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Dave's All-Bass World

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by DP/Earwave, Jan 27, 2003.


  1. DP’s All Bass World

    Steve Lawson was kind (or crazy) enough to ask me to expound on some of the recording concepts behind my latest solo CD, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, so here goes...

    A long time ago it occured to me that the bass is a limitless instrument, and rather than try to learn to play other instruments, I decided to see how far I could push its sonic possibilities. I have made 2 CDs using nothing but electric and acoustic basses to fill all the roles normally played by other instruments, and done a number of gigs over the years with the All-Bass Orchestra, which has numbered as many as 22 players, though trial and error has taught me that 12 or 13 players is usually enough!

    I recorded and mixed the new CD at my home studio, The Groove Palace, over a 14 month period, originally using ADATS and eventually transferring over to the Yamaha 4416 for the final overdubs and mixing. I used 33 different basses on the CD. My primary signal path was the Tube Tech Recording channel, with Avalon, SansAmp, and Tube works D.I.’s and Ampeg and Trace Elliot bass preamps on the front end, depending on the bass used.

    Of the 12 songs on the record, 4 are instrumentals, including 2 solo pieces. Most were cut with a click, and 3 are built on live loops, using either a Gibson EDP, Line 6 DL4 or Roland RC-20. Guitar type parts were played on a Curbow 7 string and Music Man and Jerry Jones 6 strings, often through Fender Blues Deluxe and Vibro Champ amps. Percussion parts were played on a Kay acoustic, Tacoma and a “no name” Mexican ABGs, as well as a Gold Tone Banjo Bass and the infamous Wishnevsky Banana Bass. The pad sounds and “synth” textures were mostly “volume pedaled” bass through Roland SE-70 and VF-1 muliti-effect patches, although the SWR Mo’ Bass analog synth module (not MIDI), Line 6 Filter Pedal and Digitech Whammy pedal were also used.

    The trick with all bass recording is separating the parts, rhythmically, harmonically and sonically. Not every part can be full range, or the mud factor can get out of control in a hurry. It is also essential to take advantage of the percussive qualities of the bass. When there are no drums, all of the squeaks, rattles and buzzes that would normally be covered up make the track groove.

    I hate to go into too much more detail until you “TalkBassers” decide if this is a thread worth pursuing. Feel free to respond in any way you like. There will be a fairly lengthy article about the CD in the next Bassics magazine, and the October ‘02 Bass Player had a Track by Track article as well. Thanks for the space, Steve and Mike, and let me say again that I enjoyed the Bass Bash immensely, and hope we can play together again soon!

    Peace, Love, and Grooves, Dave Pomeroy
    www.davepomeroy.com
     
  2. :)

    Interesting.. I hope I could listen to something by the All Bass Orchesta..
     
  3. Hi Luis. There is a real audio sample of one song from the All Bass Orchestra video at www.davepomeroy.com.
    The video is distributed by Warner Bros Publications, but is also available on my website.
    Thanks, Dave
     
  4. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    DP-I had wanted to hear some of your material before I asked some questions. However I'm having trouble getting real audio to work so here goes anyway.

    RE the thread worth persuing comment my interest lies in how you deal with the following when multitracking solo.

    1 do you write/arrange in your head or layer on tape/disc?

    2 How do you push and pull the timing in a way to avoid either a metronome performance or increasing timing mismatches with every new track.

    3 At what point do you give up on a track and keep it as a warm up piece? (and how much material do you bin?)

    And with my devils advocate hat on

    4 At what point does the all bass philosophy become a limitation? For example it is possible to have bass made with built in percussion pads/piezo's that would sound the same as bongos played and looped. Is one more valid than the other? (although a Wish congabass would be pretty cool).
     
  5. Hi CS - Great questions! Here goes...


    RE the thread worth persuing comment my interest lies in how you deal with the following when multitracking solo.

    1 do you write/arrange in your head or layer on tape/disc?

