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 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.

 

Roy Vogt’s Fantasy Bass Boot Camp – Day 4

What an incredible day we had on Wednesday! We started off our morning at fantasy bass boot camp with our guest instructor, Stu Hamm, discussing the importance of warming up before you play and how to avoid injury. Stu gave us a packet of materials which included excerpts from his True Fire instructional series as well as a few other goodies. He then reviewed ways to increase our dexterity before talking about how to play slap and how to tap. We finished up our session talking about rhythm, band dynamics and the bass players role. The rest of the morning was spent with Roy, continuing on with the discussions we started with Stu as well as working on playing tritones, and using scales to play over chords.

After lunch was all Stu. He gave us a rundown of his career and how he got started while playing some of his signature pieces for us. What an amazing day it was to sit less than 10 feet from Stu Hamm and watch him play. Plus he is a really nice guy! After he had said his spiel he took some time to discuss his Washburn signature bass and how he gets his tone. He also talked about strings, he changes his after every performance, his amp and what he needs to get his signature sound. At the end of it all he opened things up for questions and even let us play his bass. Yup, that’s right, I got to play Stu Hamm’s bass! and it was pretty sweet.

After dinner all us campers met Roy and David in the lobby where we loaded into a couple cars and headed out to Victor Wooten’s bass camp out at Wooten Woods. Victor greeted us when we arrived and gave us a quick rundown of how his camp works and then we headed into his performance barn to find Keb Mo, Roy “Futureman” Wooten, Anthony Wellington, Jeff Coffin (Saxophonist for Dave Matthews) and Danny and Beth Gottlieb (Amazing drummer and percussionist for Gary Sinise’s band) on stage getting ready to play. Victor jumped on stage and Keb Mo started playing some serious blues for us. Roy joined in after a bit as well as a few other musician’s throughout the night. Man, I have to say, last night was one of the most amazing nights of live music I have ever witnessed.

Everyone we met out at Wooten Woods was very warm and friendly. Victor loved the idea of getting both camps together to share in the music and is returning the favor by bringing his campers out to The Rutledge to see us perform tonight. When I first heard this idea I was a bit nervous but after meeting everyone last night, most of my fears are gone. They are all a really cool group of people,I know it will be another amazing night.

 

Victor Wooten Learning in and Through Community

On Friday, September 17th,  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to watch Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey put on a Community Workshop for the incoming freshmen at Stanford University.  Entitled “Learning In and Through Community” the program utilized music activities to introduce to the students the idea of broadening ones learning experience by living in residential communities.  Put together with the help of bass player and Stanford Resident Fellow Rod Taylor, the program also featured drummer J.D. Blair and Saxophonist Bob Hemenger.  All I can say is Wow!  I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with all of the musicians involved, and found each one to be kind, down to earth guys.  Most inspiring was their passion for what they do and their true sense of excitement to be a part of the program.

Victor and crew talked about living and learning together at great length during the hour and a half workshop.  The session was very interactive, with several students being brought on stage to illustrate specific examples.   Although the workshop was aimed at the Stanford Freshmen, I was definitely able to grasp the greater concept being presented, and took away a lot of new perspectives on how we learn and on life in general.  For instance, the idea that we carry around a lot of “baggage” that actually holds us back was an idea that is so simple, yet I never really thought about it in the way it was presented.  It definitely gave me a lot to think about and I have already began to see things a little clearer.  As you may know from my previous posts, I am currently trying to learn how to play slap bass.  Well, I’ve been feeling lately like I have been in a rut and this workshop made  me realize that I have put to much pressure on myself.  To me learning how to play slap bass is learning how to play like Victor or Flea, but in reality that is not the type of bass player that I want to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to listen to Victor and would sure love to be able to play some of his licks, but stylistically I would much rather play like Geezer Butler, John Paul Jones and John Entwistle.  In realizing this I feel a sense of liberation.  I want to be proficient at slap bass, but my style of playing is not centered around it. Suddenly learning to play slap doesn’t seem as big a deal to me and I can see the great improvements I have made in this area already.  As an added bonus I was given an audio book copy of Victor’s Book The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music.  I have already read the book, but can’t wait to hear it read by Victor himself.  Boy do I have a lot to learn!

For more info on the Stanford program click here.