Creative writing - and bass players. And drummers. (1 Viewer)

mjp

Founding member
See if you can guess what single thing all of these wonderfully illustrative words have been used to describe.

aggressive
bite
barked
fierce
grind
knock
muscular
nasty
raunch
splatty
snarled
searing
surly
severe
shimmering
sparkled
tight
thump

If you guessed this, you win.
 

mjp

Founding member
It just cracks me up when people describe sound with words that have nothing to do with sound. It's a tough gig, trying to describe those things in words, but some of that shit is just idiotic. Aggressive? Fuck you. There is no such sound.
 
Dunno - I can make music sound aggressive, but it's not really because of my amp; it's a perception of how it is interpreted - so is aggressive completely subjective? Then again, how does one separate playing style with sound output? Clean, dirty, overdriven, wet (remember that discussion?), flat, mid-heavy, bollocks-rattling - these are legitimate comments of sound, but they don't necessarily have a specific definition. But where does the amp take credit over the musician and vice versa?

I'm a Gallien-Krueger guy myself. It allows me to shape my tone depending on how I play. I'm sure many will consider that bunk, and many will say that any amp/speaker combination will do that. True dat. My point is that I like some and not others, and I dig GK.

Does Carol have a preference for Remo over Evans or...? Is one head more aggressive or more projecting than the other? Is aggressive different from projecting? Probably. Does it matter?
 

mjp

Founding member
I can think of a lot of music that could be described as aggressive. But as you said, that's context and interpretation. A guitar sound can't be aggressive in and of itself. Flat and mid heavy are legitimately descriptive in terms of EQ. So I wouldn't have named those in the same list with idiocy like splatty or fierce.

As far as the "where does the amp take credit over the musician" question, the answer is never. You can give a good player a $200 Chinese piece of shit amp and they will always sound better than a bad player using a $4000 hand-wired Fender custom shop anniversary triple deluxe whatever. Same theory applies to the guitars, as you know.

There was a G-K trend among reggae bass players back when I was engineering and playing reggae (late 80s). Mainly because they had a reputation as being very direct and flat, and supposedly the tone of the bass itself wouldn't be altered much. Seemed like everyone was using those.

Carol plays a custom built Pork Pie set that she got from the guy who started Pork Pie back in 1994 or so. She had an endorsement deal with them, so maybe that doesn't count. I don't know nothin' 'bout no heads. And I suspect the question was at least partly facetious, but there's the answer.

Personally all I have right now is a very loud, very transparent, inexpensive amp. Since I'm mostly playing reggae when I dick around here in the house. But if I was to go back into a punk band tomorrow I could still use it because I have pedals that can make it sound aggressive.

;)
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
Okay, aggressive is not particularly a great adjective to use for sound, but I do think you can use all manner of adjectives for sound. You can describe sound, most certainly. Not to be argumentative, and absolutely not in any type of aggressive way, mjp, but I think you are off base with this one my love. I think you can even describe sound to a deaf person who was born deaf, and never had hearing. Everyone knows that people that are deaf can feel music via vibration, and that can be described. And most reasonable adjectives for sound (thin, tinny, bottom-heavy, etc) - pretty much anyone would know exactly what you were talking about.

...However, this guy who wrote the article is specifically a bit of a douche bag with some of the descriptive words he uses.

I do like Orange though. My brother had an Orange head for a while, but eventually he went back to a Marshall head and kept the Orange cabinet, and truth be told, I did not notice when he made the change! I mean, don't think I have dead ears - quite the opposite. They are keen as all hell. Too keen sometimes. So keen that I actually CAN'T listen to music most of the time! Hard to explain that one, but trust me. It's hard to be me.

It was because my brother just had a lot of other pedals, gadgets, and whatnot that he used to hone his "sound." The sound that he was going after that he liked, so I just didn't hear the difference between the Orange brain and the Marshall brain. And I would describe my brother's stupid guitar sound as "full bodied compression." Some might even call it "plastic."

