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
Unlike the guitar, saxophone or piano, when it comes to singing, your body IS your instrument. And we all know that taking care of our bodies is not only paramount to living a healthy life but also helps you sing to your full potential. So when it comes to the idea of little kids starting voice lessons there’s a bit of confusion so allow me, someone who started formal singing lessons at 5 years old and with not a nodule in sight, to clear up any misconceptions.
Let’s begin by saying that most likely your 6 year old isn’t chomping at the bit to sing Italian Art Songs. If they are? Cool, we’ll cover that so read on. They probably enjoy singing the soundtrack to the latest Disney hit or Taylor Swift song. Either way, professionally trained voice teachers know that working with voices that haven’t matured yet require tapping into a skill-set and repertoire that accommodate an undeveloped body and mind.
Our philosophy is pretty simple, we think kids playing music, any kind of music, is igniting that part of the brain those newspaper articles are always talking about, so we’ll teach any song a kid wants, and we’ll show them how to sing it in such a way that they are laying the groundwork for correct vocal technique while having fun! Yes, it’s possible!
The first song I learned how to sing was the theme to Sesame Street. My teacher knew I loved it, it was simple, familiar, and I enjoyed practicing it every day. I eventually moved on to show tunes, ran through the Les Miz book, the Rogers & Hammerstein classics, discovered the Tapestry record, was introduced to Italian Arias and opera, fell in love with jazz, all the while rock and folk rested closely in my heart. But the point I’m making is that every genre I sang as I grew up, I was always using proper technique because my teachers recognized the right repertoire to suit my age and growing body.
Kids today have shows like The Voice to inspire them- and that’s amazing, but some of those contestants have no formal training and are actually straining their voices pretty badly. You can hear a lot of them “sitting” on their vocal chords, putting all that tension on the throat where it doesn’t belong. That’s the damaging stuff we are avoiding with proper coaching.
So are we looking to have your six-year old work on their belly breathing and tongue position? We’ll get there over time, but for now that child will enjoy singing their favorite songs while the seeds to formal training are planted. And you can rest easy knowing they’ll be no permanent damage in sight for your young musician.
For in-home singing lessons, visit: http://www.musictoyourhome.com/voice-singing-lessons-nyc/
Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Getting guitar training is the first step in becoming a guitar god. Well, after you buy a guitar. The next part, the key to getting really good at guitar, is practice. Guitar lessons offer a mentor and way to stay on track. Think of each lesson as a weekly test that will keep you determined to impress your teacher. Your guitar lesson instructor can correct any mistakes you may be making, and challenge you to learn harder songs and techniques. After that hour of guitar lessons, it’s on you to love your instrument and play every day, to prepare for next week.
Guitar Gods of the Past
To give you an idea of how past guitar gods have made reached the pantheon, look at Eddie Van Halen. He used to strap his guitar around his neck and sit on his bed playing for hours at a time. When other kids were going out to party, he was practicing. That’s dedication. Eventually he become one of the world’s greatest.
NYC guitar lessons are super helpful when you have questions about technique, when you think you’re doing something wrong, or when you want to learn a new song or style of playing. Sometimes playing really slowly, making sure you hit all the right notes, or making sure that your strum pattern is perfect and everything else is right is the best way to practice by yourself. Listening to your favorite guitar solos can inspire you to learn them, bringing out your love for music even more and making it easy to practice guitar for half an hour a day. You can find tabs for solos and your favorite songs online. Also try to listen to classical music, to appreciate the foundation for awesome riffs and sick solos. Eddie Van Halen was a student of classical piano before he ever picked up a guitar. Reading music can help too.
Different (Guitar) Strokes
Stevie Ray Vaughan—a blues guitar god—didn’t know how to read sheet music. Then again, he also had cocaine and whiskey for breakfast during his later years—not exactly a role model. Some guitar gods reach their status through a natural amount of talent. Music theory is also important, and because of its difficulty, it’s a great subject to explore with your mentor during guitar lessons.
