Using his Akai MPC 3000, J Dilla created an off-the-grid rhythmic feel that influenced a generation of bassists and drummers.

From James Brown to J Dilla, understanding note placement is a key to rhythmic mastery.

There’s so much to discuss when it comes to bass playing. One of the most basic and valuable skills to be explored on bass—or any instrument for that matter—is placement, or where exactly to play relative to the beat. To a certain extent, this can be a cultural question, decided by where one was raised or what one was raised upon. However, some musicians are more intentional about their choice of placement, and thus choose to study feel and the multitude of possibilities within.

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Some see a rusty oil drum—a byproduct of Trinidad's oil industry. Others see a musical opportunity.

The steel pan orchestra proves that bass is more than an instrument. It’s an experience.

I’m here in Trinidad and Tobago, and I’ve been exploring the bass role from the perspective of my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, who were bought here as slaves from Africa. Looking back, there is no doubt whatsoever that my Trini roots helped shape the bass player I became, because T&T is a bass-centric place. Trinidadians might sing the bass line or melody, when it comes to recalling a favorite song. As a child, I, too, found myself constantly fascinated by whatever the drums and bass were doing.

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Leonard “Hub” Hubbard was the founding bassist of the Roots, playing in the group from 1992 to 2007. He lost a long battle with cancer in December 2021.

Photo by Ginny Suss

As a member of the Roots, Leonard “Hub” Hubbard created a vocabulary for live hip-hop.

What’s in a name? How do names define us and the lives we live? Within my culture, everybody has both a given and “chosen name.” A hub is literally the central part of a wheel, but symbolically it’s that thing around which all motion happens. Hub, aka Leonard Hubbard, was the original bassist in the Roots, and one could argue that if hip-hop had a hub, it would be bass. Sadly, Hub lost his long battle with cancer in December 2021.

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Anthony Tidd backstage in Denmark with his custom Martin Petersen-built Sei bass.

In this introductory installment, our new columnist Anthony Tidd considers his own path to discovering the most important role of the bass—and it’s not lightning-fast technique!

In a world where Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are literally saturated with teens and younger kids who have bass chops capable of scaring most grown bassists into an early grave, the prospects of ever becoming the next to achieve Jameson- or Jaco-level status seem bleak. Last week, a friend sent me a video of a very young girl ripping through John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” solo as Coltrane played along in the background. She sounded great, and so did Coltrane! I, too, learned that solo in my late teens, so I know firsthand how hard it is to play up to speed, but she did it with a smile and made it look easy.

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