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#1
BPOTM November: Christopher Wolstenholme




Hello Everyone, and welcome to my BPoTM. I am sorry this is so late, but I have had various issues with my computer, and of course the ever present issue of College, along with a healthy dose of procrastination.

I will be doing my BPoTM on Chris Wolstenholme. For those of you who don't know, Wolstenholme is the bass player for the modern progressive rock band MUSE. His bass tone, particularly on the song Hysteria, is regarded as the holy grail of modern bass tone, and his bass playing on many songs such as Hysteria (again), Hyper Music, and Time is Running Out have inspired many bass players to take up the instrument (most notably myself).


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History

Chris was born December 2, 1978 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England. He started playing as a drummer for a minor post-punk band until he joined Dom (Dominic Howard) and Matt (Matt Bellamy) to create the band Rocket Baby Dolls, a The Cure influenced band with a gothic rock image. They later renamed the band MUSE for easier advertising ability. It is worth noting he forsake college to join the band. He now is married to his wife Kelly and has three children, Alfie, Frankie and Ava-Jo.



Playing Style

Despite his technical skill, Chris does not have much of a really noticable technique. He often plays with octaves for songs such as Supermassive Black Hole, and sometimes does full scale runs, such as on Hyper Music. His style is marked by constant, fast playing for the heavier songs and slow minimalism for the soft songs. He is not one for solos at all, he is more of a melody kind of guy. This BPoTm would be lacking without mentioning a certain song that need to be noted for its rather odd technique. I am talking about Knights of Cydonia. In its intro, it features a sort of "galloping bassline" which can be achieved by playing triplets in 4/4 timing with a rest in the 4th note. The chorus in Knight's of Cydonia is also noted for the synth background, which is actually Wolstenholme tapping on a heavily synthesized bass, although MUSE has a keyboardist play the synth line instead of Chris live, to allow him to concentrate more on providing backing vocals for Matt.

As a small note, for those of you having issues with playing Hysteria easily, the best way to play it is to break the main riff into 4 parts and practice them individually, then put them together once you have the technical skill. The 1st and 4th parts are both the same, and take place on the A string, the 2nd part takes place on the E string with a small section leaping onto the A string, and the 3rd section takes place on the D string. For the chorus, play with a metronome as the notes play in a weird time.


Gear

This is the section probably all of you are reading this for, and not without good reason. Chris's tone is extremely unique, probably one of the top 5 tones (*stares at jaco, flea and burton*) bass players try to achieve. I have divided his gear into three sections [amps, basses, and effects] for easier reading

Amps




Chris started out using an Ampeg SVT II head with various Ampeg cabinets, but he switched to, surprisingly, Marshall for all amplification after they had finished touring for their first cd, Showbiz, and has been using them since. He is most noted for bi-amping his signal, using one for distortion and the other for cleans.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
Last edited by kranoscorp at Nov 11, 2008,
#2
Basses

When he first started out, Chris was borrowing an unknown bass, and then bought a Fender Mustang from a girl who was a friend of Matt, which was his primary instrument before Muse started touring. It had a black finish which he disliked, so he took a sander to it, leaving just a black stripe down the middle where the strings were. When it was time to tour, he traded it in for a more road-worthy instrument (although he does regret it, he was rather fond of the instrument). While he was in japan, a rep from The Bass Collection invited him to their japan plant, where he was given 2 Bass collection basses, the SB300 (in trans amber) and SB330 (trans green). He mainly used his Bass Collection basses for the Showbiz tour, and sometimes broke out ye olde double bass (a Clifton Electric Upright) for some songs.



During his Origins of Symmetry tour and Absolutions tour, he mainly used a special Pedulla Rapture RB4-4 bass. It was originally red, but he spray painted black. It later started to flake, conveniently forming a sort of "dragon" symbol. It is a single humbucker bass with a bartolini pickup.

He also used his Warwick and a fender jazz (for song Sing For Absolution), 2 other Pedullas (a blue RB4-4 and a blue RBJ2-4), and a Zon Sonus custom bass for the Absolutions tour.


