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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.

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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 @zonguitars @shukerbassguitars @bite.guitars @adamovicbasses @mayonesguitars @bassbros.uk @capursoguitars @overwaterbasses @saitiasguitars @ramabass.ok

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

New from Elrick Bass Guitars, Headless Series added to Custom Lineup…

Elrick Bass Guitars is excited to announce the addition of a headless option on hand-carved series bass guitars. Initially previewed on the 2023 Gold Series SLC MkII bass of prolific solo bass practitioner and educator Steve Lawson, a headless bass option is now available to all. According the Elrick, “The excitement surrounding Steve’s MkII SLC bass at 2024 NAMM confirmed that the time is right to add a headless option to our extensive range of custom options.” To date, Elrick instruments have only been offered with traditional headstock construction but, in response to market demand, custom features will now include a headless option in 4-, 5- and 6-string models.

Headless bass guitars share these features with the traditional headstock series:

24 frets + zero fret
exotic wood top
hand-rubbed oil finish
2-way adjustable truss rod
custom Bartolini pickups
custom Bartolini 3-band preamp
fully shielded control cavity
Hipshot bridge
Dunlop Straploks
Elrick Fundamental strings

The headless option can now be selected when submitting custom order requests via the form on elrick.com, contacting the Elrick Sales Office directly, or working with your favorite Elrick dealer.

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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