Posted tagged ‘musician’

We’ve Lost Something

December 2, 2010

When listening to some traditional bluegrass music recently, it occurred to me that today’s rock and pop musicians have lost something – individual responsibility for timekeeping.

If you’ve never really taken the time to dissect a really good traditional bluegrass band (ie: no drums or electronic instruments), you should. It is a wake up call. First of all, these players can all really play. Secondly, they all have excellent timing. These players participate in a wonderful synergy when it comes to keeping the rhythm on a song. The upright bass typically plays on the downbeats (like a kick drum), and the mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic guitar share the upbeat responsibility (like a snare backbeat). It gets tricky when a particular instrument solos or does a fill. The other instruments have to cover it. For example, when the fiddle is soloing the mandolin will do short muted chord stabs on the backbeats. Then when the mandolin takes off on a solo, the fiddle takes over the backbeats playing their version of short muted bursts. The acoustic guitar can also at times do the short muted backbeats, but usually is pretty busy filling in a majority of the chord comping you hear. And of course, the banjo’s role is to provide the droning sounds of open strings, much like bagpipes, or other celtic and folk instruments. (a modern equivalent would be the synth pad).

Here’s a great example – an old recording of Alison Krauss & Union Station playing “Dark Skies”. Notice how everyone shares responsibility for the timekeeping.

i guess my point is – in contemporary music musicians rely too heavily on the drums to do all the timekeeping for them, and all too often the other musicians couldn’t count out a rhythm if you asked them to. In short, we’ve become lazy. We can learn a thing or two from the bluegrass boys about taking individual responsibility for the song’s rhythm.


Poll: Guitars for the Average Working Man

March 22, 2010

Leo Fender made a huge contribution to music-making. His designs, introduced over 50 years ago, are still in production today. Can you imagine if Ford were to sell the exact same model after 50 years with only minor cosmetic changes? But that’s what we’re talking about. The Fender Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision Bass, and Jazz Bass are still bestsellers even today.

Leo also believed in mass-producing his designs so that costs could be contained and the instruments would be accessible to the average working man. He carried this foundational concept with him to Music Man and G&L. Accessible Instruments for the Average Working Man.

So what the heck is the Fender company thinking? I saw this link on twitter this morning. Fender introduces new American Deluxe series. Take a look. These are the same classic designs made by Fender for over 50 years. There are a few minor upgrades like Strap-Loks and “noiseless” pickups (which have been around quite a few years now), and a nice plush guitar case. But did you see the list prices? $1999.99 to $2199.99! Is that what Fender thinks is in the range of the “average working man”?

What do you think? Vote in the poll and let me know.

I wanted to hate it.

March 9, 2010

Background: I have been looking for a low-wattage tube combo amp for a long time. I originally thought I would love the Fender Deluxe Reverb ’65 Reissue or the new Fender Princeton ’65 Reissue. After all, they have 22 and 15 watt designs, respectively. But after traveling to Sweetwater’s showroom and trying them out, my take-away is that they’re just TOO DANG BRIGHT. I like more fullness and tone out of my amps.

While on that trip, I was able to find two amps that I liked. One was the hand-wired Vox AC15 ($1399). I thought it was a very serviceable sound that could do a lot of things. But the one that sent me home raving was the Bogner Duende 1×10. I LOVED that amp. It had the perfect marriage of clean gain, full tone, and grit from the overdrive channel. Alas, the Bogner Duende 1×10 is freaking $2500!!!

Today, I traveled to Indy and went to Guitar Center. In the center display was something I wanted to make fun of – a Bugera V22 combo amp. I thought to myself – let’s plug it in and see what kind of shihacky sounds I can get out of it.

You see, I was prejudiced against the amp. Bugera (whose name sounds like you took a few of the most popular boutique amp makers and put them in a blender…primarily Bogner, Egnator, and Rivera) is made by parent company Behringer. Yes – THAT Behringer. The Behringer that got sued for reverse-engineering some of Mackie’s most popular mixer designs. The company that spits out dirt-cheap electronics products by “borrowing” from industry leaders. The Behringer that is well-known to be the “bottom-feeder” of music store gear.


But I didn’t. I sat there for nearly 30 minutes putting it through it’s paces – looking for weaknesses, comparing it to other amps I’ve played. But you know what? I actually liked it. I liked it a LOT.

Know what’s funny? The amp had a sticker on it that read, “$349”. Yes. Really.

