An Evening At Wooten Woods

Wooten Woods 2014For the past two summers I have had the great pleasure of spending an evening at Wooten Woods.  For those who may not know, Wooten Woods is Victor Wooten’s Music Camp, located outside Nashville, in the Tennessee woods.  Victor holds several camps throughout the year ranging from weekend camps, to an intensive 3 week music and nature camp.  Although the camp does have a bit of a bias towards bass, it is open to any instrument and musicians of all skill levels.

Wooten Woods is literally a camp in the Tennessee wilderness.  At night you can hear all of the sounds of nature around you, and I can’t remember the last time I saw so many stars in the sky.  A renovated barn serves as the main hall for dining and performances as well as practice stations located upstairs in the loft.  Other building on site include Dinah’s Woodshed and a Geometric Dome which serve as classrooms, plus a Nature Pavilion, several sleeping cabins and a Bathhouse.  There are also a few tents pitched for the campers who want the true nature experience.  

Each time I went, it was during the 3-week session and I asked the attendees if they were going stir crazy from being stuck out there.  On the contrary, everyone I spoke to said they were having the times of their lives.  They were kept busy learning about music and nature, as well as other various group activities.  It seems to me that Victor has this Bass Camp thing down!

Wooten Woods has such a great atmosphere to it. Friendly, kind, understanding and most certainly inviting.  Going to a music camp can be a bit intimidating at first, but after 15 minutes or so I felt right at home, especially on my second visit. It’s no wonder so many top artists want to be a part of Victor’s camp.  On my last visit Christian McBride was there as a guest instructor, for my first visit if was Keb Mo.  Sax great Jeff Coffin was there on both occasions as was Victor’s brother, Roy “Futureman” Wooten.  It was amazing to spend the evening with each of these top caliber musician’s, all of whom seem to love to share their knowledge and experiences with the group.  

While my experience with Wooten Woods is limited to just two evenings, I can honestly see the appeal of the place.  This past summer, as part of Roy Vogt’s Bass Camp, I was fortunate enough to spend a week studying with Anthony Wellington, whom is a regular instructor at Wooten Woods.  Add these two experiences together and I am seriously considering attending one of Victor’s camps in 2015.  

 

 

TMBG Bass Camp 2014 – Day 5

Stanton_Rutledge_2014Our last day of TMBG Bass Camp came much too fast.  I can’t speak for the others but I feel like I’ve learned more in the last week than I have in the past 6 months.  It’s been such a great week, I don’t want it to end.

We started out the morning with a great wrap session with Roy and Tim talking about things we should be working on and thinking about, as well as tips on how to take our playing to the next level.  Both Tim and Roy are such a wealth of information, it was awesome to just pick their brains for a while.

After a much-needed coffee break, my group spent some time with Tim working the kinks out of the songs we plan to play at the Rutledge tonight.  Once we all felt good about our songs, Tim made up a song and had each of us take a different piece of it and then play them together.  In doing this we found that we were all pretty good at staying in time with each other while playing our individual parts.  Then we were asked to remember what the other parts were and to play through each of them individually.  This exercise taught us how important it is to listen to the other musician’s you play with and that you should know what they are playing.

Our afternoon found us working with Roy on Walking Jazz Blues lines.  We discussed how to create them and what notes to use.  Roy demonstrated several different styles and had us work through a walking line, adding more and more notes as we progressed.  While I think I followed Roy fairly well, I don’t think I’m quiet ready yet to come up with the complex lines we ended up with at the end of our session.

Anthony finished out our last day of Bass Camp by providing us handouts for all of the materials we covered during the week and reviewing each of them.  As that we still had a bit of time left, Anthony dived into a lesson on relative chords.  Once again, his method of learning relative chords seemed so simple and intuitive, he really is a gifted teacher.

