for years, but w hen I heard Anthony Jackson in 1985 and the pioneering w ork he did with
the six-string, I really loved the w ay he played. Anthony persuaded a lot of manufacturers to
start building six-string basses, but because I com e from a jazz and bebop and acoustic bass
background, I thought I could do som ething different. I envisaged the six-string as being
used as a solo instrum ent in a jazz setting, like a horn. I w elcom ed the low B string as well
because in the 1980s there w ere loads of synth players w ho w ere recreating bass notes
lower than w e could get on a bass. The low B gave us a change to reclaim that end of the
scale, our rightful place. W e're the bottom end of the band!"
Any nuggets of advice from the m aster about the best approach to bass? This is a
subject on which John has som e fascinating observations. "A lot of players, w hen they
hear a specific style that they like, and want to play, they think it is important to learn the
licks just from the recordings they hear. I would say that it is important to be able to pick up
m usic by ear, especially as you can finish up working with m usicians w ho don't write m usic,
so there is nothing written dow n for you to go to and w ork with. But more important is the
ability to assim ilate the feeling behind these lines, and be able to apply it in other settings
within the m usical genre you have chosen.
"If you learn to read, you can acce ss m usic from hundreds of years ago, well before
there w ere recordings of m usic. A c c e ss to as much influence as possible is alw ays a
worthwhile thing. Even if you don't learn and play all the styles you hear, they can still
im pact on you as a m usician. I would say, don't think small w hen you are looking to grow
as a m usician. The other thing to avoid is inverted m usical snobbery. There are people who
play rock'n'roll, and look down on any kind of m usic that contains any kind of intellectual
com ponent in it. That is a m isconception, and it is w rong"
"W hen you listen to people like M onk, M iles, Coltrane, Charlie Parker and M arcus
Miller, they have a lot of m usical and m usicianship know ledge, and it hasn't hurt their
feeling and their playing. That snobbery w orks in the opposite w ay as well: there are
people w ho don't know theory and technique, but m ay
have a great ear and assim ilate m usic that way. You have
to be even-handed with how you look at these things.
Technical grow th will buy you freedom with your bass. If
you learn to be natural with it, the bass will feel natural to
you. You can learn to express yourself freely on it, and have
so much m ore of a good experience. That will overcom e
the frustration you feel w hen you have ideas, but you lack
the technical skill to m ake your hands play w hat you can
hear, and w hat you can feel"
Because the jazz that Patitucci mainly plays these days is
a m usic form based on subtlety and interaction, you would
assum e that jazz bassists are not big on effects. You'd be
right - it all co m es back to the basics. "I just use a little
reverb on stage" he confirm s. "For years I used one of
those Yamaha M agicstom ps, and w hen I w as with Chick
Corea years ago, I used a Bradshaw rack which had loads of
com pressors, delays, reverbs, you nam e it, and a big pedal
board to control it all. I had loads of that stuff, and then I got
really tired of it. I did w hat a lot of m usicians do. I built up a
load of stuff, and then got rid of it all, and then w ent back to
basics, just plug in and play"
"I have a Radial Engineering Tonebone now, which
is a beautiful little DI box w ith a channel sw itcher and
an e ffects loop. B e ca u se o f the w eight restriction s on
aircraft now, w hich are really bad, I have a Hall O f Fam e
Reverb by T C Electronic, a really com pact, tiny thing that
is great for m y electric bass. I am an Aguilar endorsee
now and they have so m e nice envelope filters, and so m e
other good stuff. For live w ork though, I ju st use som e
reverb on m y six-string bass, for soloing. For m y aco ustic
b ass, I don't use any effects; I like to ge t a very organic
sound there"
U n less you're playing in your bedroom , you will have
perform ed with at least one other m usician, even if
it's just a jam round at their house, and it's likely that
your first interaction is going to involve a drummer.
A n y bass player's relationship w ith the drum m er is a
fundam ental foundation of the band's sound. "It's not just
a relationship, it's like a m arriage" says Patitucci, laughing.
"W hat I alw ays tell m y students is to begin by watching
body language, and se e how the drum m er physically
exp resse s the time. W hat do their hands look like? W atch
their body m ovem ents, and get in syn c w ith them , m eet
the drum m er in the time.
"A lot of b a ss players m ake the m istake of thinking
that they have to establish the tim e and m ake the rest
of the band, especially the drummer, com e to that point
and joining them there. I think one of the reasons I have
been able to play with so m any great drum m ers is that
I am w illing to go to them . Drum m ers like it if you find
their tim e spot quickly, and m eet their beat, and m esh
with them. I have alw ays done that in w hatever style I
am w orking with, listen to the drummer, and find w here
they are putting the beats, and go straight there and m eet
them. That will get you a reputation as som eon e w ho
listens, and is w illing to be co-operative."
"A lot of b a ssists say, I don't like the w ay so-and-so
places the beats, so I don't like w orking w ith him or her.
That is so lim iting, if you do that 10 tim es, then you've
w iped out 10 guys you could be playing m usic with, and
learning som ething from. It's really easy to get a reputation
as som eon e w ho is aw kw ard and restricted, and that will
not do you any good anyw here as a m usician. Learn to fit
in, go with the flow, and enjoy yourself - that's the best
advice any m usician can have"
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