into the summer…

This Spring has been quite the exciting time for me. First, inside//outside came out, and got some nifty reviews on a few blogs (like here, sweet!). We’re planning an east coast tour right now, which culminates in a July 16th gig at Nublu in the East Village, which is going to be REALLY fun. We’ll be digging into all of the electronic trappings we’ve been working with, so it’ll be fun stretching out and seeing what we can do with the music.

Speaking of electronic trappings, check out this video I did with singer Justina Soto a few weeks ago. We did kind of a lo-fi cover of James Blake’s Retrograde, and I got to use a 1991 Casio Rapman toy piano, which actually had some really good sounds on it.

Justina and I also just released a few videos and recordings from our recent jazz project, a super stripped down bass/vocal set where we recorded on a rooftop in Bushwick overlooking Manhattan. We hired Jake Ramos to do the videography, and recorded it ourselves, and considering the fact that I have absolutely no cred as a recording engineer and that it was on a noisy rooftop in Brooklyn, I think it ended up sounding really good. Here’s one of the three tracks.

I’ve been playing now for going on a year as the bass player in Will and Anthony Nunziata‘s band, and it’s been a blast. We had a gig in Chesire, CT, as well as one the other week in Atlantic City at the showroom of the Casino Resorts Hotel. We’ve been doing a whole bunch of standards and old American songbook stuff, which has been great fun to dig into. It’s funny, as soon as I stopped studying jazz at the institutional level, I started getting really into it. Here’s a promotional video from our latest hit in Atlantic City.

I’ve also been doing a fair amount of recording. I recorded Whitney Wolf and Scott Mehus’ indie/pop/rock project, Raised by Wolves this past week, and I can’t wait to see what they end up doing with it! I also went in and recorded Christine P LG’s album in March, and from what I’ve heard of it so far, it’s pretty killer pop music. I’ve been playing with Christine for two years now, and the music we play with her band just gets better and better and tighter and tighter. We did a live set at Spin in Gramercy of her stuff, which was a great exercise in playing to tracks, doing sidechain compression/gating to a drummer’s kick drum, and putting on a tight and well-rehearsed pop show. The venue’s sound system was not cut out for what we were trying to do, but it still worked out pretty well.

I also finally updated my performances page where you can see where I’m performing next. I have a couple of awesome shows happening in the next few weeks, so if you’re in NYC, stop by and hang!

inside//outside is out!

And, it’s out, everybody, check it out if you have a chance! Our debut album inside//outside is now available for streaming/purchase, and in addition to yours truly, it features drummer Shawn Crowder and pianist/keyboardist Wim Leysen as co-conspirators and bandmates.

music!!!!

I wrote 3 of the 8 tracks on the album, and it’s a pretty exciting cross-section of everything we’ve been checking out recently from ECM-inspired jazz with string quartet to electro/jazz fusions to progressive metal to a lot of other stylistic amalgamations. It’s quite eclectic, and it’s quite fun! At least I think so, anyway. Check out a few more of our videos below, in addition to the video of Anthem I posted a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

Effervescent

Resonance

Desert of the Real (Drum Tracking Video)

Introducing…inside//outside!

Finally! On February 1st, we are releasing our self-titled, self-released album, inside//outside, and it’s been a blast learning about all the things necessary for recording and producing an independent album. It’s going to be released, for the time being, solely on bandcamp (you can preorder it here), althought in the next couple of months we will look into ordering physical CD’s. Check out us playing the opening track, Anthem, below.

Just in time for the end of the year, an update to AdamNeely.com!

Probably the biggest thing I’ve been working on in the past 6 months or so has been essentially what is my debut album as a composer/co-bandleader. I don’t have much to announce yet, but we’re aiming for a late January release of the album, complete with in-studio videos and other goodies. It was a huge learning experience in logistics and planning, but listening back it was all worth it. Expect to hear teasers shortly!

Another exciting thing to announce is the release of the Triassic Parq cast recording on which I played bass. I didn’t play on the show when it ran, but I really would have liked to, because it was insanely fun to record! High energy and exciting. You can check it out on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

The Q stands for truth!

I also have been performing with singer/songwriter Justina Soto as part of the duo “Adam+Justina” at a few places around the city. It’s been fun trying to making the electric bass/voice duo work, and we’ve had great fun working out arrangements to lesser-known jazz standards. Expect to hear stuff from that in the coming months as well.

Until next year!

