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The Tom Fowler ‘Sound’


The Tom Fowler ‘Sound’

Dear readers…

As an engineer, I have been very fortunate to have worked with many of the world’s top musicians. They have many different ideas when it comes to getting their particular sound and how they go about recording or getting ready for a gig. For many years I have been working with the legendary bassist, Tom Fowler. Recently, we have been again working on a couple different projects.

For those of you who do not know Tom, he is one of the legends of rock and jazz! He studied violin from age 6, added upright bass age 13, and then took up electric bass guitar age 16. He has performed and recorded with Ray Charles, Frank Zappa, The Fowler Brothers, “It’s a Beautiful Day,” George Duke, Jean-luc Ponty, and many more. He is the main bassist on “Genius Loves Company”, the final recording from music legend Ray Charles, which was nominated for 10 Grammys! Tom also played most of the bass on the movie “Ray.” He had some informative comments on recording and getting ‘his sound’.

Describe your rig.
“My rig consists of a Morelli upright bass, Shak 5-string bass guitar, SWR super redhead amp, SWR RM 900 amp.”

What do you look for in a rig?
“I look for hi fi quality, the ability to carry a distance without distortion, dependability.”

Do you bring multiple axes and/or amps to a session?
“I bring whatever instrument is called for, upright and electric bass and/or violin, and whatever amp is called for by the gig.”

What kind of strings do you use?
“I use Thomastic strings on all my instruments.”

How often do you do maintenance on your rig?
“Maintenance is an ongoing issue we all face, especially on the road.  I try to stay on top of everything but it’s not always possible.”

What are your favorite mics?
“I use a Royer 122 to record both my acoustic instruments and my amps if amplified.”

What do you like in your headphone mix?
“Of course I have to have rhythm section instruments high in my mix. The other voices (if there are any) are less important, except the melody instrument, which I usually parody at some level.”

What kind of headphones do you like?
“I’m comfortable with most hi-fi headphones, but especially like Sony high-end D J models.”

What’s the best gig you ever did?
“The best gigs I ever played were: the gig before the “Can’t do that on stage vol.2″ Frank Zappa gig which was performed in Copenhagen, The Ray Charles 40th anniversary gig live at the Olympia Paris and a Jean-luc Ponty gig at the Olympia in which the equipment arrived an hour late and a wonderful pianist filled the gap.”

What’s the worst?
“The worst was the last gig I played with a very ill Ray Charles in Los Angeles. It was heartbreaking.”

What’s the best session you ever did?
“My best session was my own “Heartscapes” CD, where I was my own boss.”

“My worst has been permanently blocked out by my ego.”

Any advice for someone starting out?
“My advice to someone starting out: have another career to fall back on even if you are talented. It takes a lot of pressure off of you! Learn as much as you can about harmony, scales, proper technique, digital notation and recording, and learn to compose.”

Any advice for someone just starting to record?
“The hardest thing about recording is learning to be patient with one’s self and the producer.”

What do you consider your big break?
“My biggest break was being born.”

What’s your favorite type of music to play?
“I like to play and record all kinds of music.”

What’s your playing weakness?
“I love Latin but I’m not as well versed as I could be. I like funk but I don’t spend the time required to become a virtuoso.”

What’s your playing strength?
“I’m best at rock, fusion and jazz.”

What kind of gigs are the hardest for you?
“Boring industrial gigs in Casinos are difficult to get through and maintain a high level of performance.”

What kind of gigs are the most fun?
“One nighters with good bands are exceedingly fun.”

What do you hate about recording?
“I hate control freaks who put their egos before the music.”

I hope that you have gained some insight into this amazing bassist. If you would like to learn more about Tom Fowler, you can visit his website at:

You can also see Tom’s discography at

Thanks for checking in and I will have more for you next month!


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