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  • My New Solo Album [un]plugged Is Out Now!

    27 avr. 2012, 22h10m

    Hello folks,

    I've been getting some great feedback about the new solo album [Un]plugged, which was officially released on Tuesday. I thought I'd drop a quick post for those of you that missed the big announcement.

    I'd been working on an acoustic album since the Autumn when I started A Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre. I was playing an acoustic bass guitar for the first time and really fell in love with the instrument. Well, not that particular instrument but the acoustic bass guitar in general! I went in search of my own bass and eventually found a beautiful Breedlove bass which I decided to use for the album.

    Since I put the album out I've sent off a few copies to various reviewers and music writers; hopefully I'll have some reviews out and about soon enough. I shall of course Tweet all the links so you can check them out.

    The album is available in glorious 24-bit audio via http://music.simonlittlebass.com. This is better than CD quality. The album is now also available (as of yesterday) on iTunes, Spotify etc if you prefer. You can only get the hi-res version at Bandcamp though. You know what to do.

    So, it's over to you now folks. If you like the record; spread the word! The most difficult thing at the moment is letting people know the music is out there. So you can share the player above, you could Tweet about it, post about it on your Facebook pages, blogs, Tumblrs. The possibilities are endless! I'm sure you'll know better than I who amongst your friends would be into this kind of music...

    I'm really pleased with the reaction so far and I'm looking forward to seeing what you all think too.

    Until next time...

    Simon x
  • Recording Solo Bass: Some Thoughts On My Solo Bass Podcast (Part II)

