Lauren Taneil: Laying It Down for Beyonce

May 3, 2017

Raised in a musical household to a father who was a devoted instrumentalist, who encouraged the same from his daughters, Lauren “LT” Taneil was only seven years old when she decided bass was the instrument for her. "My first bass was a Music Man Stingray,” she enthuses, "and I’ve been a complete bass head ever since the day I got it.” Instilled with her dad’s intense drive, she played along with his record collection and the radio, while growing up in Atlanta, Georgia—gathering the influences of Marcus Miller, Pino Palladino, and Victor Wooten along the way.

On the creative and performance sides, Taneil honed her skills in the GG’s (which stands for God’s Grace), a keyboard/drums/bass trio she formed with her sisters, in which they all sang and wrote. While performing with the GG’s in 2010, she was seen by Beyoncé’s musical director. This led to an appearance at the Black Girls Rock Awards and then the opportunity to back Beyoncé at the 2011 Michael Jackson Forever tribute concert. The call to become Queen B’s permanent bassist came soon after. In bonding with Beyoncé through their shared work ethic, energetic stage presence, and passion for soul music, Taneil is a key fixture in Beyoncé’s show, where her rumbling PRS blasts the farthest walls of arenas in every corner of the globe.

How do you prepare for a Beyoncé tour?
We take a lot of time beforehand making sure we know the show inside and out, and finding ways we can improve from previous tours. Every time I play, I want it to be better than the last time. I learned that from Bey. She watches the tape of her show every night to see how it could be better.

What’s your working relationship like with Beyoncé?
It’s a blessing being able to watch her and learn from her. She’s such a hard worker that everyone around her has to put in the effort to keep up. It’s a pop gig, but she’s into old-school soul music and R&B, so we have to cover a lot of ground. Most important, I have to make the bass parts feel good and groove.

Do you have some wiggle room with the bass lines, live?
Certain songs have to be played like the record, especially on the #1 hits, where people want to hear it the way it sounds on the album. On most of the other songs, I have room to improvise and put my stamp on the parts. My approach onstage is to liven it up and make the electric bass a big part of the music. If a song is very keyboard bass-heavy, I’ll play keyboard bass to keep the original version’s vibe. But on a lot of songs that were recorded with keyboard bass I’ll play electric bass and add some fills to make it feel more exciting and live. That’s what Bey likes.

Do you approach keyboard bass differently than electric bass?
No, my intent is to approach both of them the same. I want to play the keyboard bass like I’m a bass player and not a keyboard player. It has to have the groove and feel of a bass, no matter what I’m playing.

What’s your tonal concept in the large arenas and venues you play?
I like for my tone to be big, round, and full. It’s what I call “booty.” My bass has to have a really big booty. It’s also important for everyone to hear the definition and clarity of the notes I’m playing, especially the performers onstage. It helps to be tight with the sound engineers; I appreciate what they do and I let them know.

Which techniques do you use for the gig?
It’s mostly fingerstyle, although I do some slapping in a few songs. And I use a lot of right-and left-hand muting to tighten up the parts. My technique comes from the dynamics of the songs. Sometimes I have to play hard and aggressively, and sometimes I have to play light and soft. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour show, so I need to preserve my hands, as well.

Do you have favorite songs to play?
I love playing a new song from Lemonade called “All Night,” which has Marcus Miller on bass. It’s fun trying to replicate his bass line live, and I use effects to match the tone he got. Bey loves the song, too, so we play it with a lot of energy.

What’s it like to walk out and take the stage in front of screaming fans every night?
It’s unbelievably exciting and inspiring, and it makes you want to play your very best. I’ve been with Bey for five years, and that feeling never gets old; it hasn’t lessened one bit from the first show I played with her.

INFO

LISTEN

Beyoncé, Beyoncé [2013, Columbia/Parkwood] (European Release)


EQUIP

Bass PRS Gary Grainger 4 and 5-strings, Music Man Stingray HH 5-strings, Moog Little Phatty
Rig Line 6 POD HD Pro, ButtKicker Low-Frequency Transducer
Strings DR Strings Neon (.045–.120)

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