Contents Issue 118 JUNE 2015
S Editor Joel McIver, [email protected]
Sub-editor Nick Robbins technical consultant Stuart Clayton Contributors Bob Battersby, Duff
Battye, Andy Baxter, Nick Beggs, Jeff Berlin, Jamie Blaine, Silvia Bluejay, Mike Brooks, Dave Clarke, Stuart Clayton, Ben Cooper, Joe Daly, Jon D’Auria, David Etheridge, Christopher Evans, Mike Flynn, Paul Geary, Ian Glasper, Ruth Goller, Spencer Grady, Paolo Gregoletto, Chris Hanby, Steve Harvey, Joe Hubbard, Andy Hughes, Ken Hunt, Kevin Johnson, Steve Lawson, Phil Mann, Lee Marlow, Michael McKeegan, Stewart McKinsey, Greg Moffitt, Chris Mugan, Ellen O'Reilly, Franc O’Shea, Harry Paterson, Nik Preston, Raz Rauf, Alison Richter, Steven Rosen, Kevin Sanders, Amit Sharma, Joe Shooman, Rob Statham, Jon Thorne, Freddy Villano, Alex Webster, Sam Wise advertising sales Guy Meredith Graphic Design Steve Dawson Ad Design Matt Smith Cover Photograph Eckie Studio Photography Eckie Operations Director James Folkard Assistant Publisher Ruth Burgess Publisher Wes Stanton Accounts Dave Deo Subscriptions [email protected]
blazepublishing.co.uk, 01926 339808
ummer time, and the living is easy, eh? Well, it is when you get to hang out with bassists of the quality of those in this issue... First up is the amazing Divinity Roxx, a prolific solo artist as well as session ace with the likes of Beyoncé Knowles. Technically astounding as well as a feel player with more groove than a box of 78rpm LPs, Divinity rocked the crowds at the recent London Bass Guitar Show, and her interview will do that all over again when you read it. Hip-hop and funk legend Doug Wimbish, session supremo Lee Sklar and rock monster Merv Goldsworthy also share their wisdom in these hallowed pages, but we like to portray the bass world as an evolving environment away from the studio wherever we can – so we also meet Rob Scallon, Youtube sensation, and Peter Joe Jackson, the Let It Be musical bassist whose McCartney impression is uncanny. It’s the sheer variety of the bass world which keeps us enthralled, issue after issue, and this continues to be reflected in our reviews section, which runs from a 10-string bass (yep, you read that right) costing almost £3,000 to an effects pedal which will set you back a fraction of that price. The same goes for our renowned tuition section, where professionals from the bass world devote a career’s worth of expertise towards our common goal – making you a better bass player. Enjoy this issue, and stay on the low frequencies! Joel McIver, editor
Phil Jones M300 head and 12B cab
Queen Bee Singlecut 48Bee10-string
Subscription rate UK £64.20 For all subscription offers and overseas prices visit www.bassguitarmagazine.com or call 01926 339808 Printed in the UK © Blaze Publishing Ltd 2015. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system or integrated into any other publication, database or commercial program without the express permission of the publishers in writing. Under no circumstances should this publication and its contents be sold, loaned out or used by way of trade, or stored or transmitted as an electronic file without the publishers prior written approval.
Ten strings, eh? Get over it... this is a high-flying queen of a bass, we say
Mike Brooks road-tests this slick five
M300 head and 56Phil12B Jones cab
While Blaze Publishing Ltd prides itself on the quality of the information its publications provide, the company reserves the right not to be held legally responsible for any mistakes or inaccuracies found within the text of this publication. Bass Guitar Magazine is an independent publication and as such does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of manufacturers or distributors of the products contained within. All trademarks are acknowledged.
Kev Sanders investigates a compact rig with a difference
Three of the best under review, or more accurately, under the BGM boot
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Published by Blaze Publishing Ltd. Lawrence House, Morrell Street, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 5SZ Bass Guitar Magazine is proud to support the Music Industries Association.
Bee Queen Bee Singlecut 10-string
62Barefaced Big Baby 2 cab Sanders gives this highvolume infant a cuddle
64Morley Power Fuzz
Michael McKeegan recreates the spirit of Cliff Burton with this mighty wah
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Want tips from professional bassists who actually need to play to pay their bills? Get your real-life bass advice here
Sight-reading skill can be yours thanks to beginners’ guru Ellen
Peter John Jackson, Let It Be
Doug Wimbish’s Wimbash
Bassists Bringing the funk like a woman possessed, Divinity Roxx is a force to be reckoned with. Mike Brooks meets her for a chat about all things rhythmic, whether it’s low notes or hip-hop grooves
The Let It Be musical in London’s West End sees a gang of fearsomely talented musicians tackle the Beatles’ catalogue. Joel McIver meets Peter John Jackson, whose McCartney devotion even led him to switch to playing left-handed…
Frankfurt Musikmesse report
Behind the scenes at Mitteleuropa’s very own MI trade event. Steve Harvey samples a whole bunch of essential beer – we mean, gear
Doug Wimbish’s Wimbash Ellen O’Reilly catches up
Obi-Wan Statham digs into natural harmonics
78Alex Webster 80Franc o’Shea
It’s fusion time for Franc. Watch the great man go
The melodic minor made easy by our Mann at the scene
Peter John Jackson, Let It Be
Webster reveals the full glory that is 5/4
Single-string tapping made easy by Nik Kershaw’s bassist Geary
Getting around the double bass fingerboard with minimum effort
Merv Goldsworthy, FM with the mighty Wimbish as his bass event comes to Ramsgate
36Merv Goldsworthy, FM
British AOR rockers FM are on a mighty roll, says bassist Merv Goldsworthy
Mike Brooks meets the man behind the beard for the chat of a lifetime – a lifetime spent at the top end of the low end
Youtube sensation Scallon tells a frankly jealous McIver how viral internet clips mean he never has to work... ever... again
Covers band pro Brooks selects the tools for the job
Lawson has the powahhhhhh! Plug and play with our chap
NoW DetAILS PAGe 82
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DOWn neWs anD VieWs FrOM tHe Bass WOrLD, COLLateD BY BGM’s teaM OF intrePiD neWsHOunDs
TO THE MAX
Godlyke has announced the release of the new Maxon BD10 Hybrid Bass Driver, which works equally well with guitar and bass when it comes to delivering crunch. The BD10 can cover a wide variety of distorted tones, from semi-dirty boosts all the way to super-saturated shred, they tell us, and the unit also comes with a symmetrical clipping circuit, dedicated level controls for clean and overdriven sounds and buffered bypass switching. They’re selling at $189.
© Tina K
We’re delighted to be the ﬁrst to announce that Jools Holland bassist Dave Swift has a new signature bass guitar on the way from the renowned American luthier Pete Skjold. The Dave Swift Drakkar 5 is handmade in the USA from top-spec materials. The body is white limba, the top and back are made of English walnut burl and English walnut respectively, both exhibition grade. The neck is one-piece quartersawn maple with a 34” scale, a South American rosewood fretboard, luminescent position markers and 24 Evo-Gold frets. At five kilos and boasting an extra mass body and an extra thick neck, the Drakkar is no lightweight, but the payoff will no doubt come in the form of immense tone and sustain, already likely to be world-class thanks to the Aero Split Reverse P pickup and modified P-Retro electronics from the mighty John East. Stacked volume/tone and stacked dual mid controls with sweep and pull for extra bass boost add more value for your outlay of (gulp) just over $7500, assuming you order yours directly from Pete Skjold. Swift himself tells us: “My Pete Skjold customised Drakkar five-string is probably my most eagerly awaited bass ever! Pete and I spent many hours discussing minute details over the phone and in emails. I was so grateful and impressed that he was willing and able to indulge me when it came to understanding and capturing exactly what I was looking for in a custom bass. I gave Pete a lot of information on other instruments I’d owned in my 34year career as a professional musician, including things I liked and disliked about them. He appreciated precisely what I was looking for and expecting from my first Skjold bass. This gave me an enormous amount of confidence in Pete as a luthier and in my expectations of the finished product. I’m extremely excited knowing that this stunning, intelligently conceived, beautifully crafted, handmade instrument will soon be in my hands, and out on tour with Jools Holland. I think this could well be the bass of my dreams!” Look out for interviews with Swift and Skjold very shortly.
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Sometime Guns N’Roses, Velvet Revolver, Loaded and Walking Papers bassist and living legend Duff McKagan has his second book out on Da Capo Press as we speak. Titled How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions), the book compiles some of his previously published magazine columns on the subject of manliness and adds some hairraising stories, those that were left over from his previous title It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) anyway. Those keen on the first book, in which McKagan details his life as bass monster for GNR, as well as the booze habit which led to him drinking 10 bottles of wine a day and a pancreas that literally exploded inside him, will thoroughly enjoy the second effort. An EP, also titled How To be A Man, accompanies the book release and features fellow Guns alumnus Izzy Stradlin and Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell. On the subject of books, as we reported in our last issue, the late Free bassist Andy Fraser completed a memoir called All Right Now: Life, Death And Life Again. This has now been published by Foruli Codex and can now be ordered online or at bookstores.
Info: www.dacapopress.com, www.forulicodex.com
Peter Hook & The Light returned to Christ Church, Macclesﬁeld on May 18 to perform the complete works of Joy Division. The show sold out in record time, with tickets fully allocated in less than eight minutes when they went on sale in late March. The three-hour show was recorded by Live Here Now and will be released as a triple CD, with profits going to the Epilepsy Society and the Churches Conservation Trust. On 30 October, Hook and his band will perform the Joy Division material once again at the Manchester Academy, during a tour on which Hook will be revisiting music from his other former band, New Order.
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Renowned amp makers Tec Amp, currently celebrating its 30th year in business, are among many cool bass-related products currently available for your perusal at Bass Direct in Warwick, alongside eminently playable new Pedulla basses and Taurus amps. Tell Mark Stickley we sent you!
RIP CRAIG GRUBER
We’re sad to report the death of Craig Gruber, best known for his work with Ronnie James Dio and Rainbow, from prostate cancer. Aged 63, Gruber amassed a serious row of live and studio credits with Elf, Gary Moore and Black Sabbath.
Dennis Dunaway, the original bassist and co-songwriter for Alice Cooper, is issuing an autobiography called Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures In The Alice Cooper Group, co-written with Chris Hodenfield, in June. “As teenagers in Phoenix, Dennis Dunaway and lead singer Vince Furnier, who would later change his name to Alice Cooper, formed a hard-knuckles band that played prisons, cowboy bars and teen clubs,” says the press release. “Their journey took them from Hollywood to the ferocious Detroit music scene, along the way adding new dimensions of rock theatre.” Alice Cooper himself says of the memoir that it “carries readers into Dennis’s own private surrealistic world”.
Barrie Cree at Bass Gear in Twyford tells us that BG has just become a Warwick dealer. “Our first six basses are already on their way from the new, made-inGermany Pro Series. We have Corvettes, Streamers and Star basses coming,” he says. “We will also be offering custom build German instruments.” Exciting times for fans of Warwick, then – and keep an eye out for Pro Series reviews in these pages. Warwick tells us: “As of this summer, Warwick now offers the all new German Pro Series, which consists of excellent ‘Teambuilt & Made in Germany’ instruments, at an affordable price. The complete know-how which the Warwick Custom Shop has built up over 30 years in Markneukirchen embodies this exciting new series of electric basses. All of these instruments are produced in Germany from the finest materials and with the best possible production methods. Only the very best machines in the world are used to carve these extraordinary bass guitars.” Watch this space!
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Every month we tell you the bass-line we can’t stop listening to… THIS MONTH: Eloise (Hang On In There) Bassist: Duck Dunn Album: The Soul Of A Bell by William Bell Has any bass player ever come up with better one- and two-bar grooves than Duck Dunn? This classic Stax tune, with its root-fifth verse riff and the bouncing chorus groove, which leaves space for Steve Cropper’s guitar stabs, is proof positive that the best bass-lines are always the simplest.
One of our favourite online bass clips this month comes from the London Centre of Contemporary Music, where LCCM bass tutors Geoff Gascoyne, Ernie McKone, Silas Maitland and John McKenzie give their take on a successful music career and life at the low end. There’s info on their favourite gigs and equipment, as well as advice on generating income streams such as production, arranging and teaching.
Head to: http://tinyurl.com/ltyodqs
See those tasty Nemphasis effects pedals reviewed on page 60? The UK distributors Madison & Fifth has kindly agreed to let one of them go to the cunning person who gets this easy-peasy question right: Where would you find the actual Madison & Fifth street junction? A New York B Los Angeles C Accrington Answers by post to the usual address or to www.bassguitarmagazine. com/competition by 27 July. We’ll ask the winner to choose a pedal. Have at it!
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1 Never Turn Your Back On A Friend – Budgie With the opening pentatonic riff of ‘Breadfan’, the Welsh rockers ensured enduring fame thanks to Metallica’s cover of the song decades later. Burke Shelley’s pick grooves are all over this album: check the galloping riff of ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’, the stomp of ‘You’re The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk’ and the melodic lines on ‘Parents’.
Saluting bass players’ three greatest albums This month: Burke Shelley
2 Bandolier – Budgie
3 Power Supply – Budgie
Despite being a cult band, this album saw Budgie grab a gold record, thanks to its laid-back feel. Shelley’s playing feels a little funkier here, with that pulse on ‘Who Do You Want For Your Love?’, and the fleetfingered staccato riff in the middle of ‘I Can’t See My Feelings’. Of course, there’s the obligatory pounding rock in ‘Napoleon Bona Part 1 & 2’.
This 1980 album – Budgie’s eighth studio release – sees the band favouring a heavier sound. There are plenty of driving eighth notes here, with tracks such as ‘Forearm Smash’, ‘Hellbender’ and ‘Heavy Revolution’ seeing Shelley nailing down the low end while his vocals soar. ‘Time To Remember’ offers something different, with some tasty slides and runs.
Uncategorisable alt-rock tinkers Primus are returning to these shores for the first time in three years, and indeed the first time in 18 years since the original Les Claypool/Larry Lalonde/Tim Alexander trio were doing their crazy thing over here. Their fairly mad new album, Primus & The Chocolate Factory, will be performed in its entirety. Claypool says that he’s always, “in some way, wanted to be Willy Wonka”, which sets the tone nicely. Slap bass players should make a point of being in the front row.
Bass genius Marcus Miller returns to the UK this October for seven dates across the country, where he will be debuting new songs from his recent album Afrodeezia, his first for the Blue Note jazz label. As if you didn’t know already, Miller has scooped many industry awards for his playing, composition and production skills with artists as diverse as Eric Clapton and Snoop Dogg. Check out the great man at the Liverpool Philharmonic (19 October), Gateshead Sage (20 Oct), Edinburgh Usher Hall (22 Oct), Manchester Bridgewater Hall (23 Oct), the Cork Jazz Festival (24 Oct), the London Barbican (26 Oct) and the Birmingham Town Hall (28 Oct).
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Bassists reveal the tricks of their trade faster than a snapping D string
Basses Rickenbacker 4003, Gretsch G6119BO Broadcaster Effects Jam Pedals Waterfall, Jam Pedals Red Muck, Boss OC-2 Octaver, Diamond BCP-1 Bass Compressor, Divine Noise Cables Amps Genz Benz Shuttle 6.2 & 9.0, Pre-Fender SWR Goliath Sr. 6x10 cabs © Nathan Katsiaficas
GEAR Basses Sterling by Music Man Sub Effects Darkglass B7K, Sansamp RBI Amps Omega Custom Cabs
I never really learned a lot of covers, but I listened to a lot of players. I’d like to think that because of that, and perhaps through some form of bass-osmosis, I was able to develop my own style, a sort of progressive rock/ultra funk if you will. I’ve been a four-stringer since day one, it’s always felt like enough. I think frets are the real discussion, do you need more than 20? I remember my first bass very well. I bought it at Manny’s in New York with my mom and uncle (my uncle was one of the reasons I started playing… I often forget that). It was an Ibanez RoadStar II, black with a white pickguard and those oh-so memorable heartshaped tuners. I slap, but it owes more to the Stanley Clarke/ Larry Graham school than the modern-day machine guns of Wooten and Dickens. Since the moment I picked up a bass, I was playing with a drummer: if there’s any secret I could impart it would be that. I have two 2000 Rickenbacker 4003s, both jetglo
“I couldn’t rightly say who’s the greatest bassist”
Derek Bolman, Sworn In
I don’t really know if I have a normal bass style: I just try to have fun and do whatever communicates the emotions of the songs to the crowd. I take a lot of influence from the late Paul Gray and the rest of Slipknot, but try to include hip-hop styles to make it my own. I play a five-string bass. I used to hate fivestring neck width, but now I’ve grown to appreciate the playing variety that a five-string provides. I slap more live than on the albums, but there are quite a few slap and pop parts thrown in for dissonance and to accent certain beats. The secret of playing bass well is practice. A lot. Any style as long as you’re playing. And keep pushing your limits and practise things that are hard for you or that you think sound sick. My first bass was a black Dean Z that my parents found used online. It sounded awful but it inspired me to make music my career. The greatest bass player that ever lived is Roger Waters. He had some of the most memorable and inspiring bass-lines in my listening career, and made me appreciate the diversity that a bass has. Our new album, The Lovers/The Devil, is out now.
with gold anodised aluminum pickguards from Tone-Guard, I’d have to say to date that these basses are my all-time faves. Herowise, Gene Simmons made want to play bass. Steve Harris, Billy Sheehan, Geddy Lee and Stu Hamm made want to get better. Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, and John Paul Jones made me want to look back. Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius made want to look deeper. Larry Graham, Flea, Doug Wimbish and Dug Pinnick made want to groove. Les Claypool and Mike Watt made me want to explore. And when I found out who he was, James Jamerson made me remember why I loved those trips to my aunt’s house in New Jersey, listening to WCBS along the way. I couldn’t rightly say who’s the greatest bassist. The older I get and the longer I play it just seems that there are shades of greatness. If you want to talk tone, then for me the buck stops with Billy Sheehan on Talas’ Sink Your Teeth Into That. I once heard it described as a chainsaw through chocolate pudding, I like that. Music is the only form of communication that transcends and defines cultures all at once. It truly is universal. I just released my first solo album, Freebassing, and I’m currently trying to get it heard – this should help.
