A Few Things to Look for when Purchasing your next Bass
When it comes time to purchase a bass, whether used or brand new, there are many factors that should determine which bass is right for you. I can tell you from experience, that purchasing a bass that looks cool, may not be an instrument that you'd want on a 3 hour gig. Custom ordering a $5,000 exotic 10 string might seem like a great investment at the time, only to end up floating online for months at a much lower price...Ouch. Here's a few things to think about on your next bass purchase....
BALANCE: First of all, check to see how a bass balances both while sitting and standing. If you notice that the neck wants to dive to the floor because of the weight, don't buy it. A heavy neck means fighting to hold the neck up, which causes more strain to your shoulder and wrist.
NECK: Play as many basses as possible before any purchase. Once you find a neck with the proper shape and string spacing for you...take note of it. Find out the exact string spacing and remember it. As bassists, we spend a lot of time on our bass neck. Having a comfortable feeling neck makes everything easier. Choosing which type of fretboard to get is completely your call. Again...experiment.
BODY: Choosing the right body style for your bass falls into a few categories. Balance is greatly affected by body shape, woods in the body and size of the body. Of course, the looks of a bass plays a role. Heck...you have to look at the thing. Whether painted, stained or left natural, choosing a wood for the body can provide an array of tonal choices.
PICKUPS & CIRCUITRY: A bass that can provide a wide range of tones is a bass that can be used in many situations. Determine what your needs are. Will you be doing sessions where you may need to achieve that wide array of tones? Perhaps you prefer a passive, vintage tone. One thing to remember is that pickups and circuitry can always be changed. Most pickup manufacturers can provide you with a wide variety to meet your needs.The thing about tones is that what sounds good to one player may not to another.
One thing I would like to add....if possible, shop at your local music stores. Keeping your local music store in business may be a great help down the road, when you need that broken string or cable replaced. That being said, once you find the perfect bass for you....BUY IT and slap a da bass!!
A Crash Course on Chord Theory basics
By: Ryan Trujillo
The understanding of how chords are built and where each kind of chord fits within a key is one of the most important and fundamental lessons one can gain from studying music theory. Now you may be asking, “why should I have to know chords? I play bass.” Of course our role as a bass player is not to strum the chords like a guitar player would. However, an understanding of what forms each chord and how they fitharmonically into the key as a whole removes the guess work when forming bass lines.
The first step to understanding how chords function is to form a major scale. In C major, the major scale is C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. Within the scale, we refer to each tone as a scale degree, C being the 1st , D 2nd, E 3rd, etc. until we reach the 8th, which is simply the 1st repeated.
Once you have your scale formed, it is time to form chords from the scale. In their simplest forms, chords are formed of three different intervals, roots, thirds and fifths. When a chord contains just these three notes, it is referred to as a triad (tri as in three). To find the root third and fifth of a chord, you start at a scale degree that you would like to make the root and take every other scale degree above it until you have your root third and fifth.
For example, to form the first chord in C major, you would take C, E and G, which forms a major triad. (root, major third, perfect fifth)
Do the same thing again from D, and you will find that instead you from a minor triad with the notes D F and A. (root, minor third, perfect fifth)
Now one more time from the B, you will find that a diminished chord is formed with the notes B D and F. (root, minor third, diminished/flatted fifth)
Major, minor and diminished chords are the three kinds of triads regularly found within a key.
When referring to chords within a key, it is commonplace to refer to them by the scale degree that is the root of the chord, and are usually written using roman numerals that represent the minor/major quality of them.(I being a major one chord and i being a minor one chord)
In C major, the chords are as follows
I: C major
ii: D minor
iii: E minor
IV: F major
V: G major
vi: A minor
vii dim: B diminished
I: C major
The entire pattern can also be moved into any other key, for example in G major.
I: G major
ii: A minor
iii: B minor
IV: C major
V: D major
vi: E minor
vii dim: F# diminished
I: G major
While it seems like a simple lesson, I cannot recommend really letting this sink in enough. A simple understanding of building chords off of intervals opens worlds of communication between other musicians. For example, instead of telling somebody that a chord progression goes C major, F Major, G major, and back to C major, you can get the point across by calling it a I IV V I in C major. By understanding these concepts, you should begin to see patterns in many of the songs out there. While there is much more out there to completely understanding how chords work, working on these concepts should form a good foundation to work with. Simply playing each triad up and down the scale and in different combinations should help make things become more natural.
