Posts Tagged ‘Tim Boomer’

Here’s one from my old pal and ex-bandmate up in S.F.,  Mick Berry, who’s the co-author of The Drummer’s Bible: How To Play Every Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco:

“There are two types of people in this world: musicians, and other people who are even more unhappy.”

If you think that’s dark, here’s an earlier one: “Why don’t people who don’t play music just get it over with and shoot themselves?” (He wasn’t kidding.)

Micko, who just turned a spry 60, will be in Austria in May performing one of his one-man plays, Dad fought Hitler and Me, and will be in Los Angeles performing his latest one-man, Keith Moon: The Real Me, at the L.A Fringe Festival in June and then in Europe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a couple of months later.

Not that anyone cares, but he’ll also be in Tucson sometime this summer along with Bassist’s Bible author Tim Boomer to do some recording and to play a couple of jobs at the local blues dives along with yours truly and some talented local friends. It’ll be huge fun for either a no- or five-dollar cover featuring two great musicians.

(In the meantime, the surviving members of my 20-years-past blues band, Green Bullet Band, will be performing at House of Bards in early June, featuring my good bud, musical collaborator, and brilliant front man Brian Hullfish. The only front man I’ve ever seen who I though was better was David Byrne, with maybe Mick Jagger on a par. I’m not kidding. If you’re in Tucson, do yourself a favor and see this performance that will be free on a Sunday night. Stay tuned.)



Cover of "The Bassist's Bible: How to Play Every Bass Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydecoby Tim Boomer, author of The Bassist’s Bible: How to Play Every Bass Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco

The most common role for a bassist is, of course, to support his or her band rhythmically and harmonically. Bassists are not limited to any specific role, however, as we can do considerably more, such as playing the hook (or the melody) and soloing, improvising, and comping.

Providing a solid foundation for a band is still, however, the usual role of the bassist—especially if you play in a dance band. The bassist is the bridge between the melodic players and the rhythm section. You live in both worlds: melody and rhythm. You are that bridge.

There is truth in the saying that “You make most of your money below the fifth fret.” You establish the chord being played and the basis of the pulse simultaneously by playing the root note of the chord on the first beat of a measure (and at most chord changes). Next in importance to the root, usually, is the fifth, then the third or seventh. Pretty simple stuff, but it works.

It is also common to play patterns. Bass lines. This does not prevent you from varying the pattern in a musical way by slightly changing the notes played, note duration, or by adding a little syncopation, but over the course of a song there will still typically be a pattern. This might seem obvious, or easy, but you need to lock in with the drummer, be aware of solos, notice when the lead singer changes the form, watch the dancers on the floor, try not to knock over your drink, and still keep it interesting.

You can learn a lot by watching the dancers and seeing the effects of your playing. A groove is a pattern, a predictable sound that dancers can follow. Watch them. Bassists (and the rest of the band) may get bored playing the same lines over and over again, so, of course you’ll fill and vary the pattern in other ways, but if you break the groove too often, dancers will get out of sync, the thread will be broken, and the dancers will stop.

One way to be creative, and keep dancers happy, is to understand playing “in the pocket.” This is often described as playing in such a way that the groove is very solid. The bassist locks in with the drummer and never wavers. Using the standard rock beat as an example, the drummer plays kick drum on beat one (the downbeat) and also on beat three, and the snare on beats two and four. The bassist also plays precisely on the downbeat, followed by a pattern. That pattern can be a little ahead of the beat or behind the beat or exactly on the beat. As long as the drummer and bassist are in sync with each other, and play/feel the downbeat at the same time, they are in the pocket. You know it when youre in it, as it feels like the music is playing you, or the entire band is one instrument.

If you are not playing for dancers, you can leave the groove at any time—but returning to it provides resolution in a song. For instance, in jazz, the bassist (or more often a horn player or pianist) plays the “head” (the melody played in the first verse of a multi-verse song) after several choruses of solos to bring the tune to a close. And the audience will recognize it—“Oh look, theyre playing that theme again”—and any improvisation that came before the final statement of the head will seem intentional.

In the same way, once you have established the basic foundation of a song, look for holes where nothing much is happening—a sustained note or chord perhaps, or a straight groove. You can then find a space to develop an idea—either melodically or rhythmically. You can repeat a note, syncopate, or play (a) note(s) outside of the pattern you’ve established.

You can also intentionally leave holes by resting, as in Reggae bass lines. This sets up a pattern that extends across measures rather than a pattern that repeats within a single measure. It still allows complexity, but in a relaxed context. It also allows your bandmates a lot of space. Study Miles Davis to learn about the spaces in music.

Developing your own style has a lot to do with knowing when to play and when not to. In a few words: “If in doubt, lay out.” Typically, if there are vocals, you simplify and come down in volume to allow the focus to be on the vocalist.

Another important aspect of playing bass is to learn to use fills tastefully. Fills are usually played at the end of four– (or eight- or twelve-) measure patterns that lead to a new section of a song or the repeat of a verse. They are not played in random places.

