Monday, August 11, 2008

I suppose I should add a title....

You know the players. We will call them Guitar and Keys. They are the guys I normally play with. And when we jam together, Guitar plays guitar, Keys plays keys and I'm on bass.

Guitar is a lefty guitar player who has played for a long time in the flipped-over string style, like Dick Dale. He's recently trying to learn how to play the other way, and that's cool, but making it harder to look at his hands to try to figure out what's going on.

Keys doubles on drums on occasion, but he mostly plays keys for himself. He has one problem from two reasons. When I was in college, I mostly played with myself and for myself. I'd play some blues, and so I could hear the 12 bars go by, I pretty much hit root for whatever chord I was on at the time. I couldn't play without referencing the root for a good long time, which hobbled me as a player. Keys mostly plays for himself, so he self-accompanies.

He also plays Praise and Worship.

P&W, as a genre, is keyboard-centered. You can't have P&W without keys. You can have it without a drummer, without a guitar, without a bass, but not without keys. So the P&W style for keys is to play like you're playing alone and the rest of the instruments falling in, more or less.

All in all, this is fine. Where it becomes a problem is when he's playing in the bass range with his left hand. If he's covering the bass part, what do I do with the bass?

This is a problem for two reasons. The first is me being new to the bass, which is tuned like the top four strings of the guitar but is not a guitar. I'm trying to pick up the style, but it's hard. The second is the fact that it's a complicated song. It's lopsided, and it's in something that can resolve, I guess, into 4/4 if you squint at it hard enough. There's no drummer, so I'm having a devil of a time trying to figure out where and how to lock in, especially with having to find some odd place to be because Keys' left hand is covering exactly the best ground for my instrument.

So, I'm sucking.

I'm trying to take inspiration from Peter Hook's playing on New Order's "True Faith", but I'm not really hitting the rhythm for that, either.


Pribek said...

There's two separate issues, if I'm interpreting right. One is rhythmic and the other is harmonic.
Is the rhythm part of the equation an odd time signature or just bad time? Ask the piano player to play by himself, count out the total number of beats in a section. Ask him to play it again and see where he's putting the accents, which will point the way to how to count it. Having him play by himself a couple times through will allow you to see whether he is losing time and/or just playing a bunch of random stuff.
Harmonically, there are a couple of ways to work out the turf war. One is to play exactly what the piano guy is doing with his left hand. Exactly though, if you stick in one extra note, it stands out in a bad way. So, the parts have to be arranged not, random.
The other is to find stuff on the top two strings instead of the bottom two. Bass players often think that it's a sworn duty to play the lowest possible note but, it isn't necessary to do that. It really becomes apparent in the studio, sometimes the note an octave higher works best for the overall mix.

Dave Jacoby said...

I think it's something like 12/4. And there's a few leading notes. Like fiddle tunes, there's a few notes that are written before the first bar that bring you in. I'm thinking on the bar measures, but his bit doesn't fit within it. When last we played, I was getting into it a bit. There was a little bit of fanfare he came up with that's like a bit of Allmanesque riffing in G major that Guitar and I did in unison for a while. It was way too busy with that, but it helped me find the beat some. But it's hard.

It's an interesting thing, his thing. I can't really say it's like anything else, and I've heard enough to be able to peg most major references. If I wasn't trying to play against it and failing, I would like it a lot more.

And top two string: That's what I was kinda referring to when I mentioned Hooky. High and melodic and outside the intricate time of the keys. But then I tend to play the bass like it's a guitar, which it isn't, and I get too note-y.

Patrick said...

As soon as I have some idea how to not suck at bass, I'll let you know. (As yet I suck too hard at it to even know how to get better.) The best advice I can give you to start with is to tap your foot with the beat and only play when your foot taps. (at first. When you start to not suck, you can do more with rhythms. First order of business is to stay out of trouble.)
I do know that most players named Keys do the left hand = bass thing compulsively unless there is a good bass player. So, when you start to not suck, he'll ease up on it, which will release you from the obligation of trying to copy him. Also, don't listen to Jaco, or Les, or Mingus, or Victor, or Bootsy, or Flea, to try to get better. They aren't going to help you until after you've been playing for a long, long time.
And have I told you yet that the Wednesday group really ought to find time to practice that isn't Wednesday, 30 minutes before the service?

Dave Jacoby said...

You have told me that practice for Wednesday worship shouldn't happen 30 minutes before Wednesday worship. I do agree. But there's something rock'n'roll about it, I think, where you work out the arrangement nearly on the fly.

But the playing in question usually occurs on Tuesday evenings. This Tuesday I shall monger Perl, so I won't work on it for at least another week.

It's a very lopsided rhythm, and I have had a hard time trying to tap my feet to it. Might I add Ox and Steve Harris to the "not now" list? And certainly not Ron Carter, not that a big cool doghouse bass is anything but a dream for me right now.

Patrick said...

If you can't tap your feet to it, you need to figure out how to tap your feet to it before you can play bass to it.

I know you've seen this, but:

Live the dream.