root of it all

Together with his younger brother, drummer Carlton “Carly” Barrett, Fams created and established much of the hypnotic pulse and infectious vibe that characterizes reggae rhythms.

Photo by Martin Raggio/Wiki Commons

As a member of Bob Marley and the Wailers, he was one of reggae’s original creators.

Bass is about connection—within the music, among the players, and between the musicians and the listener. Even if you can only hear a song’s bass line, say, in a noisy, crowded room, or through an adjoining wall, you might be able to recognize the song—and conjure up all the memories and emotions of how that song speaks to you. Simply through bass. In the musical conversation between rhythm and harmony, bass bridges the gap, gluing everything together. And chances are, as the bass player in your band, you’re not only providing that musical groove glue, but you may also be holding the band together practically and interpersonally. And the whole time, you’re making everyone and everything feel and sound good.

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By approaching your electric bass like a string player, you’ll find easier ways to get around the fretboard.

When I began playing in ’80s London, there were no electric bass teachers and no programs that recognized it as an instrument. It was like the Wild West, with most making it up as they went. I had to play upright in college in order to get in, and there was no jazz program, so I studied classical. I chose classical guitar as my second instrument, because I thought studying the technique might be useful. Over the years, I developed my approach by taking useful pieces from all these different places, in addition to what I picked up from watching or listening to great players. One of the most important areas I spent time on was fingerings and positions.

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Don’t wait ’til mixing to get a great tone. Record your sound as best as you can to make your tracks shine.

Recording bass can be a challenging task. Whether we are talking about a natural, woody upright-bass tone that balances well within a jazz quartet, or a nice, round electric tone with definition and copious amounts of low end for “modern” situations, the science behind how to achieve these sounds has eluded more than a few engineers and players. As both a player and as a recording and mixing engineer, I wanted to pass on a few tips that have served me well over the years.

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