This doesnt mean that a bassist must strictly follow rules. Jazz musicians and jam bands often break rules, and often get away with it—sometimes with brilliant results. It is simply helpful to know that some styles sound better when you play patterns typical of them.

The bass now encompasses everything from standup bass to electric bass to synthesized and sampled bass. Basses themselves now feature not just 4 strings, but 5, 6, and even 12 strings; theyre produced with up to 28 frets. There are both fretted and fretless basses, acoustic bass guitars, piccolo basses, and onboard-MIDI basses. And its certain that more variations are waiting in the wings.

The technique of playing these instruments has also evolved greatly over the years. Bass technique is virtually unlimited now. You can combine nearly any style with any other, from anywhere in the world. You can use effects, tap, slap, pluck, pick, thump, play with a bow (or an e-bow). You can lay down an unmistakable heavy groove or take extended solos in a jam format. You can also just play roots, fifths, and octaves on a standup or a P-bass and be happy.

As one of my deepest influences, John Entwistle from The Who, said when asked what he thought when he saw another bass player, and what he felt about the camaraderie of bassists: “The first thing I think of is poor fellow” (and, paraphrasing, “poor bastard”). We are underrated and underappreciated, but essential.

I love bass. Thank you all for being bassists. We need more of us.

Several of our authors have web sites. Here are the ones that immediately come to mind:

Over the next few days I’ll contact the other authors who seem like they might have either a site or blog, and will add any that come up. So, if you’re interested, please check back shortly and you’ll probably find additional author sites and blogs.

Note: Tim Boomer, who wrote The Bassist’s Bible, is also a computer pro who wrote the very nice looking Bassist’s Bible web site. He’s currently rewriting the See Sharp Press site, which badly needs the update. I wrote it in html 3 over 15 years ago, and it looks it. It’s not quite in Save Walter White territory, but not that far beyond it. The spiffy looking redesigned site will be up later this summer.

Finally, in non-book-related news, Mick Berry, co-author of The Drummer’s Bible, has a web site up for his one-man show, Keith Moon: The Real Me, which is playing in San Jose through June 24th.


We put up our 1,000th post a few days ago. We’re now looking through everything we’ve posted, and are putting up “best of” lists in our most popular categories.

This is the fourth of our first-1,000 “best of” lists. We’ve already posted the Science FictionAddictions, and Interviews lists, and will shortly be putting up other “best ofs” in several other categories, including Anarchism, Atheism, Economics, Humor, Politics, Religion, Science, and Skepticism.

Best Music Posts

We just put up our 1,000th post —  this  is number 1,003 — a few days ago. We’re now looking through everything we’ve posted, and are putting up “best of” lists in our most popular categories.

This is the third of our first-1,000 “best of” lists. We’ve already posted the Science Fiction “best of” and the Addictions “best of” lists, and will shortly be putting up other “best ofs” in several other categories, including Anarchism, Atheism, Economics, Humor, Music, Politics, Religion, Science, and Skepticism.

Best Interviews

Drunks at Music Gigs

Posted: August 10, 2013 in Humor, Music
Tags: ,



by Tim Boomer, author of The Bassist’s Bible: How to Play Every Bass Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco

Back in my youth, heavy drinking wasn’t a big part of my scene, musically or personally. People did other things for fun. (We were on a Spiritual Quest,you know? If something you ingested messed up your body or spirit it was not OK.)

So, my experience with out-of-control audiences was altogether different from that of musicians who played the bars–that bar experience could be summed up as “jump on stage, grab the mic, sing horribly off key, and fall on the band’s equipment.”

The weirdness I dealt with consisted of spacey, sometimes creepy, eyes watching you move across the stage, and people twirling, twirling, twirling, walking around naked or in costume, or just jerking their bodies around mindlessly–sometimes when the music wasn’t even playing. It wasn’t frightening, just a little weirder than I appreciated at the time. And I was mostly in the audience in those days.

But things weren’t weird and blissful all the time. (Altamont — the Rolling Stones free Bay Area Rock show and a possible subject of a future post — is a good example of bad craziness.)

The first bar gig I played was in the 1970s with my first performing band, “Taxi, which played Latin Jazz Rock Fusion. We loved Latin Rock, but we were all deep into Electric Jazz . We had an awesome Afro-Cuban  percussionist, Robert Rios, Charlie de la Casa on crazy jazz guitar, and Dennis Seacrest, an eclectic drummer.

We were very experimental, but our music was very structured. We played nothing but original material, and all of us were writing. We had synthesizers (a big deal then) and effects on bass and guitar, and even a sax and vocals on some of the paid gigs. (You remember us, right?)

We could play almost anywhere — art galleries, parks, private parties–because we had our own PA system. So, we did not have to deal much with drunks. Then we got a gig on a rooftop bar in the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, opening for a cover band one Friday night.

We played our set and watched the the audience–business types–loosen their ties and drink cocktails in these huge fishbowl-like glasses. A few of them tried to dance to our compositions (in 7/8 or 13/8) and were wondering why their moves weren’t quite working. (Instead of dancing to a beat of 1-2-3-4, think of dancing while counting to 7 or 13.) After our set, the bar manager told us that the other band hadn’t shown up, and asked if we would play two more sets.

