Bass approaches

Bass approaches

Postby Lunchbox16 » Fri Sep 26, 2014 9:24 pm

Rusty, Zambiland, or any other bassists out there... any suggestions for this tune? Signature licks or certain things to note when playing it?

I cranked the studio version today to try to get a feel for what Phil was doing and the low end was a bit muddled in the car. May have to try with headphones. But any pointers are appreciated. Thanks!
"Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby ugly rumor » Sun Sep 28, 2014 12:01 am

Well, looks like you get me; the unconventional deadhead. My approach is that I play what I feel at that moment. I may use whole notes, repetition, melodic phrases, long rests, half notes, quarter notes, staccato or droning,or any combination of the above. It depends on how the song presents itself to me at the time. Recently I played a version of "Eyes Of The World" where the guitar players were so into shining that I experimented with long whole note phrases and slow melodic themes, nothing like I ever heard Phil do, but was very happy with the result. The counter to the frenzy was surprisingly complementary. So, absorb the song into your consciousness, feel the approach others are giving, and play what complements the song as presented at that moment, and you will have played the music, if not necessarily the song, but that is the point anyway, no?
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby ugly rumor » Sun Sep 28, 2014 12:11 am

What would Phil do? Play the music! If you want to play like Phil, don't copy him; be creative, let your self shine through!

I always loved the Oscar Wilde quote from "The Importance of Being Ernest", where Algernon says, "I don't play accurately - anyone can do that - but I play with great expression".

I would much rather be complimented on my playing than on my ability to be Phil Lesh. I love him, he is a great influence on me, but he has already been Phil, and done a better job of it than I could, so I concentrate on being me. Some get it, many don't, but I do, so that's who I try to please, with varied results. I actually get complimented on my tone by other musicians, and my playing by the public, unless that other musician understands it, or likes it even if he doesn't understand, which is a bit more common. For an example, look under the "Eyes of the World" song thread; there is an example of my interpretation there.
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby tcsned » Sun Sep 28, 2014 6:46 am

I'm not a bass player but I would say that Ugly Rumor's approach is the way to approach Dead music IMHO. Steal the approach not necessarily the notes. Though there's nothing wrong with learning some of the things Phil does. I'm sure you've tried this but the way we used to figure out bass parts was to crank up a recording and go in the other room and the bass will travel best through the walls.
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby tatittle » Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:20 am

With the above approaches in mind it is important to remember that there is a certain amount of "copying" nec'y required to play the song of course. Signature licks, changes, scales etc. Most folks understand this but I have run into folks who use the above notions as an excuse to not do the work of learning the song adequately, and the result can be pretty disappointing not to mention it can screw up what the other guys are able to play if it changes the song fundamentally to a greater or lesser extent. Im not sure why, it has happened before, but I have NO IDEA what song you are wanting to examine. I don't see a reference to a particular song anywhere in your post.
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby Lunchbox16 » Sun Sep 28, 2014 1:00 pm

Gentleman, thanks for the responses but I'm not looking for exact tabs. As tatittle suggested I'm just looking for an approach or a couple signature licks from which to work.

Given that this was posted in the forum for west la fadeaway I assumed the song in question was pretty obvious.
"Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby Rusty the Scoob » Mon Sep 29, 2014 6:45 am

To get a little more specific on the topic of your question... This is a pretty unusual song, basswise, if your goal is to sound more or less like Phil. You want to keep it dark but not heavy - shorter staccato notes tend to work better than long held ones. Stick to A natural minor (although Dorian works too. Really I don't find much use for either 6th until the big F natural in the turnaround) or A minor pentatonic. I tend to specifically avoid hitting anything on the same beats as Jerry's main lick (other than the A on beat 1 which is pretty important to hit) and play a subtle counterpoint to it, until the guitar solo when I'll play his lick exactly, it's a real powerful effect. Try not to even mimic the direction of his lick under the vocals, specifically under the descending part of the lick, if you descend there it gets too thick in a hurry.

This is a good song if you're trying to get a band to play with dynamics, it really helps to get quiet and sneaky under the verses, then grow little bigger in the choruses, then you can really drop the bombs during the solo.
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby Lunchbox16 » Mon Sep 29, 2014 9:33 am

Awesome! Thanks Rusty, that's exactly what I was hoping for. And I'm not trying to sound like Phil at all, just trying to give the song what it needs. It's looking like a trio arrangement so this is helpful in a number of ways. Much appreciated Rusty.
"Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." Time is a great storyteller. -- Irish Proverb
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Re: Bass approaches

Postby rugger » Mon Sep 29, 2014 9:35 am

I like the suggestions of "feeling the song" etc. That really is when music gets magical. But a certain level of proficiency has to be there to start with or as someone else noted, the results ain't always pretty.

The advice I see given on other forums regarding playing like a particular player almost always ends up being, "transcribe the person you want to sound like." It can be difficult and tedious but the rewards are well worth it. And the more you do it the easier it gets!

My suggestion/what works for me: Get the software Transcribe! It's like $40 bucks. It will be the best $40 investment in your playing you have ever spent. Slow down and loop the song one bar/passage at a time. Write it down. Rinse and repeat. I just plug my guitar straight into the computer with a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter, open up Garageband (or any DAW), match my level with the song level in Transcribe! and put on headphones. Voila, suddenly difficult things become easy.

John in San Diego
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