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playing 'folk bass'

red max 24 Feb 04 - 08:15 AM
Dave of Mawkin 24 Feb 04 - 08:17 AM
red max 24 Feb 04 - 08:23 AM
Dave of Mawkin 24 Feb 04 - 08:27 AM
The Fooles Troupe 24 Feb 04 - 09:03 AM
Dave Hanson 24 Feb 04 - 09:10 AM
John P 24 Feb 04 - 09:13 AM
Bobjack 24 Feb 04 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,Hugh Jampton 24 Feb 04 - 09:21 AM
red max 24 Feb 04 - 10:29 AM
jimmyt 24 Feb 04 - 10:51 AM
Mooh 24 Feb 04 - 11:13 AM
Wesley S 24 Feb 04 - 11:19 AM
Willie-O 24 Feb 04 - 12:09 PM
Leadfingers 24 Feb 04 - 12:20 PM
dick greenhaus 24 Feb 04 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,Claire 24 Feb 04 - 01:49 PM
Pete_Standing 24 Feb 04 - 03:20 PM
greg stephens 24 Feb 04 - 03:29 PM
red max 24 Feb 04 - 03:39 PM
TheBigPinkLad 24 Feb 04 - 03:39 PM
Frankham 24 Feb 04 - 04:15 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 24 Feb 04 - 04:38 PM
GUEST,Jeremiah McCaw 25 Feb 04 - 03:33 AM
MickT 25 Feb 04 - 06:14 AM
GUEST,Strollin' Johnny 25 Feb 04 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,satchel 25 Feb 04 - 10:23 PM
MikeofNorthumbria 26 Feb 04 - 06:23 AM
Dave of Mawkin 26 Feb 04 - 06:29 AM
Folkiedave 26 Feb 04 - 06:38 AM
The Fooles Troupe 26 Feb 04 - 08:42 AM
Roger the Skiffler 26 Feb 04 - 09:22 AM
GUEST,ptooner 14 Mar 14 - 07:07 PM
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Subject: playing 'folk bass'
From: red max
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 08:15 AM

I've been playing bass guitar for many years, but always as part of a rock band. Having become a huge folk fan in recent times I'm keen to start playing at my local folk club's singer & musician evenings, and I'd welcome any opinions about how the bass should fit in

I had a go on an acoustic bass guitars and was appalled by its lack of natural volume, so I'm sticking with the electric. I've given a listen to drummer-less material featuring guys like Ashley Hutchings and Stu Luckley (Dave Burland plays a mean four string too), but I still fear my rock mindset will limit me to banging out root notes!


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Dave of Mawkin
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 08:17 AM

Play the roots, add in some 4th's 5ths and 7ths, add in some accidentals, then a splash of arpeggio runs, coupled with some good old fashioned octaves and your the next jaco pastorious of the the folk world.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: red max
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 08:23 AM

I followed you as far as "Play the roots, add in.." then you lost me

I should also mention that I'm (sort of) a singer too, and tend to find the bass a harder instrument to sing with...you can't just strum it!


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Dave of Mawkin
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 08:27 AM

True, then maybe team yourself up with a melody player?
Or do some jazz chords on the bass, so you can play with the harmony bass line working along with it.
Good idea though, bass and voice, ive never heard it done before in the folkie world.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 09:03 AM

red max said
"I had a go on an acoustic bass guitars and was appalled by its lack of natural volume, so I'm sticking with the electric."

Why does this comment cause me concern?

Robin


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 09:10 AM

Look for anything featuring Danny Thompson, brilliant bass player for folk music.
eric


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: John P
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 09:13 AM

Listen to:
Steeleye Span
Pentange
Malicorne (my favorite)
Alan Stivel
Rare Air
Wolfstone
Fairport Convention
Muszikas

. . . or just play what you've always played, but to different songs . . .

John


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Bobjack
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 09:14 AM

Stop all this silliness now, and head straight for the Oscar Peterson trio. Then try a hint of Charlie Mingus.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 09:21 AM

There is much to be said for bass cello being plucked or bowed. The only drawback is transport if you do not have a suitable vehicle.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: red max
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 10:29 AM

Foolestroupe- as others have commented on this board, acoustic bass guitars just don't have much "oomph" unplugged. It'd be nice not to have to haul an amp into a folk club, but if you're going to be drowned out then what's the point?

Eric- I do listen to Danny Thompson, but it'd be nice to have something I could physically aim for, rather than just whimper with admiration!

I think you have to take it for granted that bass is best used in collaboration with another instrument. Guitar would be the obvious choice, but is there any reason it shouldn't work with violin or concertina? Please keep the suggestions coming


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: jimmyt
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 10:51 AM

While I am an American and cannot comment on what exactly Trad music bass would be like, my quartet does a few Irish numbers and I approach them like the other fare we play which is predominately Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary music from the 60s.

