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Go solo with backing tracks....hmmmm


SteveC

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This quote from another thread got me thinking...

 

"I'm pretty much fed up with other musicians. Or, they're fed up with me. Or both. Mainly a schedule thing, I reckon...

 

So, I'm recording backing tracks. Rhythm guitar, backing vocals, and bass. Then, I'm putting 'em on an iPod. Covers, originals, the whole nine yards, and I'm gonna play along live. No drums, will keep more of the solo acoustic vibe that way. But, it's making me examine my bass chops a bit more fully. And, I'm having a blast."

 

I gave Looping a try and it just wasn't for me. I couldnt' get it to work right, too random. I need a little more structure. Maybe this is a way to go. With all the easy-to-use software out there, it is certainly easy enough to put together a set or two of tunes. Put them on your iPod and - viola' - hit play and solo away. Maybe it's time to upgrade my Mac OS, get Garage Band and give it a try.

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I do a simular thing on my pc with cakewalk. there are tons of drum looping software packages out there, i simply write the drums with this, dump to wave file, import the wave file into cakewalk, normalize and eq it a bit for flavour, and get on with the recording.

 

If you just want to jam it up, drum looping software is all you'll need.

Check out my work in progress.
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When I feel the need to jam by myself, I just set my laptop to play a simple drum beat with Hammerhead and start playing around on top of it. I'm hoping to build more songs for myself and for the band that way. Might be worth a shot. Get the right kind of controller hooked up to the laptop, and you could even start and stop it without having to take your hands off the bass.
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I dunno, every time I've seen somebody performing solo to a pre-recorded backing band, even if they pre-recorded all the parts, I've thought it was really lame. I mean I guess it might have it's uses in context, maybe if you are background music at a function or something.. but to make that your main gig, it's just way to static and boring. Boring for the musician I'd think as well. just my humble opinion

-Paul

"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."

-- Ernie Stires, composer

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I have seen acoustic musicians sometimes do this for a gig, bring in an iPod with some tracks done in reason. If they keep it simple, it works--you forget that the drums keeping the beat are not being played by anyone, especially if the performer is engaging enough with everything else.

 

The problem that develops, that I think Mound is referring to, is when the tracks become a crutch because the actual performer cannot play enough on their own. Having too much background noise will ruin the spontenaity of it. I would restrict it to very simple drums and try to fill as much sound with the bass as possible--that's a challenge for you and keeps it feeling "raw" instead of prepared.

 

I've been listening to the Black Keys a lot lately, kinda old-school blues, and it's made me wonder what a bass guitar could do if we treated it more like a lead blues instrument. I mean, many of the lines that fill plenty of sound for a band like that are just single-note leads with plenty of distortion. What would stop a bass player from doing the same thing, keeping it simple but dirty?

 

Another great example is the opening for Stop Making Sense, where David Byrne plays Psycho Killer all by himself over a tape-recorded drumline. Byrne is such a lunatic presence that you can't take your eyes off him--even though part of it is prearranged, you never lose the feeling that you're watching a performance. Maybe you should just buy an oversized white suit instead of all that gear you've spent money on, eh?

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I have to agree with the above sentiments. I use loops extensively in my solo sets, yet when I began doing solo bass stuff, I used as many as three drum machines, tons of processing, and even background sequences.

 

One thing I found that was if I was doing something on solo bass, sans "canned" tracks, the audience was engaged, even rapt with attention. Even when using a looper where the could see/hear me play the part which would then be looped (granted, some did not get this and thought, or assumed, that the loops were also canned), the audience were still "engaged"; perhaps curious as to how it was all happening, but still enjoying the fact it was a singular "performance".

 

Yet, once the drum machines or sequences, or for that matter, gobs of processing used to morph the bass into other-wordly, and seemingly impossible sounds, the audience attention was lost. I would lose about 60-70% of the audience. Many would just get up and leave, or go back to their conversations etc. In short they felt a bit ripped off; getting a canned performance rather than a "real" one.

