Oon, Generation Esmeralda, Girls Got The Blues
When Bass Player presented Solo Bass Night 5 at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, California, Ariane Cap was captivating. The Austrian transplant can be found grooving in San Francisco Bay Area bands with styles ranging from punk to blues to jazz, but on this bass-centric evening, she proved she could hold an audience on her own. And when she brought out bassoonist Paul Hanson (Béla Fleck, Eddie Money, Dennis Chambers) to showcase their new duo project, Oon, their rendition of “Dear Prudence” was particularly fascinating. Cap demonstrated sick tapping skills on her Marleaux 6-string, and about three-fourths of the way through the Beatles classic, she reversed her hands on the fingerboard and rebooted the groove via overhand tapping. Cool! Cap, a dedicated educator, was happy to take us to school.
How did you come to employ overhand tapping on “Dear Prudence”?
A lot of the techniques I apply to Oon come from the desire to create sonic variety, and to fulfill harmonic and foundational roles simultaneously. One day I started playing a double-thump/slap thing that’s a hybrid of techniques I picked up from Kai Eckhardt and Victor Wooten. Paul immediately suggested applying it to “Dear Prudence.” It worked great for the intro and head. For Paul’s solo section, I went with a driving two-handed tapping pattern.
While I was grooving I remembered the beauty of McCartney’s original bass line, and realized that I needed to nod my head to it in this section while keeping the groove going. I figured it out theoretically, but I could not sort it out comfortably for the left hand. So I simply flipped my hands in order to give the right hand a superior angle for the busy pattern, while the left walked the line down from the octave D. I can’t really see my right hand when I do it, so I have to play by feel.
What’s a good way to develop that ability?
I practice playing without looking at the fingerboard. I also pay close attention to dynamics when I learn a new technique. If I can play something convincingly from very soft to very loud, then I have come closer to mastering it and can express nuances.
What makes “Dear Prudence” a good vehicle for tapping?
The song offers a lot of options for the use of pedal tones, which work great with tapping. The bass line is active and busy with a somewhat unexpected accent on the last 16th-note of beats two and four, which creates a floating feel and an interesting context for the sparse melody.
What are some core concepts a player needs to nail when tapping?
Tapping is not about force or strength; it’s about subtlety and coordination. Both hands face new challenges of stability—keeping energetically anchored down, yet free to operate. It helps to occasionally check for any extra hand tension that might work against finger movement. I like the feeling when the bass is anchored in position and my hands and I become one, so I pay close attention to posture. A good setup is also key. I like low action and thin strings for tapping, but I also want a round and rattle-free tone for grooving, so it’s always somewhat of a compromise.
Do you have any parting thoughts for those interested in exploring overhand tapping?
Lots of new harmonic ideas can come from having both hands interact on the fingerboard. Try coming up with a pattern; then keep the top the same while moving the bottom, and then try moving the bottom while the top remains consistent. Context is crucial, so make sure to bring such ideas into a situation that makes musical sense.
Oon, Polaris [Oonband.com, 2013]
Basses Marleaux Consat Custom 6-string with Bartolini pickups (Oon), various other Marleaux basses
Strings Dean Markley SR 2696 or 2697 (6-string); 2690 (other basses)
Rig “I prefer going direct with Oon. Otherwise it’s either a Nemesis NC210 combo or an Eden WT800 head with Eden D210XLT and/or D410XST cabinets.”
Effects TC Electronic ND-1 Nova Delay, Boss Digital Reverb, Zoom B2.1u
Other Gruv Gear Fret- Wraps really help with muting the 6-string with Oon.”
Watch Oon play “Dear Prudence” at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. bassplayer.com/january2014