The curse of many ‘side man’ musicians (bass players for example) is ‘Type Casting’. Once again, social media is a common cause. Being over exposed to a particular genera or specific organization can quickly issue an unwarranted brand. It is imperative that you shed as many diverse perspectives on your career as possible. The reasons why should be obvious; and you will know you’ve been branded by a diminished diversity in the calls you receive. The simple solution is use social media to your advantage-- demonstrate the diversity of your skills and availability by posting engagements other than those for which you are commonly known. Step out of your comfort zone because it will pay off in the long run.
Once again, if you are not directly engaged in a ‘conversation’ with the musicians around you, you are NOT performing ‘music’; you are simply playing your instrument. If you think about it, even great solo instrumentalists like Tommy Emmanuel clearly demonstrate a certain conversational nature in their performances (you may be thinking of Victor). No doubt along they way you’ve heard some cover band just not getting it done-- everyone chugging away at their parts, but nothing happening; no communication, and likely no smiling faces on stage! Be it a weekend cover band or a world class jazz duo, when musicians converse it’s clearly obvious! If you sense it is not happening on ‘your’ bandstand, bring it up… It will make all the difference in the world!!
IF- - you are ever so fortunate as to locate an old ‘Boss’ (product of Roland) Dm-2 Delay (analog) pedal, Buy It !! Mine is over 30 years old, and the new ones aren’t even close!! It’s the only effect I use….
Likely you have some commitment to a physical exercise routine. I always combine the physical time with the tempo to whatever I am rehearsing mentally. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. It’s an EXCELLENT time slot to practice your improv internally!! Remember- both Mozart and Rubenstein are quoted as stating they composed while taking walks!
If you are serious about your bass playing, take up a secondary instrument. For me, the bass WAS a secondary instrument. Though guitar and piano are the obvious examples, consider the extremely portable recorder flutes, and/or harmonica as a hobby. I suggest you are not wasting your time by becoming more than simply proficient on your ‘hobby’ instrument. A fresh prospective will have a profound impact on your overall musicianship.
Teaching is a skill no less difficult then performing. Take on a student as soon as you feel prepared; it will greatly improve your own understanding. If you are not prepared your student will make that clear. Great teachers encourage their students to study with others once ready to do so. If you have been with an instructor for an extended period of time and not been encouraged to talk with others, I would certainly raise an eyebrow.
Reminder about your IRealPro app. (see archives). Don’t forget it as programmable sequencer right there on your phone. Practice soloing over your own originals in the car on the way to the gig. I recommend optional driver.
Setting up your bass in terms of bridge and neck adjustments is not rocket science, and by no means should you spend a fortune at the repair shop to have this done. It‘s a simple process. Should you contact the website, we will arrange a conversation and happily explain it to you with bass in hand.
Many electric bass players discovered the instrument as a result of first playing either acoustic bass or guitar. Interesting that the conception of the E bass fingerboard more resembles the thought process of the guitar than upright; that is to say, the acoustic bass requires a linear conception of ‘positions’ due to it’s shear size. On the acoustic, I don’t think of ’boxes’ until 4th or 5th position. On electric, I think ’boxes’ right a the nut. I have given electric lessons to fabulous upright players who had know idea of the movable box (or stretching in and out of a box). Interesting!
Thinking of converting that old PJ knockoff into a fretless? There are two ways to correctly do it yourself. If you have a laminated fingerboard, best is to carefully file down the frets leaving the fret wire in place. Though not so attractive, the fingerboard retains its stability and will resist curling up off the neck which may well happen with an inexpensive instrument. Should you prefer to pull the frets, afterwards sand the fingerboard with a fine grit sandpaper, but be certain to retain ALL of the sawdust. Then, mix the sawdust with a clear 2 part epoxy, fill in the gaps, and sand again. The trick is go easy on the hardener and allow several days to cure. Be sure to always save the sawdust as this is your color match and the process may need to be repeated a few times. If you have plans on doing this to your bass, please contact the website. Someone will be in touch!
Should you find a particular practice session uninspiring or simply not fun, STOP! Do something else like brew a pot of coffee. While doing so, imagine the great practice on which you are missing out. Likely you will be back at it before the coffee is done.
