we were driving home after a performance with the Dutch Standards
Quartet, my good friend Peter Massink said he thought I was an excellent
bass player and that I had found my own style. Nobody plays
bass like you do, he said. I considered that to be a huge
compliment (especially because it came from him, I think Peter is
a really fantastic saxophone player). As a jazz musician, we all
want to develop our own unique sound and style, our very own voice
and approach. A few years ago, Classic Fm broadcasted a jazz program
every day (its really a pity they stopped this program). There
was a quiz in this program; you would listen to a soloist for a
few seconds and then had to guess who the soloist was. I knew the
soloist frequently and won seven CDs. It may be quite impressive
that I won 7 CDs in a short time, but even more impressive
is the fact that these jazz musicians were so recognizable after
I had heard them for five seconds, These musicians had a very distinct
voice that enabled me to recognize them time and again.
How do you find your own voice and sound? The answer is very simple:
just play the way you think is very beautiful. If you play the way
you like best, youll play the way you think a bassist ought
to play, and I can assure you that your way differs from the way
that any other bassist in the world thinks is the best way. Every
human being has a unique taste and so do you. So stop hiding yourself
by choosing a sound that is not the sound that you really prefer.
Coltrane had to endure a lot of criticism. Critics thought his tone
was very thin and a little pathetic. But Coltrane just kept playing
the way he thought best and after a while, more and more people
understood he was a genius. Chet Baker had to endure the same criticism.
I dont think he bothered too much; he just sounded the way
he wanted to sound.
you know the bass player Steve Swallow? I have to admit, I didnt
like his strange sound at all the first time I heard it. But this
is a very distinct voice played by a very musical and unique bass
player. Stanley Clarke, Jacco Pastorius and Dave Holland are very
recognizable and unique bass players to. So just play the way you
think is beautiful; they do the same. If youre lucky, people
will like what you play, but even if thats not so, I still
believe you have to remain true to your taste. The only way to remain
true to your playing and to make sense as a musician, is to play
exactly the way you want to play.
The same goes for the notes you play. There are a lot of opinions
going round concerning the notes a bass player ought to play. As
I have said in earlier lessons: as a bass player youre free
to play the notes you think are the best at any given moment. You
do not have to be overly concerned with explaining the harmonies
to the soloist while playing for instance. Nowadays the soloist
is supposed to know the harmonies. This gives us the freedom to
enrich the harmonies that are being played and to play exactly the
way he think is best although it is very useful to understand
certain principles (see lesson 5, walking bass for instance).
When youre learning to play the bass, youll probably
meet people who assure you that its best to copy the way bass
masters play bass. Of course, its a good idea to study and
understand certain principles of bass playing how can you
learn the main rhythms otherwise? But I resist the idea that its
a good thing to copy other musicians. There are way too much Charlie
Parkers, John Coltranes, Miles Daviss , Michael Breckers,
Marcus Millers and Jacco Pastoriuss in the world. They're
great musicians, I enjoy their playing very much, but one of them
is quite enough. Maybe I was a bit too scared to be influenced too
much, its possible. But still: play your way as much as possible.
Im convinced its the only way. And who knows, maybe
people will come to see you as the ultimate bass master!