    A bit of both. For the most part I do it on tape (in my case currently a Yamaha 4416) with a lot of trial and error, but I definitely think about each piece I am working on a LOT, and try to imagine what would fit and/or add a unique flavor. Certain melodies obviously call for a certain sound. Some things I imagine work great, and sometimes it's totally wrong, and sometimes I will just sit down and play something off the top of my head that works better than anything I could plan in advance.

    2 How do you push and pull the timing in a way to avoid either a metronome performance or increasing timing mismatches with every new track.

    Very perceptive question. I try to build the track around what I consider to be the "main" bass part, (usually but not always the first track I lay down), which I subject to the same criteria as I would a bass part I would play on a conventional record. It has to FEEL good and if it breathes a little, even better. As the additional parts go on, I may try to actually compensate for or decide to emphasize any movement in the time to make to a chorus lift or a verse lay back. If there is something that consistently sticks out as I add more stuff, I will fix it. In general I try to look at the entire "ensemble" as I would if I were producing a band of individuals, and if something keeps jumping out as being out of the pocket, I will change it.

    3 At what point do you give up on a track and keep it as a warm up piece? (and how much material do you bin?)
    I had to record a 2 or 3 versions of a couple of tunes on the new CD to get them right. Usually it is a fundamental tempo or structure problem that makes me scrap something. I don't typically write to the multitrack, so by the time I have made a few work tapes of a new piece, I have a pretty good idea of whether it's going to make the cut. I make a lot of little work tapes that I file away. Sometimes it takes me years to finish songs, others happen very quickly. I figure a good idea is worth the wait. I have lots of leftover stuff, but it will resurface occasionally when I am in need of a creative kick start.

    And with my devils advocate hat on
    4 At what point does the all bass philosophy become a limitation? For example it is possible to have bass made with built in percussion pads/piezo's that would sound the same as bongos played and looped. Is one more valid than the other? (although a Wish congabass would be pretty cool).
    I knew somebody would bust me on that one, but I didn't think it would be so soon! I intentionally stopped just short of any MIDI or trigger interfaces. My only rule was that the sound had to be generated from the bass itself in some "natural" mechanical way. The inherent limitation of this actually became a source of inspiration, and really opened me up to lots of creative alternatives. For example, I discovered that the playing on the top of the bridge of my Fleishman EUB makes a killer conga sound through the Underwood pickup. There are so many ways to strike a note and make sounds on the bass. I guess my answer to your question would be "I don't know - I haven't got there yet."

    Very intelligent queries, my friend. I can guess that you have done some all-bass recording yourself! Hope you able to hear the real audio samples OK. Peace, DP
    www.davepomeroy.com
     
  6. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    DP-thanks for taking time to answer. I thought that perhaps this thread would take off but it's you me and luis...

    Yes I have done some all bass recording (in 1986) but have suffered from a musical schitzophrenia that separated playing bass, playing guitar and engineering. Some lessons with Steve have sorted that out. I also reassessed what a bass could do having seen Michael (twice with Steve) in November.

    I'm still into sounding like a band but by using different instruments and different players as and when needed (or I can attract a musican with my standard rate) (In fact if you ever return to UK and want to play for crisps and cola, you have a job waiting). No smiley as you lived in London once and should get my lame attempts at humour.
     
  7. Hey Chris (y hola, Luis). Yes, it would be nice to have a few more "threaders" on here, but as I am new to the whole TalkBAss thing I am somewhat reluctant to throw too much shameless self promo out there.

    I got your British humour, no smilies necessary. Crisps and cola will be just fine...

    I do enough "normal" ensemble work that the All Bass thing is a fun challenge to try and explore and (hopefully) pull off. Not sure I could do either one full time, the variety is what keeps it interesting...

    Groove On, DP
     
  8. Hola Dave y Chris

    Soon there will be more users checking this thread.. As soon as Paul actualizes the main page

    And Dave.. I think you can do as much self promotion as you want [​IMG] ..


    Peace
     
  9. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Dave - I see you're using the Yamaha AW4416 there. Did you use that to do the final mastering? And what do you think of its mastering capabilities?
     
