Basso Ridiculoso now on the Facebooks

Feel free to add Basso to your friendslisty-thing and watch the quality of your life improve dramatically*. It's been known to happen.


*not a promise or warranty of life improvement to any noticeable amount or degree. Consult a doctor before starting any practice regiment. Seek immediate medical attention for all grooves lasting more than four hours.

Jake Hertzog at Iridium - TONIGHT in NYC

If you are in the NYC area, basso piasano Jake Hertzog is playing at Iridium, one of the most famous clubs in NYC tonight.

Jake did this blog a solid and gave us his perspective as a soloist and band leader on what he listens for in a bass player so go check him out, live, in action, the way music is meant to be heard. My prediction is that you will not be disappointed.

I know where I would be tonight if I lived in NYC...



Facebook Fame Smiles Upon Chateau de' Ridiculoso! Thanks, Damian!

Damian Erskine happened to notice the humble goings on around here and he was so kind as to post a link to the Circle of Thirds post on his Facebook AND his Twitter status today. Now that explains all the traffic. He gets a huge molto ridiculoso for that! Thanks!

Glad to see that post helped a few folks, and hopefully we have exposed ourself, er, I mean, more people know about us now. Bookmark away, people!

And for those of you who don't know who he is, Damian is the Pacific Northwest's secret weapon on bass. Well, not so secret. He is one serious cat (to use the parlance of our times) on bass. He has an instantly recognizable rhythmic and harmonic style that includes chords and some quantifiably viscous funkosity. He grooves is what I am telling you. He has been playing six strings for quite a while (but is just as deadly on a 4 string) and has a signature six-string bass by Skjold that is up there with any custom bass you could get. His latest album "So to Speak" was released in 2010 and has some serious latin, funk and jazz grooves on it in, how shall we call them, non-standard time signatures? 13/8 anyone?

He also gets to play with some heavyweights - Jeff Lorber, Gino Vannelli, Tony Furtado, and appeared with the whose-who of bass playing in the Gospel Chops bass video (along with his uncle, Peter). Check that groove out.

Damian has recorded a trio record with Peter Erskine on drums (yes, its his uncle, I just said that) and Vardan Ovsepian on piano and it is set to be released later this year. Can't wait for that.

He also writes for No Treble, an online bass magazine, and he just released a method book called "Right Hand Drive" that goes into detail about his very cool right hand 3-finger technique. If you were moping around because you just couldn't find a book that had grooves in 15/8 and included chords in the bassline, well, quit your mopin, today is your lucky day my bass playing friend. Check out Damian's book.

And since no good deed goes unpunished, I am going to post a link to a trio gig Damian did from several years ago with Chris Mosley from Porland Jazz Jams. Even though it is older it is a great video because you get to hear him play entire tunes and take solos in a tight little trio. There is a classic public access interview for about 9 minutes (out of the total show of 28 minutes) before they start playing, but after that you can check out Damian in action. He gets a couple of great solos in, and always grooves, and the TONE oh the tone! Check him out on the 6 string Modulus.


This site does not appear to stream the video, but if you have the free player VLC (for mac, windows or linux) all you have to do is copy the link below and choose "Open Network" from the File menu (command-N on Mac) and paste in the link. I like using VLC for longer stuff instead of my browser, it just is more stable than plug-ins I find, but role the dice, just clicking the link may open it with a plug-in for you. You can also use "Open URL" in Quicktime Player, which is on every Mac.


Damian is going to be in LA for NAMM this next week so be on the look out for him if you are attending.

Thanks Damian!

Spelling Chords Fastly by Knowing Your A,C,E's

Isn't it supposed to be "A,B,C's"? Not in the chord spelling alphabet it isn't.

This "spelling" term is just another name for figuring out the notes in a chord that you see on a chart. You spell out the letters one by one and figure out what makes up the root, third, the fifth etc. Many times as bass players all we get is a set of chord symbols so we have to be all up on that right quick and be able to just *BAM* know what notes it takes to create that scary looking G7#9b13 chord that is staring back at us and giving off that cold clammy feeling. Uh oh, does it have an Bb in it? A D#???

There is a very easy way to spell out any chord you want, and I thought everyone knew this one, but I have shown it to more than one person who said "neat! I didn't know that way", so here it is.

Circle of Thirds

If you arrange all the letters of the musical alphabet in thirds (A,B,C,D,E,F and G thats it, those are all the letters in the musical alphabet) you get something that looks like this -


There is nothing magical about putting "C" at the top of this, I just used it because of the no sharps/flats thing, but if you have a private vowel fetish you can put "E" or "A" at the top and continue the pattern around the circle, or if you quietly yearn for the letter "F" you can start on that letter. Whatever, freak.

It is a circular arrangement, so once you put the letters in this order no matter where you start it will always go around and get all the other letters/notes there are, so start on whatever letter you want, see?


E G B D F A C - same arrangement just starting on E

G B D F A C E - same arrangement just starting on G

B D F A C E G - same arrangement just starting on B

D F A C E G B - same arrangement just starting on D

F A C E G B D - same arrangement just starting on F

A C E G B D F - same arrangement just starting on A

and then back to...

