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Adam Nitti Technique Series – PRACTICING WITH CHORD TONES: ARPEGGIO INVERSIONS

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Meet Adam Nitti

A lot of bass players are intimidated by the idea of improvising over chord changes. Although it would be beyond the scope of a single installment to present a complete and comprehensive guide to improvisation, I wanted to try and shed some light on some simple concepts that you can work on to improve your soloing. In subsequent columns, I’ll elaborate on these some more and demonstrate more of their application.

For any improviser, it is essential to have a working knowledge of chords. Chords are the building blocks of harmony, and they essentially act as ‘signposts’ that help an improviser to navigate through a chart. Most of us who have experience playing improvised walking bass lines or solos probably have at the very least assembled and memorized a collection of scale forms or patterns that we have used to play over particular chord types. Scales can be useful in the creation of musical phrases, but for any improviser is very important to have a thorough and complete understanding of chord tones and how to find them on the fingerboard.

A true test of whether or not a player can improvise effectively is to see if they can outline the changes for the listener without having any accompaniment playing underneath them, whatsoever. If you can outline the changes and harmony of a tune using nothing but your bass, then you probably are on the right track to further developing your improvised voice. It is very difficult to do this relying on scales alone… Take for example, a common 4 bar ii-V-I progression. For this example, let’s use the key of F major:

G min7 – C 7 – F maj7 – F maj7

Using modal concepts, the easiest way to navigate through this entire 4 bar phrase would probably be to use a single F major scale (F Ionian). All of the notes included in the F major scale are compatible with each of the 3 chords (G min7, C 7, and F maj7), because all 3 of these chords come from the harmonization of the F major scale. If you were playing with a band, you could simply improvise using the F major scale while a keyboard player or guitar player was comping the changes and you would sound as if you were playing ‘in key’ over the entire progression. However, if you were to just improvise using that same F major scale without any accompaniment, to the listener it would sound as if you were just noodling using a major scale in a more static fashion. In other words, you would not be effectively outlining the changes, even though you might be ‘in key.’

Now, imagine if you were to use arpeggios instead of scales to improvise over this same ii-V-I. Arpeggios are just broken chords, so obviously they are going to be the structures that most accurately mirror the sound and color of the chords they are built from. This is because they are built using chord tones only. Following the order of each chord in the F major ii-V-I progression, you could use the following arpeggio forms to improvise over each chord change:

G min7 arpeggio – C 7 arpeggio – F maj7 arpeggio – F maj7 arpeggio

Since each arpeggio only includes notes that are found in each corresponding chord, you are effectively outlining the changes in the most literal way possible.

Now, obviously the great improvisers do not rely on arpeggios alone… You would never want to improvise on a gig using nothing but chord tones. That would sound quite unseasoned and amateur-like! If you listen to a great solo in which the improviser is outlining the changes effectively, you will notice a couple of things. For one, you will hear that in many cases, they will use a chord tone or other type of guide tone on the downbeat of a chord change. This signifies harmonic transition and creates a smooth connection between phrases as these chords pass beneath them. Another thing you will notice is that rarely will a great improviser play phrases that are exclusively made up of scale fragments or sequences. Quite often, he or she will build phrases that incorporate greater intervallic distances exhibiting contour and changes in direction. Usually these intervallic distances are based on movement among connected chord tones that imply a particular color or harmonic mood.

The value of mastering the application of chord tones in the practice shed cannot be overestimated. For this reason, I have spent a lot of time over the years working on chord tone exercises. In fact, I still practice in this way today, especially in cases in which I am learning to navigate through some challenging chord progressions for the first time.

For this installment, I want to present you with some basic arpeggio form exercises that you can work on that will help you navigate the fretboard more effectively. Many of you will already be familiar with various arpeggio forms that are played starting from the root, but I want to share with you some additional patterns that can be played from any chord tone included in the arpeggio. I call these arpeggio inversion exercises.