Adam

Check it out, t…

Check it out, the “Till the World Ends” video we did back in March is a featured user video on the Source Audio website! I used a Source Audio Hot Hand combined with the Source Audio Bass Envelope filter pro to do some wobble effects in a few of the sections. Very cool. 

http://www.sourceaudio.net/videos/post/jazz-fusion-dubstep-pop-remix-till-the-world-ends-britney-spears

8 Arranging Tips for Bass Guitar

I’ve played a lot of new music from my peers and colleagues in a variety of musical settings in the past year, and along the way I’ve found that a lot of people, especially pianists, are prone to writing for bass guitar in a certain way that might not take full advantage of the instrument, or in a way that bass players have to go and “fix” from the written music. Because of this, I thought I’d organize a list of 8 all-purpose arranging tips for bass guitar.

Note that these tips are for music in general and aren’t necessarily genre-specific. They’re meant to “get inside the head” of a bass player in a way that’s useful to arrangers/composers.

1. Drum Parts and Bass Parts MUST Agree (MUST@!!!1)

This is a huge one. Drummers and bass players really hate if the parts that they are given do not match what the other person is playing in terms of kick patterns and general rhythm section hits, mainly because the end result will sound like they are making mistakes when in fact they might be playing exactly whats on the page. Needless to say, this will not endear them to the arranger. This same disagreement snafu goes for other instruments as well (for example, discrepancies between the bass and the left hand of the piano), but at the end of the day the one that matters most is drum/bass agreement.

In general, the most important beats to reconcile are the “and” of 2 and the “and” of 4. If one person is playing the anticipation and the other person isn’t it results in the rhythmic dissonance known as a flam, and flams are particularly noticeable in the bass/drums because it sounds like the groove isn’t locked. The faster the tempo, the more pronounced the dissonance. This isn’t to say that the bass drum and the bass guitar should always match no matter what – far from that, but matching anticipations can be pretty crucial to the general tightness of the rhythm section.

2. Arranged Bass Solo Moments (Often) Don’t Work

One thing I’ve come across a couple times are passages where the phrase ends in a break, and then there is a short, unaccompanied bass solo moment or unaccompanied bass pickup. The result is almost always not as effective as the arranger had hoped for, and unless handled extremely carefully, bass solos can be very underwhelming. Bass guitar’s main purpose in the ensemble is to accompany other instruments, and it can feel very barren and exposed when it isn’t doubling a rhythm or note with another instrument. Of course, this can be for a specific, clownish effect, but tread carefully; most often these moments would actually be more effective on upright bass because of the sharper attack, or better yet, just scored for piano or another instrument.

If you want to take advantage of the melodic and soloistic capabilities of the bass for one of these breaks, but don’t necessarily wish to get  into the nitty-gritty of how to write a phrase that is idiomatic to bass guitar, slash notation with a chord and the phrase “soloistic fill” likely would be the best way to get a good “bass break” texture. These moments can be especially effective, if they’re written higher up in the bass guitar’s register.

Which brings me to…..

3. The Upper Register of the Bass Guitar is Melodic

The upper register of the bass guitar falls in a really nice melodic range that has a surprisingly full presence. In the hands of a skilled player, bass guitar has a much more commanding melodic capability than piano in certain contexts, and unlike the lower register, it does not require left hand piano doubling to sound “relevant.” Fretless bass is great for this sort of sound, but fretted bass guitar works as well, and most modern players love a small chance to get melodic.

As far as notation goes, beyond the G 3 ledger lines above the staff bassists much prefer reading in treble clef. It more closely represents the actual sound that’s coming out of the instrument, and reading in treble clef generally implies a more melodic phrasing. If they’re worth their salt they can deal with high B’s (4 ledger lines) in the bass clef, but it’s still pushing it. Bass 8va is rather difficult and clumsy to read, and it is not preferred.

Lord have mercy on your soul if you dare to write in tenor clef.

4. Don’t Write Below E Natural Below the Staff (Unless You Know What You’re Doing)

This is another potential pet peeve of bass players – having to deal with notes below the written staff. The lowest written note of a typical 4-string bass guitar is an E, although the popularity of 5-string basses has extended that range down to a B below the staff. I’ll see plenty of charts with notes written below E natural (a lot of Eb’s and D’s, for example), but I’d wager that 95% of the time the composer/arranger doesn’t actually want a note that low. Because bass is a transposing instrument, it’s actually sounding an octave lower than what is written, and once you start going below the written staff it starts getting VERY low and potentially muddy.

Now, there are times where you want those super low notes, but they’re generally reserved for very specific moments or specific styles of music (modern salsa, some modern rock). If you really need those notes, make sure to mention at the top of the part that you need a 5-string bass for the chart. It’s not much of a problem for an experienced bass player to transpose low notes up the octave, but it doesn’t necessarily win you arranger’s points.

