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questons for steve and others

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by No Name Here, May 9, 2002.


  1. I'm doing a research project on bass guitar, and for one of the resources of this, I need to have some interviews. I was giving advice to send these questions to the pro bass guitarists. I would be very happy if I could get some answers from some of you guys (Not just Steve) Thanks


    1. What is the most important part when it comes to establishing a groove of some kind with the rhythm section as a electric bassist?
    2. Which do you think is the most important part of bass line, a good melody, or a good rhythm?
    3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to playing an electric bass compared to playing a standup bass?
    4. How do you feel about virtuoso bass players, who use the bass as more of a solo instrument then anything else? Do you think they’re breaking some kind of unwritten rule of being a rhythm men as a bass player?
    5. Who do you think was a bass player that really showed what the electric bass was capable of? Why?
    6. With all the various techniques that have been discovered on all the many types of electric basses (tapping, chords, slapping, etc.) Do you think there is still room to innovate, or have all of the technical tricks of electric bass been tapped out? Why?
    7. What part of a groove do you think a bass player and a drummer should lock onto?
    8. When playing in a group as a electric bass player, what do you believe is the best thing you could do?
    9. When playing in a group as a electric bass player, what do you believe is the worst thing you could do?
    10. Any advice to aspiring bass players?
     
  2. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    I saw this in the Misc. Forum also. Sure I will help you out. I have the answers all ready to e-mail you.
    e-mail me at:
    ekstasis1@hotmail.com

    Max Valentino
     
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Ok, here's some answers, dotted into the text - I'll not explain them too much, as the ensuing discussion may prove interesting (which, after all is what this site is about, not doing your homework for you... <grin> )

    anyway here goes...
    1. What is the most important part when it comes to establishing a groove of some kind with the rhythm section as a electric
    bassist?

    Steve sez - well, there are lots of important parts, locking in with the drums, making musical sense, understanding the stylistic constraints of what you're doing, your tone, how you fit round the vocal - any of those that are missing will diminish the over all sound...

    2. Which do you think is the most important part of bass line, a good melody, or a good rhythm?

    Steve sez - those are the only two options? which is more important for water, Oxygen or Hydrogen? :oops:) It all depends on the song, the style, what everyone else is doing... sadly, bass playing can't be reduced to a bunch of either or options... if it could, I'd write a 10 page teaching book, sell it for $100 and clean up! :oops:)

    3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to playing an electric bass compared to playing a standup bass?

    totally different instruments with a different vibe and different possibilities. On a practical level, elec bass is smaller and lighter, and due to the absence of traditional mics, can be turned up louder, but beyond that, you choose the tool for the job...

    4. How do you feel about virtuoso bass players, who use the bass as more of a solo instrument then anything else? Do you
    think they’re breaking some kind of unwritten rule of being a rhythm men as a bass player?

    same as I think about any musician - are they doing what they feel 'called' to do? if so, don't knock 'em... any mention of 'rules' beyond 'does it sound good to you?' are a misnomer...

    5. Who do you think was a bass player that really showed what the electric bass was capable of? Why?

    just about every bassist I've ever heard has shown something different in terms of what's possible - why should we be looking for one person to encapsulate all that the bass can do? we write music, and bass is the voice we use - there's no obligation to show the capabilities of what the tools can do - did Leonardo really show what brushes can do by painted the Mona Lisa, or did he show was Leonardo can do? :oops:)

    6. With all the various techniques that have been discovered on all the many types of electric basses (tapping, chords, slapping,
    etc.) Do you think there is still room to innovate, or have all of the technical tricks of electric bass been tapped out? Why?

    I doubt it - I'll wait and see what comes out next - I'm not about to try and second guess what the next 'new' thing is... who knows what might be brewing in the mind of some kid in Idaho who's about to launch this amazing new approach to music that might change the way we all think?

    7. What part of a groove do you think a bass player and a drummer should lock onto?

    I'm not sure I understand the question....

    8. When playing in a group as a electric bass player, what do you believe is the best thing you could do?

    play the good notes, avoid the bad ones

    9. When playing in a group as a electric bass player, what do you believe is the worst thing you could do?

    the opposite

    cheers

    steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
    www.pillowmountainrecords.co.uk
     
  4. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    1. What is the most important part when it comes to establishing a groove of some kind with the rhythm section as an electric bassist?
    The “Groove” is one of the most difficult to define aspects of music. It has many facets. For some it might be a very tight, locked and mechanical uniformity in the rhythm. To others it is a looser and more syncopated interplay between the component players. To some it is defined as an ever-changing dialogue between the rhythm sections players. In truth, the groove is something which is felt and not easily described. In all situations it features an almost telepathic communication between the players; an ability to hear and feel beyond what is actually being played, and having instincts to navigate the tune, and groove, in tandem with the other rhythm sections members.
    An often taled of aspect of the grove is the “pocket”. This too is a phenomenom which escapes accurate definition. In some music, the pocket is formed by the bass and bass drum locking together with absolute precision. It might also be considered as an ever-expanding and contracting web of rhythm in which the bassist and drummer are continually switching roles, leading each other in an ebb and flow of lock-step togetherness and funky syncopations.
    For a bassist, the ability to “hear” the rhythm, and thus the groove, react to it and engage in some sort of rhythmic dialogue is paramount. To develop this skill is to go beyond metric acuity and into the realm of “deeper” music; music which seems to have a life of it’s own.

