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Entries Tagged as 'bass ideas'

Studying music

October 16th, 2007 · Comments Off on Studying music

I spent a really enjoyable day today giving a couple of masterclasses at the ACM in Guildford. They invite me down there a couple of times a year to speak to the students, play a bit, and hopefully inspire them. The ACM is a fantastically well resourced college, and they spend a lot of time and effort finding cool clinicians to come in and talk to the students. What amazes me is how blasé the students are about having the access to information and experience in that way…

When I was studying we hardly ever had anyone come and visit the college – a couple of ex-students came back who’d done a few minor things, but it was before the college was really in a position to book proper visiting celebs to come and speak. But I lapped up whatever information I could get my hands on, going so far as to blag my way into a midi class from the second year of the course when I was still in the first year – it was during a free period of mine, so I asked the tutor if I could sit in. I used to practice a crazy amount of time (sporadically, not consistently, sadly), and spent just about all my time talking about music. I still wasted a lot of my time (though I realised fairly quickly that the time I spent going clubbing when I was a student did wonders for my sense of rhythm – nothing beats dancing for internalising rhythm!)

Anyway, back to the ACM – both the groups I had seemed like nice people, and there were some cool questions that came out of the sessions that sprung off into some good topics. As usual 2 hours wasn’t nearly long enough (given my dispensation towards tangentalism when I’m speaking in that kind of setting…) but I was still at least able to plant a few mental seeds.

Anyway, given that I know at least a few full time music students read this blog, here are a few tips that you REALLY ought to take on board, and I write these as both a teacher and a former music college student who got lots out of it, but could’ve got more…

  • all music is worth learning – there’s a tendency amongst students to specialise way to early. i don’t really give a shit whether all you listen to is punk, you’re doing a full time music course, and the opportunity is there to become a great all-round musician, to learn the nuance of a whole range of styles… which brings me to point 2:
  • never underestimate the difficulty of lines without many notes – obviously that’s worded for bassits, but it’s the same for simple guitar or drum parts. Country, Reggae, Bossa Nova, Stadium Rock – all are about so much more than just getting the notes in the right order. Don’t expect to be convincing as a country bassist without having emmersed yourself in country music. Go and see as many different kinds of music played live as you can, and use the radio!
  • You will never have access to that many other people wanting to learn music again – don’t waste it – being surrounded by keen music students is a fantastic experience, so form as many bands as you can, rehearse, jam, improvise, write, learn covers. just play as much as you can, you won’t ever be in that situation again.
  • Use your teachers – they are there to help you learn as much about music as you can, so quiz them, remember there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. If you don’t know something, ask. NEVER EVER pretend to know something you don’t. You’re there to learn, there shouldn’t be any pressure at all to already know…
  • Buy music – call it Karma, call it sowing to reap, call it whatever you want, but if you want to make a living selling music at some point, it’s probably best that you promote the culture of still paying for music. If you haven’t got much money, use a subscription service like emusic or Napster. Remember, if you’re spending more on booze than you are on music, you’re actively wrecking your own music education.
  • while the qualification may be a waste of paper, the information needed to get it isn’t – we all know that there are very few situations where actually having a music degree is of any importance at all. Great musician trumps degree certificate every time. BUT the course modules you’re having to learn stuff for are indicative of how well you’ve absorbed the information presented to you, so do the work. It also gets you used to the discipline of deadlines and playing what someone else wants you to play the way they want you to play it…
  • Make friends with everyone – the industry is all about contacts, and there’s no reason why being a student should stop you from building those contacts now, and even starting to get work while you’re still a student. Students, teachers, visiting musicians, college staff, venue owners, bookers… everyone, just be nice, you’ll be amazed at how much more likely you are to get work by being nice than by being a surly bastard. Smile, all time time. :o)
  • Play. All the time – lunchtime, breaktime, over breakast, evenings, weekends, on your own, with mates, in bands, orchestras, whatever and wherever – there’s no substitute for just playing music, so do it. DON’T WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY YOU HAVE!! Studying music is one of the best things in the world to do – I’m still doing it, every day, I’m still trying to get better. Segovia, just before he died in his mid-90s, was asked if he had any unfullfilled ambitions. His answer? ‘i wish I knew more about the guitar’ – none of us have any right to think that we’ve done enough after that.

Enjoy it, work hard, play constantly, surround yourself with people who encourage you to play, not people who distract you, make friends, teach your peers, learn from them too, listen to every pro musician who steps through the door of the college, ask questions and do as many gigs as you can.

Now, off you go, quit reading this, and practice!

Tags: bass ideas · Musing on Music · teaching news · tips for musicians

"this is grate!! I'v Never herd enyting this good!!"