Anyway. I do have a preference Purple Stickpin. Remo all the way! Evans, as much as I wanted to love their heads, I just didn't. I think they are better made than Remo, but for the sound I'm going for, they sound too thick and dead and without tone in comparison (in my experience). I have an either/or. Either thin, clear heads on the bottoms of my toms with a standard white on top, or the standard white on top and bottom. One is for recording, one is for live playing. ...But you don't want to hear about technical drum stuff. I could bore you all day long, and I mean it.
 

mjp

Founding member
most reasonable adjectives for sound (thin, tinny, bottom-heavy, etc) - pretty much anyone would know exactly what you were talking about.
Yes, I know, we have all agreed on certain words to describe certain kinds of sound. They're still wrong, but we all know what they mean.

My point was that it's just lazy (bad) writing to use all those words to describe the sound of a guitar amp, fer chrissake.
 
As far as the "where does the amp take credit over the musician" question, the answer is never. You can give a good player a $200 Chinese piece of shit amp and they will always sound better than a bad player using a $4000 hand-wired Fender custom shop anniversary triple deluxe whatever. Same theory applies to the guitars, as you know.
But the inference I make from this is that the good player can sound better with the better rig, so the amp does deserve some level of credit.

...But you don't want to hear about technical drum stuff. I could bore you all day long, and I mean it.
As a bass player, I try to be acutely aware of what the drums are doing, but I don't know jack about drums themselves. So, bore away...
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
The best sound for recording, in my opinion, are white Remo heads on top and bottom, with the bottom tightened an octave lower (more or less) than the top, which should be tuned to the tambour of the drum. A lot of people think that there isn't a note in the shell, but there is. You knock on the side of it when both heads are all the way loosened and you can hear a dead note if you listen really carefully. Then you tune the top head to that note, the bottom an octave lower, and there you will have the best tone that drum will make. Force it to make a specific note and it will sound off or have an after rumble.

An after rumble can be really cool on your floor tom, if you do the above, but loosen one tension rod on the bottom a lot more than the others. You'll get the lower octave note to ring out longer as if the bass player hit the note with your floor stroke (that long).

Just little tricks of the trade from a has-been.

So who are some of your favorite bass players?
 
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...with the bottom tightened an octave lower (more or less) than the top, which should be tuned to the tambour of the drum. A lot of people think that there isn't a note in the shell, but there is.
Cool. So is this tambour is the note inherent in the shell? Interesting; a tamboura is an Indian fretless drone instrument, such as was used on Across the Universe (especially the version on Let it Be...Naked, which is by far my favorite of about 5 or 6 versions I have).
 
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mjp

Founding member
But the inference I make from this is that the good player can sound better with the better rig, so the amp does deserve some level of credit.
Depends on the instrument I suppose. When I was mixing reggae I never miked the bass cabinet, I always took the bass direct and used the board and PA amplification (which is theoretically transparent).

You wouldn't do that with a guitar of course. Not in reggae or rock anyway.
 
As a double bass player, the direct is considered the "dreaded direct." You can't capture the wood of the double bass with a direct input. On electric bass (I don't use "bass guitar" because that is an oversimplification that breeds stupidity), you can get away with it, but I don't prefer it.
 

mjp

Founding member
Only an idiot would run an acoustic instrument direct. Acoustic instruments shouldn't even have pickups. In my humble opinion.

But as far as "getting away with" direct on an electric bass, you have to understand that when you're doing a mix it's your job to get the sound right. And for a reggae show (or record) the bass has to be - let's say, prominent. Whoever is doing the mix should know how the instruments are supposed to sound. If I'm doing your mix and I can't do bass...I shouldn't be doing your mix.

So you have to trust me. :)

I must have said that a hundred times. Trust me, it will sound good.

Because as you know, when you're on the stage you have no idea how it sounds to the audience. And most of them can't hear your amp.
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
Purple Stickpin:

I'm pretty sure tambour is just another descriptive word for something like a drum. It might also be anything stretched between two hoops, perhaps not just something wooden. I might be wrong though.

You didn't answer my question about your favorite bass players. Not that you have to.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
i think using "aggressive" is fine. you need qualitative descriptors to describe different gain voicings, unless you have an understanding of how clipping works, and when in the signal the clipping occurs, as well as how the amp is tweaked to push various eq bands as you increase the preamp gain. i certainly don't - but saying that the third channel is brighter and more aggressive, while the second channel has a more classsic crunch sounds... well, that's easy enough for me to understand. as for the low end descriptors, i prefer "farty."
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
I don't know which I hate more, "dying cat" or "farty" - two ends of the shitty sound descriptive spectrum.
 
