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Adam Nitti Technique: Using the “Doubling” Method For Increasing Your Speed

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Meet Adam Nitti –

Hello, and welcome to my first article for Bass Musician Magazine! I’m excited to be a part of this new online publication, and I hope that you will leave here with a new concept or approach that might help you on your quest to become the best bass-playing musician you can be!

For my first submission, I thought I’d address one of the topics that I get asked about frequently at my bass clinics: How to increase speed and dexterity. Whether you have been playing for 30 days or 30 years, chances are that you wouldn’t mind acquiring some more technical headroom in order to perform more fluidly and effortlessly on stage or in the studio. Although I could write many volumes on the subject of further developing technique, I thought I’d share just one of the most effective and simple ways I have found to break through speed barriers on the instrument in this installment. I hope this simple approach will help you as much as it has helped me in the past.

Before I get into the specifics here, first I must offer a short disclaimer… The methods and mechanics of exercises like these are purely technique-driven, and are designed only for the purpose of helping you with the synchronization between your 2 hands if you are interested in being able to play with more speed and dexterity. By continuing on, you accept the responsibility of making the MUSIC your priority on the gig and in the studio, and recognize that you are to practice these exercises for technique’s sake only… You vow to leave your rehearsed shapes and patterns in the practice shed, and allow the inspiration and spontaneity of the musical moment be your sole guide in choosing how you will express yourself on your instrument in performance settings… You hereby pledge allegiance to the groove, of the united strings, and to the bass, with musical liberty and justice for all. OK, ok. Enough ranting, already. Now I’m going just a little TOO far… 😉

A lot of us have turned to the metronome, drum machine, or some other external clock source for help with increasing our speed and cleanliness on the fingerboard. By starting with very slow tempos, and playing exercises that challenge our dexterity, we can slowly work up to speed progressively and incrementally, until the point at which we hit our ‘breaking point’, or ‘maximum tempo’ for the exercise. This is where things start to fall apart technically, and we lose our ability to play the exercise or phrase with any consistency anymore. For example, using this popular approach, you might take a one octave major scale, and play through it at an eighth note pace starting at 60 bpm, and then raise the metronome setting at 10 bpm increments until you reach the point at which you can no longer play the scale with perfect accuracy.

This is a viable and widely used method, but in my experience I have found that even this approach has its limitations when trying to break through your current tempo-oriented boundaries. This is because our mind and hands actually get conditioned to the repetitive process of a progressive tempo increase over time, and we actually find that the ‘wall of our maximum tempo’ feels impossible to break through, no matter how many times in a week we revisit it by working our way up the ‘metronomic’ ladder.

I’ve spent a lot of time and study trying to figure out how our brains work with respect to our bass-playing potential and limitations. What I have found is that often our methods of conditioning will establish predictable limitations. This is partly because we mentally carry the expectation that our limit is fast approaching as we work through the increasing speeds of the exercises we practice. In fact, we often develop a sense of anxiety while we are practicing in this way, in anticipation of reaching what we expect to be our breaking point as we watch the tempo settings on our metronome or drum machine; subsequently, we end up mentally preparing for our breaking point as it draws near with every passing increase in tempo. Although it might sound rather silly or unorthodox, I have found tremendously greater success in trying to ‘trick’ my mind into performing at a more proficient level than I would have obtained by staying completely conscious of each incremental increase using the aforementioned approach.

Ok…. I hear each of you sighing and scratching your heads. This tangent I’ve gone off on has by now started to sound like gibberish, I’m sure… So, in an effort to actually illustrate what the heck I’m rambling about let me give you an example of how you might ‘trick’ your mind or ‘shock’ your system into reaching the next level of dexterity on the bass!

ike many of you, I spent a lot of time in the past working with a metronome and doing as many combinations of exercises as i could that were devoted to speed and dexterity, slowly building tempo with each iteration along the way. However, one of the best ways I have found to increase your speed and cleanliness at a much faster rate, is to do what I call ‘doubling’ exercises… The idea is that you play an exercise or phrase at a particular tempo that is safe and comfortable 3 times in a row, and then without stopping, play the 4th repetition at double the tempo. After that, without stopping go back to the original tempo and start all over again. You keep cycling like this without interruption for several minutes, and only if you can play it perfectly, then jump the metronome or drum machine tempo upwards and then start over again.

Exercise 1 illustrates this approach using a 1 octave G major scale, with the metronome set at quarter notes, at 50 bpm:

As you can see, this is a very simple concept. In Exercise 1, we would play the G major scale ascending and descending using eighth notes for bars 1 through 6, and then suddenly jump into sixteenth notes for bar 7. This temporary doubling in speed is where the exercise takes you out of your comfort zone, but for a short enough period that you can still maintain your control over the shape. To continue with the exercise, I would recommend a strategy of playing through the currently selected tempo 5 times without any mistakes or sloppiness before upping the beats per minute to the next level. (I would recommend tempo increases somewhere between 5 and 10 bpm for each successive iteration of the exercise.)

