Recording solo bass: Some thoughts on my new Podcast…

As some of you may already know, I’ve recently set up a solo bass podcast through Podbean. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a number of years now, but it’s taken my recent slump in gig activity to spur me on to actually getting it started.
I’ve been an occasional dabbler with looping technology and as anyone who’s seen me with Maggie Reilly over the last couple of years will know I’m not shy of using a few effects live. My current setup offers two looping possibilities. The first is a Boss DD6, a standard digital delay pedal that also offers a six second loop facility. This lives on my touring pedalboard and gets played with the most during those niggling lulls in soundchecks! The second is my RC20 Loop Station, which is a dedicated phrase sampler and can handle much longer loops and also enables the user to store a small number of loops internally. At some point in the near future I fully intend on investing in something more versatile (probably a Gibson Echoplex) but at this stage I’m finding the limitations imposed by my current setup force me to play more focused ideas.
The basic premise behind the podcast was to post ‘work-in-progress’ tracks played ‘as live’, ie: no overdubbing or postproduction trickery. Thus far (I’ve only submitted three solo bass tracks to date) I have only deviated from this rule once, in pasting a short section from the beginning of ‘A Little Light & Shade’ at the end of the track to create a sense of thematic unity. If I’d have been using a more advanced looping setup this would have been possible live so I’ve allowed myself this minor deviation…
The first hurdle I’ve had to overcome was getting used to recording myself looping live. I must say it’s been a while since I’ve used this gear seriously and the recording process really shows up every little glitch in timing. In fact I sent out a despairing Tweet at the time, prompting a very thoughtful and timely response from solo bass maestro Steve Lawson, who said “Looping is like learning a whole new instrument, both conceptually and physically”.
I’ve put a lot of thought into the concept behind my approach to solo bass. When I finally decided to start up the podcast, one of the main questions I had to ask myself was to whom I was playing. I had no intention of producing music that would only interest other bass players. And to be frank, I’m not that kind of chopsy player anyway. I wanted to be able to communicate something far deeper and more melodic.
The bass is not naturally a solo instrument. There are not many bass players who have successfully managed to produce solo music with a broad appeal. Probably the biggest influences on me as a bass soloist have been Eberhard Weber and the aforementioned Steve Lawson. Both have used electronics to create vast soaring soundscapes using the bass as both a lead and accompanying instrument. I am working on incorporating some of these textural elements into my own playing, looking at the layering of different sounds to create a broader canvas for melodic improvisation. Harmonics and arco work have proved particular favourites this week…
At some point in the future I would like to record an album of this kind of material. The process of focused practice/recording/podcasting has already proved useful in refining some ideas. Obviously, none of the tracks I’ve posted are the finished article. As I mentioned earlier, they are intended to be viewed as work-in-progress (I must apologise for the tuning in Bells II, I hadn’t played that particular bass in a while!) and I’m finding the podcast is a fantastic route to get some of my ideas out in an organized and structured fashion.
My podcast can be found at Simon Little’s Podcast or you can subscribe in iTunes if you want to be notified with new posts.
I’ve already got some great feedback from a few listeners via the Podbean site and Twitter. I’ll definitely continue posting music fairly regularly so do subscribe if you’re interested. I do like to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions, so feel free to leave them here or on my Podbean page.
Hope you enjoy it.
Simon

ps. For those of you interested in hearing the masters at work, I’d recommend checking out any one of Steve Lawson’s albums (there’s four on iTunes) or Eberhard Weber’s ‘Pendulum’ or ‘Orchestra’
pps. At some point I’m going to introduce the Chapman Stick in the podcast, but at this stage I don’t want to get ahead of myself!


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