I must have said that a hundred times. Trust me, it will sound good.
I would - I wish more sound guys had their head screwed on correctly.

You didn't answer my question about your favorite bass players.
I think you added that as an edit, so I must have missed it. Grouped more by genre that in any order of preference:

Charles Mingus
Scott LaFaro
Paul Chambers
Edgar Meyer
McCartney
Phil Lesh
Jack Casady
Tony Levin
John Wetton
Greg Lake
Pino Palladino
Juan Alderete
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
My favorite bass players:

James Jamerson
Verdine White
Bootsy Collins
Alphonso Johnson
Alan Gorrie and Hamish Stuart
Mr. Robert Shakespeare
Jaco Pastorius
Marcus Miller
Larry Graham
Victor Wooten

and an unapologetic Geddy Lee (if he would only stop singing!)
 

mjp

Founding member
When you start talking bass all I think of is reggae.

Aston Barrett, Robbie Shakespeare (or as Peter Tosh called him, Robbie BassSpeare), those guys especially. Top of the form, top of the class.

There is also a bass player you may have never heard of named Dennis Bovell. He was born in the Caribbean, but played mostly with British musicians - Matumbi, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and one spectacular album for dub poet Michael Smith, which may contain the best reggae bass line known to man...

 
Alphonso Johnson is a great player, but not really my style. Phil Lesh's approach to the instrument is, to me, very refreshing and satisfying musically. It's like picking up a cantaloupe and making the best bowl of lobster bisque from it. There's no good reason why it should work, but ultimately it's not only the right thing for the situation, but it makes that situation very singular and personal. One doesn't have to like it (and many don't, clearly), but if you bring that level of personality to music, you've really accomplished something.

That said, I was remiss to leave Tom Fowler ('73-'75 Zappa) off of my list. Now how could I have done that?
 

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
don't forget bernard edwards for great bass players! and carol kaye.

stewart copeland for favorite drummer. now he's aggressive. :DD

ps drummer edit -
buddy rich
joe morello
keith moon
hal blaine
mel gaynor
peter erskine
steve gadd
bernard perdie
marky ramone
etc.
 
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I'm afraid to ask you your favorite drummers now. I can see from the bass players we have clashing styles. ;)
Expecting me to say Vinnie Colaiuta, perhaps? :rolleyes: Zappa liked him well enough...

I was going to ask you the same question, but the mods have already changed the thread title once...anyway:

Roy Haynes
Elvin Jones
Frank Butler
Larance Marable (relatively obscure drummer; I saw him with Charlie Haden and Quartet West in the early/mid-90s. He did a ~1-2-minute solo on just the hi-hat that still has me smiling)
Bill Bruford
Ian Paice
Bonham (I'm not a big Zep fan, but man could he maintain a groove)
Moonie
Terry Bozzio
Ralph Humphrey/Chester Thompson
Butch Trucks/Jai Johanny Johanson
Billy Kreutzmann/Mickey Hart
 
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I saw Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green) last week open up for Mickey Hart.
His playing was something completely different from what I usually expect a bass to sound like.
The new Mickey Hart is amazing-quite the feat for someone sliding into 70. He ranks as one of those artists breaking new territory still.
 

mjp

Founding member
marky ramone
Didn't he just spend 20 years replicating what Tommy Ramone did?

I know he said it was really difficult to learn Tommy's parts, because Tommy wasn't a traditional drummer and he had an idiosyncratic style.

But Moon, yes, Bonham, yes. Scott Asheton, Grant Hart (pre-heroin), Topper Headon (pre-heroin).

And to digress as I always do to reggae, Carlton Barrett (one drop master), Santa Davis and Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace (who invented the "rockers" style in the 70s).
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
my favorite bassist and favorite drummer are both in the same band, and they're brothers: rob wright and jon wright. talented family, those wrights.
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
Sorry I went away from this thread for a while, but who really gives a shit what drummers I like anyway? I'm sure ya'll were waiting with bated breath...

Not in any particular order:

Sly Dunbar
Jan Kincaid
Pete Thomas
Steve Gadd
Stewart Copeland
Prince
Stevie Wonder
Bernard Purdie
Carlton Barrett
Sheila E.
Omar Hakim
John Bonham
and probably Tony Thompson.

