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Coupla Things


Chad Thorne

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1) Last night I went to a blues jam because my friend who plays bass for the house band has an injured arm and it was painful for him to play long, so I went to spell him. While there I was watching all the "guitar gods" pulling out all their flashiest licks, all at top volume, of course. They were accxomplished, mostly; but I was thinking how thankful I was not to be putting myself in that situation any more. I love playing bass! in the back next to the drummer, and for me it's all (or at least mostly) about making music. I can enjoy the experience without stressing about whether I'm cool enough. Who's with me? *

 

2) I own three basses, a J, a P, and J 5-string. I like to say the P is for rock, the J is for blues, and the 5-string is for church; but in truth it only depends on the mood I'm in at any particular moment which bass I choose. Anybody else like that?

 

*Actually, the most fun I had last evening was with a guy who flailed at chords on a Strat and sang two originals, one with kind of an "Expressway To Your Heart" groove and the other almost a stroll kind of thing.

 

 

 

 

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1) Yes, but I do stress about whether I'm good enough to pull off some lines in certain situations.

 

2) I like to keep people guessing as far as what bass I'll use on what day with what music. Nobody ever notices the differences except for the aesthetic value.

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1) Most people that play at open jams do so because it is their only outlet for public performance. They will play to the best of their abilities, and they only get a song or two to do it. So yes, those that front/solo will be pulling all sorts of tricks out of their bags. All the while their self esteem takes a beating every time someone else plays "better" (however you want to define that).

 

But should those with more talent reign in their abilities and play to the lowest common denominator? That wouldn't be right. And it would make for a boring night for anyone who actually came out to listen to good music.

 

But even the rhythm players -- those in the shadows -- will be playing their best when they take the stage for 5-10 minutes (or whatever). Drummers might play more advanced beats or throw in fancier fills. (It's the blues for goodness sake; you can play the entire book with only a couple of basic beats!)

 

Even the bassists. I went to a blues jam a long time ago and the host band's bassist was very good, able to play all over the neck and still make good music. Great chops. For the sake of the audience I decided to take a simpler approach to give them something different to listen to for a change. One thing I used (over used, perhaps) was chromatic leading tones at the chord changes, something the host bassist didn't use up to that point. When I sat down what did he do? Well, depending on how you look at it it was either "imitation is the most sincere form of flattery" or "anything you can do I can do better", because now he was playing all those chromatics, too. [Of course I suppose you could argue that I was "showing off" by playing so differently from the host.]

 

And it doesn't happen often (actually it only happens if you call for it), but bass players can solo at open jams, too. [Not so much at a blues jam, though, where they may put 3 guitarists on stage at once and they take all the solos.]

 

In any case the key to keeping your sanity at an open jam is to just have fun along with the other musicians on stage and make good music. Be positive, be supportive, and don't try to make it a competition. If you're taking the spotlight, either with vocals or a solo, go ahead and tear it up! That's what everyone expects from you in that role.

 

The value of the open jam is in networking; specifically, meeting other musicians to play music with. Or what happened to me. I found a sub for me for my band, a bass player I felt comfortable giving that responsibility to.

 

 

2) I own two basses, a 4-string and an 8-string (unpaired). The 8-string sees little action as I don't have much need for it these days, although I did play a show with it last year.

 

Once upon a time I thought it was only necessary to have two (electric) basses: fretted and fretless. Then I started jonesing for a double-neck fretted/fretless. Then I realized my shoulder would break off if a double-neck were my only bass.

 

John Paul Jones got me to think about 8-string (paired) basses. Again my mind went to a double-neck and broken shoulder.

 

Then I wanted to play every instrument under the sun. Then I realized, no, I couldn't afford to buy one of everything. (Cellos don't come easy!) So then I got interested in MIDI controllers and sound libraries, so I'd only have to learn one interface and be able to produce the sound of any instrument. (greenboy fueled my fire with talk of V-bass, a MIDI controller with a bass interface.) Then I realized (thanks to 09) that it may be harder to play a violin patch, with all the nuances and MIDI knob twittering and wonkering, than to actually play a violin. So I had come full circle but with a new appreciation for acoustic instruments.

 

But I still had a need to play outside the standard bass role, and solo bassists like Steve Lawson, Michael Dimin, Michael Manring, etc. gave me inspiration. I decided to go the ERB route and got the 8-string. This also solved the dilemma introduced by Stanley Clarke: piccolo bass or double-neck with piccolo.

 

You guys have got me thinking I need two basses so I can have one with flats, but so far my busted budget has won out. ;)

 

If I had a J, P and J/5 I'd be tempted to play the J/5 on everything and call it a day. :o

 

[i have 4 guitars but only play one. I have 2 mandolins but only play one. I see a pattern starting to develop here. :D ]

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*Actually, the most fun I had last evening was with a guy who flailed at chords on a Strat and sang two originals, one with kind of an "Expressway To Your Heart" groove and the other almost a stroll kind of thing.
If I play guitar at your open jam I promise you I will be this guy. Except I'll be playing an acoustic/electric Ovation and playing more of a rock style. ;)
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...In any case the key to keeping your sanity at an open jam is to just have fun along with the other musicians on stage and make good music. Be positive, be supportive, and don't try to make it a competition...
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm just saying I'm happier playing bass than "lead guitar." Another person's path is his path.

