I believe the single most important piece of advice is to obsess over playing eighth-notes well.
1. Fretting the note with the index finger while muting softly with the remaining fingers will give you the short, staccato “Rolling in the Deep” eighth-note feel. 2. When very even eighth-notes are required, playing with one finger and your thumb steadily anchored is a good way to go. It will give you the evenness of pick playing, but with finger tone.
A renowned guitarist friend of mine once asked me, “If a guitarist spends 90 percent of his time on a gig playing rhythm and 10 percent of his time playing lead, why does he spend 90 percent of his practice time playing solos?” That question was an eye-opener for me. But I was young at the time, and though I completely understood his point in theory, I still went home and practiced flashy bass licks. Later in life, however, his words would serve as my mantra while practicing and cultivating my growing infatuation with eighth-notes.
Some 15 years ago while in school studying bass, one of my teachers told me that the ’80s was a dark decade for rock bass because most guys were playing eighthnotes on the root, and not exploring the possibilities of the instrument. I actually had the opposite opinion and reaction to this statement. In fact, my love and fascination for playing eighth-notes on the root has grown exponentially since then. I dare say I have built a large part of my career doing so. And, for any bassist with the ambition of sounding professional and solid, I believe the single most important piece of advice is to obsess over playing eighth-notes well.
While teaching private lessons, I’ve had students with plenty of theory knowledge and soloing chops who have graduated from some of the nation’s top universities and music departments. To my surprise, these students had been given no information whatsoever about note-value choices and techniques that make up the foundation for every popular music genre: eighth-notes! It’s like teaching someone woodworking skills without giving them a hammer and nails. So, here are some essential tips in the science of eighth-notes for bass … the true tools of the trade.
The static eighth-note feel. This sound dates back to older soul and rock songs. One of the biggest songs of the past couple of years, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, is a shining example of this feel. The feel is static and the notes are so short they almost turn into a round, warm-sounding version of a click or a metronome. If you are using a two-finger alteration, you can get a short note value by laying the next picking finger on the string immediately following the note. I achieve this sound by actually lifting my left hand off the fretboard between every note. I also enhance the muting effect by fretting notes with my first finger when possible, and letting the other three fingers rest loosely on the string to provide additional muting. This feel is generally used in more up-tempo scenarios and you can even play slightly on top of the click to make the song feel more eager.
The bouncy eighth-note feel. This feel is my favorite one to play. You simply play short downbeats and long upbeats to execute the technique properly. The origins of this approach can be found in “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone, and you can hear it in many varying styles. It drives a song like a locomotive, providing a “self-propelling motor” to the groove. And because it grooves so hard on its own, it can even eliminate the need for a drummer! Modern-country star Keith Urban has several big hits based on this feel with “Somebody Like You” being a great example. The ’90s rock classic “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers employs this groove beautifully, with a galloping single-string rhythm guitar enhancing it. And Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” is another equally great tune that showcases the bounce. I use this in most recording sessions.
The rhythm guitar approach. When using a plectrum, you can mute the strings with the palm of your right hand and play with gentle, even downstrokes—much like you would when playing rhythm guitar in a rock song. I find myself employing this technique when recording mid-tempo, fairly mellow pop songs. Listen to L.A. session great Lee Sklar’s playing on Don Henley classics like “The Last Worthless Evening” and “The Heart of the Matter.” The tone is mellow, but relentlessly even, which is key for nailing this feel. Placing your notes slightly behind the beat does wonders in this scenario.
The legato chorus driver. Everyone from 12-year-old punk rockers to seasoned professionals use this technique daily. For total evenness, playing with a plectrum or with one finger works the best. All the notes ring out legato style and provide a flying carpet for everyone else to take a ride on. Though you probably often use this approach throughout a song, it will shine if you save it for choruses! This is the simplest and most common way to play eighth-notes on the root.
Eighth-notes as an arrangement tool. I focus on how the drummer plays the hihat. The duration of the notes should, in most cases, match the duration of yours. In a verse, you might be playing short notes. In the pre-chorus, try increasing the note value ever so slightly, and then right before the chorus, play a little harder. Finally, when the chorus hits, you play long notes to match the open hi-hat. This approach will make the chorus feel like a car pulling off the entrance ramp onto the freeway. By simply changing your note value and attack slightly, you’re able to give the song dramatic dynamics and direction for the other players to build on. You are playing bass like a producer— building each section independently while giving the song invaluable structure.
U2, Coldplay, Kings of Leon, and countless other acts have enjoyed enormous success, partly because the bassist put his ego aside and provided a wall of eighthnotes. Lastly, I would like to nominate Cliff Williams of AC/DC for president of the eighth-note states. Listen to the first 30 seconds of “Shot Down in Flames” and you just might join the campaign.
Victor Brodén Nashville bassist and producer Victor Brodén has toured and recorded with more than 25 major-label artists, including LeAnn Rimes, Richard Marx, Casting Crowns, and Randy Houser. His credits also include Grammy-winning albums and numerous television specials on CMT and GAC, as well as performances on The Tonight Show and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
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Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
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G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.