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Bass Musician Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009 Issue Featuring Adam Nitti

Tone is incredibly important, especially if you want to work in the studio. People remember you for the quality of your tone, or your ability to capture the tones that they’re asking of you. Another thing that’s very important is your interaction with people, your ‘like ability,’ and your ability to be a “dude” as one of my good friends called it. You want to be someone that brings a very positive energy to a session or performance. One other thing that I think is important is, and not all players share in this perspective, but I think it’s important to at least be able to read at least a little bit. It’s good to have some degree of reading under your belt to where you can at least speak the language of written music with other players on a session or on a gig. In my career I’ve been lucky, I haven’t had to be the best reader in the majority of situations that I’ve worked in, but I have had situations that I couldn’t have done if I didn’t have any reading chops.

One of those situations that sticks out most in my mind is when I toured with the Dave Weckl band. And that was a sudden death notice not much time to prepare situation that I did with them, and these charts were six and seven pages long with all of the bass lines written out and there was very little left to interpretation because they were very specific arrangements. I’ve never been the world’s greatest reader, I’ve been average at best, but my reading skills were good enough to allow me to dig in and get through that. And there have been other gigs like that. Those seem to be the key elements, and I’ll add one more to the list. Be stylistically competent in a variety of different genres. Become a little bit familiar with reggae playing, become a little bit familiar with salsa, or jazz. You want to bring more to the table then just your battery of memorized licks—-that’s not enough in my opinion to go out there and build a career.

Jake: I know you play a big part and are seriously involved with Music Dojo, an online music course company that seems to be very popular and carries a great reputation. I also know that you’re very serious about developing a bigger roster with your private lessons on line that you do with a video webcast. Beyond all the time you spend in that teacher/student role, what do you personally try to give attention to when the time comes up for your own personal practice time?

Adam: Well, that’s another million-dollar question. Most players that are working in a professional context share one thing in common, that being it’s a little tougher to have a set practice routine with the schedules we keep, especially on the road. Living out of a suitcase and having different call times and sound check times is not conducive to creating a set routine for yourself as far as practice goes unless you are the most disciplined of people. What I’ve kind of done, and this is just being honest, is try to maintain a sort of practice ritual if you will, and that’s time that I devote to keeping things comfortably under my fingers—-keeping my hands in shape, and keeping my ears in shape. That involves some technical work as well as some ear training work as well. These are things that keep me from feeling like I’m falling into a rut. When I do have the time to push forward I try to work on things that are the unfamiliar, that I want to aspire to be able to do better, or try to master. I work these days mostly on conceptual things more than anything else. I like to take a particular harmonic approach, or something that may be based on harmonic substitution that will give me a little different flavor or allow me to have a larger bag of tricks with respect to musical moods or the motion of what I’m playing at the time. I work those concepts out to the point where they become ingrained enough in me where they actually become a larger part of my style. That’s fun to work on and also very challenging to work on as well. And for where I’m at right now, that’s proved to be a very fruitful part of my time.

Jake: One of the aspects of what we’re talking about right now that I’ve received incredibly diverse feedback on is the concept of going back and lifting lines from some of the greats that we are moved by. One artist will be totally behind that concept, and the next feels it’s not worth the time and there are other things that we should be attending to in an effort to help find our voice beyond transcription. What are your feelings on that particular part of the learning process?

Adam: Well, honestly, I sit kind of in the middle on that. Rarely will I go into an extreme one way or the other with questions like that. Here’s the thing—-I don’t see the value in someone inherently just wanting to learn some licks and solos from the greats. I see the possibilities of time spent being involved in that, but I guess I want to follow that with, you are what you eat. Your style will inevitably be what you practice, and what to listen to. Actually even more so attributed to what you listen to more than anything else because what you listen to and internalize really has such a large impact upon what you end up doing. But to cop someone else’s style and really do nothing else, well, I just believe that you’ll reach a point where you’ll hit a dead end, and it really becomes hard under those circumstances to develop a really distinguished voice.

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