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Wild Bill’s World With Bill Lanphier: Really Odd-Meter Bass

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Meet Bill “WBGO” Lanphier –

Flummoxed. That’s a good way to describe someone trying to play Bulgarian meters for the first time. Actually, even guys familiar with odd meters, including great drummers who have played with Holdsworth and Don Ellis—I ain’t mentioning names here—sometimes scuffle. They’ll limp along, barely nailing a couple bars, then falling completely apart.

No, we’re not talking about just a simple 7/8 or a slower 5/4. Each measure in a Bulgarian kopanitsa (11/16 subdivided 4+3+4), can whiz by in just a second. Check out Farmers Market’s thrash Gankino Horo, from the compilation, Balkans Without Borders.

Yes, there are a few isolated examples of super-fast odd meters scattered around the world, like Venezuela’s Merengue, but, by and large, Bulgarian folk music is home base for the really weird shit. Plus, the melodies are equally nuts: streams of relentless 16th notes, over half of them ornamented with mordents, grace notes, or turns.
Fortunately, you and me, as bass players can fall back on quarter notes and eighth notes when playing Bulgarian music and, for the most part, can elect to bail on the ornaments (I plead guilty). But, knowing where to put those quarter and eight notes can confound even the heaviest studio guys. Actually, simply being able to follow—much less perform—some of the meters is a real challenge. Read on and learn how, as a bassist, to meet that challenge and make strange time signatures groove as hard as any 4/4. Yes, it’s true: the good guys are as comfortable in, say, 13, as Westerners are in 4/4.

HEAR IT FIRST!

The first step is to get the meters into your head. That means not having to count, for example, each of the 11 beats in the kopanitsa. Let’s go back to something we all know. When you play a funk-style, 16th-note based rhythm in 4/4, you’re not counting all 16 of the 16th notes. You instinctively know (or should know) exactly where each falls, and you’re probably patting your foot on only the quarter notes and working around those four major pulses.

The same holds true for any fast, odd meter, like the kopanitsa. The good players don’t count all eleven 16th notes zipping by, but you’d better believe they know exactly where each one falls. That’s why they groove so hard on them.

How do you get the meters into your head? Lots and lots of listening—that’s as important as practicing. If you have sequencing software, program in the bass examples shown in the “bulgarian meters pdf” below. Put an accent on the main pulses, loop each example, and listen to it over and over. You’ll be surprised how listening to the same two bars for just 15 minutes (do this while cleaning cat litter or doing something equally mindless) will really open up your head to a new pattern. Listening to recordings (see suggested listening material) is also important.

NOW PLAY IT!

Once you start to hear the patterns, whip out your bass and play the two and four-bar examples shown. If you don’t have a sequencing program to play along with, set a metronome so that each click represents a 16th note.
A typical performance tempo for the examples shown would be a quarter note equals 100 bpm (16th note equals 400 bpm). But you should start much slower to get a feel for things. For each meter shown, the first repeated bar or bars is a simple pattern which could be played in a more traditional context. The second repeated pattern would work in a more progressive setting.

As you play along, you’ll notice that the meters (each of which—believe it or not—has a Bulgarian folk dance to go along with it) have their own character and each can, and should, groove hard. Though the Bulgarians will often play one section faster than the preceding section, they’re capable of a dead-even metronomic pulse. This gives a strong reference point by which very subtle tempo changes, accelerando, and ritardando, are possible.

After you’ve become comfortable with the meter, try playing along with recordings. Where to find charts with reference mp3s? Get ready for the hard-sell part of this story. I respectfully submit for your perusal my highly-acclaimed online songbook, Bulgarian & Macedonian Instrumentals & Vocals. It contains over 20 print-ready transcriptions (in hi-rez PDF form), of great tunes with meters ranging from 2/4 to 18/16, plus mp3s of the original recordings in normal- and half-speed versions. Check out the link for more info and reviews, plus audio and transcription samples.

patterns_bulg_meters-jun09

Bass Videos

Working-Class Zeros: Episode #3 – John Patitucci IG Video, The Summer Festival Gig, iPads on Stage

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WORKING-CLASS ZEROS With Steve Rosati and Shawn Cav

In this episode we cover John Patitucci’s IG video about saying ‘no’ to the gig, the Summer Festival gig, and iPads on stage (sure it’s awesome but is it necessary?)

These stories from the front are with real-life, day-to-day musicians who deal with work life and gigging and how they make it work out. Each month, topics may include… the kind of gigs you get, the money, dealing with less-than-ideal rooms, as well as the gear you need to get the job done… and the list goes on from there.” – Steve the Bass Guy and Shawn Cav

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Curly Hendo

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Interview Wity Bassist Curly Hendo

Bassist Curly Hendo…

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, bassist Curly Hendo has been super busy. Starting with dance from a young age, Curly took up bass shortly after and has been going strong ever since. She has collaborated with numerous acts worldwide and is an in-demand session/touring bassist and musical director.

Join me as we learn about Curly’s musical journey, how she gets her sound, and her plans for a very bright future.

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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 @jermsbass @degierguitars @meridian_guitars @xvector_basses @marleaux_bassguitars @mattissonbass @alesvychodilbasses @gvguitars @thebassplace @xylembassguitar

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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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