bass solos and was astonishing. He leaves me scratching my head… “How’d he do that AND make it look mundane?” He played his Dingwall with the act before his (Mestis) and his LeFay with Plini of course and sounded like a hammer. Selenium Forest was amazing.

I spent the day finalizing the bass tracks for the Project Alcazar song and I think that song is in the can. There is another one (also with Zonder on drums) I am working on, plus the Eleventh Earl of Mar redux, another song from Gary in Nashville, I’d like to work on Zoot Allures and Machine Messiah, and…

Plini last night was great.

Thanks, Robert, for your generosity and company.

More projects lining up now, including gem.n.i.

As part of Project Alcazar, I recently was sent the recordings of Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Chroma Key, and his current band, Warlord) for a song we have been working on, soon to be released.

These drum tracks are awesome. Knock your teeth out.

It’s so good to play with a drummer of his caliber. Every part is perfectly played, if he accents a particular beat in a measure, if that measure gets repeated anywhere that same accent on that same drum or cymbal is right there everytime. Consistent, like a machine. Such fun to play with!

The project leader, guitarist/songwriter Chris Selbert, has been working with me since January-ish on Project Alcazar, along with drummers like Mark Zonder (there is another astonishing drummer but I am not going to mention him yet until I’ve actually got recordings underway with him, which will hopefully be soon for reasons I’ll give in a moment).

I’ve had bass tracks recorded for about a month, but Mark had yet to lay down the final drum tracks until very recently. A copy was sent to me for me to listen to, see what existing stuff worked, what didn’t and what needed to change and to write the new bass parts.

One of the great things about working with Chris is that I have incredible freedom to write my own bass parts. If there’s something he wants a certain way I am more than happy to play it to the best of my abilities, but 98% of the time I get to write all the bass lines. Yay me!

I double-clicked the icon and WOW.

WOW.

These tracks sound great. Mark Zonder (www.markzonder.com) is an INCREDIBLE drummer. He is completely consistent and creative, a real blast to jam on. So I spent time today recomposing the bass tracks, and re-recording the new ones and got about 95% done with everything except mixing them and sending them to Chris for his opinion.

But wow. I have to admit, these new bass/drum tracks with Mark Zonder are amazing. Tight, punchy, heavy when it wants and insanely fast at will. After listening to it again just now I’m really excited about how good it sounds – I can’t wait to hear the finished product!

So who will I be recording with next? i think I know – he’s an incredible drummer with direct Dream Theater ties and I’ve already begun working on the rough draft bass tracks of the brand new song I think we are going to work on together. I’ll have to check for more details with Chris as things pan out, but this initial song, the one I worked on today, is awesome.

Stay tuned. Good prog metal stuff to come!

A few weeks ago, a guitarist named Chris Sterbel contacted me about playing some tracks on an album he was doing – with ex-Fates Warning and Chroma Key drummer Mark Zonder. I jumped at the chance and the album, with a track from me, was released today!

I am already working on another track with Chris and Project Alcazar, working with another well-known prog metal drummer (a Dream Theater worldwide finalist – he’s in their drummer audition videos). 🙂

Today I recorded “Paradigm Shift” for my Youtube channel and I’m really happy with how it turned out. There are two more LTW songs I want to cover before I’m finished, but I’m enjoying doing some other stuff for a change.

I’ve lately come under the spell of the Roland GR-55 guitar synthesizer and how it works with bass (using the GK-3B). I watched a bunch of demos on this thing and it’s amazing. I love the bass models – the Rick sounds like a Rick (and I want it so I can start covering early Rush), the Jazz basses sound like Jazz basses, and the Musicman sounds like a MM (I could’ve used it in the LTE song today!)

There are effects, eqs, drums, classical guitars, lead guitars, synths, choirs, strings, cellos, violas… it’s astounding – and they sound GREAT.

So now I’m desperately seeking synthesis.

I’m still on a Darkglass bender, but Im going to get the DAW plug in and sate my curiosity for some time, but I still plan on a DG Hyper Luminal and B7L Ultra V2 at some point, but with the GR-55/GK-3B and DG plugin I should be set.

Dream Theater were in Chicago last night and I didn’t really miss them. I’d seen them once and that was good for me. I LOVE playing Dream Theater and other crazy stuff, I don’t like listening to it as much.

It is weird but true. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the music I enjoy playing the most, and that’s OK. I’m usually listening to Porcupine Tree, or UK, or Renaissance or the Beatles before any prog metal by anyone. And no, I’m not a fan of metal (but I did see Saxon and Iron Maiden open for Rush – it was Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” tour, and again, I’m done. And that was a few moons ago.

I find prog metal more exciting for my fingers than my ears and that’s why I only listen to the stuff when learning it and didn’t mind missing the DT concert here last night.

Now to play some “Metropolis.”

Have a great weekend everyone!

So after much deliberation I’ve settled on trying a Darkglass B7K Ultra v2 and a Hyper Luminal compressor, added to the clean channel on my board. If I really like it, I may expand my AB/Y to an ABC/Y and give the Darkglass stuff it’s own channel (one channel for clean, one for TC, one for Darkglass, and one open… maybe something crazy), I’m not sure.

As it is, these two pedals will sound AWESOME together. I’m also going to be changing out the preamp in one of my RBXJM2’s with help from The Music Gallery, dropping in a Darkglass Tone Capsule pre. Can’t wait to hear that!