 

I began using a single drum machine, and programming it on the fly in real time, which seemed to work better; the "manual" technique of "playing a drum machine held some attention, but not for long...it seems that the technology and mechanization of the performance would alienate and distance much of the audience.

 

Now, I still use loops extensively, all being played in real time (nothing pre-recorded) and actually play the drum parts on my bass using mutes, string scratches, body taps etc. This goes over VERY well with audiences (I do at times "prepare" the bass with alligator clips for more percussive timbres).

 

One thing I have really noticed is that with all the technology available today, with all the "perfection" which has been slipped into contemporary music performance and recordings (the pro-tooling of music), the sonic anomallies, the humanity of playing is being masked. And audiences are, slowly, reacting towards this. Whereas 10 years ago peopke really wanted concerts and live performances to sound just like their CD, now they are clamoring for "real" performances, played in real-time, mistakes, warts and all (I think the rise of the Jam Band scene has a lot to do with this).

 

Not too long ago I played two coffee house solo gigs. For the first one I took everything...drum machines, racks...ran in stereo et al. My own performance was so focused on all the ballet steps I had to accomplish to keep everything going, and the option anxiety of "what if I tried this..?" that I had no contact with the audience; I was to too focused and mesmerized by the flashing LEDs and footpedals. And for the audience I might as well have been a CD playing. They hardly payed attention at all; carrying on their conversations (sometimes louder than my playing) and not staying for the music. It was quite a sobering gig.

 

The second gig, a week later, I took only a fretless bass, small amp and a Line 6 DL4 looping pedal. The limitations of this setup made me focus more on both the music, and my performance of it, and the audience; becoming more engaging. The challenge was to make the most music with just this simple setup. As I played, I noticed there were no, or few quiet, conversations. People were genuinely interested in what I was doing. I made jokes and chatted 'tween tunes. People stayed ordered food..more people came and soon the place was SRO...for the whole night (and I made a bundle in tips, sold quite a few CDs...something which did not occur the previous gig). It was agreat gig.

 

My point to all of this is that to use technology available is fine ( I am really in support of technolgy and use more than just a bit of it myself); yet, to make a performance lile a recording misses the point of making a performance. A recording can be perfected down to the minutae; patience and attention to detail being well excercised disciplines. A performance is not perfected; it is of the moment and one's skill to translate and convey feelings, thoughts ideas and a form of communication being the excercised disciplines. Many, in fact most, perfomances can be fraught with errors, yet those errors become an integral part of the performance and the performer's ability to incorporate those mistakes into the performance becomes one of the principle skills exhibited.

 

A performance is also governed by the limitations of the performer/s at hand. Playing solo certainly places limitations on what one can effectively do. I have found it best to embrace that limitation rather than try to find a way around it. If you are playing solo, then the audience expects to see/hear you play solo; embrace that limitation and work with it. It is the truest test of your abilities as a player. No amount of technology, no abundance of backing tracks can make you play better, and sooner or later someone will cal out that the Emperor has no clothes.

 

Yes, looping is difficult to get down...but that is one of the skills. Playing to backing tracks is also hard, as is programming those tracks; time consuming, tedious. Playing to tracks also leaves no room for stretching out, and once you are "out" with a track it so very apparent to all listening.

 

Just a few thoughts....

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Yeah, the whole canned thing is lame unless you can really come up with a hook. Some of those Casio home keyboard people got a Fischer-Price thing going back in the late seventies (or was that the early eighties?) for a few moments, and David Byrne did, but how many songs is that novely going to last? If more then just occasional bits like mileposts here and there are not coming from your live performance it's just as easy for an audience to stay home and listen to OTHER canned music like CDs, where real interplay may be evident. Drag out some interactive video/stagecraft/Show Control stuff or get costumes and props and you might be able to put together an interesting multimedia show. But otherwise, fuggedaboutid...