    4 sept. 2008, 22h50m

    Sorry it's been a while since I last posted on here. There hasn't been the usual flood of gigs to tell you all about. I've used this little gigging hiatus to develop the solo bass project and work on the Podcast. Hopefully by now most of you will have already subscribed to the Podcast. It's available at the iTunes Store or directly from my page at Podbean.
    Since I started the Podcast a few months ago, I've had a chance to examine some of the tracks in greater detail. As I mentioned in my previous blog post on the podcast (you can read it here), at some point in the near future I'm going to take the best tracks and develop them further for re-recording to make up a complete album of solo bass material. Whether the reworked tunes will bare much resemblance to the original improvisations remains to be seen. I'm assuming that the primary loops will from the backbone of any reworking, as the majority of the tracks currently up on the Podcast have only a vague suggestion of a melodic theme anyway.
    Which brings me to my first point. Some of the tracks (For example, Quietly Now, sometimes it rains in august, or A Little Light & Shade) have a clearly defined melodic line which came about through repeated improvisation over the initial loops before I started recording. These had become fixed early on in the creation of the pieces. Other tracks have a less identifiable melody, mainly because the 'tunes' were improvised along with the underlying loops. In more recent posts (mainly since the addition of the Looperlative to my recording setup), I've purposely recorded passages which could be repeated later on in the track to act as main themes. This sort of spontaneous composition is only really possible with the Looperlative. My previous setup did not allow loops to be dropped in and out during a live performance and consequently if a particular track was to feature a specific melody (as in BellsII; I still can't believe I recorded that track with just the Boss DD6! It's so far away from what I can do now with the LP1), it would have to have been written/worked out in advance so that I could play it live at the beginning and end of the piece.
    My question is this; at what point does a particular passage in an improvised performance become the theme? I notice that as I listen to the tracks together more and more, each one (including the tracks with no particular melody) has it's own little motifs which I end up singing along to. I'm just not sure whether this is through increasing familiarity with the material or because I subliminally had a theme in mind during the original performance. Sometimes these little motifs are at the point where a pre-written tune would come in, sometimes they are the loops themselves.
    When I listen to the solo bass music of Eberhard Weber, I can sing along to the themes on virtually every track. His recorded solo material is intricately through-composed, featuring some fantastic counterpoint and cross-rhythms. I'm really attracted to this style of playing and am planning on sitting down at some point and writing specific music for my solo project. I think a good mix of improvised and composed material would greatly enhance my playing. Thus far the only 'composed' piece featured on the Podcast is the very first track Bells II, which I wrote for a solo performance a few years back. When you compare it to the music I'm producing now, it really does come unstuck as a performance, but I'm glad it's still up there in all it's out-of-tune glory if nothing more than as a marker for the progress I've made over the last few months.
    Now. One of my favourite Eberhard Weber tracks is 'Epilogue' from his 1988 album Orchestra. If you haven't heard this album yet (and the fact that you're reading this blog post tells me that you must have at least a passing interest in this music!), then go and buy it now. And Pendulum. It's mainly solo bass, with a couple of tracks also featuring a small brass ensemble. It really is a masterpiece. Anyway, back to Epilogue. For me, this one track differs to all Eberhard's other solo music in that it does not have any particular tune. The piece grows organically as Eberhard layers up a series of simple diatonic loops to create a beautiful contrapuntal soundscape which serves as the basis for the improvisation. In fact, the blowing doesn't actually start until halfway through the track. The main body of the piece is the minimalistic building up of melodic layers, and is very much typical of the way Eberhard performs solo bass live. Which is specifically what I'm working on at the moment.
    Playing purely improvised music in a recording situation can be rather a tricky business if you are a perfectionist like me. It usually takes a whole afternoon or evening to produce a track I would be happy to post on the Podcast. There are a few exceptions up there, but in general they take a long time to come out right. I've learnt that there's a certain degree of abandonment that needs to come into play when publishing improvised music. At some point during the recording process I literally have to step away from the bass and take time to properly listen back to the results. Becoming too picky with the material would inevitably lead to nothing being posted. It would also completely obliterate the creative process, as well as the premise of posting material to gain feedback from listeners.
    Repeated listening (check out my Last.fm profile if you don't believe me!) to the Podcast tracks have shown up a few general points in my own playing that I intend to address. Much as many jazz musicians rely on a set of pre-learned "licks" to provide a basis for improvisation, I have come to recognise a series of solo bass licks that I have settled on over the last few months. And a lot of them have come from listening to too much (if there is such a thing) Eberhard Weber. I am constantly annoyed at the number of times I use bass harmonics in the initial loops. Really must investigate some other effects. The problem is they sound so good in reverse! A couple of Eberhard's melodic licks have crept in too. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, I would hate to be accused of ripping him off!
    My most recent solo adventure has been the introduction of the Chapman Stick into the project. For those of you unfamiliar with the Stick, it is a 10-stringed touch guitar which was invented by Emmett Chapman in the late seventies. You can check out the Stick Enterprises website Here, or go check out the excellent European Stick Center site for a more detailed description of the instrument and some great video and audio clips. I only managed to get my hands on one of these about a year ago and have been struggling on ever since. It is as difficult to play as it looks folks. A whole new world of confusion.
    The joy with using this for the solo project is in the fact that I have absolutely no chops whatsoever on the Stick. A recent lack of inspiration on the bass has been easily remedied by getting out the Stick and just seeing what comes out. I literally cannot play any of my usual stuff on the Stick, which forces me to play in completely new ways. I haven't used much cross-tapping on the Podcast, having gone for the Tony Levin/Trey Gunn method of just playing one side at a time, thus exploiting it's massive range in a single-line setting. It has broken me away from the harmonics, the parallel 5ths and the tunes doubled a third up (!) that I seem to have settled on with the bass, and shunted me into a whole new world of funny noises, chordal work and distortion.
    There are currently two tracks live on the Podcast using the Chapman Stick; A New Start? and last night's Walking Alone... They are both similar in that they evolve organically via a process of layering various sounds and motifs in order to create internal counterpoint. Neither has a distinct melody line. I have become more interested in the specific sounds since the addition of the Lexicon MPX G2 multi-effects processor to the looping setup. It really is the mutt's nuts for the Stick. I've had it a while now, but only recently got hold of an MPX R1 foot controller to really allow me to use it handsfree. The Chapman Stick tracks bare little resemblance to the bass tracks because they tend to lean more towards the prog side of ambient music. I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on the Stick tunes as compared to the solo bass tracks.
    So we move into the next phase of the solo project. As I mentioned earlier, I will be recording some pre-written arrangements in the near future. I am also intending on somehow bringing the two disparate styles of improvisation (ie: Bass vs. Stick) together to meet somewhere in the middle. It is in this happy medium where I think I will find my true voice. Not too far to go now...