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GEAR Basses Dingwall Super J4, Hofner Club, 100-year-old Hungarian acoustic bass, Virus Indigo, G&L JB4 custom Effects EBS Mulitcomp, Xotic Robotalk, EHX Memory Man with Hazarai, BBE Benchpress and Sonic Stomp, EBS BassIQ, EBS Wah One, Boss Looper Amps Markbass Little Mark Tube, TTE500, 4x10 speakers, A-Designs REDDI, BAE Audio DMP, Metric Halo
GEAR Basses Squier Jazz Bass Deluxe Effects Sansamp Vintage Amps Ampeg SVT 4 Pro, SWR Megoliath 8x10 cab
Philipp Rehm, Philipp Rehm Band
Diego Soria, Broken Hope
I can achieve my bass-lines on four strings. I don’t need a C-string for solos, because I love the sound of that four-string range: I leave the higher range for guitar or organ. For the low stuff, I try to do as much as possible with a Hipshot. I don’t want to be busy with dampening a fifth string to gain five more half tones. Besides fingerstyle, slapping can be a plus, when it fits the song. With solos I am inspired by percussion or drums. On my Zoohead EP, I also play slap features over 5/16, 7/16 and 3/4. I like to be inventive with it and create new grooves. I like to play tight, punchy and funky. The secret of playing bass well is catching the whole groove of the song, and how the bass-line is one part of it, even if you only play a note on the one. The right note at the right time can lift up a song and a wrong note can make it lame. True music comes from the inside. Express who you truly are from the inside to the outside. Don’t adapt your inside to the image you want to create on the outside. I just released the Zoohead EP. It has new funk and dancehall beats, with the bass as the front voice. It features a new approach on the wide range of rhythmical meters.
© Andrea Tomas Prato
GEAR Basses Rickenbacker 4001 Effects Boss delay, EH Freeze, Boss OS2 Amps Electric Amp Power Unit KT88 180, 4x15 Electric cab
My bass style is versatile, punchy, groovy, and classic. I always like to complement and follow my bandmates, and make the mix sound rich, thick and solid. I play five-string bass. I like to enhance with that fat low end that the fifth string brings me. It comes in really handy when you want to make those notes below the E string fatter. I slap every now and then. I’m actually starting to incorporate some slap lines into my death metal bands, to enhance some drum and guitar accents. Practise enough until you feel that the strings are part of your fingers and the fretboard is another limb in your body. My first bass was a black Yamaha BB300, bought in the summer of 2000, when I was 15 years old. My favourite basses ever to date are my Fender Marcus Miller five-string and my Warwick Corvette $$. My bass heroes are Cliff Burton, Tony Levin, Geezer Butler, Jaco Pastorius, Steve Harris, Stanley Clarke, John Patitucci, Flea, Louis Johnson, Chris Squier – and any good drummer around! I play in Broken Hope and Disgorge (USA). Broken Hope is writing a new album and playing European and US festivals. Disgorge (USA) is in the writing process as well, and performing on Knotfest 2015.
My bass style is an earthquake of ignorance. I like to make things as simple as possible and filter the riffs through tons of distortion. The secret of playing bass well is relative. What is playing well for me is surely something different to other bass players. My first bass was a Warwick. My favourite bass ever to date is my Rickenbacker. My bass heroes are Sid Vicious, John Paul Jones, Paul Simonon, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney. If I could get the bass tone of any album ever released, I would choose... nobody! I don’t want to seem pretentious, but I’d surely prefer to keep mine. There are a lot of great tones, but I love the thundering bass sound I have developed through the years and I’d never change it with another sound. I would like to play a bass riff deep at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Ufomammut has recently released its seventh album, Ecate. It’s out on Neurot Recordings.
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GEAR Basses Fender Precision, Music Man Stingray Effects None Amps Mesa Boogie Bass 400+, Hartke 8x10 cabs
Dante Gizzi, Gun
I only need four strings. In fact I really only need two. I don’t slap, because I can’t! Besides, in order to play that way you would have to have your bass up to your chin, and that’s not cool in my book. The secret of playing bass well is keeping it simple. Don’t overelaborate. Remember the song is more important than your bass playing. Your connection with the drummer is also crucial. You must know each other inside and out, as you are the backbone of the band. My first bass was a Fender Precision. My favourite bass ever to date is my pre Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray. The greatest bass player that ever lived would have to be Bernard Edwards. He had it all, style groove and most importantly, feel. Our new album Frantic is out now.
www.gunofficial.co.uk Basses F Bass BN6, Fodera Monarch 4 Standard Effects TC Electronic Ditto Looper, Flashback Delay and Hall Of Fame Reverb; MXR Bass Octave Deluxe and Dunlop DVP1 Amps TC Electronic RH450 head and RS210 cab
GEAR Basses Fender Jazz Effects Boss Bass Overdrive, Dunlap Bass Crybaby, Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Amps Ampeg SVT Classic head, 8x10 cabinet
Mark Lamb, Acid King, Fought Upon Earth
I like to think that my playing strikes a balance between rhythm, melody, technique and musicality. After years of playing four-string I recently switched to a six-string. It’s been a real challenge but a lot of fun. It’s not my main technique but I do slap from time to time. I grew up on Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Les Claypool, Stuart Hamm and Victor Wooten, so the influence is there. My first bass was an all-white Vester PJ bass. Look out Larry Graham! My favourite bass ever to date is my new BN6 from F Bass. It’s a work of art. The greatest bass player that ever lived? How could I not say Jaco? He just set the bar so high! I don’t play rock, but man I would love to get Chris Squire’s tone on Fragile! I hear and read it over and over again. Don’t play this, don’t play that, that’s not musical, blah, blah, blah! My current favourite is ‘You won’t get hired if you do that!’ Who cares? Find like-minded players, start your own band, be creative, put on your own shows – there is more than likely an audience for what you want to do. I was very fortunate to grow up with musicians around that encouraged me. They never told me not to tap or slap or solo, but they expected me to lay down a groove and play good notes. Shouldn’t you be able to do it all? My new album Man Of 40 Faces is out now. It features eight solo performances and three duets, including one with the legendary Alain Caron. It’s a huge honour to have him play on the album.
I would describe my bass style as a mix of 60s and 70s rock, soul and jazz with lots of distortion. I do not slap, because if you can’t do it as well as Larry Graham, why bother? Know your role in whatever ensemble you happen to be performing with. Does it call for something over the top, or something more laid back and supportive? Pick or fingers? Clean tone or distortion? Also, learning another instrument such as guitar, piano or drums can help immensely in understanding how bass guitar fits into the big picture. My first bass was an early-80s Squier P-Bass. The neck had a bow in it that sort of resembled a crescent moon. Ha! I’m not sure I’ve found a favourite bass yet, but I really like the Fender Jazz basses that I’ve played for the last 12 years. If I could get the bass tone of any album ever released, I would choose Jerry Scheff’s tone on the 1972 album, Elvis: As Recorded At Madison Square Garden. Check the fuzz bass solo on ‘Pork Salad Annie’. I often hear drummers and bass players talk about how they are, as the rhythm section, the backbone of whatever group they’re playing with. While there is definitely truth to that statement, I find that in the hard rock/heavy metal context, the real engine is the rhythm guitar and drums. If either of those elements are weak, I tend to not really care about the bass playing, as I’m usually just turning it off and moving on to something else. To understand what I’m talking about, just watch some classic live footage of Page/Bonham, Townshend/ Moon, Van Halen/Van Halen or Hetfield/Ulrich and watch how these guitarists and drummers all interact with each other. And in all of those cases, there is a great bass player laying down some creative and solid lines to provide the mortar between the bricks, so to speak. The new Acid King album is titled Middle Of Nowhere, Center Of Everywhere.
Jason Raso, Jason Raso Quartet
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the low down rockschool
Applied Improvisation with Rockschool Welcome to Rockschool’s new column, brought to you by Joe Hubbard and Nik Preston. First UP, Joe discusses ‘The Music Connection’…
ll of the really cool rollercoasters of the world require you to be a certain height before you can experience their awesomeness. Now, in no way is this column as cool as a rollercoaster, but nevertheless, I’m imposing a certain restriction on those of you who are interested in the material presented here. It doesn’t matter what style you are interested in playing, what type of bass you play or the techniques you are drawn to. All that really matters is your determination to become a better bass player – an improvising bass player! So before I begin to fill that brain of yours with all sorts of smart things, let’s define what an improvising bass player actually is. Many aspiring bass players are led to believe that if you are improvising then you are suddenly playing jazz. This couldn’t be further from the truth! This confusion exists because in order to play jazz you have to be able to improvise, but the action of improvisation is not limited to any specific style of music. It’s common knowledge that iconic players such as James Jamerson, Pino Palladino and Nate Watts improvise on hit records and live performances. If this is nothing new to you, then feel free to walk tall, but if you haven’t heard this rhetoric before, sit back and enjoy! Before we can go any further, there are two concepts that we need to understand. These are ‘content’ and ‘context’. Content is comprised of elements such as melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint and form, while context is related to the style of music you are playing. The problem for both aspiring and experienced players is trying to learn musical content by way of learning a style. This approach doesn’t always work for everyone. So many students have approached me to learn styles such as Latin music,
only to find out that if they were well versed in syncopated rhythmic patterns, they would have adapted very quickly to that style. The way that many students improve the fastest is to learn musical content first and then apply these concepts to tunes within the stylistic parameters that they are interested in. Many bass players are also trapped inside a motor-movement reality where they forget the larger concern for musical value: instead, they replace this with a desire for operating the bass guitar like a machine to the best of their technical ability. Let’s take a look at this in a different context: if you were a novelist rather than a bass player, and measured your ability as a writer by how fast you could type while ignoring the actual content of the novel, most people wouldn’t want to read your book. So how do we practise to prevent this from happening? There are many ways to get there – and getting there is more than half the fun! Every bass player I have met has dreamed of developing the skills to play music at the speed of thought. In the following months, both Nik Preston and I will guide you through a set of applied musical skills, which will allow you to become an improvising bass player, regardless of your stylistic preferences. To illustrate this concept, if you look at Examples 1 to 3 you’ll notice that these are content-isolated exercises, outlining a C7 chord with chromatic approach notes, scale passing tones and diatonic approach notes. Conversely, Example 4 demonstrates how this could be used in a soul and funk context. Discover more about popular music theory at www.rockschool.co.uk/theory.
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THE LOW DOWN BASSCHAT
PRACTICALLY EVERY SINGLE BAND REGULARLY RECEIVES YELLED REQUESTS AS IF THEY WERE A JUKEBOX OR A DJ
BASSCHAT THE BASSCHAT FORUM IS ALIVE WITH ANECDOTES ABOUT LIVE GIGGING, SAYS SILVIA BLUEJAY
redictably, gigging is a very important aspect of a Basschatter’s life, and this is reflected in the way the forum has ongoing threads dealing with playing live from different points of view. There is an entire section, Gigs, where you can post your forthcoming dates for the attention of fellow Basschatters who live nearby, and a subsection for showing your band’s live photos and videos. General Discussion carries long-running, often highly entertaining threads. ‘How was your gig last night?’ reveals a variety of scenarios, from the funny to the embarrassing to the downright unpleasant. There are a couple of recurrent apprehensive pre-gig thoughts in the minds of those who play in pubs or other small venues: will the band have an audience, or will we play to the
proverbial two men and a dog? And if the punters are actually there, are they going to dance, or at least show a degree of interest in the band? There are obviously other concerns as well, such as promotion, logistics/load-in and out, payment, technical glitches, what the sound will be like on stage and out front, and whether a bassist using a music stand on stage will be mercilessly pilloried on Basschat the following day. Despite all the above worries, most Basschatters consider their best gigs to be not necessarily the ones where they play flawlessly, but those where they (and usually also the punters) have the most fun. Another, hilarious General Discussion thread is ‘Funny things that people say to you at gigs’: punters’ comments can be mind-boggling as well as side-splitting. Needless to say, alcohol is often a factor. Besides the usual requests (often mid-song) by members of the audience to sing with you or play your band’s instruments, a punk covers band receives a request for some Pet Shop Boys, a Thin Lizzy tribute band is asked to play some Led Zep, a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute is asked for Metallica, and a Blondie tribute apparently had too many Blondie songs in their setlist. Practically every single band regularly receives yelled requests as if they were a juke-box or a DJ. Sometimes, the yells are of misplaced disapproval: one band was asked to ‘stop playing heavy metal’ while halfway through a pretty faithful rendition of ‘Suddenly I See’ by KT Tunstall. And yet, things can get surreal when you are complimented for playing songs that were actually never in your setlist, or when Jimmy Page’s mum is in the audience, incognito, and you speak to her as if she was a little old lady who might object to loud music. And then there is the ‘knowing’ punter who observes that your Fender looks weird (of course it does, because it’s actually a headless Status). And the one who describes a double bass player as a cellist. Another double bass player is deemed way too short for his ‘big violin’, and yet another is asked if he can play the instrument ‘properly’ (with a bow, perhaps? The punter never explained). Meanwhile, an electric bassist is, for some reason, not fat enough to be a bassist in the first place. The list could go on, but Basschatters have a sense of humour and do their best to be impervious to insults; check out your local next time there’s a band on – one of us may be on bass!
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the low down MU PAGE
Partnership agreements are essential when you’re working with other musicians with a view to profit, say the MU Am I in a partnership? The Partnership Act 1890 defines a partnership as two or more individuals ‘carrying on a business in common with a view of profit’. If you are sharing income and debts, then the broad view is that you are in a partnership. It matters because the law wasn’t written with bands in mind. So where there is no written agreement (and sometimes even where there is), the Partnership Act could still affect you. What do partnership agreements cover? Partnership agreements should set out the partnership activities, such as who owns any rights created in the process (in songs, recordings or videos, for example), who owns the band name, who owns the website, what are the financial arrangements (are all partners’ shares equal?), what happens when a member leaves, and what are individual or group assets, such as the PA, instruments, van and so on. They should also set out how key decisions, like the appointment of a manager, are to be made. They can also be used in creative ways to reflect your group wishes. For example, your group may decide to share publishing income in a different ratio to the copyright ownership for certain songs, or for the duration of the group. That’s not all, and we strongly recommend you seek expert advice on the legal, tax and other implications of any band or other working arrangements that may be affected.
Why do you need one? It makes financial and artistic sense – it could affect your income, and your control over your own destiny. The Partnership Act means that any member of the band has the authority to bind the rest of his or her partners and to incur debts in the name of the partnership. So having a partnership agreement could protect you from some almighty costs. You may find your own instrument and any equipment becomes a band asset when you join, and not yours to take away if you leave. A partnership agreement can protect your instrument and gear. Any band name will be treated as one of the assets of the partnership and, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, it is owned by all of the members of the partnership equally – so you may not be able to keep on using it without permission. It can be helpful to know what happens to these kinds of assets from the start, and you can set that out definitively in your partnership agreement. Any income earned by members of the band from musical activities outside the group may be treated as band income under the Act and be liable to be shared accordingly. You can prevent that with a partnership agreement, and keep the money you earn as an individual. And be aware that if the group disbands, you might still have to play any booked gigs or find yourself in breach of contract if you cancel them. Ultimately, not having a partnership agreement could open you up to potentially massive financial, logistic and artistic issues which you may not be able to resolve to your satisfaction without expensive litigation. These is likely to be far more expensive, time-consuming and stressful than getting an agreement drawn up in the first place. Don’t panic! You can talk to us. Our Partnership Advisory Service can help make sure you get a fair deal. We can even draft a partnership agreement for you, free of charge if all members of the partnership belong to the MU or join. For details, contact your regional office. MU members get access to a range of career development advice. If you’re considering a change, contact your regional office and book a one-to-one with your MU official for bespoke advice. For general advice and more information about how to join the Union, please visit theMU.org.
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“i’M a FirM BeLiever tHat tHe Best PraCtiCe is onstaGe”
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Bassists divinity roxx
simply divine Ladies and gentlemen, meet one of planet earth’s funkiest bassists – divinity roxx. Mike Brooks says hello Photography by eckie ne of the high points of this year’s London Bass Guitar Show was a fiery performance by the dreadlocked whirlwind, Miss Divinity Roxx, or Deborah Walker to her friends and family. Those not familiar with her previous work on the Words And Tones, Live In America and Soul Circus albums by Victor Wooten and Little Worlds by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones were left with an indelible impression burnt into their consciousness following her masterclass and main stage appearances. With her band in tow, she performed like a whirling dervish, delivering a hypnotic mix of hip-hop, funk, rock and groove. This lady means what she plays, as her passionate delivery illustrates. “Everyone should play from the heart,” she tells BGM backstage. “My heart is pounding with passion. I know I can come across aggressive – that’s so funny, I get it. I was told that I came across aggressive when I performed here – and when I watched the video, I had to agree!” For many, this will have been their first opportunity to see Divinity perform, particularly as the focal point of her own band. She’s often filled the bassist/sideperson role, most notably for Beyoncé Knowles from 2006 through to 2011, appearing on several DVDs and albums including The Beyoncé Experience Live, I Am... Sasha Fierce and Irreplaceable: Live At Glastonbury. However, being the bandleader carries with it some very different demands. Does she have a preference for one over the other? With a wry smile, Divinity replies, “It depends on the overall situation. I enjoy being a sideperson because I enjoy playing bass, I just love it, so I love being on the side, jamming and doing my thing, you know. I really enjoy being a bass player, but there’s another part of me, the artist, inside of me – and there’s a lyricist, this person who has something to say to the world and something to express. The only way I can get to do that is to be the frontperson in my band. So when I’m being a bass player, that’s when you see the split personality, because the other personality starts nudging on me, so I have to have a moment where both of those things come together. I
enjoy being just the frontperson too, with no bass guitar! That’s always fun because that’s what I was before – I still like to get on the mic and spit rhymes and perform.” Prior to her appearances at the London Bass Show, Divinity embarked on a European tour with her band, so the musicians were in perfect shape for their sets at the show, as was clearly evident to those in attendance. Yet even the best-laid plans can present their own pitfalls, as Divinity explains. “We did two weeks, 14 shows in 17 days, which was tiring but I got my chops up. I like that because when you’re playing every night, you just get tighter and tighter as a band, and as a unit you start exploring things that you weren’t exploring before. I’m a firm believer that the best practice is onstage: basically every night, I’m practising onstage in front of people. The band evolves through that process.” She adds: “The crazy thing about this tour was that we only rehearsed for a week, and everything was going wrong in rehearsals. We did this show with tracks so
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that I could have some backing vocals. I love a power trio, but for me, when I’m doing all the vocals and playing bass, I need help with the vocals sometimes. So we had backing tracks and nothing worked! When we left rehearsal, I was like ‘Man, I’m not sure that we have a show, we’re about to go and play and everything is like… horrible!’, but sometimes when you have the worst rehearsals it makes for the best shows – because you’re not in your comfort zone and everyone is on their toes.” Nevertheless, the shows were warmly received, unlike the weather that followed them across continental Europe throughout January. Audiences took Divinity by surprise with their familiarity with some of the material she performed. She takes up the story. “The audiences were great everywhere. When we talked about doing the shows, I hadn’t put out a new record since The Roxx Boxx Experience in 2012. I didn’t get an opportunity to go to these places with that album or with Ain’t No Other Way back in ’03, but I was thinking ‘Maybe no one will show
“i GreW uP in a reaLLy MusiCaL HouseHoLd. aLtHouGH noBody PLayed an instruMent, MusiC Was aLWays PLayinG” up!’, and I went out there and people were excited. So that was really encouraging: people were coming out and having fun and everybody left feeling so good. That was the thing that I dug most. “People were buying the CDs and they were jamming and having a good time, and that’s hard when you’re playing songs that people don’t necessarily know. We don’t have that big hit on the radio so it’s not like when we start playing that people can sing along. But when we played the new single, ‘We Are’, people were starting to sing it. When we would break it down and people would sing the chorus, it was like ‘Wow, you guys know it already’, but it moved them to do that. People would come up and say ‘Man, I really feel good, you lifted up my spirit’. The best compliment I had was from a guy at the last show we did. He came up to me at the end and said ‘My father-in-law is dying, and you just lifted me up so high to where it doesn’t bring me down now’. That was pretty special.” So let’s wind back a bit. With such a passion for music, would we be right in assuming Divinity was surrounded by music from an early age? She nods, saying: “I grew up in a really musical household. Although nobody played an instrument, music was always playing. All the Marvin Gaye tunes, Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Parliament and James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson... My mum was into hip-hop in some weird way, so I would go through her albums and her box of tapes and I would find Slick Rick, Biz Markie and Doug E. Fresh, all these hip-hop records. At the time I wasn’t a bass player but I wish I had been, I would have listened to those records totally differently. All those
bass-lines! So when I decided to start playing bass, a friend brought me two CDs, A Show Of Hands by Victor Wooten and The Sun Don’t Lie by Marcus Miller. I was like ‘Really? What are these guys doing?’ Once I picked up the bass, I went back to listen to all the stuff from my childhood and tried to learn those bass-lines. I knew all the lyrics, and all the words to loads of songs, but I didn’t know who the band or artist was, so when stuff came on the radio, I was singing along but listening too.” As for anyone starting out, the options available when buying your first bass were not lost on the young Roxx. Go with tried and trusted or opt for a slightly flashier number? We’ve all been there, as Divinity can attest. “I went to the music store and I was like, ‘I gotta get a Fender’. That’s what everybody thinks, you gotta get a Fender first. I picked one up, it was heavy and not that interesting looking, a black and white Fender and I was like ‘Yeah, that’s cool, nothing special’. Then I saw this sparkly red Washburn...” She bursts into laughter: “Man, that bass looked cool, so I picked that bass and that was my first bass guitar. I don’t know what happened to it, I may have sold it or given it away, I really wish I hadn’t done that – but I carved my initials into the back of it so one day it might come back.” Nowadays, she has the backing of Warwick HQ, with a custom shop at her disposal. That relationship began when the ever-genial Jonas Hellborg introduced her to Warwick amplification a few years ago. “I was walking through NAMM and Jonas approached me,” she recalls. “We had met before through Victor Wooten: he was like, ‘Hey, come and check this amp out’. I went and played through it, and I liked it. I wasn’t with a company so I was like ‘Yeah, I’ll play that amp, great, I’ll take it on tour with me’, but I wasn’t playing Warwick basses at that point. Then they invited me to the factory and I loved the way they felt, so we started talking about what I like about basses. They were really, really willing to work with me and get me what I wanted and needed. They were attentive: companies I had been with before kind of ignored me and didn’t care about what I liked and why, but Warwick did that. [Warwick owner] HansPeter Wilfer was so caring and funny and we clicked immediately. I went through a bunch of different basses, because I was looking for a bass for my own character on the instrument: I think most bass players go through that. Play a bunch of basses until you find one that you can really express yourself through.” Did a specific model grab Divinity’s attention from the start? “They have so many great basses but the Streamer appealed to me,” she answers. “This bass [Divinity’s white Streamer Stage II]… oh my God! This is my favourite sounding bass: I really feel that something has happened between me and this bass guitar where I really come out of it. I know how to dial in the sound that I want exactly and it feels great when I’m playing it. This white one is a bolt-on and I really like it – I can feel, and hear, the difference between a bolt-on and a thru-neck. My Infinity is also really cool but I feel like I’m still getting to know it. I describe it like this; some basses wrap around your body, and some basses you have to try and wrap your body around it. For some reason, every time I pick this bass up, it melts into me, and I love that.”