 

If you can't operate a looper rig or use effects effectively, get a touch style instrument with bass and treble courses and learn to play that with independence, or take a page or ten from Ralph Towner or Joe Pass, or anybody else who can sustain interest for an entire set without needing a pretend band.

 

I know its hard to find the right band chemistry or collaborators in a vision. But almost any old crap bar band is more interesting than listening to someone playing to prerecorded tracks.

.
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I've been saying this over and over in dozens of posts lately all over the forums: People need to explore the options and the depth of available technology before dismissing it all as crap.

 

I agree with all of you that most prerecorded accompaniment these days (outside of dance music and music concrete and other genres that have sequencing/sampling at their core) is stale. But I think that comes from people using it as a substitute for something else...in this case, a live band.

 

But it's not hard to see where someone could transcend this stigma, even without the immediateness of looping.

 

What if there was a way to arrange your riffs (layering, changing pitch and tempo, bringing parts in and out), in real time with a laptop and foot controller, with as much or as little interactivity as you want/need? A bit of subtlety is still a good idea, but this technology exists today...one example being the god-like Ableton Live 4.

 

Will it require learning new disciplines, a possible paradigm shift, and hours and hours of preproduction? Of course it will, but how would one expect to sound "as good" as a full band without putting in as much time as every member?

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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I believe, in a rather roundabout way (zeronyne was much more to the point) I was trying to point out how, much to my own chagrin, a soloist (especially a solo bassist) cannot be a replacement for a live band.

 

In my own experience, this has been how I have been moving. Away from using tracks and sequences to replicate the "sound", but not the internal dialogue, of a live band to one where I use the bass as a source of musical expression; supply the rhythm, melody, harmony and dynamics required of just such an expression.

 

It's funny, I have been experimenting with Abelton on my laptop, and have tried it on a couple of solo gigs..there are quite a few possibilities and it is intriguing, yet there is some latency probs and CPU handling probs which I have experienced (no doubt I need a more powerful laptop...and more practice time with that set up!).

I got the idea from seeing Elliot Sharp perform using a Godin nylon string gtr, laptop with Abelton and powered speaker....it was awsome and mindblowing.

 

Yet for me, right now, I am getting plenty o' mileage from my basses and modified JamMan making very interactive loop compositions.

 

This is what I meant by "accepting the limitations of being a solo bassist" perhaps I should have phrased it as "accept the possibilities of being..."

 

A lot of people I have seen using both loops and/or canned tracks fall into the predictable pattern of "soloing" over a static backing track.

Much better and more musical to interact with the loops, processing, sounds etc. weaving them into a rich sonic tapestry of a full musical performance.

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Just an opinion from an "audience" standpoint.

 

I don't think I would be able to take it from an audience standpoint.

 

"Mild" looping is tolerable for me as an audience member. Sounds like the thing Max is talking about.

 

Anything more than that would push me over the edge. I'd rather see a solo guitarist or bassist or keyboardist or ukelele or...

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yeah, stuff like what Max and Steve Lawson are doing are very engaging. I'm wasn't so much talking to loopers/effects or even to a certain extent drum machines. I guess as I wrote my first response, I was picturing, in this situation at least, a very specific situation. A few weeks ago in a bar there was this guy, brought in a PA, a couple guitars, and a laptop. At first I was intriqued. He had some sort of Cakewalk like sequencer opened up with all kinds of tracks... He started playing.. It was all lame top-40 covers. He'd play guitar and sing over top them.. Very static. Very stale. I'd rather throw coins in the jukebox.

 

:)

"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."

-- Ernie Stires, composer

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Yes, Mike's stuff is terrific..and he's just a great guy, and a fantastic musician. But might I direct you to not wait until his book comes out (and I am sure that someday it will), and simply do what Mike has done: figure it out for yourself.

Learn not just the bassline to tunes, but the melody as well...learn the function of the rhythm and the harmony to a song (believe me this is not at all arbitrary).

