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Berklee Bass Talk: Is It Necessary To Play Live To Improve?

Berklee Bass Talk: Is It Necessary To Play Live To Improve?

Ed Lucie is thed-lucie-150x150e Associate Professor of the Berklee College Of Music Bass Department, and he will be happy to answer your questions. So feel free to ask away, and we will forward your questions to Ed.

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Q:  Is it still necessary for bassists to play live with other musicians in order to improve their own playing? There are so many practice tools available now, especially the hundreds of various play-alongs with great rhythm sections. On the other hand, in live situations, we’re sometimes playing with others that might not be at our playing level. Why not just try to improve our chops at home?

A: It is absolutely essential that bass players play with other musicians, not only to improve their own playing but to experience the ‘give and take’ of being a member of an ensemble. There are so many variables at work when playing with others. The first is simply everyone’s different personalities, and learning how to negotiate and work among them; to be a player among players. I always recall Abraham Laboriel saying the bass is the role of a servant; we are to serve the music and make everyone else sound good. He always does a masterful job of this.

And then there are all the things that occur in the moment that musicians need to be able to respond to. For instance: a singer losing the form, the drummer rushing or dragging, the guitarist playing wrong chords. How do we react or respond? You do not learn this by playing with DVD’s where everything is always perfect and always the same. We learn whenever we play, whether it be with more experienced or less experienced musicians. Try Googling “baseball batting instruction”, you’ll find many. Perhaps you can learn some techniques from these but you need to get into the game. You need to be up to bat with two men on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and the game on the line, to know what that takes to succeed. No DVD will ever teach you that. And no DVD will ever teach you the energy, the excitement, the joy and the fulfillment of playing with a good band live, and knowing you are holding it all together.

 

About Ed Lucie: In addition to being a Berklee professor and graduate, Ed has a Masters from the New England Conservatory Of Music. As a pro bassist, he has performed with Stevie Wonder, Buddy Rich, Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule, Leo Nocentelli, and has performed both on Broadway and TV. You’ve heard him as a sideman on numerous albums, and perhaps have read his columns back when he was a contributing writer for Bass Player Magazine.

For more info on Ed Lucie, visit his Berklee page.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. robert

    September 17, 2013 at 8:17 am

    I don’t completely agree with serve the music an make others sound great,that’s for pocket bassist,but there does have to be a happy medium for all to enjoy what we do??? Even tho I know I’d like to brake a keyboardist left hand at times

  2. David

    September 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Whether it is equipment short comings, my playing, the room, or the other people I play with, I learn something new everytime I step on the stage. It is a journey where there is always an opportunity to do something better.

  3. John Montagna

    October 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Here’s a better question: would you board an airplane if you knew the pilot’s only training was a flight simulator?

    Playing with other musicians is what makes us great, period. I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.

  4. C. McElroy

    October 22, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Disagree in form, the question the original poster asked was; is it necessary for a player to play with others to improve? The answer to that is undeniably NO, it is not necessary to play with others to improve. You can improve you theory by playing scales, modes, apreggios and learning chords. You can improve your timing by playing with a metronome or along with prerecorded drum tracks or even the radio. The thing that you’ll miss by not playing with others is the push/pull and how to put it all together. Live playing is the ultimate practice the place where the 100’s of things that your practicing, that your mindful of when your playing all come together. If you want to improve practice! It doesn’t really matter what, you’ll improve. If you want to grow as a player
    live performances will get you there a lot faster.

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