Improv Tip. While learning to improvise within any style, test the depth of the water with ‘both’ feet. In other words, just jump in and start doing it. This holds true for all of us, be you a novice beginner or world great. This is not as trite as it sounds! Expressing new ideas can be intimidating. John Coltrane once said he never rehearsed a ‘lick’ as preparation for the following day. He professed to have a saxophone in his hands all his waking hours, but practice was simply a lifestyle, not a rehearsal of licks.
The CD recordings of which I a most proud are the ones that demonstrate musical and supportive restraint.
Most youngsters think ‘funk’ MEANS slapping and popping [ actually ‘funk’ is an antiquated term referring to a style developed by many of the great jazz swing small group players of the late 40’s and 50’s]. As you know, any first day beginner can pick up a bass guitar and have a slap groove going in ‘E’ in less than an hour. On the other hand, Jaco and Rocco are arguably the two greatest names in funk bass playing and you can count on two thumbs the number of slaps and pops. Of course you want to generate massive energy under funk grooves!! My suggestion is learn how to play a bass guitar! Once again, drill that Right hand. For sure have fun with slapping, just remember you’ll sound just like everyone else.
A great rule from the school of Martial Arts is to focus your practice on weapons always within reach. So if you like working out with sabers, you best carry on at all times. Of course that’s ridiculous and the answer is study empty hands. Same for musicians: focus your practice on that which will aid your needs in the immediate future. Every minute you spend copying some killer tapping solo is a minute you didn’t spend with chord/scale combinations etc.
No way around it, gals. The fingernails got to go. Both hands!
Every great electric bass player respects the concept of the four finger box (also called a ’Block’) in the left hand, in other words the massive amount of accessibility available without ever moving the LH to another ‘position’. The question is how to escape a box once committed to one. You have five choices: 1) you can ‘stretch’ out and back in to a box; 2) you can ‘shift’ the box (usually ½ step up or down; 3) you can move the box to another position; 4) you can ’extend’ the box covering five frets; or 5), you can abandon the box entirely. When you opt for choice #5, realize that great players use this as a transition technique whereas Rock Stars are unaware of the other 4.….. If you are serious about the bass and not thinking boxes (or blocks), it is imperative you make this adjustment immediately.
Theory Tip. If you find the last few Tips difficult, they will never make sense until you get out your bass and give it a try. Once you do, you’ll discover it sounds harder than it is to apply. To get started, learn a natural minor scale in a four finger box (see tomorrow’s Tip). Starting anywhere on the A string, play 1-3-4 1-3-4 1-3. Next, try raising the 7th ½ step by replacing finger 1 with finger 2 at the seventh degree. This is the Harmonic minor scale (a minor scale with a raised seventh. The Melodic minor scale has both a raised 6th and 7th. Note the Melodic minor cannot be performed in a four finger box, you will need to make a ‘shift’. Figure it out!! Also try this: Find the same starting note on the E string, but start with finger 4. Play 4 1-2-4 1-2-4 1. Figure out a fingering for Harmonic minor starting with finger 4 on the E string!! A hint will be provided in tomorrow’s tip.
See Tips for the preceding three days. Today’s tip is an important one because it is an introduction to the world of chord/ scale combinations, that is which scales work over what chords. For example, consider a C7 resolving to FMaj7. Over C7 play a Bb Aeolian (natural minor scale), but lower the 5th ½ step (called flat 5) . So, Bb Aeolian b5 (note you are starting on the b7 over C). Now, over FMaj7 play G pentatonic. You should LOVE what you hear. You just played the seventh mode of the diminished wholetone scale over C7 (the 5 chord), and a pentatonic scale over the 1 chord that incorporates the #11, 13, and Major seventh. Welcome to jazz theory and again, chord/ scale combinations. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. Stay with the blog!
See Yesterday’s Tip… 6 chords are easy in that you simply lower the 7th down to the 6th and determine if you want the major or minor tonality (major 3rd or minor 3rd); HOWEVER, you must observe the rule for ’minor 6’ chords-- Thinking in terms of key signature, the 6th is ALWAYS raised ½ step for the m6. For example, the key of C minor has three flats- Bb--Eb--and Ab, however the C minor 6 chord (Cm6) is spelled - C Eb G A natural, not A flat!!