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Bass Concepts With Billy Dickens: Concentrate on Music

Meet Bill “The Buddha” Dickens –

Hey everybody, it’s Bill “The Buddha” Dickens here. I just wanted to say thank you for all of your compliments. It is wonderful to be known all over the world for my technique and everything that I do.

The message I’d like to begin with, and share with all of you, is “not” to be focusing on just technique. You should be concentrating on the nature of the music itself, because at the end of the day, just speed and technique alone is not going to get you the recording session or tour that you desire. For me, being “musical” is what it’s all about. Bass is not my only instrument. I also play drums, piano, acoustic guitar, as well as being an arranger and vocal coach. I read all clefs, and can translate those ideas onto the bass, which helps me come up with ideas that most people wouldn’t think of.

As I see it, my job as a bassist can be twofold. One is just holding down the groove and supporting the music I’m playing. This is the art of knowing when to play, as well as when not to. I’ve worked hard on mastering “space”, and when it’s appropriate, as well as keeping the groove and complimenting the music. The other role I’m able to execute is playing chords and chord inversions behind singers or soloists, or preparing and playing a solo piece myself, and that part of my playing developed from studying jazz theory and improvisation, as well as investigating classical music.

What I choose to play as a rhythm section player or a soloist has been well thought out, and sometimes I get the impression that people don’t understand what I’m doing, and here’s my thoughts on that. There’s a whole generation of players out there who don’t have the institutions available to them as I did, to help them at an early age begin to prepare for being able to handle whatever is presented musically, as a rhythm section player, as well as a soloist. A basic understanding of how things work on a harmonic level is a valuable commodity.

I tell you this because I’m not just a bassist; I’m a producer as well.

Some of the things that have helped me to become a better bassist came from some of the greatest musicians in the world. What I’ve learned from them is what makes my approach unique. It’s helped me to be able to cover all genres of music as well, which has been documented on numerous records and projects that I’ve been on over the last thirty years. I have to admit it has troubled me when people see me only as far as my technique, rather then understanding it’s only one part of what I do as a musician, and what I’ve learned.

A question that I’m often asked is “How did you come up with your own technique”? I try to explain it’s a combination of what I’ve learned, playing multiple instruments, and having a trained ear, that opened the door for the techniques I’ve developed. So once again you see, it’s not about the technique, but what got you there that’s important. I was lucky to have a mom that encouraged me to play many different instruments at a young age, as well as sight read, and this as well helped me develop my approach to playing.

Let me explain how I tie all this together. On my right hand, I play with all my fingers individually, as well as 5 of my nails in a synergistic symphony. An analogy would be like having 5 fingerpicks. So I’m able to play to the speed of any drummer, or back it off and play percussively behind a hip-hop or rock groove, right down to a good feel for slow funk tune, or ballad. My point is, my technique is just a tool to make a groove feel better.

I hope I’m able to a leave some great music for generations to come, and those that listen, enjoy, and then take it to another level. I thank everyone for their support, and quite honestly for their criticism as well, because I grow as a person from both. I thank my fans, and my dearest friend Victor Wooten who has always been an inspiration to me, as well as my good friend Jeff Berlin, who is one of the few people who understands where I’m trying to go.

I look forward to presenting through this magazine new music, new ideas, new techniques, and my thoughts on whatever I feel might be helpful, and hopefully relevant to any aspiring musician. I’ve been given a gift from God, and I look forward to sharing that with you.

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