  10. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Hi Dave,

    I had the pleasure of hearing your All-Bass Orchestra on "The Day the Bass Players Took Over The World" video. I enjoyed the pieces immensely and they were a great inspiration.

    I have been trying to get some bassists together here for an all-bass jam and, while they claim to like the idea... none have had the guts to try it yet!

    Definitely great stuff though. If I can find your CD around here, I will likely pick it up. :)
     
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Never fear Howard's here... any one for an arguement?

    That's very interesting... having only just bought a loop box, I know I'll discover some of these issues you talked about over and over! Ta Dave

    CS' last Q? is interesting... It's always the first thing I think when ANYONE talks about solo bass... "That's all very well, but what about drums?!" You can immitate instruments till the cows come home, but it's never quite the same.
    Nothing can recreate the magic between live drums & bass.

    Because of this it took a while for Steve's music to make sense to me... and in fact it's still growing. Mr Manrings music is amazing and beautiful IMO, but at the same time there's not enough variation in tone for me personally, not enough texture for my liking. Which is where Steve's concept becomes more accessible to non-bass heads I think.

    I also saw David Friesen with the above last year, who really just got to me, he played mature considered music, really deep. Although he did play some Japanese flute at the same time as the bass which contrasted... a great mix actually.

    I love every sound I've ever heard a bass make, yet I think what I love most about bass is how bass as a sound compliments every instrument so well. So while I love the sound of the bass itself more than any other instrument, a large part of that is context...

    I hear solo bass and I think "Gimme some drums" - I hear The White Stripes and I think "Gimme some bass"!

    This however is my limitation.

    And let the waffle end.
     
  12. "I love every sound I've ever heard a bass make, yet I think what I love most about bass is how bass as a sound compliments every instrument so well. So while I love the sound of the bass itself more than any other instrument, a large part of that is context..."

    Nice waffle, Howard!
    Excellent point about the lack of drums and the tendency of solo bass to get monotonous tone wise. I spent a LOT of time on the sounds and sonic texture of my CD in order to overcome that syndrome.

    As much as I love playing with a drummer, and i am fortunate enough to work with a bunch of GREAT players live and in the studio here in Nashville, sometimes it's nice to hear all that space. Remember when Robert Fripp asked Bill Bruford to stop playing cymbals in King Crimson a while back? While I would never tell someone what to play or not to play, there is no denying that music without cymbals is an interesting sound. I came up with various kick, snare and percussion "substitutes" that really helped the groove factor, and to me the challenge was worth it.

    "Definitely great stuff though. If I can find your CD around here, I will likely pick it up."

    Thanks, Adam. I would be surprised if you can find it where you are, though, as it's only available at my website and at my live gigs. Feel free to check out the sound clips on my site, and the staff here at Earwave Records would be happy to sell you one!

    Moley, I am using the 4416 and LOVE it, but I am not using the mastering section at all, so I can't give you any insight. I am mixing into an Alesis Masterlink and taking it from there. Typically though I let a "real" mastering guy do his thing. Sometimes what I call "psuedo mastering" can do more harm than good!

    Good to hear from you guys - keep it coming.

    Peace, Love, and Grooves - DP

    www.davepomeroy.com
     
  13. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Ah right. I'm not surprised :) Although I don't own one, I've had quite a bit of use out of an AW4416 I've borrowed for a while, and personally, I found it's mastering capabilities a little limited. I just wondered what other people's experience was.

    But, no doubt, it is a nice piece of gear :) I'm using a Roland VS-2480, which I chose over the AW4416 because it had some features I really wanted, that the AW4416 didn't (24 tracks, for example :)) - but I really like this style of DAWs, and for the price you get an unbelievable range and quality of features - in both cases.
     
  14. Bonzai

    Bonzai

    Dec 6, 2002
    Hey Dave! I was just writing ask about the "Day the Bass Players took over the World" video. Does it have a few different performances by Bill Dickens or just the bass jam? Also, does he play his 9 stringer on there as well?? Thanks for any replys.
     
