6 Podcasts Every Bassist Should Listen To

PodcastsCurrently podcasting seems to be the new darling form of media.  You can find podcasts focused towards everything from self-help, business, and comedy, to story telling and music production.  I’ve found myself diving deeper and deeper into the world of podcasts for a while now.  For me there’s nothing better than listening to a good podcast on my morning and evening commute.  While I have explored many different types of podcasts, my favorites all revolve around music.  Being a bass player I naturally sought out bass related podcasts first.  While I can’t say I’ve found many devoted specifically to the bass, the couple I have found are truly stellar.  As audio production and songwriting are also areas I have an interest in, I eventually branched out to find more and more interesting podcasts to fill my drive time.  

So, without further ado, here are my top 6 Podcasts I feel every bassist should listen to or at least check out: Continue reading “6 Podcasts Every Bassist Should Listen To”

Grooving with Hybrid Techniques – Enrico Galetta

Grooving with Hybrid Techniques
is an all new bass instructional book by Italian bassists Enrico Galetta.  The 55 page book covers five techniques:  Standard Slap, Double Thumb, Flamenco Slap, Muting and the Hybrid Style.  “Grooving with Hybrid Techniques” includes 100 exercises, plus 72 audio tracks and is available in standard book form or digitally as an ebook.

Throughout “Grooving with Hybrid Techniques” Galetta aims to help you create your own technique dictionary with a collection of bass grooves instructing you how to study, apply and combine these modern techniques with a hybrid approach to create more versatile bass lines. While the book is intended for beginning to advanced players, you’ll need to have some basic knowledge of the techniques presented in order to get the most out of the exercises.  

Galetta gets things started emphasizing the importance of practicing with a metronome before presenting a set of “Standard Slap” exercises focusing on control and dynamics.  The exercises start off focusing only on using the thumb, but quickly progress to using both the thumb and the pluck.  Once you’re grooving with the standard slap, we move on to the “Double Thumb” technique followed by the “Flamenco Slap” and finally, “Muting” techniques. Each exercise builds upon what has been learned in previous exercises.  The book concludes with a set exercises incorporating all of the techniques learned and how to effectively use them together to create your own “Hybrid” style.  

“Grooving with Hybrid Techniques” covers a lot of ground in its short 55 pages, but it does so very effectively.  The simple exercises will benefit anyone looking to improve their playing, and for the bassist who really wants to hone his slap chops, “Grooving with Hybrid Techniques” may just be the ticket!

To learn more about Enrico Galetta and Grooving with Hybrid Techniques click Here




Tonic: The Music Improvisation Card Game

Tonic Game

Tonic: The Music Improvisation Card Game is finishing up it’s Kickstarter campaign this week, having more than doubled its original pledge goal.

Created for all musicians, playing any style, on any instrument.  Tonic is a new card based game, developed as a new way for musicians to learn & practice improvisation in a way that emphasizes freedom and fun.  For most of us the idea of improv can be intimidating, and the goal of Tonic is to break through that barrier and make it more accessible.  The game can be played either alone or with a group and requires no experience or knowledge of music theory.  

The Game

Tonic can be played in multiple ways with several add-ons already in development.  At its most basic level it is a simple card game to be played by one or more musicians.  To start you simply pick a card and do what it instructs.  Each card challenges you to create a short piece of music on the spot.  Dice can be added to choose the pitches you can use, or you can simply decide on the pitch yourself.  

There is no score and no winners or losers.  The point is to have fun and create new music.  

In use

Tonic presents a creative new way to tonic cardsapproach your instrument.  Playing around with the cards I found myself exploring ideas I would have never thought of on my own.  I didn’t even consider the fact that I was improvising, I was just having fun playing bass.  The game is definitely a great way to get yourself out of your normal practice routine and shake things up a bit.  I can see myself playing Tonic in the future to boost my inspiration and motivation.  It is so easy to pick a card and start fiddling around, no scales to think about, no technique, just pure musical enjoyment.   


Tonics creator, Scott Hughes, believes so strongly in his creation that he has made the cards available completely free.  You can download them as a PDF here:  Tonicgame.com


Esperanza Spalding Presents: Emily’s D+Evolution


On May 5th I was fortunate enough to join an eclectic crowd in San Francisco at the Independent featuring Esperanza Spalding Presents: Emily’s D+Evolution.  The show was an amazing mix of performance art and music, melding Jazz, R&B, Funk and Rock layered on top with performance pieces by Esperanza and her band. 

