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Left Hand Bass


burningbusch

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I know there are number of people on this forum who do left hand bass in a jazz setting on a regular basis. I've gotten to the point where I'm reasonably happy with my hand independence, so that's not the issue. My questions are more of a tactical nature for the advanced players.

 

First, are there artists after which you've patterned your approach? I know McKenna, Neal Evans and of course JS on the Hammond, but Jimmy's articulated style doesn't translate well to piano, for me at least. I guess I'm looking specifically for recordings of people doing piano/ep with left hand bass in a duo or trio setting.

 

How important is it to have guitar providing harmonic support? I think the head sounds fine as you can support it with your own harmony in the right, but the solos really seem to need it. Do you change your approach at all if it's just you and a drummer? Or solo?

 

Do you mimic the ac bass in a combo setting, e.g. head with half notes; solo walking? Do you use an acoustic bass patch or have you found it better to go with a sound that's responsive, regardless of whether or not it sounds like a real bass?

 

Where do you split the keyboard? I found between D# and E below middle C. This allows me to play most of my comp chords without revoicing. It only leaves about 2 octaves for bass though. Anyone using a separate keyboard for bass? How do you transition between full keyboard and split? I assume you do some intros with full keyboard and then switch to split.

 

Amplification. Do you feel standard keyboard amps or PA speakers provide enough low end? Anyone using a separate bass amp?

 

Looking forward to your responses.

 

Thanks

 

Busch.

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What thread did you once consider posting a reply but are now embarrassed to admit you could have posted in?

 

Left Hand Bass?

 

I don't know what you're talking about. :freak::rolleyes:;)

 

(In other words, I've done it, but won't admit to it.)

 

Tom

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I know there are others who can answer this better. I tried it breifly on one project and the best solution was a seperate board for bass through a seperate rig - and preferably a bass rig. I used a Korg prophecy and I just used one of the stock synthbass patches - a pretty mild one. I found it worked better if it didn't sound too much like a real bass - YMMV. I had a seperate amp and I eq'd it like I was a bass player. I put it where our bass player used to put his amp, and the drummer thought it was just super.
I'm just saying', everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.
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On the Hammond organ, I routinely do left-hand bass on the 1st and 2nd octaves of which ever manual I am playing chord comps or melodies on. Mostly just the root of the chord, or the same as the bass player, unless a bass run is warranted.
Hammond T-582A, Casio WK6600, Behringer D
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I was setting up to play left hand bass on our Dec 30th gig, after finding out our monster bass player was stuck in an airport and wouldn't make the gig until as late as midnight.

 

I ran a cord to his rig and was planning on using the Motif or when I needed organ I would play it there.

 

Fortunately our drummer found a last minute replacement and we started the show acoustic, while he set his stuff up. He ended up playing 1/2 a set. At our 1st break in walks our bass player. I could have handled about 1/2 set with no problem but 2 sets would have been a nightmare.

Jimmy

 

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I pretty much make my living playing Rhodes/Bass Splits with my left providing the bass in jazz duos (guitar + keys) and trios (guitar + keys + drums) so I will answer below based on my experience.

 

Busch: First, are there artists after which you've patterned your approach? I know McKenna, Neal Evans and of course JS on the Hammond, but Jimmy's articulated style doesn't translate well to piano, for me at least. I guess I'm looking specifically for recordings of people doing piano/ep with left hand bass in a duo or trio setting.

 

JAZZ+: I have listened to the masters of LH walking bass, and of course I learned a few favorite patterns from records, Ray Brown is the ideal, but I mostly play bass my own way. Playing bass three to four sets is an endurance test so that means I play what is comfortable for my hand (I try to conserve energy.) I don't try to be impressive as a bass player. I try to be solid in the time and clear cut with the changes. I also be sure to play my right hand slightly behind my left hand: my LH bass is driving ahead (front side of the beat) and my RH is following (back side pocket of the beat) that way it really grooves (swings).

