Johnny Cox and Arun Maheswaran Jazz and Carnatic Music

Arun Maheswaran with Johnny Cox Mixing Jazz and Carnatic Music

In this video, Carnatic musician Arun Maheswaran is playing Mridangam and jazz musician Johnny Cox is playing his fretless Warwick Thumb SC 6-string bass guitar. Carnatic music is South Indian classical music. We’re playing a composition called Chasing Shadows by Anoushka Shankar.

Can You Mix Jazz and Carnatic Music?

Arun Maheswaran thinks you can. Arun studied Mridangam under his guru Shri K Anandandesan from the age of 10. In addition to performing and teaching the Mridangam, Arun also played the Ghatam and Udu Utar.

Recently Arun invited me to join his band Cosmic Rhythms. Which beautifully mixes Carnatic and jazz music. So, we took some time at a rehearsal to shoot this video together.

It’s been quite an education for me learning about Carnatic music. I’ve had to learn Korvai’s. A Korvai is a rhythmic phrase repeated three times in unison, each time the sub-divisions get smaller giving the impression of getting faster. Therefore, the Thalam or rhythmic structure doesn’t change. Also, Korvai’s are usually played at the end of solos or the final end of a piece.

A Koraipu is a call and response section, and as the Koraipu continues the phrases get shorter. Koraipu literally means reducing.

Why a fretless bass

The fretless bass is essential for combining Jazz and Carnatic music. The ability to bend pitches and slide between notes is essential to the phrasing in both jazz and Carnatic music. I’ve posted plenty of times about my fretless Warwick Thumb SC. I honestly believe that there isn’t a better fretless bass on the planet.

 

Godin ACS Slim Played Solo Fingerstyle

Using the Godin ACS Slim for Solo Fingerstyle performances

I made this video to demonstrate playing my Godin ACS Slim guitar solo fingerstyle. I think the ACS Slim works particularly well for playing solo fingerstyle. The guitar has two different inputs, one for a standard guitar jack cable and the other for a 13-pin midi cable. This second input allows the Godin ACS Slim to be used with Roland guitar synth pedals. In the video I’ve demonstrated both inputs.

Here’s another demo I’ve made with my Godin ACS Slim.

I made this video to demonstrate the versatility of the Godin ACS slim. In doing so I’ve done something I very rarely do. I’ve made a video of myself playing other peoples compositions. All my previous videos have contained 100% original material. But in this video, I tackle some solo fingerstyle arrangements of tunes by musicians as diverse as Sting, Stephen Sondheim, Mike Stern, Coldplay and Norah Jones. My reason for doing this is to demonstrate the styles that I think the Godin ACS Slim is ideally suited to playing and how brilliant the Godin ACS Slim is as a solo fingerstyle instrument.

What are the strengths of the Godin ACS Slim?

In my previous video I demonstrated the guitar in both a solo context and as part of a group. Here I wanted to really show off what I feel is a big strength of the Godin ACS Slim which is as a completely solo instrument capable of playing fingerstyle chords, melodies and bass lines simultaneously with no overdubs or accompaniments.

The vast majority of this video features just the sound of the nylon strings. Unadulterated by effects or MIDI sounds. It was recorded using the standard guitar jack output only.

The one exception to this is on the Norah Jones tune Don’t Know Why where I have featured the synth access using a Roland GR-55 pedal. In this case it is to demonstrate a capability which I did not demonstrate in my previous video which is that of changing the tuning on the guitar without retuning the strings. On this particular tune I had the guitar tuned in standard tuning but the sound you are hearing is that of Pat Metheny’s take on the Nashville tuning with the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th strings tuned down a 5th and the 3rd and 4th strings tuned up a 4th.

Once again I have to stress that the retuning was entirely electronic and done with the 13-pin synth output connected to a Roland GR-55. Have a listen to Don’t Know Why it starts at about 3 mins 30 secs into the video. You wouldn’t guess that the notes you are hearing are not the same notes that came from the guitar strings. Whatever your personal feelings are about synth access guitars you have to admit that the technology is amazing.

