The 3 Most Important Electric Bassists That Every Bass Player Should Know and Study
So you want to play bass, huh? Well, let me be the first to welcome you to the club, and if you’ve already spent some time with the bass or are a seasoned player, that’s beautiful too! As a beginning, intermediate or advanced player of the bass, I think we can all agree that there’s always more to learn, and that we’re never done in our pursuit of mastering this wonderful instrument. Oftentimes I find myself looking for the next source of study, and usually I end up coming back to a handful of the same players who revolutionized the instrument decades ago. I believe that these are the players that merit a lifetime of study. I’d like to also add that this list is MY OPINION ONLY, and if these bassists stylistically don’t do it for you, that is totally fine. The key is finding players who inspire you, and learning from them, no matter what style! So without further ado, lets begin!
A lot has been made of the Fender Precision Bass over the years, but it can be argued that no one has taken it to greater heights than James Jamerson, the long unheralded bass genius of the Motown Sound. Jamerson was part of the Motown studio band called, “The Funk Brothers”, and together they played on more no. 1 hit records than The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and Elvis combined. Jamerson was the groove master behind this unit.
The facets of Jamerson’s playing that make him stand out are his perfect time, tone, and his melodic bass line construction. Jamerson was one of the first to adopt the electric bass, a new invention in the late 50’s/early 60’s. He started on upright bass, and he played the Fender bass similarly, with just his index finger plucking the strings. This gave him a warm and punchy tone that anchored records by artists such as The Temptations, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye, and earned him the nickname, “The Hook”. He was also one of the first bassists to deviate from the popular music bass zeitgeist of the time, which consisted of mostly playing roots and 5ths. By delving into more adventurous harmonic territory, creating counterpoint lines with the vocalist, Jamerson rewrote the rules on how pop bass is played.
Iconic Jamerson bass lines:
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
What’s Goin’ On – Marvin Gaye
Darling Dear (Isolated Bassline) – The Jackson 5
The way that James Jamerson transformed the Fender Precision Bass is what Jaco Pastorius did for the Fender Jazz Bass. He did the unthinkable in the 70’s and 80’s by turning the electric bass into a soloistic instrument, finding ways to play melody, harmony, and rhythm, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. He is best known for his playing with the jazz-fusion band, Weather Report, and folk songwriter and singer Joni Mitchell.
Jaco’s unique traits were his melodiousness, tight grooves, and outrageous technique, the likes of which had never been heard and are rarely seen or heard even today. Jaco was a gifted composer as well, and wrote several beautiful tunes that have gone on to become standard repertoire in the fusion genre. Because of his ear for composition, Jaco could play hauntingly beautiful melodies in the upper register of his instrument, which at the time was uncharted territory for bassists. Unfortunately, his melodic sense was often overlooked due to his monstrous technique that not only spanned playing fast in the conventional sense, but playing chords and harmonics as well. He did what had never been done, which was give the bass a human voice.
Iconic Jaco Pastorius examples:
Portrait of Tracy – Jaco Pastorius
Teen Town – Weather Report (a Pastorius composition)
Coyote – Joni Mitchell
There are many reasons why Stanley Clarke is important to the electric bass, but one of the most significant is that he was an absolutely monster on the electric bass AND the upright acoustic bass, one of the first masters of both. He began his career playing upright bass with straight-ahead jazz artists such as Joe Henderson, Art Blakey, and Horace Silver. With Chick Corea, he formed Return to Forever, one of the first jazz- fusion bands and would go on to release a number of hit records as a solo artist.
Clarke’s standout features are his ability to play both electric and upright bass at a high level, his compositional ability and being one of the first bassists to bring slapping to prominence. Clarke has lead his own band for decades, where he plays both basses, and has even found a percussive way of playing on the upright bass. In his band, they play mostly Clarke original tunes, but he is also an accomplished film composer, having scored such projects as “Pee Wee’s Playhouse”, and “Boyz n the Hood”. And while the slap bass concept is credited to Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone, Clarke played a large role in bringing it to prominence and expanding it technically.
Iconic Stanley Clarke examples:
School Days – Stanley Clarke
The Romantic Warrior – Return to Forever
Silly Putty – Stanley Clarke
I hope this gives you some new stuff to check out, and if this is all familiar territory to you, I encourage you to keep exploring and see if maybe there’s something undiscovered that you can find. Happy listening!
Author Maximillian G. is an up and coming bassist and bass superfan who can be found gigging all over NYC and is also available for private bass lessons in your home. Contact us today to schedule your NYC bass lesson with him!
Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you really want to get yourself into a routine and stay motivated while practicing your instrument, then it’s best to have a solid plan. The following are five tips to keep you going:
1. Create the right atmosphere
Nothing will motivate you in your musical practice like the right environment. You might be one of those people who prefer a quiet room. Others need a little bit of stimulation. Whatever setting you like, try to be consistent so as to enter the right mindset when you start practicing. If you will need water, snacks, picks, pencils, manuscript paper, and sharpeners etc. have them with you. If you use apps, download them in advance.
2. Warm up
Musical instrument practice is much like a physical workout. To get yourself in the mood, ensure you do a warm up every time before you start. That way, you will be able to prepare your mind and body before the actual practice. It doesn’t have to be 15 minutes of fiddling with scales but can be something like sight reading or playing a familiar song if you like. Also, get into the right mindset by considering the keys of the pieces you are rehearsing.
3. Set Goals
Practicing is not synonymous with just playing through your music. You need to have the end in mind at the start of each practice session. With a prior goal for each practice session, you will find yourself progressing more quickly and effectively. Only that each goal needs to be broken down into smaller and focused objectives. Every time you complete a goal should help you feel more accomplished.
4. Be realistic
Many people – including your teachers – have told you to “get a lot done now”. Of course, it’s not realistic for you to do all your practice in one go. It gets even worse when you have a tough part to practice. The best way to go about this is to practice a little but more often. That way, you can go through a long-drawn process bit-by-bit. Think more about quality and not the quantity of your practice. Practice smarter and not necessarily longer if you want to have the willpower to keep going. Small and realistic goals should help you overcome areas that looked tricky and accept any missteps you might have made.
5. Identify and overcome problems
There is no need to ignore any areas you might find problematic. Learn to identify where you are using the wrong fingering or stumbling out of time. Decide why it’s going wrong and make up your mind how you will fix it. Obviously, different problems require different techniques. Problems with rhythm call for steps at mastering it. You may want to practice rhythm by simply clapping it out or use one note alongside a metronome. That way, you will know when to increase the tempo and when to slow it down. With time, you will master your musical instrument. Having the right music teacher is also a huge factor in overcoming plateaus and ultimately making the most progress. That’s where we come in, contact Music to Your Home to set up your NYC music lesson today!
Many people ask us “what is the best age to start learning music?” Honestly? The answer varies from person to person.
We currently teach in home music lessons to students of all ages, ranging from two years old to senior citizens. Learning music is like learning another language and many studies show that the earlier children are exposed to a new language, the easier it will be for them to learn it.
Each student is different so what might work for your three year old might not work with another child the same age. Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding to enroll your child in lessons:
Does he/she express an interest in music? If not, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t ready, but if you have a child who really responds to music, through dancing clapping, even banging in the table, that’s a sign that it’s time to channel that excitement into one on one music lessons. A teacher can show them how to clap on beat sing songs, explore different percussion instruments and start to identify basic note reading and rhythmic patterns.
Do you notice your child constantly playing on your piano? Do they gravitate towards other instruments? If you start noodling on your guitar, are they at your feet either listening or attempting to strum some chords? Those are pretty good indications that they might really benefit from more structured music lessons.
Five years old is an optimal age to begin lessons. At that point, children are usually pretty good at being able to sit and focus with a music teacher in their home. But if you have a curious four or even three year old who you know has the attention span for a music lesson, by all means, give it a try!
How about adults? Here’s our rule of thumb, just do it! The only criteria for learning music as an adult is the desire to go for it. One of our talented teachers will take care of the rest, right in your home.
What are the benefits of playing in a recital?
When students perform in a recital in front of friends, teachers, and family, they provide great entertainment value to the audience. However, recitals benefit the participants too. Here are some of the benefits of playing in a recital:
- Having something to work for
Something will change in you when you hear that you will be performing in a recital. Apart from the sense of urgency and nervousness, there is a deadline. If you don’t know the value of a deadline, ask working people who have to deal with one almost daily. When you have a recital to look forward to, you start practicing more often. Wether you are taking online lessons or in home music lessons, your sense of urgency to get the song right is a great motivator! You are willing to absorb information more than ever before. Once the recitals become routine, you are likely to keep working just as hard after the recital because you’ve enjoyed the rewards of your efforts.