 

Busch: How important is it to have guitar providing harmonic support? I think the head sounds fine as you can support it with your own harmony in the right, but the solos really seem to need it. Do you change your approach at all if it's just you and a drummer? Or solo?

 

JAZZ+: I prefer having a jazz guitar comp behind me when I solo with my RH and I am playing LH bass. My solo usualy follows a guitar solo and the texture will sound very thin in contrast if the comping chords suddenly drop out. So it's important for the guitar player to comp. Also, digital pianos and Rhodes samples sound thin compared to analog jazz guitars and drums. Without any chords behind my solo it sounds real thin. It's not really a problem with a real Rhodes or B3 because they sound fatter than digitals. I don't walk a lot when I play solo piano.

 

Busch: Do you mimic the ac. bass in a combo setting, e.g. head with half notes; solo walking? Do you use an acoustic bass patch or have you found it better to go with a sound that's responsive, regardless of whether or not it sounds like a real bass?

 

JAZZ+: Yes, very much so, typicaly playing mostly half notes on the heads and walking during the solos. You don't need to accent the 2 and 4. I always use an acoustic bass patch although I have tried doing it with the digital Rhodes bass but it's not a pleasing to me (too thin sounding).

 

Busch: Where do you split the keyboard? I found between D# and E below middle C. This allows me to play most of my comp chords without revoicing. It only leaves about 2 octaves for bass though. Anyone using a separate keyboard for bass? How do you transition between full keyboard and split? I assume you do some intros with full keyboard and then switch to split.

 

JAZZ+: I split between C and C# an octave below middle C. I like to play my right hand fairly low and the bass can handle stepping up into the Rhodes range for a few high notes. I don't want to play two keyboards because that would be two different angles or heights or postures which causes me hand/limb stress. And it's too much gear to move.

 

Busch: Amplification. Do you feel standard keyboard amps or PA speakers provide enough low end? Anyone using a separate bass amp?

 

JAZZ+: I find them adequate for the Rhodes/Bass splits, my bass sound is often too boomy as it is. I don't like a real big boomy bass sound. A subwoofer would be nice but I don't ever want to move such heavy gear.

 

[/qb]

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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I started playing LH bass when I got my first B-3 back in the early 60's. I always liked Jimmy Smith and even worked with the original dummer on Jimmy's First Album, a guy named Bey Perry, for about 5 years. One year , around that time, while we were both working at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills, I took some lessons from Jymie Merritt , Art Blakeys bass player. I learned how to construct some decent bass lines, and have been doing it ever since. There are many times, when I prefer to play bass myself rather than play with some of the bass players in town. I don't have to worry if they know a tune I want to do, I can change up chord patterns in a tune and don't have to worry about the bass player going in another direction.

 

I use the Bass on the RD300SX and for the most part it is pretty good for a key bass. I actually like the bass on my RD-600, but I am not lugging that keyboard around anymore on gigs. I split my keyboard at the F below middle C. Using 2 KC350, I get a pretty full bass sound and if the room is really, really big, I send the left speaker line out ( I use stereo on 2 KC's) to the house PA for some extra oomph.

 

I try to make my bass lines like I feel that Ray Brown would have played them as far as jazz. Back and forth from playing in 2 to swinging in 4 , sometimes doubling up the time,...... whatever sounds good. I have played in Salsa bands in Miami, Country Bands, Rock Bands and the group I work with now does just about everything and I do all the bass work. Having the Key player double on bass sometimes is the difference between our group getting the gig and another group, giving us the edge because we do it with one less salary. Bass players, of course, are not my biggest fans in town, because many times I am working while they are sitting home.

 

It's always fun to watch a drummer that I haven't worked with, and their reaction when they find out that I am also the bass player, after about the first chorus......... They first looked surprised, and then they smile........ If you want to hear some good bass lines, listen to Joey DeFrancesco on his album where he plays all standards ( Joey D plays Sinatra his way) He is really cooking and gets a great feel going.. That is the way it should be done......