About the Godin ACS Slim

The dimensions of the guitar are similar to that of a standard electric guitar. The scale length is 25 1/2 inches and the width at the nut is close to 1.7 inches. Which gives it a much narrower string spacing than on acoustic nylon string classical guitars. The advantage of this is that if you’re used to playing steel string guitars but you want a guitar with a nylon string sound. Then the Godin ACS Slim gives you the sound of an amplified nylon string classical guitar. But feels much more like an electric guitar to play. The dimensions of the “Slim” body and fingerboard radius also generate the feeling of holding an electric guitar. But the Godin ACS Slim is still light because the body is chambered rather than solid like a standard electric guitar.

The electronics

The Godin ACS Slim has two inputs. One jack input for a standard guitar cable, and the second input is a 13-pin connector for synth access. I know not everybody is a fan of using guitars to trigger MIDI sounds. And if that’s you then you should think about getting one of Godin’s other multiac guitars without synth accessibility. But for those of you who are interested in the synth access then the Godin ACS Slim is outstanding.

The custom RMC electronics that are installed in the bridge not only give fantastic sound quality when amplifying the nylon strings, they also provide outstanding responsiveness when using the guitar as a synth controller. If there is any latency when triggering synth sounds then it is so small that it is undetectable and hopefully the video I’ve made can give a very small example of what the Godin ACS Slim is capable of when plugged into a Roland GR-55 guitar synth.

Not an acoustic guitar

One word of caution I must add is that this is an electric guitar and it does not function un-amplified. When you play it acoustically, it doesn’t make any more sound than an un-amplified solid bodied electric guitar. So, you must use it with amplification.

I feel that while this guitar is extremely versatile and works well for virtually all styles of music. I’m personally not a fan of using it to play classical music. This will come as a surprise to some because nylon string guitars are usually classical guitars. But there’s something about amplifying the Godin ACS Slim that just doesn’t quite sound right for classical music. For me the Godin ACS Slim comes into it’s own for jazz, pop and most contemporary styles of music both playing solo and in a band. But for classical I would always prefer to play an acoustic classical guitar and use a good quality microphone for amplification if needed.

The pieces I’ve performed here in this video are as follows:
  1. Viva La Vida – Coldplay
  2. I Know You – Mike Stern
  3. This Time – Earl Klugh
  4. Don’t Know Why – Norah Jones (arr. Pat Metheny)
  5. Send In the Clowns – Stephen Sondheim
  6. Shape of My Heart – Sting and Dominic Miller

Godin ACS Slim Demo

Godin ACS Slim

I made this video to demonstrate my Godin ACS Slim guitar. The guitar has two different inputs, one for a standard guitar jack cable and the other for a 13-pin midi cable. This second input allows the Godin ACS Slim to be used with Roland guitar synth pedals. In the video I’ve demonstrated both inputs.

Here’s a quick demo I made with my Godin ACS Slim. It’s a brilliant guitar, with a great natural nylon string sound and synth access.

The dimensions of the guitar are similar to that of a standard electric guitar. The scale length is 25 1/2 inches and the width at the nut is close to 1.7 inches which gives it a much narrower string spacing than on acoustic nylon string classical guitars. The advantage of this is that if you are used to playing steel string guitars (which most of us are) but you want a guitar with a nylon string sound then the Godin ACS Slim gives you the sound of an amplified nylon string classical guitar but feels much more like an electric guitar to play. The dimensions of the “Slim” body and fingerboard radius also generate the feeling of holding an electric guitar but the Godin ACS Slim is still light because the body is chambered rather than solid like a standard electric guitar.

Two Inputs

The Godin ACS Slim has two inputs, one jack input for a standard guitar cable and the second input is a 13-pin connector for synth access. I know not everybody is a fan of using guitars to trigger MIDI sounds and if that’s you then you should think about getting one of Godin’s other multiac guitars without synth accessibility. But for those of you who are interested in the synth access then the Godin ACS Slim is outstanding.

The custom RMC electronics that are installed in the bridge not only give fantastic sound quality when amplifying the nylon strings. They also provide outstanding responsiveness when using the guitar as a synth controller. If there is any latency when triggering synth sounds then it is so small that it’s undetectable. Hopefully the video I’ve made can give a very small example of what the Godin ACS Slim is capable of when plugged into a Roland GR-55 guitar synth.