Alona_Rutledge_2014

With all of our classes wrapped up for the week we were off to the Rutledge for our big night.  We started things off with a great southern dinner followed by an incredible night of music.  After some brief introductions we all got a chance to play our song, on stage, with the band. Special guest, Jonell Mosser even came out to sing “The Trouble with the Truth” while camper Eric Armenat sat in on bass.  Everyone did such an amazing job, you’d think some of us did it all the time.  To make the night even more special Victor Wooten came out and brought all of his campers with him to cheer us on.  The night finished out with Roy & Alona performing a couple of songs before bringing Tim Smith on stage to jam.  Victor’s campers even got a chance to jam with the band a bit before calling it a night.  It was such a great night, yet I am sad that it is all over.

So there you have, another year of Teach Me Bass Guitar Bass Camp all said and done. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the good folks at the Learning Dock will be doing it again next year, although Roy is looking into putting something together.  I am so glad that I took the opportunity to attend these past two years.  I met so many great people and made some great new friends.  Who knows, maybe I look into going out to Wooten Woods next time.  If I do, you can be sure I’ll be blogging about it.

Bass_Camp_2014

TMBG Bass Camp 2014 – Day 4

The last two days of TMBG Bass Camp were so jammed packed that I am just now getting the chance to sit down and blog about them. Day 4 started out with a very informative session with Tim Smith talking to us about groove and feel. From there we moved into a discussion about our current practice habits and why it is important to set goals for ourselves to keep us focused on improving our skills. Next Tim had us play through the songs we will each play at the Rutledge, giving us tips to improve upon our playing. We finished up with some ear training exercises trying to play along with something Tim would come up with, without watching him play it. It was great to get some immediate feedback on the song I plan to play on Friday, and the ear training really made me realize that I have a some work to do in that regard.

Our second session of the day was with Roy and the band that will be backing us on Friday night, Tim McDonald, Dale Armstrong & Mike Valeris. Vocalist Alona Raevska joined us as we each took a turn playing the classic Aretha song “Respect”. Next we each got a chance to run through our song with the band, sort of a rehearsal for tomorrow night. This ended up being time well spent as we were able to work out our preferred tempo and song structure with the band, something we did not have the luxury of doing last year.

Our afternoon was spent with Anthony learning more about theory. We talked about intervallic distances between notes and the proper way to name and write them. Major, minor, diminished, augmented and perfect intervals were all discussed as well as the number of steps between notes and how to distinguish between them all.

Thursday evening was a free night for us so several of us decided to hit the town. The Nashville strip is pretty hopping, every other venue is a club or bar with live music. A couple of us got word that our teaching assistant from last years camp, Ian Eicher, was playing at the Wildhorse so we stopped in and caught his first set. From there we hooked up with a few other campers at BB Kings Blues Club and watched the house band tear it up. What a great evening of live music!

 

 

TMBG Bass Camp 2014 – Day 3

Last night, after an intense day of learning, I decided to stay in my room for the evening to review all that I had learned and work on the song I plan to play Friday night at The Rutledge. The first two days of camp were jammed so full of information I really needed to take some time to process it all. When I finally decided to turn in for the night I found myself lying in bed running through the modes, so I guess you could say I had a very musical day!

 

Wednesday’s classes started out with Anthony talking to us about Major, Minor and Dominant chords before moving on to the Circle of 5ths. Anthony showed us a new, more linear, way to learn the keys, one that relates more to the bass. He showed us how you can use the strings on a 7 string bass to determine how many sharps or flats a key has and which notes they will be. I have struggled with the Circle of 5ths for a long time and let me tell you, Anthony’s method is much clearer and easier to follow.

For our next session we had an awesome discussion with Adam on the effective use of practice time. He gave us a list of 7 core elements that we should focus on and talked about realizing our limits as to how many days a week we can actually practice and how long each practice session is. He advised us to break down that time into chunks and hit 3 or 4 elements, depending on how much time we have, and to focus on those for as long as we need before moving on to something else. For me this was a very helpful session, as I am often tweaking my practice routine and tend to lose focus.

