Bass Talk


This is the page about bass . . .

Here are a few topics that I'll talk about and will add to. Below that there is a general idea of what i try to do.

Orchestrational possibilities with the contrabassguitar
Some of the effects tools that one uses can be found on the gear page.

Prepared bass
Different colors, sounds, textures for those who want to roam outside of the usual confines of bass playing.

Bass players who influenced me - - for good or bad (sometimes this can even mean people who I heard and said, "I do NOT want to sounds like that!") - - or people that I admire or respect . . . in one big messy list. (Got this idea from Nels Cline's list of 200 guitarists - - it's a great idea and quite instructional.)

Tone ideas

Exercises/practice regimens
Some people have asked me about this stuff and I may put this in here.


My Concept of Contrabassguitar

My conception for the 6-string bass is that it's combination of three instruments: guitar, electric bass, and 'cello.

I think that 6-string is integral to the music in these ensembles (especially my written stuff).

Overall, I guess that my concept is that I like to veer in and out of standard supportive bass playing and bass playing that becomes more of an equal player - - I'll do contrapuntal lines and then lay it down for a while.

The ensembles I play in are along these lines:

Free-improv groups
Bands with guitar players: mostly all free-improv stuff. I'm lucky enough to play with people who accept the fact that I'm going to do interlocking arpeggios, use massive amounts of effects (they do too), go into high-octane craziness, do tweaked rock/funk grooves, or noise melt-down with them. sometimes people who hear the stuff get confused by who is playing what . . . (right stewart?)

Duos that are without guitar players: mostly with a vocalist (who plays toys) or trumpet player (who does loads of processing); also all free improv. in these cases I'm the orchestra, I'll often play with tons of effects, do a lot of looping and do a lot of prepared bass or extended techniques (with implements or otherwise). (sometimes the duo with the trumpet player becomes a trio with a guitarist, we all do massive processing and looping in that band.)

Sorta jazz/free-improv things
Trios with a horn and drummer: mostly based in the free jazz tradition. some of the stuff has minimally written stuff, most is total free playing. written stuff might be all unison lines, or bass line or chordal accompaniment to a melody. a lot of times I try to act like another horn player and duet rather than play "standard" bass; at other times it's time to be jimmy garrison; sometimes it's "guitar comping" . . .

Bands where I'm the bass player
Playing in a quintet, etc., mostly I'm gonna leave more space for the other folks, try to work my other stuff in as appropriate (hopefully!)

Sorta rock things that don't exist anymore
Rock quintet I started (BLOC)

Things where I am the composer
Done three major bands of this sort. One has been violin/trumpet/drums/6-string basses (fretted and fretless, no effects) I did a lot of chordal stuff, a lot of things they were more contrapuntal, some things that were more 'cello parts (for lack of a better term). the other has been violin/flutes/vibes-drums/6-string basses (fretted and fretless, no effects) - - the second version will have bassoon and clarinet instead of violin and flute - - mostly with basses tuned D to Eb, but I ended up bringing five basses to the session. mostly non-idiomatic bass playing: played with chopsticks for koto sound, other odd percussive sounds, chordal stuff, contrapuntal stuff. another band with flute/clarinet/bassoon/bass that has a lot of non-idiomatic bass playing plus extended techniques. all of these projects are on the "third-stream" side o' things (that is, a cross between jazz and classical, in my case with some rock and funk thrown in. loads of free improv within a framework of structured composition).

One band in this style was for a 7-piece band as backup band for mini-concertos: one of these was for a guy playing acoustic bass, so I needed to stay out of his way and offer contrast; the others were for e. guitar, sopranino sax and french horn. all seemed to require different facets of usage. (more third-stream stuff, but add noise too.)

Band with chromatic harmonica/alto saxophone/drums-percussion: based on the idea of cross-pollinating Ornette Coleman/free jazz and Howlin' Wolf/American roots music. here I'll do unison lines, john lee hooker style parts, play slide, etc. some overdrive stuff for soloing of texture.

Band that is sort of a free-jazz meets contrapuntal writing and some jazz tradition.

Another odd band that is two trumpets/drums/bass - - heavily influenced by Renaissance vocal writing.

A sorta jazz/fusion electric band of violin/saxophone/drums/bass where I do a lot of effects and so forth.


Solo contrabassguitar pieces
Here I'm working one some stuff for the solo instrument. some stuff based on ideas from french piano music (Satie, Ravel, Debussy),   some based on structure/pitch organization in the second Viennese school. some still being conceived. A lot of chordal and double-stop material in these.


A plea for help
One thing that frustrates me is that I don't know of any sympathetic (read tweaked) individuals who play 6-string here in L.A. . . . I really want to do duo stuff with someone.