Bass play along – The Nightfly – Donald Fagen

Recently, a good friend of mine requested a video of me playing one of his favourite tunes. It’s one of my favourites too, in fact. Here is a clip of me playing along to The Nightfly by Donald Fagen. The original bassist on this track was Marcus Miller. Such a great feel! Check it out…

 

Top 5 music stands – plus other gigging essentials

Don’t get a sore neck!

Sitting at a table or desk reading music at an awkward angle is not a recipe for success: in fact it’s a recipe for a crooked neck! Using a music stand is a must for your playing posture, as you will not be putting as much of a strain on your back and neck.

Your practice sessions will feel a lot easier if you have a decent music stand. Also, having a reliable stand for gigs is imperative when reading music or lyrics is required. They come in different shapes and sizes, and some don’t last as well/aren’t as sturdy as others, so here are a few that I recommend. I have personally used all of them.

If you’re in or near Leigh-on-Sea (Essex), please consider supporting my friend’s business and buying from the marvelous Leigh Music Co. 

The music stands…

Hercules BS118BB music stand

Hercules BS118BB Music Stand with Folding Desk and EZ Grip

Hercules make some great products: I have found their wares to be built to such a standard that I feel confident taking them on the road with me.

This item in particular is excellent due to its compact size and portability.

It has a single button that allows for change of height: great for when you need to get set up quickly.Also, the metal supports in the middle can be rotated to accommodate more pages (they will hang off the edge, but I have used this stand for four sides of taped-together A4 in a pinch).

This stand won’t disappoint for beginner, intermediate or pro.

Hercules BS408B music stand
Hercules BS408B Music Stand with EZ Grip

    This is an excellent choice for any musician requiring a very sturdy music stand.

This thing will take huge folders of sheet music for theatre gigs, and other concerts requiring the reading of lots of pages.I used this one recently on a show with a pad containing 100+ pages of piano music with plastic wallets (heavy!).

    The EZ grip makes adjusting the height a doddle, and the whole thing folds away quickly and simply.

Another great thing about this is that it’s so easy to write on. 

It doesn’t budge when you press your pen or pencil on it and it doesn’t have the holes that some stands have, making writing around them a chore.
It’s a bit more pricey than the others, but I believe it to be well worth the extra.
Kinsman OPS6 Heavy Duty Music Stand
Kinsman OPS6 Heavy Duty Music Stands

Kinsman are also a good manufacturer of musical accessories. I have owned several of these and found them to be durable and lightweight.

The OPS6 is folds into a more compact size than the equivalent Hercules offering (BS118BB), and is slightly cheaper also (at time of writing).If you would like to save a bit of money and have a great compact, lightweight stand, you won’t go far wrong here.

Kinsman OPS55 Deluxe Music Stand & Bag, Chrome

Kinsman OPS55 Deluxe Music Stand & Bag, Chrome
Made by the same company, Kinsman, is this slightly thinner, smaller stand costing about £10 less. It’s not bad at all for the money, and will easily take a tablet computer, or small folder of music. It’s also in a rather fetching chrome finish. This would make a good purchase for a beginner or occasional player.

Tiger Orchestral Music Stand - Fully Adjustable Sheet Music Stand in Black
Tiger Orchestral Music Stand – Fully Adjustable Sheet Music Stand in Black

This is a cheap and cheerful music stand that might suit a beginner needing a stand that can cope with reasonably weighty books or folders of music. It is slightly less robust than the other alternatives, but for the price, it’s not a bad deal.

Other essential items!

Please keep reading as this is vital for gigging musicians!

The stage can be a dark place. You should make sure your sheet music is well lit!

I have played at gigs where it’s been so difficult to read the music that it has adversely affected my playing. Don’t make this mistake! On these occasions I either hadn’t brought a light (d’oh!) or had brought one that wasn’t good enough for the job.

Here’s the best light for the job. Hands down.

Light

Music stand light
Tiger Orchestra Music Stand Light – 9 Quality LED’s & AC Adaptor

There are two main types of music stand light. There are the ones like this, which are basically a strip of LEDs inside a rigid plastic housing, or there are the ‘alien antenna’ ones that are essentially just a light or two on those gooseneck things. The latter usually have less than half the amount of LEDs of the former. I have bought ‘antennas’ before and they have either not been bright enough or have failed on me due to their cheap design.

