Adding the Magic

by Paul Hardy

The bass guitar occupies an essential place in the frequency spectrum of rock and pop music. We can all agree on that. But in this awesome video, an outtake from the Sound City sessions, we get a little glimpse at how bass players can also play an important role in the song writing process, even if they are not always the main driving force behind the creative process.

While the song, Time Slowing Down, was Dave Grohl’s brain-child, it’s fascinating and inspiring to see what bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave) bring to the collaboration with Grohl and vocalist Chris Goss.

The outro piece, which Commerford and Wilk came up with, takes the song to a different level and is a great example of the magic of musical collaboration resulting in a great song.

Check it out!

By the way, if you’ve never seen the Sound City documentary created by Dave Grohl, it’s an absolute must-see! Get it here.

The soundtrack is equally awesome and features a number of star-studded collaborations, including the one described in this post. You can get it here, or find it on iTunes.

 

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The Sound Out There

by Chris Tarry

The following is a guest post by New York City bass player Chris Tarry.

If you put me in a room, say 14 x 10, give me an amp, a bass, and few minutes alone, I can come up with a pretty good bass sound. There’s control to be found in small places. It’s how we usually test our gear, in a confined space; studios, bedrooms, garages, and music stores. We’re in control and as bass players, that’s a good thing. The problems begin when we step onstage.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced over my career as a professional bass player is the struggle between my bass sound onstage, and the bass sound often rumpling from a house P.A. I play all kinds of music, but often I find myself on a quiet gig in a large venue, strapped to the misguided intentions of a rock & roll soundman; the kick drum and bass rattling the venue’s rafters in a kind of subterranean frenzy, my on-stage amp fighting to be heard and losing horribly.

It’s not just quiet gigs where this becomes a problem. Loud gigs that require accuracy of tone, precision of fingers, funkiness of line, are also at risk from an overzealous bottom-end-loving soundman. It can affect the way we touch our bass, infringe on our confidence, and make us second-guess our musical choices in a given moment. When I hear more bass coming from the audience that from behind me, I’m easily confused.

There’s a few ways I’ve tried to remedy this over the years. I’ve tied turning my amp up, which, inevitably results in a call from the soundman to turn down my stage volume. I’ve been immature and unplugged my line to the soundboard—I don’t recommend this, soundmen aren’t fun when they’re angry. I’ve tried turning down my amp in hopes of someone else in the band noticing, because there’s power in numbers. Alas, it is hard to compete with boom-shaking rafters. Shaking rafters feel good to anyone not holding a bass.

What has worked is to be direct. I often talk to the soundman beforehand, tell him how I enjoy hearing more bass on stage than from the front-of-the-house. They’re usually very receptive and often talk at length on the acoustic properties of bass in their venue. I sit, listen patiently, and try not to let my eyes glass over. Sometimes soundmen like to put bass in the onstage monitors. This is a no-no (unless you’re playing in an airline hanger), I often check to make sure this hasn’t happened.

When all else fails I cut the low end on my amp and try to blend what I hear coming from the audience with my amp and where I’m standing onstage. Another trick I’ll use is preparatory. At home in my studio I’ll practice playing with an unsatisfactory bass sound (either two bass-heavy or two much high-end), in order to train myself to play through the sound, to be confident in a stage mix I’m not happy with. In the end, I can’t stand in the audience and play (oh how I miss my eighties wireless setup), so I have to default to the soundman and hope they have everything sounding good.

One of the most effective ways to combat the Boomies can be to raise your amp off the stage, though this can sometimes cause a “too-much-information-moment”, pointing out inadequacies in our playing; when an amp is pointed at the back of my legs, I somehow sound better. Short of all of it, in-ear monitors, if your band uses them, can be an excellent investment. But even in-ear monitors lack that kind of ass-shaking-awesomeness that comes from an amp and me alone together in a room.

It’s a shame. We spend all this money and time picking out the perfect amp, the right bass and strings. We buy pedal boards, and cabinets that stack to the size of refrigerators, and in the end, the bass sound is often out of our control. But as professionals we must look past all of it. Our job is to make the artist we’re supporting feel supported regardless of our own issues. I find when I can do that, when I can put the Boomies at bay and keep smiling, that’s when the music really shines.

Chris Tarry is one of the busiest bass players in New York City, and the owner of christarrylessons.com, an interactive video bass learning site. Connect with Chris on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

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I’m going through withdrawal

July 4, 2010

Ugh. I just checked out my gig calendar and realized I haven’t played a gig since June 12 and won’t play another until August 14. That’s more than two months without playing.  This ‘Gigging Bass Player’ is NOT gigging right now. Not cool. Lucky for me, I don’t depend on gigs to make a living. […]

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I’ve been lurking around various bass guitar discussion forums for quite a few years, and one thing is very clear: There’s a whole lotta bass snobbery going on out there. I don’t know if this kind of snobbishness exists in other circles. But in the bass world, it’s everywhere. Use a pick? You suck. Play […]

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Back in the Saddle

November 9, 2009

I launched The Gigging Bass Player a few months ago, and I’ll admit that I haven’t posted here nearly as much as I had planned. However, the slow trickle of new readers and comments has inspired me to get back to it. I just want to make sure everyone (ok, all seven of you) knows […]

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Six Great Web-Sites for Bass Players

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Looking for bass-related web sites? There are surprisingly few cool places for bass players to hang out at, or find information from, on the web. The following list of online bass guitar resources is a great place to start, whether you’re looking for information, or simply a place to chat and talk shop with other […]

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7 Ways To Improve Your Playing

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OK . . . this is going to piss off a few bass players, but I’m just going to say it: Bass is easy to learn. Come on bass players, let’s just admit it to ourselves and everyone else. The bass guitar really wasn’t that difficult to figure out, was it? Unlike guitar players, who […]

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The Angry Bass Player

September 17, 2009

Hey you! Bass player! Yeah, you in the cover band. Do you realize you’re playing everything wrong? Do you even care? You’re getting paid, right? Would playing the songs correctly be too much to ask? It’s not that hard, really. Just spend some time listening to the bass part. Then copy it on your bass. […]

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Who the hell is the Gigging Bass Player?

September 8, 2009

OK, time to get down to business. If you read the first post of this shiny new web-site, you may be asking yourself a few questions. Such as: “Who the hell is the Gigging Bass Player?” “What’s the point of this site, anyway?” “Why should I bother coming back?” “All the bass players I know […]

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The Power of the Gig

September 3, 2009

I’ve been playing bass for a long time — since I was 14. I’ve been playing gigs for almost as long. I haven’t kept count, but there have been a lot of them. Most of those gigs have been OK. Some have been kind of crappy. And some have been downright shitty and made me […]

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