October 7th, 2007 · Comments Off on "this is grate!! I'v Never herd enyting this good!!"

The title of this blog post (and the idiosyncratic spelling therein) is taken from a note that was given to me at the end of my gig in Hounslow on Friday night by a young kid – a girl of about 7 or 8, I guess. It’s pretty remarkable for a girl of that age (or boy) to think, even fleetingly, that a solo bass gig is the best thing she’s ever heard. Her mother’s a very creative musician, but it’s still pretty remarkable, and delighted me.

As I’ve said before, impressing bass players is pretty simple in the moment. Youtube is full of videos of bassists who can impress other bassists with their speedy circus tricks but who aren’t selling any records because watching a low res vid online is all you need to take all there is from that kind of thing. It’s telling that two of the three videos of mine on there that have got the most views (here and here) are the ones that are ‘funky’, instant, poppy… Youtube isn’t much of a medium for moody introspective ambient stuff (for one thing, the file quality is so low that the lushness of big ambient stuff really doesn’t come across). This isn’t to dis bassists as an audience, (or indeed to dis technically difficult high energy music just because it has those qualities) just that impressing bassists with solo bass stuff is definitely going to be easier than a non-bass audience.

But anyway, I digress… The point was, it’s great to have kids connecting with what I do. I remember receiving an email years ago from a guy who said that mine was the only one of his CDs that his kids would let him play in the car… again, rather nice validation. I’ve had a week of playing to non-bass-playing audiences, and it’s been really nice. Sharing the bill with mainly acoustic acts of varying quality from the very good to the very poor indeed (particularly the one guy in Reading trying desperately to be funny by just swearing loads and writing hideously tasteless pastiche pieces about Diana’s death… total shit.) And getting a mixture of reactions from ‘wow, love what you do, will you come and open for my band?’ to people for whom it just really wasn’t their kind of thing, which is also fine (like I could change it even if I thought it wasn’t?)

Where does this tie in with the current stuff on file-sharing/musician’s revenue etc? Well, tonight’s gig was a jazz trio gig, with Luca Sirianni on guitar and Davide Giovannini on drums. Davide is a really really great drummer, such a joy to play with, and very generous in his playing. There were certain things I would go for in some of the tunes that I’d miss, and Davide was always there to make my screwing up sound intentional. We got into some really lovely grooves and ideas, but it was half way through the second set that I really hit my stride. Which got me thinking about two things – practice and the value of full time musicians. One of the possible outcomes of the file-sharing/free downloads etc. scenario is that a lot of musicians who currently make enough to live on through the recorded music sales combined with live stuff etc. are going to have to get day gigs because that revenue stream will be cut. If that happens, the world will be a poorer place, because there are some musical skills – and certain musical minds that require full time dedication to come to fruition. I’d be a much more accurate groove player if I was doing it every day, if I was in a place to practice it and gig that stuff every day. As it is, I’m good at it anyway, but that extra 5 or 10% that most of the audience wouldn’t know is missing, would make the different between me being a very good groove player and a great groove player.

As a side point – one of the things I was scared of when I started playing solo bass was that it would ruin my ability to play in bands, that somehow my normal bass playing would fall apart, when actually, quite the opposite is true. My relationship with sound is so much more advanced now than it was before I started playing solo, my appreciation for simple lines doing their job, the nuance with which I can hear and employ tiny variations in technique to make a line head in the direction I want it to go in… all of those things are better because I’ve spent years focusing on playing the best music I can possibly play on bass. The things above aren’t things that are spoiled by solo bass, they’re just dexterity things that it takes one a few songs to fall into comfortably…

But anyway, the point was, there are a lot of musicians on the edge of being able to pay the bills right now, for whom the time and head-space they have to devote to music making as full time musicians is vital to their music making process. It’s not that anyone has the right to make money through music – the selling of music is a commercial business after all, and subject to the same degree of liberalisation as any other sales business – but it’s just another factor that’s worth considering when thinking about where music and musicians go from here.

For me personally, I’ve never made enough from just gigging to live on. Never made enough from just teaching to live on. Never made enough from just writing to live on. Never made enough from just CDs/Downloads to live on. All of those combined have meant that thus far I’ve been able to pay my way, keep a roof over my head, and stay fed and clothed. If the recorded music revenue vanishes, I’d have to think where else that short-fall might be made up… It’s quite possible that the increased exposure one would receive from giving music away would result in an increase in gigs (and quite possibly an increase in teaching work, given that I do occasionally get people who’ve heard the records first and then come for lessons…) I’ve yet to see any evidence that that’s true, but I’m open to the possibility…

Whatever, these are all just musings and ponderings in uncertain times. Potentially exciting times – I likes me some progress, I do – but I’m just not convinced that that discussion is currently factoring in much other than ‘people are already downloading music for free, deal with it’, which just seems a bit clumsy to me…

Tags: bass ideas · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

File sharing and the musical diet…

October 7th, 2007 · Comments Off on File sharing and the musical diet…

Been doing lots of gigs that I’ll blog about in later on this evening – just running out the door to another gig – but a couple of thoughts first on the relationship between file sharing and musical diet. Specifically in relation to the value we place on things that cost us money.