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Bassists divinity roxx
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Bassists divinity roxx
“For soMe reason, every tiMe i PiCK tHis Bass uP, it MeLts into Me, and i Love tHat” With so many balls to juggle as a bandleader, Divinity is as critical of her playing as the rest of us are about our own – but she’s level-headed enough to cut herself some slack if something isn’t quite clicking. “I had an issue yesterday when I was playing,” she says, “I was thinking, ‘Damn, my rhythm is really off today, what is wrong with me?’, but I had to fight through it and keep playing. You have to fix it, figure out in your mind how to fix it and go for it. I don’t really worry about it. Touring with Victor Wooten taught me that too. When you think a show sucked, everyone loves it. My advice to players starting out would be to play as many different types of music as you can, expand your musical vocabulary with musical knowledge, listen to stuff that you don’t necessarily like and find something in it. It will expand your brain. Play songs, because song structure is really important, especially if you want to become a songwriter. Understand what other cats are doing: you emulate other people first then you find your own voice. As a rapper you do the same thing, you learn everyone else’s rhymes and verses and then you start to have your own.” It looks like being a very busy 2015 for Divinity, as she is quick to divulge. “There’s a new album in the pipeline called ImPossible, and we’ve been thinking about starting a campaign. The song we’ve just released is called ‘We Are’, and the concept of that song is that there is so much happening in the world that’s pretty jacked up, and we all complain about it – the politics, money, gas prices and war. I had a professor at college called June Jordan who wrote a poem called ‘We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For’ which said we are the only ones who can change what we’re complaining about. If we shift some of our mentality about what is going on in the world, by helping each other in small ways, we can start this ‘random acts of kindness’ campaign, where you just randomly do something great for somebody – something small, it doesn’t matter what it is. I helped an older lady at the airport the other day to get her case across the street: it was too heavy for her and no one was going to help her, so I offered to help and she was so grateful for that. She probably wouldn’t have expected someone like me to do that – so I think we can all do those kinds of things to try and make life better for everyone.” Take heed readers – this woman means business!
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“it took tWo anD a haLF Months, PLaYinG eVerY sinGLe DaY, to Get it riGht”
Peter John Jackson plays Paul Mccartney’s role with total precision in the award-winning West end musical Let it Be. as he tells Joel Mciver, he even learned to play bass left-handed in the interest of authenticity. now that’s dedication... 028 Bass Guitar MaGazine
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Bassists Peter John Jackson, Let it Be
ettle into your seat at London’s Garrick Theatre and, as the lights go down, four geezers with moptop haircuts are revealed, silhouetted against the backdrop of the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Bassist Peter John Jackson leads the band into ‘I Saw Her Standing There’. His impression of Paul McCartney is uncanny: playing a left-handed Hofner with a pick, singing and bobbing his locks around in the patented Macca manner, Jackson delivers an impression of the great man of which even Rory Bremner would be proud. From his confident performance, you’d never know that Jackson was quivering with nerves a few seconds ago. “When you’re sitting in the audience, watching the build-up on screen,” he tells BGM in a backstage bar after the show, “that’s also the build-up for us on stage. I get stage nerves every night. After all, the opening onetwo-three-four before ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ has to be the greatest count-in of all time!” He’s got that absolutely right – and Let It Be, as the show has been called since it launched in 2012, doesn’t stop there. It’s an ambitious production, for what is essentially a straight stage performance plus some between-song humour and audience participation. Jackson and his three colleagues cover various scenarios (and costume changes) from the Cavern and Hamburg days, via the Royal Variety Performance of 1963 and the psychedelia of Sgt Pepper through to the ‘Get Back’ era and the Beatles’ split. Along the way, Jackson is required to do the most work of any of the band-members. “There’s so much going on: it’s a unique role,” he tells us. “I get to play bass, guitar and piano, and I sing lead and harmony vocals.” The show covers a mighty 42 songs: you try doing that at your next gig. Then try doing it four times a week, which is what Jackson does out of Let It Be’s eight weekly performances. He’s even taken his dedication to the role as far as learning to play bass left-handed. To our total admiration, Jackson chose to do this out of a desire to get the part completely right, rather than because the producers suggested he do so. “There was nothing in the contract that said I had to play left-handed,” he chuckles. “It took two and a half months, playing every single day, to get it right. Why did I do it? Well, I’d read the show’s reviews, and some people would say, ‘We had a great night, but the guy playing McCartney was right-handed’. Other people would get a bit narky and say, ‘When did McCartney become right-handed?’ More importantly, when the curtain goes up at the beginning and it’s the Cavern scene, the band are really just silhouettes, and it could be any band if it’s just three right-handed guitarists at the front. When you have the guitar necks sticking out to left and right like wings, you know it’s the Beatles.” So how did Jackson go about switching picking hands? “The first time I tried to do it, I couldn’t even get into the strap – it felt so strange. It was like putting a tie on backwards! Playing the actual lines wasn’t too much of a problem, because I knew where they were on the fretboard, but stretching between frets with my right hand was a bit more difficult – and picking the strings with a plectrum in my left hand was the hardest thing of all. Being spatially aware of where the strings are is something you take for granted with your usual hand.”
He continues: “Anyway, I played every day until I couldn’t play any more, because my brain was fried. The next day I’d do it all again, until one day I noticed I was finally hitting the right notes. I was still a long way off playing something like ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, though... Perseverance and practice are basically what it takes. Being able to switch a guitar from right to left is always a great party trick!” Aged 33, Jackson has been a full-time musician for the last six years, although he’s been playing sessions and in bands for much longer than that. “Like everybody, I got started in a school band,” he recalls. “I always liked rock’n’roll, and the Beatles were always there. Abbey Road was my first album that was ‘mine’, if you like, that belonged to me. I was hooked from then on. My band played rock’n’roll covers by Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and the Beatles, especially the early stuff and the Hamburg songs. I started on guitar but quickly moved to bass, and I fell in love with it: I really loved being able to play melodies and rhythms as well as singing. I guess my influences back then were Free, Cream, the Who, and Rosco Levee as well as the Beatles and Wings.” He adds: “After college I put together a band called the Delaners, which released a couple of singles and toured in 2006 to ’07. We were lucky enough to do some recording at Wheeler End Studios in High Wycombe, where they have a Mellotron and all the flutes from ‘Strawberry Fields’ and so on.” Theatre came calling while Jackson was working on his own albums, he recalls. “I was recording my own material in 2009, and a friend of mine called me up. He was working on a really successful show called Rockin’ On Heaven’s Door, which was touring the UK at the time. He told me that the guy who played Eddie Cochran in the show was ill, and asked me to come and
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bassists Peter John Jackson, Let It Be
stand in, because he knew I liked rock’n’roll and I had an orange Cochran Gretsch guitar. I hadn’t done any acting at this point, just a few sessions and bands. The first time I stepped on stage, at the Manchester Opera House, I was shaking with nerves, but they asked me to come back for more shows – and after that they asked me to join. I loved it straight away and I embraced it. Theatre is great fun.” “Another show followed where I played Johnny Cash,” he continues, “although I had to train my voice to drop as low down as his. Then one of the guys from that show, Stephen Hill, left to do Let It Be, which had just started, to play George Harrison. Six months later I bumped into him and he told me they were auditioning for Paul McCartney’s part. I sent the MD a video of me singing ‘Till There Was You’, which was probably terrible, but I got the part. That was in September 2013 – and they gave me two weeks to prepare...” Be under no illusion about those McCartney bass parts: almost without exception, they contain runs and fills which everyone knows, and high in the mix as his bass is, Jackson is in deep trouble if he gets one wrong. It’s understandable, then, that in that two-week period of grace, he took the concept of ‘doing your homework’ to an entirely new level. “I watched the show every night, to get it into my head,” he remembers. “All of a sudden, my job had become watching the Beatles! I studied everything about them, and listened to Macca’s isolated bass tracks on Youtube. Fortunately I already loved the songs and I knew most of the bass parts.” Nonetheless, the job of mimicking McCartney on bass was tricky, and that’s before Jackson even addressed the
guitar, piano and vocal parts. “It took me hours to get the fills completely right!” he sighs. “I learned so much music that I’d thought I’d been doing right, but I wasn’t: I had it wrong. The original Macca from the show, a guy called Emanuele Angeletti, showed me some lines, but it was still difficult. We used to do ‘Ticket To Ride’ in the show, and we were trying to figure out if he plays a D or a G in one of the sections – and it turns out that he plays both notes in a chord, hence the argument about which one it is.” Gear-wise, Jackson is just as thorough as you’d expect, lining up the most authentic gear for the role. In the first third or so of Let It Be he plays a Hofner violin bass, just as you’d expect. As he explains: “I had a right-handed Hofner anyway, but when I switched to left-handed playing I contacted Hofner and told them that I wanted to swap my right-handed basses for left-handed ones. They really accommodate their players, and so they said yes. They also send me strings and books and so on, which is great – and I have a little feature on their website as a Hofner artist, next to McCartney, which was funny.” When the show moves into the Beatles’ psych era, day-glo costumes and all, Jackson switches to a pair of Rickenbackers, of course – sourced with great care to represent the correct model. “I have a 2006 4001 C64S, which they call the Wings bass,” he says. “It’s very rare: I’ve only seen another two in that natural finish. They’re quite easily located in right-handed form, but lefties are almost impossible to find. I got mine from a collector of left-handed basses. He didn’t want to sell it at first, but I kept bugging him!” He continues: “And then I have a 1999 Fireglo 4001 V63 PMC – the PMC indicates the Paul McCartney add-on. When you specify the PMC in your order, they give you the right-handed headstock on the left-handed body: the truss rod cover is also wonky. Again, that’s really rare: I’ve only seen a couple around the world. The guy in the Bootleg Beatles has got one, or at least something very similar, and another guy who plays in an American band called the Fab Four has got one too. “I found mine when we were on tour in Europe, playing the Circus Krone in Munich, where the Beatles played in 1966 – now that was an experience! They put us in their dressing room, and then we went down and played the same gig that they played. While I was there, a friend of mine emailed me and told me that he’d seen the Ricky on US eBay, so I had to get it. All the basses for the show have flatwound strings: with roundwounds, they sound nothing like McCartney.” As for amps, there may be a vintage-looking Vox amp up on stage but it’s not doing anything, Jackson explains. “McCartney had a Vox T.60 transistor amp for a while,” he says, “but it kept getting too hot, so he moved through various Voxes. He even used an AC30 guitar amp for a while, plugged into his bass cab. We can’t do that, though, so all the bass sounds are programmed for each song.” We wonder what Sir Paul himself would make of the show – but according to Jackson, he hasn’t yet looked down and seen the man himself sitting in the front row... yet. “That would be terrifying!” he says, quite plausibly. Makes your band’s next show at the Dog & Duck in Peterborough seem pretty easy, doesn’t it?
Info: www.peterjohnjackson.com, www.letitbelive.com
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Another Fine Messe
Steve Harvey heads to Frankfurt to report on Europe’s biggest MI show
ast month, Frankfurt Musikmesse – Europe’s largest trade show – opened its doors to more than 108,000 visitors, who were greeted by all manner of instruments, amplification and accessories presented by 2,257 exhibitors. Bass Guitar Magazine was there, pounding the corridors while shunning the distraction of wheat beer, to bring you highlights of the most exciting gear for the world of bass. First up is a new range of bass combos from Swiss-based Schertler, a company who in recent years has built an enviable reputation for high-quality, high-fidelity amps in the acoustic guitar market. Schertler are now turning their attention to bass amplification, kicking off with three all-new combos; the B10, the B12 and B15. The numeric value in each product’s name refers to the size of the woofer and each unit offers 300, 400 and 500 watts respectively. Schertler has focused on balancing portability with performance with the combos weighing in at 18kg, 21kg and 24kg, as well as being loaded with Class A, transistor, NFB pre-amps. These stylish amps are set to be popular for those sufficiently well-heeled to consider purchasing one. Elixir Strings chose Musikmesse to launch its improved and extended range of bass guitar strings. As it did with acoustic guitar strings a couple of years ago, Elixir embarked on a programme of extensive field-testing last year, engaging over 1000 bass players from around the world. The goal was to redevelop and improve the protective Nanoweb coating. Elixir claims the resulting range of nickel plated steel and stainless steel strings provide greater durability, response and grip during hardhitting attacks. String tension profiles have also been optimised which will offer greater flexibility and feel. Bass amplification giants Ampeg launched what it describes as, “The most bassfriendly DI ever created” – the SCR-DI. The unit combines a classic Ampeg preamp,
EQ pedal and overdrive stompbox. The SCR-DI also features a headphone out and aux in for practising along with your favourite backing tracks. Surely a must for the regular gigger. Vintage was showing the V90 Series basses, which come loaded with hybrid Wilkinson WJMB-N and WJMB-B pickups. The V90 also features a rosewood fingerboard, an adjustable Wilkinson WBBC bridge and chrome hardware. Coming in around the £250260 mark, the V90 is a great ‘first upgrade’ bass and is available in pearl white or candy apple red. Orange Amplification used Musikmesse for the European launch of the new OB1 series of class A/B rack-mountable bass amplifier heads. Capitalising on the trend for bass players to combine the overdrive from a guitar amp with the traditional clean tone of a bass amp, Orange asked, ‘Why take two amps to a gig when you could take just one?’ (On which note, the eagle-eyed visitor to this year’s London Bass Guitar Show would have seen Mark King combine his TC rig with a Mesa Boogie Mk V guitar amp). The OB1 is a bi-amp with a footswitchable blend circuit which adds a veneer of controllable gain and increased harmonic content to the upper registers of the input signal. The lower frequencies and clean signal are left untouched, as they would be with a dual-amp set up. The OB1
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SHOW REPORT FRANKFURT MUSIKMESSE
is available in both 300 and 500 watt versions, each featuring balanced DI and line level outputs, as well as the funky ‘pics only’ styling. The 300-watt version weighs 9.5kg, the 500-watt version 10.1kg. Markbass continued the trend for powerful microheads by launching the Nano Mark 300, the Little Mark Ninja and the Bass Multiamp. The Nano Mark 300 is Markbass’s smallest head to date and has been designed with ultimate portability in mind, measuring only 20cm wide. Functionality is simple with six rotary controls (Gain, Low, Mid Low, Mid High, High and Master), an input and on/off switch. The Little Mark Ninja, as used by Richard Bona, packs a whopping 1000 watts thanks to the installation of MBPT (Markbass Proprietary Technology). Again, portability is top-notch, with the unit fitting easily into a standard rucksack. For the gigging musician, particularly someone in a function band, having a multitude of sounds to hand is a real godsend. The Multiamp offers a vast array of virtual bass amps – modern and vintage – studio and stompbox effects, speaker cabs and microphones, all in a tidy, rack-mountable package. Markbass reports that firmware updates, new items and tones will continue to be released and will be available for download/upload later this year. EBS launched a host of new products, among which is the lightweight Magni 500 bass combo series – a complete new line of professional bass combos based on the award winning Reidmar amp design. The Magni 500 is available in two configurations, the 210 (2x10 plus tweeter) and the 115 (1x15 plus tweeter). Both use an amp section consisting of an all-analogue preamp with a lightweight power amp section, feature a balanced XLR output with ground lift, and come with a protective cover. EBS also released a batch of new and improved effects pedals under the Black Label banner. With new livery, the six new and revised pedals (MultiComp, DynaVerb, UniChorus, OctaBass, MetalDrive and MultiDrive) boast sonic improvements and design features including jumbo-sized LED lights, improved protection against electrical spikes and surges, a change from 9v to 12v DC power and optimised signals for studio use. While the Winter NAMM in California is undoubtedly the place where the majority of the forthcoming year’s gear is released, the raft of gear released at this year’s Musikmesse proves that Frankfurt remains a key date in the bass player’s calendar. In case you fancy it, the organisers have recently announced that next year’s show will be open to the public across all four days. You could catch a nine o’clock flight, spend the day at the show, and still be back home for Later With Jools Holland… just a thought.
