Ron Carter -- Live Clinic

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by Nick Ara, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    No doubt about it, Jon Leftwich definitely has great chops.
    Speaking of which, last night I had the pleasure of attending Ron Carter's bass clinic at David Gage's shop.

    After all of the years I've seen him perform with luminaries of every description, this was a special treat for the 60 or so attendees who were spellbound for over two hours as Ron spoke of his views on playing the bass, and music theory in general. I'm sure some of the bassists beside me were TBDB members, too, come to think of it. Here's a not-so-brief rundown of the evening:

    All of us were give a handout where our assignment was to delineate walking lines in F using only chord tones, then non-harmonic tones, and finally we were to add in varied rhythms. His exercise required each measure to (ideally) have different rhythmic notation. All of the possible tones were pre-printed on the sheet, so we only needed to "connect the dots". I'm certain that my solutions to the challenge were quite bizarre, what with double dotted notes and ties all over the place. (I'm not used to this stuff!).

    As I recall Ron's views on things in general:

    On practicing - Practice your lines in the half position. The method books usually tell you to practice your scales, etc., in all keys. This is not good, he feels, since beginners will usually become frustrated with intonation problems, and other positional/technique issues. ”Master the half-position....all the notes you need are there, after all."

    On lessons with his students - "You're going to practice and practice. You WILL do your homework. There is NO EXCUSE at all, or it’s over. The bass requires constant commitment, all the time. That's the nature of the instrument." "Besides, I don't have the time for you if you are not fully prepared when you show up."

    On stamina - Only practice will give you stamina. "We (with Miles) played 3 sets, Mondays thru Thursdays, and 4 sets on Fridays and Saturdays for years. That helped my stamina". "I can play, and play. There's no way a horn player is going to outplay me. No way." I believe he's right.

    On playing without an amp - "This makes no sense. This is going backwards". Without an amp, you have to work harder, dig in deeper, keep your action higher, all of which chokes the tone and causes player fatigue. Microphones won't help much since they are not focused enough and feed back. Use a pickup and concentrate on getting the proper technique. You should only need to play just loud enough to get the subtleties across. "We played without amps years ago and it was torture. I wouldn't want to go back to that ever again. Use your amp."

    On recording - "The technology has gotten so much better. Now engineers know how to record the bass. I the old days, I'd hear the playback in the studio and I'd be satisfied. But when the record came out, my bass didn't sound at all like what I played. I was crushed."
    "These days, sometimes I'll use a microphone in the studio, sometimes just my pickup (a Realist, BTW). It all depends on the equipment the studio has, and the engineers. You'd be surprised how they can vary."

    On strings - "My Labella's give me the tone I need, but each player is different, you have to find what works for you. I've been using the Labella's for fifteen years."

    On his bass - Ron uses a tapered snake wood "end pin" which is custom made to his preferred length. "In my mind, it makes the bass sound better. In my mind, at least." "It's quicker to setup up, since I just need to pop it in place. I don't need to worry about the hardware (screws, etc., getting lost). Going from studio to show, there's no time to mess around."

    As for his sound post, Ron has it tapered on both ends, making the post have narrower contact points. He feels this allows the top and bottom plates to move better independently, resulting in better resonance.

    To manage the humidity issue, Ron keeps his bass in a closet in his apartment. To absorb excess moisture, he hangs a potato in the closet next to the bass. In dry weather, he keeps a bucket of water there instead. "No Dampits. Too difficult to control”.

    Ron's been using the same bass on all recordings since 1959 (that's over 2500 sessions). The C extension (just one capo to bring the string back to E) was custom made and added in 1971. I played Ron's bass, and found his action to be higher than I expected. The Labella’s "look" like they'd have low tension, but with the steel core, they felt kind of like Spirocores to me.

    On the role of the bassist in a band - "The bassist leads the band. Maybe not necessarily in choosing song selection, but they chart the direction during performance." "As a leader, the musicians playing with me follow my vision, but are free to express themselves, musically."

