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
There exists in my adult students a special phenomenon that I have affectionately labeled The “Should” Syndrome. Symptoms of this syndrome include excessive self-doubt, narrow judgment regarding what is going well with their playing, and when their frustration is at its peak, passive aggression toward their teacher when she tries to give them a compliment. It is always interesting to note the difference in attitude between the kids I teach and the adults I teach. Some of the adults enjoy music as much as the kids do, but there is always an air of self-consciousness about their age and what they don’t already know (read: what they “should” already know by their age). Mistakes in lessons are immediately followed by apologies. Comments are made about how they may be “too old” to still be trying to learn this. They lament, “I would be good at this now if I had just started playing when I was young.” Etc., etc., etc.
Kids, on the other hand (especially the younger ones), rarely apologize or even acknowledge their mistakes. An eight year-old who gets a new guitar rips it out of the delivery box and immediately starts banging on it and sliding his fingers around the fretboard, experimenting with the different sounds even though he doesn’t know anything about the instrument yet. This is because he is too busy being interested in this new, alien thing in front of him than he is with what the world’s expectations of him regarding that thing are. A thirty-eight year-old often comes to their first lesson waiting for instructions and not doing anything until the teacher instructs them to, for fear of looking silly. Ultimately, this is not such a bad thing, but they don’t feel free to experiment and connect with their guitar on their own level because this way might not be the “correct” way. I see this in my more experienced adult students too, as well as my musician colleagues. Once you’re older, your personal responsibilities and psychological demons start to cloud your connection with your art. As adults – both beginners and professionals – we are all familiar with the following scenario:
It’s a weekday afternoon and I need to squeeze in some practice time in the only free hour I have today. As I pick up my instrument, I remember for the third time that the rent is due tomorrow and I’m still waiting for that one check to clear. There’s nothing I can do about it now, but it’s still bothering me. I begin to warm up by playing some scales. As I play and some notes don’t come out as well as I would like them to, I begin to tense up my hands and body. Then the tension makes it even harder. I watched a YouTube video of a ten year-old prodigy playing faster-than-lightning this morning. I’m at least a decade older and I can’t play these scales nearly that fast. My mistakes don’t just feel physically uncomfortable now. I feel silly for making them, as if someone is in the room with me and judging me for being a bad person.
Speaking of being a bad person, I got into a fight with my significant other yesterday and said some mean things, and along with the rent, that’s on my mind too. I look at the clock and I have half an hour left. I still feel silly about those mistakes with my scales, but now it’s time to move on to the pieces I’ve been working on. I still don’t like my sound right now, but I know I have to get this work done.
The phone rings as I’m ten minutes into working on this piece. There’s an issue with a project I’ve been assigned to at work and I need to put down my instrument and go to the computer to solve it. I could fix it later, but my boss will probably want it done right now, and I don’t want to look bad. I’ll need to practice everything another day, even though my sound is still not great and I only have a few days before my next lesson. When will I ever sound like that kid in the video? What am I even doing with my life?
Young children don’t go through this thought process when they play. Children do not have all of the subconscious biases about how the world “should” be, like adults do. They do not separate the everything in their environment into strict categories, like adults do. They do not have a defined idea of who they are yet, so they do not exclude possibilities and pursue their interests without hesitation. (A friend of mine who teaches elementary school told me a story about how on the day before winter break, she had her students cut out and color pictures of holiday objects. The choices included Christmas trees, menorahs, etc. When a boy from a Jewish family chose a Christmas tree, she inquired as to what made him choose Christmas symbols rather than Hannukah ones. The boy stared at her, puzzled by the question, and said “I just think that the tree is pretty”. What many adults would assume he “should” choose did not even occur to him!)
Because of this openness, children have an extreme advantage when it comes to learning anything, and they absorb information like a sponge. The advantage to starting to play music when you are younger, then, is not because people eventually become “too old” to learn – the advantage lies in the fact that the more time you spend studying music when you are a child, the more time you’ve spent building a connection to music without ever questioning your worth at it or having to deal with adulthood’s endless distractions. This connection causes a snowball effect of positive experiences, which slowly creates a positive self-image regarding music for an individual once they have reached adolescence and eventually, adulthood. By this time, they are not trying to learn music – they are a musician.
What is the solution, then? Obviously, we cannot do a System Restore on our minds to make ourselves stop thinking like an overly self-aware adult.
Recognize that even if the voice inside your head has some unhelpful things to say, you can learn to silence it and just enjoy the music. Think about all of the things that you enjoyed as a little kid with unbridled passion and how you approached those things. Have fun and stop the adult voice in your head that says your picture is “wrong” because you didn’t color in the lines. Play like a child…
Rianne M. is currently giving guitar lessons in NYC to adults and children, and occasionally blurs the line between them with her teaching styles. Contact us today to schedule a lesson with her!
