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Why Fretless?

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Since Jaco Pastorius in the mid seventies, fretless bass guitar has become popular not only in fusion and jazz, but in all kinds of music.We have to admit that since the death of Jaco at the end of the eighties, defining a voice on this instrument has been a challenge”.

Of course, Jaco had an incredible talent, and after him there haven’t been a lot of fretless players who have been able to find their own voice on this instrument as Jaco did. There was a time you could be accused of being a “Jaco clone” if you were simply just “playing” fretless. I see this is a very interesting problem, because it’s all about the music, not just the bass. It goes without saying that it’s easier to copy someone than finding your own voice, and I’ve always felt that finding your own voice, even on fretless is totally reachable. Let’s talk about that as well as other reasons to consider fretless.

One of the first reasons to consider playing fretless, for all bass players, is that it will develop your ear. It’s actually worse in my opinion to be out of tune on a fretless bass than an acoustic bass. The sound of the upright is deeper than the sound of the bass guitar, and with the acoustic tone, it’s seems to be OK even if you’re not perfectly in tune… I’m exaggerating just a little bit.
On the electric fretless, you can hear everything… absolutely everything. If you’re not perfectly in tune, it just sounds terrible! Each time I record something, I become a sort of maniac with making sure I’m in tune.

So in that sense, once again, playing fretless will develop you ear. For me, bad intonation is simply just not acceptable, and that being said, you’ll see how the fretless will make you more humble.

The second thing to consider is realizing that bass guitar is a very young instrument, as well as the fretless. When you chose to play upright (for example), you’re playing an instrument, which has a tradition of several centuries. And it’s sometimes difficult to break away from tradition.

Bass guitar is only 57 years old (if you take the 51′ Fender Precision as reference). Its life span in comparison is very short. All of the reasons why Leo Fender created the Precision, then the Jazz Bass are still good reasons (portability, playability, precision of sound…)

A lot of us still carry the concept of fretless as a “Jaco” thing… but there are so many other possibilities. The concept for bass guitar is in a permanent state of evolution, as well as the players themselves.

I began bass guitar and upright bass almost at the same time (13 years old). But at the age of 20, I decided to concentrate exclusively on bass guitar, because of the reasons above… I still love the sound of the upright (my favorite upright player is Charlie Haden). Maybe I will play some upright again, just for my own pleasure… but I’m still, and will always be a bass, contrabass and sub-bass guitarist.

If you consider also the extended range basses, which are still something very new, you can see that there are so many variations for a fretless bass guitar. And some of those variations are just impossible to achieve with an acoustic instrument. The “sub” register is close to impossible to reproduce with an upright bass. You would have to consider the giant one which is called the “Octobass”, which was used for some of Hector Berlioz’s symphonic work in the nineteen century!

I’ve made the choice 6 years ago to develop my sub-bass concept. My fretless sub-bass has a low E, one octave below standard, and the biggest bass I use (the 12 string) even has the low B one octave below standard.

My song “Holy Spirit” was composed on an 8 string fretless sub-bass. I still feel that at this point in time I don’t have any clichés with this instrument. I was just concentrating on the music… and I was discovering my own voice!

Please click below to listen to my song “Holy Spirit”
from the album “Carbonne Di Piazza Manring” and
then click on NEXT PAGE to continue reading

I feel I have found my sound and style with extended range fretless basses. I still enjoy playing the Jazz Bass occasionally, but my focus has been working with luthiers and developing my own models, which I’ve done since 1998.The third reason for considering fretless is the singing quality you can get out of the instrument, just like the human voice! Of course, this is only my point of view. Technically speaking, once again comparing fretless with upright, I feel fretless has more of a  singing voice. Why, because of the length of the vibrating strings. Upright acoustic bass is a bigger instrument and has more string length. The result of that length gives a deeper sound in the bass register, but if you go in the melodic or higher register, there is basically less sustain than on a fretless.

A fourth reason, I feel the fretless bass can be a more expressive instrument than a fretted bass.
The possibilities of phrasing on fretless are endless. On fretted, obviously, there are possibilities as well, but you’re limited by the fret. You can extend the pitch of a note going up (making a bend), but not going down.

Conclusion:
I recommend exploring fretless to every bassist. It’s difficult, but it can give you an incredibly powerful melodic voice that you might not have experienced yet.