    On Rap and Hip-Hop - "Maybe because of my age group, this music doesn't really appeal to me. Too much cursing. But these guys really know how to do loops! The things they do with computers are unbelievable! Not a music stand in sight and they come out with all this stuff!"

    All in all, this was an extremely enjoyable and enlightening evening. Ron is very personable, affable. He took his time with all the questions that were asked and looked like he could go on and on all night. Part of his work ethic, I guess. In speaking with some of the bassists near me, I found that some came up from as far as D.C., and down from Boston to attend.

    Working my day job in Manhattan means that I am fortunate to be close to opportunities like this, but I understand that Ron does clinics all over. If you have the chance to spend some time with him, it will be time well spent.
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Did they record it, like the John Patitucci one? I love that DVD, and would love to see Ron's as well.
  3. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    The clinic was definitely video taped. The camera behind me was rolling the whole time. David was taking still shots from all angles, as well.

    The last clinic I caught at David's was with Eddie Gomez and it, too, was taped but not for David Gage's production. Instead, it was for a private project Eddie was involved in.

    I'll need to get the DVD version of Patitucci's clinic. My video tape is pretty well worn out by now!
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Great post, Nick, thanks for sharing that with us.
  5. Ditto....nice job Nick!
  6. T Sony

    T Sony

    Mar 5, 2004

    John Patitucci did one? Where can I buy it?

    P.S: Ron has an interesting concept to playing with an amp. As well how he maintains a level of authority.
  7. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    May be mistaken, but Sam Jones put out a vinyl when Mr Carter had just finished his university, something like; "Sam Jones on Cello; Introducing Ron Carter." Wow, that Jusek of Ron's never sounded so sweet as the "Miles, Live in Berlin" or Mr Hancock's "Speak Like a Child." etc. He's my favorite rhythm section bassist. How about his performance on Joe's "Power to the People" with DeJohnette and Hancock? The '85 Village Vanguard session he did with Al Foster and Joe Henderson's; "State of the Tenor; I and II" is out of this world! Talk about taste! You'd have to ask Mr Carter, but Frank Tusa told me he's is a distant cousin of Chamber's. Mr Carter's musical wisdom is immeasurable. Thanks for the great post, Nick!

  8. I knew Frank Tusa when I lived in the Bay area. Is he still there?
  9. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    Paul, as far as I know, he's still in the Bay Area. Frank did some real solid sessions with Dave L. and Lookout Farm. He's got an old Italian 7/8 bass-beautiful. I think he is freelancing in B. Area. Family man these days.
  10. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
    awesome post - thanks for sharing. i hope Gage releases a DVD of it. -erik
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    It looked like nobody answered your question, so go here.
  12. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Man, I wish I had known!

    Sounds like it was a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing.

    Well, next time.
  13. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    My pleasure! I'm probably becoming a bass groupie....not bassist, but bass. Playing R.C.'s bass was a real trip. I mean, here I am at 5' 4", trying to play something in 1/2 position. Talk about hilarious! Ron is what, about 6'5''?

    Now Eddie Gomez, that's a different story. Me and Eddie, well, let's just say we see things "eye to eye". I have a photo of Me and Ed standing so it looks like we are giving "Hi Five's". He said, "you can play like me, I have small fingers, too. I said, "no way, let's line em up". I think it was a draw. My palm is bigger, but his fingers are longer.

    One thing I've noticed is that R.C. appears to develop a tremendous amount of leverage due to his wonderfully long fingers. Not to mention the obvious reach he has. Great for all the pull-offs, hammer-on's, chords, and other devices he uses so well.

    Two very different results, Ron and Mr. Ed.
  14. dinibass


    Apr 8, 2004
    this summary of the clinics is great.
    I took the freedom to paste your post into a list of italian bassists (

    thank you :hyper:
  15. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    Thanks! I'll keep the reviews comin' whenever I can.