The oldest instrument in the world is the flute; to be specific, a couple of 42,000 year-old bird-bone flutes found in a cave in Germany. The last few centuries have transformed the Western concert flute from a hollow stick or bone with holes in it into a shiny, intricately wrought metal tube with a complex mechanism of keys, springs and rods. However, the musical character of the flute is still closely tied to its history as a ceremonial instrument and with the natural world of wood and bird-bones from which the earliest flutes were fashioned. With its shimmering tone and ability to play very high and very fast, the flute can evoke the calls of birds, rolling hills and soaring skies, while it’s dark and smooth low register conjures up an air of mystery and ritual.
It’s an amazing feeling to play an instrument with such deep history, but that’s only part of the flute’s story…
Over the last century there has been increasing interest into the sound-world of the flute beyond its beautiful and rich tone. When I first began delving into this world in my early years of college at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and more recently at the Manhattan School of Music, I was astonished by the variety of possible sounds: the low beat of a distant drum, the sound of a passing jet, gentle rapid fluttering (the sound of amplified hummingbird wings?), very high whistling, the crisp POP of popping corn, a train horn, a siren… the list goes on (and beyond easy comparison with environmental sound). These sounds are known as extended techniques, and the flute has one of the most diverse ranges of extended techniques of any instrument. Extended techniques have been increasingly explored by performers and used by composers over the last century because as well as being fun sounds in themselves, they broaden the expressive possibilities of instruments. If you think about it as an artists’ paint palette, extended techniques have broadened the color range of instruments from the primary colors of traditional tone to a vast range of mixtures and shades.
As well as expanding the expressive potential of instrumental music to fit with our ever-changing world, extended techniques can be extremely useful practice tools. An important reason for learning music is that it sharpens our ears and it teaches us to listen. However, the attention to detail necessary for productive practice can be frustrating for students, and this is where extended techniques can be very helpful. Incorporating extended techniques into learning an instrument can re-introduce the freedom of play into a context that can quickly become obsessive and un-creative. Sometimes when that high note just won’t come out the way we want it, rather than repeating it over and over and becoming annoyed and disheartened, playing a few multiphonics (for example) can help press the re-start button: refreshing the ear, re-connecting with a spirit of experimentation and in this case approaching the issue of air-speed (the problem behind the troublesome high note) from a totally different angle.
Learning an instrument is many things, and it is something different to everyone, but without a doubt it should be fun and creative! The best music comes from a place of imagination as well as great technique!
Andrea W. is now available for flute lessons in your home or online. Contact Music To Your Home to schedule yours with her today!
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.
Online music lessons are becoming a good alternative to face-to-face tutorials. Sure, you can find some tutorials on YouTube. However, such tutorials might not be tailored to meet your specific needs. With online lessons, you get a personalized solution to all your music learning needs. You’ll get a one-on-one lesson with an expert teacher through various mediums. This could be through a video call on Google Hangout, Skype, and Apple Face Time. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world. You can access online music lessons for as long as you have the interest to learn. Whether you are a seasoned professional or beginner, there is something about these lessons that will suit your needs.
Here are the benefits of taking live music lessons online:
You can take online music lessons without leaving your home. All you need is a computer with internet connection and your instrument. You will arrange with your instructor when you should log into your FaceTime or Skype account to start your lesson. When you take your lessons from home, there is no need for commuting to and from the class. The scheduling is all about you and what works best for you! It’s even better if you are a parent so you can plan your music lessons around your children’s activities.
- Freedom to select a teacher
With online lessons, you can get the teacher specializing in the exact thing you want to learn. This is because of the variety of instructors offering live online music lessons. Once you get one, your teacher will make a lesson plan. This will be specifically targeted at your goals and level of expertise. Who knows, you might even get help or advice outside lesson hours through email or instant message!
- Extensive resources
When you have an online music teacher, you will be guided on the proper software and tools. With these, you are free to continue learning even when you are online. There are many websites where you can get the information you need. Your instructor will be able to guide you on where the best information is. Your instructor should be able to quickly address lesson problems or mistakes by directing you to online messages. When you do it online, you have the freedom to choose the materials that match your interests. You can, therefore, learn more and at your own pace. Online music lessons are available around the clock. Your online music teacher should help you know exactly how to get the maximum benefit out of them.
Learning music online is a sure way of saving you lots of money. Online music teachers charge less than they do for one-on-one lessons. You save the money you would have used commuting to and from music classes. After all, you are learning music from the comfort of your home. Also, you don’t have to buy expensive learning materials or get supplementary equipment from the music school. Computers have microphones and built in webcams so you won’t pay extra buying more equipment.
What are you waiting for? Get set up today at www.musictoyourhome.com!