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BASSISTS DOUG WIMBISH
Bash Street Kid
Legendary bassist Doug Wimbish brings his Wimbash event to Ramsgate. Ellen O’Reilly dives into the moshpit
’m sure many BGM readers are already familiar with the virtuoso bass playing of Doug Wimbish: he’s played many a trade show– including the recent London Bass Guitar Show – and is world renowned for his work with Lauryn Hill, Living Colour, the Rolling Stones and Depeche Mode to a name a few. However, he also has his own venture known as the Wimbash – and it’s so much more than your average music festival... Doug has already organised one Wimbash here in the UK, and it was a roaring success – so when he came back over for round two, I hopped on the train to Ramsgate for the event and met the man himself. “It all started about 13 years ago,” he tells me. “I had been living in London and New York, and I went back to my hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. A friend told me to check out a place called Sully’s, because they had live music there seven nights a week. I became mates with the owner, and he said if I ever wanted to do something just to let him know, so that conversation went on for a while. “Then Skip McDonald, who got me into the music business, was due to come home for a few months, so I decided to throw him a welcome home party. Now there were lots of musicians there who I grew up playing with, who are older and have kids and had become weekend warriors. So Skip was coming home for a long overdue visit and I thought, ‘Well, if you have someone as great as Skip and we’re getting together in our hometown, let’s embrace some of the kids that are up-and-coming’ so I started asking around about local bands. I
called in some favours and I got Living Colour and Tackhead to play. It was almost like holding a family reunion.” A spelling mistake by a hotel in Germany gave Doug his title for this initial party, which fortunately for us has grown and continues to grow, “The first event ended up being 10 bands, two stages and we ran it all day. It just grew from word of mouth. Some guys were there at the first one from Rock House DVD and they were like, ‘We want to bring this to NAMM’. They were cool because they were making DVDs and were in among all these guitar and amp companies that are out at NAMM, so we thought that was perfect. I managed to get some of the LA folks and the cats that were at NAMM to participate. We got the party room at the Hilton Hotel and put on our first NAMM Wimbash. Lots of artists started to reach out to me to bring the Wimbash to their hometowns, and it went viral.” Since its inception 13 years ago, the Wimbash has started to spread out across the globe. Doug has taken his festival series to the Caribbean and all across the United States. The Wimbash also has an educational element to it, he tells us. “There were some old friends of mine who had relocated to the Dominican Republic and become connected to the DREAM project, which stands for Dominican Republic Education And Mentoring, and I got a call to bring Wimbash over there. We would have clinics on during the day: I’d bring my attorney down there to teach the kids about law and my accountant to teach them about money. We’ve also teamed up with the School Of Rock and since then every Wimbash outside the UK has had a School Of Rock chapter playing. When you see kids there playing and nailing it, it really rounds everything out. My vibe is, leave your ego at the door and let’s have a conversation: all it takes is one conversation to make a big difference in someone else’s life.” With that in mind, I made my way to a spot in the crowd to witness the Wimbash for myself: Doug opened the show with one of his legendary loop bass solo pieces, and then got the rest of his fellow players up – Skip McDonald, Jennie Bellestar and legendary producer Adrian Sherwood. Doug also used a local drummer and called the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Seraphim Kelly to the stage. Doug and the guys played sensitively for his performance, which was followed by singer Loretta Haywood. Mark Stewart of the Pop Group then took the stage and performed with all his trademark fervour, while Doug and the band created an almost dubstep dance vibe which complemented his style perfectly. After jams with Skip McDonald and local musicians, the night finished off with Jennie Bellestar taking to the stage to perform some dubstep tunes which were so bass-heavy one of the speakers in the in-house PA system blew! Doug and his wife Diane have big plans for the future – they want to be able to bring the Wimbash around the world and to a town near you. I’ll be there: will you?
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FM bassist Merv Goldsworthy tells Joel Mciver that rock is eternal… and so is bass Photography: Marty Moffat
lassic rock has enjoyed a commercial rebirth over the last decade or so, thanks to the emergence of a new demographic of rock fan too young for the Beatles and too old for Slipknot. One of the bands whose recent return to form has been more welcome than most is FM, the Midlands-based band who were one of this country’s biggest rock hopes in the 1980s and some of the 90s. A UK tour recently saw the band, featuring founder member Merv Goldsworthy on bass, limber up for the release of their new album, Heroes And Villains, which is scooping critical acclaim as we speak. There’s plenty for Merv to look forward to, but over a curry with him and BGM writer ‘Lieutenant’ Dave Clarke, the great man looked back at how he got started on bass, way back when. “I was in Diamond Head,” he tells us, “and my very first gig was at Donington, in front of 82,000 people, the year that Whitesnake headlined and Twisted Sister played!” Not a bad way to get started, we point out. “Yes!” he laughs, “and then FM’s first gig was supporting Meat Loaf in Munich for 7,000 people. That was how we came out of the blocks. And then we went on tour with Black Sabbath! It was the tour with Ian Gillan singing, and the Stonehenge set. The drum riser was on a rock, and every day two crew members dressed as druids would come out and open up the rock and lights would blind the audience. But none of them wanted to do it because the robes were really itchy…” “Imagine me, a kid from a band in Blackpool, on this tour”, he adds. “It was a shambles, basically, because it wasn’t really Sabbath. But as the first tour I’d ever been on, it was a massive eye-opener for me. The first gig was in Barcelona and we all went out to dinner together. Geezer Butler set one of the waiters on fire with his lighter!” Looking even further back, Merv explains that his desire to play bass was triggered by a friendship with a particular late legend. “I’m a massive Thin Lizzy fan,” he says. “I saw Phil Lynott and I thought, he’s just fantastic, I want to do that! He was a god among men: the real deal. Meeting him felt like meeting Jimi Hendrix. I knew Phil for the last two years of his life, and he wasn’t in a great way, but he never let me down in any way. FM supported Gary Moore on tour and he got up and played with Gary on stage. I remember once I was staying round at his house and he knocked on the bedroom door and said, ‘You’ve got to get up, FM have got a Tina Turner tour in America!’” Those heady days lasted for FM across a decade and five albums, until fashions changed and AOR music suddenly seemed as cool as platform shoes. “We got hit with the grunge bomb in the 90s,” recalls Merv with a chuckle, “and there was no point in carrying on. I was living in Seattle at the time, to make it even worse! I’d seen all those bands – Alice In Chains and Mother Love Bone and so on – and I had no idea that it was going to explode like it did. When FM stopped I joined a covers band: we’ve done over 3,000 gigs, but FM has really taken off since we came back in 2007.”
“it was a shaMBles, BasiCally, BeCause it wasn’t really saBBath. But as the First tour i’d ever Been on, it was a Massive eye-oPener For Me”
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Bassists Merv Goldsworthy, FM merv
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Bassists Merv Goldsworthy, FM
Asked about his collection of basses, Merv explains: “I’ve got about 10 basses, all five-strings or converted from four to five strings. I started out on a Yamaha BB5000, which were the first five-strings to come in the country in about 1986. They had really tight string spacing and I played them for years as a Yamaha endorsee. Then I got to the point where I wanted a change, but I realised there was nothing on the market with that string spacing.” He recalls: “I played five-a-side football for the Bass Centre back then, so I’d go over to Wapping every Wednesday. There were hundreds of basses in that shop, but still nothing that was right for me. Then I met Martin at the Gallery, and there’s nothing that he can’t do, basically. I had three Gibson Thunderbirds, converted them to five strings and played them for a long time. I loved their sound but they were a big old lump, with a big case that won’t quite go in your car, and you can’t stand them up because you’ve got to have a special stand. But the tone is amazing, and I was looking for that tone, so I tried a Les Paul bass and we put T-Bird pickups on it. We did four of those. I’ve got small hands, so the nut width is 40mm and the spacing is 15mm. On the
“we Got hit with the GrunGe BoMB in the 90s, and there was no Point in CarryinG on. i was livinG in seattle at the tiMe, to MaKe it even worse!” new album I used one of my Les Pauls. They’re a bit heavy for live, but I don’t want to get them cavitiedout because that might alter the sound. They’re back-breaking!” Wait – surely Merv isn’t paying full whack for these things? No indeed, and here’s a tip that makes us want to give him his own bass-building column in this magazine. “I get a donor body off eBay, strip it completely, and then Martin does the rest,” he says. “There’s usually one bass in production, one being stripped and one that I’m playing at the same time. You can get the bodies from anywhere between £300 and £400 if they’re stripped. I’ve got the bass of my dreams off Martin many times over, so it’s like an ongoing hobby now!” Living the dream, that man…
Heroes And Villains is out now. Info: www.fmofficial.com.
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Sklar Wars 040 Bass Guitar MaGazine
Bassists lee sklar
the mighty lee sklar has played more stadiums, with more megastars, than most of us could hope to dream of – and yet he’s still the nicest man in rock Words: Mike Brooks Photography: eckie s a breed, bass players tend to be tucked away at the back, cast in the shadows. Yet this man is instantly recognisable, both visually – thanks to the greatest beard in music, bar none – and musically. When I told my niece I was interviewing Lee Sklar, her response was “He’s the guy that plays for Phil Collins... and Toto... and Richard Marx... does he play for everyone?” In a word, yes! There’s no denying that Sklar has covered serious ground since the mid-60s: a look at his list of credits is enough to put even the busiest session player to shame. But not only has he forged a career as an A-list, first call studio bassist, he’s also the ‘go to’ player for many artists and bands when it comes to touring, the archetypal sideman who gets the job done time and again. Sklar’s first major break came as part of James Taylor’s band: did Lee foresee the musical journey he was about to embark on? “I had always been in bands since I was a kid,” he says, “but I never really thought I would make a career out of it. When I met James Taylor, I was a student in college
“i DOn’t iMPOse MYselF On a sOnG: i’Ve Been luCkY tHat MY instinCts seeM tO WOrk anD PeOPle HaVe Been HaPPY WitH WHat i’Ve COMe uP WitH” and was thinking about a career as an illustrator. I had only been in the studio one time in 1967 when I was in a band called Group Therapy, and we weren’t allowed to play, only sing. I met James when I was in a band called Wolfgang, and we cut some demos – but that was the extent of my studio work.” He adds: “I never really pursued studio work, but when James hit it big, suddenly singer-songwriters were being signed to record companies and when they looked at JT’s album, they saw myself and [guitarist] Russ Kunkel on there and hired us. Overnight, I was doing a couple of sessions every day, six days a week, with more work than we could fit in. It totally blew my mind. So I had to get it together and figure out how studios really worked. There were still all the guys from the Wrecking Crew working, and suddenly I was with them: a few years before I was looking through a window at them! Yet, if I had to make a choice between live work and studio work, I would always choose live work. I’m so happy that I have never had to choose one or the other.” Having performed on over 2,500 albums and on somewhere in the region of 22,000 songs, how does Sklar approach each studio call? Is it difficult to remain
fresh and alert after so many years working in studios? “The numbers sound impressive,” he replies, “but each one is an individual experience – and that’s all I think about. We used to be hired for full album projects and we might be in the studio for a week or more, but nowadays they might cut a couple of songs so you spend a day or two and then you’re gone – or it might just be one day. I always liked having the time to go beyond what was a fine performance of a song and find something special, but those days are pretty much gone. Budgets are limited, and they want you in and out quickly. I love working, but it’s a drag that time has become such an issue.” With such a wealth of experience to draw on, across so many musical genres, how does Lee construct his bass parts in the studio? “The most important thing is to listen to the song and see what it wants of you,” he says. “I don’t impose myself on a song: I’ve been lucky that my instincts seem to work and people have been happy with what I’ve come up with. I’m always logging ideas, both mine and others, and I do draw from them. I don’t like to be repetitive but if something works and it fits, I use it! I face different demands every day, and different styles of music… The job requires being on your toes all the time, that’s what I love and hate about it!” How does he deal with musical roadblocks in an environment where time is money? “It’s just experience. As a studio player, you’re not allowed to be blocked. If you’re in a band and things aren’t going well, you might say, ‘Let’s get some pizza and see a movie and come back tomorrow’. My world isn’t that! There’s a blank canvas in front of you, and it’s expected that there’ll be a masterpiece on it at the end of the day. It’s really a stressful gig but I love it. There have been many times where I wish I’d been in a successful band and only really had to know our music, but I’m constantly having to create and learn new material – which can be exhausting.” Does Lee have a practice regime? “I really don’t practise very much,” he admits. “I stay busy enough to keep my chops up, I listen a lot to be aware of what’s current and try to assimilate as much as I can. Most of the time, I have no idea what kind of music I’ll be working on, so I have to be ready when I walk in the door to jump head first into it. On my way to a job, I say to myself ‘Please don’t suck!’ You want to do the best job you can, and hope they’re happy at the end of the day.” Despite wearing many musical hats, Sklar has a tone all of his own. His feel, choice of notes and bass parts set him apart from many players, which is why so many producers and artists turn to him for his talents. I wondered if he had consciously worked on this over the years. His response is expectedly modest: “It was never a conscious thing, it’s just what I do. I’m not an intellectual player, more of a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ player. I use the same bass when playing with Billy Cobham, Phil Collins, James Taylor, a country artist or a movie or jingle. I seem to have found a common-denominator sound and style that seems to have a signature and style
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that goes with it. I’ve had so many people over the years ask if I played on a certain song, because they were sure it was me, and it was. I don’t really get it, but if it works, don’t fix it!” Let’s talk gear… “I really only use about six basses,” says the great man, “and pretty much do 90 per cent of my work with three of them. I’m not a collector. I have a personal attachment to a couple of basses but my gear is off the shelf. If you buy a Warwick Starbass II or my signature Dingwall, it is exactly the same as mine.” Followers of Sklar’s career will have seen him toting a Fender hybrid, covered in scrawl. Only one person can lift the lid on it: “It was an idea that could have sucked hugely, but ended up being one of the best instruments I’ve ever played,” he explains. “It was built by John Carruthers when he was the repair guy at Westwood Music in LA. The body was made by Charvel, an alder P-Bass body. I went to their factory and thumped a dozen bodies until I heard one that resonated beautifully, that was the body for me. I had a ’62 P-Bass neck but I prefer Jazz necks, so we stripped and reshaped it into the configuration of a ’62 Jazz. I asked John to use mandolin fretwire: he didn’t think it would be good, but I said ‘I’ll pay you for another fret job if it doesn’t work’ – and it was fabulous!” He continues: “The fingering feels much smoother, you can allude to a fretless sound. John thought the frets might wear out faster, but I’ve used that bass on 85 per cent of all the work I’ve done since 1973 and I’m only on my third re-fret. I have a prototype Hipshot D-tuner on the E string. This made my life with James easier as many of his songs are in drop D tuning. It has a Badass bridge, and the pickups are EMGs, among the first ones Rob Turner made. I have two split-coil pickups placed where Jazz pickups would normally go and reversed their position.” As for the signatures on the body, Sklar says: “In 1982, the LA Dodgers won the World Series and we went into the studio with them and did Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’. They were signing baseballs and I said ‘Sign my bass!’ That started the autographs on it: many have come and gone over the years as it’s not coated. There are over 100 on there, from Joan Baez to George Lucas to Eric Clapton. It’s been a great workhorse, nothing fancy and it’s never failed me. I still use it about half the time. So between that bass, my Dingwall and my Warwick Starbass II, they keep me running.” Asked how his connection with Euphonic Audio materialised, Sklar explains: “I was at a NAMM Show in LA and there were a bunch of guys just slapping their hearts out. Whatever! I was hearing all this and didn’t see any amps. I looked around and saw two little boxes with a single 8” speaker in each one, and this is what the guys were playing through. A bass rig that could fit in a suitcase. I did a gig here in town, and it was the smallest thing on stage, but it filled the Santa Monica Auditorium. I was sold and have been with John and Larry ever since. As for basses, Sklar explains: “Sheldon Dingwall approached me at NAMM about 13 years ago and asked if I would check out one of his basses. I looked
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“i reallY OnlY use aBOut siX Basses, anD PrettY MuCH DO 90 Per Cent OF MY WOrk WitH tHree OF tHeM. i’M nOt a COlleCtOr”
Bassists lee sklar
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Bassists lee sklar
“eVerY stYle OF MusiC DeManDs sOMetHinG uniQue; tHe kinD OF Bass One PlaYs, tHe strinGs, tHe aMP…” at it, and of course the first thing you notice is the Novax Fanned Fret system. I asked him to explain it to me and it made perfect sense. Open a piano and the low strings are longer than the high strings. It felt great ergonomically and I became a fan. A great deal of my work has been replacing synth bass parts, and because they’re always played in the lower registers, I was always looking for a five-string that read in that register, and the Dingwall read beautifully. I made the Warwick connection at Bass Player Live, also in LA, when I tried out a fretless Starbass II. Steve Bailey is a dear friend and was with Warwick. I was on tour with Lyle Lovett, and Steve came to a show with that fretless bass and said that HansPeter Wilfer from Warwick wanted me to have it, which blew me away. Then at the following NAMM show in LA, we connected as though we had known each other for years. I use it almost every day and love it.” Does Lee have any advice on how to get that elusive studio tone that so many of us strive for? “Every player is individual and there are too many options for a definitive answer,” he says. “Every style of music demands something unique; the kind of bass one plays, the strings, the amp, the playing style – thumb and slap,
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or pick or fingers. Each is a totally different sound. I’ve always been a finger player, I go for a full, rich bass sound, whereas other guys I know use a far more brittle sound. I like a high action, which is great for sustain. I always try, if possible, to have my amp and DI both recorded. I almost never use any outboard gear or pedals, because I feel the bass should be as pure as possible so that everything else tonally can be built from there. Once in a while, I’ll record with an effect if I feel it’s absolutely the right thing for the song – but that’s the exception.” With such a hectic schedule, Lee remains philosophical and upbeat: he appears grateful to be working as busily as ever. Does he find downtime to chill out and relax away from music? “I get little downtime,” he chuckles. “I love to work in the garden and work on cars, but I’m never at a loss for something to do. I feel so blessed every day that I get to do what I do. A job that would have been my hobby, something positive in people’s lives, the friendships with other players… it’s such a magical thing. I always felt that by this time in my career, I’d be put out to pasture, but I’m as busy as I’ve ever been – so I’ll keep ploughing the fields as long as I get calls.” As he says: “We’ll see what the future holds, but at 19 years old, when this all really got going, it was hard to imagine still doing it at 68. I’ve really been blessed to work with so many wonderful people, and I have always been a fan of so many that I came to know and work with. I wish everyone all the best in this adventure we call the music business. It’s a gift beyond description, and I cherish every second of it. How the hell did I get so lucky? Where the hell did the time go? I usually ask that of the drummer… but that’s another paragraph!”
