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Alembic Club » Miscellaneous » Archive: 2009 » Archive through August 13, 2009 » Bass players, some need to think outside the box « Previous Next »

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Intermediate Member
Username: john_judge

Post Number: 113
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 12:51 pm:   Edit Post

I went to hear 6 bands while on vacation over a 2 week period and I must say I was totally frustrated by the Bass player of each group, I heard big low end, clean highs, nice tones, great equipment, melodic playing, Piccolo's, 4, 5 and 6's with fat back bone..from everything to P basses to Alembics and even a Stienberg... what was bad?
I heard 4/4 till the cows came home, no good chops, I mean silence can be a golden thing when used correctly like that one note left out, I heard so much bass flange and echo and slap back delays and reverb, you would of thought Jimi Hendrix was performing on Bass live using the Electric Ladyland Board .

I mean, dont get me wrong here, I am not saying effects are not good, they are when used correctly but when used wrong they just cover up a lot of bad playing. Mainly it was just one overkill drive of sound with no Dynamics in tonality or playing ability.
So this is not for everyone, but do yourself a favor, record yourself and listen to what you play, does everything sound the same? do you solo in the same key? do you get past Diatonic or Pentatonic scales or Dorian or lydian mode? I really think that some of us (Bass players) could shine a little more if they just do more critiquing of themselves and not settle,.

To me the Bass is my Art in which I show the world a reflection of myself, so I am hard on myself and struggle for constant change for tone for sound and when I have that then I listen to what I am exactly playing and presenting to the audience whether it is recorded or live, take a chance and step outside the box and listen to yourself you will like and hate what you hear but in the end you will correct what you don't like..

In closing I like to ad that if you never played an Upright or whether you care to, I suggest you do so, It is a great way to develop your playing dynamics, no pick ups, no volume knobs or tone, you have to do all that with your hands and technique.
Take the time to learn how good you really are.

peace everyone..just a word of thought that stayed in my mind from my vacation
Advanced Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 201
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 5:11 pm:   Edit Post

I can agree with you John in your last paragraph regarding the development of ones hands and technique and Upright playing.
One can be lucky sometimes as a Bass player when you are allowed to show your individuality at all in some settings and not be berated or even fired for playing creatively within the harmonic structure or even just playing more then is written.I always feel lucky when I am allowed to express my self.
Intermediate Member
Username: john_judge

Post Number: 114
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 5:53 pm:   Edit Post

Yes Wolf, there is nothing better then when you can fully express yourself in your playing and when it is done tastefully and does not interfere with the performance of the group, unless of course you are flying completely solo.
Intermediate Member
Username: pauldo

Post Number: 200
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 6:22 pm:   Edit Post

John - great advice, especially recording and listening back to what was laid down.

In a similar vein (or is it vane?)-
Years ago, I had a guitarist tell me that I should practice with a metronome and record myself. Initially it was taken as an insult... but man when I did I understood why he wanted me to - I was terrible. Some may question if I ever got better, but I do know that I learned alot and on occasion still practice with a metronome or my TR707 just to keep my internal clock in-sync.
Intermediate Member
Username: john_judge

Post Number: 115
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 10:19 pm:   Edit Post

Yeah your right on the money Paul, metronome is a great way to practice chops going off the time signature and even playing retards slowin it down and see if you can pick up back on one of the measure.
I used one of the Korg ear metronomes for years along with the tradional box and it's a great feeling when you can play your Bass and keep meter better than most drummers! Lol!
Senior Member
Username: hb3

Post Number: 409
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - 11:10 pm:   Edit Post

I've been noticing that everyone's got these big, complicated pedal boards...guitarists and bassists...pedals are definitely way in right now....
Username: svlilioukalani

Post Number: 63
Registered: 6-2008
Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 1:51 am:   Edit Post

I just got done reading The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten. One very heavy book. This thread make me think of the chapter on silence. What you don't play is more important than what you do. Nobody seems to talk about space and phrasing. So many have lost the ambition to groove in favor of flashy "look at me" gimmicks. The last few show's I've done, I have tried to play no fills. A major challenge for me; but I seem to lock onto the pocket much more when I loose the ego. It's all about the music. My goal for this months shows again to loose the fills and grove. More important to sit in the pocket. The mental energy expended on thinking of cool fills prevents the mind from relaxing and locking onto the music. Save the energy for solos. They will be so much more powerful.
Intermediate Member
Username: john_judge

Post Number: 116
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 8:51 am:   Edit Post

Very well put Gary and I am sure Victor and Stanley know exactly what I'm saying here LOL!.A lot of the stuff I am talking about can be found if you listen well to Romantic Warrior album, silence then explosive energy of leads, solo's and unison playing done gracefully, but with pure searing and soaring scales of power and precision , individually or all at the same time. Someone picks the groove and then they all compliment it..! Purest form of expressive playing
Intermediate Member
Username: benson_murrensun