 

Ironically, I play very simply most of the time, just trying to nail the groove. I did it last night and afterwards all kinds of people were coming up to me telling me I'm an "awesome bass player." :cool: (Personally, I think it was just the beret I was wearing...)

 

 

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I'm with you on the sitting back and playing. I much prefer to leave the flashy stuff to others. Keep it simple and stay in the pocket, that's me...unless I'm bored. ;) I'm still not going to get too fancy, we're not talking Victor Wooten here.

There are really only 2 basses I use for everything, my Warwick and my Guild. These days I mostly use the Warwick. The guitar player who runs the PA gets kind of pissy if I keep switching off.

I love it when a great musician sits in. We had a guy come up and do Mustang Sally with us. He sang and brought his hamonica. He was great! I had a blast.

Lydian mode? The only mode I know has the words "pie ala" in front of it.

http://www.myspace.com/theeldoradosband

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Flash is definitely not my strong suit. I do find that with my current band, playing straight 8 root notes (which I don't do all that often, come to think of it) does not tend to go over well. Something to consider.

 

I use my trusted BTB 5-string for everything. And I've done the top 40 band, classic rock, (nu) metal and now rockabilly. The only thing that changes (occasionally) is the strings.

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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The most fun I've had at a blues jam was on drums a couple weeks ago. I kept it close to the vest and let the guys up front do their thing. Later, the host of the jam shook my hand and said I was welcome back anytime, and gave me the best compliment I've ever had: he said I was "flawless" up there.

 

Wow. Flawless. All I did was not piss all over every song we played. Is that all it takes?

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."

 

Les Paul

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Ironically, I play very simply most of the time, just trying to nail the groove. I did it last night and afterwards all kinds of people were coming up to me telling me I'm an "awesome bass player." :cool: (Personally, I think it was just the beret I was wearing...)

 

a good bass player gets the groove. An awesome locks in and bass player nails it. No flash involved.

"there ain't no faux mojo" jcadmus
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I'm with ya on #1. I love hangin' back and layin' it down with the drummer. Once in awhile I swagger up to the mic for a bit of backgrounds but always, always acting cool and professional - even if I look the opposite.

 

#2. Nuthin' but the Grind 5 on stage. I stick with what works.

Porch jams require the Dragonfly 5 and the Hog.

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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Laying down the groove is a lot more satisfying to me in those settings. Knowing that what I'm playing with the drummer is getting women onto the floor and shaking their asses is an incredible feeling of power. As for the guitar players? Let them wank off all over each other. Maybe they listen, maybe they don't.

 

As for the choice of instrument? Do what suits your mood at the time. I feel like I can bring pretty much any instrument I own to a blues jam and hold my own. The only one I avoid is my fretless since it lacks a little bit of the punch I would like on that kind of gig.

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Laying down the groove is a lot more satisfying to me in those settings. Knowing that what I'm playing with the drummer is getting women onto the floor and shaking their asses is an incredible feeling of power. As for the guitar players? Let them wank off all over each other. Maybe they listen, maybe they don't.

 

+1. I can't dance, but my goal is to get other people to get up and move.

 

I definitely prefer to just fade into the groove, no flash here. It's not because I am shy, I just feel that my place is to lay down the foundation with the drummer; my favorite players are the ones who added something without calling attention to themselves. Aside from the hundreds of unnamed bassists who back up great blues guitarists, guys like Danny Klein of the J. Geils Band, or Jan Zukowski (sp?) of the Nighthawks, come to mind for laying down the foundation for (rhyhm and ) blues jams without calling attention to themselves. Even when it's box pattern in I-IV-V for guitarist after guitarist wankfest, getting the groove underneath all that flash is crucial to making the guitarist seem as good or better than he really is. Like my signature says, a guitarist only has to stand out for the solo, if he takes one at all, people will immediately notice if the bass line in lacking, if only subconsciously, and will stay in their seats.

 

I have a MIM J-Bass, a P-J style Fretless Hohner, and a Dean ABG; the Jbass is my workhorse, but once I am steadily giggging, I will by a Pbass (or that sweet G&L Tribute), because both P and J are workhorses that fit anything.

 

*It's cool that at least one guy did originals. You get one shot in a blues jam, might as well stand out after the 25th reworking of "Red House", "Hideaway" or "Pride and Joy". To my mind, classic R&B songs can't be improved upon, borrowing from "Expressway to Your Heart", is a good place to start building a song.

"Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.'-Hamlet

 

Guitar solos last 30 seconds, the bass line lasts for the whole song.

 

 

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