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putting love into your notes

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Nov 18, 2002.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    ....no idea where I'm goin with this one - just wanted to see if I could get some conversation going on this subject.

    I was just listeneing to Tear on the new Chili Peps album and the bassline jumped out at me. I feel like love was put into that bass line. Passion. Warmth. Heart. Soul. Something that a lot of basslines seem to lack. Specially in Rock & Roll. Most R&R seems fueled by anger, or is devoid of any real feel except for a sort of playing of the notes.

    I often get caught up in the notes and have to consciously reconnect to what I'm playing. In fact I'm gonna go play for a couple of hours soon as I finish writing this and practice making my notes sing instead of just playing them. I want to make BEEEAUUUTTIIIFUL music.

    I've been feeling a bit emotional lately, so you'll have to excuse me.

    Any thoughts on heartfelt basslines, and good examples??? Some of my favorite heartfelt bassists are John Paul Jones, whoever plays for Lou Reed, Flea - lot of the 70's soul music. Oh yeah - the guy from Sublime - if you listen closely that guy is NOT just playing notes.

    Thoughts pleeez!
  2. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Not a bad thread, Joe. The heart and soul of my playing improved when I fell in love. I began to play for her as much as for me, and the texture of my music improved dramatically. I guess I now play with more emotion.
  3. JimM


    Jan 13, 2000
    Northern California
    Excellent topic.Don't know how I'd translate it to a particular technique,maybe by letting the notes or letting the bass sing a bit.I have been playing so long that even though I'm not all that fast or impressive I still feel as though the bass is a second voice to me.I can use that voice to tell you off or to sweet talk you.Romantic playing,sounds good to me.
  4. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    I'd say the "love" in what you describe is a combination of 3 things:

    1)The right tone, for 2) the right song, along with well placed 3) melodic/rythymic phrasing.

    Don't think we don't try to get this delightful combination. We as bassists have to be on, but so do our bandmates.

    To consistenly have the chemistry! Takes great attention to detail.:cool:
  5. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Tony Levin and Pino Palladino are two guys who put a lot of thought into the individual notes. They don't just phrase well; they've got great tone.

    Palladino also reveals himself to be a great Zenderesque nu-soul groover on D'Angelo's and Erykah Badu's albums. Who knew?
  6. I think to express something on bass (or any instrument) you have to know your way around the instrument. Sounds obvious, but I think a lot of bassists rely on gear instead on them selves. Instead of trying to find out how to express the feelings of a given song through the bass, they start thinking which pickup balance, bass or amp etc. they should use to fit the song. If you choose a more consistent setup and you force your self to use just one setting on the bass and amp, and try to change the feel or sound with your fingers you'll be better expressing feelings. Use your fingers to play instead of tweaking knobs!

    In his instructional video Flea tries to make a soundtrack on the fly, as the host (River Phoenix) makes up silly stories. That's a good way practicing how different strokes express different feelings.
    And by the way, Flea is my "feel god" no. 1!!! (Soul to Squeeze!)
  7. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I agree. Soul to Squeeze was another song I was going to mention in the thread. Playing that bass line isn't all that difficult - making it sing the way Flea does is a feat and a half.

    I also agree with the tone thing - I don't think your setup has anything at all to do with the amount of "love" that comes through your playing. Jamerson would be a great example of that - dirty gunky strings, a P bass - and whole lot of feel. I love my MM bass because it responds best to what I put into it. You can really hear each and every nuance of my playing. All my other basses seem to cover up stuff that my hands put into the notes. I'm not saying a MM is the best bass for heartfelt playing - just the one that serves ME and my style the best.

    I"m a big fan of that flea video. A lot of the stuff he says in there pertaining to R&R and really putting yourself into the music was pounded into my head when I was sixteen by a close friend musical mentor that I was in a band with. He used to get mad at me if I played with my fingers, he wanted to hear every fiber of my body go into every chord (I played guitar back then) I played. He left a stong and wonderful impression.