Post Number: 153
Registered: 5-2007
Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - 11:46 am:   Edit Post

Yes, I second Gary's thoughts - it's all about the tune.
One thing that reinforced that for me at the beginning, and continues to do so, is the knowledge that I will never be a "chops monster" - I got started too late in life, don't have the time to woodshed - so I have to prioritize. My goals are to make the band sound better and to honor the tune. I don't do anything fancy, and lots of people want me to play with them... so it must be OK!
Username: chrisalembic

Post Number: 45
Registered: 3-2009
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 2:42 am:   Edit Post

"Bass players, some need to think outside the box"

For me a good way to think outside of the box, is to listen to all kinds of music and transcribe. And most of the time transcribing other instruments. As bass players we tend to think and play a certain way due to the nature of the instrument and its role. Of course thinking "bass" is not a bad thing per se. But often times bass players seem to be limited in the melodic department, especially when they solo. But not only soloing. Also basslines dont have to be dull but can be very melodic. Actually some of my favorite "basslines" come from Joe Zawinul (keys).. maybe its cause he didnt think like the typical bass player but had a sense for melody. Another great bass player: JS Bach ;-).

As for certain exercises: they sure are great for exmple for learning the fretboard, developing technique, time, touch etc.. Its just that I sometimes feel more importance is put on those than on the actual music. Just listen. Very carefully and deeply. Take out all the information. Its all in the music.
Senior Member
Username: glocke

Post Number: 608
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 4:02 am:   Edit Post

""chops monster"'
It's not really all about being a chops monster. Having the ability to play what the song requires is much more important. Remember, the role of the bass is to keep the beat going and to define the harmony.

I always like to use the example of Duck Dunn....Certainly not a lead type bass player, but has done way more sessions with many more people than any of the popular "chops players" out there.

Johns comment on the metronome is right on point. I try to incorporate it into my practice often. If I go a couple of weeks without using it it is very noticable to me.
Intermediate Member
Username: john_judge

Post Number: 118
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 6:32 am:   Edit Post

Just to clear the air regarding Chop's to all...Chops doesn't mean you play them all the time and go crazy and overkill yourself or the band you may play with.
You are building an arsenal of technique and methods to use maybe in a piece of a song or during a solo, but the more Chops you know the more you understand, the more you understand the more you hear and can easily pick out the lines of Bass from a musical passage and incorporate and in the case of Duck Dunn for example, just because he plays a laid down type groove no one should underestimate his playing ability, when you play around horn groups you can't help but to develop Chop's so the Key element here is learn all you can and knowing where and when to apply that knowledge and if the band tells you to go for it and spotlight then use what you are comfortable with in your arsenal, just make it good, because at that special moment you only get one chance .
when I think of lead Bass players the first two that come to mind is John Entwhistle and Stanley Clarke, but they were bred to become that by there fellow players and the musical choice's that were made by them the individual and the band as a whole. John himself told me once that most guitar players he jammed with in off Who seasons, hated to play with him and one called him a spineless backbone of low note Passage's because he couldn't follow him going off the groove and back on again, I mean listen to the song "The Real Me" thats a bands nightmare of a Bass player overplaying and going wild but in the Who form and to us who listen, it's a Bass players masterpiece of pure shine and one of John's best in part because of Townsend holding down the chord structure in a Bass players mind while John played lead, they just switched roles !

Sometime John's idea of 4/4 was to play 6 come back and play 2 then 2 more and 3 then 2 beat trill, 1 hammer and back on 1
to sum it up CHOP'S people.
Advanced Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 206
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 7:54 am:   Edit Post

Jaco Pastorius used to say;_____WRITE IT DOWN ! Have you listened to Jeff Berlin ?; he is a big advocate of standard staff notation as well.Yes Sir _____ get out the Staff Notation and Metronome.I have sometimes liked to play written trumpet parts on Bass, it is in the wrong octave and I need to transpose down a major third but an interesting approach to learn the musical motif or riff.
Senior Member
Username: serialnumber12

Post Number: 495
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 8:21 am:   Edit Post

john you are absolutly right, after listening to the CD of the chicago gathering i knoticed i need work on a few things myself........a few years ago i put my hand thru a wall and broke a couple fingers & had a gig that night so while getting my cast put on i told the doctor to leave my index exposed but all my other fingers were inside the cast ......long story short playing with one finger all night the whole band knoticed me totally in the pocket (no fancy stuff)& i never sounded soo good with just one finger!

(Message edited by serialnumber12 on July 23, 2009)
Advanced Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 207
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 8:23 am:   Edit Post

"OUT OF THE BOX"_________ Musical literacy _ There is so much beautiful information there to learn from.
Senior Member
Username: olieoliver

Post Number: 2641
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 8:40 am:   Edit Post

"Thinking outside the box"- Think creatively, unimpeded by orthodox or conventional constraints.
So if we all start "Thinking outside the box" the same way, doesn't that put us "inside a different box". HMMMM

While I am a proponate of approaching music with your very own unique style, I sadly concede to that fact that you'll get more work playing inside that box. At least in the venues that most players are gigging; clubs, private parties, session work, church.....

