I’m normally not one to really platform my way through certain parts of my life, for fear of pigeonholing myself. But you know what, I don’t think that my perfectionism will allow me any room, and so I had to, in front of my bass teacher and one of my profs, declare that I’m going to focus this last semester on playing electric bass. It’s the one that brought me to the dance, and while I LOVE LOVE LOVE double bass, I’m not in the right position currently to focus on DB the way I want, nor am I really able to speak with my own voice on the instrument. I’ll always play double bass, and there’s so much that I learned there that makes me a better electric bass player. (I’m also self-editing this as I go, checking my ego and aspirations and rampant perfectionism in the process…)
Archive for Bass
If you know me or have been reading some of what it is I do, you’ll know I’m pretty big into DIY. From making my own furniture to generally just trying to get stuff done, I don’t let a lack of skill dampen what ought to be achievable tasks. Along the way, I’ve learned to be a better cook, how to do some (seemingly-modestly difficult) automotive tasks (think stuff like changing brakes, replacing reservoirs, thermostats, etc), along with learning a bunch about how to keep my gear in working order.
Specifically, one year, I asked to get a set of fretboard radius gauges, a feeler gauge, and a luthier’s ruler so that I could really dial in my setup on electric bass. I’d gotten a copy somewhere along the way of Jerzy Drozd’s guide to bass setup, and had some modest successes in adjusting other instruments.
Flash forward a couple of years, and I found myself here in Victoria with this gorgeous Modulus bass that was at work, but the action was so ridiculously high it made it unplayable for me. For the bass-playing set, I’m the guy who likes to dial it down pretty low rather than straining to fret the notes. I know there’s a trade-off for tone along the way, but for the stuff I do, it’s what works for me. I needed this bass for a string of upcoming shows in Portland with work for Rosefest, so I figured it ought to be best to get some adjustments done prior to departure.
I had a couple of extra minutes tonight after getting home to take the time to properly intonate and adjust this bass. I made a quick truss rod adjustment, which helped with the neck relief, but the strings still weren’t any closer to being where I wanted them. One other quirk about this bass is that the graphite neck is one piece, including the nut, so making any adjustments on that side could have been catastrophic.
After the truss rod was done, I noted that the string height at the bridge saddles looked a little on the high side, so armed with another hex wrench, I took the time to lower the strings, ensuring that the notes didn’t buzz. By the time I got to the B string, I’d realized I’d gone too far. I dialed that one back up a little, took out my radius gauge, ensured my strings matched the curvature of the fingerboard, and kablam, wouldn’t you know it, this bass is infinitely more playable. A quick intonation job, and all is good.
Truss rods I’d adjusted before, and same with the intonation, but tonight was my first (educated) foray into string height adjustment. Truthfully, the gauge made it dead simple, as I had the match for the radius. Now that I’ve done the Modulus, I might have to go around and do the rest of my instruments…
Waking up slow on a Saturday morning, assimilating some of what just took place over the last week. For those that don’t have their finger on the pulse of my life and those of my colleagues and friends, we’ve been working hard for the last couple of weeks to put together a recording project of wind ensemble music.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like a professional musician again. I should qualify that by saying that not everything about a pro’s life is all glamour and simply making music — especially with the job that I and my colleagues have. Most of our time is spent behind the scenes, setting up jobs, getting all the administrative, logistical and financial details together, and then only a tiny fraction of what the job actually entails is putting notes out. This week though, predominantly, was all about the music.
More than this, though, we were able to assemble a team of friends from across the country to help us out with some holes we have in the Band. Quite literally, it was a coast-to-coast endeavour, across all three elements of the Canadian Armed Forces. Folks came from Newfoundland, Ontario and Manitoba to help support us, and I think we’ll all be particularly proud of what we achieved.
So while folks are off recapping what they did in 2017 (and my list is, by all measures, fairly epic in what I did), I’m going to spend a couple of minutes talking about a few things I intend on doing for 2018.
Music. Lots and lots of music.
Kristy and I had several long talks as 2017 came to a close. New Year’s Eve was no different, but we both expressed again our interest in creating music together. We had a couple of moments over the dying days of 2017 when we were both laid up with the flu where we made music. Some of the results were epically hilarious (such as the moment when I questioned my abilities as a professional musician while we tried to play melodica Christmas duets), and another where she got her hands on my Wurlitzer and we improvised together for a short span. We both have a deep love of a lot of music, and a lot of that coincides with what we do. We’ve talked about it before, we’ve even gone so far as to jokingly have a band name together, and now, I think this’ll be the year where we go out and actually perform music together. I’m pretty excited.
It’s something I’ve talked about a lot, and it’s something that I need to both make time to do as well as commit to doing. So I’m going to volunteer. The two likely targets are Recyclistas, siding well with my love of bikes and bike culture, and the other is with Victoria Tool Library, which appeals to my side of all things DIY and wanting to fix all the things using my own two hands.
