Adam Nitti – Bass Musician Magazine, February 2016 Issue…
What a true honor to interview Adam Nitti! Adam has performed with great artists such as Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Steven Curtis Chapman, the Dave Weckl Band, and Susan Tedeschi, just to name a few.
Ibanez just released his signature production model bass and he is also very well known as a top bass educator at Belmont University, online at AdamNittiMusicEducation.com, and as a bass clinician for D’Addario, Ibanez, and Aguilar.
How did you first get interested in playing bass?
I was interested in music for as far back as I can remember. My mom’s side of the family was very musical and I had a grandfather that was a concert pianist and violinist. My uncle played guitar, and both my mother and my aunt played piano. I grew up appreciating and loving music and for my fifth birthday my parents bought me a toy drum set to bang around on and learn to play. When I was around eight years old, they enrolled me in classical piano lessons. When I first started, we didn’t have a piano yet, so I had to practice on the piano key pictures that were on the covers of my repertoire books. Over time, as I got more proficient on the piano and more particular with my musical preferences, I became more and more interested in progressive rock music. I remember trying to learn keyboard parts that were in the songs I was listening to from the bands that I loved.
When I was about 12 or 13, I started playing in a garage band with my school buddies. One of them played guitar, one played bass, and the other played drums. The real challenge was always trying to find a singer who could actually sing well and had the range we needed to play our songs. Depending on what week it was, we may or may not have had a singer at that time. There was a lot of turnover!
My parents had been kind enough to buy me a Korg Poly-61 synthesizer after I had joined the band, since I needed something to emulate the keyboard sounds I was hearing on my records. The synthesizer purchase was also part of their effort to keep me involved in piano lessons as I continued to lose interest in classical music. One day the bass player decided that he would rather play rhythm guitar, so suddenly that position was vacant in the band. He had a Gibson EB-0 copy that he was playing and when he decided he wanted to change instruments, I said, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind trying the bass!” He lent me his bass for a while so I could work on learning the songs, and that’s how it all started for me. Because I was still playing keyboards, sometimes I would play both instruments at the same time by tapping out the bass notes with my left hand while playing chords on the keyboard with my right hand. It was a great challenge and exercise in dexterity, and to be honest I felt pretty cool when I was able to pull it off! Although at the time it came across as a little gimmick that I had put together, those exercises in fingering independence on both instruments ultimately really helped to improve my playing.
You just picked up a new signature bass with Ibanez that will be coming out shortly as a production model.
The production model of my Ibanez signature bass, now officially named the ANB306, was officially released at Winter NAMM 2016. Ibanez previously offered a sneak peek of the model at Bass Player live in November of last year, where they had the prototype on display in their booth. The production model is basically a less expensive copy of the custom hand built prototype that has been my main 6 string bass for the last couple of years. Whereas my prototype was hand built by a custom luthier in Japan, this new production model is built in Ibanez’ Indonesian factory on CNC machines. The way instrument building technology has evolved allows even the inexpensive basses of today to be manufactured to very consistent and high-quality specifications. The level of workmanship has really gone up over the years. The ANB306 is no exception and I couldn’t be happier with the result. The current specifications underwent a lot of changes before they were final and we arrived at a place in which there are no discernible differences between the sound and feel of the custom and production models. Typically, with the less-expensive Ibanez signature production models, the instruments duplicate the ergonomics and all the basic specifications; but in order to keep the price down, they might use less expensive preamps, pickups, or hardware components. What we decided after a whole lot of discussion was that the most important goal with this instrument was to try and duplicate the sound and feel of the custom bass that I had been playing. So, ultimately the decision was made to use the same customized Bartolini pickup and preamp configuration that is in my custom-built prototype. This resulted in the price of the bass being a little higher than our initial goal, but I hope that potential purchasers will recognize the value in the improvement in sound and versatility as a result of the upgrades. Additionally, all of the woods used for construction are the same, the hardware is the same, and everything else related to how the bass is constructed is the same as the custom. It’s basically identical to my prototype with the exception of the color of the finish, which is a slightly different color blue than the custom. We decided to change the color so that the production model could be differentiated from the custom model. Interestingly enough, there are a lot of players I have talked to that actually prefer the finish on the production model. I love the colors of both models for different reasons, but at the end of the day they both feel and sound the same, and that is what is most important to me.
What other gear do you use?
My amplification is all Aguilar and I have a lot of different heads and cabinets that I configure differently depending on the gig. My main large rig consists of two Aguilar DB 410 cabinets and the Aguilar DB 751 head. I also have a lightweight rig that I use for instances in which I want to have a little more portability but still have a loud and punchy rig. That setup consists of 2 of the Aguilar SL 112 cabinets and an Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 head. I also have an older Aguilar AG500 dual-channel head that I pair with 2 Aguilar DB112 cabinets. Between those three rigs, I am able to create a bunch of different configurations to suit whatever scenario I have on stage.
The setup that I have been using lately that has sort of taken over as a main rig consists of my DB 751 head and three of my 1×12 cabinets stacked vertically. It doesn’t take up a lot of width on the stage, but is still plenty loud and projects really well. This rig also has the benefit of putting the sound right at ear level because of the way the cabinets are stacked.