5. Terraced Dynamics Work Best

Bass-register instruments tend not to be very dynamic instruments, and bass guitar is no exception. Part of what makes bass guitar such a successful rhythm section instrument is precisely because of the fact that it has a limited, fairly compressed upper dynamic range that blends very well with the drums. This ends up meaning that the difference between pp and ff likely isn’t going to be too great in terms of timbre and sound (depending on the setup of the instrument). Yes, because bass is an electric instrument volume control is possible, but it’s not an especially musical way of playing.

For most things that are intended to be especially pp quiet or delicate, it’s just best to tacet the bass. Bass guitar has enough of a commanding presence in the mix that bringing it in has a way of grounding the sound in a higher dynamic level.The idea of “terraced dynamics” – using the entrance and exit of an instrument to control overall volume – is a good one to stick by for writing for bass guitar. This isn’t to say writing pp isn’t bad, it’s just that it won’t come out sounding particularly pianissimo in a given passage.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Write Specific Rhythms (As Long as There is A Reason For Them)

One of the things about playing in a rhythm section is the concept of playing “time” versus playing “hits.” Playing time is a way of continuing and keeping a groove without regard to specific changes of rhythm in the melody or specific rhythmic passages that need to be caught. A great majority of contemporary bass playing is spent playing time, and the trick is knowing how to notate this.

The trap that arrangers tend to fall into with this is writing specific rhythms that don’t necessarily fit in with the concept of playing time. The is result is that bass players will end up treating the written music as a general guideline rather than gospel, because the written notes don’t fit into the time feel as well as what they would play. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it sometimes is difficult to know when to stop improvising off the page and when to play exactly what is written. One way this can be made clear is writing “ad lib” over sections of music where the bass is playing time, and “as written” over rhythm section hits.

Now, this doesn’t mean that slash notation is better or worse than writing out the groove, but it does mean to be cautious about writing rhythms that aren’t essential. If this makes the bass part on the page look sparse, so be it.

7. If the Bass Plays Without Drums and Vice Versa, Make Sure There’s a Good Reason

Bass guitar is an instrument that works best when locked into a groove with a drumset player, and as a result, it’s fairly unwieldy when the drum player tacets. The best way to handle this texture is writing for long, sustained tones and melodic lines. In any sort of real “groove,” the drums are sorely missed, and the net effect – no matter how rhythmically tight the bass player – is a less cohesive ensemble sound. Tread lightly.

The flip side of this holds true as well. Drums playing any sort of groove above mp without bass guitar has a specific sort of texture, one that generally creates tension until the bass guitar enters. The louder the dynamic, the greater the tension. This is a favorite arranging device of jazz musicians, where a soloist and a drummer will take off into outer space without the bass, and land back into reality once the bass enters again 30 minutes later. It’s a very specific texture that can be devastatingly effective if used correctly.

8. Bass Harmonics 

This is one that a lot of arrangers are hip to, but it still bears mentioning because of how much fun they are to play. Electric bass harmonics are unlike any other sound – they’re closer to the sound of a Fender Rhodes than a bass guitar. Jaco Pastorius’ Portrait of Tracy set the benchmark. The most practical harmonics and their locations relative to an open string are below.

Octave 12th Fret
Octave + 5th 7th Fret
2 Octaves 5th Fret
2 Octaves + Major 3rd 4th Fret
2 Octaves + 5th 3rd Fret

Notating harmonics is always confusing because there isn’t an agreed standard for all string instruments, and fashions of notating harmonics have changed over time. As far as my experience goes, the easiest for bass players to read is to indicate the corresponding fretted note and place a circle “harmonic” notation above it. For example, in the case of a harmonic 2 octaves higher than the open G string, the best way to notate that is to write a “C” (the note normally played on the 5th fret) and then write the harmonic symbol above that. In case there is any confusion, one can write “5th fret harmonic on G String” above and the intention will be crystal clear.

New shows are up (finally) on the Performances page! So far this year I’ve taken it easy with playing out, but now that grad school’s done I’ve been able to start filling up my performing calendar, which is awesome. There’s a Northeast (mini) tour booked this June with Jessica Pomerantz, and some other miscellaneous stuff. I’m also starting to expand my teaching schedule with Guitar New York, which is a great guitar studio in midtown, Manhattan.

Stay tuned for more exciting stuff in the world of Adam Neely!


About

Welcome to Adam Neely's blog/website. Check out his compositions, links, and information about lessons on the top bar, and enjoy the music!

Twitter Updates

August 2014
M T W T F S S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 232 other followers