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School of Bass - Day 2

Written at 12:04 AM on 21 October 2006.

Random thoughts and observations from Day 2 of School of Bass in Arizona.

Had a class with Mel Brown this morning, the guy who gave the clinic yesterday. He's very patient and explains things well. We worked on some more ideas to become more familiar with the fretboard and what tones are "first choices" when choosing what to play. He shared a little story about a Jaco riff. When I look at my notes, I'll write a post about it.

Ed Friedland

The second class was with Ed Friedland entitled "Finding Your Inner Drummer." He had a drum kit set up with a kick, snare, hi-hat and a couple of cymbals. He put on a click track and each of us had to go up and do a basic kick-stick with a ride on the hi-hat (quarters, not eighths). Ed would improvise a riff while you were playing.

The first guy was totally lost and never really got it. I was the second guy up and managed to do it, but pushed and pulled the tempo a bit once Ed started playing. Oops. By this time everyone was in their chairs practicing as each person was taking their turn. Most got the hang of kick-snare, but got whacked out when adding the ride. It was a good lesson for all.

Later in the class Ed played drums and had a student play a very basic riff. The idea was to show how the riff itself needs to change as the drums change. For example, just doing a basic shuffle to a closed hi-hat, the notes are short in duration. When he would switch to the ride cymbal, the note durations were longer. He was trying to establish how the drums and bass really need to work together.


For lunch we went to Fender's corporate headquarters. Several years ago I met a terrific woman who worked in the art department at Fender. Small world, huh? She had an American Jazz hanging on her living room wall just for decoration (she didn't play bass nor did her two dogs). Try as I might I couldn't get here to give it up (you fill in the punch line). You reall should click on her pic and check out her artwork. She's a very talented lady. I'm sure if she had played bass, she would have been great.

They don't manufacture anything there, but we saw a lot of guitars/basses and some early releases of new products. One guy won a Tacoma acoustic bass. The marketing guys answered a lot of questions. The bass marketing is now a completely separate entity rather than being lumped in with the guitars. We were given the impression that bass is once again emerging as something important. Who knows? They were marketing guys after all.

The CEO (forget his name now) does not wear a suit. Nobody did there.

We got a goodie bag with a shirt, guitar cleaning/maintenance kit, strings, and the book they give to dealers explaining the details of each product and how to sell it. The book looks pretty interesting. It's going next to the crapper.

The afternoon clinic was by Chuck Rainey. If you don't know the name, shame on you! He is a genuinely nice guy and a great story teller. We all wished he could have spoken longer. Read his bio on his website - it's interesting. His advice? Learn to be nice to people you don't like, it will help you in the business. Play the shit out of something to *really* learn it. He said he looks at transcriptions of stuff he has done and often finds mistakes. Of course, he said he never played anything that he never heard before - he just might have put it together differently.

The last class of the day was with Lynne Davis. She shared a story about keys. Even after being a teacher, she went to a teacher to learn how to "play what you hear." His first request? Name all of the notes in the key of G. Okay, what's the vi in the key of F? Give me the C scale backwards. She could do it, but she kind of had to envision it in her mind - it just took a couple of seconds. His advice was for her to take a key per day and learn like she was learning multiplication tables. He said she needed to know it as well as she knows here phone number. She did and found it brought her playing and understanding of theory to a new level. Instead of worrying about calculating the elements, she can concentrate on the relationships.

Chuck Rainey of Steely Dan fame

The evening concert started with Chuck Rainey. He played his new six-string Spector  over backing tracks. Interestingly, they had a Latin beat to them. This guy can groove, that's for sure. He did some slap, but no pyrotechnics - it just worked. He even did a Latin version of "Fever" with some funky slapping. Very cool.

Chuck Rainey actually has a pretty decent singing voice and, of course, great stage presence.

Next up was Ray Riendeau. Those of you enthralled with slapping pyrotechnics would have loved this guy. It's not really my thing. Mel Brown slaps in a much more musical style (in my opinion). Watching Ray it was amazing to see just how little his hands moved. He has incredible economy of motion. He did originals. He says he writes songs that cram all the notes from a three minute song into one minute. That's an understatement. Here's a link to a YouTube video of a song he played with a drummer:

I'm mostly a rock guy who likes R&B and funk. I'm not a big Jazz guy, but when I do listen to it I can usually feel the music taking me places. I feel the harmonies and flow. When I listen to Ray's style of music I don't sense the music taking me anywhere. Maybe it's just my lack of understanding.

Two nights, five sets, not one guitar on stage!

Tomorrow, Bobby Vega will be giving a clinic and performing for the evening concert. Should be the bee's knees.

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