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Jazz+ nailed it on the head (no pun intended).

 

I split between B and E an octave below or prior to middle C with a bass (fender jazz, precision or fretless) on the left and rhodes, clav or organ, etc.

 

Sometimes, I mix the low end of the harmonic sound below the bass for extra weight (B3) or snap (rhodes or wah clav).

 

I've gotten used to playing bass lines and organ on weighted keys so I use one board.

 

My flavor is the jazz-funk hybrid alternating between bass lines that groove or walk depending on the tune and arrangement.

 

I think Neal Evans (Soulive) is on fire. I also listen to organ kings (Smith, Holmes, McDuff) when it comes to keyboard bass. Still, I go directly to the source too i.e. bass players.

 

Same deal with the trio format (keys, drums and guitar). I have thought using a horn (sax) instead of guitar.

 

When it comes to amplification, I use PA speakers (12" w/horn). Planning to add a 15 or 18 inch subwoofer and/or a dedicated bass amp.

 

Before the sound cats turn up their noses, no, bigger speakers do not automatically translate into muddy bass. It is all about tone, EQ and weight. ;)

 

Join the fray Busch. I can already hear you cutting it up man. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Usually, I avoid playing with a guitarist in an unreharsed jazz situation, unless I know in advance that he's an excellent musician; the chances for harmonic/rhythmic clashes are just too big.

But lately, I've done a lot of solo and voice/piano duo work, so my left hand had a good workout. :) If I want to give a clear rhythmic support, which singers often neeed, I use a combinations of tenths and walking bass. I've learned to walk the bass by listening to the great swingers like Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Ron Carter, etc. On this basis, the right hand can play a great variety of things according to style and situation.

In a more free-flowing, modern context, especially in solo piano, I often employ some complex arpeggios, like root-fifth-ninth (starting in bass register) plus a Bill Evans voicing or a quartal in the middle register. Sometimes, something simpler like an octave or a pedal point fits better.

 

For playing waking bass in an electronic setting, I'll give up a couple of secrets: :)

 

1) Sampled basses are often dull. You con beef them up by layering a Rhodes sound (suitcase-type), then maybe stripping away a little of the attack in one of the two sounds.

 

2) Want more range for the bass without stealing it from the harmony part, and don't want to add a second keyboard? Hell, if you have an 88-key board with splitting/zoning, you can split it at a point which gives you a big enough range for the bass part, then transpose the piano/ep/whatever one octave lower - and, of course, play your chords an octave higher than you would on a piano. That's what keyboard splits are for, right?! ;)

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Nice responses guys! Very educational. I was taught to play a lot of walking bass by early teachers. I spent a lot time doing that independently while I solo on the right. I transcribed some Ray Brown and I learned things like ghost notes and 2/4 accenting and various types of patterns.

 

But my current teacher doesn't really want me to do a lot of walking bass mostly because he thinks it is too busy and detracts from the RH playing. So given that, I'm been taught to just ease off on the LH a little.

 

However, learning to walk on the LH is really practical for electronic recording as I can make backing tracks with bass lines.

 

When I do electronic music, I'd mostly do a two-feel bass on the LH and again much more simple. 1-3-7 or 1-5-7 or 1-7-10. Sometimes I look back and I wonder how come I spent so much time learning to walk on the LH. I had my keyboard split with bass on the Left. Now I hardly use that.

 

I'm glad to see that some of the responses here is consistent with what I've been doing.

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This is semi-OT...

the most impressive of all is looking someone that plays left... foot bass! I recently saw a video of Barbara Dennerlein. She's a superb german jazz B3 player: she plays bebop lines with her right hand, comps with her left and runs the bass with her left foot having her right foot on the swell pedal, regardless the tempo of the song :freak:

you got to see to believe that this sound comes form a foot only!