Right On Time
By Tyler Mansfield
The biggest revelation that I have ever experienced was related to the concept of time and the exercise that follows. Are you conscious of your time? Are you aware of your time and it's ability to coexist with others and their concept of time? Some tap their feet, some don't. This is something interesting to observe with players. Either way, the musician must keep appropriate time.
I've been trying to understand how to swing for instance. How can one swing convincingly? Here's a fantastic exercise that will help. Make the click of your metronome represent NOT the beat itself (in the case of 4/4) but the slower subdivision, the half note. The click will be beats TWO and FOUR (this is simulating the hi-hat on the drum kit). Start by counting and tapping your foot in conjunction with the metronome: TWO, FOUR, TWO, FOUR, etc. Get the feel. A relaxed tempo of 60 is a good place to start (60 is the half note, therefore the quarter note beat will be at 120). Then start counting: one TWO three FOUR. Fill in beats one and three prior to the click and your foot. Apply this exercise to melodies, improvised lines over changes, and accompaniment patterns to your favorite tunes or your own compositions. I recommend something simple at first. All while keeping that TWO and FOUR feel, improvise melodies exclusively using the notes of the blues scale for example. Limit yourself even further. Devise a simple motif or phrase and play around with it. Play with time, think about your phrasing. Make your playing dance! Can you feel yourself swinging? Do you play across the bar lines? Do you playthrough modulations if and when they occur? Can you start your motif on another part of any beat? Can you subdivide in time? (whole, half, quarter, eighths, sixteenths, eighth note triplets, quarter note triplets, etc.) I would rather hear a musician play nothing but “wrong” notes in time than a musician who plays all the “right” notes out of time. Maybe another exercise to consider. I stress good time over anything else...now I need to go practice what I preach.
Where to go?
I can remember as a young bassist, waiting for the next bass magazine, to provide me my BASS fix for the month. At that time, there was no internet to provide me with lessons, product reviews and all that is BASS. Keeping up with all the new gear, meant hanging out at the local music store. Following your favorite bassist, meant buying up all the records and cassettes you could find. Yes, I said cassettes. You seasoned players know what I'm talking about. Nowadays, finding this information, is a click away. So... where do you go to find the info your looking for?
Bass Musician Magazine, is a great place to get info on players, gear and whats new in the BASS world. With in depth articles, following your favorite bassists no longer means the dreaded pile of cassettes. New gear your thing? Bass Musician Magazine has you covered there, with a wide array of product features and reviews. Don't get me wrong, it's still cool to hang out at your local music store. Remember to support local music stores. Just think, if the internet and its wisdom, were no longer available, where would you get your strings?
Some of you may be asking yourself, why is NorCal BASSIX promoting a different website? The most wonderful thing about the BASS community, no matter where you go to find your bass news, we all support each other. Running a website, magazine or business involves hours and hours of editing, phone calls, interviews and more. Raul and Valery have worked very hard to provide BMM. As bassists our main goal is to support....right? Well, lets continue to support all that is BASS.
Be sure to stop by Bass Musician Magazine and help support the BASS community.
Bass Day 2013
Well, we just completed another fantastic bass day event which begs to wonder, how do we do it? Well, there's persistence, perseverance. . . pride? Yes, I suppose we are prideful here at: NorCal BASSIX.com, simply because we passionately believe that bass players are fundamental, functional, funky and fun. . . or maybe that's just what I know to be true because I have met my share in my time and therefore, have a pool of resources. Most of which are located on my Publication website: ConArtistE.com
But honestly, I couldn't believe the level of excitement when we first announced that our next, featured, bass day performer was to be: Juan Alderete! The first thing that I noticed is that the event attracted musicians of all kinds, including guitarists, drummers and people of all ages clamoring to get a peek at what Juan was going to say and/or do in a performance all on his own which, quite honestly, is what I like most about these events. Also, according to Juan's on-the-air, call-in interview with Wade Craver and Clark in the Dark at the 106.1X studio, he was hoping that the audience was prepared to ask him questions, he suggested, about his experience in the music business. However, the questions were more about his previous work with the bands: The Mars Volta, Racer X, Big Sir and Vato Negro . . . then endless questions about his gear and his methods of playing the bass.
