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Slap Basics With Doug Johns : NAMM Chops

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Meet Doug Johns

I think this article is timely in that it coincides with the season for the winter NAMM show. I think everyone should go to at least one NAMM show – it truly is a spectacle to behold. In a nutshell, the show is comprised of just about all the companies in the world that make anything related to the “music industry.” And it’s all there for the public to see.

A useful byproduct of the show is that it has become a prime networking tool for many of the world’s artists. It gives all of us a chance to reconnect, face to face, with the many companies that support our musical endeavors.

One of the useless byproducts of the NAMM show is the NAMM chop.

The what?

Yes, the NAMM chop – or plural, NAMM chops – are something my drummer, Chris Ceja, and I have often joked about. If not kept under control, the NAMM chops can quickly turn you into a NAMM Chump. Now, we’re probably not the first to coin the phrase; and, if I’m to be perfectly honest, I’ve been guilty of it myself a time or two.

So, who is the NAMM Chump?

Imagine yourself walking through the endless halls of the Anaheim Convention Center. Listen closely, and you’ll hear a lot of NAMM chops – not all played by NAMM Chumps, but a fair share of them: “musicians” trying out instruments and proceeding to play every lick they know, usually as loud and as fast as they can, until the well runs dry.

Now, I hate to dog anybody – I truly believe we’re all in this together. And everybody usually learns first by emulating their favorite musicians. But the thing is, nine times out of ten, the NAMM Chump has all the “drop your jaw to the floor” licks, but has nothing to say when playing in an ensemble. The NAMM Chump (especially amongst bassists) doesn’t know his role.

When I say you should know your role, I mean just that. Unless your set is specifically geared toward playing as many notes as fast as you can (which I doubt), we as bass players need to be “laying it down” for the group. Learning to play up, in, and around the pocket is something that takes a lifetime to master. But, knowing your role will be a guaranteed key to becoming a great artist with lots of gigs.

I think a perfect example of a bass player knowing his role is Tower of Power’s Rocco Prestia. Rocco is definitely a master of “laying it down” within a group of stellar musicians. He always gives the song only exactly what it needs, in the deepest, funkiest way, and all without the flash of a million notes.

The most effective way to learn your role as a bass player is just jamming with somebody, sitting in on the bandstand. When playing with an unfamiliar group of musicians, you definitely don’t want to get the look – you know the look – from the guys in the front of the group. It’s the look that says, “Man, you better quit with all that latest video licks crap.” The bass player’s role is to lay down the groove.

Don’t be a NAMM Chump. Techniques are just tools to help you get the car to the racetrack. Once you get there, you need to know your role as a bass player, and serve the song. Groove deep in the pocket and bear your soul.

Bass Videos

Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Artist Update With Mark Egan, Cross Currents

I am sure many of you are very familiar with Mark Egan as we have been following him and his music for many years now. The last time we chatted was in 2020.

Mark teamed up with drummer Shawn Pelton and guitarist Shane Theriot to produce a new album, “Cross Currents” released on March 8th, 2024. I have been listening to this album in its entirety and it is simply superb (See my review).

Now, I am excited to hear about this project from Mark himself and share this conversation with our bass community in Bass Musician Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Mark Egan

Visit Online:

markegan.com
markegan.bandcamp.com
Apple Music
Amazon Music

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Bass Books

Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

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Review: The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass by Brian F Wright 

I was intrigued when The Bastard Instrument showed up on my desk… let’s dig in!

When we dive into the history of our beloved instrument, the bass, we find roots that go back as far as the 15th century. This instrument was a member of the violin family and was for the longest time, an acoustic instrument. As the years passed and music changed, there was a need for the instrument to evolve and the electric bass was born.

Comparatively, the electric bass is a relatively new instrument with its earliest appearances dating back to the 1930s and it is exciting to be an electric bass player while this history unfolds around us. Fortunately for us and future generations to come, Professor Brian F. Wright has taken on the herculean task of documenting the trajectory of the electric bass with this excellent book.

The Bastard Instrument presents an extraordinary amount of fine details about the instrument itself, the development of the amplification to handle its output, the pioneers that dared play it, the rapidly evolving music that flourished because of its presence and so much more. 

When I first started reading this book, I noticed that it felt a tad academic, like a textbook (it might be one someday) or a doctoral thesis, but to present all this information accurately, this approach is more than appropriate. Another detail that might be a bit of a spoiler is that the book only gets us up to the late ’60s. I was left wanting more as we know that so much has happened in the bass world since that time frame; I hope there is another volume in the works to get us up to the present!

All in all, “The Bastard Instrument, A Cultural History of the Electric Bass” is a must-read for all of us who play electric bass and understand its essential place in music.

I found that there was a lot that I already knew but also quite a bit that I was unaware of. I believe that to know and understand where you are, you must know the history of exactly how you got here.

Highly recommended.

The Bastard Instrument is available at Amazon.com (beginning July 2024)

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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 @meridian_guitars @adamovicbasses @anacondabasses @mgbassguitars @xylembassguitar @officialspector @edwinpaanakker @alesvychodilbasses @boyarskycg @dmarkguitars

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Bass Videos

Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

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IG &FB @bythethousands
YTB @BytheThousands

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