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Marcus Miller

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by MikeyFingers, Feb 4, 2006.

  1. I'm just starting to get into Miller's stuff, and when I say "Just starting", I mean I know practically nothing of his work and have only heard a handful of tunes.
    I was just wondering 2 things about him.
    1--Can you guys give me a few of his better/best recordings? I love his stuff so far and I need more, I just don't know where to start.

    2--Does anyone know anything about his right hand technique? From what I've heard and seen, it looks like he just uses the plain old slap/pop method most of the time and his playing is freakin beautiful, I especially like his use of slides and bends when it sounds all slippery.

    If it helps, this is what I've heard of him so far.
    A few tracks from Silver Rain, it sounds like a great album.
    His cover of Teen Town.
    The song "Run For Cover", awesome. I have a live video of it if anyone is interested, I can upload it to youtube.com or something. just for the hell of it.
    A song he played with Wooten called "Miller Time", in which they both slap the crap out of Teen Town, cool song though.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    IMHO the key to sounding like Marcus is a really big bass and treble boost and a boatload of compression--that's what I hear in his sound first and foremost. It's great sound, but it gets kind of fatiguing after a while. But he's the poster boy for the "smiley eq"--all bass and treble, no mids. And like I said, I hear ALOT of compression in his sound. In interviews he says no--he says he barely boosts the bass. Doesn't sound like it
  3. klamaz


    Aug 8, 2004
    I personally really love the Ozell tapes, which is live stuff of his, with some really great grooves.

    And yeah, I've seen him claim to boost the bass a little and actually cut the treble, but then again he was just talking about on his bass if I recall, it definatley sounds like hes doing something else somewhere in his signal chain.
  4. Silver Rain is definitely one of his best. I also like M2 and Tales. You can't go wrong with any of his solo CD's I got all one by one when they came out. That's Marcus up there in my avatar.

    You should check out some of his work with David Sanborn. Upfront is a great CD with a Jazz\R&B mix. Hearsay is also very good and Straight to the Heart. Straight to the Heart is the one that has Run for Cover on it. It's a much better version that is on the video.

    With the Sanborn stuff you get to hear him more as a side man, it's actually kind of refreshing. There is plenty of "Marcus" in the mix and his rhythm work is awesome.

    Check out his Discography on his web site he has been on hundreds of tracks.

    His right hand technique is old school thump style, he just does it particularly well. He credits Larry Graham and Stanley Clarke. Later on he started using a double thumb pluck, but he uses it in a different style to that of Wooten's.
  5. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    I also love Silver Rain, M2, and Tales. As for certain songs, La Villette is absolutely amazing. It's by far my favorite piece of his, and the solo is out of this world. He does a really cool cover of Come Together. He also covers Deep Purple's Frankenstein. Power is another cool one. The list goes on. Those are just some of my favorites.
  6. Edgar Winter did Frankenstein, not Deep Purple.
  7. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Check out old Luther Vandross for a good idea of how Marcus Miller works within a song. The old Miles Davis album Tutu is great too for giving you an idea of MArcus as a composer.
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    And doesn't boost the treble.

    What you're hearing isn't compression nor a smiley face eq... it's the sound of a 70's Ash Fender jazz. That's what they sound like. That's what mine sounds like and it doesn't have a preamp. I keep my amp's EQ set flat. Ahs Jazzes inherently sound like that.
  9. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    What Brad said! Marcus has said in interviews that when he first started doing sessions he would just turn everything up on his Jazz-bass i.e. both pickups and tone full up. Marcus also doesn't slap on the neck, he hits with his thumb on the string right before the neck. Oh, and +1 for the Ozell tapes:bassist:
  10. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    I've played a bunch of 70s j-basses, starting in the 70s, and yeah, that's the ballpark, but I still hear a big mid cut and compression in Marcus's tone. If I take my j bass, cut the mids sharply at around 800hz and add compression, Bam, Marcus Miller tone. The Avalon U5 has a setting (#2) which might as well be a "Marcus Miller" setting. It's a steep mid-cut at around 800 hz

    Don't get me wrong--I think Marcus is great, and I love his tone although it's not my tone. Maybe his bass sounds like that out of the box--ok, but if you don't have his bass and you want to sound like him, which was the point of the question, well, scoop the mids and boost the B+T. I've seen interviews with him where he claims the Sadowsky preamp is the key to his sound, and interviews where he claims he hardly uses it. I have an aggie opb-2 and if I boost the B+T it's Miller time, baby!
  11. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Did you have a heavy 1970's Ash Jazz with Maple board? If not... close but no cigar. If you did have one and put a fresh set of roundwounds on it and didn't get that sound, I honestly say I'd be very surprised. I've had to make strides to not sound like Marcus with that basic recipe:D

    The reason people do the smiley face EQ is to try and mimic what Marcus' bass does naturally... and it's extremely rare that anyone even gets close to the actual sound IMO. Pop on a heavy Ash jazz w/Maple board and you get what I'd describe as a very controlled "splat" kind of sound. Most high end builders refined their sound to get rid of that splat and guess what... you can't get the 70's Ash Jazz vibe with them.