We were back with Anthony after our lunch break discussing Pentatonic scales. He showed us an easy way to remember them by relating them to a 5 string bass. We also talked a little about blue notes and how they are used. Anthony’s way of teaching makes Music Theory so much clearer to me, it is nothing short of amazing. I have learned so much from him this week and we still have two more days.

We finished up the day continuing to work on our reading skills with Roy. He had us look at a piece of music and play along with it, studying the rhythm patterns as well as the notes. This is an area I feel I really need to work on as I felt I was right at the edge of my comfort zone here. It was slow going for me but felt great to push myself beyond my limits.

After our classes we headed out to Wooten Woods for dinner and music with Victor Wooten and his campers. We were warmly greeted by Victor himself when we arrived and given a quick tour of the camp. Victor’s campers were a friendly bunch and we all exchanged introductions before sitting down to a delicious dinner with them. Dinner was followed by a musical performance consisting of Christian McBride, Jeff Coffin, Jen Hartswick, Roy Wooten, Victor and a few other special guests. It was a great night of music, and we even got a brief, impromptu, presentation from Vic’s Nature instructor, Richard Cleveland. It was a fun night that I won’t soon forget.

 

TMBG Bass Camp 2014 – Day 2

Wow! Today was only the second day of Roy Vogt’s Bass Boot Camp and my mind is crammed so full of information, it’s going to take me a month to process it all. My day started out with an intense session on understanding modes with Anthony Wellington. Anthony used his 7 string bass to demonstrate an easy way to learn mode patterns, after which he had us all take a turn working through the modes, on the 7 string! This was the first time any of us had even held a 7 string bass, but with Anthony’s instruction, we all ended up playing it fairly effortlessly. I still can’t believe I was using modes to solo over chords playing a 7 string today. Incredible!!

Next Adam Nitti showed us how to use our bass and our voice as a tool for ear training. I love this approach as that I have used ear training apps before on my ipad and gotten to a point where I am just too lazy to get the ipad out while practicing and skip it. Now I have no excuse, all I need is my bass and I am ready to go. We finished up the session discussing intervals and running through some location exercises and why it is important to work on this stuff.

After lunch Roy gave us a quick history of jazz, from a bassist’s perspective, discussing jazz’s different forms and the fine nuances of each. He then had us work on playing simple jazz walking lines while having us play over chords. We also talked about different feels and ways to divide time in a musical way.

For our last session of the day we were back with Adam, this time discussing scales and how chords are created. Once we all had a good grasp of the concepts presented, Adam showed us how chords work in relation to modes. The focus here was how modes are applied on a 4 string, which piggybacked nicely with what we had learned from Anthony earlier in the day.

We finished off the day as a group with a Skype call to Lane Baldwin where he gave us a quick lesson on pentatonic scales and what goes into creating walking blues lines. Lane also shared several tips with us to help us get the most out of the Teach Me Bass Guitar Course.

I have to admit, by the end of the day my mind was pretty fried. I think I was given enough materials and ideas to keep me busy for at least the next few months, and today is only the 2nd day of camp!! After diner I had to sit down and review everything I learned today, just to try and process it all better. Tomorrow promises to be more of the same, plus we are capping off our day with a trip to Wooten Woods to visit with Victor and his campers for the evening. I best be turning in early tonight, I’m going to need to be well rested for tomorrow.

 

 

 

All Basses Go! TMBG Bass Boot Camp 2014 – Day 1

I'm back in Nashville this week for Roy Vogt's TMBG Bass Boot Camp and we had a stellar first day. Roy, Adam Nitti & Anthony Wellington gave us each a quick evaluation this morning to get an idea of our skill levels, then quickly split us up into 3 groups of 4. From there each group split off with a different instructor to work on a variety of topics.

