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Solo bass is more suited for duos.

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Niels Keijzer, Dec 22, 2000.


  1. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Hello Steve,

    I'm listening to "drifting" again at the moment...have listened it for a couple of times now over the last few weeks, and I really enjoy lots of parts in it.
    I was wondering, hearing your views and your ways of playing bass as a solo-instrument...aren't you sometimes frustrated by the limited possibilities of all those technical effect-thingies you're using?
    For instance, when you're using a loop-sampler in a song...you're basically forced to play over that chord-structure (if that's what you're looping), and what I find the worst part of those things, is that it doesn't respond to your playing.
    For instance, when you're soloing, and you started playing with a harder attack, the machine doesn't hear it, and keeps replaying the thing at the same volume. (and feel)
    But when another player (for example...me) would accompany you with that same chord-structure, he or she would hear you play louder, or see your mood change, and would also play differently according so.
    So I think your solo-bass would sound even better with another human player (like the cellist you've been playing with, I think cello and bass is a terrific combination), but that would be beside the point of course, since it's a great thing seeing you on a stage with all those wicked machinery, and with that, filling the whole room with those nice sounds.
    Here in Holland, we would roll that green stuff between our tobacco, and have a great time with it. (nah...)

    I wonder what your opinions are on all this...sorry for the long post, but it's the way I talk. I'm a bit like your aunt.
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi,

    for me, playing solo with loops is a completely different discipline to playing in a group. thehuman interaction that you speak of is a huge part of my musical experience and I do play in various musical combinations, with Cello and percussion and with a pianist/sax player.

    Playing solo is more about layering/building sound - the variation comes from adding to the loop, and from fading one loop in and another out - if you listen to 'Drifitng' the initial loop is there for a time, then that's faded out, into an E-Bow improv and from that a second loop is built, with new parts being added each time, there's no sense of trying to recreate a verse/chorus format, more of a 'through composed' concept as it builds and morphs from one section to another. Instead of having the loop 'interact' with you, you can add more layers to build the dynamic, and if you do it with multiple loop devices, you can then cross fade between them, or layer them up in overlapping and vary the relative volumes. if you're interested in this idea, have a listen to the sound clip that I recorded in an art gallery that's listed in the 'recent additions' bit on my website...

    The joy of solo bass with loops like this for me is that it's just me, it's a way of getting the music in my head out without having to get other musos in - I've tried bass duets, and they are great fun, but a totally different expereience as no-one else that I've come across plays enough like me to make it work on the same level as playing solo. And that's part of the joy of duets - I'd love to work with someone like Abe Laboriel, Jimmy Haslip or Michael Manring, but I wouldn't want them to try and play my parts, I'd much rather they stamped their own magic on the music...


    On my own, I can layer up to three loops and fade between them with my current set up, or just use a single loop and go for a more trance-like or minimalist approach.

    The solidity of the loop is something that I enjoy working with - I can and do use a volume pedal to vary the volume in relation to what I'm playing, but looping is a different musical discipline to interracting with another musician.

    Mr trio with sax and piano is more of a free-improv exeriment, and there may well be something available with that line-up not long into the new year...

    cheers

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Thanks for replying so soon,

    Reading your post, I think I misunderstood how your songs are written, and are being played.

    Where I think more in terms of fixed compositions, you see a song as an organic creature, with the flowing, growing and fading that you're talking about.
    It now makes more sense to me why you write and play that way...If the machine would interact with you, it would probably just sound very cheesy, and you can manipulate it constantly, on the fly. It's a bit like those magicians on t.v., you make a sound, distracting the audience, and using that distraction to record a new loop.
    Wasn't it hard in the beginning to press your foot down on the right time? It seems so to me.

    I'm thinking of buying a cheap loop-sampler soon, (like the Akai or so) to experiment with those ideas, it's a very intriguing way of making music.

    Proost, (Cheers)
    Niels.
     
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Neils,

    I'm glad that something of my compositional process is a little clearer - your initial response to the music makes sense if the whole thing were to be about 'composition' in the 'orchestral' sense - there are limitations that come with looping, but I find those creative rather than stifling. I've been thinking about investigating some longer loop time boxes, but I think that working with shorter 'cells' is actually good for me, it stops me from going off into a rambling world where people would find it very difficult to follow my train of musical thought, and I wouldn't be able to keep track of where the music was heading... As it is, I only add new technology when I feel in control of the previous set up, and then I only incorporate that into the live set up when I feel that its application is goign to add to the expressive possibilities rather than just be a 'new toy'.