I would suggest paying a bit extra and going for the one linked above from Tiger as it evenly disperses the light across two pages. It can be plugged in to the mains, or used with batteries. Sometimes I have found that, in bigger bands, it’s important to have the battery option, as there isn’t always enough access to mains power.

Don’t get left in the dark! Make sure you light your music (even at home, to reduce eye-strain).

Bulldog clips

Bulldog clips

Large Metal Hinge Clips, 20 Pack

I had a gig on Sunday in the park. It was a lovely day in Southend and it must have gotten up to about 25° or 26°c. However, there was a bit of a breeze and my music would have gone everywhere were it not for these little fellows. Make sure you buy some bulldog clips to avoid your pages flying everywhere for those outdoor gigs!

Stationery

It’s handy to have decent pens and pencils! I wouldn’t skimp just to save a few pennies. I always keep some fine point Sharpies, ball point pens and HB pencils as well as rubbers and sharpeners with me when I’m out teaching, gigging or recording. Buying quality will ensure that you don’t waste money on unusable writing tools.

I would massively recommend the Zebra pens for writing chord charts. They enable you to write really quickly and seem to last forever!

Conclusion

My experience has taught me what tools work and what tools don’t. If you opt for buying some of these items, you should be able to spend less time stressing and more time playing!

Best bass guitar books for all abilities

Here are some of the best bass books that I have come across during my almost twenty years of playing experience. I have spent hours trawling through most of these and have learnt so much from them. I use them every day with students too. You are sure to progress with these!

Click on the titles to purchase.

Beginner

Hal Leonard Bass Method
Hal Leonard Bass Method: Complete Edition
This is the bass book to get if you are beginning to learn how to play the bass, or even if you have been playing for some time and would like to learn how to read music (in the bass clef of course!). I would say that this is a must have for all bass students. It comes with a CD too, so you can listen to recordings of the pieces played by pro musicians as you read the music.

Intermediate

Simplified Sight-Reading for Bass
Simplified Sight-Reading for Bass
This is an excellent book for those wishing to really take their understanding of rhythm/intervals/scales et cetera, up a notch. ‘Simplified Sight-reading for Bass’ starts off quite simply, and gets into some harder stuff quite quickly, so I would recommend this to more intermediate players who have already worked through a fair chunk of the Hal Leonard book (see above). However, that is not to say that I have not seen success with this book in the hands of beginners: the earlier exercises comprising of crotchets, minims and semibreves are easy enough to get started with. Be warned, most of the pieces are atonal and don’t repeat any motifs, and so may not make ‘musical sense’. This is not a drawback: quite the contrary, this is designed specifically to make the music less predictable/less easily memorisable so that the student focuses more intently on learning.

Advanced

Reading Contemporary Electric Bass - Berklee Press
Reading Contemporary Electric Bass: Guitar Technique
For the experienced player. This is a great book to progress onto if you feel like taking your reading even further. Berklee Press have created a fantastic book full of etudes containing harder rhythms, changing time/key signatures and lots of playing across the bar line. These difficult areas of study are all linked to specific styles also, which is a very useful, informative aspect of the book.

Big band

Sittin' In with the Big Band, Vol 1

Sittin’ In with the Big Band, Vol 1: Bass (Book & CD)
Alfred Publishing have created a really detailed, educative set of books for all big band instruments. If big band swing, latin or ballads are your kind of things, you should probably have this in your collection! On the included disc, each track is available with or without bass. This is great as you can check how well you are doing against the guide bass track. I spent some hours with these and enjoyed every moment of it!

 

Sittin' In with the Big Band, Vol 2
Sittin’ In with the Big Band, Vol 2: Bass (Book & CD)
Here’s the next book in the series, volume two. This book takes the difficulty level up a notch, but don’t worry, it’s not outrageously difficult: if you have gotten through book one, you should be fine!

New pop charts

Hi!

I wrote some charts for some functions recently and am making them publicly available.

Just a small disclaimer: there will be some inexact bits and may be some errors, these were just rough transcriptions to get me through the gigs I was doing. Perhaps they may do the same for you, or maybe you’d just like to do some reading practice.

Either way, here they are, along with the recordings:

I can’t get over you – Electric bass

Fast Love – Electric bass

Just the way you are (Brit Awards 2012 live version) – Electric bass

Happy sight reading!

Ben

Peter Pan – the musical, a function, and two jazz gigs

Hi,

The week that has just gone by has been intense. I was studying the charts for a musical whilst learning tunes for a gig with Crissy Lee (well-known drummer who worked alongside the Beatles, Al Jarreau) and Jackie Rawe (of Shakatak fame) et al, and all the while, trying to practice some standards for the two jazz gigs on Sunday.

