Bass + Pedals Improv
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
Though electronic and more wider-focused music production work now takes up more of my time, listening to and playing the bass is still something that ties all my musical endeavors together. That realization came up in my head over and over again locked down in Los Angeles this past year. Over the last many months, re-learning bass lines from Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, and Motown in particular were one of the easiest ways to guarantee adding some happiness to my day regardless of what might be happening outside of my little Eagle Rock back-house studio.
From a young age I found over and over again that the music I was drawn to was bass-driven, or at least didn't slack on the quality of the bass lines even in more guitar driven music. From the motorik engine of Holger Czukay in Can, to the effortlessly tasteful (and sometimes easy to miss!) baselines of Colin Greenwood in Radiohead that seemed to ground the whole thing together, to the spectacular and innovative funk of Larry Graham in Sly & The Family Stone, I felt incredibly drawn to the instrument. Guitar might have been my first love as an instrument, but bass was a constantly tempting mistress in my musical life. Richard Davis, Fred Smith, I could go on an on.
One of my favorite ways to explore any instrument in fresh contexts is through a more timbre and sound design focused approach. To let the limits and context of a soundscape I create and run the instrument through dictate how I play the instrument in a reciprocal way. Besides looking back to the greats of the past, I've also been trying to take this approach with all of the instruments I play over the last year with a little extra time on my hands, including the bass.
In this particular ambient improv, I let the Meris Hedra Pitch Shifting Delay take the lead, playing with the sound of the bass running through it until I had something that ended up feeling not too far off from one of my favorite musicians, Jon Hassell. This pedal is insanely powerful and I'm constantly finding new ways to approach the various ways the pitch shifted delay lines can interact with each other based on the particular mode and various settings. It's truly endless as an inspirational tool and one of the few pedals I have I would never sell.
After the Hedra, I gave the sound a further sense of space using both the reverb and the reverse delay mode on the Earthquaker Devices Avalanche Run. Both pedals are particularly great examples that digital doesn't have to mean sterile! In fact, I find both to be particularly organic sounding pedals, and when pushed to their limits, instruments unto themselves.
Last I created a sense of movement and character that I felt was still missing with a bit crushed modulation setting on the SolidGoldFX Oblivian flanger. All together, it felt like the sound and my fingers were communicating with each other, very much in the way I feel when I'm at my best working with a modular system, but with even more human touch and control through the strings of the bass. Definitely made me think more about ways I can bring that tactile control further into the eurorack modular system that still remains the center of my studio. I'll be bringing that up again in further posts for sure.
For those curious about the bass, it's a G&L L-2000, a supremely underrated bass that's as versatile as it comes. Passive and active circuits that can be used separate and simultaneously, plenty of tone shaping options between the various EQ circuits and two great sounding pickups, and a classic vintage Fender-style bass feel that I personally am most drawn to. The best of old school and new school bass designs.
I hope this gave you a little inspiration to approach your own instruments in a new light. As always please reach out if you have any questions or want to know more.