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Left hand piano fitting with bass


nickd

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I'm starting to teach myself New Orleans / boogie woogie piano (I have a Dr John DVD, watching Professor Longhair videos - you get the idea).

 

What I've never really understood is how to make this work in a small band context, and how to keep the piano left hand out of the way of the bass guitar / double bass (or vice versa).

 

Can anyone advise on this?

 

Or can it work in a small band without a bass player? Say piano/drums/guitar/vocals?

 

Thanks

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I sympathize. Although I'm not playing that style I'm constantly evaluating how much to "put into" my left hand in a band context (mine is 2x guitar, bass, drums, flute, fiddle and multiple vocals). We play mostly simple songs and my tendency is to reach for root octaves with some syncopation. Doesn't always blend with the bass and often fights with the guitar when he uses distortion.

 

Sometimes I drop the pinky and just play a single bass note. Sometimes I come up with a more complementary part. Sometimes I change chord voicings or syncopation to find a space for myself. And sometimes I just sit out, play percussion, or use a different sound entirely (from piano). It's all about serving the song first and me second.

 

But with boogie woogie, isn't the piano a featured instrument? Perhaps in that style the question should be how does the bass stay out of YOUR way? (you did hint at that in your "vice versa") How do recordings you're familiar with handle the instrumentation?

 

Good luck! I can imagine many others deal with this.

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I just went to a boogie woogie master class with Ezra Charles on Sunday. There's no bass player in his band. I would imagine it's the same for other boogie woogie purists.

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Thanks for the responses guys. Maybe I should try it without a bass player - though I'd imagine you need superhuman strength to do a whole gig without a break for your left hand.

 

Recordings I've listened to often seem to be quite unclear, partly due to age. The bass often seems to more or less double the main parts of the left hand piano part - does that sound plausible?

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Recordings I've listened to often seem to be quite unclear, partly due to age. The bass often seems to more or less double the main parts of the left hand piano part - does that sound plausible?
It's not only plausible, it's preferable. Otherwise you'll need to work out some other sensible counterpoint between the two low end parts.
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I've been watching some more YouTube videos, and there does seem to be a split (as the replies above say) between boogie woogie purists just playing with a drummer, and bigger bands where the bass player doubles the piano left hand (or at least a simplified version of it).

 

I think that about answers my question: if I teach myself to play in this style to a suitable level, I should be able to handle playing either with or without a bass player.

 

Thanks for the responses.

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When the bass doubles left hand boogie he should EQ his sound so it's not very fat and overpowering.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

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I'm starting to teach myself New Orleans / boogie woogie piano (I have a Dr John DVD, watching Professor Longhair videos - you get the idea).

 

New Orleans does not = Boogie Woogie.

 

In New Orleans, everything is more complicated (and awesome). But the bass and L.H. should be at least accenting the same rhythms and roots.

 

In Boogie Woogie, the L.H. and the bass would probably double each other much more closely.

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Doubling piano and electric or acoustic bass is a lot of fun and sounds great when you do it right. It takes practice, and takes considerable discipline on the part of both players. We can't just play what comes naturally; we have to play parts that work together. Often unison, but sometimes with one instrument just playing an accented portion of the other, and sometimes with each allowed to stray a bit but in ways that never clash.

 

Playing the 5th instead of the root isn't likely to sound good in most cases, but no doubt there are times when it will.

 

In the soul band, I often pedal roots, allowing the bass player to hit the root along with me or to venture off without worrying aqbout the bottom dropping out. He knows when I'll be there and when I won't (he's the type that picks it up quickly; we rarely have to discuss it).

 

When pedalling roots, I listen carefully and know to back off in places where he's playing a strong 3rd or 5th in the bottom octave; it gets muddy if I'm not careful.

 

Soul music tends to be repetetive and groove based which makes this easier. I also have played in blues bands, where it's even easier. In the styles you're talking about, more careful coordination is probably required.

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I do a lot of solo gigs playing pop/rock/blues tunes and of course use my left hand on every song and you can certainly hear it. When I work with other bands that have a bass player sometimes there would be some conflicts so here's what I did: I have a PX3 so I set a split point on my keyboard on the left side duplicating my regular piano patch and tweeked the volume down on the left hand side of the split internally so that I can still use my left hand but it is now way down in the mix. I can hear it ok but it is not loud enough to bother the bass players that I work with. Might sound a little strange but it works for me.
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Right, or just turn down the bass a bit on the EQ.

 

Even when doubling with bass, I prefer to let the bass be the bass and the piano adds tone. It's one reason why I prefer 12" or smaller drivers to 15" drivers for keyboards.

 

However, kicking organ bass (if I did that) would be different, and there are other times when keyboards should make everyone's chest vibrate. E.g., the end of Lucky Man.

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learjeff said: Right, or just turn down the bass a bit on the EQ.

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I did try this but it seems to work much better by using the keyboard split thing. When you do a lot of solo work and have to use bass lines all night it is really hard, at least for me, to not have that left hand going most of the time. I never was much of a left hand player until I started doing solo stuff....by necessity I had to use the left hand much more. I love doing the solo gigs....but it is still fun to play with a band with a bass player. And a lot less work for me.

 

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learjeff said: Right, or just turn down the bass a bit on the EQ.

_______________________________________________________________

I did try this but it seems to work much better by using the keyboard split thing. When you do a lot of solo work and have to use bass lines all night it is really hard, at least for me, to not have that left hand going most of the time. I never was much of a left hand player until I started doing solo stuff....by necessity I had to use the left hand much more. I love doing the solo gigs....but it is still fun to play with a band with a bass player. And a lot less work for me.

 

Do all synths have what I believe the Rolands have called Keyboard Follower( I may be wrong ) where the it changes tones where you choose it to.

I have this mixed up, but someone familiar with Roland, could let us know?

And I assume other companies have a variation of this smart idea.

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But wouldn't make the rest of the upper part of the keyboard sound thin? Well, thinner.

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No...the right hand side of the keyboard still gives you the same sound as it always does...the only difference is that the left hand side of the board past the split point is just lower in volume...you can still strike the keys at your normal velocity but the volume is a low as you want to make it by adjusting the internal volume tweeks. As I said before, it may sound strange but in real life it works great.

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I do the same thing. I used to do it in the old days on my B3 - setting the lower manual at a lower volume than the upper so as not to confuse the bass player (they're easily confused).

 

Advance nitpick defense: I know the B didn't have separate volume controls for upper and lower manuals. I set up a lower apparent volume by using different drawbar registrations which made the bass less prevalent.

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What I've never really understood is how to make this work in a small band context...

 

Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.

 

Go ye and learn.

 

Funny you should say that - I'd never heard of Jon Cleary, but the video posted on this forum a few days ago got me thinking and spurred me to post this question.

 

I shall go study at the feet of Mr Cleary (well, watch YouTube videos anyway).

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What I've never really understood is how to make this work in a small band context...

 

Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.

 

Go ye and learn.

 

Interesintgly, while I never heard the name of aforementioned gentlemen before his name now appears twice in two separate threads. :D

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