C E G B D..etc. original starting on C

How it works

I will use a crazy sounding chord as an example, say, oh, how about a C7b9#11b13. Whoa, crazy chord huh. Not really. Here is how you figure out what notes are in it:

  1. Pick your root, in this case, it is the "C"
  2. Go around the circle to the right - the next note will be the third of your chord, always. In this case "E"
  3. Go to the next note - this note will always be the 5th - "G"
  4. Keep going - 7th - "B"
  5. Keep going - 9th - "D"
  6. One more! - 11th - "F"
  7. and finally - 13th. "A"
So we got:

R 3 5 7 9 11 13

Those are the raw notes. We know for this chord the 3rd is going to be some kind of "E" it may have to be raised or lowered (sharpened or flattened), but it is gonna be an "E" note of some kind. Same with the llth, its going to be some kind of "F" note, we might have to ensharpenify it or flattenify it to fit the type of chord, but it is going to be an "F". So lets see if we need to modify any notes to fit the chord ... It's a dominant chord so it has a major 3rd and a flat 7, and then this one has some of those fancy altered notes so we have to flat the 9th, ensharpenate the 11, and flatify the 13. So note-by-note we get:
  1. Root - its fine
  2. 3rd - "E" natural is right, it is a major third from C.
  3. 5th - "G" that is fine too, G doesn't need to be changed.
  4. 7th - "B", okay "B" needs to be changed to a "Bb" to fit a dominant chord since dominant chords have flatted 7ths, and "B" is the natural 7 of C.
  5. 9th - "D" also, this needs to be flatted (moved down one fret) to fit this chord and become a "Db"
  6. 11th - "F" - this is opposite, we have raise it by one fret to "F#"
  7. 13th - "A" - we are back to flattening, have to make this a "Ab".
So the final notes in the chord are:
CE G Bb Db F#Ab
R 35 b7 b9 #11 b13

You do still have to know how to construct the basic chord types of Major, Minor, Minor 7 flat 5, Dominant, Diminished and Augmented. You need to know your intervals too and be able to tell that a C7 chords has "E" as a major third, no sharps or flats, but an Ab7's 'natural' notes (so to speak) is going to have an Eb as the fifth, so you you have to know your sharps and flats. There is no trick to that except rote memorization. Lets look at another example starting on a different note so you can see how it works, this time lets do a DMaj9 chord. Same procedure, just start on D instead of "C" and go to the around the circle clockwise.


Same drill, the note after the D is the third, the next note is the 5th, the note after the seventh..you get the hang of it. Now for this chord, we need to raise the "F" to an "F#" and the C to a C# to make the third and the 7th Major. Bam. Done.

Okay, so what about when I have an "Eb" or a "C#" chord, smart guy? Those notes aren't on your little circle there. Huh? What about those? Just start on the letter of the chord you want to spell, so just start on "E", and treat it as an Eb. The next note on the circle is still going to be the third, and then just figure out if you need a G natural, Gb or god forbid a G# for the kind of chord you are making. Same with the sharp notes, just start on the letter C, even in a C# chord, the third is going to be some kind of "E", it may get weird with enharmonic spellings, but it is still an "E" even if it is "E sharp" or F.

So if you memorize any one of those arrangements of the Circle of Thirds that you like, with very little practice you won't even be thinking about it, you will just rattle off "E G B D F A C" and be grabbing the thirds, fifths and sevenths of any chord that gets thrown at ya, sharpening the thirds or flatting the fifths as you go, right quick.


What People Want In Their Bass Player - Episode 1: Jake Hertzog

When I started this blog I realized it needed to offer something more than just articles about bass players. EVERYONE does that at every bass site on the web.

Instead, what might be more interesting is if I asked musicians who were not even bass players what it is they expected and wanted from the bass players in their band. These are the people that bass players are going to work for anyway.

Because face it, even in the world of solo bassists and mega-chops players, 99% of gigs that bass players get are supportive and, especially in a pop/rock situation, it is questionable you are even going to get a solo. And that other 1% of bass gigs where you do, and are actually bass showcase gigs...are gigs that are started by bass players, so the bass chair is kinda covered.

In general, all this new focus on bass centric resources seems to be causing an echo-chamber feedback loop and a chops arms race resulting in a deadly plague sweeping electric bass players - Shreditis. This is a fatal disease which kills your gig and gets you fired from your band. More and more it is striking down healthy bass players in their prime, rendering them practicing in their rooms all alone completely band-less.

Now this is the bass playing world post-Jaco, and I am not saying there are any players that are responsible for this chops overload, *cough* victor *cough* garrison *cough*, but it is pretty hilarious some of the bass playing up on YouTube. People are playing things that would never, ever, ever go over in a band context and some of them even call it "grooving".

So I thought I would get to asking this question of some actual players and see what they say they want or need in a bass player and what makes a bassist "good" for them. This is episode 1 of hopefully many more to come.

