Guest Blog: Rod Taylor

March 18, 2010
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In a class I often teach at Stanford University titled, “Stepping Out From the Shadows: Music, the Bass Guitar, and the Rhetoric of Revolution,” we have the pleasure of several prominent bass players visiting or video-conferencing in to us. Recently we had a conversation (via Skype) with Victor Wooten, and the topic was the future of the bass guitar. He began the conversation by playing for us a couple of pieces on two unique bass guitars. The first was a bass that was fretted on one side and fretless on the other. He would play one side and then flip it over and play the other, back and forth. You could even play both sides of the neck at once. The next bass he showed us was called a “bassimer.” Imagine a scenario where a dulcimer and bass guitar hooked up and had a baby (see www.bassimer.com) and look to hear more about this cool instrument at a later time). He played a tune for us on it that was unique both is sound and composition. After blowing our collective minds with these unorthodox instruments and his ever apparent virtuosity, Victor turned toward explaining the difference between the bass as a role and the bass as an instrument. In the course of this conversation, he expressed his concern that, given the growing prominence of players able to demonstrate technical mastery as soloists, young bass players might neglect to fully appreciate the foundational role that bass plays in music. “I learned the bass from the bottom up,” he said, “and only after that did I explore the bass as a solo instrument.” Victor’s comments remind us that the continued growth and success of our instrument depends upon a combined appreciation for its humble roots and its glamorous future. Admiration solely for the former leads to musical close-mindedness, while celebration only of the latter all but insures an uneducated and naïve approach to the instrument. Since the bass is fundamentally about the bottom end, Victor’s advice to learn the bass “from the bottom up” makes sense, right? So, after you finish listening to that incredible new Adam Nitti album, don’t forget to check out what Adam also does for Stephen Curtis Chapman on a daily basis. After that, take time to listen (or re-listen) to some Lionel Hampton, Motown, Miles Davis, James Brown, The Beatles, Beach Boys. Then maybe move on to some Yes, The Brothers Johnson, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Weather Report, after which you might tune into some U2, Miles again, The Talking Heads, Rush, Paul Simon, Mr. Big, The Police, and then perhaps some Nirvana, Dr. Dre, Green Day, Erika Badu and David Matthews. All these bands had bass players who play the bass from the bottom up and each provides a good reminder of the fundamental role of bass in music. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put down my jazz bass and check out this bassimer thing…

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