Steve Swallow: perfect walking technique for bass guitar?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Dr. Cheese, Nov 10, 2020.

  1. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis

    Swallow’s pick over the fingerboard approach really conjures a sense of double bass quite effectively. Maybe I should try that approach with a fretless?
  2. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    If it's not perfect it's pretty dang close.

    I've been blatantly copying that technique for 20 years.
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  3. MLysh


    Oct 11, 2007

    That approach on fretless, using fingers, probably will not give you the same front end bite that Steve gets using round-wound strings and a copper pick.
  4. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I said nothing about using fingers. I am decent with a pick and I am comfortable with rounds on my fretless.
  5. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    I don't know if there is a perfect technique for walking bass, but his one sounds extremely good, that's for sure. He does appear to have a pretty high action, though, which is necessary when you're playing this close to the fingerboard.

    I had the chance to see him play several times in small venues in Paris when I was living there (around the 2000s), when he was in a duet with Carla Bley, and his sound was phenomenal. Deep and crystal clear at the same time, the kind of sound that takes you to the guts.
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  6. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    G no
    I am going to make it a point to listen to a lot more Steve Swallow. In terms of great bassist’s, I have listened to him the least.
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  7. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar Jazz & Cocktails

    Apr 17, 2005
    Central Pa
    I was actually checking out some of his earlier recordings on DB (sorry can’t remember which ones). He sounded great.

    The electric bass / pick / jazz walking thing is not my cup of tea ... but you have to admit many of his compositions and recordings are brilliant.
    Dr. Cheese likes this.
  8. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    I seem to recall that a Steve Swallow’s bass has an exceptionally long string length, maybe 37”. (Or did at one time)
    If this recollection is correct then it and other aspects of his instrument may play an important role in his tone.

    Steve is one of two jazz bassists that I know of that began as successful jazz double bassists and switched to bass guitar. The other being Max Bennett. I don’t believe it’s correct to say that Jamerson switched to his Fender, as he continued to perform jazz gigs on double bass while he recorded his Motown works on the Fender.
  9. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    For what it is worth, some of the early Motown hits like Martha Reeves and the Vandellas “Heatwave” were recorded with Jameson on double bass.
    bobyoung53 likes this.
  10. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    It's 36", I believe.

    Great bassist and the pick up/pick down helps to give a sense of motion on his walking lines.

    I really like his tone on the melodies and soloing, especially the C string.

    I think that on recordings his tone on walking lines could be a little less tamed, though.

    Steve Swallow (AE5 Swallow Signature Custom) : Harvey Citron
  11. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Wow, Carla Bley and Steve Swallow have such a profound connection. Their music is so intense. It is like they are having sex through their instruments, it’s so intense. Swallow’s bass evokes the acoustic to a degree that is remarkable, but it still has that guitar edge when he wants it.
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  12. You can get that sound with the neck pickup soloed on a Rickenbacker. Chris Brubeck playing with fingers on his very early Rickenbacker 4001FL, he only uses the neck pickup which is original. I've heard a few things he played where you would swear it was an upright but they were taken down. He's an unbelievable player.
    solo at 3:20

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  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Lots of players, both fingerstyle and pick...especially from the UK...used to play up at the end of the fingerboard until the early 1970s. Seems by the mid 70s, everyone was moving down towards the bridge.

    Pete Quaife of the Kinks

    JPJ with Fender VI and pick

    and P and fingers

    The Ox

    Greg Lake with King Crimson
  14. nonohmic


    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    Sounds great, but just sounds like a well voiced (and played) P bass to me.
  15. jerry

    jerry Too old for a hiptrip Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Well, they are married!;)
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  16. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Someone said something funny on YouTube: “the price for seeing Steve Swallow perform his beautiful music is you have to see his sex face.”:D

    That said, lots of bassist’s look orgasmic without sounding anywhere near as good as Steve Swallow.:roflmao:
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  17. I always noticed Black Sabbath bass player Geezer Butler played like that too.
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  18. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Yep, Geezer too...but not any more!



    Glenn Cornick of Jethro Tull (with Tony Iommi! his only JT gig) Notice how similar Geezer and Glenn hold their bass, almost like an upright!

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  19. I always liked Glenn's playing, I pretty much learned the bass solo note for note from Bourée when I was a kid picking the record player tonearm up and down up and down:laugh:. I was lazy I think that's one of the few bass lines I learned like that back then.
    fig likes this.
  20. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Almost like an upright! :)
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