Myles Weeks on Developing a Sense of Self

“People identify me with making upright bass work in bands where you wouldn’t expect it, and for my arco/vibrato combination,” says 27-year-old Myles Weeks.
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“People identify me with making upright bass work in bands where you wouldn’t expect it, and for my arco/vibrato combination,” says 27-year-old Myles Weeks. After earning a degree in double bass performance from LSU, Weeks played with bluesman Eric Lindell for four years. Weeks’ expressive solo debut, Sense of Self, is a birth-through-death-themed suite featuring Joe Ashlar on keys and Simon Lott (Todd Sickafoose, George Porter Jr.) on drums. Weeks deftly bows classically informed melodies, uses his lengthy fingers to pluck greasy grooves, and throws in occasional flamenco-style flourishes. Weeks is currently freelancing in New Orleans and pursuing his own path.

How do you develop a sense of self on bass?

I don’t approach any style with many preconceived notions of what is supposed to be done. My compositional approach is similar. I simply embrace the outpouring from within. A particular harmonic concept might sound bebop-influenced, while the bowed melody within it may be romantically inspired, and the underlying rhythm derived from hip-hop. My intent isn’t to write “jazz” music, but mashing styles is in the spirit of jazz at its core. Genres meld; walls I put up in my head get torn right down.

What’s your M.O. from a gear perspective?

I gravitate heavily to upright. I go for a string height high enough to deliver a robust sound when I dig in, yet just low enough for agility. About 90 percent of the time, I stuff my E-stringside ƒ-hole with a black cloth for a more focused, round sound, and to help fight feedback. My Upton Bass Revolution Solo pickup prevents any further fear of feedback. When playing electric I use a ’66 Sekova short-scale “violin” bass. It offers a diverse range of sounds while keeping the acoustic element I love.

Do you have any suggestions for developing beautiful vibrato?

The two-part technique I use to control my vibrato’s speed and width is simple and effective. Part one is about relieving tension, and works on electric or upright. Place a finger on a string, and touch very lightly. While constantly plucking with the other hand, slowly begin to apply pressure. As soon as you hear the note sound on the fingerboard, let go and drop your hand. Repeat that with every finger for an hour to develop the habit of playing as effortlessly as possible.

Part two is simple: pretend to open a doorknob. Set a click at about 66 bpm, and then while holding down a note, rock an imaginary doorknob back and forth with each click. Aim for slow, wide, and smooth. Once that’s consistent, slowly speed up the vibrato until it’s on the eighth-note. Then go back down to the quarter-note. It’s tedious at first, but if you can play vibrato smoothly at such a slow tempo, you’ll sound relaxed at faster ones. Good examples of my vibrato can be heard on “The Moorings” from Andrew Duhon’s Grammy-nominated record of the same name, and “Passing” from my CD Sense of Self.

INFO

LISTEN

Myles Weeks, Sense of Self [2014, Indpt]; Eric Lindell & Co., Indian Summer [2014, Sparco], Live in Space [2014, Sparco]

EQUIP

Bass Christopher Professional DB304 Hybrid, Chadwick Folding Bass, Sekova “violin” bass
PickupUpton Bass Revolution Solo
Rig Gallien-Krueger 1001RB-II, SWR 1x15
Strings Pirastro SO240 Evah Pirazzi medium

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