You can read more about the amp here:

The Essential Bassists

July 24, 2009


I’ve been playing bass guitar since I was 8 years old. That means I’ve been playing for 30 years now! Wow…time sure flies. I began playing with my dad’s traveling gospel group that year. My dad was a guitarist, and knew enough to show me where the notes were and how to get started. I began playing with my thumb until I got a little older and switched to standard finger-style. I was completely absorbed in southern gospel music until I got to middle and high school. Then I began to see what else was out there and slowly began to get into the history of the instrument and seek out all the treasure trove of bass masters. So I’ve decided, in this post, to share some of what I’ve found. These are the bassists that, in my opinion, are essential study in becoming a well-rounded bassist. Every list will have people arguing over who should be listed above who, and in what order, and who’s been left off or shouldn’t be there…but hey – that’s what makes music so fun – It’s all subjective and conditional to your experiences. So have some fun with the following list. Hopefully, if I’ve done my job well, you’ll see some new names and faces and get exposed to some new music!

  1. James Jamerson (1936 – 1983)
    The pulse of Motown. Modern bass guitar owes more to this man than you can imagine. He invented so many conventions that we take for granted today: Taking the electric bass into mainstream, syncopated lines under straight arrangements, dissonant leading tones being used to create momentum, etc. His masterpieces include: “What’s Going On”, “Bernadette”, “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”, “For Once In My Life”, “Dancing In The Street”, “I Was Made To Love Her”, etc.
  2. Paul McCartney (1942 – )
    One of the greatest melodic minds of the 20th century brought that same sensibility to the bass guitar. Originally a 6-string man, Paul’s bass lines created lots of movement and interest in otherwise straight-ahead songs, such as, “All My Loving”, “Eight Days A Week”, “Tell Me Why”, “Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man”, and “Hello Goodbye”. Not only that, but the man was an awesome lead vocalist while simultaneously playing these gems!
  3. Jaco Pastorius (1951 – 1987)
    In the late 70’s and early 80’s this man totally blew past the expectations of what the bass guitar instrument could be. No longer a background instrument, it could be an instrument that was Front And Center! Jaco’s soloing was groundbreaking – and he definitely had his own distinctive tone (favoring the treble/bridge pickup of the Fender Jazz bass for clarity rather than the bassier/boomier neck pickup as was common with the Fender Precision bass. He also often added a little chorus effect to his solo sounds and was equally at home on the fretless bass as well as the fretted.)
  4. Victor Wooten (1964 – )
    Virtuoso. Technical Mastery. Slap-Bass Legend. Rhythmic Genius. Banjo-style Flailing Technique. Whatever words you choose, they simply aren’t descriptive enough for Victor Wooten of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
  5. Rocco Prestia (1951 – )
    The funkiest white boy ever! Rocco is the long-time bassist of the funk band, Tower of Power. In the following clip, you get to hear the same song 3 different ways; first, with just solo bass; second as a demo; and third you get to see him play live with Tower of Power. Stick with it till you get to part 3 to see how Rocco’s intricate lines play off of the other instruments and establish the funk pocket.
  6. Tom Kennedy (1960 – )
    Dave Weckl Band, Randy Brecker, Al Di Meola
    An extremely under-rated player! (I’ve never seen him on any best-of list that I know of.) But HOLY COW can this dude play. Perhaps one of the reasons people don’t gravitate toward him is because he comes from that intellectual Chick Corea-style school of jazz that a small sliver of the population are aware of, let alone enjoy. But you cannot dis this guy’s playing. He’s one of the very best finger-style players out there (you rarely see him slap.) Check him out playing on Weckl’s version of “The Chicken” below. Dave Weckl is a master at beat displacement on the drums, and watch for Tom to school you how beat displacement is done on the bass at time index 2:28. He starts a bass solo at 6:05, and he displays blinding speed at 7:40.
  7. Roscoe Beck ( – )
    A crossover player equally at home with jazz and blues, he is the perfect compliment to guitarists Robben Ford and Eric Johnson. In the clip below, listen for Roscoe playing an intricate walking bass line, while simultaneously playing jazz chords over the top! (beginning at time index 1:44)
  8. Ray Brown (1926 – 2002)
    This dude is a jazz legend! Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson, Sara Vaughan, and Quncy Jones. Ray played with them all. No single clip could ever capture his full range, but here is one piece of his musical legacy:
  9. Oteil Burbridge (1967 – )
    Who? You’ve never heard of him? Shame on you. The bassist for Aquarium Rescue Unit, the tour bassist for the Allman Brothers, and bandleader of The Peacemakers. They even made a documentary about him:
  10. Geddy Lee (1953 – )
    Three-piece bands always put an extra bit of pressure on the bass player. When the guitarist goes to solo, there’s nobody playing chords anymore – so the bass part becomes very important as the only accompaniment. Geddy Lee not only was the master of covering the solos, but did so while being the band’s lead singer! His playing influenced a whole generation of rock and metal bassists. The following clip is of “Freewill” – check out the guitar solo section just after the 3:00 mark.