However, I had to ask about what he thought of the change in technology since he first began to play music from the studio-only captured sound in the past vs. the now fly-by-cell-phone-grab that is quickly published on-the-YouTube today. It was a loaded question, I know because I sincerely feel that technology has changed the business for good and I was hoping to get a sense on how he felt about this possible OVER-exposure and apparently, he embraces it all which is why he hosts his own YouTube channel for his PedalsandEffects.com website, a labor of Love, as he calls it. This made me appreciate him even more so, knowing that he started something all on his own without concern for MONEY and yet, it still provides value. But that's just my own, personal rage against the money machine. . . Still, nice to know that people do things because they want to share their knowledge and experience with the world. Made me want to reach into my poor pocket and give up another buck or two.
So, in a sense, this year's Bass Day event was honest and engaging. Besides, as a newly developing bass player myself, it's nice to see another set of endless possibilities with this instrument expressed by someone who has been playing it for so long. Yes, I did pick up the bass (again?) this year, 2013, somewhere between NAMM and BASS Day. Although I've been around Bass for most of my life, I had only attempted to play a few times. However, over the years, I have been witness to some of the best and for whatever reason, again, I started to play, really play, as if all those years of exposure has somehow seeped into that part of the brain most stimulated by the resonate sounds and rhythms that I'm not afraid to create these days. In conclusion, the bass is AWESOME!
So, our Bass Day event is more than just a yearly show, it's a place to learn and grow. We introduce new products on the market such as Pixtronix, Fusion, and bring back our favorites like, Gruv Gear, Tech 21, Hipshot, Zon Guitars, with a second visit by our good friends, Lathon Basswear who brought us all, again, the best Bass Player T-Shirts. Most of us 're' purchased a new T-shirt because our last one purchased is well worn and nobody wants to quit wearing them. It's a great opportunity to pick up a new one, or else, just shop online at their website: Lathon Basswear
So, thanks again, Juan Alderete, for giving us here in the North State some of your time and passion for the instrument. The success of this show and the people who come to appreciate it is why we hold these Bass Day events, to encourage, inspire and show the potential of this instrument, beginning with four strings. . .
"Hole in your Pocket"
By Jon Duran
O.K. bassists...go have a sandwich, I'm talking to the drummer.
Developing a rhythm section can involve many tests of a drummers skills and patience. It's important to remember your role in either setting, whether your performing with a solo bassist or completing the rhythm section in a band setting. The drummers main role in both settings, is of course, working as the "time keeper". Locking in the groove is essential in all situations, live or recording.
First of all, don't try to over play. Less can be much more when it comes to playing in the pocket as well as during fills. A never ending flurry of patterns can cause you to get lost. Especially when you may need to follow a loop track or metronome. Try not to over think and just listen to the song. Feel the foundation of the bassline. The groove is most important. Even during the busiest of basslines, you can still find a pocket. Practicing simple concepts, such as counting the quarter count of a song, can hold everything together, much like a bassists role. Spend time practicing with just the bassist and you'll find that having a solid rhythm section, will make all of your performances that much better.
A Chat with Nathan Peck of the
Alex Skolnick Trio
By: Ryan Trujillo
The Norcal Bassix crew went down to Anaheim for the NAMM show this year and to my surprise, the Alex Skolnick trio was scheduled to perform at the Mariott that Saturday night. For anyone unfamiliar with the trio, Alex Skolnick, guitarist for the thrash ensemble Testament, formed a jazz trio in 2001. The trio started off performing jazz renditions of influential tracks from rock and metal history, and have since branched out to include original tracks as well.
