6-String Bass Jam in 6/8 – Johnny Cox & Lewis Davies – Bass Practice Diary – 15th June 2021
I’ve been thinking about 6/8 this week after I featured four 6/8 bass grooves in last week’s Bass Practice Diary video. My good friend Lewis Davies kindly recorded this 6/8 drum track for me and I’ve been jamming along with it with my Warwick “Steve Bailey” Artist Series bass. I’ve also been experimenting with my Line 6 Helix LT. You can hear some of the sounds I’ve been using in this video.
The Helix Patches
There are two Helix patches featured in this video. One is on the chords. It’s another Johnathan Cordy patch. Johnathan Cordy makes and sells Helix patches for guitar. I featured one of his patches a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to make my bass sound like a guitar. This patch is a little bit more subtle but I think it works really nicely with bass chords.
The other patch is one that I created myself. I haven’t made many of my own Helix patches. But I wanted something that could create a Kurt Rosenwinkel sound for my bass. I don’t think that anyone has created something like that yet, so I was forced to do it myself, and I’m quite happy with the result.
Kurt Rosenwinkel is a great guitarist and improviser with a very distinctive guitar sound. It’s a very compressed sound with the pick attack removed from the start of each note. The effect is created by some kind of volume swell going straight into a compressor. So the compressor evens out the sound of the swell, so you hear the note coming in almost instantly but without the initial transient when you hit the string. The sound also has added reverb and delay to enhance the effect.
7-String Bass Demo – Ibanez BTB7 Seven String Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 25th May 2021
This week I played a 7-string bass for the first time in nearly seven years. I used to play 7-string bass a lot in my 20’s and I owned two, one fretted and one fretless. I decided to sell them because I had stopped using them. When I put them both on eBay, the fretless sold straight away but the fretted bass didn’t. So I made a video demo to try and sell the fretted bass as well. That video was uploaded in the summer of 2014 and that was the last time I played a 7-string bass before this week.
7-String Bass Pro’s and Con’s
I think the reason for putting more strings on a bass is simple, more range. It takes the instrument into the realm of an instrument that can do anything, melody, chords, bass lines etc. But there are down sides to adding more and more strings. Weight is an obvious one and balance is an even bigger one. More strings means a bigger neck and a bigger neck unbalances the instrument, especially when you carry it on a strap.
I remember playing my seven string basses in my early 20’s with weights stuck onto the strap with electrical tape. The weights were there to counter balance the neck and prevent it from diving towards the floor. It worked in preventing the neck dive. But as you can imagine, the combination of 7-string bass plus weights made an unbelievable amount of weight to carry on my shoulder. I can’t imagine doing that now.
Another issue that I found with 7-string basses was string spacing. As you cram more strings onto a bass neck, you need to make the spaces between the strings smaller. Otherwise the neck becomes too big to play. It’s certainly possible to adapt to a narrower string spacing, but at the time I sold my 7-string basses I was preferring a wider spacing and so that contributed to me not playing them as much.
Ibanez BTB 7 String Bass
So why did I decide to play a 7-string bass again now? Back in the days when I was playing 7-string basses (approx 2005-2011). 7-string basses weren’t made by mainstream guitar manufacturers. Both of my basses back then were made by builders that you would never have heard of. When I got my Warwick endorsement back in 2010, Warwick had just made their first 7-string bass. But it was an expensive custom shop bass costing thousands.
However, a few years after that, around the time I was thinking of selling my 7-string basses. Ibanez came out with this, the BTB7. Ibanez are one of the biggest guitar and bass manufacturers in the world. Not only was it unusual for a major manufacturer to make a line of 7-string basses, but the prices were incredibly cheap. I’ve always wanted to try one to see what they’re like, but I never wanted to buy one because they came out at a time when I was stopping playing 7-string basses.
I finally got my chance to play one this week and I think it’s very impressive for the money. It plays really well and balances far better than either of my old 7-string basses thanks to the long horn on the upper cutaway. It is still very heavy, but if you can cope with the weight then it’s hard to find any other fault with it.
I believe that the one I played was made in 2013. However, the most remarkable thing is that Ibanez are still making affordable 7-string basses today in 2013. Their current model is called the BTB747 and it looks very similar to the BTB7. I would like to congratulate Ibanez for showing that level of commitment to extended range basses. Extended range instruments are heavily stigmatised in the music world, and I’m sure that this video will generate plenty of negative comments. There is no reason for such stigmatisation. I can see no downside to wanting extra range on any instrument.
Improve Your Time Feel by Practicing with a Drummer or Drum Beat- Bass Practice Diary – 16th October 2018
In my book Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove there’s an entire chapter about playing with drummers. If you want to improve your timing and your time feel on bass, then practising subdivisions with a drummer is a great way to go about it. Here’s a video featuring my good friend Lewis Davies on drums to show you how I do it.