Yes, there is a John Myung Signature Bongo 6 in the works for those of us who need narrower string spacing than a Bongo 6 offers (John plays modified Bongo 6’s with 5 string necks and six string hardware to accomplish that, as he doesn’t fins a Bongo 6 out of the box very comfortable, either. I thought about asking Ernie Ball to make me a Bongo 6 that I could play, but I ran out of money before I finished the email).

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/general_music_news/john_myung_details_gear_used_on_new_dream_theater_album_reveals_what_makes_his_bass_different_from_stock_versions.html?fbclid=IwAR0WbuaRbfrGMhCueND8L4NkR62XhH7UG40A37769CFwQ6o9UPK94YT-MZA

Cant wait.

I got so much done this weekend I took today off from everything except laying around and putting on weight.

Mission Accomplished!


I pulled “Universal Mind” from the Youtube channel Wednesday evening as I didn’t like the tone AT ALL. So I remixed it and re-uploaded it Friday night and wow – what an improvement.

I woodshedded “Paradigm Shift” for a long time, and went over UK’s “In the Dead of Night” to make a new video Saturday morning, and made a basic track of a demo song for Gary Buck in Nashville, an original song that he wanted me to play bass on. So I started listening to it and recording rough ideas. I ended the night listening to “Machine Messiah” by Yes and deciding I wanted to work it up and give it a modern metal sound, meaning I’d download the Darkglass plugin by Neural DSP and try it out 🙂

I got up Saturday morning and figured I’d make my UK vid in about 1 take – WRONG.

Take 57 I had it done, which was OK, but it left no time to work on “Paradigm Shift,” which I wanted to re-record and upload. Now I was feeling under the gun because a big project I am involved in needed a video promo for the whole package (the release), and I had nothing.

I did get “In the Dead of Night” uploaded and I developed a new layout at the end so I can add a “Subscribe button” and a “Next Video” screen as well to the end. That will be on all videos from here on.

The new “Subscribe” button with log on the upper left and a suggested next video in the upper right, plus my name 2x at the bottom. Someone’s quite proud of himself.

I next worked on Gary’s recordings, when another musician and friend sent me mixes of Genesis’ “Eleventh Earl of Mar” that he’d put together for me to play on. I began working on “Machine Messiah” and got a few minutes into it, then listened to Zappa’s “Zoot Allures” and played a long a bit to get some ideas for another cover.

Next it was back to Gary’s song. I recorded about half of what I wanted, but figured I’d put it off until Monday as I took the 25th off.

Finally it was time to do the video promo shoot. LOL. WTH am I gonna do…

I hung a bed sheet from our four poster bed and put a lot of front lighting on it. I had Tracie stand opposite me in our small bedroom to try to make it look like a real promo piece – and they only needed a few seconds.

So she recorded, but the bed would get in frame. Cut. Or the closet. Retake. Or my bass wouldn’t be in frame. Try again. I had to squat down like Cotton Hill (“Tojo shot my shins off!”) and hold my bass and jam like I’m having a seizure. Again, and again, and again.

OK – get close up of hands playing from two angles.

“OK – that will work, I hope, What time is it? How can it be 11:30?” I watched the video. “It will never work.” So I stitched it together before bed, went to sleep and thought I’d try to finish it before 11 AM when I was going to Jim Morley’s to reconnect, jam, record and make plans.

I got up Sunday morning and went to work on the video. I thought, “Well, here it is. I hope they like it.” Packed up and went to Jim’s.

It was great to see him and hear what he’s been up to – we have plans on doing some things together very soon, so project gem.n.i is back ON. We’d like to find a drummer, but we are going to start working on new music in the next few weeks.

So I got home about 5 and found out that my video was good enough to give them material for the vid promo, so that was GREAT! I began working on Gary’s song, which I finished up and sent off to him that evening. He loved it and now it’s going in to his demo.

What a weekend.

I’ve been very busy doing really cool stuff – putting together this website, working on videos (including my first Frank Zappa cover), changes on my YouTube channel, and I’ve been working with a couple of well-known prog drummers and may be starting up a new project soon with a great guitarist/multi-instrumentalist. I have to shoot a quick promo video this week, and get some bass tracks sent off to a guy in Nashville who needs some help.

I am hoping to get the tracks done this month and the promo package finished up, in addition to making new videos for UK’s “In the Dead of Night,” Yes’ “Machine Messiah,” and maybe a Porcupine Tree cover like “Lazarus” played on fretless.

All the while I’ve discovered Plini, Simon Grove and other amazing bands like Periphery, etc. I am going to see Plini at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago on April 7 of this year, which is awesome.

Plini’s music has really turned me on to the Darkglass Alpha and Omega pedal, and Darkglass sound in particular. I am looking to pick up one of these beauties soon (the $400 used price tag is a bit much), but the tone is so amazing it’s worth it.

I’m looking at making a major purchase next year, either a new bass (I can’t find one I really am gaga over except the Modulus Q6 – I wish Strandberg made a Boden model 6 string bass!)

Strandberg Boden Prog 5 bass… why no 6? WHY?

I am also thinking about changing out the preamp in one of my RBXJM2’s to a Darkglass Tone Capsule and maybe a refinish – a very light blue RBXJM2 with a Darkglass pre would be amazing.