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What I learned from a week at Berklee

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DanielleMuscato, Jun 22, 2007.


  1. DanielleMuscato

    DanielleMuscato

    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Hey folks,

    I just came back from Berklee's Bass Lines summer program. I got a lot of great advice and I thought I'd share it with you guys.

    The prevailing piece of advice seemed to be that learning music by ear, note-for-note, is the best way to get better. Skip Smith and Danny Morris (both Berklee bass faculty) gave me a great list of key players & albums to learn (see below.)

    The other big piece of advice from everyone I talked to was not to play too much. The bass player's job very, very, *very* rarely involves tapping, double-thumping, slapping... really, anything except quarter and 1/8th notes. The consensus seemed to be that bass players nowadays get very caught up in the idea of playing fast or being out-front, and that 99% of the time, the bass player keeps time.

    Here's the list:
    - Everything by James Brown. There's a great double album called "Foundations of Funk" with enough to keep you busy for awhile.
    - Everything by Marcus Miller
    - James Jamerson on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On;" Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her" albums
    - Church Rainey on Aretha Franklin's "Let Me In Your Life," "Young, Gifted & Black" albums, with Steely Dan on "Gaucho" and "Aja" albums, with Quincy Jones on "Body Heat" and "I Heard That" albums
    - Larry Graham's work with Sly & The Family Stone, Graham Central Station
    - Louis Johnson: Brothers' Johnson "Look Out for #1," "Right On Time" albums, work w/Quincy Jones
    - Francis Rocco Prestia w/Tower of Power
    - Jaco's self-titled album, and "Heavy Weather" (Weather Report)
    - Stanley Clarke: "School Days," "Return to Forever"
    - Bootsy Collins' self-titled albums, with James Brown on "Super Bad" and "Get On Up (I feel like a Sex Machine)"
    - Jerry Jemmott with Aretha Franklin in the 60s & 70s, King Curtis
    - Michael Henderson's self-titled album
    - Willie Weeks work with Aretha Franklin in the 60s & 70s
    - Every Earth, Wind & Fire album from the 70s and 80s
    - George Porter Jr's work with The Meters
    - Aston "Family Man" Barrett's work with Bob Marley & The Wailers
    - Bakithi Kumalo's work on Paul Simon's "Graceland" album
    - Me'shell Ndegeocell's self-titled album
    ------------
    Stu Hamm told me to practice sight-reading at least a few hours each day, take care of yourself physically, and to take music business classes. He said that the role of the bass is to unite harmony & rhythm and not to be out-front (interesting, coming from him!)
    ------------
    Jim Stinnett added Paul Chambers' work with Miles Davis to the above list, and also Phil Lesh, Oteil Burbridge (Oteil & The Peacemakers)
    ------------
    Ron Mahdi recommended that I listen carefully to drummers, and the entire drum kit: play accents with the hi-hat & snare drums, lock in fundamentals with the kick drum. He also said that you shouldn't compromise your tone for a live situation (especially when using provided backline). He stressed that a bass player's job is to make the person up-front sound good, and to be there for the soloists to fall back on. He also recommended that you practice with a metronome and NOT while watching TV. He also recommended taking lessons from a good teacher rather than trying to teach oneself (or in addition to it).

    He also stressed you should try to play "like a cat" - that is, with grace, and without any stiffness. The hands and arms should be relaxed, along with the back. He stressed that posture is important and that pain is the body's way of telling you that you're doing something wrong. He said it's important to have your action low and play with correct (light-touch) technique, rather than try to fight the instrument.

    He said 1/4 notes are the "money" notes - that is, they pay the bills (in other words, 1/16th notes don't!)
    ------------------

    I also got some great book recommendations that I wanted to pass along:

    - Standing in the Shadows of Motown (by Allan Slutsky & James Jamerson)
    - Reading Contemporary Electric Bass (Rich Appleman)
    - Reading in Bass Clef, Vol. I, II, & III (Jim Stinnett)

    I've got some more that I'll post if you're interested.

    Hope this helps,

    - Dave
     
  2. avid

    avid born lefty

    Jun 22, 2005
    Ashland, Oregon USA
    Thanks for sharing and more, unlike in Bass lines, is better.:D

    Your are a lucky guy to find the time, money and courage to attend.
     
  3. DanielleMuscato

    DanielleMuscato

    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Yeah, I'll be paying that credit card balance for months... :)

    It was worth it, though. I met a lot of great people and have enough to keep me busy for years!

