More Tips! Season 2

1) Recall a number of past discussions regarding the decision as to committing to a single organization and hitting the road (and my decision NOT to do so). In my case, the decision was to build a regional domain and commit to my wife, children, and (now) grandchildren. There are of course huge benefits to becoming a ‘Road Scholar’, and also a huge price to pay as well. Reminder: Should you choose the glory of the big stage, don’t forget to ask yourself how to get OFF! Should you choose my path, do NOT commit to a single organization! Certainly create some obligations, but also establish a number of duos, trios, small groups, as well as a major group. The more musicians with whom you work on a regular basis, the better! The point here is- get yourself a duo and assume the load. Sing some lead vocals. 


2) Alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs- Speaking to the youngsters, it’s all out there my friends. In this business, it cannot be avoided. Of course our advice is to abstain; however, taking on a judgmental attitude is not advisable. Use and abuse is an unfortunate component to our culture and history. The good news is that being ‘straight’ (a non-user) is highly desirable in today’s workplace. Tolerance is key, particularly for road musicians. Should you be both straight AND judgmental, oddly enough you will find yourself (off stage) being less desirable than the users! That’s Show Biz! Do yourself a Big favor….Keep it Clean, but Be and let Be!!


3) When I’m the boss (that is, leader of the group because I booked the show), I have one rule: Everyone Gets Paid, No Matter What!!!   Regardless of what happens in terms of contracts, a broken down bus, weather, misunderstandings, etc; when you call a musician to a gig, it’s your obligation to pay them! Period!!  I hate to think how much money I’ve paid out of pocket to the guys through the years because something went wrong……


4) The Tip Jar (Casual gigs ONLY. NEVER put out a Tip Jar if performing on a stage)--     As a rule I don’t like tip jars, but that’s just me (and I’m in the minority). That said, there IS a protocol, and it goes as follows- -4/A) the band is responsible for tipping the sound, lights, servers, etc. regardlessof tips to the group (hopefully not in the form of a ‘jar’) ; 4/B) small groups such as singles, duos, trios- tip jars are a great idea and can boost your income many times over, thus 4/C The leader should never relocate the tips out-of- sight of the group a any time. 4/D) Typically tips are divided evenly between the performers (see 4/A) . 4/E) In my opinion, if tips total less than the paycheck of a single musician, I cut myself OUT as leader. 4/F) If for ANY reason the leader chooses NOT to share tips with the group, that understanding MUST be made clear (preferably in writing) to each musician at the point of engagement or otherwise prior to arrival. 4/G It is appropriate for small club groups to tip servers OUT of group tips, and if a minority of group members incur extra travel expenses, by all means it is appropriate to reimburse from shared tips as long as the recipient is an equal contributor, and the leader is taking an even cut. If the leader takes a bigger cut, the leader pads the ‘out of town’ guys out of his cut, NOT the tips!


5) A while back I mentioned a number of reasons to save your old strings- giving them to friends and students for example, but also that the core makes a great tool for a number of uses. Particularly useful is the core of the ‘G’ string. Take a G string, cut it into 4-6 inch segments, remove about half the winding/ segment, and give to your friends. There’s NO better tool for cleaning the carburetor on your lawn mower.


6) Please recall that from time to time I draw attention to the highly informative articles found in the ‘International Musician’ (the American Federation of Musicians trade magazine). The July issue, 2016, contains two critical entries which you can Google. Check out Robert Baird, Contract Basics for Touring Artists. It’s 101 information every musician should know. Please see tomorrow’s blog for more info!


7) Yesterday’s blog alluded to an article found in the International Musician (July, 2016) by Dr. Randall W. Dick- Athletes and the Arts: Staying Healthy as a Musician…. With a vast number of publications addressing the physical issues haunting professional musicians, this particular article is simply a ‘must read’ for all musicians regardless of age. In fact, Dr. Dick’s information is likely MORE curtail for younger musicians hoping to avoid that which the future brings (in terms of MY hindsight)!