Here’s another example in which we utilize a triplet feel, instead. In Exercise 2 we are just using a six note scale fragment taken from the G major scale. Note that in this exercise, our metronome would be set to the dotted quarter note, instead, at 50 bpm:

Once again, the pattern kicks into double speed after 3 repetitions, and then starts over again. Notice also that for this particular exercise, we are utilizing a 3 note per string approach, which changes the overall feel of our hand position. (Obviously, you could use any combination of different fingering positions that would help you in achieving your goals when working on things like this.)

The reason this approach is so effective is because it ‘shocks’ your system into playing twice as fast momentarily under focused concentration and attention to detail. Because you are only playing a single repetition at double speed, you do not become overwhelmed with the faster tempo, and thereby have a much higher success rate with respect to your conditioning. It is kind of like doing weight training, alternating between using lighter weights with longer repetitions, and heavier weights with shorter repetitions. This will get your speed ‘up to speed’ very quickly, and also help you to break through the barriers that might be holding you back from stepping up to that next tempo beyond your current maximum. It’s also like working 2 different tempos at the same time, so your mind and hands are not locked into just one phase of muscle memory as you step up the ladder.

Obviously, the sky is the limit with respect to what you use for exercise content… Exercises 1 and 2 simply use fragments from a G major scale pattern in a single position, but you could (and should) just as easily select from arpeggio forms, scale fragments, hybrid scale/chord tone combinations, or melodic phrases to create your speed workout routines. Strive to work on shapes that you are unfamiliar with, so that you are regularly taken outside of your technical comfort zone. This particular article is more dedicated to presenting you with the concept than actual content, because I really want you to use your own creativity and assessment in determining what the best application of this will be. Ultimately, it is always best to start with content that isn’t too overwhelming, so that you maintain your confidence and see your progress increase consistently over time.

To further develop your endurance, you can increase the number of double speed reps accordingly. For example, try doing 3 reps at normal speed followed by 2 reps at double speed, etc., etc. This is my favorite approach for increasing the level of difficulty for this type of technique-based work. I hope this concept will help you in your pursuit of technical excellence. Until next time, keep it bassy!

Gear News

New Gear: Esopus Guitars Launches New Acoustic/Electric Bass

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New Gear: Esopus Guitars Launches New Acoustic/Electric Bass

Esopus Guitars Launches New Acoustic/Electric Bass…

Esopus Guitars is proud to announce the new “Tailwater” bass guitar, from legendary bass luthier Stuart Spector. This 32” scale bass is handcrafted by Stuart using the only finest woods and components at the Esopus Guitar workshop located near Woodstock NY in the Catskill Mountains. 

From its fully carved spruce top (the top is carved on both its exterior and interior surfaces) with a thumb rest that is elegantly carved into the top, to its custom-made Fishman piezo pickup and super hard Carnauba wax finish, every detail of the Tailwater is part of creating the ultimate playing experience.

The Tailwater bass features a fully chambered spruce over alder body (15.5″ lower body bout width, 2.25″ body thickness measuring from the peak of the carved top) that delivers a super comfortable tonal tool for all your low-end needs.

Each Tailwater bass is hand-signed and numbered on the back of the peghead by Stuart Spector. A very limited number of Tailwater basses are handcrafted each year at the Esopus workshop. 

“I am proud to present the Tailwater bass, a bass that I have spent the last three years perfecting. The Tailwater is a culmination of all of my 45 years of experience, knowledge, and passion for bass guitar crafting. I am so eager to hear what fellow musicians create with this exciting new instrument.” -Stuart Spector

Direct Pricing : $4995.00 plus options. 

For more information about Esopus Guitars and Stuart Spector’s handcrafted instruments, visit www.EsopusGuitars.com.  

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Bass Videos

Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

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Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

Ian Allison Bassist extreme

Most recently Ian has spent the last seven years touring nationally as part of Eric Hutchinson and The Believers, sharing stages with acts like Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Rachel Platten, Matt Nathanson, Phillip Phillips, and Cory Wong playing venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Staples Center and The Xcel Center in St. Paul, MN.

