For the last several years I have been focusing my musical energies on mastering the Chapman Stick, an endeavor that I have written about previously. Recently I decided to take a break from that instrument and return to my primary performing instrument, the bass guitar. So I put the Chapman Stick back in it’s case and brought back out my main bass, a reissue 1958 Fender Precision Bass.
I bought my P-bass about 25 years ago. A band I was in was contributing a couple of songs to a charity CD and we were going to record them at the Power Station, the legendary recording studio (The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and many others have recorded there). At the time I was using an Ibanez bass and I figured this was a good time to upgrade my equipment. I went into the Sam Ash guitar store on West 48th street (long gone) but I didn’t have a specific preference for what I was looking for. At the time, I wasn’t a big fan of Fender basses. I thought they were too old fashioned. I tried out a bunch of basses but nothing was getting me excited. The salesperson suggested I try some of the Fender Vintage reissues basses that had just come out. I tried a vintage reissue J-bass but still no cigar. Then I tried the reissue P-bass and suddenly I found what I was looking for. It gave the old school sound that I hadn’t realized I was looking for until then.
My baby –
The Precision Bass, designed by Leo Fender in 1950 and brought to market in 1951, was a response to the volume limitations of the upright bass which were becoming hard to hear in large bands or those that used amplified instruments. The upright bass was also regarded as cumbersome and a pain to bring to gigs as well as requiring different skills to play that are distinct from those of the guitar. The Precision Bass was designed to overcome these problems. The name “Precision” came from the use of frets to play in tune more easily than with fretless fingerboard of the upright bass. This made it much easier for a guitarist to double on bass. I think the importance of this cannot be emphasized enough since it made it possible for many a guitarist to switch over to bass, including myself (another guitarist who became a bassist was Paul McCartney, just imagine if he never picked up the bass). With the additional volume and presence of the P-bass and it’s many offspring. The sound of popular music itself was transformed. Without the Precision Bass, music as we know it today would not exist.
Since 1952, the Precision Bass has gone through a myriad of modifications and the video below (courtesy of Chicago Music Exchange) give a brief overview of the many face of Precision Bass.
History of the Fender Precision Bass –
I have written previously on how hearing individual instrument parts of a favorite tune can give you a whole new perspective and appreciation of the song (https://roymusicusa.com/2018/04/12/and-now-for-something-completely-different-listening-to-music-before-and-after-isolated-tracks/). Along those lines I want to let everyone know about a great series of videos by musician and producer Rick Beato called What Makes This Song Great?. In each video, Rick breaks down the song, calling your attention to parts that you were probably aware of on a subliminal level (and no, I’m not talking about satanic messages and besides, if I was going to put in a subliminal message, it would not be to worship Satan, it would be to buy twenty more copies of the record). After listening to these videos, you are more aware of the awesome sound of that kick drum or that the bass part switched from electric bass to synth bass in the chorus. I’m not a fan of every song he analyzes but if you’re into music, you can certainly learn something from every song he examines, even ones you don’t like.
Below, I cherry picked my favorites videos or rather my favorite songs that he covered.
What Makes This Song Great? Ep. 2 THE POLICE –
What Makes This Song Great? Ep. 3 Steely Dan –
What Makes This Song Great? Ep. 7 TOM PETTY –
What Makes This Song Great? Ep.28 DAVID BOWIE –
What Makes This Song Great? Ep.36 YES –
Rick Beato is a You Tube educator par excellence. He has put out videos on music theory, composition film scoring, guitar and a host of other music geek friendly topics. You should definetly check out his website (https://rickbeato.com/) and his You Tube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/pegzch/featured).
Tagged with: David Bowie
, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
, I Won't Back Down
, Kid Charlemagne
, Let's Dance
, Rick Beato
, Steely Dan
, The Police
, Tom Petty
Posted in Classic Rock
, Music Appreciation and Analysis
I going to conclude (for the time being) my video series, Stick Theory, with an interview I did for the pilot for a talk show focusing on local NYC musicians that was to be shown on Manhattan Neighborhood Network cable channel. It features my interview interspersed with a Chapman Stick Guitar performance outdoors. Special thanks to Manhattan Neighborhood Network. It was a blast doing it.