I'm definitely not a fan of Colaiuta. I have a joke with other drummers that he plays in "1." But I do like Bozzio and Bruford, probably Bruford over Bozzio just because ya gotta respect his creativity more and he came before him, but Bozzio certainly is amazing - but not for the Zappa stuff. I just don't like Frank Zappa. And while I have been to many Dead shows, I've never been impressed with Mickey Hart other than the fact that the groove is absolutely distinctive. That doesn't mean it's great though.

But I'm picky, obviously. If someone can't lay down a steady back groove, then they aren't a drummer to me, and I have seen Vinnie play live on many occasions. He can't do it. He's best when he's playing with a double bass, a piano, and soloing through the majority of the "song." 4/4 is only happening when someone else is taking a solo, otherwise he's in 1.

Oh, and I like Erskine okay too.
 
I don't have Colaiuta high on my list, but I suspect he could lay a steady back beat, but stylistically, that's not his thing. Or maybe he can't, I dunno. As you say, he's best in certain situations - he might have done well with Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz. Regarding the "in 1" thing; it works in certain applications. For example, many of those '72-'74 Dead jams, particularly on Playin' in the Band, have a distinct "1" feel. Sure, the "10" shows up at times, but often there's a very distinct lack of meter, and yet there's a very distinct form. Speaking of which, I consider Bill Kreutzmann to be a big reason why I like that period; Mickey was out of the group from February '71 until October '74. I'd take Billy over Mickey any day, but in hindsight, they're something of a matched set.

One of the most simple things Bruford did stands out to me as one of his best ideas. In the studio version of Crimson's Starless, there's that slow minor blues middle section that's in 13. Eight bars of 13 followed by 4/4 for the turnaround. Bruford plays the wood blocks in 4 over the 13, so he plays 26 bars of 4 over the 8 bars of 13, and thus the wood block hits fall on

| 1, 5, 9, 13 | 4, 8, 12 | 3, 7, 11 | 2, 6, 10 |
repeat
and then on 1 of the 4/4. Simple yet brilliant.
 

mjp

Founding member
One of the most simple things Bruford did stands out to me as one of his best ideas.
And of course simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. In any kind of art.

But maybe in music especially, since it takes a lot of work to become a musician, even a mediocre one, so the idea that you should stand (or sit) there and do something simple rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
That's why I say Bruford was a creative guy. He could have complicated the shit out of that, but he didn't. We all know he's capable of playing anything, but he played what sounded good with the music, since there was already a lot of complication with the guitar parts and the turnarounds. He turned those Crimson songs upside down when he wanted, otherwise he made those repetitive, off time signatures groove. Then there were moments when he'd downright scare you in the empty spaces, and come back and play in 5 (over Fripp playing 7 or 9) and it would all seem to work as if it was 4/4. Brilliant shit. Just like what you said. You have a good memory (or maybe you listened to it very recently) to know the exact time signatures going on there. I used to know them way back when, but I probably haven't heard those records in 20 years or more.

I remember even in the 1980s I loved them. Three of a Perfect Pair, I think I bought that thing NEW! I must have been, what, 16 years old? Wow! Ha! Being that age, I, of course, was in love with the car song, Dig Me.
 
Well, it was bound to happen. This isn't the studio version I wrote about, but Bruford is just an animal back there. This is taken from a performance for French TV aired on March 22, 1974; about four months before they recorded the studio version.

[This video is unavailable.]
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
Not my favorite performance of their. I will find it one day and post it. I forgot how annoying Fripp can sound live.
 

mjp

Founding member
Damn. Well, you're a better man than I. I'm not sure I could listen to the same 25 or 30 songs played live over 20+ discs. Even if I loved the band. Even if I was in the band.

Of course having said that, if someone put out a 25 disc set of a Wailers tour at their peak, I would buy it. I don't know if I'd ever listen to all of it, but I guess I get it. I mean I know I get it. Shit, I have a seven disc set of the Funhouse sessions. So yeah. Carry on.


I wasn't going to say anything about that guitar sound in the video, but since Ms. Es opened the door...I have to say I've never heard anyone make a Les Paul sound worse than that. The two tortured notes he plays for five or six minutes in the middle of that thing...it's really kind of shocking. That, I don't get.
 

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