First up: Jake Hertzog.

A little background on Jake - Here he is playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2007, after he won the young composers contest.

He currently has a trio with Harvie S as the bass player and he has released two records so far. He went to Berklee, writes for Guitar Player Magazine, has toured Europe and the US, been on Good Morning America, the Today Show, yada yada yada.

And oh yea, he is 23. He was 20 when he played at Montreux.

I don't know Jake, and have never met him, so of course, what did I do?

Sent him an email and just asked him what he thinks a good bass player is. Jake was more than kind, and took some time to reply and his response is below. I emphasized certain points in bold, but otherwise it is how he wrote it.

Q: Right now, there is a plague sweeping the bass player community - shred-itis. Its like all the bass players went back in time to Guitar Institute of Technology in the year 1983.

So, as someone who gets to perform with a lot of different rhythm sections, what is it that you listen for and want/need from a bass player? What is it that makes a "good" bass player for someone in your position, especially in a trio setting. What is it that will make you want to play with that guy again? Tone? Technique? Time? Tune Knowledge?

Basso Ridiculoso

A: That's a great question...I'll probably post this, because as you accurately notice, there's a lot more to bass then having nasty chops. Once you're past a certain point technically, imagine your shredding abilities as a side effect of becoming a great musician. Its not the main goal.
So on to your question-

The main thing that I look for in bass players, especially in a trio context, is their natural instinct and ability to add something to the song. Ability to improvise and know when to go crazy and when to hold down a groove. In my experience, since im a sort of 'whirling dervish' type player, and I play with a very intense drummer, I need a bassist to hold the song together at the right moments, lay down the form really hard, and step into the sonic space left by the guitar and drums.

Now. that's a little cryptic, so let me give you a more concrete answer:

Versatility - To master multiple styles, or at least a few, will make all your music come to life. As a rhythm section player, you want to be as familiar with world music (brazilian, arabic etc) as you are with American music (jazz, R&B, punk rock etc), so weather or not you can burn like Jaco is irrelevant if you don't have a deep grasp of many styles. 21st century music is about many things put together, so if you know the ingredients well, you're recipe will work.

Time - That goes without saying (almost). More than anything, Time and Feel as a bassist will get you the gig every time. I never heard someone say "his time sucks but we'll hire him cause he can wail". NEVER. Its always the other way around. If you don't have a great feel, then no one will even care to listen to your solos lol. So become master pocket, and it will put money in your pocket ;-)

Tune Knowledge, as you put it, kinda goes along with Versatility, just having a large vocabulary of music to draw from weather its every jazz standard ever written, or every led zepplin song ever written. Just know a lot of music and it will enrich what you play.

So if you're trying to figure out how to stand out in a chops dominated world, just remember- make everything you play sound great. That will get you hired, because that's what music is all about, as much as we love GIT circa 1983, the music has to be great.

Last thing - Originality - if you can have a sound, or a style to your playing, that's the best because then people will come to you, not for chops, or tone, or feel but... you!

Be well my friend,
I hope that helps,


Jake Hertzog

There you have it.

Be sure to check out Jake on the web or at Facebook or YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/jakehertzog and definitely check out his latest record "Patterns" at Itunes.

And if you really like his stuff as much as I do, he is raising funds for his third album here at IndieGogo.com. He is almost halfway to his goal of $10,000. You can be part of what could be the new way to fund music by contributing something to the production of his album.

This Is Mike Pope's Brain on "Giant Steps"

Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation -- so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds.

Not only does he mention Jarret as an example in his presentation he does the actual experiment with Mike Pope! Mike has played bass for David Sandborn, Chick Corea's Elecktric Band and Al Dimeola, amongst others. He also designed the pre-amps that are used in Fodera basses. AND he is a killer piano player. A triple threat!

I am sure every jazz blog is going to be posting this sooner or later. There is some cool things here that seem to reenforce the "music is a language concept" that many folks talk about.


Patitucci and Potter - live from last month in NYC

Oh good lord this is sick. I love the internet. (Edit - a second show from the next night, Dec. 4th, has also been posted)

Smalls Jazz club just released the show from Friday, December 3, 2010 where the band was:

Tim Ries - Tenor Sax
Chris Potter - Tenor Sax
John Patitucci - Bass - Duh. It's Patitucci. Electric Band, Chick Corea, upright, electric, 10 solo records or however many he has. That guy.
Kalman Olah - Piano
Billy Drummond - Drums

Um. Pretty good little band there. Here is more about Tim Ries, he does keys and sax with some band called "The Rolling Stones", not sure if any of you have heard of them before. I guess they are from England or something?

Patitucci opens set one. But..he kinda is buried in the mix after that, he really sounds like he is not playing with any amp at all, just his unmic-ed upright.

Chris Potter is the current Lord King Dude of Sax, he is the guy everyone is gunning for and references right now. Tim Ries plays soprano even though they list him as tenor.

Check it out, and hear how they do it in NYC from just a month ago.