A little about me

I’m one of those guys, you know the ones, who pastors a church by day and plays the tuba by night (although sometimes it’s the other way round).

This blog is a little insight into my tuba world with a few sounds, sights, musings and nerdings.

If however you were wanting to hear me preach, you’re on the wrong site so you’ll need to either click on the church link or come to my regular gig on a Sunday morning.

Bassline Academy – Quarter Master Jam, Michael League

I found this video of Cory Henry and Michael League playing Quarter Master a while back (as well as a few others of them playing together at the same workshop – search Cory Henry and Michael League workshop in Rio on YouTube) and was utterly transfixed! It’s a wonderful example of the joy of two outstanding musicians simply making music. It has passion, groove, heart, soul, invention, spontaneity, interaction, energy, enthusiasm, the odd wobbly moment and plenty of bass face.

There was so much I liked about Michael League’s bass playing on this video I wanted to transcribe it and then try and reproduce it as accurately as possible (except the bass face, which is quite hard to do whilst playing tuba!) You learn so much by getting into the subtleties of the groove and phrasing playing along with someone else. And who better to play along with than Cory and Mike!

I’ve tried something new with this video by putting the sheet music transcription up along side the video so you can see exactly what is going on.
The tuba track is panned hard left and original audio is hard right. As the original audio sounds like a raw live mix straight off the desk, I’ve left my sound as the unaltered signal from my PZM mic with no EQ or effects.

Download a PDF of the bass transcription here.

New Tune for The Brasshoppers

The Brasshoppers had a blast again this year at Silda Jazz in Haugesund. I took a new tune with me called Coming Home, which I’d written for Kairos Ensemble bought thought it’d work well with a bigger group. We didn’t get a chance to rehearse the whole tune, hence a few rough edges and puzzled faces in the band, but I was pretty pleased with result. A few tweaks in order in the arrangement for next time.

Looking back at the video I have also discovered I have a weird twitch in my right leg as I play!

Summer Season

I’m looking forward to doing some nice gigs over the next few months. If you want to hear a but of foxy tuba then check out:

29th June, 4pm – Brassroots at 12th Knot, South Bank, London – in yer face brass band doing covers of all sorts of things! Really groovy.

24th and 25th July – Kairos Ensemble at Keswick Convention – playing a new suite of music based on the Song of Songs written by Pete James.

8th – 10th August – The Brasshoppers at Silda Jazz, Haugesund, Norway – our annual trip to the band’s second home – the usual mix of funk, latin, jazz and irreverent humour.

7th September – Kairos Ensemble at Revive Cafe, Chertsey – jazz standards, original tunes and a few tuba solos no doubt!

Bassline Academy – Strobe: Sparkee’s Arrangement

This bassline is a challenge from a YouTube follower LuxGamer4ever. I’d never heard this track before but once I had the challenge was accepted!

Someone has posted on YouTube that they thought it was impossible for a bass player to actually play it, which has been shown to be wrong, and now I’d like to be able to say it’s also just about possible on tuba. There’s nowhere to breathe so gasping breaths in the slight gaps is the way forward.

You can download the transcribed music Strobe.

Bassline Academy – For Once In My Life: James Jamerson/Stevie Wonder/Vulfpeck

This bassline is a special request from my friend Attilio. He sent me a link to Vulfpeck’s really cool cover/transcription/visualisation of the bassline from Stevie Wonder’s ‘For Once In My Life.’ My challenge was to play along and here’s the result.

I’ve written out Vulf’s version of James Jamerson’s playing, so this is transcription of a transcription! It’s not 100% accurate to the original (what transcription ever is) but is pretty close.

Speaking of the original, James Jamerson’s playing on the track is apparently revered by bassists as no one bar is like another, he just keeps improvising new material throughout the track and all the while keeping things laid back and in the pocket.

From a tuba point of view I found that playing this bassline in the same style as Vulfpeck (I’m presuming it’s Joe Dart) and Jamerson meant sustaining the notes more than I would do naturally in this type of music. I tend to bring longer notes off in a percussive way to add a bit of ‘slap’ and give me a chance to breathe when playing music like this. However, if you listen to the Vulfpeck track the bass is generally left quite sustained, with a few exceptions. I’ve tried my best to be faithful to this but I do need to breathe somewhere!

Get the PDF transcription of the bassline of For Once in my Life here.

Bassline Academy – What is Hip?, Rocco Prestia

This bassline played on tuba should really be called ‘What is Possible – on the tuba?’ On one level it’s effectively an exercise in tonguing endurance under the effects of oxygen deprivation (I had to practice a lot to build up stamina to overcome the build up of lactic acid in my tongue!). On another it’s a great workout in the funky department. I was inspired to try this one out after watching a Scott’s Bass Lessons Youtube video (check it out here).

I don’t think I’ll ever be using the main bass figure on a gig, there’s just too much repetition to ever make it sit well on the tuba! The necessity to take a breath at the beginning of the bar on the only tied semi quaver in the riff does disrupt the flow a little but it’s the only way to make it happen on tuba.

What this bassline highlights is how I go about playing this style of music. Speak to almost any tuba teacher and they will tell you that your sound starts with air – air support, air flow, diaphragm etc. Good ‘air’ equals a good sound, or at least the foundation for a good sound. I don’t dispute this, but for this style of music I’m actually using very little air, in fact as little air as possible so that I can keep playing these long baselines going without passing out. A lot of the sound I’m producing comes less from my diaphragm and more from my mouth as I use a percussive tongue articulation on the relentless semiquaver lines. This bassline is a proper tonguing workout.

For the full note for note transcription of Rocco’s bassline click here.