    90% of what I play on a gig is imporivised - the tunes as they are on the CD often form the initial 'cell' but none of the melodies (except The Inner Game and Bittersweet) are set in stone, so it's fairly fluid. There are lines that get quoted time and time again, and a certain continuity that comes from the order that I build the sounds up in (which does remain fairly contstant), but the whole process is one of sound tracking the moment, interacting with audience and venue and seeing what comes out.

    I can't wait to hear what comes out at the NAMM show - the environment is such that it could become very 'anti-music' with the rabid focus on chops and flash that trade shows tend to have built into them, but I will find kicking against that to be a strange and hopefully inspiring challenge... :oops:)

    As for loop boxes to get, the Line6 DL4 is just amazing - that's the one to go for...

    cheers

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  5. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Hello again,

    I'm trying not to sound too obsessed with it, but English people do pronounce my name correctly when they're pronouncing it as "Neils". Strangely enough, we write it in Holland as "Niels". (and in Scandinavia, where I think it comes from) Man, it looks way better that way. :oops:)

    So you're going to that Namm show? I see pictures of it from time to time. It looks good, but I think I would get sick of all the noise. (not music) Can't afford it anyway. And I think I wouldn't be too crazy about guys bragging about their Doubleneck Sevenstring bassguitar. (If he's reading, I'm just joking! JOKING!) But it would be really nice to talk to all those other players, maybe even play some tunes with them. From what I read of you, I think you enjoy talking about playing almost as much as playing itself.

    You wrote that ninety percent of what you write is improvised, but I think that the other ten percent is the most important part of the song. It's a bit like showing your barbiedoll, but let the moment decide for what clothes you will be putting on. (or off) But it's still a doll.
    Sorry about the stupid example.
    I try to approach bassplaying in a similar way...I learn the chord structure and basic rhytmic pattern, but I try to improvise all the licks and lines that I play between them. I like this approach, but I also have to, since I don't really have the patience to learn it completely.
    Same about sight-reading, but I'm really trying to learn. (I can read chord-symbols now, Count to one or four or so and play another one. Cool.) :oops:)

    Thanks for recommending me the Line-6 box. I see you as an expert on the subject, so I'll start saving up now. Do you use all those delays on it as well?

    Santé,

    Niels.
     
  6. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    "Disable Smilies in This Post" Aha.
     
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Niels, My appologies for misspelling your name - I was just typing too fast... :oops:)

    The NAMM show's great, it's a great chance to see new gear, meet interesting people, hear some great players and just hang out in LA! :oops:) I've also got a few gigs in California while I'm there, which will be cool.

    I do enjoy talking about music - I love learning from other people, encouraging people who are starting out, talking to people who's music resonates with me about their thinking behind it, but I'm not sure I'd put it above playing! :oops:)

    I'm not sure I'd agree with you there - the magic for me is in the improv. A fair bit of what happens on my gigs is completely free improv - no preset start point, no written melody, just see what happens. On the album, 'Pillow Mountain' and 'Chance' are like that, as is the second half of 'Drifting', after the initial chordal loop fades. I find the process of creating infront of an audience is one of the most expressive experiences that I can have - I can completely vibe of the audience and the venue.

    I also love working with other musicians like that - I recently did some recording with a pianist friend of mine, where we just sat down plugged in and played - no starting 'key', no mention of style or anything, just letting the music speak. There are two tracks from that session on my website, which are accessible to people who've got the album, via the link listed on the sleeve... :oops:)

    I can relate to that, definitely - if it's a creative musical setting, where I'm creating the lines, it will often change each time round. If I'm doing a session, then I'll play what I'm asked the play, and if that's root and fifth for 5 minutes, then that's what I play - that's just part of doing a job. Fortunately, I tend to get hired to sound like me, doing sessions where something a little different is needed, but I've done all kinds of stuff from theatre sight-reading, to european tours...