    OK. I'm gonna get a little flakey now with the love thing. From time to time when I'm gigging I imagine only love flowing through my body. I picture it flowing into the the strings, through the bass, out my amp and into the audience. I watch for the reaction in the crowd. It's great! At the very least it puts a huge smile on my face and feels good. It's a great way out of a lousy nite too.
  8. That's why I got a MM too! :D

    I think that's a good way to try to reach the audience. I'll give that a try. Let's start a love revolution... :D ...hey, hold on - wasn't that done some 25 years ago? :rolleyes: Well, still a good idea :cool:
  9. BlacksHole


    Mar 22, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    IMHO, it's about letting the music flow through you and getting other concerns out of the way. I.e., being a part of the song and being as absorbed as possible in making music, forgetting your image, aches, pains, whatever.
  10. theydolph

    theydolph Guest

    Oct 26, 2002
    Its good to see this discussion going on. For a long time I've felt a bit pessimistic about the future of music in general. With the emphasis being placed on technique as opposed to soul. Technique, to me, is really a means to an end, which is soul. Very few musicians possess both amazing technique and soul, Coltrane and Jaco come to mind. As cool as it is to hear someone play 64th notes during their solos I'll take a Miles Davis solo any day.
    People should seriously consider spending more time learning to REALLY sing on their instruments and less time trying to play "Teen Town" faster.
    Ahh, ranting does feel good.
  11. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Interesting points, Ed, and I agree with much of it, I just wanted to comment on this part:

    I think that actually feeling the emotion as you're playing it actually does help communicate it. But, *trying* to feel the emotion would get in the way, as you said. You see, you just have to be it, just *be* the feeling you're expressing. This doesn't get in the way, because it doesn't involve thought, you don't think it, you just be it! Trying to feel it will get in the way, because if you are trying, you're thinking about it. If you're really being it, you don't have to think about it.

    I'm just saying that feeling and thinking are separate things, and if you stop trying to think yourself into feeling it, and just stop thinking and just *be* it, that will come through, and make all the difference.

    Easier said that done :)
  12. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    whew! thats a lotta words, and very eloquently put at that.

    I agree on some of the above points - but I'm not even too sure where all the defensiveness is coming from. My basic thought above is that I think it's important to feel the music - how theory and all that crap started seeping in here I'm not sure. And I'm sorry to say I don't believe that Knowledge of theory has much to do with the heart that goes into one's playing. As you (Ed) said above, regardless of my understanding of gravity, I'm gonna stick to the ground as well as you will. I know lots of people with huge vocabularies that can't express themselves if their lives depended upon it, and people from other countries who's language is very limited who can convey excellently what they feel and think. I can't see the two being tyed together.

    If someone is really good at expressing themselves on an instrument I'm sure knowledge of theory would help them to better do it, but if someone is cold and heartless in their playing I don't care if they study for 20 yrs. 8 hours a day, what they learn about the science of music isn't going to change that.

    I just don't believe the 2 are related. I don't believe that the fact that someone can explain exactly what they're doing will really help, and I do in fact belive it can hinder because the science of music also implies rules, and I believe that one's head can get in the way of their creativity. I'm not saying that's always the case, and I'm not saying that educated musicians are less heartfelt or that people who don't know a D from an A are. Just saying again - I don't believe they're related.

    I agree with your take on my letting love flow, it probably does clear my mind, but I do believe that it is also spiritually putting something out there. I hear plenty well whats going on around me - in myself I feel that's either instinct or perhaps just years and years of playing with others.
  13. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I was posting at the same time as moley so i just wanna say my above post is in reference mostly to Eds.

    As Moley said above, all the stuff about being the music is easier said than done. I'm sure we all wish we were connected 100% of the time. With me, that's just not the case. My idea of letting the love flow through me is just another way for me to reconnect with myself, the music, and the audience. They're all important to me.
  14. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Interesting thread.

    I have to agree that no sheer amount of "feeling" is going to compensate if you don't know how to translate that feeling into music via your instrument.

    Perhaps one might have been in a certain mood when composing a line - but that doesn't mean to say they'll be able to nail it every time without practice. Maybe it is a combination of "being" the feeling and having the musical knowledge to translate it, but I think there are some "intangibles" involved as well. For example, you know how sometimes a practice/jam just doesn't "flow" properly and sometimes there's no real way to explain it?

    RED FUGURU - a question, if I may. Do you think that being in a different mood might cause someone to hear (and therefore play) a radically different line in their head? If so, do you think this is a valid way to account for the difference between "inspired" and "uninspired" music?
  15. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Isn't it enough to have a zeal, or an enthusiasm to playing?

    Knowing the instument and how music works, and the musical context are the rules that define what and how we play.

    There are well played/crafted songs. It's probably why we picked up instruments in the first place.