rob scallon is one of a new breed of musicians who are making a mighty wedge of cash out of Youtube with no need to get on a smelly tourbus. Joel Mciver contacts him for a chat about all things stringed...
ou will no doubt have read in this and other magazines about the death of the music industry. Without going too far into the root cause of its decline (or naming any of the record company execs who sat on their fat bonuses and did nothing while the public figured out how to rip CDs), let’s just say that by 2000 or thereabouts, the old business model of compact discs being sold for £18.99 at bricks-andmortar record shops was on its way out. The process took about five years. Once consumers were equipped with CD-burning software, a broadband internet connection and (crucially) access to a host of filesharing websites and programs, it was all over. The winners: people who wanted free music. The losers: record companies, a host of associated industries and – most unjustly – the musicians who made the music in the first place. And yet there is hope for musicians, and ironically it’s the internet – the root cause of the problem in the first place – which is offering that hope. Go to support.google. com and search for Youtube. Pretty soon you’ll come up with a page titled ‘What kind of content can I monetise?’ and there, friends, is your answer. While most of us don’t have the tunes that would attract sufficient views to make us a fortune, or indeed the skills to create the required accompanying videos, a small number of musos do, and they’re laughing all the way to their nearest custom luthier. Meet Rob Scallon, a Chicago-based chap with phenomenal abilities on guitar, bass, banjo, and ukulele; a catalogue of cool original and cover songs; an eye for a witty video; and the perseverance to make those things pay. “I have 260,000 subscribers,” he tells BGM. “To put the business side of it into perspective, when I had 35,000 subscribers I was able to quit my job and go full-time, two years ago. OK, I could only afford to eat ramen noodles at that level: I could just about get by! But the last year has been nuts: I’m gaining maybe 800 or 900 new subscribers a day.” Yeah, right, I hear you cynical people say – and not without reason. But Scallon isn’t simply earning a couple
of quid on the side here. Although we’re far too polite to ask to see his latest bank statement, the guy is obviously making rather a lot of money. “People always assume that this is just a hobby,” chuckles Scallon. “They say, ‘So you make Youtube videos?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been doing it for a while’ and then they’ll say, ‘Oh cool, so what do you do for a living?’ My answer is ‘That is what I do for a living!’ There’s a lot of people doing this, and some of them are making millions of dollars. I’m not making seven figures myself, but there’s lots of opportunities. When I started out, a lot of people were just starting to establish themselves, and a lot of those people were doing it for a living then – and now, some of these people are incredibly successful entrepreneurs with huge businesses based on online video.” So how does it work? Essentially Google, owners of Youtube, pay uploaders of selected videos a certain amount per view per film clip. We don’t need to ask how much this is: in the era of Spotify and other streaming services that pay users a microscopic amount per stream, it won’t be much. But if you have hundreds of thousands of subscribers to your videos, those pennies add up pretty fast. In Scallon’s case, this income means that he never has to smell a roadie’s socks. “I’ll have a much more stable income making Youtube videos than I would if I was going out gigging,” he explains. “I play live very rarely. All I ever wanted was to make music and to make enough money for a stable living, and I have those things now.” Watch a few of Scallon’s videos and you’ll see that he uses an impressive number of instruments, in particular as part of his ‘Metal Songs Played On Non-Metal Instruments’ series. Check out his banjo version of Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’, System Of A Down’s ‘Chop Suey!’ on cello and a ukulele-driven take on Cannibal Corpse’s ‘Frantic Disembowelment’. “I have a lot of acoustic instruments,” he tells us. “I have an endorsement with Kala ukuleles, so I have three of those, one of which is a U-Bass.” “I got really into Primus in middle school,” he says, asked about bass. “Most of my inﬂuences are bass players. Les Claypool and Victor Wooten moulded me more than any guitar player. I do a lot of slap style on the guitar, which comes from me trying to learn Primus bass parts and move them over to the eight- and nine-string guitars. Me and a
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Bassists rob scallon
buddy had the DVD Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People, and we were so into it that we would ride around on our bikes reciting the DVD commentary to each other. So I bought a Squier bass for 100 bucks and I really wanted to play like Les Claypool. Since then I’ve tried to learn every stringed instrument I can get my hands on. I have a Schecter Stiletto five-string coming as part of my endorsement deal with them, and I have a fretless Carlo Rebelli that I got for like 200 dollars, plus a huge white upright bass, which is lovely. I have a video coming out where I used that upright to play Cliff Burton’s bass solo ‘Pulling Teeth’ from Metallica’s first album.” He adds: “For the upright bass I just use a mic, about a foot in front of the bridge. It’s the only mic I’ve ever owned. Recording is really all my buddy Fluff. I just send him DIs of my tracks, and he does a great job and sends it back to me and I throw him the money. I used to do all the mixing myself but I’m not good at that type of stuff, and it’s so time-consuming for me.” He adds: “I have a few sponsorships with instrument companies coming up, which are nice. I have a video out with Dean Guitars for an ML-shaped ukulele. I have an affiliate link so when people buy one from there, I get a percentage of it. I also have a relationship with Schecter Guitars, who made me custom eight- and nine-string electric guitars, and I play bass too. I’m happy to play any piece of wood with strings on, basically! The way I see it is that all strings are gonna act the same way: how a string vibrates is not going to change from instrument to instrument, no matter how many strings are on it or how long they are. Once you get a good grasp on a guitar and a bass, you can move onto pretty much anything after that.” Ah, but has he taken the ultimate step and tackled the Chapman Stick yet? He laughs: “I’ve been getting people saying ‘You gotta play the Chapman Stick’ for years now, on a daily basis. I would really love to, especially with the overwhelming number of asks. Anyway, whatever the instrument is, I’m really fortunate and I do appreciate my position. Making money with music the traditional way is now almost entirely dried up, unless you’re an insanely famous musician who tours all the time, because people aren’t buying records like they used to. I tell people that I’m hardly a musician from a business standpoint: I’m a Youtuber. It’s more about the videos. Selling my own music is not even 10 percent of my income.” Scallon appreciates that this new way of surviving as a musician may seem like fantasy to some people. “Even people my age don’t get it,” he nods. “I always need to explain how I do it. It’s confusing, but the younger people are, the more they get it. It’s like the Wild West right now. We’re making it up as we go.” He also understands that there’s a long way to go to reach the top of the video playlist, globally speaking. “The biggest Youtube channel is a guy called Pewdiepie, who has 34 million subscribers. He literally makes millions of dollars a month, just from playing video games. It’s insane. Maybe I chose the wrong thing. Perhaps when I was a kid I should have been playing video games instead of guitar!”
Rob’s channel: www.youtube.com/user/robs70986987
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Queen Bee Singlecut 10 Ten strings. Three thousand quid. One rabbit... Does this Bee ERB sting, asks Joel McIver? Bee Basses
Art Of Rebellion
h, a challenge! The virtuoso bassist Russ Newton of the progressive rock trio Art Of Rebellion has lent us his custom 10-string, made by Fred Bolton of Bee Basses, just to introduce a bit of tension into our lives and make us realise that life isn’t all about slap lines in E minor on a mere four-, five- or six-string bass. This gorgeous instrument, beautifully put together by a coalition of craftsmen, is a work of art just as much as a tool for musical expression – but will we actually be able to master the thing?
Build Quality Well, if we can’t actually play this Bee, it won’t be because of the quality of its components. It is a state-of-the-art artefact, from the huge, chamfered upper bout, to the body and neck woods, via the custom strings and pickups, all the way to the electronics and controls. Before you actually play this beast... er, insect, you can’t help but be impressed by the artistic vision that has gone into the woods: burl and ash for the body and a variety of maples for the neck. Each wood has been bookmatched for its visual appeal and tone: holding the Queen Bee, you feel like you’ve wandered into a dendrochronologist’s (look it up) daydream. To top it off, Newton has commissioned an ebony, abalone and mother-of-pearl rabbit from Bill Nichols of Nichols Guitars to adorn the body: named Binky, the bunny is a Matt Groening cartoon character of which he is fond. And why not? The details are where Newton’s money has been spent. There’s a Neutrix locking input, always a bonus for bassists prone to stepping on their cables, and at the other end, incredibly smooth Hipshot tuners carved into rabbit shapes. Even the pickup covers, truss rod cover and battery access cover are made of the same woods, while the controls are made of no fewer than three different woods by THG Knobs.
Sounds And Playability So, time to take off your ‘regular bass player’ hat and put on your ‘extended range bass player’ one. Sure, there’s an overlap: you can still sit and play lines on the Queen Bee just as you’d play them on a standard-range bass, with fingers, thumb or pick. But there’s much, much more to an ERB than that, as you’ll know if you read Stewart McKinsey’s monthly column on the subject. Most simply, you can play much lower and higher notes, if you’ll forgive the obvious observation. What can you actually do here? Consider chordal lines at the lower end: sub-bass has its place in many musical styles. Imagine that you’re playing a church organ or synth, lending atmosphere rather than actual melodies. Slap the low strings for a kick-drum effect. Drone the lower strings under notes played in the usual range. Instead of doing an octave pop, play an
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Bee Queen Bee Singlecut 10 Price £2950
Technical Specification Made In | USA RRP | £2950, plus shipping and import tax Body | Buckeye burl top, camphor burl back with mahogany middle, solid ash core, matching buckeye burl headstock cap; ‘Binky’ inlay with ebony outline, abalone body, mother-of-pearl eyes; matching camphor burl control cavity access; Neutrix locking input Neck | Maple/purpleheart/ flamed maple, bookmatched acrylicimpregnated birdseye maple fretboard; birdseye/blue-stained birdseye maple signature ‘Binky’ truss cover made by THG Knobs; 35” scale Neck join | Thru-neck Frets | 24 jumbo, with zero fret Pickups | Custom-wound Nordstrand wood-cased pickups, birdseye maple pickup covers with ebony slice Electronics | Bee custom preamp Controls | Volume, blend, bass/mid/ treble plus selector switch; birdseye maple, abalone and buckeye pots made by THG Knobs Machine heads | Hipshot Ultralite in birdseye maple, ‘running rabbit’ shape Bridge | Hipshot individual bridge rails Strings | Rotosound custom gauge Case | Custom-made (£350)
What We Think Plus | Beautifully-crafted ERB which plays with unexpected ease Minus | Niche instrument: not really intended for general use Overall | If tapping and a massive frequency range are your bag, don’t hesitate!
BGM Rating Build quality Sound quality Value
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BEE QUEEN BEE SINGLECUT 10 PRICE £2950
“YOU COULD BE PLAYING THIS BASS ALL DAY AND NEVER RUN OUT OF THINGS TO DO.” playing, so take advantage. The extended range on this bass goes much higher than lower, with a standard tuning of F#, B, E, A, D, G, C, F, Bb and Eb, but there’s no reason why you can’t commission a different default set-up of your choice from Bee, or even experiment with alternate tunings if you have the time and inclination. Tapping is ideal, assuming you have the skills and patience to apply the style to the bigger neck. Why not spend some time on chordal tapping (see Rob Statham’s column on the subject in BGM 116) and work on tapping across multiple strings? You could be playing this bass all day and never run out of things to do. In fact, the only thing you probably won’t want to attempt is simple downstrokes with a pick. By its nature, the Queen Bee wants either to be played sitting down or high up on a strap: if you’re in a punk band, for example, it might look a touch weird. But as we always say, rules are just mind control, man…
octave below instead: you can accentuate a line in exactly the same way. All you need is imagination. At the higher end, you can solo away to your heart’s content, assuming the lighter gauge strings don’t freak you out: if you play guitar as well as bass, you’ll find yourself in familiar territory, unless you attempt a barre chord (one word: don’t). Again, why not add a lower drone to your higher-register playing? Why not slap and pop up there too? The point here is that there are fewer limits to your
Russ Newton plays in a band which demands complex bass parts, hence his acquisition of the Queen Bee 10, as well as a Letts-designed 13-string which we’ll be featuring in a future issue. He actually needs this bass to play in his band – but will you? Assuming you do, you’ll be interested to know how the costs of the Bee break down. The basic cost of the bass was £2200, Newton tells us: he then paid £200 for the THG knobs, £450 for the rabbit inlay and £350 for a custom hard case, one of the most robust we’ve ever seen. Shipping to the UK, plus the import tax that Customs & Excise laid on him, was a painful extra £1000. This is a lot of money by anyone’s standards – but again, if you require this instrument to do your job, you may not mind paying for it. If you go for it, you’ll be the recipient of a truly one-of-a-kind instrument, even if regular bassists will find it hard to understand how to play it or indeed, what the hell it’s for. Ignore them – it’s your vision, after all.
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Technical Specification Ibanez SR605-NTF Price | £635 Made in | Indonesia Body | Three-piece ash Neck | Five-piece jatoba and bubinga, 34” scale Neck joint | Bolt-on, four-bolt attachment Nut width | 45mm Fingerboard | Rosewood Frets | 24 Pickups | Two Bartolini MK-1 split-coil soapbars Electronics | Ibanez EQB-IIISC threeband EQ Controls | Volume, pickup pan, three band EQ (bass, middle, treble), midfrequency selector switch (250Hz or 600Hz) Hardware | Accu-cast B305 black bridge Weight | 4.5 kg Case/gig bag included? | No Left-hand option available? | Yes
What We Think Plus | A good all-round five-string that fits the bill Minus | Tight string spacing and a bit lacking visually Overall | A good bass for the money, a solid low B-string performance and plenty of tonal options and playability
BGM Rating Build quality Sound quality Value
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iBanez SR605-ntf pRice £635
So what does £650 buy you in terms of a ﬁvestring from an established name? Mike Brooks checks out a current example from ibanez headstock distribution
The gallery (camden)
he Ibanez product list changes so often, it’s hard to keep up with their various ranges, but the Soundgear (SR) range remains as popular as ever. They’re perennial favourites among the Ibanez ranks – not bad for a range first launched back in the mid- to late Eighties. With their slim bodies and sleek neck profiles, there has always been something to enjoy about playing an SR bass. This particular instrument is a prime example from the current range – so what has it got to offer?
Build quality The natural look of this bass is reinforced by the minimal satin finish applied to the body and neck: the timbers aren’t rough to the touch, and overall the instrument feels quite organic. The body dimensions are such that the body is incredibly slim with very little depth: the bulk has been taken away, creating a lightweight body with the top horn almost triangular by design. Some players may not take to this body styling, especially if they like a bass that feels substantial that they can work against – but for those players who
prefer minimal bulk, they will take to this bass very quickly. There is limited chamfering as the whole body is contoured, but it sits well and although there is some headstock bias in the balance department, the bass hangs perfectly well on a strap. As you may expect of this range, the neck is incredibly slim with a thin ‘D’ neck profile – which, for a five-string instrument, makes the neck easy to navigate. The only issue will be whether the 17mm string spacing is too tight for some fingers. Having said that, the frets of the 24-fret neck are also thin, which makes fretting speedy and comfortable with no sharp fret ends anywhere along either edge of the neck. So if this is your first dalliance into the world of the five-string bass, and comfort is a primary concern, this bass could
“it May lack fRillS and GloSS in teRMS of finiShinG, But it haS BaGS of tone, and a lot to offeR the playeR in teRMS of playaBility” BaSS GuitaR MaGazine 053
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Ibanez SR605-NTF Price £635
well be for you. The four-bolt neck pocket is tight, which helps make the whole instrument vibrant, with a natural bounce, although the simple, functional bridge unit only facilitates through-bridge stringing. The neck is furnished with oval abalone front position markers and white side dots, while an angled jack socket has been fitted into the body instead of a side-fitted or front-mounted socket. Black hardware has been used throughout to complement the simple look of this particular model, and the tuners work smoothly enough. Some of the control layout knobs (volume, pickup pan, three-band EQ) felt a little loose, although that’s nothing a quick tighten with a screwdriver won’t solve.
Sounds And Playability I could spend hours playing this bass: it’s just so comfortable, and the woody, organic sound responds so well to certain playing styles, especially if you start to dig in, which brings out a different harmonic emphasis to your notes. Acoustically, the low B-string stands out incredibly well, and just getting a feel for this bass highlights how vibrant and resonant it truly is – a good sign. The instrument feels very slinky to play and, despite the fingerboard broadening the higher you go, the shallow neck depth accommodates this so there is no strain on the fretting hand. Plugging in, the first thing that hits you is the quality of tonal response and consistent string volume across all five strings: the D and G string are particularly lively. With a lot of natural spring and resonance, the EQ works well in rounding out the tone and giving the signal some extra body and power, while the mid-EQ provides some extra presence. The mid-selector switch adds some additional colour and
differentiation: the 250Hz setting provides a darker character, while the 600Hz setting offers a brighter, throatier bark. The bass is capable of a really good range of usable tones to suit all styles of playing and it has plenty of life in its tonal delivery, although the slap sound is particularly woody with a noticeable thump in the bottom end. Top end percussiveness requires quite a bit of treble boost, but the circuit works well with these Bartolini pickups, no question.
Conclusion Many players will be enticed by the SR’s slim proportions and extreme playability, and there’s no doubt that it will suit players looking for a five-string with little bulk or excessive weight. It may lack frills and gloss in terms of finishing, but it has bags of tone, and a lot to offer the player in terms of playability. At this pocketfriendly price, I can’t imagine too many players being disappointed with this bass..
