Videos

Victor Wooten Slap Bass Techniques on 6-string Bass – Bass Practice Diary 4

Victor Wooten Techniques on 6-string Bass – Bass Practice Diary – 15th May 2018

This week I’m doing something that I don’t don very often, I’m practising slap bass. And I’m learning from the very best by playing excerpts from a book called The Best of Victor WootenIn this video I’m demonstrating a passage from a piece called A Show of Hands.

Why Use a 6-string Bass? Victor Wooten always plays 4-string basses!

There are two reasons why I’m using my Warwick “Steve Bailey” 6-string bass for this.

The first is that it’s the bass I use on most of my gigs. I usually play finger style but I’m often asked to play slap bass on one or two tunes in a set. So, I need to know that my slap bass chops are ready to go when required. And I need to know I can do it on my first choice gigging instrument. I can’t stop during a gig to switch onto a 4 or 5 string bass. Also, I often need to play slap bass on just one part of a song and finger style on other parts.

The second reason is that many of the transcriptions in The Best Of Victor Wooten, including A Show of Hands are written and were originally performed by Victor Wooten on a 4-string bass tuned A-D-G-C. He calls this his tenor bass. This tuning is the same as the first four strings of a 6-string bass. It’s not possible to achieve this tuning on a standard 4 or 5 string bass without changing the strings or using a capo. My 6-string bass can play all of the transcriptions in the book at the correct pitch. Including all the pieces played on Standard E-A-D-G tuning and the A-D-G-C tenor tuning.

Is it harder to play slap bass on a 6-string bass?

Yes, but the more I practice, the less I notice the difference. There was a time when I used to do all of my slap bass practice on 4-string bass. I didn’t like slapping on the 6-string because the first string, C, felt too small to slap. And it got in the way when trying to pull the second string, G.

I started practising slap bass techniques on my 6-string bass for the reason I outlined above. I was playing 6-string bass on virtually all my gigs and when I was called upon to slap, it felt awkward. My slap bass chops on my 6-string were not where they needed to be.

So I realised I needed to practice slap bass on my 6-string bass. Now I feel comfortable playing slap techniques on my 6-string including on the high C-string. As a result I get all the benefits of extended range that you get from playing a 6-string. I highly recommend learning to slap on a 6-string bass, it might take a bit longer to master but for me the benefits of the extended range and the versatility far out weigh the challenges.

 

Oteil Burbridge Chord Voicings – Bass Practice Diary 3

Oteil Burbridge Chord Voicings – Bass Practice Diary – 8th May 2018

This week I’ve been working on chord voicings based on a chord that I heard Oteil Burbridge play. Check out this video and the chords are written out at the bottom of the page.

Oteil Burbridge is a wonderful bass player. A fellow 6-string player with an incredible grasp of melody and harmony. If you’re not familiar with his playing I would highly recommend checking him out. When I heard him play the chord I demonstrated in the video I thought it had a really interesting and modern sound.

Intervals and Keys

When I’ve found a really cool voicing like this one, I like to try and find every possible permutation of it. A great place to start is with major keys.

Every chord is a sequence of intervals. See my video on intervals here. There are four  notes in this particular chord voicing which creates three intervals. Starting at the lowest note you go up a fifth to the next note. Then a second to the third note and then another fifth to the fourth and final note.

So I started by working out every permutation of these three intervals within a major key. Each key gives you seven chords. I’ve demonstrated these in the video in the key of F major. So I’m using only the notes F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E.

If you want to take this a step further you could apply the same process to other scales, such as harmonic minor, melodic minor or diminished.

You could also work out every possible mathematical permutation of a fifth, a second and a fifth. A fifth could be a perfect fifth or a flat fifth and a second could be a major second or a minor second. Arguably you could include a sharp fifth and a sharp second as well which would dramatically increase the number of possible permutations. However, I would prefer to think of a sharp second as a minor third and a sharp fifth as a flat thirteenth.

They may not all sound great and some of them might be quite tough to play. However, it would be a great exercise in working out harmony.

Here are the seven chords I worked out in the key of F major using the Oteil Burbridge chord voicing.

Oteil Burbridge Chord Voicings
Chord Voicings in the Key of F

Quite Firm by Laurence Cottle – Practice Diary 2

Quite Firm by Laurence Cottle – Bass Practice Diary – 1st May 2018

This week I’ve been working on a bass chart written by the wonderful British bass player Laurence Cottle.