I have learned on the job but I do have a pretty good ear for music which makes the bass an ideal instrument for me I guess. I also agree that playing a bass line while singing something completely different can be daunting and is still a great challenge to me. I play an upright accoustic and to me it is the instrument to play at least for the music I play. I can always play root, then down a fourth (which means root fifth but the fifth is down an octave) It is easy to do, and always a good starting point. as you develop your technique you will be able to add lots of walking parts and other musical ideas that will come naturally to you in time. I was working some other music last night, not folk, actually bossa nova ie Girl from Ipanema as well as the old SInatra number   "It was a very Good year", and had to resort to the technique I just described until the chord progression got comfortable to me.   Then you just try stuff, take some chances etc. That type music will absolutely humble you but is quite good experience.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Mooh
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 11:13 AM

...hmmm...my computer went for a crap and my post was lost...

Silly Wizard, Simon Mayor & Hilary James, Lunasa, Leahy, the Rankins, Natalie MacMaster are all examples of live and recorded folk bass. We've discussed this before (at least peripherally) so a search might turn up more.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Wesley S
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 11:19 AM

ReD Max - Can you play a fretless bass ? Our bass player uses one when he doesn't want to haul around his stand up box. It sounds great.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Willie-O
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 12:09 PM

Given your choice of instruments and background, I think it works out this way:

Paul McCartney style: yes
Grand Funk Railroad guy style: no

Does that help at all?


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Leadfingers
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 12:20 PM

I was dragged up on REAL music back in the Good Old Days,and the criterion for (upright) bass was the Audience only 'noticed' it when it stopped. The Rock idea of Bass as a lead instrument does NOT fit in with Folk at all. However , volume wise I have met acoustic basses that sounded crap, and others that had a reasonable volume without an amplifier.
As far as singing along goes , I have the same trouble still while playing mandolin - Chords , NO problem , Single string , Damned hard work.
IF you take an electric bass guitar to a session with an Amp , then keep the volume DOWN !!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 01:40 PM

How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb?


















One. Five.One Five. One. Five.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: GUEST,Claire
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 01:49 PM

There is a lot of great bass playing in the contra dance music scene. Mostly acoustic stand up bass, but I am sure it would be musically useful to listen to some of it. I recommend listening to Stuart Kenney who has played with Wild Asparagus and Rodney Miller on his album AirDance.
Cheers, Claire


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Pete_Standing
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 03:20 PM

Red, I used to play rock bass too. I have an electric fretless and an electro acoustic bass. I have taken my acoustic with a battery amp to sessions - it works OK, the amp sits under a chair and doesn't frighten anyone. For most clubs in the UK, I would suggest forget it. It is too much hassle for the length of time you get for a floorspot and might sound a bit weird and would almost certainly be treated with scepticism. So here are the plans:-

1. Join a ceilidh band (barn dance), the bass even without drums adds some punch and lift for the dancing.

2. Learn to sing unaccompanied. Most voices improve over time so don't come on with the I'm tone deaf excuse.

3. Get yourself a guitar, drop the bass string down to D and learn loads of tunes and songs in D and G.

4. Like 3 but drop the E to a D, the G to an E, the B to an A and the top E to a D - you might need medium/heavy gauge strings. You'll be able to play tunes and songs in D and G by hitting one or two strings, letting them ring and then play some melody over it. Once you are happy with 2, you'll be able to link the singing with this kind of finger style easier than you think. Six months and you'll be transformed and audiences will be amazed!


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: greg stephens
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 03:29 PM

get a tea-chest. Plenty load enough at sessions, and a lot easier to transport than a stand-up.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: red max
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 03:39 PM

Willie-O, how DARE you insult the bone-rattling bass of Mel Schacher!

Thanks for the input, it's much appreciated. Keep it coming!


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: TheBigPinkLad
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 03:39 PM

I'm a big fan of folk-rock so I can't see why you would need to change much at all. This style sometimes irks finger-in-the-lug folkies, but I think the tub-thumping tradition in folk is very old. Read Thomas Hardy and you'll find his Wessex musicians getting kicked out of churches for being too upbeat, and complaining about the old precussion instruments were being supplanted by the church organ. in the 'Fiddler of the Reels' there's mention that the revellers kept the beat by stomping on the wooden floor for hours on end.

Listen to this bass line which, I believe, is the soul of the song.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Frankham
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 04:15 PM

For a tasteful example of folk bass, check out the recordings of Odetta with Bill Lee (Spike Lee's dad) who was (is) an excellent folk bass player. Why? Simplicity and taste. Not a lot of notes but the right ones. Most bass players tend to play too much. They forget that the function of the bass is the floor of the house. If a bass player tries to play too many notes he/she becomes a soloist and not a bass player.

Jazz bass doesn't often work for folk because it uses walking chromaticism. Sparse playing on the root and fifth of each chord with an occasional simple run is appropriate.

Frank


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 04:38 PM

Listen to the part that the bass plays in bluegrass music. Bluegrass is folk, isn't it?

Many bluegrass songs are 3 chord songs. Concentrating on timing, structure, anticipating the bass runs between chord changes will give you insight into being a better bass player.