Does it work as an acoustic guitar?

One word of caution I must add is please be aware that this is an electric guitar. It does not function un-amplified. If played acoustically it doesn’t make any more sound than an un-amplified electric guitar. So, it must be used with amplification.

I feel that while this guitar is extremely versatile and works well for virtually all styles of music. I’m personally not a fan of using it to play classical music. This will come as a surprise to some because nylon string guitars are usually classical guitars. However, there is something about amplifying the Godin ACS Slim that just doesn’t quite sound right for classical music. For me the Godin ACS Slim comes into it’s own for jazz, pop and most contemporary styles of music. Both playing solo and in a band. However, for classical I would always prefer to play an acoustic classical guitar and use a good quality microphone for amplification if needed.

In the video I start by demonstrating the sound of the nylon strings using the piezo pickups in the bridge. Then in the second half of the video I add the synth sounds with a Roland GR-55 synth pedal.

Check out my other video demo of the Godin ACS Slim here.

Johnny Cox & Lewis Davies – Bass and Drums Jam

Bass and Drums Jam Session

This is a video I shot with my friend Lewis Davies a few years ago. We spent the afternoon hanging out and having a jam at his studio. We recorded this to show what we came up with.

I took my Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series bass and my Roland GR-55 over to my friend Lewis’ studio in South London during the summer of 2015. We spent the afternoon having a jam together and this is what we came up with. I hope you enjoy it.

Warwick Steve Bailey Artist Series Bass

You can find my video demo and written review of my 6-string Warwick Artist Series bass guitar by using this link.

https://johnnycoxmusic.com/warwick-artist-s…-bailey-6-string/

Roland GR-55 Synth Pedal

You can check out my video demos of the Roland GR-55 synth pedal along with the Roland GK-3B divided pickup by using this link.

https://johnnycoxmusic.com/roland-gr-55-war…tist-series-bass/

 

 

Johnny Cox & Siemy Di – Roland GR-55 Improvisation – Part 2

Jamming at Home Playing My Bass With a Roland GR-55 Guitar Synth

This is a video I shot at my house with my good friend Siemy Di. We didn’t prepare anything, we just turned on the camera and jammed. I’m using my Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series Bass and a Roland GR-55.

Siemy Di and I have worked together since 2006 and we have a fantastic musical relationship. We were introduced when I was in my early twenties by a mentor, Lucky Ranku, leader of the African Jazz All-stars.

In the video I’m using my 6-string Warwick Artist Series Bass with a Roland GK-3B divided pickup that I installed by the bridge. I’m playing it through a Roland GR-55 guitar synth pedal. The pieces are entirely improvised.

Around the time this was filmed, Siemy Di and I were performing live regularly around East London at venues such as The Servant Jazz Quarters, The Vortex, Open The Gate and The Passing Clouds. The gigs were almost entirely improvised and we deliberately did very little preparation for each gig. Some performances were better than others but it was always great fun to play with a great musician like Siemy. This video captures a little taste of what those performances were like. Not perfect but always interesting.

Siemy Di and I are still close friends but we don’t do those gigs anymore. We both have young children now, so spending our evenings at jazz clubs is out of the question these days. Maybe one day in the future we’ll do something similar, although I imagine it will be quite different. This video captures a moment in time that was an important time for both musicians.

Check out Siemy Di’s Drumeo video here. I recorded all the bass and guitar parts for both the first and last pieces.

Johnny Cox and Siemy Di – Fretless Bass Improvisation

Jamming at Home with Siemy Di

This is a video I shot at my house with my good friend Siemy Di. We didn’t prepare anything, we just turned on the camera and jammed. I’m using my fretless Warwick Thumb SC and a loop pedal.

Siemy Di and I have worked together since 2006 and we have a fantastic musical relationship. We were introduced when I was in my early twenties by a mentor, Lucky Ranku, leader of the African Jazz All-stars.

In the video I’m using my 6-string Warwick Thumb SC and I’m playing it through a loop pedal. The piece is entirely improvised on the spot.