The first time I heard Quite Firm was when I was a teenager. I can still vividly remember it because it completely blew me away. Years later, Laurence Cottle was kind enough to give me his bass chart for it. It’s a piece I dig out every now and then when I want to work on my finger style chops and my time keeping. It’s a roast trying to keep up with Laurence’s recording which features his incredible band including some of the cream of British jazz musicians.

When I play this piece I use a three finger technique with my right hand. It features my thumb, which also provides string damping, and my first and third fingers. If you’re interested in learning more about this right hand technique then please click on this link to find my video lesson on right hand techniques.

If you’d like to hear more from Laurence Cottle then check out his website LaurenceCottle.com.

 

Lydian Bass Sounds – Practice Diary 1

Lydian Sounds for Bass Guitar – Bass Practice Diary – 24th April 2018

In this practice diary I’m demonstrating lydian sounds over major chords. My inspiration for this is Jaco Pastorius’ composition Havona from the album Heavy Weather by Weather Report.

What does Lydian mean?

Don’t be put off by words like lydian and mode. They’re much simpler than you might think. You can think of modes as types of scales. Lydian is the name of one of the modes of the major scale. In fact it’s only one note different from a major scale. The fourth note of the scale is a semi-tone higher than the major scale.

Click here to check out my video lesson on intervals if you’re not sure what a semi-tone is.

Havona by Jaco Pastorius

Jaco uses a lot of lydian harmony in Havona. I’ve taken four chords from Havona, E major, C major, B major and G major and played two bars on each chord.

Most jazz musicians prefer to use the lydian scale rather than the major scale when playing over major chords. The reason is that the natural 4th found in the major scale clashes with the third in the major chord. But the raised 4th doesn’t clash. In fact it creates a really nice sound.

For the first four bars I’m playing a seven note phrase using 16th notes. I’ve taken the phrase from Jaco’s solo in Havona, he plays it over an E major chord. The notes in E lydian are E, F#, G#, A#, B, C# and D#. Each time I repeat the seven note phrase, I move it one note up the scale. Using this method I explore all of the possible harmonisations of this phrase within the mode. After two bars on E major I switch to the notes of C lydian without stopping or altering the seven note phrase.

The reason I’m using an odd number of notes is so the phrase will start on a different subdivision each time I change the harmony. So I’m exploring every possible harmonic variation  and every possible 16th note rhythmic variation of the phrase.

16th note and Triplet phrases

Another aspect of Jaco’s solo on Havona is the use of triplet as well as 16th note phrases. For this reason I’ve used a triplet phrase taken from Jaco’s solo for the next four bars. Starting on B lydian, Ive played the phrase and this time moved it down one step each time I’ve repeated it. After two bars on B the harmony switches to G lydian and the phrase continues.

Here is the TAB of what I played in the video

I’ve written the TAB for 6-string bass in standard tuning. You can adapt these ideas for 4 or 5-string bass. You could start by playing the phrase one octave lower. ie. playing it exactly as it’s written without the 8va marking.

Lydian Bass Exercise
Lydian Exercise for Bass Guitar

Straight In Time – A Piece from Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove

Straight In Time from Electric Bass: Improve Your Groove

This video post features a piece from my book Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove: The Essential Guide to Mastering Time and Feel on Bass Guitar.

Electric Bass - Improve Your Groove
Electric Bass – Improve Your Groove

The piece is called Straight In Time because it features a straight eighth note feel throughout. Having said that, it isn’t a straight forward groove to play. There are tricky eighth note syncopations to negotiate and a technically challenging section in which you must play on every subdivision.

Straight in Time comes with a full track and a backing track with the bass guitar track removed. In the video I’m playing along with the backing track, just like you can if you buy the book.

For more information about the book, use this link

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless 6-String

Warwick Thumb SC Fretless

In this video, I’m jamming with myself at home using my fretless Warwick Thumb Single Cut 6-string bass guitar. I’m improvising on the spot and the bass is being played through my Warwick Hellborg Amplifier rig, including the Hellborg preamp.

Here’s a video I made with my Warwick Thumb SC Fretless, it’s such a beautiful sounding bass and I just love to play it.

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

 

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.

 

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!

Johnny Cox & Siemy Di – Bass and Drum Improvisation

Johnny Cox and Siemy Di – Robertinho

This video was shot way back in 2012 by my good friend Remigiusz Sowa of Chouette Films. It features myself and another good friend, master drummer and percussionist Siemy Di. The video was shot live in Siemy’s studio.

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 BO and I’m playing it through a loop pedal. The piece is dedicated to a friend of Siemy Di’s. It’s based on the Brazilian Partido Alto rhythm and the melody was written by Siemy.

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.