The science behind practicing “your one note”
By Jon Liebman
Week of September 16, 2019
Getting together with my old friend Bryan Beller is never dull. There’s always a lot to talk about, and this week’s interview was no exception.
I caught up with Bryan in the midst of his tour with the Aristocrats, which just released another outstanding album, You Know What…? On the heels of that, Bryan’s excellent new solo album, Scenes From The Flood, was released last week.
While I can never be sure exactly what’s going to come up in our conversations, I can pretty much bet the discussion will eventually turn to bass tone. Every time the topic comes up with Bryan, I inevitably have an “I never thought about it that way” experience.
Bryan’s playing has always gone far beyond technique and style, as evidenced by his never-ending quest for capturing just the “right” tone in his sound. Acknowledging that, as a bass player, you still have to practice your scales, modes, arpeggios, etc., it really all comes together when you strike your “one note,” so make sure that note sounds good. The emphasis, he says, is on consistency, and finding the right formula.
There’s a science behind it all, explains Bryan. Say you want to replicate the tone of John Paul Jones. Does your tone sound like JPJ’s? If not, why not? Find out!
It could be due to any number of things, like hand position, leaving too much space between your finger and the string, playing too close to the bridge, or too far up the neck. All these things matter, he says.
Then there’s the fear of sounding like somebody else. “You’ll never sound like somebody else,” says Bryan. “That’s the whole point! Even if you’re doing somebody else’s thing, you’ll sound like your version of that.”
Ponder that thought for a minute.
Are you putting all your emphasis on technique and not giving your tone its fair due? Obviously, they’re both important. “The thing that I offer when it comes to technique,” says Bryan, is “technique around tone.”
While our courses at FBPO are designed to help you improve your bass technique in a variety of styles, don’t forget about tone, balance, mix and the other elements that go in to making the music sound good.
For those of you who are FBPO members, be sure to concentrate on these factors, especially when you’re playing along with the looping backing tracks, or working off of the PDFs from each lesson. It will give you a whole new appreciation for making your bass sound good.
The more you improve as a bass player, the better you’ll get at blending technique, style, and tone in your own unique way. After all, you’ll never sound like somebody else. And that’s a good thing.
Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Bryan here.