In college, I was a composition major and a regular study was to deconstruct and analyze compositions by the masters; to learn just why this music works and why it is so great. Even today I still do this, often using state of the art software and sequencing pgms.....not to view it as a possible performence, but rather to learn more about the art of music.

 

In this way, might I also point out, that learning to sequence backing tracks, prgm drum machines etc. is a great learning tool. By doing this you are learning about how music is constructed; the roles of harmony, the feels of rhythms et al. If doing this gets you to play more, and by that I mean in focused sense of playing and not merely soloing mindlessly of the pgrmed changes, then it is a positive thing.

 

Yet, when you take that out as a performance it becomes something else. There is a lot more to music than just playing (even playing the right notes) over the chord progression/rhythm to a tune. Music is form of communication, a philosphy, a type of prayer and a gift we share with the world. The notes, chords, time sigs etc are just our feeble way of trying to label and specify that which cannot be either; to make tangible something which is not.

 

The use of computers, sequencers, drum machines,even pro tools can be a valuable learning tool to decipher these sometimes confusing codes...and in doing so learn more of the higher order of music, but then take what you have learned and share it with the world: go out and play!

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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The new book, published by Mel Bay will be out first quarter of 2005 (although it was completed in May and finished editing 2 weeks later). I wish I had more patience.

 

I do a lot of chord melody combined with looping. I play mostly jazz standards and funk/R&B tunes. I do very few ambient/textural thing in favor of playing melodies and developing solos from those melodies. I believe my loops are secondary to the melody. Looping and chord/melody is just a way for me to express the melodic concept of the tune.

 

I've read other solo bassists who state that bassists don't do melody well. I have to disagree - any good musician does melody well - that is one thing that makes Max's work so nice. Regardless of the technology, the loops, the ambient/textural nature of the music, the melody seems to have real importance to the music.

 

If you rely on the technology over the music it will become lame. If however, you realize that the technolgy is just a tool to express the music, then your musicianship (or lack thereof) shines through.

 

I have anew solo CD which is available for free (sort of) from my site - www.michaeldimin.com. Anyone who buys anything from the site, gets the new CD for free

 

Mike

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This is what I meant by "accepting the limitations of being a solo bassist"
I think Max makes a really important point here. Vital, in fact. Partyl because limitations are creatively inspiring - how many bands come out with a killer first record that was recorded for a few grand in a small studio with limited technical resources, then throw millions of dollars and a couple of years at the second album only for it to have none of the sparkle?

 

The human condition is one of perpetually overcoming obstacles - if you seek to remove the obstacles rather than recognise them for what they are - interesting terrain on an otherwise flat journey - you miss the lessons they teach.

 

I'd put backing tracks loosely in that category - as Max so rightly said, you get the sound of a band without any of the interpersonal relating that makes it so enjoyable and engaging for artist and audience. If someone is offering you money to stand in the corner of a bar playing top 40 tunes over a minidisc, by all means go for it, and be one of the few who makes a living in this game, but if you view what you do as art or expression, the static backing tracks thing is going to start to feel a little flat fairly soon...

 

There are ways of making it work - if you were playing the samples, or using a minidisc to provide sounds that you then loop and process, or do something to where what's happening on stage is live, real and won't happen again, I think you're more likely to get a musical kick out of it.

 

Otherwise, I'd suggest keeping the backing to a minimum - I once saw a fabulous slide guitarist called Bryn Haworth (was in Lee Sklar's first pro band!) do a gig with just a guitar, an amp and an Alesis HR16 with really simple beats going, no fills, just running through his guitar amp. It became a reference point for him to play to, but didn't detract from the magic of what was going on at all. He rocked! At the same time, I was gigging with singer who had keys, backing vox, drums, everything on sequencer, with us playing and him singing over the top. After that gig, we ditched the sampler, and scrapped nearly all the keyboard sounds. :)

 

For me, looping takes a higher priority in the whole thing than it seems to for Mike, but it's because I hear music in layers, and so use the looping to be able to stack those up, and morph them as I go along, sometimes having two loops that I can switch between, but more often than not having one part transition into another by turning the feedback control down on my Echoplex and continuing to layer stuff as the first part fades away...

