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Contrary Motion: Adam Nitti Technique Series

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Meet Adam Nitti –

Welcome back!

As you have heard me preach incessantly before, I believe that a dependence on patterns and shapes in lieu of solid ear-training on the bass is a dead end street. In my observation, it seems the biggest problem that plagues most bass and other stringed instrument is that they play more with their eyes than their ears. For this reason, years ago I essentially redefined my use of patterns in the scope of my own studies and with my students, using them primarily as introductory muscle-memory development exercises that would ultimately be used for ear-training. The idea is that the more time you can spend making the unfamiliar become familiar on your bass, the more power you will have in your ability to spontaneously play what you hear first in your head. The challenge in development then becomes the act of creating and practicing ear training exercises that can be internalized. True internalization means there is no need for any sort of translation process or lag time when you go to express yourself on your bass spontaneously.

To really develop this, you have to spend a lot of time working on phrases that are not yet familiar to you. Of course, the more musical the ideas that you are working on, the better. I really enjoy taking the time to hash out new phrasing ideas on the bass that outline a particular harmonic concept or strategy. In order to work on this, I’ve utilized everything from academic components such as arpeggios and scale fragments, to pure geometric or symmetric shapes on the fingerboard, to hybrid combinations of purely random shapes. One example of a concept that I have successfully applied in my own playing is what I refer to as ‘contrary motion’.

Contrary motion refers to the idea that you are incorporating the alternation of both ascending and descending movements within the context of a musical phrase or exercise. Its unique character and effectiveness comes from the fact that it allows phrases to take on a shape that both rises and falls, and this is especially interesting for the listener. For those of you interested in developing your ear training and improvisational skills, you will quickly learn that an approach like this can take ordinary (and often boring) symmetric pattern exercises and make them sound much more musical. It is a strategy that also helps to promote melodicism and will even better your technical ability.

Intervallic and sequencing exercises are both great examples of approaches that can be used to apply contrary motion exercises. For example, a typical example of how you might play a G major scale in intervallic 3rds in a single octave would look like this: [See example above]

As you can see, this exercise is based on the idea that you are playing intervallic 3rds in an ascending direction, played from each degree of the G major scale. When you get to the top of the octave, you then play descending 3rds from each scale degree as you head back towards the root.

Now, here is an example of how you might use contrary motion applied to the same scale, using intervallic 3rds: [See example 2 above]

Notice that in example 2, you are actually playing only descending intervallic 3rds as you ascend through the octave. Once you get to the top of the octave, you then play ascending intervallic 3rds as you descend towards the root. That contrast in direction between the shape and direction you are headed is what constitutes the contrary motion.

I put together a handful of contrary motion exercises that you can work on and also use to inspire your own new ideas. A few of exercises are based on very common scale and arpeggio forms, but of course the possibilities are limitless. I have included a couple that will hopefully stretch your ears and your hands a bit… In addition to exploring how you might apply this to scales and arpeggios, try creating hybrid approaches that blend different contrary motion phrases together and that move across the entire range of your bass.

Exercise 1

Exercise 1 applies the contrary motion concept to a 2 octave major triad arpeggio. It breaks the arpeggio down into 2 note segments which are played in a descending fashion as the arpeggio ascends, and in an ascending fashion when the arpeggio descends. This is a fantastic approach to use if you want to cover a large range in a small amount of time.



Exercise 2

Exercise 2 uses 4 note sequenced scale fragments in C major. They are played in a descending fashion as the scale pattern ascends, and in an ascending fashion when the scale descends. Notice that this is not a purely sequenced scale form… It integrates some skips and jumps in between each 4 note sequenced fragment. It is a great sounding example and is an approach that I use frequently in my own lines.

Exercise 3

Exercise 3 is simply an A minor pentatonic scale played in 3 note sequences. Here is a fantastic way to take a simple and familiar pattern and make it sound MUCH more interesting by integrating contrary motion.

Exercise 4

Exercise 4 is a much more dissonant sounding exercise based on b5 intervals in contrary motion. It’s a bit of a technical challenge, so take your time and play with as much accuracy as possible!

Exercise 5

Exercise 5 is a sinister-sounding exercise based on major and minor triad combinations. It is an example of an approach that is based on fingerboard geometry more than anything else. Once you get it under your fingers and in your ears, see if you can successfully use pieces of it in your improvisational approaches to add some extra dark color!

Once again, these are just a few very simple examples to get you started, and you will want to experiment regularly to find new and exciting ways to use contrary motion in your practice and performance applications. Strive to secure practice time to work on shapes and sounds that are completely new to you, so that you will learn to hear these less-familiar ideas naturally over time. Remember: There is no DIFFICULT… just the UNFAMILIAR!

Until next time, have fun practicing!

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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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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