ARPEGGIO INVERSIONS

Here are some forms you should memorize up and down the range of the neck. What’s great about them is that they allow you to play ideas that don’t always sound so ‘root-centric’. That is a big problem for many bass players starting to improvise. Because we bass players almost always have foundational roles in an ensemble, we have a tendency to want to build ideas from the root because that is what we do most. When you are improvising, you want to think more like a singer or sax player. Let go of the foundation and try to play ideas that are more rhythmically and melodically independent. Taking care to avoid using the root as a starting note for your phrases will help you to do this a little more effectively. Arpeggio inversions can help with that because they offer forms that start on the 3rd, 5th, and 7th, instead. Here are the forms for maj7, min7, and dominant 7 chords, along with example videos that demonstrate the fingerings:

CONTINUOUS 8TH NOTE EXERCISES

Using single static chords, practice playing non-stop swing 8th notes using only notes found in each arpeggio. This will feel very awkward at first, so it is imperative that you start these exercises VERY SLOWLY, taking care to only include chord tones and nothing else. Here is an example of how you might play this exercise over a C7 chord using only notes from the C7 arpeggio inversions up and down the fingerboard:

After you are able to do this at a variety of tempos for each chord, then it’s time to start practicing the same approach over more complex progressions, and then ultimately over complete tunes. Here is an example of me demonstrating how to practice continuous 8th notes using chord tones only over a ii-V-I progression in C major:

As you can see, this is a challenging way to practice over chord progressions and tunes. Be patient as you work on these. Learning how to target chord tones both with your ears and your eyes on the fingerboard will take some getting used to, but the payoff is immense. The key to becoming great at this is thinking and looking ahead as much as possible. Next time around, we’ll expand on chord tone practice strategy a little more. Until then, keep it bassy-

Adam Nitti

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Behind the Strings: D’Addario’s Story Comes to Life in “Jim’s Corner” YouTube Series

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Behind the Strings: D'Addario's Story Comes to Life in "Jim's Corner" YouTube Series

Behind the Strings – Jim’s Corner…

D’Addario & Co. proudly announces the launch of “Jim’s Corner,” a captivating new YouTube series telling the 400-year-old story of the D’Addario family creating the world’s largest music accessories company. This series features Jim D’Addario, Founder and Director of Innovation at D’Addario and Co., sharing his family’s remarkable journey from 17th century Italy to a 21st century global enterprise. 

In the first four episodes now available, Jim D’Addario takes viewers back to the beginning, making strings from animal guts and knotting ukulele wire as a family around the television. Countless generations carried the passion forward until the 1970s when the company made it official and never looked back. Jim recounts the creation of strings that inspired legendary riffs, including one by The Who, the launch of Darco strings, the merger with Martin Guitars and the company’s humble beginnings with his wife, Janet and brother, John. Jim D’Addario’s firsthand accounts provide an intimate and personal perspective on the milestones and challenges that shaped D’Addario into the revered brand it is today.

Episode Highlights:

  • Episode 1: The Early Days in Italy and the Move to America
  • Episode 2: Inspiring Iconic Riffs and Legendary Partnerships
  • Episode 3: Launching Darco Strings and Merging with Martin Guitars
  • Episode 4: Building the D’Addario and Co. Legacy

Watch & Subscribe Now:

Join us in celebrating this incredible legacy by watching the first four episodes of “Jim’s Corner” on YouTube. New episodes will drop every month so please subscribe to our channel to ensure you don’t miss any future episodes and exclusive content from D’Addario & Co.: www.youtube.com/@daddarioandco

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

Aguilar Amplification announces the release of the Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp pedal. Hand serialized 1-100, this exclusive edition celebrates Aguilar’s deep roots in New York City with a tribute to its iconic landmarks and vibrant spirit.

Born in the heart of NYC and raised on the road, the Tone Hammer Preamp DI has been an indispensable tool for bassists seeking inspiring tone and versatility. The new Limited Edition Gold NYC builds on this legacy with striking custom graphics encapsulating the essence of New York City. Featuring iconic landmarks from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building, this pedal is not just a tool, but a piece of art embodying the soul of the city. Each unit features a sharp platinum silkscreen over a stunning matte gold sparkle finish, that is as visually captivating as it is sonically powerful.