Nowadays he mostly uses a variety of fender jazzes, 7 of them, actually. The defining characteristics of each are as follows:



Candy tangerine deluxe 4 string in standard



black deluxe 4 string in drop d (for Dead Star, New Born, Stockholm Syndrome, and Sunburn)



black deluxe 5 string tuned DADGA (for Assassin, also for a rare sound check performance only featuring Chris and drummer)



pearl white deluxe 4 string tuned EACG (for Fury, Sing For Absolution, and Starlight)




another candy tangerine deluxe 4 string tuned CFCG (also for Fury, Sing For Absolution, and Starlight. These songs have gone through multiple changes throughout the years)



70's natural 4 string in standard (for Blackout, Unintended, and Soldiers Poem)


lake placid blue standard 4 string tuned down a half step (for Sing For Absolution during the Absolutions tour, soundchecks)

He uses each of them for certain songs of the set. He also uses a Rickenbacker 4003 exclusively for the songs Knights of Cydonia and Map of the Problematique. He still has his dragon pedulla, but he only uses it for the song Microcuts.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
Last edited by kranoscorp at Nov 13, 2008,
#3
Effects



*oh sweet jesus*

Chris has used many, many effects, so I will just go over the ones that he has used for most of his career. He uses a boss OC-2 (octaver), an Electroharmonix Sovtek Russian Big Muff Pi (fuzz/sustainer), a Digitech Bass Whammy (whammy), a Human Gear Animato Distortion (distortion [durrr]), a Boss DD-3 (delay), and an Akai Deep Impact (synth/octaver). The signal he sends to the amp for distortion usually goes octaver-->distortion-->synth. He doesn't use the synth except for certain songs such as hysteria. There are two main reasons why his gear doesn't lose low end. The obvious one is the bi-amping. The less noticeable one is his Muff pedal. Although most modern EHX Russian muffs drop low end like calories, Chris has the Sovtek version.


This version, surprisingly, is well renowned for being one of the very few guitar pedals that does not lose your low end, which also explains cliff burtan's tone.
Quote by Chris to BPM
The Big Muff is the only distortion pedal that doesn't lose bottom end with a bass; you can have full distortion and still get great bass. It's the green Russian one, but we found it in Japan and paid about 80 quid for it.



And there we go! I hope you came out of this feature a more informed player, and that you have gained as much a love for MUSE as I have.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
Last edited by kranoscorp at Nov 13, 2008,
#5
Love it, i'm a huge Muse/Chris Wolstenholme fan

One question, what songs does he use the basses with the different tunings for? I'm talking about the one tuned down a half step and the ones in CFCG, DADGA and EACG
#6
Am I the only one that DOESN'T think his Hysteria tone is his best? I mean its good, but he has a lot of tones that I like more. Stockholm Syndrome, Assassin, yeah. And his distorted tone for Time is Running Out at Wembley is orgasmic to my ears.

And if you are wanting to simulate his tone, a clean signal underneath your dirty one is KEY. I don't have his tone, but having my Ampeg leave some fundamental gets me closer than a lot of people have, even though I JUST use my Digitech Bass Driver.

Oh, and for his tone on fast picking songs like Stockholm Syndrome, play very lightly. Let your distortion and gain provide the sound.
#7
Kanoscorp, are you the one in charge for every BOTM? If so, please can you make some room for more DinoRock/legend bassists? I look forward to these stickies every month but so far (this and last month) it's just been these generic emo band bassists. These guys haven't done anything signifigant to have a tribute yet. Where is one for OX and Fish?
#8
I think his best tone from more than just single songs would be from the Showbiz ear myself, Muscle Museum being a perfect example.

Although if I picked a song for his tone I'd probably say Starlight, Time is Running Out or Jimmy Kane (can't get enough of that bass riff) are high up there, but I love his backing in Exo-politics the most. Just sounds so groovy and thick behind the guitar line

EDIT:Pizza_the_hut, did you just refer to Muse as a generic emo type band?
#9
Quote by chocolateman900
Love it, i'm a huge Muse/Chris Wolstenholme fan

One question, what songs does he use the basses with the different tunings for? I'm talking about the one tuned down a half step and the ones in CFCG, DADGA and EACG


Well I think the DADGA bass is for Assassin, he harmonizes with Bellamy on it.

Oh, this will be interesting, cause I'm doing Timmy C next month. I guess it'll be a battle of the distortion then
#10
EDIT:Pizza_the_hut, did you just refer to Muse as a generic emo type band?