 

cheers!

 

Steve

www.stevelawson.net

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Yeah Steve,

 

And just to underline what's implicit in using more looping, there's also the improvisational element of controlling a looping/effects rig in realtime that keeps the fresh adventurous feel. Back when a sprawling old school looping/effects rig was attached to my various horns, I was a tap-dancing fool. I didn't always rehearse what was going to go on like a note-for-note rendition.

 

Instead, I let the moment - and my accrued experiences and what I'd learned from them - dictate what was being added, subtracted or morphed, and simultaneously what I was making come out of the instrument at the front of the signal chain. This was improvisation.

 

Even with some prepared materials: certain melodies and tempos, maybe the sequencer/arpeggiator always triggered on a certain segment to burble along in a certain fashion, nothing was ROTE. People sensed the tightrope and there was nothing canned about the moves on it.

 

I've found that all people like surprises. But also predictability. Finding a balance between the two that suits the given audience is the trick... And any audience that wants ONLY predictability, well, that's just plain dangerous for the artist to play to. One can die inside if they do that too much.

.
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I've read other solo bassists who state that bassists don't do melody well. I have to disagree - any good musician does melody well
Really?? I know a lot of fantastic bassists who would have no idea if you gave them the melody to play on a track. They'd get through it, but it'd be pretty stilted rhythmically, and the articulation would probably be pretty dull.

 

The skill set required to be a great groove player and a great melody player are quite different, certainly in terms of the kind of material you have to practice. As Steve Rodby pointed out when I interviewed him, for a bassist starting to play tunes after a few years of playing bass, they have years and years and thousands of hours of practice time to catch up with even a fairly mediocre saxophonist whose entire focus from when they first picked up the instrument has been to think as a melody player.

 

The opposite is also true - I know some very fine guitarists who make dreadful bassists, they don't think like bassists, phrase like bassists and can't be simple enough when the tune requires it. It takes most guitarists a long time to make a successful transition to thinking-bass. Likewise, bassists need to relate to the beat in a completely different way if they are to start playing flowing meaningful melodies.

 

Very very few of my melodic influences are bassists - I listen to singers, saxophonists, guitarists, pianists, but very very few bassists. They just don't play melodies as well, in general. Ask any non-bass playing musician about who they listen to for melodic ideas. There aren't going to be a huge number of bassists on the various lists. I know a few guitarists who look to Michael Manring for inspiration, and a lot of people who site Jaco as an influence, and know some horn players who really rate John Patitucci's upright work, as well as some standards players who would namecheck Red Mitchell, Scott LaFaro, David Friesen and a few others as upright players who play melodies well, but even they tend not to come up in lists of the worlds greatest soloists. Part of that is that the music world still has a blind-spot with melody-bass, but a lot of it is just that the players aren't there.

 

There's nothing inherent in the instrument that stops it, and there are some amazing melody players on bass - I love what Todd Johnson does on his new record with Kristin Korb - Todd solos and comps like a first rate guitarist, only with a really really beautiful six string bass tone. Matt Garrison is an outstanding melody player, Jimmy Haslip is too... they are there, but there are disproportionately few bassists who can really hold their own as melody players.

 

And that's fine - the majority of bassists don't feel the need or desire to play melodies. On some gigs it's really useful, on others it's utterly superfluous. Those players stick to what they do best, and continue to inspire players to turn up and dig in. As a general rule, it's not the melody that gets people dancing ;)

 

Steve

www.stevelawson.net

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Steve,

you misunderstand. You said

I know a lot of fantastic bassists who would have no idea if you gave them the melody to play on a track
I said musicians. It might seem like semantics to some, but it is not. The word "bassist" has connotations attached to it. Some good, some not so - but the crux of those connotations serves to limit the bassist and his/her role. As you mention there are many who have broken the mold. They have done so by not allowing those predetermined limits to constrict their musicianship.