Another guitar great who played as much as he could was Jimi Hendrix. He couldn’t afford guitar lessons, since he was so poor growing up in Seattle, so he took guitar lessons from blues masters. Jimi is perhaps best known for how he used distortion so originally. He was also famous for doing crazy tricks while performing, like biting and smashing his guitar. Some people say that he was sloppy, that he would take tabs of acid and put them in his headband, so that while he performed his pores opened and he became high. But one night he was challenged to play sober, and he played the same way to a standing ovation. Because his hands were so big, he was able to use his thumb over the fretboard to fret the lower E string, thereby creating melodies that are otherwise difficult or impossible to play. Though this technique existed before Jimi, in the early days of blues guitar, it was probably he who popularized it.
Guitar Lessons are Still Your Best Bet
Keep in mind that a lot of the guitar gods who didn’t take guitar lessons were troubled souls who often died young. Who knows—maybe it was easier for them to follow a path of destruction without a guitar mentor to guide them along the way.
Music to Your Home is proud to work with the best, brightest and coolest musicians in NYC so we’ve been picking their brains about music lessons. The latest interview was with Kiyan T., who took the time out of his busy schedule consisting of teaching, recording and performing to answer these 10 important questions every parent considering singing lessons for their child should know.
1) What advice would you give to parents who are considering getting vocal lessons for their children?
Kiyan: Make sure to speak with the child beforehand to see what they’re into as far as genre, or what they see for themselves musically, in conjunction with your own opinion. This way, you can know what you’re looking for in a teacher.
2) Why do you think vocal lessons have become so popular over the past few years?
Kiyan: Thats a large question! I think there’s a large correlation to singing and the high-glam pop star image that technology permeates into media. Its important to remember that singing is art, technical, and requires an instrument (the human body) to be understood and mastered, with plenty of love and passion!
3) What is the right age for a child to start singing lessons?
Kiyan: I would say no younger than 7. Maybe an unusually intuitive 6 year old?
4) How much daily practice time does it take to become a great singer?
Kiyan: I don’t think a “daily” regiment is the answer. You need to love singing, and feel that natural inclination to express through this medium, in order to have the desire to practice enough to become “great”, however many hours that takes.
5) Are vocal warmups important? If so what are you favorite to do?
Kiyan: Honestly, I talk so much that by the time I have to sing, the voice is already warm. I enjoy warm ups in minor keys that feel like musical lines. This gets the ear going, as well as a sense of carving out a phrase.
6) Do you think having a piano at a vocal lesson is important?
Kiyan: It makes it much easier, yes, but I have done Skype lessons without a piano for many years without a hitch.
7) What do you love about teaching voice lessons?
Kiyan: I love that, in my self-centric life as a recording artist, I get to take all of my musical faculties and apply them to another person. Its a rewarding balance of ego for me in the sense that while on my time, I will ask you to think of music the same way I do (visually, kinesthetically, emotionally), which leads to so much growth. I often find my approach just catches people off guard in how absolutely simple it is.
8) What was your most memorable teaching experience?
Kiyan: I was in college, and I had a student come to me completely unable to match pitch. I’m talking: I play middle C, and he sings the F# two octaves below. After two or three months, I said “listen, I don’t know if this is going to work. I’m starting to feel bad taking money from you when I can’t even get a single note out of you.” He wouldn’t have it, and insisted that we continue. It was only after research on overtones from the piano as opposed to the human voice did I realize that all I had to do was use my voice as reference. I had him doing a major scale, in solfege, up and down, and unaccompanied in two weeks. What a huge triumph this was!
9) When and where was your most memorable performance?
Kiyan: My first solo show in New York was a highlight for me.
10) Who are the singers that have inspired you?
Kiyan: Too many to list, but: Patti LaBelle, Beyoncé, and Edita Gruberova.
Kiyan T. is available in NYC for voice & piano lessons. Contact us today to schedule yours!
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!