Peter Pan, the musical, was a success. It was great to work with such good musicians, who all nailed their parts!

Peter Pan musical in the theatre
On the first night, just before the doors opened.

Musicals leave me feeling upbeat after the last show; there’s something really satisfying about playing the parts accurately and making the show a success. Also, the gifts/thank you cards are always a nice gesture!

Peter Pan musical - postcard with thank you note
It’s nice to be appreciated! Thanks to all involved.

On the Saturday, after the run of shows had finished, it was time go to a function in aid of the Peldon Village Hall and Essex Air Ambulance causes. This was with the wonderful Crissy Lee and Jackie Rawe amongst other fine muso’s. I had a great time and there were some really nice musical moments.

Peldon gig with Crissy Lee
This event sold out and was a great fundraiser for the causes mentioned.
Peldon gig - auction
It’s always nice to play in fine surroundings.

On the Sunday, I was at Leigh on Sea playing some jazz/latin music at Ten Green Bottles, and it was great to catch up and play with the great guitarist, Dan Parker. Later on that evening, even though I was fairly tired from a hectic week, I drove to the jazz gig with Graeme Culham at The Woolpack in Chelmsford. The place was pretty packed and it was a pleasure to play with Sam Edwards, Zak Barrett and of course Graeme. This is a brilliant monthly jazz gig that charges nothing on the door, and sees some of the best in UK jazz talent going through it! Jim Mullen, Nigel Price and Simon Spillett are all players who have come down to play. If you’re in the area, and even if you’re not, it’s well worth a look.

I have a comparatively restful, easy week this week, and am looking forward to a little bit more time off.

Thanks for reading,

Ben

Studio time! And my wonderful Roscoe fretless bass.

Hi,

Recently I have been in and out of the studio at James Ivey’s place and it’s been fun.

Initially, we had recorded a ton of function promo material (over two days worth) and the audio had unfortunately become corrupted and unusable. The video was fine though, so we had the gruelling task of transcribing our parts and re-recording the audio to sync with the original video.

That wasn’t particularly fun.

But, hanging with the guys at the studio was great! We managed to track nineteen songs in six hours, which was a relief, as I had a lot on that day.

However, I learnt after that day that we had another few tracks to record that hadn’t been overlooked, but there was a bit of confusion as to whether we were doing them or not.

These tracks were for the promotional material for a Mumford and Sons’ style outfit and were relatively simple apart from one minor issue…

They were originally recorded on double bass and the video clearly showed a guy playing these tunes on one! I am not really an upright bass player (at the moment), and don’t own one – but (!) I do own an amazing substitute!

Behold, the Roscoe fretless five string bass!

A full photo of my Roscoe Century five string bass in the studio.
The Roscoe in the studio.
My fretless Roscoe bass in the studio.
I love this bass!

This bass, made by the brilliant luthiers over at Roscoe Guitars in the U.S. of A. is just brilliant, and I cannot fault it! Another mention needs to be made for the excellent pickups that Bartolini creates. I am so happy with the way these sound.

The bass recorded really well, producing a very clean signal, with no noise and plenty of fretless tones to choose from. It is both a producer’s and a bass player’s dream.

I recorded the upright tracks with this bass with producer/engineer James Ivey adding some EQ on his marvellous analogue desk (see pictures). The result was a lovely warm, clear and rich tone that proved to be pretty convincing! I know there is really no substitute for the real thing, but for a much smaller instrument with a completely different design/no f-holes/no sound chamber et cetera, this did remarkably well!

Anyway, I had a great time hanging and recording with the guys, even though the preparation for it was pretty stressful! Next time, we have agreed to record something just for fun.

Thanks for reading,

Ben

Recent function gigs

Hi,

I have had some great function gigs lately!

The following is a bit of a ramble about a few of the functions I’ve done of late. Other gigs like jazz gigs/jams etc. aren’t in this post, but I will put more up about those soon.

This Saturday just gone (2oth May) I was in Sheffield with a band called The Ushers, with whom I really enjoy working. It’s a nice hang and they choose some great tunes that I’m not used to playing at weddings. I know it’s cheesy and all, but I enjoyed playing ‘Dancing on the ceiling’ and ‘Nothing’s gonna stop us now’ as it was refreshing to do some (slightly) more complicated stuff harmonically/structurally.