 

In terms of musicianship (not technique), the skill set, for all musicians, are the same. It's being able to interpret and deliver a piece of music, whether melody, bass line, groove, chordal comping, solo, etc with the appropriate technique, musicianship and nuance to deliver the intended feeling, message, etc. To do less, with any facet of the music, is a self imposed limitations. A limitation that too many bassists buy into

 

That doesn't mean it is appropriate to wail bass solos during a ballad at a wedding gig. It means that you are not limited in any situation you put yourself in. It means that you can walk into any situation with the skills and confidence to nail the gig.

 

You are absolutely correct in stating

There's nothing inherent in the instrument that stops it
. What stops it is the mind set of both the bassist and the musicians who play with the bassist. What stops it is a prejudice of the role of the bass. Roles which have been defined rather narrowly until recently. That is why you don't see many bass players noted for their soloing. But, as you mention, they are out there and their number is growing.

 

Finally, you state,

And that's fine - the majority of bassists don't feel the need or desire to play melodies. On some gigs it's really useful, on others it's utterly superfluous. Those players stick to what they do best, and continue to inspire players to turn up and dig in.
If you do not know all facets of the tune, then how can you really understand the tune, and, as by friend Andy Cichon(Shania Twain, Billy Joel), says "serve the song, serve the song, serve the song"

 

Steve, you and I have had this disagreement for a while - usually posted in a way that only you and I know. I repect your opinion and respectfully disagree with it. I look forward to seeing you, in just a few weeks at the Detroit Bass Fest

 

respectfully

Mike Dimin

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I guess we need to clarify what the disagreement is over. For me, your assertion that any 'good musician' does melody well is a misnomer. Does any good musician improvise? does any good musician read? does any good musician play reggae convincingly?

 

It is semantics, but it's a semantic that either validates or pejoratively discriminates against specialization. Is a bassist who focuses on playing funk grooves, or reggae or rock not a 'good musician' because they don't play, and don't want to play melodies? Any more so than a classical soloist who dedicates all their practice time to the interpretation of written material and never learns to compose or improvise.

 

There are musicians out there, myself included, who want to do at least a bit of everything. I like to read, write, improvise, groove, play tunes, loop, process, slap, tap, strum, walk, rock etc. etc. on my bass. I see it as an extension of my voice, so have a go at everything. I'm not a specialist at everything, and have a defined skill set, but I'm in the camp that wants to try all things musical on my bass.

 

There are others who live to pedal 8ths. And that's cool, way cool, cooler than cool, because they end up doing it better than anyone as diversified as I am could ever do it. They don't need to be able to play the tune to be able to make that work, they need to be able to play kick-ass pumping 8ths locked with a drummer. No need to know a melodic minor scale or how to slap. There's a job to do, and they are committed to doing it, and are by any reasonable estimation a good musician.

 

What kind of snob would it make me to suggest that Cliff Williams wasn't a very fine bassist just because he pumps 8s with AC/DC instead of playing the head on some standard. It'd be a nonsense, and if I want to learn how to play 8th note rock, I'm going to listen to the people who've dedicated their musical careers to doing it well.

 

So, because bassists, by and large, take up bass to play bass in bands (not all, but the vast majority), they tend to focus on the skill set required to play in bands - groove, consistency, solid timing, and the technical bag needed for playing the style they play. Very little music, across the popular music field, allows room for bass players to solo in front of an audience. Very little indeed. Therefor bassists get less practice at it, even if they want to do it, and end up not being as good at it. It means that we have much more catching up to do when we start doing it, but if we do put the work in bass can be a very expressive melodic voice - we all know that.

 

The point I took exception to is the notion that a bassist who can't play tunes well is somehow a second rate player. That doesn't stand up, as far as I can see.

 

Steve

www.stevelawson.net

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Mike,

 

I too noted the musician/bassist dichotomy. I just didn't remark on it - I guess the Why Bother clouded over me. I see no reason a person can't be a monster groovist AND a melodicist, etc.

