Using the bow in a non classical musical context is a great challenge. It requires technical precision, sound control from both the bass and the other player’s side and most importantly, musical and esthetical ideas which will work with the bowed sound.

. La Soucoupe

The solo section of one of my own compositions. Featured on the album "Virages", exploring the arco acoustic and electric bass phrasing in unisson...

. Kashmir

With this cover of Led Zeppelin Kashmir, We continue to dig in the Blues-rock phrasing with the bowed bass.

This arrangement emphasizes a lot on power chords, double stops and open strings.
We use a low D. If you detune your bass to reach this D, Keep in mind the fingerings change on the low string that will happen during the (what I call Verse).

Except the regular sound and pitch challenges, the trickiest part would be the verse. 
The melody obviously needs accompaniment to maintain a coherent sound with the other riffs of the song.

I did not include bow strokes and articulations as I try not to fix things too much to keep things a little free. Obviously, multiple Articulation/Fingerings/Bow strokes combinations is the best way to have control on the sound and the flow.

Here is the structure of the video version :
.Main riff - Verse - Chorus - Main riff - Chorus - Solo section (not charted) - Chorus - Main riff

Challenge : Playing the main power riff with solid groove and using ghost and low D as a rhythmical punctuation.

Challenge : . Switching between the main melody, some bass parts suggesting harmony and actual chords in the verse section. (this is my arrangement of the melody over the verse chords :  [| D | D/Bb | G/B | C |]

Challenge : . Maintaining good pitch in the Chorus section while building a crescendo between the first and second time playing it.

For the switch to the solo section, we keep the original odd meter transition (not detailed on chart).
The last bar of the chorus preceding the solo section becomes an 9/8 bar to fit the solo section’s fill to land on a big A power chord. The fill in question is actually the same as in the whole solo section.

Have fun !

. Billie's Bounce

The arco played bass often produces a very recognizable sound that emulates distinctive phrasing styles in itself (classical, early swing, bluegrass…) Blues phrasing can be a good medium to incorporate bow playing in various musical contexts as blues is one of the basis of many music we tend to play.

Starting by learning the head of a standard like Billie’s bounce is a great way to explore different bow strokes and fingering combinations. While playing with a swing feel, using slides and other articulations will help gain fluidity.
Having a plain fat sound is essential to a clear phrasing but can sometimes make the bass sound a little harsh. The left hand inflections and bow change of speed and pressure can help soften the sound while keeping it powerful and articulated.

When playing with an even eights feel, especially when tempo is doubled, as in the video example, getting back to more clear and simple alternating bow strokes can help solidify rhythm placement and sound consistency. Once again, as improvisers, exploring various bow strokes, even changing them between two versions helps building musical vocabulary and expand improvising possibilities.

For the improvisation itself, beginning by very simple (harmonically and rhythmically) lines allows to build the solo in a safe way (jazz bass bow solos can be a risky exercise). Blues lines work great to start and develop a solo. Here are a few lines from the video version, feel free to try your own and, of course, try as many bow strokes and articulations combinations !

The example is the 2nd chorus (0’55) and shows typical major pentatonic blues lines (note the use of repetitions, slight rhythmic changes for each pattern, emphasis on the upbeats and accents on basic chord tones).

Et Voila !
Finally, my little special, Bass Bow and Bass/Kalimba
All the best

1 comment:

  1. What key and scale mode works best with bass and kalimba?
    What are your kalimbas tuned to?
    Many Thanks