Sunday, 26 December 2010

Under the influence

Hi all.

Have realised I haven't updated this blog for ages, so thought it was about time I did!

I thought I'd use this post to recommend a couple of books I'm working from at the moment, and to show you how they are influencing my playing (apologies if you saw the title and hoped it was a tutorial on getting through gigs when you've had one too many!)

The first book I want to mention is Stuart Clayton's Solo Arrangements for Electric Bass. 204 pages of solo bass goodness - a load of really great transcriptions, plus interviews, a really good history of solo bass and some technique and "in the style of" etudes. You can also download all the audio files for free from the Bassline Publishing site.

I got this book a couple of weeks back and have spent a lot of time with it, the material is fantastic. Stuart is a great teacher and writer, so the performance notes are really well written and well worth reading before tackling the arrangements.

As well, as working through the material though I think the key to any tutorial is how you can apply it to your own playing. After playing a couple of the etudes I found myself noodling about with some harmonic and tapping ideas, seeing how they might apply to different melodies and grooves. Before long I found myself playing "Silent Night" and before long it turned into a nice little arrangement which you can now find on Bandcamp:

I doubt I would have approached this arrangement in the same way without studying Stuart's book - thanks Stu!

The second book I want to talk about is Damian Erskine's Right Hand Drive which takes a detailed look at his picking technique as well as including most of (if not all) his previous "Bass Perspective" book. I have been fascinated by his percussive right hand picking for a while so it's really interesting to read how he uses drum-like rudiments to work through the different permutations of using his thumb and three fingers.

I have been playing with two fingers (and occasional thumb) for so long that it'll take a while to get comfortable with the technique, and I don't know at the moment if it'll ever fully replace my current method, but it sounds fantastic. I actually prefer the sound of constant 16th notes ( think "What Is Hip?" by Tower of Power) played by alternating thumb and first finger than with alternating first and second fingers, sounds punchier to me somehow.

To get comfortable with the idea of using my thumb and three fingers, I've been using one of my favourite rhythm exercises - moving from one note per beat to two, three, four and so on up to eight (32nd notes) and back down again. There's a chart of it, with the right hand fingerings that I'm using, here..

1=first finger
2=second finger
3=third finger

Even if you don't use this technique, this is a great exercise for rhythmic accuracy. To get the most out of it, use a metronome (or any other steady time source) and take it slooooowly. By the time you get to seven and eight notes per beat it can easily get unplayable if you start too fast. Plus, you want to ensure that the subdivisions are accurate and this can be tricky to hear accurately over a certain tempo.

Have fun with these ideas, and I really recommend checking Stuart And Damian out, both fantastic teachers and players.

Take care,