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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I've done some left hand bass, but primarily as a last resort, because the bass player couldn't make it. I love bass players. The only people I have really enjoyed on keyboard bass are Bernie Worrell, Stevie Wonder, and Victor Wooten's brother (saw a Wooten concert recently). I realize we are talking about different styles here. I play a mix of jazz fusion and rock, usually. It sounds like your questions are from a jazz-piano trio perspective. Not sure how appropos my comments are for you.

 

Originally posted by burningbusch:

How important is it to have guitar providing harmonic support? I think the head sounds fine as you can support it with your own harmony in the right, but the solos really seem to need it. Do you change your approach at all if it's just you and a drummer? Or solo?

If it's me and a drummer, I voice the RH sounds pretty low and sometimes stack them (a couple of octaves) to get a "stab" sound. Then the alternate LH/RH groove has some force. I have a couple of Keyboard/Bass Multi's that have different sounds I can toggle on and off. I like to do a slightly overdriven broad B3, at low volumes, doubling the bass for those big power riffs, sometimes (the slow ones). It makes a nice drone. It's less cheezy than doubling with guitar sounds.

 

I also like to play pads on top of a busy bass line. The drummer likes it too. I used to play with a guitarist who could fill a one beat hole with a tiny tasty lick, and he never overplayed. That was fun. Playing with comping guitarists ... less fun for me. YMMV depending on the personnel.

 

Originally posted by burningbusch:

Do you use an acoustic bass patch or have you found it better to go with a sound that's responsive, regardless of whether or not it sounds like a real bass?

Responsive, fake. I like a litle plucked string attack and enough decay that the sustain doesn't sound like an organ pedal. That way, I have a variety of timbres, depending on how staccato I am playing. I use a little compression to help me out.

 

Jerry

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I know I'm a little out of step with this mainly jazz forum since I play mostly rock and country, but I have played left hand bass off and on for just about all of my playing life of 35 years. So here goes:

 

1. A separate bass amp not only makes your bass playing sound better, it keeps your keyboards cleaner. Ask yourself this question: How would I feel if the bass player plugged into my keyboard amp all night long? I'm editing my original post to stress this. The most important tip I have is to use a separate bass amp!

 

2. You don't need a guitar to back your bass lines up or provide harmonic support. I've done a lot of left hand bass work in lounges with just me.

 

3. A separate keyboard for bass also makes your right hand life much easier. I have an old XP-60 that's just for bass these days.

 

4. Sampled basses work best, and just by themselves. It may sound thin at home, but it won't once you get it in a club and running through a bass amp. Every time I've tried layering them with synth sounds, which sounds great here at the house, it only sounds muddy and mushy on the job.

 

4. Get this down, and you'll never be without work.

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I agree with Bill. For non-jazz work you need a separate amp, which means your keyboard must have a separate output for the bass sound for best results. I split my S90 and send the bass out of output3 to an Eden combo amp and my other sounds out of the regular output to my keyboard amp. If adjusted correctly, a separate bass amp is REALLY full. Many people do not notice there is no bass player. I've been doing it for years as well.

 

Jim Wells

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Jim Wells

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When I do a gig with keyboards, I use a Bose 802. If I'm playing LH bass, I add a Peavey 2x15 cabinet. The Moog Synamp I use for gigging can be set up for biamping.

 

If you have a good enough system to project bass and keep your keyboards sounding clean, many people will not notice the lack of a bass player.

 

I even fooled an expert. There was a bass player I admired who had been coming to hear the band on a few occasions. While he heard what he thought was a good bass player, he couldn't see one. Then he saw me step out with a bass guitar (which I do on occasion) and he said wait he's the keyboard player. Then it dawned on him that he was hearing LH bass. I was proud of that one :D

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Since I normally run stereo, I can set the pan controls so it seems like he left hand bass is coming from it's own amp. On gigs where I play left hand bass, I'll set up in a L with my synth to the left hand, and use it for nothing but bass. That way I have the full range of the piano and Hammond at my disposal. Plus, it looks pretty cool to the audience.