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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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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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Bass Events

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey

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Milt Hinton Institute for Bass sSummer Camp in New Jersey

Milt Hinton Institute for Bass Summer Camp in New Jersey…

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) will host the Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass, an exceptional summer music education program for teens, in residence at Montclair State University, in July 2024. Unique among music camps, the Hinton Institute is designed to support intermediate and advanced bass players ages 14 through 18, for a week of expert classes, performances, ensemble work, studio sessions, lectures, workshops and more. The camp will run from July 14 through July 20, 2024Registration is open December 16, 2023, through  June 7, 2024for more information on applying to the Milt Hinton Institute, please visit njpac.org/hinton. Student musicians will be required to submit a video of themselves playing two performance pieces during the application process. Need-based tuition scholarships are available.

Peter Dominguez, acclaimed bassist and Professor of Double Bass and Jazz Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison, will serve as the Institute’s Artistic Director.  An extraordinary faculty of professionals from the music world — including Rufus Reid, Ben Williams, Luis Perdomo, Jeremy Smith, Sam Suggs, Martin Wind, Marcus McLaurine, Bill Moring, Mimi Jones, Emma Dayhuff, Diana Gannett, and Bill Crow — will  focus camp instruction on bass performance techniques and ensemble playing in a range of musical genres including classical, Latin and jazz. 

The camp is named for Milt Hinton (1910-2000) a prolific jazz bassist, studio musician and photographer whose career intersected with many of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. The Institute has been held biennially since 2014. It joined forces with the Arts Center this season in part to draw a larger faculty of professional bass players from among the many musicians living and working in the New York City area. Notable guest artists from the region are expected to visit with campers as well.    

“We’re very pleased to have this program be part of the larger vision of NJPAC and its extensive Arts Education offerings. The work being done by the Arts Center has a significant social impact” said David G. Berger, a lifelong friend of Hinton’s, whose Berger Family Foundation helped support the camp.  “That would have been extremely attractive to Milt. He wanted everybody to be involved with music — old and young, men and women, all colors, all creeds. Long before it was popular, that’s the way he lived his life — he welcomed everyone.”

“I grew up in the jazz festival business, and there was no one whose artistry matched his heart  better than Milt Hinton,” said John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC. “He was a brilliant bassist and he also was a brilliant human being. He was the heartbeat of any band he played in and he exuded a kindness that to me exemplified the spirit of jazz.”

Known as “the dean of jazz bassists,” Hinton played with jazz greats from the early 1930s on, performing with Jabbo Smith, Eddie South, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Erroll Garner, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many others. Hinton also recorded with pop superstars including Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler and Willie Nelson. Hinton also toured extensively, and in 1993, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellowship. He was also well known for his photography, through which he documented seven decades of jazz history. Hinton was renowned for his willingness to mentor young players; a scholarship program in his name was established by his friends and admirers on his 70th birthday. After Hinton’s passing, the Institute was conceived as a way to continue his work in supporting younger bass players. “Two of Milt’s favorite words — ‘cohesiveness’ and ‘sharing’ — are at the core of this week-long Institute that brings together emerging bassists who often are the singular players in their own community and school ensembles,” said Artistic Director Dominguez, (whose own career was advanced when he became one of the first winners of a Hinton Scholarship Competition  in 1981).  “To be a bass player is often to focus not on being a soloist, but on musical collaboration — making other musicians in an ensemble sound better. Bass players are the soul of ensemble playing, and to develop these young souls through arts education programming at NJPAC is both an honor for us and an important responsibility,” said David Rodriguez, NJPAC’s Executive Producer and Executive Vice President — and himself a well-known professional bass player.

The camp will be housed on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, where students will live, study and have the opportunity to take part in multiple performances. “Bringing the prestigious Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass to the campus of Montclair State University marks an exciting chapter for the College of the Arts, reinforcing our commitment to providing exceptional opportunities for young musicians,” said Daniel Gurskis, Dean of the College of the Arts. “With NJPAC as our partner, we look forward to creating an environment where passion meets skill, fostering a new generation of accomplished and versatile bassists. We are confident that the Institute will become a beacon, attracting talent from diverse backgrounds who are the future of bass music.”

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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

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