    Sorry if this has been a long, rambling load of nonsense. If you've found it interesting, then do leave your comments below. I'd love to hear your thoughts and perhaps compare similar experiences. And please do leave your comments, ratings and suggestions on the Podbean site when you next check in. I really do need your feedback. And a big thanks to Matt Stevens, who has just featured my track New Toys on his fantastic Guitars & Samplers Podcast, which can be found both on iTunes and Podbean. Cheers mate! Always glad to have someone help spreading the word.
    On another note, I just got through my copy of Steve Lawson & Jez Carr's 2002 duo album Conversations and frankly can't stop listening to it. It's been a big inspiration this week. Go forth and purchase people! I got my copy from CD Baby. Simon Little
  • New exclusive solo bass track for Reverb Nation!

    17 jui. 2008, 17h48m

    I've just posted the brand new solo bass track 'Gentle Rain' as an exclusive fan download on my Reverb Nation page. This track will not be posted to the podcast. All you have to do is visit my Reverb Nation page and sign up to the mailing list and you'll be able to download this bonus track, as well as a couple of the others from the solo bass podcast.
    Enjoy!
    Simon Little
  • Spreading The Word: My Social Networking Dabblings...

    15 jui. 2008, 19h18m

    As regular readers will know I recently started up a Solo Bass Podcast. With a view to producing an album of solo bass material later on this year, I wanted an outlet to post new ideas and hopefully gain some feedback. The second and possibly more important reason behind starting the podcast was to begin to build some semblance of a fanbase to whom I could promote the album on it's eventual release.
    I am a session musician by definition. ie: I make a living playing other people's music in other people's bands. As a musician in my own right, very few people know who I am or what I do. As a result, making myself known to a few people has become quite important. I've trawled the internet to find the most appropriate spots for me to have some kind of presence, and have started up profiles on a few key sites. As you wil all know, my MySpace page has been up and running for several years now, but I'm finding the lack of interactivity and endless friend requests from obscure housewives-turned-jazz singers quite frustrating.
    My first port of call was Last.fm, a fantastic music streaming service that I have been using over the last few months as a listener. For those of you unfamiliar with the site, Last.fm begins by collecting data from your digital music library (in my case iTunes) and can then recommend music based on this information. The ability to use the software to discover 'similar artists' has been the most fruitful for me. Each artist registered on Last.fm has an associated wiki page where users can contribute biographical information, pictures and videos. Artists also have charts showing their most popular tracks and shout boxes in their page for listeners to post their comments. I really liked the interactive nature of the site and wanted to get more involved with the conversational nature of the profile pages. So I signed myself up, created a profile page and uploaded all the podcast tracks. Of course, this may well drive some of the traffic away from the Podcast site itself, but the fact that I can see exactly who is listening to my music on Last.fm should eventually prove far more valuable when I actually have a product to sell. The other slightly embarrassing drawback is that (of course) I am my own top listener. I suppose we are all our harshest critics and my repeated listening to check what I'm posting all counts towards the total scrobbles. O well....
    My second little project was to start up a Facebook Music page. This, to be perfectly frank, turned into a bloody nightmare. For some reason the whole process seemed frought with problems. The uploading of music/pictures etc was fairly straightforward, but there is almost no easy way to add functionality to the page. Maybe I'm just used to the MySpace system, which is initially incredibly complicated once you start editing HTML but once you're used to it becomes almost second nature. I've lost count of the various applications and add-ons I've added an then instantly removed from the page. The features that really drew me to the site were the ability for listeners to share your music on their own pages and the availability of daily statistics for page views etc. Creating a buzz online is essential in trying to build a fanbase and it is only with the help of listeners/fans sharing your music and recommending you to their friends that the snowball effect can begin. This aspect is one of the things missing for me with MySpace, which has become so inundated with sub-standard music that finding something truly inspiring has become more than a rarity.