Back when I had very little money (ooh, that’ll be, um, about an hour ago?) – no, VERY little money, when I was living in Lincoln and earning student-grant-level wages (oh yes, young peoples, there was a time when the government actually GAVE you money to go and study… not a huge amount of money, but it was a grant not a loan, so when you left university, you were free to head off and do idealistic things like VSO or working in a community art project for a year, instead of taking the highest paid job you possibly can just to pay off your £30,000 debt. Oh, how times have changed.) – back then, I had an odd mixture of fearless abandon and meticulous selection when it came to choosing the music I parted with cash for. I was pretty fearless as to the style of what I was buying – might be prog, might be free jazz, might be electropop, orchestral, metal, punk, indie, acoustic – whatever. But because i had limited funds, it had to be great. it had to be the best of its kind. I learnt pretty quick that the recommendations of magazines like Q and the NME were pretty much worthless as they tended to relate to the current coolness factor of a band or project, rather than its status against the canon of work with its field. There were a couple of Q reviewers whose opinion intrigued me, but most of the time when I was swayed by a review, I ended up being disappointed. So I stopped doing that. But it meant that I had a hugely varied record collection, but also one where I had top notch stuff in each category, much of which I carry with me to today, both in terms of affection and influence.

I suspect, had I had much more money, I would have bought in a much less considered way – I’m sure being a Child Of Peel, I would still have had the eclecticism, but I’d have gone out and bought everything. I loved music. I still do. I adore the process of making it, listening to it, thinking about it, imagining what it can be… Without the constraints of availability and cost, I may have ended up with a much bigger collection that less filtered in terms of quality, and where I was less familiar with much of the material. Having recently started listening to much of my vinyl collection again via the magic of the digital realm, I’ve been really surprised at how much of my record collection I know pretty much word for word. Most of the Smiths, The Cure, Lloyd Cole, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, The Pixies, The The… even Yes and Genesis records, I can sing along to with a level of memory much higher than almost anything that’s been released in the last 8 or 9 years. What happened 8 or 9 years ago? I started making more money, and – crucially – started being sent LOADS of Cds for review, or just because bassists wanted me to have their CD, wanted my endorsement. So my listening got far less precious, and it took me quite a while to start to filter out the wasted time.

It’s not that I don’t listen to unknown quantities any more, it’s just that I’m much more choosy again about what I spend my listening time on. Thanks to the miracle of the iPod, I have way more listening time now that I’ve had for about a decade, so I’m getting back into a routine of four-square-musical-meals-a-day. Digesting music, mulling it over, repeat listening, listening to two or three albums by the same artist back to back. Making sure that I get from it what I need, what I want, what is there to be had.

In the last couple of days I’ve listened to a lot of Kelly Joe Phelps and a lot of John Coltrane. And I’m thinking about my own music in the light of how their music makes me feel. And it’s exciting to think where it’ll go as a result. And being excited about music is vital. Excitement is the life-blood of the process. Getting worked up about the joy of making music, being inspired by great music, being in awe of great musicians and writers and wordsmiths and storytellers. It’s all good, very good. And it’d be a tragedy to see it disappear into a world where total access to any music meant that those filters weren’t there.

Which only goes to say that we need filters. It doesn’t prove the monetary filters are the only ones, or even the best ones, but it does suggest that we need a way of making sure we doing overdose on junk-music.

Tags: bass ideas · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

John Patitucci interview from Jan. '99

October 6th, 2007 · Comments Off on John Patitucci interview from Jan. '99

In my time at Bassist, I interviewed John Patitucci twice – once was the one below, backstage at the Barbican, and once was for a jazz tutorial piece, downstairs at Pizza Express on Dean Street. He was a player that was talked of in such revered tones when I was at college – the pinnacle of wikkid bass skillz, and, I think, the first person I ever noticed playing a 6 string bass (when he was interviewed in Guitarist mag in the late 80s) – The bass line and solo on ‘Got A Match?’ from the first Electrik Band album was pretty much the gold standard. He was a nice guy to interview, friendly and full of great answers, and clearly someone who thinks in a very deep way about his playing. This interview followed his second really great record – ‘Now’. The first, ‘One More Angel’ is one of the finest acoustic jazz records of the last 35 years, IMHO, and came after years of impressive but relatively hollow electric fusion records.


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