  11. Bootsy Collins (1951 – )
    In the following clip, Bootsy gives the “formula for funk”. This formula was invented by James Brown, and performed by Bootsy and the rest of the band. With Parliament Funkadelic, they took funk to its further extreme.
  12. Marcus Miller (1959 – )
    Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn
  13. Charles Mingus (1922 – 1979)
  14. Stanley Clarke (1951 – )
  15. Larry Graham (1946 – )
    Sly & The Family Stone
  16. Flea (1962 – )
    Red Hot Chili Peppers
  17. Les Claypool (1963 – )
  18. John Paul Jones (1946 – )
    Led Zeppelin
  19. Stu Hamm (1960 – )
    Steve Vai, Frank Gambale, Joe Satriani
  20. John Clayton (1953 – )
    Count Basie Orchestra, Clayton Brothers Jazz Quintet, Diana Krall
  21. John Entwistle (1944 – 2002)
    The Who
  22. Lee Sklar (1947 – )
    Studio session player, Phil Collins, James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Richard Marx, Steve Lukather, Rod Stewart, Warren Zevon
  23. John Patitucci (1959 – )
    B.B. King, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Dave Grusin, Natalie Cole, Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah, Sting
  24. Nathan East (1955 – )
    Anita Baker, Babyface, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Al Jarreau, Kenny Loggins, Fourplay
  25. Ron Carter (1937 – )
    Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock
  26. Abe Laboriel (1947 – )
    Henry mancini, Donald Fagen, Larry Carlton, Dave Grusin, Stevie Wonder, Barbara Streisand, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Paul Simon)
  27. Kim Stone ( – )
    The Rippingtons, Spyrogyra, David Benoit, Larry Carlton, B.B. King
  28. Carol Kaye (1935 – )
    Best known as one of the most prolific and widely heard bass guitarists in history, playing on an estimated 10,000 recording sessions. Kaye was the bassist on several Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and David Axelrod productions in the 1960s and 1970s. She played guitar on Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” and is credited with the bass tracks on several Simon & Garfunkel hits and many film scores by Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. Among her most often cited work Kaye anchored the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds.

“Luke” in Indy!

June 27, 2008

One of my favorite guitarists of all time – Steve Lukather – is going to be at the Music Mill in Indy on Aug. 20! For those not familiar with his work, he is simply one of the most versatile rock guitarists of all time. He’s got it all – speed, finesse, fury, passion, taste, melodic sensibility, diversity of style, and he can flat out make you cry or melt your face! Here’s a sample (watch the whole thing in its entirety to get a sense of his diversity):

Steve Lukather, most famously known as an original member of the band Toto, is also a world-reknown studio musician and gun-for-hire by such acts as Boz Scaggs, Alice Cooper, Hall & Oates, KISS, Pointer Sisters, Barbara Streisand, Cheap Trick, Earth Wind & Fire, Elton John, Cher, Aretha Franklin, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dan Seals, George Benson, Peter Cetera, Peter Frampton, Quincy Jones, Chicago, Herbie Hancock, Don Henley, Michael Jackson (That’s him playing all the other guitar parts on Thriller except the famous solo by EVH), Kenny Loggins, Michael MacDonald, Joni Mitchell, The Tubes, Warren Zevon, Christopher Cross, Randy Newman, Kenny Rogers, Joe Cocker, The Jacksons, Chaka Kahn, Paul McCartney, Chet Atkins, Neil Diamond, Dave Weckl, Richard Marx, Wilson Phillips, Bette Midler, Bob Segar, Rod Stewart, Van Halen, Spinal Tap, Whitney Houston, Meat Loaf, Lionel Ritchie, and Miles Davis. Of course that’s only a partial listing!!!