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Encyclopedia of Soul Grooves: Donald “Duck” Dunn’s Classic Bass Lines By Rob Collier

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Encyclopedia of Soul Grooves: Donald “Duck” Dunn’s Classic Bass Lines By Rob Collier… The bass world was saddened by the news that Donald “Duck” Dunn, best known as the bassist for Booker T. & the MG’s, died May 13, 2012 while on tour in Japan. The MG’s were the house band for Stax Records, a Memphis label which produced the likes of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Eddie Floyd, and William Bell, among many others. Stax was often thought of as the southern counterpart to Detroit’s Motown Records. But where Motown was smooth and polished, Stax was gritty and gutsy.

With fellow MG’s Steve Cropper, Al Jackson Jr., and Booker T. Jones, Dunn provided the backbone for hundreds of hits in the 1960s and early 1970s. His playing style was never about being flashy, but always about providing the right groove. Dunn often played simple and repetitive lines, favoring one- and two-measure patterns that would repeat until the next chord change. Listening to a mid-60s Stax record is like being presented with an encyclopedia of soul grooves.

“Knock on Wood” by Eddie Floyd

The bass line on the verses of “Knock on Wood” (example 1) is, to me, the quintessential Duck Dunn bass line. It is simple and repetitive and it accents the off-beats. Dunn often accented off-beats to help propel a song forward, and he does it masterfully here. It is basically a one-measure groove without variation. It isn’t showy or virtuosic, but it is the perfect bass line for this song. Just try imagining the song without it.

 

“Eloise (Hang On In There)” by William Bell

The chorus in this 1967 William Bell hit has a very simple two-measure groove (example 2), but the subtle rhythmic difference between the two measures is a nice choice. Also, listen to the way Duck leaves space in the middle of the bar for Cropper’s rhythm guitar lick. These two parts work together seamlessly to form the groove.

“Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday” by William Bell

“Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday” was Bell’s follow-up single to “Eloise.” Duck plays a nice melodic line over this medium-tempo tune (example 3). He often leaves a little space on beats one and two, then plays 16th notes on beat four. This gives the line some movement without being too busy.

“My Baby Specializes” by Delaney & Bonnie

Duck lays down another great off-beat line on this recording from Delaney & Bonnie’s 1969 album, Home (example 4). He plays mostly on the off-beats in both the verse and the chorus. Notice how long Duck avoids the downbeat in the verses.

“Soul Man” by Sam and Dave

Classic Stax song, classic Duck Dunn bass line. The verse is just a one-measure groove that Dunn never varies (example 5). He gives the choruses more of a driving sound by playing straight eighth notes.

The bridge (example 6) is sort of a funkified two-beat.

“You Got Me Hummin’” by Sam and Dave

The outros of Stax songs were often the coolest parts of the recordings. The band always relaxed and just grooved once they got there because they knew it could be faded out. In the outro of “You Got Me Hummin’” (example 7), Duck plays another off-beat line doubled by Cropper’s guitar.

“Ninety Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)” by Wilson Pickett

Although this Wilson Pickett hit was released on Atlantic records, parts of the album were recorded at the Stax studio with Booker T. and the MG’s as the backing band. The bass line is basically a two-measure groove (example 8). Again, Duck rarely varies the pattern.

“Sister’s Got a Boyfriend” by Rufus Thomas

Rufus Thomas’ “Sister’s Got a Boyfriend” is a bit more obscure, but the groove is so good—it’s not just the bass line, but a whole band effort. It’s another off-beat, one-measure pattern (example 9).

“Hip Hug-Her” by Booker T. and the MG’s

Because Booker T. and the MG’s were an instrumental group, each member of the band carried an extra heavy load. Duck’s bass line on “Hip Hug-Her” is simple and repetitive, as was his trademark, but it also serves as a melodic hook. The main groove is a two-measure pattern (example 10). It is basically the same measure repeated, but the second measure has a little rhythmic hiccup that keeps the groove interesting.

 

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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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 @loritabassworks @meridian_guitars @alpherinstruments @phdbassguitars @mgbassguitars @mauriziouberbasses @utreraguitars @sugi_guitars @branco_luthier @blasiusguitars

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

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New Gear:  D’Addario’s New Humidipak

D’Addario’s New Humidipak Absorb Protects Instruments Against Excess Moisture…

Utilizing two-way humidity control technology, D’Addario’s new Humidipak Absorb protects against damage to wooden instruments in environments with too much humidity. 

Humidipak Absorb allows players to safely return an instrument and case to the ideal relative humidity level. Using Boveda’s patented two-way humidity control technology, Absorb automatically soaks up excess moisture at a safe rate, re-establishing the right humidity level and eliminating the guesswork of revitalizing your instrument. 

Like all the Humidipaks before, using Humidipak Absorb is easy—there’s no dripping sponges or manual adjustments. All players need to do is put the humidification packets in the included pouches and place them in the instrument case, close the lid, and relax. The instrument and case will remain at the optimal 45-50% relative humidity level for 2-6 months. 

D’Addario’s other Humidipaks, Restore and Maintain, are still available for those who need to increase and sustain the humidity around their instrument. 

To learn more about Humidipak Absorb, visit ddar.io/absorb-pr 

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