Yes, take a look at the guy's picture. I don't understand why people think these guys are so great. They are just generic bass players in popular bands. We should be talking about people like Jaco, Wooten, Marcus, Entwistle, Sheehan, ect. I wanna see BPOTMs on bass GODS. If they are gonna do BPOTM on these regular types of guys, then why not do one of Fitz, Delirium or Anarkee?
#11
Quote by Pizza The Hut



Yes, take a look at the guy's picture. I don't understand why people think these guys are so great. They are just generic bass players in popular bands. We should be talking about people like Jaco, Wooten, Marcus, Entwistle, Sheehan, ect. I wanna see BPOTMs on bass GODS. If they are gonna do BPOTM on these regular types of guys, then why not do one of Fitz, Delirium or Anarkee?

Chris is a highly influential modern bassist.

I did one on Jack Bruce of Cream a while back. the 2 people who influence my playing most? this emo, uninfluential, and apparently normal man, and an old, outdated, and irrelevant geezer.

age, time period, it doesn't matter. a great bass player is a great bass player.

looking forward to Timmy C!!!!
Quote by FatalGear41
I wouldn't call what we have here on the Bass Forum a mentality. It's more like the sharing part of an AA meeting.

Quote by Jason Jillard
HUMANITY WHATS WRONG WITH YOU.


Warwick Fortress>>Acoustic AB50

http://www.myspace.com/rustingbloom
#12
Personally, I am interested as to what TheFitz will say about the Big Muff portion of my BPoTM.

Quote by chocolateman900
Love it, i'm a huge Muse/Chris Wolstenholme fan

One question, what songs does he use the basses with the different tunings for? I'm talking about the one tuned down a half step and the ones in CFCG, DADGA and EACG

Good question. I'll add the songs to the tunings in my guide.

Quote by Pizza The Hut
Kanoscorp, are you the one in charge for every BOTM? If so, please can you make some room for more DinoRock/legend bassists? I look forward to these stickies every month but so far (this and last month) it's just been these generic emo band bassists. These guys haven't done anything signifigant to have a tribute yet. Where is one for OX and Fish?

No, that would be Anarkee. The bassists featured for BPoTM are chosen by whoever makes the guide, so if you want to see your favorite bassists featured, write an article yourself or try to persuade a regular to write a feature. And by the by, this band is not emo at all, they are the most popular Rock band in England at the moment, and arguably the world.

Quote by Pizza The Hut
EDIT:Pizza_the_hut, did you just refer to Muse as a generic emo type band?


Yes, take a look at the guy's picture. I don't understand why people think these guys are so great. They are just generic bass players in popular bands. We should be talking about people like Jaco, Wooten, Marcus, Entwistle, Sheehan, ect. I wanna see BPOTMs on bass GODS. If they are gonna do BPOTM on these regular types of guys, then why not do one of Fitz, Delirium or Anarkee?


This is the comment that annoys me the most. I owe everything to this bassist. During a very dark time in my life, Chris inspired me to take up music. Listening to MUSE has given me drive to make music the focus of my life, I am going to major in jazz studies, and spend the rest of my life dedicated to it. I do not care if you say he is not the best bassist in the world, but don't you dare say he is not great.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
#14
Quote by Gofretless
The Pedulla is a Rapture RBSB-4

on the same line, Zon Sonus, not Son Zonus.
Quote by FatalGear41
I wouldn't call what we have here on the Bass Forum a mentality. It's more like the sharing part of an AA meeting.

Quote by Jason Jillard
HUMANITY WHATS WRONG WITH YOU.


Warwick Fortress>>Acoustic AB50

http://www.myspace.com/rustingbloom
#15
My mistake on the Rapture and Zon, I dyslexic am slightly.

But it IS an RB4-4, not an RBSB-4.

Edit: Actually, I am not too sure.

Quote by Chris to BPM
My two main basses now for recording and live use, are two Pedulla Raptures, the single pickup models (RB-4's - Ed.). I used the twin pickup model for a while but I prefer the sound of the single pickup model.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
Last edited by kranoscorp at Nov 11, 2008,
#16
Ah Okay, Fair enough, easy to get those mixed up

And I'm not sure on the RBSB-4 Part either, It's Just on their website they don't mention an "RB-4" and The one he's playing has the single coil.

Either way, It's an awesome bass I now want, after my Rickenbacker, Stingray, 8-String, and World peace.
#17
A pedulla takes precedence over world peace.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
#18
But the Golden question was not answered. How does he get the Plug in Baby tone? Really. How?
Now, a question of etiquette - as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?
#19
Quote by sven_cliffy
But the Golden question was not answered. How does he get the Plug in Baby tone? Really. How?

by using the pick of destiny.
Quote by FatalGear41
I wouldn't call what we have here on the Bass Forum a mentality. It's more like the sharing part of an AA meeting.