Did you know that 50% of all musicians have some form of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)? 75% of musicians will develop at least one musculoskeletal disorder from playing during their lifetime. Piano practice ranges from 60 dB to 105 dB; hearing damage can occur when exposed to 94 dB for 60 minutes or less. My Jeep is twice that loud.  Dr. Dick states, “ The Athletes and the Arts (AATA) website,, is a resource for artist health information through it’s own content and links to the 13 collaborating organization websites”.  BTW, about 3 million notes are played in a full length Broadway performance (again, according to Dr. Randall Dick). That’s a LOT of sound!


8) I recently noticed (2016) that the US Air Force advertised a gig for electric bass ; High Impact is their rock/fusion group. Just saying, these gigs are extremely rare and an unreal opportunity for bass players. You might take this one off your radar- the competition will be fierce, and the winner will be a flat out ‘monster’. Ouch!


9) Perhaps check out- ‘How to get a Job in the Music Industry’, 3rd Edition, by Keith Hatschek with Breanne Beseda, Berklee Press (online, I’ve not seen it yet, but it is listed under Resources in the IM monthly periodical. 


10)  I have a friend who is the most valuable session musician I’ve ever known. He is a walking encyclopedia of tunes in most every genre, and is among the most accomplished on his primary instrument of any I’ve ever heard. Recently I hired him to do a ‘casual’ show with one of my groups, and we started the night with a few jazz standards. To my astonishment, he was totally unfamiliar with jazz protocol; that is, the unspoken structure for performing a jazz tune. In terms of style, his groove, changes, solos, etc, were amazing, but clueless as to when to and NOT to play- - ending his solos in mid form, or starting a solo in the middle of someone else’s. I’m guessing he is not alone. Be certain YOU understand the bones of a jazz performance! This was covered in a previous entry, but I’m thinking I’ll go over this topic again in the near future.


11)  Are you aware of the rules and regulations for booking a gig in Canada? If you are planning to do so, look in to the stipulations under the heading- “Letter of Invitation”. You’ll find all the info you need from A-Z, and there’s a LOT you need to know. If using an agent, this is part of their job description. If you are planning an over seas tour, do your homework! I’ve done five, and always used professional assistance.


12)  Snoring! Do you snore? Does your drummer snore? Believe it or not, snoring is likely THE biggest point of contention of all traveling tribulations. If your roommate snores (or YOU), that’s an issue that must be resolved! Not so bad on the bus, but formidable elsewhere. I travel nowhere without a fan. I use a Stanley shop fan on stage, and it goes with me to the room. Actually, I am addicted to white noise so I use a fan 365. BTW, it’s great for tinnitus (which we all have). The good news is- a smaller fan is more effective! Though headphones and/or buds are the norm, any audiologists will advise against sleeping with them! SO….if you can sleep in silence, plugs are the obvious solution. If like the rest of us, use a fan. The main thing is rest your ears the very best you can….


13)  [The following should have been the very first entry to this page the day the site was launched] 


Like all instructors of jazz theory & improv, I spend a lot of time discussing ‘chord/ scale combinations’. We instructors use these formulas as a means to demonstrate how the puzzle pieces of jazz fit together. As a student, try not to take it all so literally! For example, if I said “over an FM7#11 use G pentatonic or B Locrian”, YOU need to note that those two scales are doing nearly the same thing. Just get a feel for it and move on!!  It’s like saying 50+50=100, when in fact there are untold combinations which reach that same total.


14)  [The following is in reference to performance technique regarding the right hand using fingers, not snap and pop]  Seated and/ or standing, do you rest your right forearm on your bass guitar? I do, though I tend to I tend to rest closer to my wrist while standing. So….here are some observations: If you rest your forearm, the closer you do towards your elbow the sharper the angle at your wrist; and of course if you strike close to the bridge, your right hand (RH) likely looks like a banjo player. Ouch! (just kiddin……kinda).  Though I am somewhat guilty, those sharp angles can take their toll down the road. In the event of a cramp, lift your forearm off the bass!!!-- There’s a lesson here so think about it!   Otherwise, the closer you strike towards the bridge, the closer you should rest towards your wrist. Again, remember to float your thumb as a mute, not an anchor. Also, pay close attention to where your elbow is in space. Your elbow should not stick out nor should it jab your ribs. As you check out your favorite bass players, observe their entire right arm and shoulders. 