    At this juncture I should probably mention that I also started up an iLike page, mainly as an add-on for Facebook. This has proved wholly disastrous and a complete waste of time thus far. I am apparently the only person who 'likes' my music and the page seems to have disappeared into the ether where nobody can find it. My advice if you are thinking about dabbling with iLike: don't bother.
    Which brings me to the latest addition to my online marketing adventure. Reverb Nation is proving the most valuable addition to the buzz-generating arsenal. Reverb Nation takes all the best qualities of the various social networking sites and presents them with an incredibly clean and user-friendly interface. Uploading the songs, pictures and biography couldn't have been simpler. I loved the fact that you can import data from other sites to be viewed directly on your profile page. I was able to import my Blogger blog directly... In fact you may well be reading this very post on my Reverb Nation page! Ingenious thinking. I really have neither the time nor the inclination to post my blogs separately on all the various sites that I maintain and the ability to import the blog from Blogger and have this automatically update is a true blessing. The same applies to being able to import status updates directly from my Twitter account.
    Reverb Nation has, for me, two additional benefits over the other social networking sites. Firstly, you have the option of making your tracks available for streaming or download, and the further option of making these 'fan exclusives'. This gives listeners incentive to sign up to your mailing list in order to be able to download specific songs. In fact, I'm soon going to post a couple of tracks which will indeed be exclusive to Reverb Nation (ie: not ripped from the Podcast), in a vague attempt to bolster the numbers on the mailing list. The second huge advantage with Reverb Nation is the ability to place widgets from the site on other social networking pages, to spread the word even further. In fact, your fans on the site can do the same which is a massive bonus. This is exactly the sort of interactivity I've been looking for and precisely how I envision the 'buzz' may well be created.
    I only created the Reverb Nation page a few days ago, so it hasn't had many hits thus far, but I'm sure this will improve in the near future. The fact that the widgets appear on some of my other pages is already driving some traffic to the Reverb Nation page, and presumably some of these people will be coming to the site for the first time. This should theoretically get more people to sign up to the site and in turn allow them to discover more exciting music from the recommendations I make on my profile page. I posted messages on Twitter as each of these pages were initialized and a few key supportive members (who have also been listening to my podcast) were always the first to sign up. Thanks guys.
    I got significantly more hits after solo bass master and social media guru Steve Lawson recommended me on his Reverb Nation Page. Which proves how the best form of buzz comes from direct recommendations, especially from such highly regarded artists. Incidentally, Steve has been incredibly helpful and supportive since I started my podcast and I'd like to give him my thanks and tell you all to go and check out his music. Steve also has a fantastic blog which he updates far more regularly and eloquently than I; well worth subscribing.
    The biggest influx of traffic to the podcast itself (second only to when Steve posted a message on Twitter saying that he was listening) was after I posted links on the Warwick Forum about a week ago. I literally doubled the number of hits. Which just serves to prove that targeting your audience directly is always the most effective solution.
    But I do wonder how many of these listeners will go on to sign up to the mailing list on Reverb Nation, or become a fan on Facebook? So far I'd say none of them. The next phase of my online adventure will be an attempt to further tie together all the various pages and services in order to build up a more cohesive and measurable fanbase. I would say that is where the true secret to success lies....
  • Check out my Solo Bass Podcast...

    6 jui. 2008, 2h46m

    Hello folks,
    If you haven't already heard some of the tracks I've been posting on my Solo Bass Podcast, you can stream the full MP3's right here on Last.fm. Just go to the Simon Little artist page and click on the Simon Little's Podcast album. There's a bunch of free MP3's for download too if you fancy taking them away to have a proper listen. And feel free to leave your comments and suggestions either on the Last.fm page or on the Podbean site.
    Hope you enjoy it. I'll also be talking a bit about the thinking behind the music in my Blog if you're interested.
    Thanks
    Simon