- Gaining performance experience
When you perform in a recital at a young age, you gain valuable performance experience. If it is your dream to be a professional musician, you will certainly need to get lots of live shows under your belt. It takes a few things to get used to performing in a live setting. It’s not easy to perform in front of people. You need lots of practice. When you are new to recitals, performance anxiety will be the order of the day. However, the more you perform in front of an audience, the easier it becomes. You learn how to play through a mistake or take a gracious bow or smile at the audience. That way, you are gaining very valuable experience to use for future performances.
- Getting inspired by advanced performers
In many recitals, more beginner students are placed closer to the beginning with the more experienced coming at the end. That way, you get to watch the more advanced students do their thing. As a beginner, you see a great performance and discover that you are capable of playing like that too. All you need is some more time, practice, and energy. You will definitely leave the stage psyched to do exactly what you saw the seniors do. With time, your motivation will increase even as your performance skills improve.
Gaining a great sense of pride
This is perhaps the most important benefit you will get out of recitals! You have definitely worked very hard taking lessons in your home and faced the worst of your fears. How would you feel when the applause and smiles finally come from the audience? You will wish this magical moment of the recital lasts forever. Like most students, you will feel special, accomplished, and appreciated for all your hard work. It’s a moment like this that makes it worth the effort. This is when you are likely to psyche yourself up for the next challenge. When you enjoy this at a young age, you become more fearless. Your self-esteem will be boosted like never before. You will definitely look back when you are older and more successful with a smile that you were able to accept this awesome challenge.
New York City has long been known for its thriving music scene. Some of the biggest bands in the world came out of New York City, and many bands see playing at Madison Square Garden as a career highlight.
NYC’s music scene is still very strong. With that said, it has gone through a lot of changes in the last 20 years. Here are a few of the ways in which New York has changed:
NYC And Hip Hop
New York City was once one of the most significant cities in the world of hip-hop. A lot of hip-hop artists were able to rise to prominence after successfully releasing mixtapes to the NYC audience.
Now, however, hip-hop doesn’t have the strong presence that it once did. That doesn’t mean that hip-hop has faded away; it is just that other cities are currently a lot more important to hip hop than NYC is.
The Closure Of Important Clubs
A lot of bands became famous after playing some of the Big Apple’s biggest music clubs. CBGB’s might be the primary example of this; the club was strongly associated with bands like The Ramones.
Because of rising rent prices in New York City, a lot of these clubs have had to shut down. Many of the most influential music venues in NYC have had to shut their doors.
Many bands set out with the goal of playing these special venues and were never able to reach that goal.
A decade or two ago, a lot of musicians felt like they had to head to a city like New York to make it big. For example, the famed artist Bob Dylan left small-town Minnesota behind to make a career for himself in NYC.
Thanks to the internet, it isn’t necessary for musicians to leave their home to start a career. Instead, a lot of musicians can kickstart their careers online.
There are still a lot of talented people creating music in NYC. However, fewer talented people are motivated to head out to NYC. A lot of people feel like they can accomplish the same kinds of things without having to leave their home.
Changes To The Radio
The radio market has changed dramatically since radio first took off. There has been a great deal of consolidation. A handful of companies now controls most of the radio stations in the country.
This has made it a lot more difficult for artists to break out on radio. If someone at Clear Channel doesn’t like an artist’s music, they are not going to play it. They are only going to play the things that they enjoy.
This has caused a lot of people to stop trying to infiltrate the radio scene. Instead, artists are trying to forge out their careers for themselves.
New York City isn’t necessarily the best place for a project like this. Even if you’re an established musician, being in NYC means that you are going to be a small fish in a very big pond.
Instead, artists are focused on the markets that they can crack. Some artists are trying to build careers for themselves in cities that are smaller, but still very music-focused, like Nashville. Others are primarily concentrating on winning over an internet audience.
The value of being in New York doesn’t want it used to be. A talented band in New York isn’t any more likely to succeed than a talented band in Iowa. In this day and age, both bands have about the same chance of success.
A Focus On Fundamentals
A lot of people have focused on how the music scene in NYC has deteriorated over the last few decades. It is important to remember that the music scene has also strengthened in some ways.
One of the most positive things in the NYC music scene today is the focus on fundamentals. A lot of young musicians aren’t playing by ear or figuring things out as they go like The Ramones did. Instead, these musicians are mastering the instruments that they play.
A lot of students have received music instruction from a very young age. These students have used that instruction to create impressive and incredible music of their own.
It is clear that the NYC music scene has changed dramatically. Some of those changes have been very positive, while others have been fairly negative.
While not everyone loves the ways in which New York has changed, people are always going to appreciate the city’s contributions to the music scene. If you can become a success in a city like New York, then you are going to be able to become a success no matter where you are.