15)  If you missed yesterday’s entry, please look back….. Relaxed positioning, seated or standing, is critical! Cramping and spasms are an absolute bummer, and can be avoided to some extent. Also hydration is key in addition to potassium (bananas, sweet potatoes, and supplements). SO………


a) If you like to perform seated, bring your own rig. Spend the bucks on a real gig thrown with adjustable everything including back support and foot rest. Many bass players do this. Make sure your rig takes your head level with those standing. Folding chairs are fine for super casuals, but may put you in a position nothing like the way you are accustom at daily practice. I prefer to perform in the same position as I practice! BTW, I use a ‘Pyle’ brand throne.


b) If you like to perform standing, spend the bucks on great shoes and the expensive inserts. If your little toe ever ‘stings’, you need inserts! Keep your workspace clear of cables and wires. I am anal about my area being absolutely clear of clutter. It makes all the difference in the world.


c)  Spasms in your RH are usually a result of tension in your elbow putting pressure on a nerve. It’s a huge problem for me, and I’m learning to control it (to some extent) using relaxation techniques and exercises (at home) which eliminate nerve restriction. If this is a problem for you, contact me at home. There are things you can do on site to stretch those nerves. 


d) If you have spent a lifetime developing mad chops just to have them fail you on stage, hydration could be key. Drink plenty of water the day of!!! Also, I am a potassium freak these days. You will be amazed how your fingers move and forearms relax when maintain your levels…


e) The most important point to take from all this is maximum comfort in terms of positioning while performing. Simple things like a folding chair putting your legs at an awkward angle can be a show killer. Do what it takes to get comfortable.   

Tip Of The Day

More Right Hand Stuff…… You’ve noticed I talk a lot about RH drills (there’s a big one coming up shortly). You have also noticed these drills concentrate on the notion of alternating fingers, 1-2-1-2 or 2-1-2-1-2-1.. Though using the same finger to ascend from one string to a higher string is taboo, some of you bring up the point that descending with the same finger to a ‘lower’ string is part of your style. Of course it is! Same for me… Remember, these are ‘drills’. When performing complicated lines at fast tempos, I stick with the alternating concept (and perfect boxes in the LH); otherwise, I have no problem with (what I like to call) ‘casual’ style. That goes for both hands. When appropriate, ‘rest the chops’…Well, I do anyway..

Tip Of The Day

Effects…Yeah, I love my 30 year old Boss DM-2 analog Delay, which I use only for solos and the occasional ballad. That said, for my taste go easy on the effects! It’s a sure bet everyone in your group has some kind of effect running. It can quickly become a cluttered mess. Thru all that hoopla YOU will sound better if you keep it clean. You will also make the band sound better if you keep it clean. If you must, use only when called for. Remember- Less is More. It’s the same as too many notes-- It just doesn’t sound good!

Tip Of The Day

Funk Bass Lines….Anyone who know me knows I love improvising funk bass lines along long threads of continuous eighth notes. The subject is among the most commonly asked questions I receive. Though the technique sounds rhythmically complicated or mixed meter, usually I’m just playing in 4/4. Also, though I have a few years invested in this, getting started is really pretty simple: Put your root anywhere you like on the A string. Find the 5th, octave, and 7th. Next, generate an eighth note pattern on the root like a machine. Then, start grabbing single eighth notes from the 5th, octave, and 7th. From these three notes, choose one to double stroke once and immediately back to the root machine. Practice same using only these four different notes. Get so you can easily move from one to the other, but double stroke each note only once. Once you can do this fluidly, start creating repetitive rhythms over 1-4 bar patterns. Next, start introducing notes other than 1-5-8-and 7, but retain these as the foundation of your line. That’s a start!! BTW, Jaco’s favorite intervals for funk lines were: octave-> M3-> 6-> 5.…

Tip Of The Day

Here’s a new term-- ‘Vibing’…. What it actually means is one musician acting like a jerk to another  (typically an older more established acting out on a younger, lower on the pecking order). Great musicians invariably have kind hearts. Fame has nothing what so ever to do with being a Great musician; In fact, usually quite the opposite! If someone ‘Vibes’ on you, please have them refer to this blog!

