GruvGear's FretWrap Cleans up Tasty Bass Licks
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-03-07)
Let's start this off with a few fun facts. The dude behind Ampeg and that SVT thunder and Flip-top warmth that everyone's loved for years? Bass player. Bob Gallien of Gallien-Krueger? Bass player. Marco di Virgiliis, leader of MarkBass and amplification revolutionary? Bass player. Pierre Erizias, the man whose basses wowed the entirety of the MGR staff (and just about everyone who walked over) for perfection of feel and tone? Also a bass player. So, that Jay Baldemor guy who is heading up that new Gruv Gear company who made the V-Cart Solo so you can cart large and heavy objects (like, say, a bass stack) really easily, and designed the FretWraps specifically for bassists as a MUCH easier alternative to the scrunchie? Yeah. He's a bass player, too.
For those of you who aren't so great with pattern recognition, we seem to get good products out of people who see a need for these products, a niche to fill, a better, smarter, easier way – and that's exactly how the GruvGear FretWraps came about. “I had the idea for a few years in the back of my notebook,” says Jay, “and it just stayed there for a while untouched. Then one day I was driving with Norm Stockton, and he started wishing that there was something better than the average hair tie. I just sat there with this big grin on my face and said, 'Go on...'” The two worked out then and there that Jay's drawing needed to be made real, and it had to do everything you wished a hair tie could do.
Of course, it had to fulfill the most basic function, if anything: cutting out overtones, and deadening ringing strings. Hair ties may be able to stretch over the headstock if it's thick enough, but after that it's often too stretched out to really do the job well. It also had to be adjustable, so players could change the pressure on the strings from heavy to very light according to their playing style, tastes, and the task at hand, saving them from changing hair ties or just dealing with one that happened to be too strong or too soft. It had to fit all kinds of basses (and guitars), and it had to be made of soft enough material so that it wouldn't mar the finish or wear at your bass in any way. It had to look pretty snazzy, too. After plenty of testing, the result is what you see pictured above and below. (Anthony Wellington and the pictured basses are unfortunately not included in the purchase price.)
The GruvGear FretWrap, I'm glad to say, is everything it sets out to be. On my 4, 5, and 6 string basses, it performed exceptionally. About the size of your average capo and made of flexible and compressible material, the FretWrap can rest on your headstock when not in use or when your bass is in its case. When in use, you can adjust the tension muting the strings with a regular velcro strap on the back of the FretWrap. Whether I was live and tapping or in the studio and needing to keep the low-end clean, I could count on the FretWrap to keep the noise down to just what I was playing. That padding on top is pretty thick, too, so you have plenty of room for extra tension if you should need it, although I found that the better settings were found when I kept the Wrap tightened only about a third of the way down the back for studio or fingerstyle work or a little tighter for tapping. It seemed to sit best for me right before the third fret for maximum damping without getting in my way. Changing them from bass to bass is a breeze, too, and you'll be happy to slip it on and off faster than you could with your old velcro shoes.
The nature of the the FretWrap led me to experiment with various settings as well, and I soon discovered a use Norm Stockton, the various endorsers, and Jay Baldemor might not have yet (doubtful, but a man can dream): as a harmonic capo. I found that by fiddling with the pressure until it was just tight enough to create a harmonic but not quite tight enough to deaden the string I could get a little aggressive with my right hand and create sounds akin to pitched hand drums with the various harmonics that came out, just barely there, but noticeable. It worked best set on the major harmonics, right above the 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th frets. With some refining, it could be the basis for a solo piece. I found the ability to defeat the FretWrap's very purpose to be a sweet little Easter-egg in the design, likely unintended, but since the FretWrap does its job so well that I had to search for a way to make it go wrong, this bit only gains it a few extra points with myself and with the more experimental bass players out there.
Now, there's the deal with cost, and I already know what you'll say, because I've thought of it myself. Hair ties can be had, more than likely, for free from any of the various women who follow your act around, or even your own mother, aunt, or uncle. The FretWrap is $22 for a pack of three, and I'm here to tell you that they're worth every penny of the difference. The sheer difference in ease of use and overall quality of result alone are worth your money for this product, without a doubt. I can even see non-tappers getting their money's worth out of this product using it as nothing more than a tool to clean up your own playing.
Jay explains that GruvGear wants to “do things right where they weren't before. We're not just a 'me too' company – we're hitting all the spots nobody has yet, and you can look forward to more creative solutions and new products from GruvGear throughout the coming year and the long term future.” Jay even backs his products up with his own personal seal; he uses all of his own gear when he goes out on gigs as a bass player.
The bottom line? It's not “just a replacement” for a hair tie any more than your new home studio is a “replacement” for your 1976 handheld cassette recorder. Once you've tried both, there really isn't any comparison. This one gets an Editor's Pick from me, and I very quickly made arrangements with Jay to get a set of my own.
You can check out all of GruvGear's products online at www.GruvGear.com, and stop back here for my review of GruvGear's V-Cart Solo in the not-so-distant future. Until then, happy playing, and stay creative.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College.
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.