Sticking strictly to playing electric bass for this set, Esperanza employed a fretless Fender Jazz as well as her custom South Paw fretless 5 string.  Throughout the performance, her playing was so fluid and full of emotion it was truly a delight to the senses.  And one things for sure, that girl can groove!

The short set lasted only about an hour, with Esperanza explaining, in lieu of an encore, that the music was so new that the band didn’t know anymore songs.  She did leave us with a lovely a cappella version of “Little Fly” from her album “Chamber Music Society” before calling it a night.

Esperanza Spalding Presents:  Emily’s D+Evolution tour is just getting started and I highly recommend that you check it out if they come to a city near you.  For more info check out Esperanza’s website:  http://esperanzaspalding.com/

Here’s a taste of her performance I found on YouTube:


Review: Notation Trainer Android App


Concept and Features

Notation Trainer is an incredible Android app created to help musicians improve their sight-reading skills.  Designed by London-based music tutor Stuart Bahn, Notation Trainer generates original sight-reading exercises to musicians’ exact requirements.  

“To be able to perform music from written notation takes hundreds of hours of practice”, Stuart says. “The problem for many musicians is finding fresh scores that perfectly match their current level of ability. Once a score becomes familiar, it is performed at least partly from memory. Consequently the performer is not putting their reading skills to the test as effectively as they would with a previously unseen score. I developed this app to provide musicians with a solution to this problem. Instead of buying lots of expensive exercise books, now they can buy a single low-cost app”.

Notation Trainer allows musicians, of any instrument, to choose the clef, set the key signature, the range of notes and the maximum size of intervals between them.  A 100 note exercise is then created for the musician to perform as they scroll across the screen of their Android phone or tablet.  


Hands On

I tested Notation Trainer on a Kindle Fire 7″ Tablet and found the app super simple to use, with an easy to navigate interface.  After launching the app you simply click the settings button which allows you to choose from Treble, Bass, or C Clef (alto or tenor), set the minimum and maximum range of the notes presented, as well as the maximum interval between notes, and the key signature.  Once all your settings are in line you click “Apply and launch new session” and you are ready to go. Finally, before starting your exercise session, you can choose the speed at which the notes scroll by with a simple 1 to 10 slider.  Clicking the “Start Session” button gives you a 3 count and away you go with a fresh set of 100 notes.  A pause/unpause button is provided in case you need to stop along the way.  Another great feature is that the screen stays on as long as the app is running so you don’t have to worry about your screen timing out half-way through your session.    

Sight-reading is one of those skills that musicians need to work on constantly to keep up their chops up and Notation Trainer is just the tool to do that.  I love that you can start dead simple with a limited range of notes and intervals at a very slow pace and increase your range and speed as you progress.  My reading skills are mediocre at best, but I was able to jump right in and start using the app without any issues.  After working with Notation Trainer for a week I feel I am already making great progress.  

It is a very simple app with few bells and whistles but it does a good job at training you to read notation in a fun dynamic way.



Notation Trainer os distributed via several channels including Google Play http://goo.gl/nq7zsc and Amazon http://goo.gl/oQWPNF


Seeking Inspiration? Follow the Sonic Highways

sonic-highwaysI just finished watching Dave Grohl’s HBO series Sonic Highways, and I must say that I think it is the most inspirational series I have ever seen.  Each one-hour episode features a different iconic American city’s music scene and one of the studios that make it tick.  The history of each city’s music scene is explored as well as it’s culture and interviews with artists that have defined and been shaped by each city’s musical identity.  

For the series the Foo Fighters recorded one track in each of the 8 featured cities, the results being their new album “Sonic Highways”.  All of the lyrics were written on the last day of each session, with Grohl drawing upon the inspiration, experiences, interviews and personalities he encountered in each place.      

As that I am of the same generation as Dave and the Foo Fighters this series really struck a chord with me.  After watching each episode I felt so inspired that I just wanted to grab my bass and write music.  Some nights I did!  Watching Sonic Highways I remembered why I started playing music in the first place, and why I haven’t stopped.  Whether you are a Foo Fighters fan or not, I highly recommend you watch this series.