    For myself, I don't even think I'm going after some intangible, or that I'm "gonna make you see" through my playing.

    I am excited that I have a band, a place to play, and the time. I am happy for that!

    In my world of musicianship, it's what works to convey the song tonite!

    The love I hear in someone's playing is the (their) Joy of existence expressed musically. I am not them, but I appreciate the musical roads being paved, and occasionally plowed by others.
  16. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    "Play one note on one string and pour in every ounce of your heart and soul..." - from Zen Guitar

    Personally speaking, I pour all my emotions into my playing. I look to the bass as where I go to celebrate my happiness, vent my feelings and frustrations, express my sadness, and profess my feelings of love (and loneliness :().

    About theory: IMO Theory is always there, even you say you always base your playing on emotion and couldn't care less about theory and what-not. There is theory behind everything you play, every emotion that flows through the strings and out into the air. There's theory behind the 'colors' you may 'see' in your head. I try not to seperate things like emotion, theory, and technique. I want them to work together.
  17. Some very wise things are being said in this thread. Haven't digested it all, so here's just a thought:

    Performing arts, including music, relies on an audience. And we, the artists, are inclined to think that we provide the illusion (of a specific feeling, of being in a specific place or time etc.), and the audience recieve or digest that illusion. To me it's healthy to think it the other way around. The artist provide the vehicle, while it's the audience that provides the illusion. It's their imagination that makes my notes become a feeling of love in their heads. I can only make a better or worse vehicle. And how I do that is what this discussion is about.

    Feeling or technique? You've got to have both, but how much of each is a personal question. Neither has to get in the way of the other, but they sure can (take Jaco's desperation in his last years).

    To me feeling is also feeling every note, literally, and that is technique in the end - so there you have it!
  18. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Ed - I believe we ARE on the same page. I probably misunderstood what you initially wrote. I can only rephrase my thinking so many times - but I think we agree - I'll try one more time just for redundancy's sake.

    If someone has a lot of passion in their playing, theory will most likely help them to express themselves even better. Just because a person lacks knowledge of theory however does not mean that they cannot play as passionately or more passionately than someone who knows everysingle thing there is to know about music. Someone who knows everything about music may blow another away when it comes to feel, and someone who knows nothing about music may blow someone who knows everything away by the same token. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blahb albhhhh.... they're 2 seperate things.

    Also, none of what I said was addressed as an attack or was in reference to your playing at all. I know nothing about your playing. Sorry if it came off that way.

    Funny.... I feel as though I hath been placed beneath the microscope.

    Just wanna keep putting more and more love into my notes. Thats all. Not right and not wrong. Wanted to hear other's examples of what they thought were heartfelt basslines.

    Im beginning to bore myself so I'm gonna stop now.
  19. "Manifest Destiny" - The Return Of The Space cowboy. Jamiroquai

    Mr. Zenders notes loves each other!
  20. BlacksHole


    Mar 22, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    Although it has now been pretty much beaten to death, I'm still going to offer an example :D . I've been working on a Bach cello suite and I've gotten it to a tempo that I feel is appropriate and sometimes I even remember the entire piece without going to a wrong section and play it through (but not often enough yet ;) ). While I felt that it sounded fairly good, something still wasn't right.

    Then I found a version played by Segovia. While he played it at a slower tempo, I learned a lot from his understanding and feel. He modified the piece for guitar (as he always did) and his knowledge shone through rather obviously as he added parts/notes that would not work or perhaps even be possible on a cello, but enriched the guitar version. He also displayed impeccable phrasing and while he added some fermatas that I certainly didn't expect (and won't in my rendition), these timing changes IMHO strengthened his version.

    Now I am readdressing the piece and while grappling with what I need to do to make it sound like it may have been written for a bass, I also recognize that I was playing it too mechanically. I need to increase my immersion into the piece to properly play it. This involves feel and to a lesser extent, technique (as I already had it up to speed and played evenly according to the written note). It definitely requires some music theory if I'm really going to take my rendition to a new (and "better") level. I simply can't try to add the notes that Segovia added - they wouldn't sound right in the octave and tonal palette that I am using. It is the phrasing that I most need to address. And it is phrasing that embodies feel. Somehow, I can't do this if I am not immersed in my playing and instead am thinking about my day job or some other distraction. Even thinking about how others are reacting to my performance is a distraction to me, I need to just get into what I am doing and hang onto the hope that any listeners will be appreciative.

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