The Tone Hammer is an essential preamp/direct box for every bassist’s toolbox. The Tone Hammer features fully sweepable midrange frequencies in addition to bass and treble controls. With the Tone Hammer’s pristine D.I. players are set for either studio or stage. To give this tone shaping unit the ultimate flexibility we introduce our proprietary Adaptive Gain Shaping circuitry (AGS). AGS allows the player to kick in an additional gain structure and EQ with the “stomp” of a button. You can go from modern slap sounds to vintage or overdriven. 18-volt operation gives the Tone Hammer plenty of headroom to reproduce the most dynamic playing styles. Separate gain and master controls allow players to dial in just the right gain structure for any instrument.

Aguilar Amplification’s Jordan Cortese adds, “With only 100 hand-numbered units available, this third iteration of our NYC edition Tone Hammer is a collector’s dream. “It’s a homage to our city’s monumental influence on music and culture and celebrates the craftsmanship and the story of Aguilar”. 

Street price: $299.99 For more information, please visit www.aguilaramp.com

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Bass Videos

Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

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Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

Spector, a leading authority in bass guitar design, unveils new additions to its product line: Euro CST, Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt On basses.

Euro CST:
The Euro CST introduces all-new tonewoods, electronics, and finish combinations never seen in the Euro Series, drawing inspiration from Spector’s Woodstock, NY-based Custom Shop. Each Euro CST instrument is meticulously crafted using premium materials, featuring a striking, highly figured Poplar Burl top, a resonant European Ash body, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck paired with an Ebony fingerboard adorned with laminated Abalone Crown inlays.

Euro CST basses are equipped with a lightweight aluminum bridge for precise and reliable intonation. Premium active EMG X Series pickups deliver the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that defines the Spector sound. These basses also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp. Developed in collaboration with Darkglass Electronics, this preamp captures the classic “Spector growl,” heard on countless iconic recordings, with added versatility.

Euro CST basses are available in 4- and 5-string models in four distinct high gloss finishes: Natural, Natural Black Burst, Natural Red Burst, and Natural Violet Burst.

Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt-On:
The Euro LX offers all the features that have made the Spector name famous around the globe. Inspired by the iconic NS-2, Euro LX basses feature a fully carved and contoured body, high-grade tonewoods, and professional-grade electronics and hardware. For the first time ever, players can now choose between neck-thru and bolt-on construction in the Euro LX range.  

Each Euro LX bass, regardless of construction, is crafted using premium materials, including a European Alder body, figured European Maple top, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck combined with a Rosewood fingerboard for strength, stability, and sustain. Euro LX basses are then outfitted with a lightweight, aluminum bridge for spot-on, reliable intonation. Premium active pickups from EMG provide the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that Spector is known for. Like the Euro CST basses, these instruments also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp.

The newly revised Euro LX range is available in four distinct, hand-rubbed stains, including Transparent Black, Natural Sunburst, Haunted Moss, and Nightshade. Each of these colors features a durable and comfortable matte finish.  

John Stippell, Director, Korg Bass Division, remarks, “I’m thrilled to announce the latest additions to the renowned Euro Range. The CST Series, our new premium offering, features new and unique wood combinations and unprecedented features. The beloved LX Series is now better than ever with the introduction of Bolt-On models, vibrant new color options, and the all-new Spector Legacy Preamp, delivering the classic Spector tone with unmatched precision.”

For more information, visit spectorbass.com.

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Luthier Spotlight: Garry Beers, GGB Basses

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Luthier Spotlight - Garry Beers, GGB Basses

Meet Garry Beers, Luthier and owner of GGB Basses…

Bass Musician Magazine: How did you get your start in music?