Review: Rotosound Swing Bass 66 Nickel – 5 String Set

RS665LDNThere was a time, early on in my bass playing years, that the only strings I would use where Rotosounds.  To be honest, I don’t remember which exact strings they were, all I recall is that they came in an orange package, that the E string was .105 gauge and that they tore the crap out my fingers and frets.  At the time I really had no inkling of what the differences in strings were.  Steel, nickel, roundwound, flatwound, I just played whatever was on my bass and when I needed a new set I’d buy a set of Rotosounds. Looking back, I’d have to guess I was using Stainless Steels, which accounts for the loss of finger skin and fret metal.  

At the time I was big into metal and I knew Steve Harris used Rotosounds and that was good enough for me!  As I evolved as a bass player, I eventually moved away from Rotosound.  Initially, as I was a starving college student at the time, I believe it was based more on cost than preference.  I have since learned a lot about playing bass and have discovered how much difference a set of strings can make.  In the last few years I have experimented with all manners of roundwound, flatwound, stainless steel, nickel, half round, tape wound, coated, cryogenically sealed, you name it I’ve tried it, but it has been until now that I have come back to give Rotosound another look.  

My Zon 5 String seems to have taken on a dark, wooly tone in the past few months, and I just wasn’t digging it.  I started thinking back to the days when I used Rotosounds and thought maybe it was time to give them another shot.  Not being a big fan of stainless steel strings, I decided to give the Rotosound Swing Bass 66 Nickels a try.  

Zon Rotosound Blue SilksFirst off, the presentation.  Gone is the clear plastic sleeve with orange insert of yesteryear.  The new packaging is biodegradable, recyclable cardboard, and the Nickel set comes in a lovely deep blue with the British flag poking through.  The strings themselves sport a lovely light blue silk wrap that looks fantastic on my bass.  

Installed, the Nickels have a nice smooth feel and lower tension to them that is very comfortable to play. These puppies definitely aren’t eating up my fingers, or my frets! Sound wise, the Rotosound Nickels have a nice, piano-like, clarity to them.  Overall, they are a very even sounding set, with the B string taking on a nice smooth tone.  One of the things I dislike about new strings is that they can tend to sound clanky until you break them in, this is not the case with the Rotosounds, they sound just like I want them too, with none of the new string squeaks or annoyances.  

Living with these strings for the past two weeks I have found that they hold their tune well, in fact I’ve hardly had to adjust them at all after the first day or so.  They’ve settled in to have a nice vintage vibe with sustain for days.  This is not to say that they are a one trick pony; with a few tweaks of the EQ I can go from old school thump to a sparkling slap tone.  I must say that I do prefer the Rotosounds over the previous strings I had as they have brought my Zon back to life.  I don’t know why it took me so long to come back to Rotosound strings, but now that I have I may end up putting them on more of my basses.


Rotosound Swing Bass Nickel 66


NorCal Jazz Presents the JazzDeck â„¢


After reading Brian Fox’s glowing editorial about the JazzDeck in the May issue of Bass Player Magazine, I decided to order a set and check it out for myself.  Visually, the JazzDeck is a thing of beauty.  The cards are well laid out and easy to read and include a couple of instructional cards to hep you get up to speed quickly.  Music theory is an area I am constantly trying to improve in, so for me the JazzDeck seems like the perfect tool to help me start incorporating theory concepts into my playing.  Once I’ve spent some quality time with the deck I will post a full review, but for now here is the official press release:

NorCal Jazz Presents the JazzDeckâ„¢

Textbook in a Box: The FASTEST Way To Sound Great Playing Jazz
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 13, 2014) – NorCal Jazz is proud to introduce the JazzDeck, a musical “textbook in a box” that helps players of all levels build confidence and sharpen their chops as jazz soloists.

In the classroom, on the bandstand, or at home in the woodshed, the JazzDeck enables students, teachers, and professionals to explore melodic ideas crucial to any chord they might encounter, whether on a simmering ballad or a burning bebop standard. By breaking down the complex-and often overwhelming-lexicon of jazz into tangible tidbits of musical information, the JazzDeck arms players with the know-how they need to sound great.

Comprised of 54 high-grade playing cards color-coded by chord type, the JazzDeck systematically illustrates the ways to excel as a soloist. Each card presents players with the basic notes necessary to sound good over a given chord, followed by those they need to know to sound great. With its elegant presentation and multi-dimensional, non-notation platform, the JazzDeck is especially suited to players of any stage who might find traditional music notation and theory intimidating.

With inspiring quotations from landmark musicians and brilliant thinkers on each card, the JazzDeck is a classroom-ready textbook, meeting Common Core Standards by inviting interdisciplinary discussion.

A powerful tool for students, teachers, and professionals, the JazzDeck is poised to become the next big thing in jazz education.

