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The Difference Between Playing and Emoting: Thoughts From Mike Pope

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As musicians, we’ve all been listening to music we love for a long time. I used to sit and listen to Weather Report, or Pat Metheny, or Chick Corea for hours on end, all the while painting a sort of subjective picture of the music. In my mind I’d formulate images of what the players looked like when they were playing these amazing solos or bass lines, or the ambience of the room or hall they were playing in (often a function of Mr. Lex I Conreverb, of course). I remember being knocked out the first time I heard that Cmaj pentatonic lick in the seventh bar of the 1st chorus of Birdland. I envisioned some grandiose physical rigmarole involved in playing it. The one time I got to see Jaco it became clear that I was deadly wrong. He played so much while not really moving a whole lot. I completely revamped my approach to the instrument at a time when I had tons of time for discipline and practice (I think I was 15). I progressed more in the ensuing 3 or 4 months than I had the previous few years I’d been playing. At least in terms of my command of the instrument.

For many of us, it was the emotions and images this music conjured up that drove us to play an instrument. For me, there was very little video available to see at the time, so these mental images had a lot to do with my approach to the bass. Unfortunately, many of them were less than conducive to good bass playing.

Playing and emoting are not the same thing. Mainly because emoting is feeling and playing is doing. This isn’t to say that they aren’t related and intertwined with one another. I don’t think that anyone would argue that an unemotional performance is generally not a good one. But I think understanding how the emotion of the performance, the emotion felt by the listener, and your original emotional impetus for playing the music differ.

The emotions you feel when you play will not necessarily lead you to do the things you need to do to in order to make your audience feel the emotion you want them to feel. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be feeling emotion when you play. It’s simply to say that you need to deal with the reality of how you play something in order ensure the desired result. In fact for many, simply focusing on the emotion behind the music gets them doing what they need to do. This is probably most often because those people already know what to do on some level, and are simply wrapped up in the mechanics of doing it. Ironically for others, when the emotion is spurious, it can impede your ability to understand how what you’re playing is being received. When that happens, as it often does, you need to question what’s driving the emotion. The goal being to separate the non-pertinent emotion you’re feeling from the task you’re trying to perform so that you can focus on learning to DO what you’re not DOING in order get the FEELING you want. Time to practice!

If you’ve ever walked away from a gig with memories of brilliant moments and deep emotional catharsis you can understand how powerful the images and sensations of those moments can be. But the reality is that you felt that way because of what you did. You did not do what you did because of how you felt. And so, in order to feel that way again, you need to do what you did again. It’s as simple as that. Let’s break it down to a single musical passage. Upon playing it you, and your audience, said, “that was GORGEOUS!” Your memory of this is reflective emotion. If you reflect on this the next time you go to play the passage, you won’t be paying any attention to doing what you need to do in order to play the passage and get that result again. You almost certainly WON’T get the same result. But if your focus is on what you need to do in the here and now, you have every chance at not only feeling what you felt again, but also having the audience feel it right along with you.

Taking the time to record yourself and listen to it objectively is a great way to establish where you really are. But listening to yourself objectively is difficult when you’re searching for a subjective response from someone else. But a good place to start is where you purge your mind of preconceptions and imagined responses of others. Make sure there’s not an image of a person, or a memory of an experience floating around in the back of your mind, posing as some sort of self-imposed benchmark. Listen to what you played and decide if represents your feelings. You are the maker of your music, and you know what you want to say. There’s no need to stress yourself out over imagined challenges. I think the real ones are enough for most of us.

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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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Gear News

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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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 @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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