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Ear-Hand Coordination

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It’s possible that many of the people reading this have found themselves in a position where they’ve had to play a song that they’ve never heard without the benefit of a chart.

When I was 15 years old, I used to stay out until all hours of the night (yes… ALL hours) playing in a local jazz club with a well-established piano player in the area. His name was Eddie Abrams and his band was called the Red Port Review. Red Port like the wine, of which he regularly consumed a great deal. In fact, by the time I joined the band he had moved on to White Port. Maybe too many headaches, I don’t know.

As a kid I was exposed to a lot of music. My mom, when she was a child, was a big fan of the popular music of the 40’s and 50’s. Since she didn’t have a piano in her formative years, she would have to learn the songs by ear from listening to the radio, and then remember them until the next day, when she would go to school and have access to a piano. Needless to say, her ears were, and still are, scary.

A lot of what she learned, she passed along to me. And some of that repertoire was part of Eddie’s set. All of it, stylistically, fell into the category of “standards”. Even though I though I knew an awful lot for a 15 year-old kid, I found out quickly that I was going to be challenged on that gig. Eddie didn’t call the names, or the keys, or the tempos, or the feels of any of the songs. I sometimes wondered if maybe his hands just played and his mind caught up with them. Like his hands were doing the same thing to his mind, that he was doing to me. At any rate, I had to learn to hear on my feet. And I did.

I like to call it ‘Ear-hand’ coordination. I didn’t even know I was developing it until one time, on a wedding gig, I was playing with one hand and talking on the phone with the other (Off the side of the stage during a “continuous” ballad where no one could see me). Not professional, I know, but the audience couldn’t see me, and the band members were friends. The piano player played some hip substitute changes and without realizing it, I played them with him. When I turned around to react and say, “nice changes…those were hip”, I saw him and the bandleader laughing. They were apparently testing me. Nice… They thought it was some kind of freakish thing. It was second nature to me.

This is when something useful happened in my head. So many people ask me how I can do that kind of thing. Many of them can’t imagine how I do it, like it’s magic. People accuse me of having perfect pitch, which I do not. I came to the realization, through some of these conversations, that some people haven’t realized that music is not random. Not only is it not random… western music is typically VERY PREDICTABLE in terms of it’s harmonic and melodic content, which is what we as bassists are mainly concerned with in that kind of situation. If a c chord suddenly becomes a C7 chord, the chances of the next chord being an Fsomething are pretty good. There’s also a good chance it would be a B chord of some type, or more of C7. In most situations there are predictable likelihoods at the very least. Often, a song can lead you through it on it’s own if you listen carefully enough.

The point of all of this is that the only wrong way to get through a situation like that is to give up or get nervous. The main thing is to have an opinion! If you don’t know what the next chord is, listen and form an opinion in your ear. It might be wrong, but not having an opinion means not playing anything. And that’s useless.

If you’ve had any experience with Victor Wooten, you may have heard him talk about “A right note always being a half step away.” For bassists this is almost true without qualification. Obviously, there is only one right note to play for a written chord. If the chord is a C major chord, you need to be playing C to be accurate. BUT, if the chord you’re coming off of is an E7, and you think you’re going to A, and you play an A, you’ve just changed the C major chord to an A min7 chord, and that beats the heck out of playing nothing.

Can you hear the difference between a Cmaj7 and a Cmin7? Try this. Play all the white notes in one octave on a keyboard. Now change one. Do you hear the difference? I’ve never known anyone who didn’t. If you can hear this, you can hear a Cmaj turn to a C7. If you can hear that, you can hear a lot more. The trick is to identify it and remember it.

I hope this was useful. I could write volumes on the subject, and probably will. But for now, ponder this. And if you have an opportunity, play some jazz with some close friends and make them play tunes you don’t know. Ask them to tell you the form and play through it once for you to listen… in time so you can feel the harmonic rhythm. Then just go. Don’t be nervous. You’re only getting better which is all you can ask of yourself. You will be surprised, I guarantee you.

Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Curly Hendo

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Interview Wity Bassist Curly Hendo

Bassist Curly Hendo…

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, bassist Curly Hendo has been super busy. Starting with dance from a young age, Curly took up bass shortly after and has been going strong ever since. She has collaborated with numerous acts worldwide and is an in-demand session/touring bassist and musical director.

Join me as we learn about Curly’s musical journey, how she gets her sound, and her plans for a very bright future.