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Technical Specification Phil Jones PJB M300 Head and NeoPower 12B Cabinet (12B cabinet in brackets) Price | £999 (£1099) Made in | China Power | 300 Watts at 4 ohms (600 Watts) Speakers | 12 x 5” Neodymium (total 4 ohms) Features | Two channels, each with HI and LO impedance input, Gain, Clip indicator and five-band graphic EQ, Limiter with level control and indicator, Master Volume, Tuner Out, Effects Send/ Return, Power on/off with status light, spare fuse holder, XLR DI with ground lift, Input Voltage selector, 2 x Speakon Speakon out, 2x preamp out (12x5” baffle mounted neodymium drivers, 2 x Speakon inputs, 4 ohm impedance, front port) Weight | 15 kg (31 kg)
What We Think Plus | Super clean and accurate – if you like the sound of your bass you’ll love the sound of this rig Minus | The distinctive ‘retro hi-fi’ look and super-clean tone may not be to everyone’s taste Overall | Phil Jones has always forged his own path when it comes to bass amp design. This rig proves he still leads the field in innovation and accurate bass reproduction
BGM Rating Build quality Sound quality Value
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phil Jones pJB M300 head and neopoWer 12B caBinet price £999, £1099
PJB M300 Head and NeoPower 12B Cabinet
Genius or maverick? phil Jones has always had a unique approach to bass amp and speaker design. kev sanders checks out this compact rig Bass gear www.bassgear.co.uk
M300 head Following the success of his small combos, the first amp head Phil Jones designed and built was the mighty M500. He put all of his experience as a bass player, engineer and hi-fi boffin into that amp and the results were spectacular – without doubt one of the finest bass amps ever made. It was big, powerful, beautifully engineered and redefined what ‘accurate’ meant in terms of amplifying bass guitar. It made perfect sense, then, to use this design as the basis for a smaller, but perhaps more usable amp head, and that’s exactly what we have here – the M300. It’s less powerful, certainly, but just as well made and with its comprehensive two-channel layout, it is one of the few midsized amps that’s perfect for someone who wants to use both acoustic and electric basses on the same gig. The two channels are identical and laid out side by side. Each has a low and high impedance input (you can use either channel for acoustic or electric) and each has its own gain, overload indicator and five-band graphic EQ. The switchable studio quality optical limiter serves both channels. Set below the large master volume is a stereo headphone socket and, to the right of this, there’s an FX loop and tuner out. Lastly, there’s a large old-school nickel toggle switch for on/off with a blue status light. Round the back you’ll find everything necessary on a pro quality amp: two Speakon outs, a balanced line (XLR) DI with ground lift, spare fuse holder and two preamp outputs. These have a neat feature: they’re separately buffered, meaning that a dodgy cable or bad connection into one side will not affect the other. Inside, the amp is built around a solid 2.5mm steel chassis and silver solder is used throughout, meaning dry joints and crackling connections should never be a problem. The case is well-built, too. Constructed from dense birch ply, it’s covered with tough black Tolex. This looks great, with chromed steel corners, vent plates and chassis bolts. All of this hardware is made in-house, as is the sturdy strap
handle on top. Four chunky rubber feet help keep the amp solid and leave space underneath to allow free flow of air around the amp to help keep things cool.
neopoWer 12B caB Like the M300 head, the first impression of the 12B cab is one of quality. You just can’t fault the amazing fit and finish here, something perhaps influenced by the high-end hi-fi speaker enclosures that Jones also makes. The front-ported cabinet itself is made from Baltic birch, with 18mm MDF used for the front baffle. The same hard Tolex that covers the amp is used, and again all the hardware is top quality. In fact, there are no clues that material costs have been
“if it’s the Most accurate representation of your Bass that you’re after, then this riG is alMost in a class of its oWn” Bass Guitar MaGazine 057
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Phil Jones PJB M300 Head and NeoPower 12B Cabinet Price £999, £1099
considered anywhere in the design and build of this rig. Despite the impression given by the recessed bar handles on either side, the 12B is impressively light for a cab containing 12 speakers. At just 31 kilos it can be safely lifted and carried around, although like those tiny cabinbag cases you see being dragged around at airports, the four sturdy castors mean that it’s always tempting to take the easy option and push it everywhere. Part of the reason for the impressive lack of weight is the use of neodymium drivers. The 5” drivers have magnets made from this rare and ultra-magnetic material, and lightness isn’t the only benefit. It almost goes without saying that these tiny speakers can reproduce the highest frequencies, to the point where a separate tweeter or HF unit would be completely redundant. But perhaps less obvious is that, as well as having a much faster response, when used in arrays such as this they can reproduce mind-boggling amounts of clean sub-bass. By minimising the total speaker cone surface area you minimise distortion, meaning pure, accurate bass right down to 25Hz – it’s very impressive when you hear it. So the cab goes deep, that’s for sure, but there’s more than that. Most bass speaker cabs will reproduce low end – after all, that’s the whole point. But the 12B seems to reproduce the whole of the low frequencies, so that even the low B-string on my bass has a clean attack to the front end of the note. It’s much the same through the whole register, and the sparkly clean top end seems to be a seamless extension of the high midrange.
Conclusion Most people love the tone of an early Precision, right? But that view is usually based on the sound of an old Precision heard through an equally old valve amp, or at least one of vintage design – maybe a 60s Ampeg B15 Portaflex like James Jamerson used, or a Marshall stack. Play that same old Fender through this rig and it would still sound amazing, but you’d hear so much more of the harmonic content of the instrument that it would be quite a different sound – not better or worse, but definitely different. This rig is all about clean, unadulterated, accurate bass and as such it’s going to appeal most to a certain sort of player. I’m pretty sure there are going to be many more exotic five- and six-stringers played through this rig than there are black BC Rich Warlocks, or ancient Fenders for that matter. For some players, clean and accurate isn’t necessarily the priority, and a powerful amp with a good valve gain stage will be more appealing to them than a rig like this. Horses for courses… But if it’s the most accurate representation of your bass that you’re after, then this rig is almost in a class of its own. I tried plugging in a Rickenbacker 4003, an Overwater, a Cort A9 custom and an Everson Caiman. They all sounded very distinctive and they all sounded just like amplified versions of the basses played acoustically. Talking of which, if you’re playing a double bass through this set-up, then you really should think about using a good quality mic rather than a pickup – that way you’ll hear the true and natural tone of the instrument, amplified. It’s startling and almost a little unnerving at first, but get used to it and I imagine it would be hard to settle for anything less. I guess the obvious question here is this: if this kind of design is so good, how come other manufacturers don’t build bass cabs using multiple small drivers? The answer can only be the cost of manufacture. The fact is, it’s going to take roughly 12 times as long to fit the 12B with its drivers as it would for another company to fit a single 12” speaker. Phil Jones gets around this problem to a degree by having his factory in China, but this doesn’t mean that quality is compromised: in fact Jones is obsessive about quality, to the extent that most of the components used in the M300 and 12B are made in house. At one time they were even manufacturing their own nuts and bolts! As Jones himself says, “How it’s made is more important than where it’s made.”
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Joel McIver stomps Nemphatically on three new bass effects from Italy Madison & Fifth www.madisonandfifth.co.uk
n the wake of Nespresso, the George Clooney-endorsed coffee brand, comes Nemphasis, another product with an N in front of a common word. What next, Nampeg and Nashdown? While we’re wiping away tears of laughter at our own wit, check out these proudly all-analogue pedals: a bass overdrive, compressor and chorus among them. At just under £150 each, they’re not your common-as-muck effects units, that’s for sure, but then again that price tag does make them affordable to most bassists in gainful employment. All three are the same size and weight and share the same casing, LED, stomp switch, input/output and power options, making it tempting to lay all three identical boxes in a row on your pedalboard, for those of the OCD persuasion. The Smoking Bass Overdrive is simple and dead easy to manage, with a Gain control doing all the work, Bass and Treble there to modulate the tone and a Volume pot for obvious reasons. What distinguishes the SBO from the 950 million other overdrives currently on the market is its gentle touch. The boffins at Nemphasis obviously understand that bass players’ distortion needs differ radically from those of guitarists, for whom they also build several effects units. As a result, the drive tones available here range from super-subtle, via a soft crunch and a space-rock buzz. There’s no caffeined-up, bug-eyed treble screech option, which you so often end up with when you borrow your guitarist’s distortion. If that’s the sound you need, look elsewhere.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION PRICE | £149 each MADE IN | Italy CONTROLS | (Smoking Bass Overdrive) Gain, Bass, Treble, Volume; (VT Comp Bass Optical Compressor) Compress, Attack, Level; (Steam Bass Analog Chorus) Depth, Speed, FX Level, High Pass Filter low/high selector switch POWER | 9V battery or external power supply (neither included) DIMENSIONS | 71 x 120 x 55mm WEIGHT | 250g (excl. battery)
WHAT WE THINK PLUS | Solid construction, surprisingly subtle effects range MINUS | Battery access could be quicker OVERALL | Designed for bass and true to analogue values. Bellissimo!
BGM RATING BUILD QUALITY SOUND QUALITY VALUE
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NEMPHASIS SMOKING BASS OVERDRIVE, VT COMP BASS OPTICAL COMPRESSOR, STEAM BASS ANALOG CHORUS PRICE £149 EACH
“AT JUST UNDER £150 EACH, THEY’RE NOT YOUR COMMON-AS-MUCK EFFECTS UNITS, THAT’S FOR SURE, BUT THEN AGAIN THAT PRICE TAG DOES MAKE THEM AFFORDABLE TO MOST BASSISTS IN GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT” We’ve played a few compression pedals here at BGM, and while they’re obviously best applied in a recording scenario or in a multi-FX signal chain, you can have plenty of fun with them in the familiar one bass, one pedal, one amp situation too. The VT Comp Bass Optical Compressor impressed us most with its range, offering the player anything from a mild compression and a concomitantly neater/cleaner/tidier/[insert your favourite comparative adjective] sound, all the way up to a fully squashed but still usable tone. The Compression control allows you to set the amount of tone-crushing that happens, and the Level pot is your blend of dry and processed tones, but the star of the show here is the Attack control, which permits you to ‘delay’ the onset of the compression and thus enables a very brief peak in a given note’s onset volume. Finally, the Steam Bass Analog Chorus has a secret weapon which bass players – especially those who fear that a chorus effect will turn their bottom frequencies into gloop – will relish. The High Pass Filter switch allows you to determine whether the chorus effect is applied mostly to your high or low frequencies, a welcome touch that will give you tons more manoeuvrability. The other controls – the obvious FX Level aside – need a little investigation before you find your preferred tone, not because they’re labelled any differently from other chorus pedals, but because they offer a seriously wide range of sounds. Depth is the serious control here, supplying super-deep frequency swings through to the mildest of tweaks. Conversely, Speed is like the drunk cousin at a wedding, allowing you the classic 80s slow cycle all the way up to the maximum-velocity, enraged-wasp-in-ajar reverberation that will, if we’re honest, only ever be used to annoy people. Just one negative point about these fine pedals, which is that removing the battery – should you prefer that power option – is a slightly irksome process, involving removing the entire bottom plate of each unit via four small screws. This won’t be an issue in the studio, depending on how much your fingers resemble Cumberland sausages, but at panic stations in the middle of a gig, in the pitch dark, with a strobe light on, 90 seconds before your amazing shred solo begins, you or your tech will have an 80 per cent chance of naffing it up. With so many similarlypriced and specced pedals around whose batteries flip out of a dedicated compartment with ease, this seemingly small point may be a deal-breaker for you. If not, do investigate Nemphasis with total confidence.
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BAREFACED BIG BABY II BASS CABINET PRICE £699
BAREFACED Big Baby II
Kev Sanders files his long-term test report on the Barefaced Big Baby II cab. Does it live up to the high standards set by the Compact 12s we reviewed? (Spoiler: Yes it does!) Barefaced www.barefacedbass.com
f we were to run a BGM reviewers’ Gear Of The Year award, a serious contender for a gong in the bass cabinet category would have to be the Barefaced Super Compact 12 cabs we tested back in BGM 113. We were impressed not only by the quality of the sound, but also by the fresh approach that the guys at Barefaced had taken to both the design and construction. Around the same time we were also given one of the company’s Big Baby IIs for long-term appraisal. It’s still a single 12” cab, but a bit bigger than the SC12s. The addition of a high quality horn unit gives the cab a slightly wider frequency response too. Like all Barefaced cabs, the BB2 has a traditional, even retro look – an image reinforced by the silver cloth grille and chrome corner protectors. To recap, they’re constructed around a complex internal structure of interlocking panels made from 9mm dual density ply. This not only makes them incredibly rigid, but also very light. We’ve gigged, recorded and rehearsed the Big Baby II cab relentlessly, and the good news is that it’s performed faultlessly. The quality of the sound, even at very high volumes, has continued to impress with its lack of distortion and full, HiFi-accurate tone. The addition of the HF unit, which is adjustable via an attenuator on the rear panel, makes it even more versatile, and unlike the Compact 12s (which we felt were better suited to electric bass) the BB2 cab sounds just as impressive with double
“WE’VE GIGGED, RECORDED AND REHEARSED THE BIG BABY II CAB RELENTLESSLY, AND THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT IT’S PERFORMED FAULTLESSLY” bass as it does with four- and five-string bass guitar. So, no bad bits at all? Not really: the hard, glossy black finish dulled a little during the cold weather, but it was soon brought back to its initial shine with a quick squirt of Mr Sheen and a polishing cloth. The single strap handle on the side is a little tight to get your fingers under, but that’s about it, and even though we’ve been transporting it without a case or cover, it looks and sounds as good as it did when new, despite being in and out of dozens of hire vans and car boots. One Big Baby II cab works brilliantly for so many different applications that personally, I think a 4 ohm version of this cab would be a great idea. That way you’d get full power and headroom from your amp and if used sensibly the cab would certainly handle it.
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Cliff Burton Tribute Power Wah Fuzz For Whom The Wah Tolls? Therapy? bassist Michael McKeegan gets to grips with Morley’s long awaited Cliff Burton signature wah fuzz pedal Westside Distribution www.westsidedistribution.com
his pedal has been long awaited by both bassists and fans of the sadly deceased original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, whose technique and tone have rarely been surpassed. One of Cliff’s signature, and at the time hugely unorthodox, techniques was using an overdriven wah bass sound, which he used to deliver eerie motifs throughout the first three classic Metallica albums. Thankfully, rather than just go for an easy retro copy, Morley has used the original 70s Morley wah that Cliff used as the basis of the new pedal’s sound, as well as adding a couple of contemporary build and sonic features. The first thing that strikes you is that the pedal is a solid beast: there’s plenty of weight to it, thanks to a chassis made of roadworthy cold-rolled steel. Power comes from either an easily accessed 9V battery or a dedicated Morley power supply (not supplied). The mains might be a good investment, as I could see this pedal being a major drain on batteries – especially when both fuzz and wah are in use. Starting with the main feature of the wah, it’s engaged by clicking on the chunky right footswitch: even if you’ve never used a wah pedal before, it’s a very intuitive set-up, and there’s a wonderful organic feel to working the pedal and reacting to the different tones. It’s perfect for adding colour to funk and soul lines: add an envelope filter in front of this and you’ll soon have a serious case of bass face. With a full low to high frequency range, there’s a good chance you’ll get more out of this than by using a standard guitar wah – although the Morley sales pitch also boasts that the pedal is perfect for guitar, keyboard and vocal usage. I wouldn’t doubt that, but I’m here on a strictly bass-only mission... In one of the main updates, the pedal offers two types of fuzz, modern and vintage, which are accessed by a small switch on the left of the pedal. This is a nice touch, as you can choose from the classic, woolly Big Muff-style fuzz as favoured by Cliff, or opt for a slightly harsher modern distortion. Both sound great, sacrificing none of the weight of the bottom end and offering a suitably diverse range of sounds – although on a personal level the modern setting seems to have an extra bite and clarity to it. Like the wah, there is a level knob which helpfully lets you control the level of distortion and, coupled with the intensity control which controls the fuzz saturation, it’s quite easy to balance the level jump between your clean and effected sounds. Most of the fun occurs when both effects are being used simultaneously, and with the fuzz exaggerating the wah frequencies, it throws up some pretty wild tones. There’s quite a long bit of transit in the foot pedal, so depending on where the
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“FULL CREDIT TO MORLEY: THIS PEDAL IS PUT TOGETHER WITH THEIR USUAL ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND IT IS CERTAINLY NO CHEAP CASH-IN”
MORLEY CLIFF BURTON TRIBUTE POWER WAH FUZZ PRICE £185
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION WHAT WE THINK PLUS | Built to last, and the full range sweep is second to none MINUS | Slightly impractical switching system OVERALL | Contemporary update of a vintage classic makes for a fun and inspiring pedal perfect for any genre
BGM RATING BUILD QUALITY SOUND QUALITY VALUE
pedal sweep is held, you can get a great, fluid, cello-like effect as well – perfect for highlighting melodic lead lines. The sweeps, squalls and various otherworldly sounds that this beast produces at volume are absolutely phenomenal, so it’s definitely a pedal to lose one’s inhibitions with. One small niggle would be that, as a fan of the older ‘Dual Wah’ model, I miss the instant switching function, where the wah engaged just by pushing on the foot pedal. With this version there is an inevitable slight pause when clicking the buttons in to engage both the wah and fuzz, which might prove awkward in the middle of a show or session. Full credit to Morley: this pedal is put together with their usual attention to detail and it is certainly no cheap cash-in. They’ve gone the extra mile with the update on the sounds, and I can see this pedal appealing right across the board to players in many different genres, not just metalheads and Cliff fans. Most of all this is a fun, inspirational pedal to use and lends itself to the player ‘going with the flow’ and seeing what glorious sounds come out. That, coupled with the rugged build and inspiring tones, deserves to make this a staple on any player’s board.
BASS GUITAR MAGAZINE 065
DIGITAL EDITIONS AVAILABLE ON iPAD, iPHONE AND ANDROID VISIT
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MaKinG you a Better Bass Player
elcome to our redesigned tuition section, in which Bass Guitar Magazine collates the wit and wisdom of the crème de la crème of the electric and upright bass world. We’re fortunate enough to have some serious talent on the team, from world-class music educators to experienced touring musicians, who between them have laid down the low notes in every studio, club and arena in the civilised world. Note that we’ve divided the columns according to Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced level for easy reference. Whether you’re looking to improve your playing technique, expand your awareness of theory, set up your rig to sound like your particular bass hero or simply get on a bus and tour, we provide the answers you need here. What are you waiting for? Dive in... Joel McIver, editor
Ellen O’Reilly is a freelance bassist and vocalist currently studying at ICMP. Ellen has extensive experience in gigging, studio and television work. www.lowendlady.com
ellen o’reillY BEGINNER’S THEORY
Paul Geary attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Musicians’ Institute of Technology. He also heads up the Academy Of Contemporary Music’s bass school. www.paulgeary.com
paul gearY BEGINNER’S THEORY
Rob Statham has amassed over 25 years as a professional freelance bass player. He has played in a wide range of musical settings, including jazz, blues, prog and classical, and he has taught for the past three years at Tech Music School.
rob STaTham INTERMEDIATE TECHNIQUES
Alex Webster founded the frankly terrifying Cannibal Corpse in 1988 and has guested since then on musically complex projects such as Blotted Science. He is the author of the Extreme Metal Bass instruction book.
aleX WebSTer INTERMEDIATE THEORY
Head of the Bass Department at BIMM Brighton, Franc has worked with artists such as Steve Howe (Yes), Lisa Moorish, and Mike Lindup (Level 42). Franc uses Jeff Chapman basses and Elites strings. www.francoshea.com
franc o’Shea ADVANCED THEORY
Say hello to advanced techniques columnist Philip Mann, star of studio and stage. Ready to get those fingers flying? Mann up...
philip mann ADVANCED TECHNIQUES
David Etheridge studied double bass at the Royal College of Music. Since then he’s worked with musicians such as Nigel Kennedy and Martin Taylor. David teaches double and electric bass and is the MD of two big bands and a 55-piece jazz orchestra.
david eTheridge UPRIGHT BASS
Mike has written for BGM since 2004 and has been a bassist since 1987, clocking up over 3000 gigs around the world in the process. He has played for and worked with the likes of Bonnie Tyler and Toyah Willcox, and has a bass collection to rival a small shop.
miKe brooKS COVER BAND PRO
Steve Lawson is the UK’s most celebrated solo bass guitarist, with 15 years of touring and 36 solo and collaborative albums to his name. He also lectures at colleges around the world. www.stevelawson.net
STeve laWSon EFFECTS MAESTRO 068 Bass Guitar MaGazine
bgm Notation Legend The following is a guide to the notation symbols and terminology used in Bass Guitar Magazine The Stave: most music written for the bass guitar uses the bass clef. The example to the right shows the placement of the notes on the stave. Tablature: this is a graphical representation of the music. Each horizontal line corresponds with a string on the bass guitar, with the lowest line representing the lowest pitched string (E). The numbers represent the frets to be played. Numbers stacked vertically indicate notes that are played together. Where basses with five or six strings are required, the tablature stave will have five or six lines as necessary. Notes shown in brackets indicate that a note has been tied over from a previous bar.