My group started off with Roy where we had a cool discussion on gear. We talked about different types of basses, electronics, fretless, basic maintenance, amps and effects. Roy showed us how to get different sounds from our bass using the basses tone or EQ knobs as well as the pickup blend knob. Next he demoed a few different effects and discussed how and when they would most likely be used. I'm a bit of gear head so I have to admit that I always love geeking out on equipment.

After a short break we reconvened with Adam for a discussion on technique and timing. Adam ran us through several timing exercises having us each play along as a group as well as on our own. Timing is an area I have been wanting to focus on and now I feel I have a few new exercises and tools at my disposal to utilize to this end.

Lunch was followed by a theory lesson from Anthony. It is mind blowing to me how Anthony can break down music theory in such a logical way that I can easily understand it. I'm still having a little trouble digesting it all, but I do know I am making progress. The way Anthony breaks everything down to it's simplest form is pure genius.

For our final session of the day we found ourselves back with Roy discussing the importance of learning how to read music. I am finding that I am getting pretty good at reading notes and knowing where to play them on the bass. Roy helped to take this to the next level by showing us how to look for repeating phrases. We all played along to a backing track working our way through a piece of music until we were comfortable with it. The session was capped off with a quick discussion as to why we should learn to read at all.

At the end of the day we all got together as an entire group for an open discussion with Roy, Adam an Anthony as well a a group picture. All in all I have to say it was a great first day!

 

Roy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp – Day 6

Anthony Wellington

Our last day at Roy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp had us breaking into two groups with half of us heading to class with Anthony Wellington and half heading to The Sound Emporium to record.  My group spent the morning with Anthony digging deeper into our knowledge of music theory.  We started out by talking about how many notes are available on our basses and that we should know where every note is.  For example, how many C’s are on a Fender Jazz bass and what strings/frets are they on.  He showed us how to make flash cards to help us memorize this information.

Next Anthony laid out a linear method for use when learning key signatures and how many sharps and flats each have.  The way he laid it out made so much more sense to me than the old Circle of 5ths method.  His is a much more logical approach, which appeals to my way of thinking.  Anthony showed us that it is basically all in the numbers and the order of the strings on a 7 string bass (B E A D G C F).  This completely blew my mind!  It was like the answer had been sitting right there in front of me the whole time and I just never saw it.  Needless to say, Anthony is a fantastic teacher who has a way of connecting the dots in a very relatable manner.  He’s also a super likable guy who is easy to talk to.  Definitely check out his lesson site Bassology.net.

After a great morning session with Anthony our group loaded into the van and headed over to Sound Emporium studios to record.  We had the choice of recording the song we had played the night before at The Rutledge or picking a new one, I stuck with the same song as I figured I knew it the best.  We each took turns going into the studio and recording with the TMBG band as Roy guided us through the entire process.  I had to geek out a bit over the Neve mixing console as I am into that sort a thing.  Man what a sweet board!

Sound Emporium

The studio was a very cool experience, a lot of great albums have been recorded there. Everyone was extremely helpful and supportive.  I was having trouble getting the ending to my song down and Dale Armstrong (Drummer) took the time to come out of his drum room and give me some advice.  No one was at all judgmental, everyone truly wanted to see you succeed.  When I just couldn’t get the ending right, Roy guided me through a simplified version and had the other guys fill in the gaps.  It was hard to feel defeated with so much encouragement.

After a long day in the studio we all went back to the Hotel and met for dinner at the Irish Pub for our last hurrah.  At this point all of the pressure was off and it was nice to just relax and talk with everyone, who by this time seemed like old friends.  There was a great band playing called “Def Leprechaun” who were taking our requests all evening. Most of ended up staying until the band had finished playing, it was such a fun night I don’t think anyone wanted it to end.

In the morning we all met for one last breakfast together before going our separate ways.  I know I have been raving about bass camp in every post, but it truly was an amazing experience and I made some great new friends!

Fantasy Bass Boot Camp 2013