Gear Guide: Nik West’s Funk Essentials
When it comes to funk music, bassist Nik West cuts right to the core. “Tone, tone, tone! And major feel! Funk is a feel that just gets down in your soul. Bass is definitely a big part of funk music. Generally, it is the bass that drives the song along and most, if not all, funk songs are recognized by their bass lines,” she said.
The Arizona native is an incredibly versatile musician whose talent has brought her all over the world and work alongside Prince, the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and hard rock shredder Orianthi, among others. She can switch gears from pop to R&B to jazz to on a dime (or combine them all), but above all the bassist is arguably best known for her hard-grooving funk stylings and energetic stage presence. Having shared the stage with the likes of Macy Gray, and Bootsy Collins, she is currently preparing to release a new solo album in spring, 2017.
West plays a number of Fender bass guitars, with varying numbers of strings. “When I am recording, it’s always a 4 string bass, and for the new school sound,my go to bass is my American Deluxe Jazz bass (now called the Elite bass) because it cuts through the mix very well. You get nice crispy slap tones and fingertone, or if I am going for more of an old school sound, a 60s [Fender] P bass.”
Live, she chooses her instrument based on which genre she is performing. “R&B/Gospel music really sounds great with a 5 string, while the funk is really best with a 4 string bass. I tend to lead toward jazz basses. For rock, I love the Dimension basses as the humbuckers really give me a growl with nice midtones,’ she said.
Despite her extensive knowledge of her instruments, West stresses that the gear itself is less important to her than the sounds she creates from it. “I actually don’t consider myself a gearhead, but I do love a great tone and that part has been very consistent throughout my career. I’m more of a naturalist… meaning I tend to love the natural sounds of my basses. If I can sit down and practice without an amp, just acoustically, and it feels good and sounds good I know that when I plug it in, it will be a great bass. Adding various pedals definitely add fun sounds but for me, different pedals expand my playing ideas. Certain pedals actually help me play differently on the bass,” she said.
With that in mind, West shared a few of her favorite pieces of gear and accessories that help her bring out her signature style on bass.
Neve 1073 Channel Amplifier
Universal Audio has some nice preamps and EQ Collections. The Neve 1073 is a mic pre that really gets a great vintage tone. It’s like you are recording in the 70s. That’s definitely something that says true funk… the 70s!!! It is really warm and the tones sound amazing.
I tend to love German engineering (and cars!). If I can plug my bass in and set the amp to flat and still get great tone, it only gets better when I decide I want to EQ it a bit. This particular amp sounds clean, crisp and you hear low ends and mids that are not muddy. Oh! You can plug in two basses and set two different tones and just switch to either channel without resetting anything.
Dunlop Super Bright Bass Strings
I call it the FUNK STRING! I never thought that strings matter so much when I first started playing. But, after trying different brands and gages, I could not have been more wrong! I play medium gauge and I change them on tour maybe every couple of weeks. For recording, I prefer they have some wear in them. It’s like having my own little compressor.
Spectra Comp Bass Compressor Pedal
TC Electronic makes a great little compressor pedal that pretty much fits in your pocket. I loved it so much I had it installed onto my Nik West pedalboard (it has it’s own followers and fans… check it out on YouTube sometime!). Another great pedal was introduced to me by Bootsy…. That and the Baby Bass Wah are two of my favorite pedals to play with.
Gruv Gear Fretwraps String Muters
My last honorable mention would be these little fretwraps by Gruv Gear. They are a lifesaver for funk players or slap players. They are a brilliant replacement for the hair tie most bass players put on the bass to mute the strings as we play through fast and furious songs.