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Expanding your Vocabulary with MIDI: Extended Bass With Al Caldwell

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I have a band called the Traveling Black Hillbilly’s. I play Banjo and Bass in the band. We played for a festival in Ohio in September and the show was great. When we finished, the sponsor asked if we could play one more song, so I grabbed my 11 string and set it to Harmonica. I thought of Stevie Wonder and his song “Fingertips”. He could work a crowd with just a Harmonica. Thank God for my trusty MPC 1000 drum machine.

We started jamming and the crowd was dancing and I realized that if I played with tons of chops, I would have lost the crowd. This started out as a sit down concert until I played some new material from an unreleased CD. They jumped up and started to dance; I didn’t have a clue that we were a dance band.

 

I thought of every harmonica motif that I could think of as well as sax riffs and horn lines since the last thing that I wanted to do was play a bass line with the bass set on harmonica. I get overwhelmed sometimes and change the settings in a song to show the audience that my bass can play tons of sounds, but I can feel when I’ve lost them. I regret my poor choice of “Brilliant Stage Thoughts”. This time I realized that they felt what I was doing and all they wanted was for the music to stay funky. That’s when I decided to sing a riff from one of my other songs. I was nervous as hell and my pitch started to drift. My brain said to run back to the harmonica and save yourself; I did and they danced.

I’m still learning how and when to use this new tool, as note selection and taste will always be paramount in making the right decision onstage. I still feel like a kid with a new toy. This bass has a role in the future development of tomorrows expanding musicians. I’ve heard music in my head since I was a little kid. Being able to find the sound you want and blend it with your bass sound or other keyboard sounds is unbelievable. The hardest thing is to control yourself.

I wanted you to see me have fun on a gig and to watch the live thought process when you have choices. I didn’t have a clue what I would do, but I do have a large vocabulary of riffs and lines, and I knew that “back in the day”, if you found a riff that worked, you drove it down their throat!! It seems that everyone plays everything that they know in three songs; we have to learn to pace ourselves. I’ve been in music for 37 years and I’m still learning when to make the right moves. I always hear too much. I feel like I’m 16 years old again with this MIDI bass. I have a great bass collection and I love my 5 string bass, but I’ve played “honest bass” for so many years that I have the hardest time leaving that respectful world. When I play Motown, I play like James Jameson or Bob Babbitt. I don’t try to improve what those masters played. It’s a hit song because of what they did. When I play Vanessa’s hit songs, I don’t stick in a lot of runs or put my stamp on the music. Her songs were hits before I came on board. The 2 CD’s that I recorded with her allowed me to play the 9 string bass (because of the tone and lower range), but I stayed true to the style of the musicians who were there before me. You must have respect for the situation. I played bass on a rock fusion project with Greg Howe. The CD was “Introspection”. I’m on 6 tracks. The song” Jump= Start” was a joy to play on. Check it out on “Youtube”. Greg plays so much tastefully fast guitar that you don’t have to overplay to put your stamp on it.

I sound like a guitar player sometimes now. I used to take that as an insult in the past. I sound like a trumpet player (I started as a classical trumpet player) and I’m learning to sound like a host of instrumentalists. My house is filled with instructional DVD’s. The point that I’m trying to make is to expand your vocabulary. In the new world of Extended Range Bass, the rules are being written everyday. You have so many people to listen to and to be inspired by. Some people play their basses like a Chapman stick. Some people, like Avon Lucas, can play his bass and sound like a symphony. I think that this new batch of musicians could change the world. Youtube has taught us that everyone can play fast if they practice enough.

The most beloved musicians were always inspiring because they could speak musically to the masses. Melody and taste always wins as the richest musicians play slow and tasteful. The fastest musicians play with themselves or other speed demons. I have nothing against speed. I’m old and I can still play fast as hell. I just want bassist and musicians to think about substance. That’s what keeps your phone ringing. If you can outplay most of your pals and your not working, then think about what I said. Music is new to me again. I feel like a kid again and have so much to learn again. This year alone, I have bought four guitars. I’m learning how guitars get such great tone, and am learning how patterns that we’ve heard on guitars for years lay so differently on bass. I’m learning how a mandolin player phrases. I’m learning country fiddle. I need to learn more bluegrass. It has so much to offer to a guy who grew up playing funk and jazz.

I too still need to continue to “Expand my Vocabulary…”

Bass Videos

Working-Class Zeros: Episode #3 – John Patitucci IG Video, The Summer Festival Gig, iPads on Stage

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WORKING-CLASS ZEROS With Steve Rosati and Shawn Cav

In this episode we cover John Patitucci’s IG video about saying ‘no’ to the gig, the Summer Festival gig, and iPads on stage (sure it’s awesome but is it necessary?)

These stories from the front are with real-life, day-to-day musicians who deal with work life and gigging and how they make it work out. Each month, topics may include… the kind of gigs you get, the money, dealing with less-than-ideal rooms, as well as the gear you need to get the job done… and the list goes on from there.” – Steve the Bass Guy and Shawn Cav

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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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Gear News

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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