Nathan Peck, bass player for the trio, took the stage by storm by as he seamlessly switched between traditional upright playing and heavier riffing with Alex. Nathan's virtuosic playing put a refreshing spin on jazz bass playing; holding down the low end and contributing melodically. To top off the night, Nathan even debuted a new weapon fresh from the NAMM show, a Kala U bass. The trio's performance that night was a wonderful mix of dynamic jazz playing with the energy and vigor that someone like me loves coming from a metal background.
I caught up with Nathan on the phone after the show to ask him a few questions about what has brought him to this point in his career.
I can see from your biography on the Alex Skolnick Website that you started your musical journey off quite early
I did, I started on piano when I was like 8 or 9. I had piano lessons with my father who's an accomplished pianist and composer. I tried a lot of different instruments before I came to the bass. I played some horns, some clarinet and saxophone. Fooled around on the drums for a while. Kinda thought I was a drummer for a couple years. When I started playing bass I got exponentially better at bass than other instrument so I dropped everything and started to just play bass. I also played Baritone Saxophone which brought my ear closer to the bass.
Was that the upright bass that you started on?
I started on electric actually. In 91 I got my first electric bass and about a year prior to that I had held a bass in a music store and in like 5 minutes I figured out the bass line to the Peter Gunn theme on the E string. From that point on I started talking about the bass and it took a while before my parents realized they might have a bassist on their hands. About a year and a half into it I got an upright and I kinda always played both equally. I always wanted play great acoustic bass and great electric bass.
And so you started playing professionally at 15?
I did due to the fact that my parents were and still are working musicians. In my first year of playing bass I was just sitting in with my dad reading chord sheets and playing jazz standards and repertoire. I was probably fifteen and a half when I started really doing these little gigs with my dad. They were solo piano gigs where I would go play along with him and he would throw me a little bit of change. By the time I was 16, I was gigging with my dad three times a week. My mother was a singer and drummer as well and my brother became a drummer. We had a family group and played nonstop up for about 10 years until right up around when I moved to New York. I still continue to play with them when I visit home.
What kind of music was in the home when you were growing up?
You know it's funny but I think the majority of the music I heard at home was my dad's music that he would be writing at whatever time. He wrote a lot of jazz music, and he wrote some jingles, he worked with other people but more often then not I heard them playing and never really knew what they were playing. I didn't know if they were playing their own music or Duke Ellington but eventually I kinda realized they were playing both, jamming on different tunes. My dad has composed over 2500 songs! In the car I would hear a lot of classic Stevie Wonder, Blood Sweat and Tears, Tower of Power and Bill Evans. My dad was coming out of the jazz rock era as well as being a traditional jazz piano player. My mother listened to all of the great singers like Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae, and Ella Fitzgerald. I heard everything they listened to and also listened to a ton of radio rock constantly from the 80s on.
Whatever was hot on the radio I checked it out and eventually began to dig deeper and go beyond the top 100!
Were you listening to any metal at this time?
I had a brief bit really listening to metal in high school, but by that time I was already playing a lot of gigs with my dad and I never really got the chance to play in metal bands. I checked it out, I knew who testament was and Alex Skolnick was but I wasn't really a metal head. I had friends that were listening to metal and also friends that were listening to jazz and played in band but my dad was such a strong force in guiding my musical tastes. I actually played drums in a hard rock cover band when I was 15 and he actually pulled me out after a few shows and told me “you're gonna be a jazz bass player son!”, but now I really like to play everything. I take on all kinds of gigs.
That's cool, it really shows in you're playing. Fast forward to today, how did you get involved with the Alex Skolnick trio?