    - Dave
     
  4. glad you liked bass lines! I had to have been in the same room as you at some point since Im on stage crew at berklee and worked at david friend recital hall alot that week
     
  5. DanielleMuscato

    DanielleMuscato

    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Cool, Ballison! Small world, huh? Which shows did you work? I was at Danny Morris' Survey of Bass Styles, Ron Mahdi's clinic, Stu Hamm's clinic & concert, Jim Stinnett & Shane Allessio's Paul Chambers clinic, and the All Cows Eat Grass performance that same night.

    - Dave
     
  6. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    I noticed everything in that list was funky/jazzy.

    What about people who just aren't into dancing music like that?
     
  7. avid

    avid born lefty

    Jun 22, 2005
    Ashland, Oregon USA
    Have you ever seen the posts by the TBer who plays in Branson for one of the big name acts in town. He makes a lengthy post about once a year with an update about his life. I have found them very interesting.

    Anyhow, he makes the point that bassist gets paid for time and tempo. When Victor Whooten went through town a few months ago and did a concert and workshop he made the point that Nate East and Daryl Jones each own an Island in the Caribbean and he (Victor) is still touring on a bus. I am sure an exaggeration but nevertheless echos what you heard.

    Again, congratulations on your experience. I hope to be good enough to go attend some workshop next summer. What was the average age of the attendees at Basslines?

    Thanks again for sharing.
     
  8. DanielleMuscato

    DanielleMuscato

    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    Berklee's a jazz school deep down - it's really the foundation of all modern music that uses an electric bass. Not to say that you have to learn jazz to be able to play modern stuff, but if you can walk and groove, you can find work as a bassist, which is what Berklee is all about (IME).

    What kind of music do you like, Poop-Loops?

    - Dave
     
  9. DanielleMuscato

    DanielleMuscato

    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets

    I know who you mean; can't recall his name right now, but I chatted with him about lessons once. He seems like a nice guy.

    I agree about the island thing - Ron Mahdi was pretty adamant about the "money note" idea (that is, 1/4 notes!)

    The average age was probably 18. There were a few 16-17 year olds, and a lot of high-school grads considering coming to Berklee for college. There were a few people my age (20-23) and a few people older than me, out of about 80 total.

    By the way, you don't have to be great to go to Berklee's summer programs. If you've been playing for the minimum of two years, you'll be fine. They split everybody into different level classes & ensembles and the minimum age to attend is 15. I wouldn't worry about it - take some of the advice above and by next year you'll be way ahead of ready.

    - Dave
     
  10. avid

    avid born lefty

    Jun 22, 2005
    Ashland, Oregon USA
    Dave,

    Is the guys from Branson's name Marcus Willet? If so, his picture is on the ThunderFunk amp page : here

    If there were a only few guys older than you at 23; I would drag the average age up quite a few notches. Maybe I could dye what hair I have left dark and change my beard to a goatee and get a few tats. Someone might think I am only 40. :D But, I doubt it.

    Thanks for the advice about not to worry about being ready. Actually, I would like to go to BIT for an six quarter Associates degree. How's that for dreaming?
     
  11. DocBop

    DocBop

    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks for sharing good advise there. Reminds me of a Bernad Purdie clinic I was at years ago. Bernard said its all about learning to play the quarter note, noting else matters.
     
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Suck it up and learn some anyway. There will come a day when you will be too old to go down to the local original band bar with your metal or punk project, but you can play dance music until you die.
     
  13. middy

    middy

    Mar 14, 2007
    Texas
    Those people already know everything.
     
  14. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    You mean like Geezer?

    I was thinking something more melodic than funky. I guess blues counts, too. Although I don't know if any of those groups were blues.

    My teacher is essentially focusing on jazz, which is ok, but I can't really listen through funk music without wanting to stick a drill through my ears. It's just not me. Way too happy.
     
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Um, I don't know if anyone broke this to you yet, but the likelihood of you or me or anyone having a career like Geezer's is pretty much nil.
     
  16. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    Who said anything about a career? He's over 50 and still playing hard. Why can't I do that?
     
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You can. It will just be awkward and embarrassing ;)
     
  18. dogbass

    dogbass Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    Bay Area, CA
    Back on topic.....great post Dave, thanks ! I will look forward to any follow-on you add :ninja:
     
  19. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    It all makes perfect sense to me...and largely corresponds to my own playing experience. Take heed, fellow bassists!

    MM
     
  20. I disagree - the key is to look and act your age, not like a 20 year old. You are right that a 45 year old guy trying to look like a kid will come of like a dork, but working with your age will work for you. Oh yeah, one more thing, if you are going to do gigs over 40, you better have the appropriate skill level.
     

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