January was an interesting month. Compared to my productivity and practice in December it was almost a lost month. I know that’s a bit of an over statement but sometimes it can be hard to overcome my inertia and sit down behind the music stand, plug in and get things done.
I’ve kept busy rehearsing for shows, touring and learning music for the last month. I took a different approach to learning some of the tunes. If time is limited I usually sit with my bass and play the tunes over and over but this time I added a step. I listened to the tunes away from my bass. I’d listen in the car while on the road or sit with iTunes and review the tunes. My goal was to learn the chord progressions by listening and then confirming on my bass later. Then I play the tunes over and over trying to internalize the verse and chorus.
I was successful learning parts of tunes for Emm Gryner’s shows while on a 4 hour car ride but still needed to refer to notes for Lynne Hanson’s shows. I play with Lynne again in April so I better get at it if I want to get away from those notes. I consider my ability to hear quickly the weakest part of my playing so learning tunes off the bass can only improve that part of my role as a bass player. Ideally I’d like to get to the point with any artist where I customize my set list and only need to add the keys of the tunes. For Rant Maggie Rant I’ve played the tunes for a few years so don’t really need notes but I still make my set list with keys for the tunes. Continue reading
Anthony Vitti is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music and now part of the faculty at Berklee. He’s put together a series of videos he calls The Forgotten Grooveyard. He’ll bring in a guest bassist who could be another faculty member or a student and they will play a groove together and improvise over the bass line.
There is so much to learn from each video. Everyone’s sense of time and note placement while playing with a click is a workshop all on its own. This is what bass players do. You can get a close up look at different players approaches to the bass line and their technique. Occasionally we get to step into the spotlight and take a solo and there are lots of examples to listen to in the Forgotten Grooveyard.
I’ll be spending some more time with these videos lifting the bass lines and solo ideas. Hopefully I’ll write some out and post on the blog. In the meantime go to Anthony’s YouTube page and watch and listen to some great bass playing.
Here’s a taste with Anthony playing with John Patitucci. John lays down a tasty, funky groove.
From time to time the internet surprises me. About 6 months ago I joined the Berklee Bass Department group on Facebook. I didn’t go to that school but there were interesting posts by students as well as the faculty. In particular Steve Bailey, using the name Berklee BassChair, was posting on a regular basis. Steve runs the program these days and the faculty includes folks like Anthony Vitti, Victor Bailey, John Pattituci and Lincoln Goines. I’m also learning about other faculty members and grads. Even Victor Wooten and Leland Sklar pop in from time to time to post. Continue reading
There was a time in my high school and college days when I was scared of my shadow and doubted my abilities as a musician. After 20 years running a small business the shadow is no longer an issue although I think self doubt is just part of being a musician for many of us. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over that part of my personality but I am so grateful to be able to do what I do on a regular basis. There really is nothing quite like a live performance. Continue reading
- Put a metronome at about 70 bpm.
- Take a pencil or a drum stick and tap quarter notes to the click. Continue reading
I’m sure there are some people out there who don’t like Daft Punk’s recent release Random Access Memories but I haven’t met them yet. This will be a record I can come back to again and again and never get tired of it. It wasn’t until after I first listened to the record that I learned that there are real live human beings playing instruments throughout the record. What a novel idea for a dance/pop record in these digital days. Get Lucky features Omar Hakim on drums and Nathan East on bass. It’s a master class in rhythm section playing between two of the best in the business.
The song is straight forward harmonically with a chord progression Bmi – D – F#mi – E for the entire tune. It might be simple but the song has hooked 1000s of people world wide. Have you heard that old joke that pop/rock musicians play 4 chords for thousands of people and jazz musicians play 1000s of chords for 4 people? It’s a 5 string bass tune. Nathan hangs out on the low B and D a fair bit. Continue reading
One of your most important tools to becoming a better bass player is your metronome. Practicing with a metronome or click track will help you develop a strong sense of time. You could practice with a drum machine pattern as well but the issue with that is that a drum pattern can help in finding the time because there are a lot of percussion parts like kick drum, snare and high-hat that make it easier to follow the time. A metronome is just a simple click on certain beats and you have to work on feeling or counting the beats that aren’t there as you play along with the click. I should point out that there is a difference between having good time and being able to groove. You will come across musicians who have good time but it doesn’t groove or feel good. Groove is a post for another day. Continue reading
I’ve been a fan of Pino Palladino since I first heard his fretless playing on Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat and Tear Your Playhouse Down. There were quite a few UK fretless players in the 80s but Paul Young’s record was the first time the bass was so far forward in the mix in a pop tune. Pino went on to play with so many great artist. The Pino Wiki is worth a read. It’s a who’s who of pop music.
One of my favourite records from the last few years is The John Mayer Trio – Try. It’s a live recording with Pino and Steve Jordan on drums supporting John’s guitar playing and singing. I expect John’s playing on this record surprised a lot of people who were used to hearing his Top 40 pop tunes. He can play!
I decided to lift and transcribe this tune to get a better insight into what Pino does. Continue reading
This one of my favourite apps. While I’m working on learning and hearing jazz progressions, iRealbook via its forums let me store chord changes for 1000s of tunes from jazz standards to The Beatles. There are no melodies for copyright reasons. One of the best features is that I can loop sections of tunes to work on bass lines or improvisation. On the gig the best feature is that I can transpose a tune to any key. I can also make playlists for anyone I work with so that I am prepared for the next gig.
iGigBook lets me store all my fakebook PDFs on my iPad. A fakebook contains a transcription of the melody and chord changes for a tune. Currently I have about a dozen books on my iPad and through the app I can search for tunes in a matter of moments and be ready to go on a gig. I can also prepare set lists for future gigs.