by Anastacea Best
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Victor Wooten is a revolutionary bass player from Mountain Home, Idaho. From the age of two, Wooten had begun to learn bass guitar from one of his older brothers. It was then that Wooten had really taken to the bass guitar, playing with his brothers by the age of six in their band, The Wooten Brothers Band. In the instructional video, Super Bass Solo Technique created by Wooten, he shows us some of his bass-playing techniques that will allow a bass player to take their skill to the next level.
With the first technique, he shows us how to double thump. This is where the bassist’s thumb would not only thump down, but also hit the string again as they pull up. Wooten explains that it’s important not to bounce your thumb back up when you initially thump the string. This wouldn’t allow the player to thump in an upward motion since their thumb is already poised for a downward motion. He also throws in a little of his own personal preference when it comes to double thumping. Wooten explains it might be a little easier to get a nice upward thump or snap on the string when you play off the fretboard. Some bassists find it easy and actually prefer to play on the fretboard of their guitars. However, if you’re new to all of this, it might be comfortable to do it Wooten’s way first.
Wooten then takes us into the skill of two hand tapping. For first time bassists, it may be puzzling as to why one would need to learn chords. ‘Isn’t that what the guitar is there for?’ And while, most times, the bass should be holding down the rhythm and the bottom end of things, Wooten’s playing opens our eyes to the benefits of knowing our chords. Using a Gm chord, he plays the 1st note, the 3rd note, and the 5th note, but splits them apart. He uses his right hand to play the 3rd and 5th note higher on the fretboard and brings his 1st note down an octave. Then he taps them alternately, sounding almost like two separate guitars. So, although it may be out of the norm, this two hand tapping technique is something that could take a bass player’s skill to the next stage.
Wooten then takes some time to tell the viewer some of his motivations and influences. His family, more specifically his brothers, played a key role in Wooten’s desire to play the bass. He also lists some well-known names such as, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, and Larry Graham.
He talks about practicing as well. They say ‘the biggest room in the world is room for improvement.’ Wooten mirrors this saying well in his explanation of how much he practices. No serious musician ever just gets good and stops practicing. There’s always something new to learn, always a new skill to master, and always a new technique to try out. Wooten says that he practices every chance he has because “[he’s] not where [he] wants to be yet.” That attitude is important for all musicians to have. Don’t forget how far you’ve come, but keep seeing how far you can go.
In “Pretty Little Lady Groove”, we see one of Wooten’s solo techniques, double thumping, in effect. While the groove is impressive itself, what really blows my mind is, of course, his solo. He begins a call response with his brother Reji, who’s playing on the electric guitar. They’re both giving as much as they’re given and it’s a wonderful display of Wooten’s familiarity with his fretboard and the communication he has with other members of his band.
Wooten goes over his equipment a bit for us. His bass is a 4-string monarch style that’s made by Fodera. The bass isn’t custom made like other bass players’ are, like Larry Graham and Louis Johnson. The only thing Wooten says he’s added is a Kahler tremolo bar, or as most like to refer to it, a whammy bar. His preamp and power amp are both ADA brand and he uses a sound effects processor that’s made by Zoom. He also uses a drum machine, the Roland R70. But I like that Wooten explains no matter how many gadgets and toys you have, what makes you sound good is you.
The two hand tapping technique can also be used for some slow, beautiful melodies as Wooten shows us. Teaching the viewer how to make a melody using the right hand on the higher part of his fret board while outlining the various chords with his left, Wooten makes some very emotionally moving music in “Slow Groove.”
Speaking on the topic of imagination, Wooten shows how important it is to know what’s going on around you musically. Wooten says that he’d take the time to listen to what his other band members did and he’d replicate it on his bass. This allowed him to expand his style of playing bass. He recounts his experience with Bela Fleck to help the viewer understand this concept. Letting Fleck do what he does on his own banjo, on Wooten’s bass guitar, helped Wooten to see another way of playing. Now, according to Wooten,he now even plays with “a three finger banjo technique” from time to time.
I remember my old jazz instructor, Mr. Jose Encarnacion, telling all our band members that he was frustrated because we just weren’t getting it. We weren’t in sync, we weren’t playing relative to each other and it all sounded a mess. Then he said that he wanted all of us to play each other’s parts. The saxophones had to play the trombone part, the trumpets had to play the bass line and so on. We couldn’t do it. We were so much in our own little worlds that we had no idea what was going on around us. So while we were playing just fine within our sections, we were disjointed as a band. Our homework that day? Learn those various parts. When we came back together and he tested all of us, he then told us to play together. And boy, did we get it then. We understood when to back off, when to play louder, and we truly understood how our parts fit together. And most of our soloists were now able to use these various parts to enhance their improvisation. So I’d say, to any aspiring musicians, Wooten’s got the right idea. Know your music, the various parts, and you’ll find that you can do so much more.
Wooten closes out this fantastic instructional video with some tunes, “Hali Baba” and “Improvised Jam.” I hope this video will inspire any bass players who are serious about perfecting their craft. I know I am. Time to go blow the dust off the ol’ Ibanez bass.
Filed under: Bass Guitar Lessons
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