    2. Which do you think is the most important part of bass line, a good melody, or a good rhythm?
    Music is composed of melody, harmony and rhythm. Each part plays an important and significant role. At different times, in varied genres, one aspect may take a leading role, but this does not imply any hierarchy. All three elements are equally important, for the absence of any one leaves an absence of music. A good bass line, while commonly thought of as a rhythmic component, is also the primary harmonic signifier, defining each chord, as well as providing a melodic voice, even though this voice is sometimes quite minimal. A good bassist should have skills and understanding of all three components of music. Having said that, I might point out that one of the greatest basslines of all-time, “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone (with Larry Graham on bass) consist of no more than two notes in the entire song. It is very rhythmically insistent, harmonically sustinct, and melodic in a most minimalist fashion.

    3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to playing an electric bass compared to playing a standup bass?
    Practicality for one. The upright bass is a cumbersome instrument to travel with, tricky to amplify, and physically challenging to play. But to be fair, besides sharing the name “bass” and the same standard tuning, the two instruments have very little in common. The techniques used by each are very different, as are the resulting tones. To compare the two is really like comparing apples and oranges.

    4. How do you feel about virtuoso bass players, who use the bass as more of a solo instrument then anything else? Do you think they’re breaking some kind of unwritten rule of being a rhythm men as a bass player?
    Well, I am one of those players! My position on this is why is there an unwritten rule of the bass being a ponderous, thumping “pitched-drum”? When I first started playing bass, I felt there were enormous possibilities for expression on this instrument. As I began to explore those possibilities, the more resistence I met from other players who seemed to enjoy the fact that the “role” of the bass could be dictated by people who did not play bass. Why is that so? The role of any instrument is dictated only by the music being played, and in truth, any music CAN be played on any instrument. The traditional role of the bass is a good role, an important role, and one I embrace as a studio and session player. But I also feel compelled to explore the other possibilities. Why can’t bass play a beautiful melodic line, or be the lead voice of an ensemble. Why can’t you play chordal passages on the bass? To say you cannot is, to me, much like telling a pianist he can only play with his right hand. The bass guitar is really only about 50 years old, and so is very young as far as instruments go. We have only begun to explore the musical possibilities of this instrument, and I personally feel a responsibility to explore those. In exploring these possibilities, I have made a career for myself as a solo bassist. But I also play the traditional role of the bass, and enjoy that very much also. When you regulate what an instrument “can” or “should” do, you limit it’s potential for artistic expression, and you limit the art itself. Music, like all art, requires new innovation, discovery and re-birth to remain dynamic and vital.

    5. Who do you think was a bass player that really showed what the electric bass was capable of? Why?
    I really don’t think there is just one player. There have certainly been innovators and vanguards, but each of them “borrowed” something from their influences, and sometimes those influences were not bassists. Stanley Clarke was enormously influenced by the music of John Coltrane and his techniques on saxophone Stanley adapted to the electric bass. Jaco was influenced by Sinatra. Michael Manring by Charles Mingus…the list goes on. Musicians, like all artists, influence each other, and with each influence a mutation happens. Those mutations appear as innovations. As far as showing what the instrument is capable of I think we have only just scratched the surface.

    6. With all the various techniques that have been discovered on all the many types of electric basses (tapping, chords, slapping, etc.) Do you think there is still room to innovate, or have all of the technical tricks of electric bass been tapped out? Why?
    Yes, of course. I am always looking for new techniques for expression. The trick there is not to get buried by technique or allow technique to overshadow musicality. I play fingerstyle, slap, tap, chording, looping etc. I also have borrowed techniques from 20th century classical composers like John Cage for “preparing” a bass with found objects. I use an Ebow. I have adapted several flamenco guitar techniques for my bass playing. I think it is very important to explore, discover, play around, think outside the box so to speak. The possibilities are nearly limitless, and if we give up exploring and trying them out, well, to quote a wise-man: “he who is not busy being born is busy dying.”.

    7. What part of a groove do you think a bass player and a drummer should lock onto?
    This goes back to the first question. This is totally dependent on what the music calls for. In some instances it is required for the bass to lock with the kick drum. In others, the bass might be required to accent off the kick drum, or dance around it, as is the case often in reggae music. If you take into consideration Ornette Coleman’s Harmelodic Theory, the bass and drums need not “lock” at all, but rather should engage, along with the other instruments, in a musical dialogue.

    8. When playing in a group as a electric bass player, what do you believe is the best thing you could do?
    Listen, react and play with conviction.

    9. When playing in a group as a electric bass player, what do you believe is the worst thing you could do?
    Not listen, play without responsibility, and ignore the value of silence.

    10. Any advice to aspiring bass players?
    To play well takes a deep commitment, one that cannot be taken lightly. Learn how to listen. Strive to find your own voice on the instrument, for your voice is unique in the world. Honor efficiency, as well as necessity and sufficiency. Strive to make music, not just sound. Relax. And remember, in music the only mistake we make is failing to learn from the mistakes we make.

    Max
     
  5. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Do you want answers from us humble amateurs, or only le pros?

    I love a quiz!
     
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    ...this whole answer sounds way cool if you say it in a Yoda voice, Max - have you been taking bass lessons from Frank Oz??? ... :oops:)

    'To play well, a deep commitment it takes...'

    Luke, use the forks

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
    www.pillowmountainrecords.co.uk
     
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Find your own voice, for unique it is, hmmm, yeesss.

    Ha! FUNNY! - Absolutely no offense intended Max. The whole inner music thang is very spiritual. It's just that EVERYTHING sounds funny in a Yoda voice!

    This poses the question, what is the dark side?

    Jazz metal? ;)
     
  8. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    what's the dark side? it all depends on your perspective... for me, overly serious irony free prog metal is pretty close to unlistenable... :oops:)

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

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Hmmm, I reckon mine would be 'handbag' house.

    It's about he only genre that I just can't listen to without developing a facial tick. ;) :) ;) :)

    A friend of mine affectionately calls it 'Dug-A-Daa'.
     
  10. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    But Steve, do I not ALWAYS speak with the Yoda voice, no?