Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Victor Wooten at Sweetwater


On Monday, I took my two biggest sons to Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne to see a clinic with Victor Wooten and J.D. Blair.

OK, just in case you don't know, Wooten plays bass for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He plays Fodera basses and Hartke amps. He has been featured before on this blog, in the inaugural post of the 'man that's deep' label. There's also some points to add to the 'how to not suck' label. But we'll get to that.
On improvisation vs. repertoire:"The fewer songs you recognize, the better night we're having."
Of course, he's a massive player. He, a looper pedal, and a great drummer can make all the music you'd want.

Gearhead Paragraph: He had two bassists, one a 4-string yin/yang bass tuned EADG with a Hipshot D-tuner and another bass tuned ADGC: a 'tenor bass' in his terminology. Both have 24-fret necks. He uses nickel strings, a Boss RC50 loop pedal, a Peterson tuner pedal and had a Hartke stack with a 4x10 cab for high notes and a 1x15 for the low. He uses a hair tie to mute the open strings — I call it the Greg Howe trick because that's where I saw it first — He has basses with Kahler tremolos, fretless basses, five-string basses with MIDI pickups, but he didn't have them there that night. But that is what he uses. If you try what he likes and don't like it, he doesn't want the blame, and if you try what he likes and like it too, he doesn't want the credit.
On endorsements "Don't buy something because someone uses it. Try it out because they use it, but only buy it if you like it."


On the transitive nature of instruments "Bass is more a role than an instrument."


The coolest thing, the thing I want most to try, is his groove/rhythm exercise. Set up a long drum pattern on your drum machine. Set your drum machine so it plays that measure four times. Find your groove in that. Get into it.

Then replace the fourth measure to silence.

This will tell you your tendencies, if you tend to rush the beat or lag. And, if you know, you can start to work against it.

This is when you swap out the third measure.

Then the second.

Then just have one beat, one note floating in a sea of silence.

I have yet to try that exercise. But it sounds like a perfect get-the-groove don't-suck kind of exercise, doesn't it?

On warming up "I'm 45 years old. I've been playing for 43. I should be warmed up by now."


If you get a chance to see him playing with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, do it. If you get a chance to see him playing in duo format with J.D. Blair, do that. But especially, if you get the chance to do a workshop with him, jump on that.

The final point: it is far more pleasant to be in the electric guitar room at Sweetwater after a Victor Wooten clinic than after a John 5 clinic. Bassists who play with each other are much more pleasant to be in a room with than guitarists who don't.

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