 

Back when I played country, our bass player doubled on fiddle, guitar, and electric mandolin. I played bass when he was on the other instruments. I used a Rhodes Piano Bass, and when through his bass rig. That kept both basses sounding in the same place. He played an Alembic, so he could match the tone of the Rhodes. The switch from on to the other was kept seamless that way.

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Now everybody's got the blues."

 

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Very timely posts. Last Thursday for our blues jam we host, we found that our bass player was missing the night. I found a couple of good bass patches on the S90 and eventually a regular jammer (though usually a guitarist) showed up with his bass rig.

 

I am self-taught pretty much for blues and jazz and, playing alone, developed a pretty solid LHB. But, it's a lot different HAVING to keep it going with a quartet. It makes me appreciate our very solid regular bassman.

 

To get back to your original query, burningbusch, when I play solo piano, I will often play one time through a tune with the LH moving between the bass root and mid-keyboard voicings and the RH playing some filling notes and highlighting the written melody. After a time through the tune, I'll walk the bass quarter notes while improvising a line with the RH. It's the same underlying tempo, but sounds "up" with the moving bass line. Just because you are playing an improvised melodic line doesn't mean you can't add the notes under your melody to fill out the chord voicing at appropriate points with your RH. If you're filling up all the space all the time with your RH improvised line, you might be playing too many notes :D .

 

Listen to some small group work on piano from Count Basie. I always liked to say he played better rests than anyone in the business.

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If I don't play with a perfectly straight hand/wrist angle my tendonitis flairs right up. That is why I'll never use a second keyboard to play split bass. Three 45 minute sets of playing split bass is an endurance test. Playing with the left wrist off angle at all is asking for injury. The shoulder also needs to avoid contortion.

 

I also agree with the poster who mentioned that layering any other sound on the bass patch muddies it up live.

 Find 600 of my jazz piano arrangements and tutorials for educational purposes at patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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I played a rock gig a few years back where our bass player couldn't make it so we just took his amp and I ran a patch from a Roland module (don't remember which one) into it. Solid.

 

Back to jazz though, I really enjoy playing with a guitarist. Actually have come to prefer it to a bass player cause I don't have to do all the solos and he can comp under my solos and I can leave some space in the left hand bass I'm playing while I'm soloing. If the guitarist is good and can comp a la Joe Pass you can drop the bass out for a while as he'll fill out the lower octave. As for technique, basically what the others have said - Ray Brown is the man for walking, don't feel you have to walk 4 every bar, listen to Ray Brown's ghosting notes pulling a 2 feel around. And break it up with 10ths or let it drop altogether for a chorus. It took me a while to feel comfortable playing simpler sparser bass lines rather than pumping out 4 to the bar, but if you're listening well to each other it can swing like hell from the interplay and you can drop the bass. Listen to Bill Evans and Jim Hall do "I've Got You Under My skin". Swings like hell and it's just the two of them comping with little bass going on but the interplay kicks.

 

I prefer to use a small keyboard controller for playing bass but usually end up with just one 88-note split at D/Eb below middle C. If you can put the split on a pedal and so move easily between bass and piano patches you can go from the acoustic bass patch walking to piano 10ths or stride and back.

Gig keys: Hammond SKpro, Korg Vox Continental, Crumar Mojo 61, Crumar Mojo Pedals

 

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Very interesting reading - -

 

LH Bass is a double-edged sword for me, but here are some random thoughts:

 

**I'm glad I can do it - it's a valuable skill.

 

**I'd really rather not - unless there isn't a good bass player available.

 

**When playing LH bass, I'll try to always have a guitar - not only for the harmonic support, but for rhythmic support.

 

**There are a few things I'll flat out refuse:

-playing LH bass on some synth while

playing acoustic piano.

 

- playing LH bass on any jazz gig.

 

Again - very interesting reading from all!

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