  15. Hi Moley. The mastering thing is interesting. I have had so many pro mastering guys tell me that people are over compressing their recordings using semi pro mastering stuff that it's hard for them to undo what's already been done. There's a reason those guys have all that expensive dedicated gear - I personally don't think you can get the same results with a software program or "mastering section"of a hard disc recorder. I hire a mastering guy on the basis of his ears and the "flatness" of his system. At that point of a project, I need an objective opinion and an unflattering playback to see where I'm at.

    I chose the Yamaha over the Roland because of the O2R - like capabilities of the mixer section, and also because my engineer has one and the compatability factor is great. I can back up to CD, give it to him and he can tweak my mix and give it back and I can keep going. The Roland is great too, though. I figured if I had 24 tracks I'd never finish anything!

    Hey Bonzai - welcome to the thread. The ABO video has an 18 minute version of "Footprints" w/ Vic, Otiel, Steve and especially Bill taking VERY long solos. I believe he plays the 7 on that, and at the end of the video, those 4 come back out and play on The Day The Bass Players Took Over The World, and I think Bill plays the 9 on that and takes a solo. I think Bill's site has some clips. It's been a while since I watched it, but I am still very proud of the way it turned out. It's mixed in Hi FI stereo and panned as the players are positioned onstage, so you can hear what's what.
     
  16. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I would highly recommend this vid. Very entertaining, diverse, and inspiring.

    You really get to see and hear what the bass can do when it's taken to its limits!
     
  17. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Interesting. I believe you, about people over-compressing their recordings. But, I tend to think it's probably a matter of their lack of mastering expertise, rather than the gear? As to whether you can get the same results with something like the AW4416 or the VS-2480 - who knows... Again, I tend to think it's more a matter of the skill of whoever's mastering it than the gear (given that the gear is of a certain standard - and as DAWs go, these two machines are the top of their respective ranges).

    But, of course, I could be wrong :)
     
  18. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Dave,

    I've been listening to your CD all day today (four times in a row so far) - and have to say that the mixing/mastering job on it is outstanding - making a record like this with just bass is so likely to end up sounding like a gimmick that would have been much better executed by someone with the forsight to hire a band, but I can't think of anywhere on the CD where I miss the sound of a guitar or rhodes or drums or whatever - the blend of tones etc. is just amazing, and the frequency spectrum of the recording is just fantastic.

    Guys, if you've not got this CD, it really is vital listening for anyone wondering what the bass can do when stretched to the limits. And what's more, it's not even close to being a 'bass player's record' - it's just a great record!

    Kudos to you, Mr Dave! :D

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  19. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    OK, that's a good enough recommendation for me! :D

    Dave, can I buy this anywhere in the UK, or do I have to do order from your site from the US etc?

    Oh crickey, that reminds me, I'm still not up to date with with Steve's latest offerings :rolleyes:
     
  20. Hello again. Thanks Steve, for the amazing "review" of TNK, although the idea of you listening to it 4 times in a row scares me a little! Were you baking pies throughout, or perhaps doing some woodcarving or junk sculpture? Seriously, a lot of time and effort went into the idea of making the CD not just a bass record, but one that would appeal to non players too. Glad you got it. It was a bit of mixing nightmare as you can imagine, but I am still very happy with how it all came together.

    And BTW, your new record is a wonderful listen, too - no, really! I listened to it on the plane coming back from NAMM and it was a beautiful tonic for sonic overkill. I dig the space, the sounds and the titles too! I find it refreshing and vibey top to bottom. Again it was great to see and hear you at NAMM.

    Howard, at this stage the only way to get the CD is through my website - see below. I hope to get a European thing going with it, but it hasn't happened yet. The good news is that our crack mailing staff gets orders out very promptly. Thanks for your interest.

    Moley - I agree that in the end it is the operator, not the gear that makes or breaks mastering. I think a common mistake being made is for the same guy to master on the same gear it was mixed on. To me, bringing in a fresh set of ears (that I trust) and a different listening environment really gives me the different perspective that I desperate need after 10,000 listenings.

    Peace (we hope) Love and Grooves to you all! Dave P.

    www.davepomeroy.com