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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 @jermsbass @degierguitars @meridian_guitars @xvector_basses @marleaux_bassguitars @mattissonbass @alesvychodilbasses @gvguitars @thebassplace @xylembassguitar

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Bass CDs

New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

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New Album: Ben Mortiz, MORENO

The Chilean bassist, producer and sociologist, Ben Mortiz, celebrates the launch of his latest studio work, “MORENO” an album that mixes jazz, soul, and funk following the characteristic Latin style of  Mortiz. The artist completely produced the album under the label “Fallen Lab Records” in the south of Chile.

“MORENO” brings deep and smooth sounds, expressing a sophisticated and elegant Latin vibe. You will find meditative harmonies and joyful melodic voices. The record’s core is the human vibration that Mortiz feels from the Latin American music. The Caribbean rhythms and strong Latin percussions are the musical glue in every song that emerges with the force of the electric bass.

“MORENO” creates a real connection between corporal reactions and mind sensations, always in reference to the originality of Mortiz to fuse modern and classic Latin sounds.

For more information, visit online at danielbenmortiz.com/

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New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Dual Compressor/Effects Loop

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New Gear: Phil Jones Bass X2C Duel Compressor/Effects Loop

Step Into X2C With Phil Jones Bass Dual Compressor/Effects Loop…

Phil Jones Bass latest pedal innovation is the X2C Dual Compressor with Dual Effects Loop for performance and recording. The X2C incorporates advanced compressor circuit technology and provides comprehensive tone control with a dual crossover feature which divides the signal into frequency bands ranging from 100Hz to 500Hz, ensuring exceptional clarity and dynamics in tone refinement. 

With insert jacks on each band, the X2C unlocks limitless creativity, enabling players to use various FX pedals for custom tone sculpting. Additionally, it functions as an electronic crossover, ideal for driving high-performance, 2-way bass rigs.

PJB’s Dual-Band compression design is more flexible than standard single-band compressors and provides a more natural and transparent sound. It also provides greater control over shaping and managing dynamics where standard compressors affect the entire frequency spectrum of an audio signal.  

PJB’s dual compressor enables the player to shape specific frequency ranges of an audio signal which allows for compressing the low frequencies while preserving the high frequencies, or vice-versa. Treating the low-end with a dedicated band also allows for heavy compression without affecting the midrange frequencies, which carry the attack of the sound. 

Effects can be plugged into the insert jacks on the X2C and controlled separately. As an example, the lows can be adjusted separately for an overdrive pedal while the highs can be controlled for a chorus. 

Dividing the audio spectrum into fundamental frequencies and harmonics is also effective in the enrichment of slapping techniques. The low frequencies can be compressed without changing the dynamics of the “slap”. By controlling the low frequencies and focusing the attack on the slap the amplifier will sound louder while avoiding overloading of the amp or speakers. The low band can be compressed without the harmonics being affected. In addition, the send jacks can go to different amplifiers/speakers for a bi-amplification set up.

Compact and potent, the X2C embodies studio-grade excellence, setting a new standard for dynamic processing in an uncompromising, portable pedal. The street price is $359.99.

Visit online at www.pjbworld.com

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Bass CDs

New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

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New Album: CATTANEO, Tim Lefebvre, Andrea Lombardini, Hypersphere

CATTANEO, TIM LEFEBVRE AND ANDREA LOMBARDINI PRESENT ‘HYPERSPHERE’ EP
The members of Buñuel, David Bowie’s band and a prominent electronic artist are united and have releases their first collaborative release via Freecom Hub.

Hypersphere is an EP created by CATTANEOTim Lefebvre and Andrea Lombardini. Following their conceptual milestone, a dream team of bass players and multi-instrumentalists created fragments of music, coexisting and complementing each other individually and altogether. Having been playing with CATTANEO since 2016, Andrea Lombardini describes the process of their work as “strong musical connection”. Starting with the fully improvised set featuring drum-machine and pedal effects. “Some of Paolo’s keyboards are homemade and he has very unique sounds” – explains Andrea. Getting Tim Lefebvre to produce the EP, the duo simultaneously started another vehicle of their collaboration.

Moving their work organically, three extraordinary musicians managed to reach an almost-perfect balance between sounds of guitar and bass with electronic instruments. Morphing together, numerous guitar riffs, loops of synthesizers. Dominating electronic sounds get united with a rock take, depicting dark moods and ethereal landscapes. All these elements work in tandem to create something new each time.

Order Hypersprehere here.

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