Around the time this was filmed, Siemy Di and I were performing live regularly around East London at venues such as The Servant Jazz Quarters, The Vortex, Open The Gate and The Passing Clouds. The gigs were almost entirely improvised and we deliberately did very little preparation for each gig. Some performances were better than others but it was always great fun to play with a great musician like Siemy. This video captures a little taste of what those performances were like. Not perfect but always interesting.

Siemy Di and I are still close friends but we don’t do those gigs anymore. We both have young children now, so spending our evenings at jazz clubs is out of the question these days. Maybe one day in the future we’ll do something similar, although I imagine it will be quite different. This video captures a moment in time that was an important time for both musicians.

Check out Siemy Di’s Drumeo video here. I recorded all the bass and guitar parts for both the first and last pieces.

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless with Warwick Hellborg Rig

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless

In this video, I’ll demonstrate my fretless Warwick Thumb Single Cut 6-string bass guitar. I’m playing one of my own compositions and the bass is being played through my Warwick Hellborg Amplifier rig, including the Hellborg preamp.

Why Fretless?

I’m a jazz musician at heart, so I love fretless bass guitars. My Warwick Thumb SC is now the only fretless bass I own, for the simple reason that it’s so good there was no point in keeping any of the others I’d owned previously. I owned two fretless basses before I purchased my Thumb SC and I sold them both on eBay within months of it arriving.

The tone of the bass is absolutely beautiful and the build quality and the quality of the wood are second to none. The body is made from Swamp Ash with a one inch Bubinga Pommele top. The neck is Flamed Maple and the fingerboard is Tigerstripe Ebony, which is a very hard wood, so even round wound strings won’t chew up the fingerboard.

It features full line inlays on the fretboard which is a custom shop option. All Warwick’s custom shop basses have their own page on their website. You can see mine by clicking on this link.

Johnny Cox’s Warwick Thumb SC 6

Why Fret Lines?

In my opinion, all fretless bass guitars should come with fret lines. I’ve never met anyone who has perfect intonation  without them. Really no one, and I’ve met many of the worlds best bassists. So, choosing not to have lines is just macho nonsense, there is no benefit to not having the lines. Jaco Pastorius had fret lines on his bass.

I’ve heard many people say, “double bass players don’t need lines on their fingerboards”. I know, and it’s not relevant because bass guitar necks are nothing like double bass necks. There are much more notes in a smaller space on a bass guitar neck which makes them almost impossible to hit accurately at high speed without markers. Also, double bass necks start narrow and get wider, so it’s much easier to feel where you are on the neck than it is on bass guitar.

In Conclusion

The Warwick Thumb SC is quite simply the best fretless bass I’ve ever played. In fact it’s the best bass I’ve ever played and that includes Fodera’s. It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Don’t forget, if you want to go fretless, get the full line inlays.

Warwick Thumb SC fretless
Johnny Cox’s Warwick Thumb SC fretless

 

Roland GR-55 and a Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series Bass

Using a Roland GR-55 Guitar Synth with a Bass

I always wanted to experiment with synth sounds on my bass. When the Roland GR-55 came out and the GK-3B divided pickup for 6-string bass. I knew I had to try it out.

This video is actually an effort from very early on in my Roland GR-55 use. However, when I listen to it now I really like it, and it’s proved popular on Youtube with nearly 20,000 views. That’s a lot for an instrumental bass video. All the sounds in the video apart from drums are made using the bass played through the Roland GR-55. I programmed the drums in Protools. You can make drum sounds with the bass and the Roland GR-55, but that doesn’t interest me so I didn’t.

For a long time I’ve wanted to try out playing my bass through a Roland guitar synth. And having looked at the Roland GR-55 I was convinced that the technology was good enough. So, I installed a Roland GK-3B divided MIDI pickup onto my new Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series bass a few weeks ago and bought the GR-55. Here’s a video of what I’ve come up with so far, hopefully there will be plenty more from me using this in the near future. So far I’m extremely impressed with the potential of the GR-55 and I love the Warwick as well.

I hope you like my compositions and I hope you have as much fun watching this as I had making it!

7-string Bass Demo

7-string bass demo

This is my 7-string bass. It says Mazeti on the headstock, which doesn’t mean a lot to me. I don’t really know anything about who made it, but it seems to be custom made.