Quote by Jason Jillard
HUMANITY WHATS WRONG WITH YOU.


Warwick Fortress>>Acoustic AB50

http://www.myspace.com/rustingbloom
#20
Humanity, where the hell's my seal?

Ah, it's nice to see an American Deluxe user. Although I must admit that 22 fret body with black finish and a black pickguard and maple fingerboard made me weak on the knees. A shame about the alder!

Want a new pickguard myself, I just don't know what I should look for. I like solid colours.

Also, good to know that the Russian Big Muff doesn't cut out the bass

Quote by Pizza The Hut
Yes, take a look at the guy's picture. I don't understand why people think these guys are so great. They are just generic bass players in popular bands. We should be talking about people like Jaco, Wooten, Marcus, Entwistle, Sheehan, ect. I wanna see BPOTMs on bass GODS. If they are gonna do BPOTM on these regular types of guys, then why not do one of Fitz, Delirium or Anarkee?

You have a lot of nerve saying that. I'm a borderline rock GOD.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
Last edited by thefitz at Nov 11, 2008,
#21
Quote by sven_cliffy
But the Golden question was not answered. How does he get the Plug in Baby tone? Really. How?

All of my sources couldn't give any information about the Plug in Baby tone, but my guess is Bi-amping while running the distorted tone through the Muff and Akai, but NOT the Octaver. This will give you that fuzzy sound, and one of the settings on the Akai will give you that "bubbly" synth sound you hear at the end of the plucked note. Surprisingly, that bubbly sound is probably the easiest to find in production synths, I can dial it in on my Ibanez synth without any issues.

Adding the octaver will give you a thicker sound, which is used for Hysteria.

Quote by thefitz
Also, good to know that the Russian Big Muff doesn't cut out the bass

Correction: The Sovtek big muff does not cut the bass. Modern ones do.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
Last edited by kranoscorp at Nov 11, 2008,
#24
Quote by kranoscorp
Correction: The Sovtek big muff does not cut the bass. Modern ones do.

Methinks that's a bit of a hyperbole - I don't think he'd need that clean tone underneath.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
#25
Quote by thefitz
Methinks that's a bit of a hyperbole - I don't think he'd need that clean tone underneath.

Are you callin' my man a liar?

Quote by Chris to BPM
The Big Muff is the only distortion pedal that doesn't lose bottom end with a bass; you can have full distortion and still get great bass. It's the green Russian one, but we found it in Japan and paid about 80 quid for it.


We don't take acusers too kindly roun' here, fitzy.

But seriously, think about it. Haven't you noticed that EVERY bass player who was famous for using a Muff used a Sovtek, and yet modern Russian ones don't work that well at all with bass? Even famous guitar players who had a muff had the Sovtek, Hendrix comes first to mind but I could look up others.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
Last edited by kranoscorp at Nov 11, 2008,
#26
Liar? No. Hyperbolist? Yes.

And you said Cliff used a Sovtek? I think there's plenty of bottom-loss there. It's not a tin can like modern stuff, but I'd still want a clean signal running underneath, and evidently so does he.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
#27
Do you think an overdrive and synth pedal could pull the plug in baby tone then? I know i won't get it exactly because of the simple reason I'm not Chris but something along the lines of it.
Now, a question of etiquette - as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?
#28
Fitzy, then explain to me Chris's comment to Bass Player Mag, please.

Sven, yes, but be generous with drive but careful with synth. You want to get almost a boxy sound with the drive, and use a synth to smooth it over. Most synthezisers overdo their effect anyway, so be very judicious when applying the synth.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
#29
Cheers Special K ill give it a shot.
Now, a question of etiquette - as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?
#30
I've never really thought of Chris as an influential player, but i guess he is to lots of bass players. He is not particularly technical, and a lot of his lines are written by Matt on the keyboard first. But he is a good player, with a good band. I much prefer Tim Commorford if i was to choose, both in style and tone.

Nice article, thanks for the time spent on it.

Muse have become a bit emo in their last album in my opinion, and i've been to every Muse tour since the beginning. Still the best live rock act around i reckon.
#31
Dude, I got that green Big Muff off my music teacher for $70 Australian.

hell yea!

no wonder I love it so much.

Havn't heard much MUSE stuff but I'll check them out now.

good BPoTm!
"Whats that noise??"