 

I too, feel that "musicians and bassists" {;} have often limited the role a person with a low pitched instrument is/was allowed. Some do this because the want the role for all players of the bass to be a mirror of their own personal approach; I suppose because it is human nature to feel threatened by expansion and change... As a generality I feel those prejudices come less from audiences than from people playing and writing and producing music. Most listeners and dancers don't care what the name of the instrument is as long as SOMEONE is supplying the elements of the music that fit the occasion at hand.

 

Fortunately there are many people now with bass-type instruments in hand who are saying "I did it MY way". We are lucky to have pioneers and persistent and inquisitive souls. It doesn't matter if they all agree about all the particulars. But it is plain that the role of the relatively young electric instrument has been expanding since its birth and that similarly, their are players of other bass instruments doing that too.

 

It's all good.

.
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Originally posted by   :

Mike,

 

I too noted the musician/bassist dichotomy. I just didn't remark on it - I guess the Why Bother clouded over me. I see no reason a person can't be a monster groovist AND a melodicist, etc.

 

I too, feel that "musicians and bassists" {;} have often limited the role a person with a low pitched instrument is/was allowed. Some do this because the want the role for all players of the bass to be a mirror of their own personal approach; I suppose because it is human nature to feel threatened by expansion and change... As a generality I feel those prejudices come less from audiences than from people playing and writing and producing music. Most listeners and dancers don't care what the name of the instrument is as long as SOMEONE is supplying the elements of the music that fit the occasion at hand.

 

Fortunately there are many people now with bass-type instruments in hand who are saying "I did it MY way". We are lucky to have pioneers and persistent and inquisitive souls. It doesn't matter if they all agree about all the particulars. But it is plain that the role of the relatively young electric instrument has been expanding since its birth and that similarly, their are players of other bass instruments doing that too.

 

It's all good.

Wonderfully said!
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Well I'm not sure I understand the argument, though I'm glad you're having it. Its made for some enlightening reading. Looking forward to seeing you guys play.

 

I think everyone has a voice, but are limited by their vocabulary. I guess I tend think that we as musicians and people put more limitations on ourselves than others put on us. Regardless of your vocabulary level, you don't talk about Jesus at a poker game. I think that most bass players chose the bass because they like what they've heard other bassists do so they follow along those traditions. Therefore their knowledge centers around that tradition. I think more knowledgeable bass players do understand the roles of music better, but I think once you reach a certain level you become a better composer or arranger, not necessarily a better musician. I think being a better musician, depends on the music that is there.

Together all sing their different songs in union - the Uni-verse.

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I too, feel that "musicians and bassists" {;} have often limited the role a person with a low pitched instrument is/was allowed.
Indeed, they have. But I think the opposite is also true - bassists can feel invalidated for not wanting to do loads of twiddly solo stuff. Mike's quote that any good musician can play melodies well automatically excludes bass players who can't play melodies from the subset of instrument holders that are classified as good musicians. I'd dispute that. I wasn't drawing a qualatitive distinction between 'musician' and 'bassist' - quite the contrary. I think there are a lot of great musicians, who play bass guitar incredible well, who can't play melodies well. there are a lot of bassists who groove well, are great section players, but when they try and write and play melodies the results show that they haven't put in the requisite time. This isn't a judgement against bassists at all. It's the opposite. To reiterate, there's nothing within the bass that stops you from being hugely expressive on it, but there's also no reason why someone who wants to play basslines with a drummer is any less of a good musician than someone who plays tunes. All musicians specialise, and I wouldn't class Yo Yo Ma as a bad musician because he can't swing (I've seen footage of him trying to swing, he can't) or call a classical acoustic guitarist a bad musician because they can't play funk rhythm guitar.

 

I guess my point is that, on the whole, people who have spent their lives playing basslines, grooves, walking bass etc. don't make the transition to killer soloists without putting in some serious hours. A lot of bassists try to do solo records and a pretty high proportion of them suffer from less than stellar melodies and some pretty lame phrasing, certainly compared to saxophonists, say.