I had a chance to meet up with him at the Sellersville Theater in Eastern Pennsylvania to catch up on everything bass. Visit online at ianmartinallison.com/

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @officialspector @bqwbassguitar @brute_bass_guitars @phdbassguitars @ramabass.ok @tribe_guitars @woodguerilla_instruments @mikelullcustomguitars @jcrluthier @elegeecustom

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Features

Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

Checking in with Bergantino Artist James Tobias

James Tobias, Bassist for psychedelic, Reggae-Rock titans Audic Empire shares his history as a musician and how he came to find Bergantino…

Interview by Holly Bergantino

James Tobias, a multi-talented musician and jack-of-all-trades shares his story of coming up as a musician in Texas, his journey with his band Audic Empire, and his approach to life and music. With a busy tour schedule each year, we were fortunate to catch up with him while he was out and about touring the US. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Dallas, Texas and lived in the Dallas area most of my life with the exception of 1 year in Colorado. I moved to the Austin area at age 18. 

What makes the bass so special to you particularly, and how did you gravitate to it?

I honestly started playing bass because we needed a bass player and I was the one with access to a bass amp and bass. I played rhythm guitar and sang up until I met Ronnie, who I would later start “Audic Empire” with. He also played rhythm guitar and sang and we didn’t know any bass players, so we had to figure something out. I still write most of my songs on guitar, but I’ve grown to love playing the bass. 

How did you learn to play, James?

I took guitar lessons growing up and spent a lot of time just learning tabs or playing by ear and kicked around as a frontman in a handful of bands playing at the local coffee shops or rec centers. Once I transitioned to bass, I really just tried to apply what I knew about guitar and stumbled through it till it sounded right. I’m still learning every time I pick it up, honestly. 

You are also a songwriter, recording engineer, and a fantastic singer, did you get formal training for this? 

Thank you, that means a lot!  I had a couple of voice lessons when I was in my early teens, but didn’t really like the instructor. I did however take a few lessons recently through ACC that I enjoyed and think really helped my technique (Shout out to Adam Roberts!) I was not a naturally gifted singer, which is a nice way of saying I was pretty awful, but I just kept at it. 

As far as recording and producing, I just watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked people who know more than me when I had a question. Whenever I feel like I’m not progressing, I just pull up tracks from a couple of years ago, cringe, and feel better about where I’m at but I’ve got a long way to go. Fortunately, we’ve got some amazing producers I can pass everything over to once I get the songs as close to finalized as I can. 

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that can be improved on the bass.

I honestly don’t know what my style would be considered. We’ve got so many styles that we play and fuse together that I just try to do what works song by song.  I don’t have too many tricks in the bag and just keep it simple and focus on what’s going to sound good in the overall mix. I think my strength lies in thinking about the song as a whole and what each instrument is doing, so I can compliment everything else that’s going on. What could be improved is absolutely everything, but that’s the great thing about music (and kind of anything really). 

Who were your influencers in terms of other musicians earlier on or now that have made a difference and inspired you?

My dad exposed me to a lot of music early. I was playing a toy guitar while watching a VHS of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble live at SXSW on repeat at 4 years old saying I wanted to “do that” when I grew up. I was the only kid in daycare that had his own CDs that weren’t kid’s songs. I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and The Doors when I could barely talk. I would make up songs and sing them into my Panasonic slimline tape recorder and take it to my preschool to show my friends. As I got older went through a bunch of music phases. Metal, grunge, rock, punk, hip hop, reggae, ska, etc. Whatever I heard that I connected to I’d dive in and learn as much as I could about it. I was always in bands and I think I kept picking up different styles along the way and kept combining my different elements and I think that’s evident in Audic’s diverse sound. 

Tell me about Audic Empire and your new release Take Over! Can you share some of the highlights you and the band are most proud of?

Takeover was an interesting one. I basically built that song on keyboard and drum loops and wrote and tracked all my vocals in one long session in my bedroom studio kind of in a stream-of-consciousness type of approach. I kind of thought nothing would come of it and I’d toss it out, but we slowly went back and tracked over everything with instruments and made it our own sound. I got it as far as I could with production and handed it off to Chad Wrong to work his magic and really bring it to life. Once I got Snow Owl Media involved and we started brainstorming about a music video, it quickly turned into a considerably larger production than anything we’ve done before and it was such a cool experience. I’m really excited about the final product, especially considering I initially thought it was a throwaway track.

Describe the music style of Audic Empire for us. 

It’s all over the place… we advertise it as “blues, rock, reggae.” Blues because of our lead guitarist, Travis Brown’s playing style, rock because I think at the heart we’re a rock band, and reggae because we flavor everything with a little (or a lot) of reggae or ska. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio Systems?

