Joe Santerre

The teacher of many bass greats, including Bryan Beller, Chris Chaney and Tom Hamilton, offers FBPO readers advice on how to become a better bass player

Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
January 18, 2010

Joe Santerre has performed, taught and lectured as a bassist, covering a wide range of musical styles. He has performed with Tom Coster (Vital Information, Santana), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Vinnie Moore, Steve Morse, Dino Govoni and Mangini (Steve Vai).

Some of Joe’s former students are Bryan Beller (Dweezil Zappa), Chris Chaney (Alanis Morissette, Robben Ford), Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) and John DeServio (Vinnie Moore, Lita Ford). Joe is currently the bassist in The Jon Finn Group (Wicked, Don’t Look So Serious). He also writes for Bass Frontiers magazine.

FBPO: What kind of musical upbringing did you have?  How did you end up a bass player?

JS: I started on alto sax and a few piano lessons until I heard our high school jazz band at a concert, just after they had acquired an electric bassist. I was immediately hooked to the sound!

FBPO: You’ve performed with a very impressive list of musicians, including Tom Coster, John Petrucci and Steve Morse, to name a few.  Can you identify a turning point that jump-started your career, or did it happen gradually, little by little?

JS: It’s been a gradual and scenic trip!

FBPO: Some of your students have gone on to achieve significant success as bass players, not the least of which are Bryan Beller, Chris Chaney and Tom Hamilton.  Can you usually tell when someone’s “got it,” or are you sometimes surprised to see someone’s success?

JS: I’ve learned that “got it” means different things to different people. If someone is musical, they can be successful.  Some students don’t “have it,” yet others “get it” after hard work.  Others “have it” naturally.  I don’t get surprised at someone’s success because I think it shows there is a market for what they have to offer.

FBPO: Good music students are generally pretty fired up about becoming great players, yet they need to be preparing themselves to make a living, too.  How do you help your students juggle both priorities?

JS: I try to instill an open-mindedness with my students. I try to make it clear that the more you can get it together as a player, the more opportunities you can take advantage of, thus the greater the possibility to make a living as a player.

FBPO: Do you have any “Santerre-isms” you drill into your students’ heads about grooving, playing in tune, locking in with the drummer or anything like that?

JS: Yes. Here are a few:

  • Listen to and play with the kick drum
  • Try to internally feel eighth notes.  This will make your sixteenth-note placement tighter
  • Be a team player
  • When performing, blend your sound and volume with the rest of the team!
  • Put your heart into it!
  • As an exercise, count quarter notes out loud while you play what you’re practicing
  • Practice with a drum loop or metronome, no matter the style
  • Know your fretboard!
  • Keep open strings from ringing!
  • Trust your instincts
  • Be grateful!
  • The rhythmic aspect of what you play is more important than the note choice
  • Support, be the foundation first.  Then do the crazy stuff!

FBPO: Tell me about the books you’ve written, Rock Bass LinesSlap Bass Lines and Fingerstyle Funk Bass Lines.

JS: All of these books are quickly paced, from beginner examples to advanced, and are designed to stimulate the creation of the player’s own bass lines. Within that, I tried to vary the sub-styles in the examples. For instance, in Rock Bass Lines, some examples sound like Led Zeppelin, some sound like ZZ Top and some sound like the Chili Peppers. In Fingerstyle Funk Bass Lines, some tracks sound like Rocco, some sound like Jaco and some sound like Pino.

FBPO: How about your CD, The Scenic Route?

The Scenic Route is my CD of original compositions, featuring 6-string bass. It’s jazz/fusion with some rock influences. It features Jon Finn on guitar, Dino Govoni on sax, Ross Ramsay on keyboards and Paul Quattrochi and drums.

FBPO: How much performing are you doing these days?  What kind of gigs are you doing?

JS: I perform every week with a few different groups. I’m playing with the Jon Finn Group. We recently performed with Guthrie Govan, a phenomenal guitarist, and the Steve Morse band. I’m also playing with guitarist Sal DiFusco. I did a gig with that band in Taipei, Taiwan. I also play occasionally with Ross Ramsay, the keyboard player from my CD, Mark Walker, the drummer with Paquito D’Rivera and Oregon, and a guitarist named Randy Runyon, who, I guarantee who’ll be hearing about! I also play with a great R&B band called Radiance.

FBPO: What else is keeping you busy?

JS: I just finished some instructional DVDs for a web-based company called MusicLeading. The videos are about creating bass lines through changes in different styles and demonstrations of bass parts from our Taipei concert.  It’s set up so the viewer can watch the video of the concert along with the instructional portion. These DVDs should be available soon.

I’ve also been finishing up bass tracks for the new Jon Finn Group recording, Bull In A China Shop, engineered by guitar great Randy Roos.  I’m really psyched about it! Teaching, rehearsals and gigs all take up a fair bit of my time!

FBPO: What lies ahead for you, career-wise?  What else would you like to accomplish?

I’ve got some concert/clinics with Guthrie Govan in January. There may be a tour with the Jon Finn Group in the spring/summer. I’d like to record another CD of my compositions. I’d also like work on scatting with my improvising.

FBPO: What sort of things do you like to do that aren’t necessarily musically oriented?

JS: Hike with my dogs, mountain bike and be with nature! She’s the life balancer!

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