 

The encouragement is to take the role of melody player seriously, if that's what you're into. Listen to great melody players, not just bassists who play tunes, for inspiration, learn about the art of phrasing. It's a never ending quest, in the same way that our relationship with groove is always morphing and growing, but back to the Steve Rodby quote - when we start playing tunes, we're already thousands of practice-hours behind people who've spent their lives playing melodies, so there's a lot of catching up to do.

 

Steve

www.stevelawson.net

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Originally posted by Steve Lawson:

The point I took exception to is the notion that a bassist who can't play tunes well is somehow a second rate player. That doesn't stand up, as far as I can see.

I thought that the act of putting words into others mouths and insinuation was a unique trait of the American politician. I guess I was wrong. I don't say that you are a lousy player if you can't play melody. What I say (in all my workshops, articles, etc) is that every player should work on playing melody, as well as sight reading, chart reading, "popcorn" bass, shuffles, walking lines, funk, etc

 

Every bassist should strive to be the best musician they can be (taking into account that they might play as a hobby, have a demanding day job, family that they are trying to put through school, etc.). Playing the bass or any instrument is lifelong process, not a some finite goal. Each of us should work to constantly improve, expand our skills, techniques and musicianship. Learning melody is one aspect of that. It might not be what people dance to, but it is certainly what people sing when they walk down the street.

 

Steve, I have been nothing but respectful of your views, even if we disagree on certain aspects. Although I don't expect your respect, I do expect your courtesy and accuracy. If you have a question on my intentions, ask it and please, don't insinuate.

 

Mike

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BTW,

I have had 2 experiences of hearing bassists play with ony backing tracks. The first was at the first Anaheim Bass Bash, that both Steve and I played at. It was the amazing Keith Horne. His set, backing tracks or not was absolutely killer.

 

The second time, just a few months back was Brian Bromberg. Again an amazing set. Not what he wanted to do, but none the less, amazing.

 

In both cases the supreme musicianship of both of these players far outweighed the limitations of the backing tracks.

 

Mike

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Well, you can play the bass part to Creedence tunes live. Maybe even some polkas. :D

 

The solo act thing does make any instrument almost "have to" solo all night, and that gets boring.

 

I also don't like bass solos. All the musical "logic" in the world won't change that. A flute just sounds better than a tuba. I'm a bass player, too.

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I just listened to Jeff Berlin tonight. He just totally smokes a lot of horn players. The physical and mental limitations of other bassists simply don't stop him. I'd much rather listen to bass solos by guys who like them, than ones by guys who don't ; }

 

EDIT PS: It ain't about "musical logic". It's about people who want to do what they want to do on their chosen instrument, in their own idea of what music is about. They have something to share. I'd rather listen to Dirty Dozen Brass Band's tuba guy Kirk Joseph play tuba solos than listen to whining about the tuba, or Bob Stewart play tuba solos while James Newton plays his flute in a simultaneous solo - than listen to solos by people who just don't want to play any damn solos. I think they would TOO. Who wouldn't? ; }

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Do whatever you like. No one is contesting that. You don't have to convince me, just the crowd. Keep in mind that most musical acts that actually feature a bass solo limit it, if they are smart, to about 5 minutes.

 

Unless you can find a lot of solo-loving musicians for your paying crowd, bass solos have yet to be proven to be a big dollar draw.

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I don't care about "the crowd". "The crowd" thought Hitler had some great ideas, no doubt. They were wrong. If anyone on this forum wishes to pursue some sort of solo career, or just develop themselves in such a fashion as a crative outlet I'm all for it. I'll try to be supportive of them, and with ideas as well as my attendance and purchases, when I think that I'll benefit by doing so.

 

The music "the crowd" wants is often kinda boring too. Moreso, actually. So I doubt someone's solo performances, if well thought out, are going to hurt me all that much ; }

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