Well, my Ampeg SVT7 caught fire at a show… We were playing Stubbs in Austin and everyone kept saying they smelled something burning, and I looked back in time to see my head, perched on top of its 8×10 cab, begin billowing smoke. We had a tour coming up, so I started researching and pricing everything to try and find a new amp. I was also fronting a metal band at the time, and my bass player’s dad was a big-time country bass player and said he had this really high-end bass amp just sitting in a closet he’d sell me. I was apprehensive since I really didn’t know much about it and “just a little 4×10” probably wasn’t going to cut it compared to my previous setup. He said I could come over and give it a test drive, but he said he knew I was going to buy it. He was right. I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t believe the power it put out compared to this heavy head and cumbersome cab I had been breaking my back hauling all over the country and up countless staircases.  

Tell us about your experience with the forte D amp and the AE 410 Speaker cabinet. 

It’s been a game-changer in every sense. It’s lightweight and compact. Amazing tone. And LOUD. It’s just a fantastic amp. Not to mention the customer service being top-notch! You’ll be hard-pressed to find another product that, if you have an issue, you can get in touch with the owner, himself. How cool is that? 

Tell us about some of your favorite basses.

I was always broke and usually working part-time delivering pizzas, so I just played what I could get my hands on. I went through a few pawn shop basses, swapped in new pickups, and fought with the action on them constantly. I played them through an Ampeg be115 combo amp. All the electronics in it had fried at some point, so I gutted it out and turned it into a cab that I powered with a rusted-up little head I bought off someone for a hundred bucks. My gear was often DIY’d and held together by electrical tape and usually had a few coats of spray paint to attempt to hide the wear and tear. I never really fell in love with any piece of gear I had till I had a supporter of our band give me an Ibanez Premium Series SDGR. I absolutely love that bass and still travel with it. I’ve since gotten another Ibanez Premium Series, but went with the 5-string BTB.  It’s a fantastic-sounding bass, my only complaint is it’s pretty heavy. 

Love your new video Take Over! Let us know what you’re currently working on (studio, tour, side projects, etc.)

Thank you!! We’ve got a LOT of stuff we’re working on right now actually. Having 2 writers in the band means we never have a shortage of material. It’s more about getting everything tracked and ready for release and all that goes into that. We just got through filming videos for 2 new unreleased tracks with Snow Owl Media, who did the videos for both Love Hate and Pain and Takeover. Both of these songs have surprise features which I’m really excited about since these will be the first singles since our last album we have other artists on. We’ve also got a lot of shows coming up and I’ve also just launched my solo project as well. The debut single, “Raisin’ Hell” is available now everywhere. You can go here to find all the links distrokid.com/hyperfollow/jamestobias/raisin-hell

What else do you do besides music?

For work, I own a handyman service here in Austin doing a lot of drywall, painting, etc. I have a lot of hobbies and side hustles as well. I make custom guitar straps and other leather work. I do a lot of artwork and have done most of our merch designs and a lot of our cover art. I’m really into (and borderline obsessed) with health, fitness, and sober living.  I have a hard time sitting still, but fortunately, there’s always a lot to do when you’re self-employed and running a band!

Follow James Tobias:

jamestobiasmusic.com
Facebook.com/james.tobias1
Instagram.com/ru4badfish2
TikTok.com/@jamestobiasmusic
audicempire.com 

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Bass CDs

New Album: Avery Sharpe, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

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A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper”

Avery Sharpe and his Double Quartet to release, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper” is scheduled for release in June 2024.

Sharpe has composed a new work that highlights our commitment to one another. Avery initiated the project as a response to the political and racial division that has grown over the past seven years in the country. “The U.S political climate has drastically changed in the past 40-plus years, especially during the last seven of those years. In this age of greed, which Sharpe refers to as “IGM,” I Got Mine, basic human compassion has been eroded. Racial, economic and social strides are being turned back.

“We have food insecurity, the unhoused, pandemics, school shootings, domestic violence, and an opioid problem, just to name some. There is a need to remind people that each of us is here on this planet for a very short period of time. It doesn’t matter if one has a religious approach or a secular approach, it all comes down to concern and compassion for each other. Through these compositions and recordings, Avery’s mission as an artist is to remind us that we all are interconnected and that ‘We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper.’ When we help to uplift one, we uplift everyone,” Sharpe said.

Each movement in the piece describes the values we should strive for to help one another for this multi-media (video slide show during performance) and multi-discipline performance.

Many of Sharpe’s projects and recordings have been about “standing on the shoulders of ancestors, heroes and sheroes.” Among his recordings and projects, include “Running Man” (celebrating the athlete Jesse Owens), “Ain’t I A Woman” (about Sojourner Truth), and his most recent project “400: An African American Musical Portrait” (marking the 400 years from 1619 to 2019).

Avery Sharpe has recorded and performed with many jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef. He had an illustrious run of 20 plus years with the legendary Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, of which he recorded more than 25 records with Mr. Tyner and performed countless worldwide concerts.

Visit online at averysharpe.com/

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