Slap and Pop Technique
Notes slapped with the thumb are marked with a ‘t’, notes popped with the fingers marked with a ‘p’
Advanced slap Technique
Fretting hand slaps are marked ’lh’ and double thumbing upstrokes are shown with an upward pointing arrow
Where necessary, down and upstrokes with the pick will be shown using these symbols (down-up-down-up)
Fretting hand taps are shown with a ‘+’ in a circle. Picking hand taps are shown with ‘+’. Specific fingers will be shown with numbers if necessary
Hammer-On and Pull-Off
Hammer-ons and pull-offs are shown with a slur over the notes. Only the first note is plucked by the picking hand
Slides are performed by playing the first note then sliding the fretting finger up to the second note
Trills are performed by rapidly alternating between the two notes shown using hammer-ons and pull-offs
The note is played as a harmonic by lightly touching the string above the fret indicated
Pluck the string while fretting the lower note and placing the edge of the picking hand thumb an octave higher (the note shown in brackets)
The pitch of the note is altered by repeatedly bending the string up and back with the fretting finger
The note is bent upwards to the interval specified: ½ = semitone, full = tone
Bend and Release
The note is bent up to the interval indicated then released back to its original pitch
Bass Guitar Magazine 069
front line Want to make it as a professional bassist? Listen up as BGM’s world-class bass team reports back from the tourbus The Jazz Bassist Ruth Goller
Jazz guru Ruth discusses the value of humility I wouldn’t describe myself as a session musician, because I don’t do a lot of one-off studio recordings, but I’m definitely part of a lot of different bands. An important prerequisite for any musician is to be calm, straightforward and reasonable. A lot of artists can be very eccentric and seem to think that their art is the most important thing in the world. Of course, approaching your art with confidence is a good thing, especially in today’s competitive world where it seems that almost everyone is an artist, but it’s crucial to realise that you’re not the only one with a creative output. Every musician has something to say, and everyone’s art is equally valuable. This is a sensitive issue and, in my eyes at least, not discussed enough between artists. Situations vary from band to band, of course: in some groups you take on the role of a session musician, meaning that the music is pretty much set and you’re there to execute it in a live situation; other bands require more artistic input, but are still led by one individual. The latter situations are the trickiest, because as soon as you supply a certain amount of creative input, the project becomes a little bit yours as well. However, you’re not really involved in the final decision-making – which can be frustrating! Then you have projects which are collaborative, where everybody has an equal say on everything. As much as I like those situations (and I am in a couple of bands like that, where we work well together), it can be difficult to get anything done, because you need everybody’s approval on all issues. And with most musicians having a very strong idea of what they want, compromise is difficult to achieve. The final situation, then, is having your own band and making all the decisions. As much as that means creative freedom, it also means a lot more work, because you have to do everything by yourself. I definitively think it’s good to experience all these different dynamics, because they not only teach you about playing different styles and becoming quick at learning new sets of music, but also about dealing with different personalities – sometimes in quite stressful situations.
The Metalhead Paolo Gregoletto
Trivium bassist Paolo studies band psychology I’ve always been fascinated by the make-up of bands. With each group comes a different dynamic between players and writers. The identity and sound come from how those members interact in the studio and live, it’s the magic that makes those special records. Often if you take out an integral piece it will not be the same. Yet sometimes it gets better in a totally unforeseen way, and the rest is history. Looking at the way that Trivium has grown as a band, I think initially it was the more traditional setup of a band leader with contributing bandmembers. Matt Heafy, as the lead singer, will always be the figurehead to the public, and I think it’s important to have a defined centrepiece to a group, but we have changed dramatically behind the scenes. I think the writing is where we have altered the most. We write as a three-piece, and not to discount the drumming side of the creative process, but the initial ideas begin with Matt, Corey Beaulieu, or me. From writing nothing on the Ascendancy album to almost 60 per cent of some of our last few records, my role has changed the most dramatically. I believe that all of us allowing each other to grow and create has spawned some incredible ideas. We expect a certain level of quality in each other’s music, and we respect that each of us brings in something unique to our sound. Some writers are just so talented that it’s undeniable. The success of a band with a central figure comes down to them delegating responsibilities. I view a guy like Bruce Springsteen as a great example. He is the main writer and leader without a doubt, but it’s his ability to see the benefit of letting the E Street band members shine in his songs, highlighting their talents, that makes him great. It’s important to understand the role you play in a band. Excelling at what you do best will serve the music more than interjecting yourself into an aspect of the music where you are not as strong. This seems to be the biggest area of contention for bands – the idea of getting fair credit, or having a chance to prove you can write, sing, or play just as well as the next guy. Being in a rock band is like walking on the edge of a cliff and hoping the ground doesn’t give out beneath you – but understanding the personalities in your group can help to keep the ground stable beneath your feet.
© Scott Uchida
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the front line The Alternative Rocker
The Extended-Range Specialist
Stew talks tonic... but we’re waiting for the gin © www-ashleybird-com
Therapy? bassist Mike takes a much-needed rest
Back home after a great run of shows through Europe and the UK – and, bar a couple of unforeseen technical problems and a nasty dose of the flu, all the shows went off without a hitch. With 14 albums behind us, one of the biggest challenges was writing the setlist for the tour. Obviously we wanted to showcase the new songs but we’re also aware of the fact that a lot of people want to hear the hits. Thankfully the hits are well-written and really nice songs to play: it’s always a thrill to see how the crowd react to them. We’ve also been very lucky that all the new songs have been well received, and we made the conscious decision to play eight or nine of them each night in the set. It was a bold move, maybe, but it certainly paid off as the reaction was ace. Quite a few people also commented on the fact that the new songs slotted in perfectly with the older stuff in a sonic respect. It was good to hear that had come across, as we’d also tried to group the songs in batches with regard to tuning. The reduced guitar changes also helped keep the energy level up, as we could begin to segue songs together and find nice little intros that tied them into sequence. Towards the end of the tour everything was dialled in perfectly with regard to playing and performance, so that’s when a bit of jamming and improv began to creep in. That’s always a nice way to put a fresh twist on the songs and also helps keep us on our toes. It was also cool that some of the audience who had attended multiple gigs got to see a few different takes on the tunes. One of the more interesting moments came when we did an acoustic session in a studio on a day off: it was a bit of a challenge working out which songs and which versions of them would work well in that stripped-back format, but after a bit of rearranging we got the tunes sounding great. It’ll be interesting to see what people make of these versions without all the usual sonic intensity. With the album just out a couple of months, and with festivals and part two of the tour being booked right now, it seems like there will be a lot more opportunities for us to play these songs out.
To develop further the idea I put forth in the last piece, here is another way to add interest to your playing: utilising chords that are related to what you’re playing, without being built directly from the tonic. For the sake of continuity, let’s continue using an E minor bass. If the E minor is built on E, G and B (adding the D to give it a minor seventh voicing, if you like), consider playing those chords built from the chord tones – G major, B minor and D major. Each offers a different kind of colour or tension, and each may or may not make sense in the music you’re playing. Remember that for each of these chords you have multiple inversions to try: sometimes just playing two notes will work in a way that a more complex chord will not. For instance, if the band is playing a section in E minor and you choose to play the G at the fifth fret of your D string and the D on the seventh fret of your G string, or the D at the 12th fret of the D string and the A at the 14th fret of the G string, in a power chord fashion or as a rhythm stab, you will create a sense of urgency, whereas the use of a G major triad or a B minor triad arpeggiated in the same context will generate a more thoughtful sound. If you start to displace the notes across the extended range of your bass, you will explore texture the way a composer does. Using the previous example of the band playing in E minor, let your low B sustain beneath what the band is doing while you add colour to the soundscape by playing a D major triad (D-F#-A), starting with the D at the 17th fret of the A string. That rumbling B pedal tone (the fifth of the E chord) will add power and darkness to the overall sound, while the A (the perfect fourth or subdominant) and the F# (the second, or more correctly the ninth) are consonant notes that are not often used by bassists except as passing tones. Investigate their sound while sustained or used in arpeggios. Remember, power is not just exerting muscle. It can be found while using restraint, too.
www.facebook.com + search ‘Stewart McKinsey’
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ELLEN CONTINUES HER MISSION TO MAKE SIGHTREADING EASY AND FUN
ello again bass buddies, hope you are all keeping it low! In the last issue we had a look at the musical stave, which was part of my evil scheme to get you all reading music... As discussed in last month’s column, the stave is the framework that keeps all the musical information in place. By looking at the stave we have already seen what notes each of the lines and spaces represent, for bass (which is indicated by the bass clef at the beginning of the stave) the lines from bottom to top are: G B D F A and the spaces from bottom to top are: A C E G. These notes can be seen as they appear on the stave in Example 1. There is a handy way to learn off by heart all your notes on the stave: use rhymes to remember the order the notes go in. The rhyme for the lines is as follows: Good Boys Deserve Fruit Always. The rhyme for the spaces goes like this: All Cows Eat Grass. Each capital letter in the rhyme represents a different note on the stave. So, now we know what each note is on the stave but what about the value of that note? What I mean by the value is, how long do we hold a note for? How
many beats in a bar is it worth? So let’s take a look at how notes are broken up to represent different beats and what they look like. Take a look over at Example 2, this shows four of the many ways note values can be divided up. The note to the left is called a whole note, which lasts for four beats, so play a low E as indicated in the example, and let it ring out for four beats, counting 1 2 3 4. The next note is called a half note and that is written when a note needs to be played for two beats, so play a low E on beats one and three counting to four as you do so. The next four notes in Example 2 are called quarter notes because they represent each beat, so play a low E on your bass and as you play, count each note: 1 2 3 4. The final bar in Example 2 shows eight notes: for these, play both the downbeat and upbeat (the downbeat being the number you give the beat and the upbeat being the ‘&’ between the numbers). So play two notes per beat here counting up to four, as 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. The following diagram shows exactly how each note is divided, with the whole note at the top. This is divided into half notes, then quarter notes and so on.
“THE RHYME FOR THE LINES IS AS FOLLOWS: GOOD BOYS DESERVE FRUIT ALWAYS” A good way of counting out the beats as you play these different note values is to tap out each beat with your foot: the down beat is when your foot hits the floor, the upbeat is when your foot is mid air. Give these exercises a go and you’ll be a sight-reading whiz in no time!
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TAPPING HARDER THAN FRED ASTAIRE AT A WOODPECKER SANCTUARY, SESSION ACE PAUL GEARY TAKES A LOOK AT THE SINGLE-STRING TECHNIQUE
s a technique, tapping has its roots set firmly within the guitar world – but over the years tapping has developed on bass guitar to a point where it is used extensively to enhance the melodic and harmonic content of a song. My take on bass, and in particular tapping, has always been to explore the capabilities of the instrument, sonically, harmonically and melodically. Tapping certainly has its place, although you wouldn’t want to use it in an audition for a pop gig…
EXAMPLE 1 Let’s start out by looking at the G string to tap our first notes. Place the first finger of your fretting hand on the E note at the ninth fret of the G string. Keep it planted there for the whole exercise. Grip the neck with your thumb and second finger of your plucking hand, leaving your first finger to tap the B note at the sixteenth fret of the G string. Tap down hard on the B note with the first finger of the plucking hand and then pull off with the same finger, allowing the E note to ring out. Next, hammer
on down hard with the little finger of the fretting hand at the twelfth fret of the G string (double dots), playing the G note. Repeat this movement, remembering to take your little finger off the G note at the twelfth fret when you pull off from the B note. This will take a little practice at first, but you should get the hang of it quite quickly. Don’t go too fast, but make sure you can hear all of the notes. All of these examples are to be played up the octave (8va) and in a 6/8 time signature.
EXAMPLE 2 Repeat this process, substituting the B note for a C note at the 17th fret of the G string. Try switching between the two notes after each grouping, making sure you are tapping, pulling off and hammering on each note. The important thing is to make sure you can actually hear each note.
“MY TAKE ON BASS, AND IN PARTICULAR TAPPING, HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO EXPLORE THE CAPABILITIES OF THE INSTRUMENT, SONICALLY, HARMONICALLY AND MELODICALLY”
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tuition Beginner’s techniques
Examples 3 and 4 Repeat the same shape across the strings for the last two examples, varying the tempo but changing the strings each time. Feel free to have a go with the E string. This will take a little more effort and strength but should yield a good result. Next time we will put these notes in to a tapping progression. Until then, enjoy!
Bass Guitar Magazine 075
ROB STATHAM EXPLORES THE WORLD OF NATURAL HARMONICS, AN ESSENTIAL TOOL FOR ALL OF US
n previous columns, we’ve explored harmonics in some detail, and so this month I’d like to go a little further and explore the use of natural harmonics up to the tenth harmonic, demonstrating their usefulness in creating melodies, chords, and added colour to our bass-lines. I’m going to concentrate on natural harmonics as opposed to false harmonics, a topic we’ve already looked at in its own right. All of the harmonics in this month’s examples can be produced in the usual way, with the fretting finger resting lightly on the string at a certain point, with the string then being plucked to produce the required harmonic note. Note that when we get to the sixth harmonic and beyond, the tab positions are shown as decimal fractions. So for instance, the sixth harmonic is just to the bridge side of the third fret and has been indicated
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as 3.2. These fractions are just a guideline, so you might need to use a certain amount of trial and error before you find exactly where the note is. The first example is the notes of the harmonic series as found on the G string up as far as the 10th harmonic. A few points to note here: firstly, the note-head of harmonics is usually shown as the diamond shape, as indicated.
TECHNIQUES INTERMEDIATE TECHNIQUES
Secondly, the 15ma and dotted line above the notes signifies that the actual pitches are two octaves above what the notation would indicate. Also you’ll notice that I start at the second harmonic: this is because the first harmonic, or fundamental, is simply the open string. Note further that the notes spell out a dominant seven arpeggio. Specifically, from the second harmonic, we have root, fifth, octave; and then, in the next octave, major third, fifth, minor seventh; then another octave; and, finally, the second in the next octave, and then the major third, this being the 10th harmonic. Although I have decided to only go as far as the 10th harmonic, it is possible to go even further, though the notes are harder to find and play clearly. But, for the intrepid, the next harmonic, the 11th, is found just beyond the tenth, moving toward the nut, and is the sharp eleven, a C# on the G string. As you can appreciate, the notes of the harmonic series eventually spell out a Lydian seven chord: that is, a dominant seven with a raised fourth. Now, by combining these natural harmonic positions across all four strings it is possible to play quite a long sequence of natural harmonics that constitute all the notes of a particular scale, specifically a G Lydian scale if we start from the 12th fret on the G string. In fact, we can play two octaves plus a major third of a G Lydian scale with all the notes in the correct sequence and octave, as I illustrate in the next example. Bearing in mind the modes inherent in this scale, it can be seen that it is very useful for finding melodies in a number of modes. So, in G Lydian, we can play also in B Aeolian, A Mixolydian, E Dorian, F# Phrygian, C# Locrian, and D major, or Ionian, to give it its modal name. With practice you will be able to find the harmonics between
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“BY COMBINING THESE NATURAL HARMONIC POSITIONS ACROSS ALL FOUR STRINGS IT IS POSSIBLE TO PLAY QUITE A LONG SEQUENCE OF NATURAL HARMONICS THAT CONSTITUTE ALL THE NOTES OF A PARTICULAR SCALE” the frets fairly reliably. You’ll notice also that the higher positions, as we move toward the nut, are harder to play clearly, and also begin to deviate from equal temperament, our 12-tone chromatic scale representing something of an approximation of natural harmonics. The third example is a two-bar G Lydian vamp, making use of these harmonics and also, in the second bar, adding a fretted tone – a low G – to help establish the harmony and also add some rhythmic impetus. I don’t go higher than the sixth harmonic in this example, so the notes are fairly easy to find, but remember that the sixth harmonic is not quite over the third fret, rather slightly on the bridge side as indicated. On the second beat of the first bar I use, in the plucking hand, thumb, first, and then second finger to play the notes, the aim being to allow them to continue ringing. In a similar fashion, the two notes played as a double stop on beat three should be left to ring out for the rest of that bar and into the second bar, so careful fretting is necessary to make sure we don’t cut the notes short. The final example is a four-bar bass-line on a II-V vamp, E minor 7 to A7, in which we play some melody using harmonics up to the 10th harmonic, a bass-line played normally on the E string, and also a harmonic chord, the A7 in the third bar, so there’s quite a bit going on here. Firstly, find the melody and ensure that is under the fingers: it’s pretty much the same each time, just that on the second time we finish on the A7 chord. Here we are using some of the upper harmonic positions, so it might take a little trial and error to find exactly where the notes are. Once you have found them you can see it is all very close together, so it’s not too difficult to play once we’re comfortable with the positions for the harmonics. I am plucking the chord with thumb, first, and second finger, and again we need to ensure we don’t damp any of the strings and let the notes ring. The bass-line is all on the open E string in the second bar, although in the fourth bar there are some more notes, but it can still all be played on the E string, ideally not damping the upper strings and allowing the A7 chord to continue to ring out. As you can see, being able to locate all the natural harmonics up to the 10th harmonic on each string affords us many possibilities in terms of melodies and chords, all of which can add a great deal of colour to our ideas and enhance our bass-lines.
BASS GUITAR MAGAZINE 077
METAL GURU WEBSTER EXAMINES THE WORLD OF 5/4
n the past two columns we’ve looked at the odd meters 7/8 and 11/8, both of which can be created by removing an 8th note from a more standard meter (4/4 and 12/8 respectively). This month let’s look at 5/4, a signature that could be seen as adding time to a meter (4/4), in this case a full quarter note rather than an 8th. We’ll start by comparing a standard measure of 4/4 with a measure of 5/4. The accents will be on the first and third beats of the 4/4 measures, and the first and fourth beats of the 5/4 measures. The 3+2 feel this pattern creates is probably the most typical you’ll encounter in 5/4. In Example 2 we’ll look at two more feels in 5/4, each created by accenting 8th notes in a different way. The first two measures show a 3, 3, 2, 2 grouping of 8th notes. For a famous example of this feel check out Lalo Schifrin’s ‘Mission: Impossible Theme’. If you hadn’t previously noticed that song was written in 5/4, it’s
testament to the fact that odd meters don’t have to sound quirky or unconventional. In the hands of a skilled composer they can be as catchy and easy to follow as anything written in a more standard meter. The second part of Example 2 shows a 2, 3, 3, 2 grouping of 8th notes. Both patterns in this example have accents that land off the beat: keep this in mind while you’re tapping your foot and/or playing with a click.