Music Talk Episode 1 –
This is my tune, Bodega Cats, played on the Chapman Stick Guitar (SG12). I’m using the double guitar tuning so it’s like two standard guitar necks joined together. This was the first tune I wrote on the Chapman Stick guitar. A couple of years ago, as part of MakeMusicNewYork event, I played a solo Stick performance in a small community garden on Manhattan’s lower east side. My repertoire was very limited so I needed to come up with some extra material. In one of those rare instances when inspiration comes when you actually need it, this tune pretty much just came out. I started with the two chord vamp in the intro and the melody just came out. Same thing with the “B” section and that was it. Admittedly, this is not a complex tune. The chords are straight forward and the melody is composed of basically two riffs. That being said, a couple of people commented on how they liked it and I have to admit that I think it came out pretty well. I liked it enough that I decided to cut a full band version of it for the New Jazz Spasms cd, New York Movie. Check out both versions below.
Stick Theory – Bodega Cats (Original Song) on the Chapman Stick Guitar SG12
You can hear a version of the tune performed by my virtual band, The New Jazz Spasms here:
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I’m continuing my series of Chapman Stick Guitar videos with my cover of the classic Beatles tune Norwegian Wood. Their is a long history of jazz versions of Beatles songs. That’s the subject for a future post. I’m just adding my bit to the tradition.
If you like what you hear, see, touch or smell here, then please share, like and subscribe to my YouTube channel and this website.
Summer is finally making itself known to us here in NYC so it seems like an appropriate time to post my cover of the jazz standard Summertime to Stick Theory, the playlist of my solo Chapman Stick Guitar videos (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLogHrynqXOvSmeQXOw_SAW0etIHHKV8mX).
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Stick Theory – Summertime (Jazz Standard) on the Chapman Stick Guitar –
Recently, two separate Chapman Stick related events occurred to me in the course of two days. Given that the Chapman Stick related things are not exactly common everyday occurrences, it gave me pause.
The first was a comment I received on my Chapman Stick Guitar page from someone who took exception with my calling the page “Chapman Stick Guitar”, saying that it’s a Stick and not a guitar. My response was that I play a Chapman Stick model SG-12 which Stick Enterprises calls a Chapman Stick Guitar. I believe the disagreement is coming from two different views on the purpose of the web page. The person might of thought that it’s purpose was as a general informational page on the Chapman Stick while I think of it as a journal of my personal take on the instrument. However, upon further reflection I thought that that I should explain to those who were kind enough to check out the web page that there are several different configurations of the Chapman Stick. The original Chapman Stick design (which Stick Enterprises refers to as “The Stick”) is ten strings with the bass/treble sides each having five strings. The Grand Stick expands the original concepts to 12 strings, extending the instruments range in both directions. There’s a Stick Bass, a eight string version whose range is mainly in the (you guessed it) bass register. There’s an Alto Stick and the model that I play, the Chapman Stick Guitar. So, even though the few people who know what a Chapman Stick think of the Stick or Grand Stick, there are other versions of the instrument. One size doesn’t fit all. Go to the Stick Enterprises web site for more details (http://stick.com/instruments/).
My second Stick related event occurred the next day. I was visiting San Francisco with my wife and we went down to Fisherman’s Wharf for general tourist stuff and specifically to visit the aquarium (my wife and I are big fans of zoos and aquariums and try to check them out whenever we visit a different city). There, performing right in front of the aquarium was Bob Culbertson. In the (admittedly small) world of Chapman Stick, Bob Culbertson is one of the masters. When I got my first Stick used off of eBay, it came with two of his instructional videos which were invaluable to me as a beginner. He was exceedingly gracious with his time and it was a complete gas to just run into someone like him unexpectedly. Below, an example of his mastery.
Bob Culbertson – While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Chapman Stick
Please check out Bob Culbertson’s web site: https://www.stickmusic.com/