Therapy? bassist M ike takes a much-needed rest
Back home after a great run of shows through Europe and the
UK - and, bar a couple of unforeseen technical problems and a
nasty dose of the flu, all the shows went off without a hitch. With 14
albums behind us, one of the biggest challenges was writing the set-
list for the tour. Obviously we wanted to showcase the new songs but
we're also aware of the fact that a lot of people want to hear the hits.
Thankfully the hits are well-written and really nice songs to play: it's
always a thrill to see how the crowd react to them. We've also been
very lucky that all the new songs have been well received, and we
made the conscious decision to play eight or nine of them each night
in the set. It was a bold move, maybe, but it certainly paid off as the
reaction was ace.
Quite a few people also commented on the fact that the new songs
slotted in perfectly with the older stuff in a sonic respect. It was good
to hear that had come across, as we'd also tried to group the songs
in batches with regard to tuning. The reduced guitar changes also
helped keep the energy level up, as we could begin to segue songs
together and find nice little intros that tied them into sequence.
Towards the end of the tour everything was dialled in perfectly with
regard to playing and performance, so that's when a bit of jamming
and improv began to creep in. That's always a nice way to put a fresh
twist on the songs and also helps keep us on our toes. It was also cool
that some of the audience who had attended multiple gigs got to see a
few different takes on the tunes.
One of the more interesting moments came when we did an
acoustic session in a studio on a day off: it was a bit of a challenge
working out which songs and which versions of them would work
well in that stripped-back format, but after a bit of rearranging we
got the tunes sounding great. It'll be interesting to see what people
make of these versions without all the usual sonic intensity. With the
album just out a couple of months, and with festivals and part two of
the tour being booked right now, it seems like there will be a lot more
opportunities for us to play these songs out.
Stew talks tonic.
.. but w e're w aiting for the gin
To develop further the idea I put forth in the last piece, here is
another way to add interest to your playing: utilising chords that
are related to what you're playing, without being built directly
from the tonic. For the sake of continuity, let's continue using an
E minor bass. If the E minor is built on E, G and B (adding the D
to give it a minor seventh voicing, if you like), consider playing
those chords built from the chord tones - G major, B minor and
D major. Each offers a different kind of colour or tension, and
each may or may not make sense in the music you're playing.
Remember that for each of these chords you have multiple
inversions to try: sometimes just playing two notes will work in a
way that a more complex chord will not. For instance, if the band
is playing a section in E minor and you choose to play the G at the
fifth fret of your D string and the D on the seventh fret of your
G string, or the D at the 12th fret of the D string and the A at the
14th fret of the G string, in a power chord fashion or as a rhythm
stab, you will create a sense of urgency, whereas the use of a G
major triad or a B minor triad arpeggiated in the same context
will generate a more thoughtful sound.
If you start to displace the notes across the extended range
of your bass, you will explore texture the way a composer does.
Using the previous example of the band playing in E minor,
let your low B sustain beneath what the band is doing while
you add colour to the soundscape by playing a D major triad
(D-F#-A), starting with the D at the 17th fret of the A string. That
rumbling B pedal tone (the fifth of the E chord) will add power
and darkness to the overall sound, while the A (the perfect fourth
or subdominant) and the F# (the second, or more correctly the
ninth) are consonant notes that are not often used by bassists
except as passing tones. Investigate their sound while sustained
or used in arpeggios. Remember, power is not just exerting
muscle. It can be found while using restraint, too. + search 'Stewart McKinsey'
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