Garry Beers: I played acoustic guitar as a kid with my mates at school. We decided that one of us should play bass, so we had a contest where the one who knew the least guitar chords would buy a bass – so I lost the contest, bought my first bass, and became the only bass player in the neighborhood. Soon after, I met Andrew Farriss, who had heard that I had a bass, and a few days later, I was jamming with Andrew and Jon Farriss.

Are you still an active player?

Yes, I am still actively writing music and playing bass sessions. I also have an LA-based original band called Ashenmoon.

How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass? 

I did woodwork in High School and always enjoyed making all sorts of things out of wood.

After finishing high school, I took a course in electronics for a year or so and learned enough to understand basic circuits in guitars, amplifiers, and effects. The best way to learn is to deconstruct and study, so my dad’s garage was littered with old junked radios and any instrument parts I could find. 

My first guitars were more like Frankenstein-type creations made out of parts I found here and there. I didn’t really try to build a bass from scratch until I perfected my Quad pickup design and got my patent.

How do you select the woods you choose to build with?

I only use woods that were used at Fender in the 50s, which are my favorite basses and guitars of all time. All my GGB basses are modeled in some way from my INXS bass- a 1958 Fender Precision bass I bought in 1985 in Chicago. I call her “Old Faithful,” and she has an Alder wood body with a maple neck. All of my GGB basses are select Alder wood bodies that I have had extra dried, so they match the resonance of “Old Faithful,” as she has had 66 years to lose all her moisture and become more resonant and alive-sounding. I use plain old Maple necks that I carefully select, and again, I dry the necks to make them sing a little more.

Tell us about your pickups.

I started working on my Quad coil design back in Australia in the ‘90s and then put it to bed, so to speak, until I found an old pickup winding machine at a swap meet here in LA. I taught myself enough about pickup winding to build my first prototype design and worked towards my patented Quad coil design by trial and error. Nordstrand Audio builds the pickups for me here in SOCAL.

What is the reaction of players who pick up your basses?

I build the basses to feel like an old friend. They look and feel vintage, and when you plug them in, you discover the array of vintage sounds available to you from just one pickup. Most of the players I have contact with are established professional players, and they all love the basses. Freddie Washington and Nick Seymour from Crowded House are a couple of players with GGB Basses in their hands.

What are a few things that you are proud of in your instruments and would consider unique?

I would say I am most proud of the patented Quad pickup design. I own the patent from 4 through to 10-string. So far, I have only built 4 and 5-string pickups, but the design is a winner. Split Humbucker / Reverse Split Humbucker / Full Humbucker / Single coil Neck / Single coil bridge. All these sounds come from one passive pickup. I am very proud that my perseverance and desire to have this pickup have made it a reality. Being able to have these sounds in one bass enables the player to have one bass in the studio and on the stage. The only place you can have the GGB Quad pickup is in one of my GGB Basses.

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

I offer three body shapes and about ten different color options – all based on the ‘50s and early ‘60s custom guitar and car paint styles. I have always been a lover of P basses, but my favorite bass I build is now my XS-1 model- which is a custom Jazz bass body style. It is pretty sexy and is a light, well-balanced, and great-feeling body shape. The other body styles are the XS-2, which is a custom Jazzmaster body and has been the most popular so far- and the XS-3, which is the standard P bass body style. I also offer an XS-58, which is a replica of my “Old Faithful” ‘58 P bass. They are currently available to order now and should be available soon.

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

I don’t really consider myself a Luthier in the traditional sense. I just love to build things and tinker. I was always looking to improve things, whether it was a guitar, an amp, a pedal board, or a car. So my advice is to always be curious and learn the basics of what you want to build, and the rest should follow once you decide what you want to say as a designer/builder. People are lucky these days that you can learn pretty much anything from talented people on the internet, but nothing replaces working with and learning from real people in real situations. Seek out like-minded builders and start a discussion.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Have a good hard think about what you want to say as a player. What is your style, both musically and as a player? There are so many instruments available. Do the research, play the instruments that fit your criteria, and make a decision. But make sure you try a GGB Bass!   With all the sound choices my basses offer, with a simple turn of a knob, you may find it easier to find “your” sound.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

Well, the company is brand new, and at this point, it is just me, so getting this far in the manufacturing process and now having these amazing basses in my hands is a great achievement, but now comes all the business stuff!! 