Bluegrass music is truly very structured which does not allow for much improvisation, especially for non-lead instruments like the bass. But it will improve your timing and dynamics.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: GUEST,Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 25 Feb 04 - 03:33 AM

For a humbling lesson on how elegantly bass guitar can contribute to 'folk-oriented' music, look at any Canadian disks you have. I'll wager you'll not get past the third without finding David Woodhead's name. I do believe he's one of the best bassists on the planet.

In rock music, the bass drives and defines the music (please don't tell the lead guitarists - they're a fragile lot!). As for traditional sessions, the magic word is "blend in". As you walk in with your bass & (hopefully small) amp, you will will see a lot of apprehension on the players' faces; but by the 3rd number, if you've shown that you do understand that the volume knob also works in a counterclockwise direction, they'll likely be standing you a pint!

"bass and voice, ive never heard it done before in the folkie world", says Dave of Mawkin (Hi there). I do it myself quite often. I've a few numbers I can do that way if I feel the urge, or if I can't arrange a guitarist to do backup.

"Oh Linda" by Gordon Lightfoot (from his very first album) works that way, and in fact is the way he recorded it. I have a rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime" with just a bass line to accompany the vocal. "16 Tons", with its simple 'walk-down' works well with this treatment,    too. I've tried Dougie MacLean's "Ready for the Storm" this way (not entirely happy with my version - I play pretty simple lines).

More traditionally, I've done "Barbara Allen" with the 1st two verses a capella, the 2nd two with just bass, and a guitar coming in on the 5th. It keeps some variety in a long song (I do a short version - only 9 verses!)

Now that I think of it, that's almost the same arrangement the Ian & Sylvia did on "Awake, Ye Drowsy Sleepers".

Hmm . . . I do seem to have rambled on a bit. Sorry 'bout that.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: MickT
Date: 25 Feb 04 - 06:14 AM

Check this thread (click here)


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: GUEST,Strollin' Johnny
Date: 25 Feb 04 - 07:44 AM

Dave of Mawkin - don't know where you're based but, if in the UK, take any opportunity to see Miranda Sykes and you'll see how bass (the big brown upright type!) and voice can go together. She doesn't need any other instruments - good bass-playing and a fantastic voice. The Dog's Wotnots!

Others - if you want to hear how a bass can fit in with folkie-band-type stuff, listen to Miranda with her band 'Firebrand' on their album 'Lost Lady Found'.

Johnny :0)


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: GUEST,satchel
Date: 25 Feb 04 - 10:23 PM

Frankham is absolutely right about jazz styles not working in folk. I've made the transition you're trying to achieve, and the best advice I can offer is to play like yourself, especially at a reasonable volume.

Remember, less is more. Nice sustained whole, half, and quarter notes go a lot further than the overly "busy" sound of eighths, sixteenths, etc. This will make the bass blend in a lot more and keep you (already the object of derision and scorn for bringing an electric instrument into the room) from standing out too much. It also helps to sit on the amp or have the amp hidden under your chair. Finally, noting the emergency exits is also a good idea.

But seriously, a final suggestion: Buy an instrument with active pickups. The tonal range is much more pleasing, more adjustable, and less likely to sound like Grand Funk bass lines than a passive electronic instrument. I've been playing a 5-string Ken Smith for about 8 years now. Between the 5 strings, the unusual brand, and the wonderful woody tone allowed by the active pickups, tasteful playing blends in nicely.


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 26 Feb 04 - 06:23 AM

A hint.

Listen carefully to the bass voices in good unaccompanied folk harmony singing. Not as a template to be slavishly copied, but as a guide and an inspiration.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Dave of Mawkin
Date: 26 Feb 04 - 06:29 AM

Strollin Jonny, Cheers for the tip, I know Miranda Sykes because of Firebrand, I met the Cittern player at Chippenham Folk Festival and eventually saw the band play at Towersey 2 years later!

ill see if i can catch up with miranda.

Im based in the armpit of England.

Essex


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Folkiedave
Date: 26 Feb 04 - 06:38 AM

Another thought. Many of the East European Bands (especially Hungarian which I know best) have bass players. Both stand up and electric. So listen to them especially as they often have interesting rhythms.

Gerry Bates of Sheffield City Morris has a great acoustic bass guitar. My tip for what its worth, avoid anything that the drummer is doing with the bass pedal. But I am not a musician.

And since my website is down not a bookseller either!!

I'll just increase the medication.

Regards,

Dave


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 26 Feb 04 - 08:42 AM

ok, for a non-guitarist, what's an active pickup - i can think of some explanations, but not printable - i assume that the pickup has some amplification built in, as dictinct from just a pre-amp...

Robin


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 26 Feb 04 - 09:22 AM

...and check out this little lady with a big bass (Betty Davila) HERE:

RtS


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Subject: RE: playing 'folk bass'
From: GUEST,ptooner
Date: 14 Mar 14 - 07:07 PM

Hmm, try Lou Gottlieb.


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