The drummer that has been with Alex for probably 13 or 14 years now Matt Zebroski, is a good friend of mine from my hometown of Pittsburgh. I was playing with the great jazz drummer Roger Humphries (Ray Charles, Horace Silver) in the late 90's and Matt would come by and sit it. Matt took off to New York in 1998 to enroll in Jazz Program at New School University in New York City. At the same time Alex was going back to school to peruse jazz and improvisation and sort of learn how to not play metal. The two met in a theory class and began jamming and decided to put together a jazz group that played rock and heavy metal tunes and they put this band together. I knew about this band and actually had a copy of their first cd about a year and a half before I joined. At that point I had just moved to New York and was trying to meet people and make connections. I moved to town in early 2002 and about 8 months later I got a random call from Matt and we hadn't been in touch at all. He said “you gotta come down to the Tap Bar at the Knitting Factory, we're playing down there on Wednesdays, you should come down and sit in.” I went down and sat in and about two weeks later, their bass player at the time quit the gig right before a tour. Alex was freaking out and asked “what about that guy who sat in, that guy sounded good.” So I got this phone call from the great Alex Skolnick and that was it. By then I had really known what a big deal he was, in highschool I knew that he was this famous guitar player but I never thought like “oh I'll be playing in that guy's band one day.” The first tour I did was in the fall of 2003, his Guitar Evolution tour with Marty Friedman and Chris Poland. We went up and down the west coast, ever since then I've been in the band and have played on three of the four albums and have co-written some of the music. This fall it will be ten years that I've been in the band.
Now what rig are you using live with the band?
I'm using aguilar stuff now. I've been a big fan of their stuff for a long time. I've had all different kinds of bass amps that were geared towards upright but didn't sound good for electric and vice versa. After I moved to New York I started rehearsing in better rehearsal studios and most of them stock Aguilar gear. I realized that “oh this stuff is really great”, and some of my favorite players use it like John Pattitucci and Gary Willis along with some of my favorite upright players. I got hooked up with them about 2 years ago and I've just been hitting the streets to tell everyone to buy this stuff because it's so good. I basically use 2 SL 112 cabs and I use this little Tone Hammer 500head, a four pound head that puts out 500 watts. It's great I love it, it's great for 5 string and it's great for upright. The overall sound of it is great, you can just plug in and you don't have to add anything. Sometimes I'll actually take a little bottom away because it has so much thickness to it. We recently played in the radio city music hall and I couldn't believe my rig made my upright bass sound glorious for sixty five hundred people and it was a huge crowd and building. I don't really know of that many any other bass rigs that could do that and not get any feedback. I actually want to get another Aguilar 410 but we'll see if I have enough space in my apartment.
So at NAMM you were using a Kala U-Bass, when did you start using that?
The U bass is a new addition to my arsenal, their whole motto is “more bass less space” and I gotta say, that thing really does put out the bass. A lot of times I use it for rehearsals or for just jamming and stuff but even on serious gigs it's no toy. It's crazy how much sound it puts out. I did some demos at their booth and they've sent me a couple nice things.They're great people and make great instruments.
Any plans to hit the West coast? I've been watching from afar waiting for my chance to see you guys and lucked out with NAMM.
Not that I know of, but I'm sure I'll be out there at some point. I don't know if we have anything planned yet but there's a bunch of people who want to bring us out but we just have to work around out schedules. Alex is out with Testament right now and also just released a book so he's kinda in the middle of that. We might be able to do something in July if everyone's free but it's gonna be a short run probably. We love playing the west coast, we love coming out there.
Nathan uses gear from the following
Jean Baudin Masterclass
As NorCal BASSIX continues to provide bassists with lessons, clinics and performances, we also try to provide a series of masterclasses throughout the year. Masterclasses are a great way for a small group to meet some of the worlds best bassists. The NorCal BASSIX studio in Redding Ca. offers an intimate setting for these events. Our last masterclass featured special guest bassist Jean Baudin from the bay area. Jean Baudin is the bassist for Nuclear Rabbit as well as a solo bassist, performing all over the world.
Jean Baudin performed solo material from his newest release, Mechanisms. Baudin layed down a room shaking performance featuring his 11 string bass built by Ken Lawrence in Eureka Ca. He demonstrated the huge tonal array available from having 11 strings on a bass and also demonstrated his composition skills using a wide array of effects. Using 2 PJB powered enclosures(ran in stereo), Baudin demonstrated his approach to combining various effects to create his unique style of solo bass. Jean was gracious enough to allow some attendees the privilage of plugging their basses into his effects and also provided some tips to using tapping techniques. All of us here at NorCal BASSIX would like to give a special thanks to Jean Baudin and all who attended this masterclass. We couldn't do it without your support.
For those of you that are just hearing about Jean Baudin, be sure to stop by www.jeanbaudin.com for information on ordering CDs, merchandise, tour dates and more.