How I came to own a 7-string bass

I bought it very cheaply on eBay more than 10 years ago, and I wasn’t expecting a lot given what I paid for it. Every other 7-string bass on eBay at that time was a lot more expensive. Surprisingly, what I got was not only a nice sounding and very playable instrument, but also one that has stood the test of time. It’s still going strong and sounding great today even though it spends most of the time in my loft now.

Why did I want to sell it?

At the time I shot the video I was in the process of selling all of my non Warwick basses. I’ve always played Warwick’s as my first choice but I had basses made by Fender, Steinberger  and Gibson and I also had another custom made 7-string bass which I sold, it was fretless.

The 7-string bass you see in the video was the only bass that didn’t sell on eBay. So I decided to make the video to help give it a push. I did receive a few enquiries, but nothing that tempted me to sell. I couldn’t seem to convince people that it was a decent bass and I wasn’t that desperate for the money.

Is it still for sale?

No. I’ve since decided not to sell the 7-string bass. It’s worth more to me, than the relatively small amount of money I’d get for selling it. I haven’t taken the video down because people keep telling me how much they like the video, I never intended for the video to be particularly entertaining, I just wanted to show that it was a decent bass. But, obviously people like it so I’ve left it on Youtube.

Enjoy!

Left Hand Techniques for Bass Guitar

Learn Left Hand Techniques on Bass Guitar

In this video lesson, I’ll teach you the best and most efficient techniques for your left hand on the bass. I’ll explain the one finger per fret technique and how you can extend the range even further by changing how you use your left hand index finger.

Use the most efficient left hand technique possible

For me practicing techniques is all about learning to play in the most efficient way possible. Whether I’m working on my left or right hand technique, I’m always trying to find the simplest way to play the notes that involves the least amount of movement in my hands. As far as I’m concerned all unnecessary movement slows me down.

One finger per fret

For my left hand I like to use the “one finger per fret” system. You can practise and master this technique by using the following exercise.

V5E1 Left Hand Techniques for BassThis is a very common exercise that bass players (and guitar players) have been using for decades. If you add the open strings to this exercise as shown in Example 2 then you can play the chromatic scale from the open E string to the B on the 4th fret of the G string without shifting position. V5E2 Left Hand Techniques for BassExample 3 shows how to practice the “one finger per fret system” on a single string, and you can practice this way on each string individually. The benefit of this exercise is that it teaches us to shift positions up and down the neck whilst maintaining good technique in our left hand. V5E3 Left Hand Techniques for BassYou can alter this exercise by changing the order of the fingering. For example instead of playing 1st, 2nd, 3rd then 4th finger you could try 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th as in Example 4, or any other pattern you can come up with. V5E4Scales and arpeggios played using one finger per fret

Spend some time working on the above examples until you get used to the “one finger per fret” system. Once you get used to the system, use it to practice some scales and arpeggios. They’re great for mastering left hand techniques. The following examples are just a few scales and arpeggios you can use.

V5E5 Left Hand Techniques for Bass V5E6 Left Hand Techniques for Bass V5E7 Left Hand Techniques for Bass V5E8 Left Hand Techniques for BassV5E10 Left Hand Techniques for BassTake your left hand technique a step further

If you want to take your left hand technique a step further then there is another thing you can do. As you get further up the neck of the bass the frets get closer together. Which means that the stretches needed to play “one finger per fret” get smaller.

It occurred to me that I shouldn’t restrict myself to “one finger per fret” in areas of the fingerboard where my finger span could be much greater than 4 frets. So when I get above the 5th fret of the bass I use my 1st finger to cover 2 different frets while my 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers still play “one finger per fret”. This allows me to cover 5 frets in a single position. Which gives me access to the entire chromatic scale without having to change position.

Example 9 demonstrates how I play a Eb major scale starting on the 6th fret of the A string. In this case my 1st finger can play the 6th or 7th frets. My 2nd finger plays the 8th fret, my 3rd finger the 9th fret and my 4th finger the 10th fret.

V5E9 Left Hand Techniques for Bass

If you’d like to improve your right hand technique as well then check out this video lesson. Improve Your Right Hand Technique on Bass Guitar.