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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Roy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp – Day 2

wpid-Photo-Jul-28-2013-1122-PM.jpgToday was our first official day of classes for Roy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp. Classes run from 9am to 5pm each day, with 3 classes running simultaneously. This morning we were divided into three groups, which I believe were based on where we are currently at in our progression with the Teach Me Bass Guitar course. I ended up with 4 other campers in a theory class with Adam Nitti all day. Adam reviewed the Major Scale with us then reviewed Modes and how they relate to the Major Scale. We spent the rest of the day exploring modes and how they can be used. For me this was perfect timing as I have been working on modes as part of Lesson 13 of TMBG. Going in I had a basic understanding of what the Modes are, but that was about it. Adam did a great job of explaining how we should be practicing them and how we can use them when playing, especially when improvising. Adam is a great teacher and our small class size afforded each of us a good amount of individual attention. I definitely have a greater understanding of Modes now and how I can use them, plus feel much more confident in my ability to play a short solo at The Rutledge on Thursday evening. This is just the first day of classes and I already feel like I have learned so much! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Tonight, as well as tomorrow and Wednesday, we have the option to go back to our classrooms from 7pm-9pm to practice what we learned today as well as get ready for Thursday night. I’ve decided to sit out the practice session tonight in favor of working on things on my own in my room, though I will most likely swing by the classrooms at some point this evening just to make sure I’m not missing out on anything. Tomorrow evening I definitely plan on attending the practice session as Stu Hamm and a couple of other special guests are supposed to be arriving and hanging out. We have also been advised that David has a very special evening planned for us on Wednesday, I will share more details on that as they come. At this point I have only been in Nashville a little over 24 hours and would already wholeheartedly recommend that anyone who is thinking of coming next year, do yourself a favor and come! You won’t be disappointed. Everyone here is so warm and friendly, it really is like one big family, centered around our love for all things bass guitar.

Roy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp – Day 1

Roy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp officially kicked off today in Nashville with a meet and greet concert and catered Southern dinner at The Rutledge. When I arrived at the Opryland Hotel earlier in the day, I quickly found our host Barbara Crossman of the Learning Dock who got me squared away with my room and course materials. I then spent a little time getting my bearings in this huge hotel before heading down to our designated meeting spot to catch a shuttle to The Rutledge.

Once we had all arrived at The Rutledge we were greeted by a warm welcome from David and Barbara Crossman. Several of this years attendees were here last year so there was already a great sense of camaraderie, additionally, most of us know each other virtually via ThunderRow which resulted in a very friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

Throughout the evening we were treated to music from singer/songwriter/Grammy award-winning pianist Will Barrow who was accompanied by ThunderRow’s Alona and Roy for a couple of numbers, David Crossman, who performed a couple of soulful numbers on acoustic guitar, and of course, Roy and the TMBG Band.

All in all in was a great way to kick off bass camp! Much of my fears have already been erased after speaking with almost all of the other attendees. There is such a laid back, family friendly vibe going on that you just can’t be nervous. I can’t wait until we start our class sessions Monday morning!

 

Prepping for Bass Camp

SKB Hard shell caseRoy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp is a little over a week away and I have been prepping my gear in eager anticipation. I decided to make the journey with my Fender Jazz Deluxe as I have been preferring the thinner neck lately. One of my big worries was how to safely transport my bass from San Francisco to Nashville and after much deliberation I decided to go with a good hard shell case. I picked up an SKB 44Pro case which fits my Jazz like a glove. It has a nice plush lining, reinforced TSA locking trigger latches and is fairly lightweight for a hard case. Ultimately I would prefer to gate check it, but if not I can at least have the piece of mind that it is well protected.

As for songs, I’ve learned two at this point. To me they seem like the two easiest and I am okay with that. I want this to be a fun, learning experience, so I chose not to pick a difficult piece that I would end of stressing over as to whether I could pull it off or not. As it stands, one of the songs I chose has a solo that I have been working on non-stop. I have the song down, that’s the easy part, but I am in no way a soloist. My current practice routine has me solely focusing on playing an improvised solo along with the track. Additionally, I have been using backing tracks in the same key to help build up my solo chops. My confidence is still a bit shaky, so hopefully in the next week things will improve a bit more.

I have a whole list of things I need to bring, from notebooks and music paper to batteries and cables. I’ve started putting some of it together and at this point I think I have everything I need. This time next week I’ll most likely start packing! When I decided to go to bass camp last fall it seemed so far in the future, but I honestly can’t believe how fast it snuck up on me. I am so looking forward to a whole week devoted to playing bass!