    People think the mids need to be cut and highs and lows boosted. Again, I can plug my stock 70's Ash/Maple bass in, all knobs up, amp set flat and there it is.

    It's not just the time period of the 1970s, it has to be an Ash bass w/Maple board. Ash/ Rosewood can get you in the ballpark but Ash/Maple nails it IME.

    I didn't realize the OP asked about how to get a bass to sound like him.

    I've never seen an interview where Marcus himself said anything about a Sadowsky preamp defining his sound. His bass doesn't have one.

    Cutting the mids is the wrong way to get his sound IMO, unless you just have the wrong bass for that sound. Losing the midrange content is the opposite of what Marcus does. His bass has plenty of clear, full mids, is naturally bright and the Ash really tightens up the lows too. That's why people who try to mimic him with a smiley face curve don't have the heft to the sound that Marcus definitely has. There's a major difference, difference you can feel. Marcus is ultimately an old school type player and old school was all about the thump. You can't get thump by cutting mids, you end up with thud;)
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Someone just sent me a Headhunters' concert from Japan in '05...MM's tone on that DVD is, for me, not happenin': too metallic & a bit bright, especially with his "G"-string.
    I do believe he sounds great on recordings, even on the pre-Tutu Miles' live stuff where it's a bit more raw(Star People, We Want Miles).

    By direct contrast is another DVD just sent to me...Bill Laswell's Material from an '05 show. Laswell, to me, sounds really good...looks like a Fender P(maybe with a Jazz pickup added at the bridge) with Ampeg amplification.

    One of my favourite Marcus recordings is Straphanging by The Brecker Brothers...also, some of the tracks MM cut with Spyro Gyra(e.g. Icognito) & Donald Fagen(The Nightfly).
  13. Would a Marcus Miller sig bass get you close?
  14. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md

    What I mean by that is, I've played some that were close and some that weren't. I think the main missing ingredient is that heavy Ash used in the 70's that people complained about at the time. It had a "sound". For a lot of bassists, heavy is bad. Not me, if it brings the sound along with it:D
  15. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    i hate to say it, but i cant stand most of marcus' recorded output, including the Ozell tapes, which sounded overdubbed at best, and not nearly as exciting as his show i caught at BB King's. literally floored me from start to finish.

    also, i've found tons of boots off of limewire and bit torrent, which simply kick major booty.

    do a search, and IMHO, you'll be better rewarded.

    and IMHO, the closest bass i heard to that MM sound was a boatanchor of an Atelier Z 5 string. like slinging on a lead sheet to your chest, but HOLY CRAP, that was the sound.
  16. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    +1. IMHO he sounds better live. Take a 70s jazz bass or reasonably similar instrument, turn it up all the way, wallop it, and apply enough compression to keep the amps from exploding.
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    With boat anchor being the key;). There's something heavy Ash does that I just haven't heard elsewhere. My main non-Fenders are both heavy Ash (ship anchor I guess, by my request) and they have that vibe.

    Excellent description of what it feels like at first too;)
  18. JJD


    Dec 13, 2005
    Bergen Co, New Jersey
    MM is a great player! Actually, I first heard his playing on an album by a band in the 80's called Scritti Politti, the album was titled "Cupid& Psyche '85" I remember the song "Don't Work That Hard".(The singer sounds exactly like Michael Jackson...) The bass playing was awesome, simple, just grooving, and slapping. I checked the credits, hmmmm Marcus Miller, this guy's good! ( Will Lee also played on that album!)

    Also, didn't he play on the R&B single by Patrice Rushen "Forget Me Nots" ??
  19. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Ready Freddie Washington played on 'Forget Me Not's', he also got co-writing credit. I dig that Scritti Pollitti album too!
    Another Pop album that had Marcus Miller 80's exposer on it was Julian Lennon's first album.
  20. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Yep. I just got a boatanchor ash bass myself (Yamaha TRB4) that gets a marvelous slap sound. So good in fact that I've found myself leaving the action where it was when I bought it (a little high for me before) and slapping with a technique much more akin to Marcus, rather than VW DT'ing. It justs sounds too good NOT to.

    I'm gonna change the strings to something a bit fatter -- maybe Fat Beams, or something else DR -- because I know that bootylicious 70's Stanley Clarke sound is just a few gauges away!