This was very cool except for 1) My pants.  The pair I had on were so old and tight that I split them completely up the back and I was hanging out big time back there. I honestly can’t remember if I was wearing underwear. I often didn’t. And 2) The songs. We did not know a second or third set.

Details details. We went for it anyway (of course). Immediately. We were getting paid.

We had practiced a few funk tunes, so we just stretched them out and played endless grooves, improvising on vocals, while I stood strategically in front of my amp as the sun went down into the cool night behind me, hoping no one would notice my costume malfunction. It was glorious.

We watched our audience get more and more loose and we suddenly had a dance crowd! Happy drunks! What fun! I stayed on stage the entire time,  happy though a bit drafty in the rear, not moving a muscle except my fingers, and with a grin on my face a mile wide. New territory.


Decades later I was playing with “Who Tube” (my Who cover band — band name changed to protect the guilty) at an Irish bar in SF, that tolerated us and our crazy volume because we were so good (as long as we didn’t display a Union Jack). A few songs into our first set a guy, well into his pints, grabbed a waitress and began really whirling her around. At first she seemed OK, trying to just go with it, but when he picked her up and flipped her upside down, she retreated behind the bar. My wife was in the crowd, and I was a bit worried until she wedged herself up on a seat between two guys at the bar, one of them her friend, Javier. Ah. Relief. Next song.

Our protagonist’s next available partner was a bar stool which he whipped around, looping and twirling joyfully while the entire room gave him a    lot of space on the suddenly empty dance floor.  A few songs (and probably a few IPAs) later he grabbed a guy as big as he was and started spinning him around.  Just as they moved in on the stage in front of me he lost control and crashed across my mic stand, through the floor monitors and onto our dinky one foot tall stage. Nowhere to go.  Beer and glass and guys flying everywhere. I saw it coming and literally stepped backwards into a field of cymbals and drums, rotated my bass skyward, and just kept playing.

My mantra: “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along now. These are not the droids you are looking for.”  -Obi Wan Boomer)

More immediately, “Shit! Background vocal coming up! Shit! No mic! Mic stand on the ground. Fuck! Never mind. No problem. Lucky to be alive. Keep playing.”

Our dancer got up, bloody, yelling “I’m OK!” despite being so obviously not OK, and crawled back to the bar. My hunch was that this was not his first time in this position. Nor had it been mine.

The weirdest / creepiest drunk-related incident happened while I was playing with my originals band Offbeats in Hayward. Just before our second set, a large drunk woman in Raiders gear asked Jay, my guitarist, if she could see his guitar just as we went on stage. He leaned over to show it to her and she tried to grab it. He pulled back and we started the set.

I walked up to the mic to do a vocal and when I moved back to my amp she was behind me on her hands and knees, on stage and going for Jay’s other guitar. I started yelling at her above the music. “Hey! Get the Fuck out of here! This is NOT going to happen!  Get off the fucking stage!” She grabbed my beer, took a huge slug, spilled it on my amp and slunk off. We watched the police take her away as we loaded our gear at the end of the night, as she was too zonked to walk or talk.

My mantra then: “Sorry. Bad choice on your part. Please examine your life. This is not working.”


My friend Kirk reminded me of a Who Tube gig that he saw on the same stage in Hayward where Offbeats met the “on-stage Guitar Strangler.”

Our lead singer, Mr. Z — in his Roger Daltrey persona — was doing his “rope trick,” which consisted of swinging the mic around on its cable in a carefully controlled loop that could normally only wound or maim one of the musicians on stage, and not harm anyone in the audience. But we were on a very small stage.

Anyway, someone in the audience messed with our singer, so he let fly the rope trick to end all rope tricks and let the mic swing free, but somehow managed to miss the drunk. I think.

A few weeks prior, another drunk at another gig wasn’t so lucky. He’d hassled the band enough that Mr. Z actually clocked the guy in the head with the mic in the head and he went down, out cold.

My mantra: “Shit! Lawsuits! Black list! End of Career! Death!”

But the drunk got up and said, “I’m OK!” (Thank you Buddha and Jerry Garcia! )  At the end of the set, I clearly remember saying, “Mr. Z, this is not such a good idea.” His response: “He deserved it.”


You can chose who you play with. You can’t always choose your audience. You hope to get gigs where the stage is at least tall enough that they can’t get too “up close and personal” with you and your expensive and fragile gear and irreplaceable self when they get excited.  (Alternatively, hope for a chicken-wire barrier between you and the audience.)

No matter what, though —  drunks, fights, bras or dead chickens thrown on stage, or shredded trousers —  keep on playing or things will get even weirder.

(Tim Boomer is the author of The Bassist’s Bible: How to Play Every Bass Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco.  For a free e-book copy of the original edition of  The Bassist’s Bible, go to type in the coupon code FREEBassist13 when you check out. Good through August 14, 2013.)