I do use some effects and that’s something I have really gotten more interested in in the last several years. I’ve got several Aguilar pedals, one being the TLC compressor, which I leave on all the time for live performance and recording. The reason I really like using a compressor is not so much to squash my sound but instead to use it for adding a little bit of color. For example, with the Aguilar TLC, it has a way of blossoming the mids nicely and tightening up the punch with the basses that I play most often. I also have their AGRO overdrive pedal, which I use to generate various levels of dirt and grit. I also have the Tone Hammer pedal, which doubles as a preamp and D.I., and also has an active EQ on it. My most recent acquisition is their Chorusaurus pedal, which is a real unique sounding chorus pedal that is awesome for adding massive width to your tone. I have a couple of EBS pedals. I have the DynaVerb reverb pedal, and the BassIQ, which is a triple envelope filter pedal. I have a variety of Visual Sound pedals, including the XO overdrive/distortion pedal, and a modified version of an older Route66 overdrive. One of my all-time favorite and most-used pedals is the original version of Visual Sound’s H2O. It’s actually two pedals in one, combining an analog chorus and an analog echo. You can control each of those effects individually. I use that pedal live for my solo tones. It’s really smooth and dynamic. I also have a brand new pedal that I recently put on the board, the Daring Audio Phat Beam. The best way to describe it is that it is a combination compressor and tone coloration device. It has all kinds of options for compressing and limiting dynamically. The Phat Beam is great because it has a very usable and musical compressor with all sorts of variable parameters. You can introduce subtle color into your tone, or more extreme tone changes and distortion.
My strings are all D’Addario. I primarily use the nickel-wound XLs, but I also use their flatwound Chromes on a couple of my vintage Fenders and also use their Half Rounds (semi-flatwounds) on my fretless basses.
Let’s talk about your educational site.
My bass instructional website is AdamNittiMusicEducation.com. It’s been up and running since December, 2012. It is an interactive video lesson-based website for bass guitar. It incorporates video lessons that are categorized and outlined into a curriculum-based approach, with the purpose of trying to make the process of studying bass online less arbitrary and more formalized and well-paced. Instead of choosing videos randomly from an archive site such as YouTube, my online bass school allows you to create more of a path-oriented approach that allows you to study individual competencies such as technique, ear training, reading, style studies, improvisation, groove and timekeeping, and applied harmony and theory.
The interactive features are what I think are the coolest parts of the site. I broadcast live masterclasses every month, and the students that attend it are able to interact and ask questions through a chat window that is a part of the website. It’s a two-way conversation instead of me just lecturing and playing the bass for students. If members are not able to make the class while it is being taught, we archive it so everyone can view it anytime they want. We also have an interactive feature that allows students to participate on their own schedule, requesting feedback or critique on anything they are working on. We call it the Feedback Forum, and it is the central location for written dialogue between the students and myself. If students are working on a particular lesson or assignment, they can upload what they are working on and I can look it over or listen to it and give them feedback; or if they just have questions about particular lessons they can post that, as well. It’s essentially a community educational dialogue that continually grows. It used to be that the interactive features were only available to premium subscribers but we recently changed our site format so that we now offer a single subscription model. Standard subscriptions now include all of the interactive features in addition to the full lesson library.
What current projects are you working on and are there any new releases in the works?
I started writing for my next record earlier this year but I don’t have any sort of release date for it yet. I’m still in the early compositional stages. My goal is to have all of the songs ready to record by Fall, 2016. I’ve also been working with a fantastic band project based out of Nashville called The Bottom 40. It’s led by Michael Whittaker, who is the keyboard player on many of the tunes from my Liminal and Not Of This World albums. The Bottom 40 is a band that takes popular cover tunes, and rearranges them into very sophisticated funk and jazz performances with fantastic singers. The goal is to create music that can be enjoyed by musicians and non-musicians, alike. We have been recording videos of the band performing these new songs, and we will be releasing our first album in March 2016. In the meantime we are playing more shows and trying to grow the audience. I’m also planning on recording a live album this year, which will most likely be put together from two live performances in Nashville. This is something I have wanted to do for years but have not had the time or resources for until now.
What is your advice for aspiring bassists?
I think now more than ever, because we have access to so much information instantly through YouTube and the Internet in general, I think it is hard for a student to have a focused path of development. It’s easy to get tossed about in the waves of chatter and information in a world with such a short attention span. Also, there is a lot of conflicting information out there that can sometimes misdirect a developing player. Being exposed to different perspectives and views is very important, but you need to make sure the information is sound. I think one of the most important things that an aspiring player can do is to establish routine in their life. Routine in general is a healthy habit for productivity. However, I find that creative types (like us musicians) sometimes have a harder time staying in a practice routine and are more of the “work when inspired” type of people. I’m certainly no exception. Not everybody has the discipline to stay in a practice routine for the long term, but I think it’s really important to pursue, even if your practice time is extremely limited.
You want to set yourself up for success and make your practice time and goals as comprehensive as you possibly can. Don’t ignore things like reading, music theory, and listening to types of music that maybe aren’t your favorites. Because we have such easy and instant access to all of this information now online, it’s really important to dig into all the different competencies so that we can be well-rounded players. Those who are really serious about that will find that’s also the pathway to finding your own identity as a musician and an artist. It’s hard to shape an identity when you only have a taste of certain elements of the bass guitar or music, in general. I think the more that players pick up from different competencies and disciplines, the quicker they progress, and ultimately the quicker they establish their own sound and voice.