Ed Friedland: From Bass Whisperer to Bass Slinger

June 5, 2017

He’s had a storied career as one of the bass world’s top educators, thanks to his 20-plus books and instructional videos, his tenure teaching at Berklee and other universities, his columns and reviews in this magazine, and his influence on his well-known students John Myung (Dream Theater), Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith), and David Dyson, among others. Now, Ed Friedland has finally decided to take on a gig worthy of his full calendar. As a highly accomplished sideman, Friedland has played with greats from pretty much every genre imaginable, which is why he is the perfect fit for the wide-encompassing sound of the Grammy-award winning Americana/country-pop rockers the Mavericks.

After being asked to sub for a gig with the Nashville-based outfit, Friedland—who has equal skills on upright and electric—played to a crowd of around 20,000 fans without a rehearsal. Apparently the Mavericks liked what they heard, as he was asked join their lineup permanently. Many tours and packed concert halls later, Friedland hit the studio with the Mavericks to record their ninth studio album, Brand New Day. The diverse record finds Friedland supplying a firm backbone with a woody, earthy tone, and lines that perfectly underpin hooks, guitar solos, horns, and accordions. With so much going on in the music, it’s hard to say exactly what the Mavericks’ sound truly is. But for a man who has held a hundred different gigs in the bass world, that’s exactly why he likes it.

How did you capture your tone in the studio?

I used three different uprights, and we used a lot of different techniques to capture them. We recorded “I Think of You” at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, and we put a condenser mic inside the body of my Chadwick Folding Bass by opening up the back panel and running the cable out of the ƒ-hole. We put the pickup through an old [Ampeg] B-15, and then we used a condenser mic in front of the bass and blended them all. That’s my favorite bass sound on the whole album; it’s got that classic 1950s studio upright tone.

Given your technical ability, is it hard rooting down for simple grooves?

You simply have to commit to it. I’ve learned how to find enjoyment in playing simply and staying in the background. Duke Ellington used to say, “I play the orchestra,” and that’s kind of how I feel. Every note I play is connected to everything else going on. If you were to analyze what I do in this band, I play mostly triad walking lines, or root–5–octave Latin patterns. But while I’m deliberately working within set parameters, the most important part of my job is to inhabit the rhythm and play with my full presence.

How did you have to change your technique for this music?

This kind of upright playing is very different from the Scott LaFaro school I came out of, where the focus is on articulation and freedom. With the Mavericks, I supply a big, fat, thumpy tone that takes up a lot of space. It forces you to play less and pay more attention to note placement and length. I often use a “monkey grip” left-hand technique that is purposely inefficient. It decreases sustain and accentuates the thump at the front of the note. It may look bad to technique snobs, but it sounds right. I also employ several different right-hand techniques like “the hook” [one-fingered plucking], a two-fingered pluck, a classical pluck, and more. I want to play with the sound that best complements the demands of the music at that moment.

INFO

LISTEN

The Mavericks, Brand New Day [2017, Mono Mundo]

EQUIP

Bass Chadwick Folding Bass, ’75 Fender Precision
Rig Genzler Magellan MG-800, Greenboy Audio F215
Pickup Barbera Transducer
Pedals Radial PZ-Pre, BBE Sonic Stomp, TC Electronic BodyRez
Strings D’Addario Helicore Orchestra Light, DR Strings Legend Flats

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