    I have experimented with some of the delays, and find them very creative - the oppotunity to edit them in real time is great, you can send sounds spinning off into space by getting a delay going and then turning up the rate... :oops:)

    HAppy Christmas

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  8. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Hi,

    I hope you enjoyed your Christmas as well, to me, they were some really lazy days this year...
    I looked through your interviews today, and I found an interview with Michael Manring, where he talks on the usage of effect-stuffies in music. I'll "quote" it here:

    "I’ve always been interested in experimenting with effects. To me one of the exciting things about playing the bass guitar is the way in which electronics are integrated into the nature of the instrument. Inherent in the design of the bass there is a kind of marriage of the acoustic means of tone production with the enormous possibilities that electronics offer. I think of the bass as a kind of acoustic/electric instrument rather than a purely electronic one. This appeals to me from a philosophical point-of-view: one of the major challenges that we face at this point in civilization is whether we can integrate our electronic technology into our lives in a positive way or whether it is going to control us and make our lives miserable. In music it’s possible to achieve a kind of meaningful balance. For me, the trick is to try to keep the electronic tools in service of the music. In my solo shows I usually do one or two pieces that rely heavily on effects and the rest with the effects there just to support the sound of the bass. That usually feels about right."

    A bit of a long quote, but I couldn't decide what to leave out. I guess he likes to talk as well.
    I think those words correspond a lot with what you said...if it's still the musician who decides what's going on, then it's o.k.

    What I really liked about Michael's playing (I only heard the Attention Deficit c.d. and his new Album on CDNow) is that his playing is very percussive, but still melodic.
    Solobass should really have a strong rhytmic basis, since this is the part where bassists have advantages on...for example...guitarists. Although I'm stereotyping now. Although I'm stereotyping now. :0)

    Enjoy the winter,
    Niels.
     
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Niels,

    thanks for reminding me about tht bit in the Manring interview - it's ages since i last read it, but I'll go back and read it again - he's a fascinating person to interview with a lot of cool things to say. And yes, there is a lot of cross over in how we philosophically view the relationship between technology, music and musician...

    Bass is such a versatile instrument - it does do rhythmic stuff very well, but also does soundscape and melody and chords and all sorts of other cool things with it's own unique sound. I love the rhythmic things that Michael does - tunes like 'monkey businessman' are astonishing, but I tend to think of the rhythmic side of it as being part of Michael's musical expression which I'm sure would be there if he played flute or the spoons or anything else! :oops:)

    Have you had a chance to try the DL4 yet? If so, what did you think?

    I had a great christmas thanks - here's to a positive and blessed new year,

    cheers

    steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  10. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Steve,

    Those pictures in the interview are great too. He looks a bit like someone who lives in a toadstool. What was it like to see him play the bass? Does he play with a really soft attack, since he's using those light strings?
    Last week, another bassplayer commented on my playing that I was only brushing the strings, not playing loud at all, and that it looked like I was playing some exotic instrument, like a sitar.
    I think the joke was on me, cause I've already scraped the status-logos of my pickups with those strings. :0)

    I really should listen more to Michael's music...
    By the way, have you ever tried using alternate tunings more often in your music? I get confused only by playing dropped-D, cause I play a lot in a mathematical way. (standard patterns and fingersettings)

    I have not tried the Line-6 apparatus yet, but I'll try it as soon as I get into a store again. I'm not too close to one, and I'm usually bankrupt during the year, so there's usually no reason to.
    But things brighten up, I got paid making music two weeks ago, for the first time in my life. (playing with a choir, I got ehm...something like ninety pounds for it.)

    I have a feeling about next year, that it will be a good one.
    All the best,

    Niels.
     
  11. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    The first time I saw Michael play was amazing, as I'd listened to his CDs and had not one idea how he was actually playing the stuff - seeing him play 'the Enormous Room' broke he myth but made it all the more amazing seeing that stuff going on and hearing the music coming out of the speakers.

    As for his technique - he's very efficient, having got rid of almost all extraneous hand movements, and I think does play fairly soft when needed, but also whacks the crap out of his bass when neccesary! :oops:)

    I have messed around with altered tunings - i've tuned in fifths a bit, to get a better spread for some tapping stuff when I was doing a lot of that, and I have a hip-shot fitted to my four string fretted bass which I use all the time. I was experimenting the other day with dropping the high C on my 6 string down to B to get some different harmonic chords, and I'm going to have a go at dropping the top two down like a guitar soon... basically i've got altered tunings lined up for when I run out of ideas with what I'm doing now! :oops:) At the moment, loops and e-bow and my MPX-G2 are giving me so much inspiration that I don't really need to go anywhere else yet... :oops:)

    cheers

    steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  12. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Weren't you just a little discouraged when you saw Michael play? Or did you had that before with other bassists? I know that you can come with a rational explanation like "they have their own style, etc", but sometimes I think those things when seeing other bassists. Usually not about technique, but about musically hearing things so well...