Understanding time feel and groove
It’s important to understand that a band grooves and not just an individual. So, if you want to improve your groove, it’s essential to practice with other musicians and not just on your own. The best place to start is by practicing with a drummer. Practice placing your notes accurately on the subdivisions that the drummer plays, and you will begin to develop the collective time feel that you need for a band to groove.
It’s important to understand that virtually all music uses just a small number of subdivisions. Eighth note, sixteenth note, and triplet feels occur in virtually all styles and genres of music. If you want to have a great time feel on bass, it’s essential to not only understand them, but also to be able to execute playing them accurately. That is the premise of my book Improve Your Groove.
When I talk about an eighth note feel, what I mean is that eighth notes are the smallest subdivision in the bassline. Therefore, in order to make the bassline groove you must feel the eighth notes running through the music. All of the eighth notes, not just the ones that you play on.
Here are the two eighth note bass lines that are featured in the video.
Triplets and shuffle feel
When you play a shuffle feel, the smallest subdivision is a triplet. Typically in a shuffle, you create a different kind of off-beat to the straight eighth note feel, by playing just the first and third triplet subdivisions in each beat. As I explained in the video, if you recite Ta-Ki-Ta for your triplets, and only play on the two Ta syllables, you get a shuffle feel.
This shuffle bass line is fairly advanced and it adds a few passing notes on the second subdivisions. But, it still retains the feel of a shuffle and Lewis is playing a shuffle on the drums.
The following example shows how you can change the feel whilst still using a triplet subdivision by accenting the second subdivision.
Sixteenth note feel
It’s important to understand that a sixteenth note feel does not necessarily mean that you have to play more or faster just because there are more subdivisions. It just means that in order to get the feel right, you need to feel the sixteenth notes in the music, Ta-Ka-Di-Mi.
Here is an example of a bassline with a sixteenth note feel that doesn’t contain lots of notes or any fast passages.
For me, the most interesting aspect of a sixteenth note feel is the expanded rhythmic potential that sixteen subdivisions in each bar offers. Which is why we bass players love to improvise bass lines with a sixteenth note feel. There are so many potential rhythmic variations out there. And as long as you accurately place the notes onto the subdivisions, then you can’t really go wrong.
Here is an example of a more advanced, syncopated sixteenth note bass groove.
Grooving with the drums
All you need to do is make sure that your notes land on the drummers subdivisions. If you can’t practice with a real drummer, then practice with a drum beat backing track. But there’s no substitute for the real thing if you can find a drummer to practice with.
It’s always a good idea to record yourself if you can, and listen back. It doesn’t have to be amazing sound quality, just enough so you can hear how accurately you’re placing your notes. And don’t worry if you feel like you’re not very good. Learn together with a drummer and improve together over time. Lewis and I have been playing together since we were teenagers. And I think we’ve learned a lot both together and separately since then.
Playing a Bass Ostinato for a Drum Solo – Bass Practice Diary – 11th September 2018
This week I visited my good friend Lewis Davies at his studio in South London. We spent the afternoon practising, just bass and drums. At the end I shot some videos to show what we were working on. One of the things we practised was playing a bass ostinato through a drum solo.
What’s an Ostinato
An ostinato is simply a repeating musical phrase, a bit like a riff. The purpose of playing an ostinato on the bass in this situation, is to hold down a groove while the drummer plays a solo.
The biggest problem with playing solos on either bass or drums, is that it breaks up the groove between the bass and drums. The purpose of the bass ostinato in this situation is for the bass player to take full responsibility for the groove so that the drummer can play a solo without it feeling as if the groove has been lost.
It’s a very high pressure situation for a bass player. The performance entirely depends on your timing and ability to keep the groove going against the potential distractions of a pyrotechnic drum solo. I remember as a young bass player being put in that situation on stage without having practised it. And I found it very uncomfortable. It’s very easy to rely too much on the drummer for the groove when you’re on stage.
A lot of drummers like to solo in this way. The composer and jazz musician Billy Cobham is just such a drummer. He writes and arranges his own compositions. So, he writes the kind of bass ostinatos that he wants to play over. I’ve always enjoyed playing Billy Cobham’s bass lines and in many of his arrangements it’s not only the bass player that plays the ostinatos.
The bass ostinato we play at the end of the video is from Billy Cobham’s classic composition Stratus which originally featured on his seminal jazz fusion album Spectrum.
Lewis is a good friend of mine and a multi talented man. He’s a music teacher, musician and he makes extremely high quality custom guitars. We met at music college when we were both in our late teens. And we’ve played, performed and practiced together a lot over the years.
Stay tuned for some more videos from our practice session in the next few weeks. And for now you can also check out this video we made together at a similar practice session a couple of years ago.
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.