What are your future plans?

It’s a work in progress. Right now, it’s all about getting the word out and getting the basses into the hands of interested players. I believe in the basses – and the Quad pickup, so hopefully, GGB Basses can become a go-to bass for demanding studio and live players who want sound choices in a gorgeous vintage-style instrument.

Visit online at www.ggbbasses.com

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Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Joyo Monomyth – A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

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Gear Revieww: Joyo Monomyth - A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinions or the content of our reviews. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

Introduction:

The Joyo Monomyth bass preamp pedal is designed to offer bassists a comprehensive range of tonal options, combining modern features with practical functionality. With independent channels for EQ and overdrive, as well as useful additions like a cab sim and DI output, the Monomyth aims to be a versatile tool for both live performances and studio sessions. This review will delve into the pedal’s specifications, controls, and overall performance to determine if it lives up to its promise of delivering quality and flexibility at an affordable price.

Specifications:

– Dimensions: 130 * 110 * 50 mm

– Weight: 442g

– Working Voltage: DC 9V

Controls:

The Joyo Monomyth is equipped with a comprehensive set of controls designed to provide maximum tonal flexibility:

– Voice: Adjusts the character of the overdrive, from distortion to fuzz.

– Blend: Balances the dry and effected signals, crucial for maintaining low-end presence.

– Level: Sets the overall output volume.

– Drive: Controls the amount of gain in the overdrive channel.

– Treble Boost: Enhances high and mid frequencies for clarity in complex passages.

– Gain Boost: Adds extra gain, particularly effective at low gain settings to enhance the low e.

– EQ Function Controls: Features a 6-band graphic EQ plus a master control for precise nal shaping.

– Ground Lift Switch: Helps eliminate ground loop noise.

– Cab Sim Switch: Activates a simulated 8×10″ cab sound.

– LED Light Control: Customizes the pedal’s ambient lighting.

Performance:

The Joyo Monomyth shines in its dual-channel design, offering both a transparent EQ channel and a versatile overdrive channel. The 6-band EQ allows for detailed tonal adjustments, preserving the natural character of your bass while providing ample flexibility. The voice control mimics the functionality of the Darkglass Alpha Omega, shifting from distortion to fuzz, with a sweet spot around the middle for balanced tones.

The blend control is essential for retaining the low end when using distortion, ensuring your bass remains powerful and clear. The treble and gain boosts, available on the overdrive channel, further enhance the pedal’s versatility, making it suitable for everything from subtle drive to full-blown fuzz.

Outputs are plentiful, with a DI and XLR out for direct recording or ampless setups, and a headphone out for convenient practice sessions. The cab sim switch adds a realistic 8×10″ cab sound, enhancing the Monomyth’s utility in live and studio environments.

Pros:

– Versatile Control Set: Offers a wide range of tones, from clean to fuzz.

– Blend Control: Maintains low-end presence.

– Robust Outputs: DI, XLR, and headphone outs make it adaptable for various setups.

– Affordable: Provides high-end functionality at a budget-friendly price.

– Sturdy Construction: Durable build quality ensures reliability.

Cons:

– Plastic Knobs: May feel less premium compared to metal controls.

– Boosts Limited to Overdrive Channel: Treble and gain boosts do not affect the EQ channel.

– Cab Sim only on the XLR out: how cool would it be to also have it on the headphone out?

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Monomyth stands out as a versatile and powerful bass preamp pedal, offering a range of features that cater to both traditional and modern bassists. Its dual-channel design, comprehensive control set, and robust output options make it a valuable tool for achieving a wide spectrum of tones, from clean and warm to heavily distorted. For bassists seeking flexibility, reliability, and excellent value, the Joyo Monomyth is a top contender.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/267.html

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