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Info on learning gypsy-style bass

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  • marcus johnsonmarcus johnson mauiNew
    Posts: 16
    Bumkneez, was that a question for anyone out here?...hope I'm not buttin' in.. :wink:

    I only started playing Gypsy style bass a couple of years ago, I've spent a lot of years playing bop and free styles of jazz. I was very fortunate to be invited to start a gypsy style band with a guitarist named Tom Conway, who's taught me a lot about how to do this thing right. I've gradually simplified things a lot, and gotten to the point where I feel pretty good at what I'm doing in this band. By the same token, I do quite a bit of fairly gymnastic soloing, moreso than in most of the Gypsy recordings I've heard. My great joy, though, is in locking up with our rhythm guitarist, Phil Benoit. My aim is to try to make the bass and the rhythm guitar so tight that it sounds like one musician. Sometimes, it actually happens! One thing I try to do is constantly edit out the fluff and get to the essential note, every time, and avoid stepping on all the other beautiful stuff that's going on around me.

    I've never tried to play Gypsy music on electric bass...props to you if you can pull it off.
  • bumkneezbumkneez New
    Posts: 7
    Marcus,
    Good to hear from you. Really liked that part about "locking in with the rhythm guitarist."
    This is going to be a real challenge! I shall be attempting to "Tap" bass, rythym, and lead all at the same time on 7 strings. I will be taking it one step at a time in that order.
    Since I've just started to learn "Tapping", the bass part is a good place to start.
    As far as "butting in", everybody's opinions and assistenance is welcome.
    Musically yours, bumkneez
  • AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator Gallato RS-39 Modèle Noir
    Posts: 277
    Gents, I just wanted to offer the only bass-playing tip I ever heard, which is that it sounds good to lock into a drummer's hi-hat rhythm. So if you're playing half-notes, alternating ones and fives, it sounds good to clip each half-note precisely in time with the cutting-off of the hi-hat. So as Michael says, you're not playing half-notes legato.

    You can hear funk bassists do this all the time, though I think they call it "isolating the snare." Those bassists clip their held notes so that the snare raps out loud and clear in a space of its own. When this is all done tightly, the groove really gets going.

    Does this have any application to what bassists should listen/feel for when they want to lock in with the rhythm guitarist?

    Cheers,
    Ando
  • marcus johnsonmarcus johnson mauiNew
    Posts: 16
    Absolutely! That's where the clarity really comes from, IMHO. Even when I'm playing a walking bass line, I've been cutting the notes a bit shorter, and it really makes Phil's guitar comps pop out.

    I also made the switch from Spirochore to Obligato strings. They decay a bit faster and have a nice warm fundamantal that I'm really finding attractive now. I can still get that nice warm growwwl if I need to, but the bass is better balanced over its entire range now. I love 'em.
  • AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator Gallato RS-39 Modèle Noir
    Posts: 277
    Marcus, thanks for participating on this thread. I'm just about to pull the trigger on either renting an upright or buying a fretless neck to stick on my electric bass. As Chad says, playing bass in guitar-saturated world means that there are plenty of opportunities to play bass a lot.

    I'd like to ask a question about avoiding "stepping on all the beautiful stuff going on" in an ensemble: what would count as "stepping on" stuff? Are there some general guidelines for avoiding that?

    Cheers,
    Ando
  • marcus johnsonmarcus johnson mauiNew
    Posts: 16
    I'm thrilled that this forum exists! Looks like the bassists are off and running.

    I think the general guidelines would be to avoid overplaying in any sense of the word. Matching the volume to the rest of the band would be a starting point. I try to make sure that I can hear everyone else in the group equally. Stylistically, I really try to edit out anything that doesn't propel the music and help it to swing as hard as possible. The approach is different than, say, a piano duo, in which I'd probably be called upon to play more stuff. My role in the Gypsy group is still very interactive, but it's very much a supportive role, first and foremost.

    Of course, when the solos come around, all bets are off. :wink:
  • AndoAndo South Bend, INModerator Gallato RS-39 Modèle Noir
    Posts: 277
    Marcus, I'm glad you're here. I've always wondered about bass solos. When the bass gets taken out of its supporting role, obviously that role shifts to other members of the ensemble. The bass doesn't have a ton of volume and doesn't "cut through" as well as other instruments. So what would should other members of the band do to support *you* when you take a solo? Most often, I hear a bass just totally alone, maybe with a little ride accent now and then. Or I hear ensembles move into stop-time -- but there the groove can suffer if everyone's time is not absolutely precise. I also hear very minimal comping from rhythm guitarists, but the comping often sounds sort of random.

    So my question is: what support does a bass soloist find most, um, supportive?

    Cheers,
    Ando

    PS -- Sometimes I just like to hear, for bass solo, the revealed bass line. Some walking lines are so cool and so grooving, they make completely satisfying listening in themselves.
  • marcus johnsonmarcus johnson mauiNew
    Posts: 16
    Well, it's different every time. In a more traditional kind of group, the solo might be anything from full on drums and keys backup to nothing at all, just bass. What's happening sonically helps the bass soloist to decide what to do musically, and it can change in the blink of an eye. It sometimes helps to be able to thrive on chaos :wink: ....that feeling of playing your way out of a box is kind of addictive. Obviously, the less input you're getting from the other band members, the more freedom you have to chart your own course. In that case, sometimes it's fun to change keys, or go completely into free time, if only for the reactions from the other guys on the bandstand.

    In the gypsy group that I play in, generally I have very strong rhythmic support from the rhythm guitarist during solos. This allows me to play in a more "hornlike", melodic fashion, as opposed to the more traditional "bass solo" approach. But it's all great fun, and the worst situation would be for it to be the same every time.
  • musicofanaticmusicofanatic Swingville✭✭✭
    Posts: 38
    Let's see if we can get this going again. I have played upright bass in this music over a period of some 30 years (yikes, I'm must be old!), and got into it from a bluegrass background. I love swinging a "two" feel as much as ripping four-to-the-bar. No one has mentioned slap technique as yet, and that something I enjoy employing in G.J. music; both on a two feel or walking. From what I understand that is one of the main reasons I get called for swinging gigs. Also (at least on my hi-fi) I've never had a problem hearing Vola come through the mix on QHCF recordings, especially when he was whacking the strings against the fingerboard. As to soloing (something I require a lot less than is offered), I just want to hear that even whomp, whomp, whomp, whomp; four-to-the-bar behind my choruses. Concerning electric bass (now you're like to really think I'm old) it would take a very talented bassist, along with a really dead sounding bass for me to tolerate electric bass in a G.J. setting. In a bind, I have employed my old hollow body Kay electric with a rag pulled under the nylon wrapped strings by the bridge, and stroking the strings with the meat of my thumb to try an duplicate an upright sound. It's better more than a compromise.
    Let's have more dialog here!
    musicofanatic
    chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp...
  • marcus johnsonmarcus johnson mauiNew
    Posts: 16
    Just checked back into this thread...thought I'd mention that I have again switched strings; now I'm using Velvet Animas, a silk-core with a copper winding. I only mention it because I feel that they are very well suited to playing Gypsy style bass. They have a very strong fundamental on my bass, with a lot of gutlike character all over the whole range. There is a very nice sonic "halo" around each note. On another forum, I compared it to switching from plain yellow mustard to a nice grainy French version! They are also very good for modern styles of play and are fine for arco playing as well. They feel fantastic to me. They're probably not for everyone...rather "large" feeling for someone who is used to Spirocores or Obligatos, very low tension, and rather pricey (about $240 US). But I love them. Really very nice organic sounding string.
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