So, use the "box" to pay the bills and open it up and get of that box to be true to youself musically.

Good example of thinking outside the box.

PS. Metronome is one of every bassist' (or at least should be)greatest tools.
Senior Member
Username: bracheen

Post Number: 1485
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 10:31 am:   Edit Post

Using a metronome always gave me fits. Recently I've started practicing with a drum machine or a recording of a drum machine. That works much better for me. Much more comfortable and even fun.

Username: afrobeat_fool

Post Number: 26
Registered: 7-2009
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 10:51 am:   Edit Post

Hello, everyone! I waited to see what ya'll wrote before I chirped in. John you really hit on a point that I believe all bass players who have opportunity to solo, eventually come to understanding. "they switched roles". I have played in a few groups in a few styles of music. Regardless of the type of music, it is very rare to find a chordal/lead player that will give as much attention to a bass players needs as the bassist gives to them. It leads to alot of frustration and sometimes ill will. I have experienced in the Jazz format, all the other players dropping out when it's the bassist's solo, sometimes the drummer hangs around. But if the Bass did that when a chordal instrument solo's(I am guilty of this trying to make a point) then all hell breaks loose. Why is there this inequality?Good Bass players study very hard to understand ALL of the music, not just the harmony.
John, I really like your points. Some of what I think you are saying is, stay in the box! Effects are cool, but too often a song needs the bass to be driving and regular. We can't all be Jaco, or Stan, and most bands can't handle one.
I hope we can all be happy with our self expression, and still make great music, as that is what it's all about
John, your point about how Entwistle, broke up his pattern of 4/4 is an ancient Indian drumming technique that I have spent some time working on with a master mrdungum teacher/player from Bangalore. It has helped me immensely. Especially in odd time signatures. It has also allowed my brain to see and work in new ways that make 'the same old song' new and fresh with a new slant on the percussive aspects of my playing. Wonderful post, friends. Nick
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 2392
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 3:46 pm:   Edit Post

I don't know. To me, the ideal is that the player knows what they are capable of, what the song requires, and what the song allows. From there, it's a matter of delivering a performance within those parameters. Playing a really nifty line that catches the ear isn't the right thing to do when the vocal is supposed to be the "instrument" on display during a particular passage. Whether that line involves playing more notes or fewer, it's wrong if it pulls attention from what should be the focus. Whatever you play, the overall performance isn't all about your instrument and your part.

Now, when the song allows the bass to stand out and you can do that within your skills while still providing whatever structure the song may require from you, go for it.

I can appreciate the distinction that John makes with regard to the level of thought and skill that some of the players he observed were applying to the music. Which was their failing, though? Was it a lack of imagination, or a lack of the skill to play what they may have wanted to combined with the wisdom not to try? It's hard to know which if all your knowledge comes from the observation of a single performance unless there is sloppiness in evidence.

Some of those players could be brilliant, but they are just executing what their group wants to put forth. I've seen heavy metal guitarists who you would think knew about six chords and couldn't play more than four notes at a time. When not playing with their band, though, they might rip through some serious classical pieces, finger pick folk tunes, or who knows what else.

On the other hand, maybe the guys John saw are just guitarists who couldn't handle the extra strings. Don't be frustrated that everyone doesn't play like you. If they did, you wouldn't be special.

Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 950
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 3:48 pm:   Edit Post

I played cello solos when I first started bass, not at high speed but read the notes and played them.
Classical cello solos are great for stealing chops and there are thousands of them as midi files.
down in Cubase or Cakewalk, hit the play button and follow as best you can, slow the tempo down so you can get it right.
great for improving reading skills and great for your own solos as I said, steal some bars and phrases.
The salsa band I am in are venturing into jazz, we jammed something up last week and did it tonight.
One chord..Gm7..every one solos over it including me and I come right out of the box.
we called it 'Pineapple Roots'
Intermediate Member
Username: john_judge

Post Number: 119
Registered: 4-2009
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 4:10 pm:   Edit Post

Wow I am really impressed!...look at the size of information that came out of this post WOW! amazing and everyone is in agreement in some form or another, knowing when to play and not, using metronome training, staying in the box when necessary, coming out of the box to shine and learn, build your talent and arsenal of Chops for when that happens and go back to the normal working environment.
Bottom line here now I know why Bass players make great producers because we listen and hear for the backbone of structures and work our way up to the vocals in the mix and we are not afraid to lay back and play for that was what we were use to doing and now within these times, we have the tools to shine like never before..Bravo everyone I applaud you all as fellow Bassist, a great and interesting thread full of genuine input. peace to all....John
p.s. Olie has the perfect visual example of outside the box , read all of the thread first and check it out I love the puzzle olie Lol! you will laugh too!

(Message edited by john judge on July 23, 2009)

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