I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of performing tunes that have more convoluted forms to them, with lots happening. To me, it feels really positive when I know that I’ve played everything as close to the record as possible, or at least have given it a really good go, especially when the song is a bit more of a challenge. This is why accurately charting out tunes helps me as I find it tricky to memorise everything, due to my gigs mostly being dep work and there being different repertoires needed for different gigs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the time to properly transcribe some of the set. I did however, write myself out some cheat sheets which are extremely useful.

Writing out cheat sheets for function gigs. The image is of the cheat sheets.
Essentially, these were just some very rough chord charts with basic structures to them. Vital!

I think it’s best to do this style of transcription when you are pushed for time or have lots of tunes to learn. It’s invaluable to have accurate structures written down too.

The gig was great fun! We played in the heart of Sheffield at the Millenium Gallery and there were some great moments.

A recent wedding I played at in Sheffield.
The multi-coloured Chinese lanterns were a nice touch.

The previous Saturday (13th May), I was in Kingston-upon-Thames in a wedding venue with the narrowest stage door I’ve ever seen. It was tricky to get some of the gear in! Apart from that it was another really lovely gig, with some friends, and some new people I hadn’t met before (one of whom has given me eight more dates to put in the diary, which was nice).

Here, the guitarist and drummer are setting up before the gig.
The guys setting up before the gig.

The onstage sound was great! I could hear my rig perfectly. It makes the gig that much better when you can properly hear yourself.

The Sunday before that I was with one of my good friend’s, Chris Pusey, and his band The Vibrations. This was the one that I used those transcriptions of ‘Wake me up before you go-go’ and ‘…baby one more time’ for and I’m so glad I did. The rest of the band were completely on it and were tight as anything, so I had to make sure I was too.

Reading wedding.
A wedding in Reading. Beautiful venue with a waterfall just out of shot.

Hidden deep in the countryside, this charming old mill had a waterfall outside which created a lovely ambience. I love countryside gigs.

Animated image of me playing on stage.
Animated gif!!! Because it’s still as cool as it was in the 90’s/2000’s right?! 😉 Click/tap on it for it to work.

It’s been a pretty busy month. It’s been a lot of fun doing these gigs and I’m looking forward to the summer where there’ll be a load more!

Thanks for reading,

Ben

Some function charts, Musescore and other thoughts

Hi all,

(Free bass parts to function tunes below…)

Ben Hearn at a big band gig with sheet music.
An accidental selfie (taken whilst trying to record video of myself for showreel purposes) at a swing big band gig.

Due to having quite a few functions coming up where I will be standing in for somebody else, I have decided to try and get really quick at transcribing pop tunes. This is because I can use the chart on the night of the gig and aim to play the song as accurately as possible to the original recording. Check out this great video from Adam Neely  who talks about this exercise and how to get quicker at it.

Some of my students have asked which software I use to transcribe. I’m using the really rather good Musescore which is free and is, in my opinion, very easy to learn and use. I feel it needs saying at this point that I am really thankful to the developers at Musescore for creating such a comprehensive and substantial piece of software for free. If you can’t afford Sibelius, this is a great alternative! It’s available for PC, Mac and Linux and is well worth getting, I think.

Anyway, the following charts took me a while to do, so I thought rather than just myself benefiting from them, perhaps they can be of use to others. Please feel free to have a look and use them on gigs or at home. I have tried to be 99% accurate with it, but have made some movements towards trying to make things more readable, and using fewer pages/less whitespace. For example, I feel that certain fills or embellishments can sometimes be omitted if the rest of a section can be repeated without them and it doesn’t detract from the overall feel or harmonic movement of the line. In other words, if it’s not vital to the tune, it doesn’t always end up on the page. I feel it’s just a way of de-cluttering the notation and making sure we don’t have to turn pages too often. If anyone spots any errors, please get in touch and I will try to correct them. I intend to do more pop charts so stay tuned!

Free stuff banner

Hit Me Baby One More Time – bass part

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – bass part

Thanks for reading,

Ben

 

New website!

Hi all,

I’m very excited to share with you, my new website!

Here you’ll find information about me and my musical endeavours. At the moment, this website is still under construction, so please bear with me. 🙂

I endeavour to keep a blog about music related things throughout the year in order to share some interesting stories and other cool things.

I’m currently available for gigging, recording and teaching work for limited dates in 2017. This year is stacking up to be very busy! Please get in contact via benhearn @ hotmail .co.uk (delete spaces).

Thanks for reading.

Ben