    Did you see that Jonas Hellborg bass on the Status website? That should give me inspiration (and frustration) for years. But it looks great.

    I don't really use altered tunings at all, unless someone wants me to. But I do use a capo a lot, which is very usuable for more chord-like approach. I play with a bit of classical approach, but only using my pointing (index?) finger and middlefinger...that works fine on a four string. I can recommend that to you, as another way of detuning, since different open strings makes you see things differently. Although it only works on fretted basses, I think.

    Cheerrrrs.
    Niels.
     
  13. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Nah, it wasn't discouraging - I think it's really sad when inspirational music is seen as discouraging! It's deeply inspiring to hear people do great things in music - if it gets competetive in the sense that 'I'll never be that good, I might as well give up', then you've missed the point - music's not about competition, it's about expression. It doesn't matter who's the fastest, who knows the most out there jazz harmony, who can tap the most complex lines. What matters is who can say what they want to say with their music. I'd hope that a string quartet arrangement of Bittersweet would carry the same emotion as the piano/bass duet version on the CD - if chops were the measure of all things, then that's not a particularly cool tune. Or take 'A Remark You Made' by Weather Report - it's a lovely lovely fretless melody, that doesn't require extreme speed or dexterity to perform, but does require an injection of emotion to make it work... So watching Michael do his thing and sound so original and expressive makes me want to get deeper inside my own sound, my own expression and see what comes out... :oops:)

    The thought of using a capo is an interesting one - it's not one I've experimented with much since college, so I might try that - thanks for the tip!

    cheers

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk

     
  14. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    I know that song! It's really not chop heavy or so, but the melody is beautiful...I can even even play the song, and understand its modulations, which is quite remarkable, since usually I don't get jazz at all.
    Of those slow songs with great feel and emotion, I really like "The juggler" on that same cd. It has a certain "weirdness" in its melodies which I really like. And those cheesy electronics throughout the song...

    Next week, I'll practice with a band and a big choir (50 singers) and I'm a bit reluctant (is that the word?) to play my fretless. I play fretless for a year or so, and previously only used it with acoustic guitars and all, but wednesday I played it with band practice (from that choir) and couldn't hear myself because of that loud rock-drummer.
    Were you, in the beginning, a bit feared of using the fretless more often?

    I had a bit too much "cheers" in the pub last night,
    Niels.
     
  15. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Yeah, the juggler's a great tune - very cool analogue synth sounds...

    I think so - the first time I took just a fretless bass to a gig was quite a while after I first got one! I used to take a fretted just in case I felt out of my depth on the fretless.

    When I got the 6 string fretless, I'd had it a week when I took it on tour with Howard Jones, and played about 70% of the set on it! That was scary, but I just had to throw myself in at the deep end and do it...

    Go for it - get the amp up to ear level, or tilt it so that it's pointing at your head so that you can hear yourself, and play your best. The hardest bit will be if you are reading and playing fretless, but you'll get used to it pretty quick...

    let me know how you get on.

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  16. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Hi,

    I just read an article from Michael Manring that he wrote about fretless intonation. It is featured in the new Bass Player, and you can read it on their website. I read through it a bit fast, but I didn't understand his theory at all. He was talking about "beats" or so.
    Perhaps they really should include an instructional c.d.

    I didn't bring my fretless last wednesday, it was lying somewhere else, and I couldn't find the time to pick it up. But I'm willing the work on the thing...I've tried combining it with reading a little (reading as in "chord symbols and nothing smaller than quarter notes)and that was kind of o.k. They were slow songs, but still.
    And about being able to hear yourself, I also wrote about this in the strings thread...but I do think that a lot of players that have this very midrangy, clear fretless tones choose for that not entirely because of sound preferences, but also because it intonates better.
    I can hear myself better when I play over the bridge pickup, instead of the low thump with all pickups open, which sounds much warmer and better to me.
    I was glad to hear that you had some similar experiences while learning fretless, now the only thing I'll have to do is let those experiences lead to a similar end, where I can also play that instrument convincingly.

    This is not really a thread anymore, but thanks for all the replies...I really like to read them, and so do the other 157 viewers of this thread. (who just won't seem to reply)Thanks for helping me on the way.

    Greetings from Holland,
    Niels.