"... Jazz"
#32
Quote by Pizza The Hut
Kanoscorp, are you the one in charge for every BOTM? If so, please can you make some room for more DinoRock/legend bassists? I look forward to these stickies every month but so far (this and last month) it's just been these generic emo band bassists. These guys haven't done anything signifigant to have a tribute yet. Where is one for OX and Fish?


Nope--I'm the keeper of the list as has been stated before, but its user driven. Read the first few posts in the forum plan--its all there laid out. Find a bass player who you feel we need to know more about be it the Ox or Phil Lynott, whomever, and let me know and you'll get the next available slot. And you may want to give the rules thread a second read as well.

Be aware as a small forum, we have rather diverse tastes and even as individual bassists, we have rather diverse tastes. Not every BpOTM is going to light your proverbial fire. But its good to expand your horizons at times. That's one of the purposes of the BpOTM. And if you look at the list for the next 6 months, its fairly diverse.
#33
1)The digitech bass whammy is a whammy, not a wah.

2)Cliff did not use a Sovtek Big Muff. He died before Sovtek produced them. Cliff most likely used one of the Muffs from EHX before they closed down. Sovtek produced EHX effects once they went back into business.
Warwick freak of the Bass Militia. PM Nutter_101 to join

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+1
#35
Quote by gm jack
1)The digitech bass whammy is a whammy, not a wah.

2)Cliff did not use a Sovtek Big Muff. He died before Sovtek produced them. Cliff most likely used one of the Muffs from EHX before they closed down. Sovtek produced EHX effects once they went back into business.

Really. Hmm, that doesn't prove my point, but at least it reinforces it, fitzy.

Quote by Applehead
that foot switch.. how does that work? is each switch a different path?

Yes, it every switch gives a different pre-set wiring path. Chris uses two of them live, one for onstage use and one backstage for his techs.
-Instruments-
Squier frankenbass
LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in Vintage Black
1960's Banjuke
#36
Quote by anarkee
Nope--I'm the keeper of the list as has been stated before, but its user driven. Read the first few posts in the forum plan--its all there laid out. Find a bass player who you feel we need to know more about be it the Ox or Phil Lynott, whomever, and let me know and you'll get the next available slot. And you may want to give the rules thread a second read as well.

Be aware as a small forum, we have rather diverse tastes and even as individual bassists, we have rather diverse tastes. Not every BpOTM is going to light your proverbial fire. But its good to expand your horizons at times. That's one of the purposes of the BpOTM. And if you look at the list for the next 6 months, its fairly diverse.



Hmmmm O.K. I just didn't know if it was a "first come, first serve" thing or if people were selected to do it. I didn't mean to piss people off or anything like that but i really had never heard of MUSE untill like a month ago. They just seem like a regular band to me.
#37
Quote by kranoscorp
Fitzy, then explain to me Chris's comment to Bass Player Mag, please.

I'm thinking you haven't the foggiest notion of what a hyperbole is.

EDIT: I kinda like the fact that the BpOTM is plodding along like it is... I can see if we had 8 months of heavy, heavy hitters, when we started doing guys like these (last month's in particular), I could see people saying "man, we're running out of people" and stopping the articles altogther. By spreading them out like that, I think the series will last longer.

But then again, if people do a BpOTM on me and it's a composite venture of several forum members who make up the story of my life and superpowers and piece it together, we'll know the concept has run it's course.
Quote by Cody_Grey102
I was looking at a used Warwick Vampyre LTD 5'er for about $200. I went home to grab my wallet and came back and some jerk with an epic beard got it already..
Last edited by thefitz at Nov 12, 2008,
#38
kranoscorp, cheers for adding the songs, but what about the bass tuned down half a step? I wasn't aware any MUSE songs were tuned like that, that I can think of atleast
#39
Nice thread

here are a couple pictures of his pedalboard if you don't have them

Showbiz era


Origin Of Symmetry era
#40
Quote by thefitz
I'm thinking you haven't the foggiest notion of what a hyperbole is.

EDIT: I kinda like the fact that the BpOTM is plodding along like it is... I can see if we had 8 months of heavy, heavy hitters, when we started doing guys like these (last month's in particular), I could see people saying "man, we're running out of people" and stopping the articles altogther. By spreading them out like that, I think the series will last longer.

But then again, if people do a BpOTM on me and it's a composite venture of several forum members who make up the story of my life and superpowers and piece it together, we'll know the concept has run it's course.



There should be a Fitz sig bass out. God demands that it happen.
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