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TUITION INTERMEDIATE THEORY
© Alison Webster
“MEMORISE A LICK OR TWO USING GROUPINGS LIKE THESE AND TRY USING THEM TO IMPROVISE OVER 5/4 AGAINST ONE OF THE SIGNATURE’S MORE COMMON FEELS”
In Example 3 we’ll start subdividing the beat with 16th notes. You’ll recognise the accent patterns in the first, third, and fourth measures from the first two examples. The fifth and sixth measures of the example feature more advanced groupings of 16ths: 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2 and 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 2. You may not run into patterns like these as much the others, but if you know them it can be really helpful. Memorise a lick or two using groupings like these and try using them to improvise over 5/4 against one of the signature’s more common feels – a very interesting effect can be created, and if you nail it you’ll probably turn your bandmates’ heads. In Example 4 we’ll play the patterns from the first two examples over some simple chord changes. Once you’re comfortable with these basics, try using some of the other patterns over the same progression. As with any odd meter, 5/4 will feel a lot less “odd” once you become familiar with it.
BASS GUITAR MAGAZINE 079
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Fusion Means never havinG to say ‘that’s iMPossiBLe!’ says Franc
n this month’s column I will continue looking at how a fusion solo can be effectively devised. I will start by looking at how we can combine various left hand patterns with right hand raking patterns. An effective approach when attempting to analyse ideas such as these is to map out what is available and condense ideas into appropriate groups. Example 1 assigns more than one number to certain individual left hand fingers. Normally your left hand fingers have the numbers one to four assigned to them, where 1 equals your index finger, 2 your middle, 3 your ring finger and finally 4 your little finger. When playing scales in one position we normally place three notes on each string and use a left hand fingering of 1, 2 and 4, or 1, 3 and 4, or even 1, 2 and 3. Once we start getting into combinations of these patterns and different permutations of these numbers, things can start getting complicated. All the patterns use the first finger in them but the variations occur with the other fingers and can be 2 and 4, 3 and 4, or even 2 and 3. But by assigning the numbers 2 and 3 to encompass all these possibilities, we can
condense everything down to just two numbers (three including the 1). So 2 can represent either the middle or ring finger, and 3 can represent either the ring or little finger, as demonstrated in the first example. Example 2 demonstrates all the combinations of the numbers 1, 2 and 3 and also splits them into two groups. Group A starts out (Ai) showing the numbers in a descending order: 3, 2, 1, but then Aii places the first number at the end of the sequence so that what was the second number, now becomes the first: 2, 1, 3. The same process continues for Aiii so that we have 1, 3, 2, and then all the possible permutations have been found (if you were to continue the process you would be back at the original permutation of 3, 2, 1). Group B demonstrates the numbers
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in the ascending order of 1, 2, 3, and by using the same process as we did for Group A, we find that the possible permutations are Bi = 1, 2, 3, Bii = 2, 3, 1, and Biii = 3, 1, 2. The left hand pattern shown in Example 2 is actually 1 = index, 2 = middle finger and 3 = little finger. You will find, however, that these condensed left hand patterns can be applied to all seven note scales played in one position. Example 3 uses exactly the same right hand raking pattern that appeared in Example 8 of my column last month. The only difference this month is the left hand fingering and the placement of accents, which now give a feeling of groups of six. Obviously a group of six notes is two lots of three and by analysing the third example it will become apparent that the left hand fingering pattern employed is 1, 2 and 3 (Bi) as opposed to the 3, 2, and 1 (Ai) pattern shown last month. Since we are attempting to build up speed, it is convenient that the left hand just continually repeats the same three note pattern as it descends the entire scale and as the notes are continually changing, a complex six note pattern is created that shifts to different degrees of the scale. Example 4 creates a particularly angular sounding fusion run but the right hand raking pattern is exactly the same as in the previous example. It is only the left hand pattern that has changed, which is now 3, 1 and 2 (Biii), and the specific fingering employed throughout is the ring finger, then the first finger and then the middle finger. If the root of the first six notes was taken as D (12th fret of the D string), then the pattern would be consistent with outlining key notes in a D7 chord. It would be the 4th, minor 3rd, major 3rd, root, minor 7th, and finally the major 3rd again. The second group of six notes starts with the accented semiquaver on the ‘and’ of beat two. This is exactly the same pattern as the previous one, except that it starts a tritone lower, suggesting overall a D7b5 chord. The final group of six in this example is the same as the first only an octave lower.
tuition Advanced theory
Example 5 uses a similar pattern to the previous example, although this pattern is extended to eight notes, where the first note of five is accented creating a group, as is the first note of the second group creating a group of three. The group of three notes is shifted up a semitone to make the pattern ascend up the frets and is followed by the first pattern of five, which is shifted up another semitone. You could carry on like this until you ran out of frets but you can also descend down the fingerboard. Example 6 uses the same right hand raking pattern as the previous example but demonstrates how you could ascend diatonically. Both Examples 5 and 6 show us that we can ascend by using a repeating raking pattern on two strings and just shifting the left hand pattern up the fingerboard. This is interesting, since due to the fact that raking is created by dragging your finger down from a higher pitched string to a lower pitched string, it means that patterns tend to naturally descend rather than ascend. This can be overcome not only by using ascending patterns, but also by using patterns similar to the one shown in Example 7. Here we see that even though the pattern descends in places, the overall melodic shift is rising. This can be accomplished by selecting an appropriate raking pattern and starting it on lower pitched adjacent strings, that will then transfer to the next higher pitched adjacent strings without changing the right hand fingering, as demonstrated using a whole tone scale in both bars of Example 8. Example 9 demonstrates another way that you can ascend quickly, this time not by using raking, but by including hammer ons mixed with picked notes. Since two of each group of three notes is picked, at speed this gives the illusion that all the notes are picked. When combined with the descending raking technique, this can be an effective way to rapidly ascend and descend a scale.
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As previously mentioned, like the major scale, melodic minor can also be harmonised producing seven arpeggios and chords that can in turn be used to create progressions and additional harmonic content. Example 2 examines these as 7th chord structures. Work through each arpeggio, making sure that you learn the positions off by heart as these will form the basis for the extended technique exercises that follow.
PHIL MANN BRINGS YOU THE MELODIC MINOR!
orking with minor tonality can be more complex than working with major; for a start, there are three primary minor scales to consider, each sounding substantially different to the next, with only minimal changes. Today we’ll be working with melodic minor. In the world of classical harmony and theory, melodic minor differs depending on whether it is ascending or descending. On the way up, you play melodic minor (essentially a major scale with a flattened 3rd), then on the way down you play Aeolian (better known as the natural minor scale). However, in jazz, melodic minor is more commonly recognised as the same structure played in both ascent and descent, thus allowing us to harmonise it in a similar nature to that of the major modes. It’s worth noting that you may see this referred to as the minor jazz scale. Together with its various modes (Dorian b2, Lydian augmented, Lydian dominant, Mixolydian b6, Locrian #2 and the altered scale), melodic minor has a fundamental importance in the field of improvisation. Let’s have a look through Example 1 and gain familiarity with its intervals and diatonic contents.
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EXAMPLE 3 This month’s third exercise isolates the thumb, index and middle fingers in the plucking to produce an ascending stream of 7th chords. Although not indicated in the notation, if you wish, hold down the entire chord structure in your fretting hand for each bar, allowing the notes to ring out as a harmonic chord, rather than being played just melodically as indicated. As always, practise these shapes in all key centres. You may have noticed that there are no key signatures present in this month’s exercises: this is because although clearly suggesting C minor, melodic minor doesn’t actually belong to any specific key signature and thus should always be written in accidentals.
TUITION ADVANCED TECHNIQUES
EXAMPLE 4 Now that you have a general overview of the harmonised melodic minor scale, let’s put it to better use and create some grooves and ambient sounds. You’ll find that the scale has some lovely textures to investigate that have been used to provide a basis for the following exercises. Continuing our study of three-fingered technique, our penultimate example combines the sextuplet rhythms found in last month’s columns with the harmonic and melodic content we’ve just introduced to produce a nice melodic groove. As a refresher, sextuplets are most effectively counted using the mnemonic ‘one-and-a-sex-tup-let’
or more comically, ‘bib-a-di-bob-a-di’. The G7 chord found in bar two is played with thumb, index and middle fingers simultaneously, as is the F7 found in bar four.
EXAMPLE 5 This month’s final exercise is an E minor groove. In this example I have not indicated fingering for the plucking hand. This gives you an opportunity to work them out for yourself, basing your decisions on the information you have already encountered in today’s work. I will, however, give you one hint... bars one and three are slapped, the remaining bars, two and four, are played fingerstyle. Until next time, practise hard!
“IN JAZZ, MELODIC MINOR IS RECOGNISED AS THE SAME STRUCTURE PLAYED IN BOTH ASCENT AND DESCENT”
BASS GUITAR MAGAZINE
Free up Your FinGerBoarD, saYs DaViD etheriDGe
ome years ago I had a great time playing in the pit on panto gigs. They’re terrific fun, and some of my memories include crying with laughter at the antics on stage. They’re also very demanding in the range of music you might play: pop tunes, standards, film and TV themes and much more, and some you have to busk off the top of your head if anything goes contrary to plan (which usually happens every night). One year the opening song was ‘Slap That Bass’ but with different words. I was using my five-string bass guitar on it, and when following the chords my hands went through the usual positions, but as if I was playing four strings. I worked out a much simpler fingering that used less movement and also used the bottom B string, but when it came to the show my hands religiously went back to the earlier fingering that had more position shifts. In the heat of the moment I was using an approach that I was used to, but was actually more difficult to play.
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So this time around we’ll look at approaches to intervals with different fingerings: both grouping intervals under the hand, and also using position shifts. Some double bass methods offer exercises in intervals, but only offer one type of fingering: here we’ll expand on this to show the options, and the principles can be used in any key. Have a look at Example 1: a scale of C in thirds. At the start we’re in half position, going up to first for the A and B, and moving up to the higher notes with either 4, 2 fingering for semitones or a 4, 1 fingering for whole tones. Coming back down, we’re grouping the fingerings and shifts on one string and ending up in 1st position, although you could play the last bar in half position just as easily if you wish.
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This is common advice that you’ll find in many bass methods. However, if you look at the fingering below the stave, there’s an alternative. Here, we’re grouping the thirds in parallel fingerings rather than moving up in steps. Your hand will move in discrete steps, with either a 4, 2 or 4, 1 fingering across two strings. Now this is relatively easy in keys that let you use open strings, so let’s take a look at the same example transposed into a ‘difficult’ key. In Example 2, here’s the same exercise in Db. Notice that with the top fingering – which is the traditional sort of thing that you find in instruction books – you’re doing a lot of switching back and forth between half and 1st positions, while the grouping of notes from Ab upwards tends to be between the tones and semitones of this scale in thirds. Notice that I’ve changed the descending fingering in a couple of places to show you some more alternatives. By comparison, the lower fingering is exactly the same as it was in Example 1: we’re grouping the notes in pairs over major and minor thirds, rather than shifting position to get the intervals. Now here’s the important point: both methods work equally well. My personal preference is for grouping the thirds under the hand and working across the strings; I find that it’s less effort. Let’s look now how this applies to fourths on the bass. Now you might be thinking ‘easy peasy, the bass is tuned that way so it’ll be no trouble’. That’s true, except for one interval: have a look at Example 3. Notice that the F to B natural is actually a raised (augmented) fourth, rather than a perfect one, which applies to the rest of the intervals in the scale. Here in the top fingering, we’re looking at grouping them mostly in parallel fourths, apart from the F-B intervals and open strings. By comparison, the lower fingering takes an alternative approach, where we will group the fingerings
in thirds, with (in most cases) the second half of each beat grouped to the first half of the following beat. Example 4 shows the same scale in Db to indicate the fingerings in a key that doesn’t use open strings. Here we’re fingering and grouping parallel fourths again, and as you can see, there are one or two big position shifts needed, and I’ve suggested alternative fingerings here and there on the way down. Looking at the lower fingering, once again we’re grouping across the half beat in fourths, which can make life a little easier crossing strings rather than shifting back and forth between positions. In each case with both thirds and fourths, you can finger them 1, 2 or 2, 4, depending on how comfortable you are with the position shifts. The principle here is to try and get away from unnecessary moves by crossing strings; unfortunately, methods like Simandl’s tend to go for leaps from one position to another. Playing devil’s advocate, that can be very useful just to get your muscle memory used to big shifts, but crossing strings and grouping several notes in one position is more efficient and less tiring in the long run. Here’s an example of moving up through the positions, and all on the G string: Example 5. The positions are: half, 2nd, 2 and 1/2, 3 and 1/2, 5, 6, 6 and 1/2 and thumb... quite a list. But if we take the string-crossing approach, Example 6 is the result. We’re moving up in parallel major and minor thirds, apart from the last three beats, which are all in thumb position. The positions here are: 2 and 1/2, 3 and 1/2, 5, 5 and 1/2, 6 and 1/2 and thumb. This latter version omits two whole positions. Obviously, exercises like this are rather boring musically, but ‘woodshedding’ position work like this can free you up on the fingerboard and help you find the easiest and most economical way of shifting throughout the entire register, get you off the ‘tramlines’ of standard fingering and add to your technique. Next time around, we’ll look at further interval exercises.
Bass Guitar Magazine 087
TUITION COVERING THE BASSES
COVERS BAND GURU BROOKSY SELECTS THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB
better within your band’s overall sound – and how your band covers the full frequency range – than others, so take that into account too. Your backline will be dictated by the types of venue you will be playing and what you can afford. Starting out, it can be daunting to assess exactly what you need but for more than 10 years, I found that a single 4x10 cabinet and a 350-watt head covered virtually every show that came my way. As time passed, and the range and type of shows I play expanded, I’ve been able to build a number of different set-ups to cover the multitude of gigging situations. Power and portability should be your prime considerations: fortunately, the proliferation of Neo cabinets and Class D amplifiers has made things so much easier for us all. So unless you need a heavy-duty set-up, the extra cost of a lightweight rig may be beneficial, especially in health terms, in the long run. Effects are an odd area: some bassists insist on them, but a lot of players prefer to go au naturel. I guess it depends on your repertoire and whether you want to replicate specific sounds and tones, but sometimes the floor space available dictates that it simply isn’t possible to plonk your pedalboard at your feet without the front row of the audience trampling all over it. A drunk pub audience really don’t care what gear you’ve got: you’re there to entertain them and keep them in the bar, so if it means leaving your ego and your pristine new addition at home, then do so. You’re only as good as your last gig in the guvnor’s eyes – and in this day and age, with so many pubs and venues closing, that has never been more relevant.
hen it comes to selecting your bass and amp arsenal for playing in a covers band, it can be hard to know what to pick. If you’re playing in a tribute act or genre-specific band – say disco, soul or 70s/80s/90s – your decision will already be quite defined. However, if your band is intending to cover a wide array of songs spanning the decades, it can be difficult to choose a bass that does everything you need. Some players argue that you only need a Fender Precision and a bog-standard amp to do the job, and I’ve heard claims that the audience can’t hear the difference between a cheap bass and something a little more pricey – but over the years, I’ve experienced the shortcomings some basses possess when it comes to certain types of material. A bassist in a meatand-potatoes rock band will probably be able to use one bass to cover all of the material they play, but don’t be afraid to employ a couple of instruments if you need a selection of tones. Also, some instruments work
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TECHNIQUES LAYING DOWN THE LAWSON
FX WARLOCK LAWSON TALKS PEDAL POWER
s soon as you get beyond a couple of pedals, the practicalities of assembling, carrying, connecting and powering your random assortment of noise boxes become increasingly complex. While that lil’ splitter cable you got from Maplin is fine for an analogue compressor and an overdrive, as soon as you start piling up the processing – especially adding digital pedals – you need to think a bit more carefully about power. In looking at a power solution, there are a couple of things you need to be aware of in particular. Firstly, there’s the maximum load of the power source: how many (milli)amps does it actually supply? Your pedals should say on them, or in the manual, what they need to draw, and you really don’t want to be going over the combined maximum. You also need to watch out for non-standard power needs. Most pedals are 9v with consistent polarity, but if you have more obscure pedals that need more power – for example, my Pigtronix Infinity needs 18v and my Eden Californiwah requires 15v – you’re going to need a power solution that can deliver that. It’s even more complex if the connectors are nonstandard. I should, in theory, be able to power most of the gear in
BASS GUITAR MAGAZINE
my rack from one power source – the Looperlative is 9v, while the MOTU Ultralite is very flexible in terms of what it can deal with: it just needs a minimum wattage (amps multiplied by volts) and can handle either polarity. Effects builders, take note! Meanwhile, the Kaoss Pad KP3 needs 12v. But both the MOTU and the Kaoss Pad have nonstandard sockets (why?) and most power distribution blocks have only one or sometimes two variable outs… So you need to make a list of what the power requirements are and what the maximum total draw in amps is that your pedal collection needs. You also need to think seriously about what you’re attaching it to. Is the power block going to be free standing? For many years, the godfather of bass-pedal lunacy, Doug Wimbish, would show up at trade shows with a bag full of pedals, empty them out, plug them all in, and sound amazing. These days he, like everyone else, has gone the pedalboard route, which makes mounting your power solution way easier. But the size of your board makes your choice crucial: some are discreet and tiny, others are massive and all-powerful. Pedaltrain has an amazing power solution called the Volto, which is basically like a lithium-ion cell-phone style battery for your pedals: it naturally fits neatly under their lightweight pedalboards. It gives a hefty total output of 2000mA, but it’s via two outputs, so you have to daisy-chain the power connectors, which can, in some circumstances, affect tone. MXR, Voodoo Lab, One Control, Mooer, Walrus Audio, Decibel Eleven, Gator, Rocktron, T-Rex, MXR and Carl Martin all have power distribution solutions, of different sizes, varying degrees of pedal compatibility and wildly varying size and weight. I’m using the One Control Micro Distro, which is tiny and powers up to nine pedals, but can’t handle the various weird power requirements in my rack. For that, I’d have to look to GigRig: as well as supplying the most incredible fully-featured switching systems for pedals, GigRig also does a bespoke modular power solution that can power pretty much any combination of voltage and ampage requirements, with loads of different adaptors and polarity reversing options available. It’s a dizzying array and doesn’t come cheap, but once you’ve done it, it’ll make your gig life so much easier. See their website (thegigrig.com) for details!