Also offered in Japanese and German, the JazzDeck is available for $19.95 at jazzdeck.com.


About NorCal Jazz

A seasoned professional on stage and in the classroom, NorCal Jazz founder and JazzDeck author Brian Switzer has an award-winning track record of teaching students privately and in public schools, and has toured as a featured trumpet player in such bands as Train, Muse, and O.A.R. For more information, visit jazzdeck.com.

Jack Bruce Releases ‘Silver Rails’

jack bruce cover

‘Silver Rails’ is the eagerly awaited new studio album by the legendary JACK BRUCE, one of the greatest popular musicians Britain has ever produced. A supremely talented instrumentalist and vocalist, eminently respected by his peers, Jack’s pioneering bass playing style has influenced successive generations of bassists, including such luminaries as Paul McCartney, Jaco Pastorius and Sting, alongside more contemporary musicians such as Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. He is also the possessor of one of the most powerful voices in modern music and a composer of some of the most original and influential music of the past forty-five years. As a songwriter he has written some of popular music’s enduring classics such as “Sunshine of Your Love”, “White Room”, “I Feel Free” and “Theme from an Imaginary Western”.

To celebrate the release of his first album in a decade, Jack Bruce filmed an exclusive set of video interviews, revealing all about the writing and recording process behind Silver Rails.  You can catch the full series here:




Win A Stack of Exclusive Jack Bruce Goodies to Celebrate the Release of Silver Rails!

The brand new Jack Bruce album ‘Silver Rails’ is out now on Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records, and over on the official Jack Bruce Facebook page there is a heap of exclusive and signed goodies to be won from beer mats to a collector’s edition model mini bass guitar! Check out what’s up for grabs here…

To order ‘Silver Rails’ direct from Cherry Red Records visit:  http://www.cherryred.co.uk/ 

Or purchase it from iTunes:  http://smarturl.it/SilverRailsiTunes



Chris Tarry Lessons

ChrisTarryLessonsChrisTarryThese days bass players have such a wide array of teaching tools it is simply amazing.  When I started playing you either got a book or took lessons from a more experienced player, and those were pretty much your only two options.  Now we have books, videos, private lessons, Skype lessons, YouTube videos, Apps, and an increasing amount of Online Lesson sites. Falling into this new category, Juno Award winning bassist, Chris Tarry, has recently launched ChrisTarryLessons.com.  

When arriving at Chris Tarry Lessons you are presented with a brief intro of what the site is about followed by previews of his latest lessons.  Clicking on the “Lessons Map” link in the heading takes you to a categorized list of all the lesson’s Chris has to offer.  Lesson topics include Theory, Ear Training, Slap, Walking, Soloing, Fretless, Choosing Gear, Changing Strings and many, many more.   

Overall the site has a minimalistic feel with everything laid out very cleanly and clearly, making the site easy to navigate.  Digging into the video lessons I found that Chris has a great way of explaining concepts in a clear, understandable way.  I worked with several of the lessons from beginner to advance and found each lesson to be well focused and concise.  Most of the lessons hover around 10 minutes, which makes them super easy to digest and fit into your practice routine.

Chris has recently decided to run his site on a donation model, opening it up to everyone, free!  With over 150 instructional videos, backing tracks, interviews, and more, Chris Tarry Lessons is now one of the largest free bass resources on the web. Sign up for Chris’ Newsletter and he will send you a link to download his e-book “The Bass Players Companion” as well as a some backing tracks to help you work through the video lessons.   

Donate $20 or more and Chris will send you a link to download every one of his award-winning solo albums (nine total), the sheet music to virtually every song on every album, plus he’ll include an additional fifteen albums he has played on, some of which have never been released.  That’s a total of 24 albums with accompanying sheet music for less than a buck per album.  Donations help Chris to keep his site free and continue to create music, so if you find his lessons valuable to you please consider donating.

Chris Tarry is one of the busiest bassists in New York CIty and a veteran of the modern jazz super-group Metalwood.  His current ensemble, The Chris Tarry Group has been called “one of the best jazz groups working today” by All About Jazz.  Chris’ concepts and original approach to teaching music are a fantastic resource.  For the beginning bass player Chris Tarry Lessons will provide you with the foundation you need to succeed.  More seasoned players looking to brush up on their skills or take their playing to the next level will find plenty useful information as well.  If you want to improve on your instrument, do yourself a favor and check out ChrisTarryLessons.com.