Tip Of The Day

CRITICAL to your future is the following (possibly the most important tip I have to offer)--  I don’t know of a single great musician who allowed success (at ANY level) take precedence over relentless practice, learning, and musical improvement. In every case, young musicians who discover ego too soon, quickly come to a grinding halt in terms of progress. Whenever I have a student cancel a lesson because of- brag, brag, brag, I know I have some work to do!! Similarly, students who are genuinely disappointed when I need to reschedule are invariably my ‘best’ students.

Tip Of The Day

Due to issues of my own, I have recently become a new member of the posture police. If you practice like I do, you spend many hours per day slumped over your instrument with your neck hyper extended looking downward. Remember I’ve suggested you practice while using a mirror (search the archives for that blog-- it’s a good one). Should you find yourself each day in the position described above, you are looking at a ruptured cervical disk--  painful beyond description and potential loss of all feeling in your left hand. Look UP!!!

Tip Of The Day

I’ve made mention numerous times the importance of the Lydian/ Mixolydian concept regarding dominant tonalities. I’ve mentioned the term ‘alt’, meaning 9’s and 5’s can be raised or lowered at will (again with regard to dominant tonalities). I’ve also mentioned that the diatonic 4th is the ‘avoid note’ within non-minor tonalities, and how to work around that. Of course I’ve stated that rules are meant to be broken. Here’s a great example-- Within any dominant tonality, the flat 6 can be the most interesting note an improviser could choose as a scale tone. Many improvisers (including myself) find the flat 6 MORE interesting when working against the diatonic 4th as opposed to the #4 (lydian/ mixo concept). An interesting comparison is that of the melodic minor vs. harmonic minor. The older jazz greats preferred the smooth sound of melodic minor whereas others went for the sharp angles created by the lowered 6 to major 7 found in the harmonic version.

Tip Of The Day

Right hand drill--  Recall a past entry regarding: octave- 5- root- 5- octave (G string, D string, A string, D string, G string)… Simply start anywhere on the neck, for example the 12th fret, and play G, down to D, down to G, up to D, up to G. The drill is to simply triple stroke the first pass, and double stroke the second pass; then move chromatically down ½ step and continue. Be sure to alternate between fingers 1 and 2 in the right hand, and DO NOT drop a string during the descending portions of the drill. Push the tempo using a metronome. It should prove to be a challenge. Just as in the past entry, try changing up your pitch selection in the left hand.

Tip Of The Day

If you are like me, you practice at home, have a large dog, and he makes regular visits for attention while you are working. ALWAYS wash your hands after touching your pet during practice (on a string instrument). Sounds silly but not at all!! Many dogs possess a coat rich in oils for protective purposes. When these oils emulsify with the moisture from your hands, the result is a grease that forms between the windings of your strings, and will instantaneously stifle the string’s resonance .  

Tip Of The Day

Never exit a venue without personally thanking those responsible for your being there- - managers, owners, promoters, etc. Be sure as you shake their hand to mention your full name (note it is not particularly ethical to pass off a business card if you are contract labor). If servers are involved, tip generously- they Will remember and they Will make mention of it (particularly if you Don’t tip).

Tip Of The Day

A while back was a theory tip regarding the use of  major triads for improvisation (with mention I would re-visit this point). Also recall our discussion of upper structure triads. Hopefully you’ve taken some time to employ this in the wood shed. Now, check out Oliver Nelson’s, ‘Stolen Moments’. The sax solo is iconic! The pure genius use of 1-3-5-octave major and minor chord tones is astounding! (also plenty of inversions)