2017 taught me that I need to spend more time seeing things. 2018 started things off right by spending a couple of hours on my feet at a time when my body was so weak from being sick for so long. The results were nothing short of magical – being in the trees close to the water, feeling the sunshine on my face, this is what helped bring my life force back into being. I’ll be going into this year with the intention of traveling and spending much more time in the outdoors. So far, Kristy and I have plans to go camping in January, a trip to Tofino, going back to Whistler, she’s off to Japan, and we now also have long-range plans to head over to Port Angeles for a week of adventures this summer. On top of this will be plans to do even more camping with the kids, more trekking about local hills and paths, and generally finding ways to spend all the time outside. It’s totally doable, and it’s time.
The rest, like usual, I’ll make up as I go along. A lot of it will involve wanting to lead a simpler life, to spend more time with my kids, and to do more of the things that matter to me. It’s not new years’ resolutions – these are just acts and actions I’ve been working towards that I’m actually seeing through to completion this year.
Time to get moving…
Every now and again, I get into a musical rut, whether that’s good or bad. For a good long stretch there, and by long, I’m talking 3-4 years, all I listened to was the music of Steely Dan, much to the deep chagrin of my family (but ultimately for my own personal betterment when I got the call to sub in with a SD cover band this year). More recently than that, I’ve been bingeing on Vulfpeck.
This past summer, though, I went to Europe for work, and decided on a couple of desert island albums to take with me. The lads over at All Songs Considered had tipped me off to “Echo Mountain Sessions” by Sylvan Esso – a band I’d never heard of before – and lo and behold, I found what would ultimately carry me through my trip.
EMS led to the discovery of the duo’s latest release, “What Now”, and this album grabbed me by the ears right away. A great mix of songwriting, instrumentation, timbre, just a very satisfying listen. The opening track really took hold and I couldn’t stop listening.
Work can really be…work, sometimes.
The more I examine who I am, the more that I see that I’m a bit of an introvert (which, if you take it into the context of some of my social media activities over time, doesn’t make a heap of sense – maybe more like a slightly narcissistic introvert?)
Either way, as far as my bass playing life has gone, I’ve been fortunate enough for the phone to ring and not for me to go out and have to put my name out. Decreasingly, though, in each of the cities I’ve lived in, the phone doesn’t ring as much. Some of that has been a conscious decision – with the day job, I’d settled for making music at work, which is totally valid, and an honourable way to do things. I’m blessed with a job that pays me to make notes. I also know that the marketplace is crowded, and don’t want to be another hungry mouth to feed at an increasingly small meal. Plus, too, I’ve been trying to be the best dad I can over the last 14-or-so years, so sticking close and not doing “discretionary” gigs was more of a thing as well.
That said, if people don’t know who I am, I need to go introduce myself, rub some shoulders, press a little flesh, and insert a noise here.
Re-met Tom Vickery on Wednesday night, the leader of the jazz jam at Hermann’s here in Victoria. Tom and I had met a couple of times previously on other subjects (mostly through work and the union), but this was the first time that I’d had a chance to play, and that he’d had a chance to hear me. Same goes for Sean Drabbitt, the house bassist, and Kelby MacNayr, the house drummer, who happens to be one of my favourite players that I’ve heard lately.
Heard some great players, got a chance to get up and play, discovered what the flavour of jazz is around these parts, and had a great time. Looking forward to doing it again down the line!
Twitter is a many-splendoured thing. I first read about it in Bass Player Magazine, where there was a printed exchange (interview) between Bryan Beller (of Aristocrats/Dethklok fame) and Steve Lawson (of UK supreme solo bass awesomeness). Bryan was interviewing Steve about the power of Twitter and how social media can land you all kinds of great work.
I signed up for a Twitter account (@braydenwise in case you’re not already following me) while on tour with The Central Band of the Canadian Forces. I will readily admit that I haven’t even scratched the surface yet of what Twitter can do for me, but I will tell you this — it has exposed me to a variety of great bassists, all of whom are doing really awesome things both in band and solo settings. Â It was the solo folks and the people doing house concerts that really caught my attention, however.
Flash forward to the present, and here I am, getting ready to do my own solo bass gig. This one is for work, and is a low-pressure, not-in-the-spotlight, background-type gig, it’s great chance for me to put together some rep and play with some toys that I haven’t really had a good chance to put to use yet (like my Boss RC-20XL looper and some of the groovier effects on my Line 6 Bass Pod Pro XT Live). Here’s what’s on my set list so far:
- Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Violoncello (Bach)
- Menuet 1 and 2
- Isn’t She Lovely (Stevie Wonder)
- Irish Tune from County Derry (Traditional)
- Just The Two of Us (Grover Washington Jr.)
- Solo – Vintage Precision Bass (Michael League)
- Orpheus at Sunrise (B. Wise)
As far as axes go, I’m planning on using my own gear. I do love my work basses, but sometimes you just need to bring out the stuff that you really love. Â I’ll be playing mostly my Warwick Thumb Bolt-on 5 for this gig, and bringing along my ’73 P-Bass.
I hope to record at least some of what transpires on the job, so stay tuned for some samples coming down the line.
I have a few spaces left in my teaching roster for the fall session, starting in September.
Visit my lessons page or give me a call at 780-850-3080 to book your time today!