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QRD #44 - Bass Player Special
about this issue
Bassist Interviews with:
CJ Boyd
Monte Allen of Rollerball
Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton
Trevor Dunn of Fantomas
Jeffrey Roden
Phillip Palmer of Port City Music
Nat Baldwin of Dirty Projectors
Frank Alexander of Triplicity
Brian Preston
Jason Ajemian
Darin Depaolo
Jill Palumbo of The Torches
Jon Case of Irata
James Newman of Plumerai
Matteo Bennici
Tim Dahl of Child Abuse
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Bassist Interview with Jeffrey Roden 
October 2010

Name: Jeffrey Roden
Bands: None
Websites: www.thebigtreemusic.com
Listen to “Bridge to the Other Place”

QRD – What was your first bass & what happened to it?

Jeffrey – It was a Harmony hollow body bass & I gave it away to somebody else who was just starting out.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from bass to effects to amplifier?

Jeffrey – I do not use effects & just plug straight into my amp. I had an elaborate pedal setup back in the day.

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – bass, amplifier, or effects?

Jeffrey – Definitely the bass

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why? 

Jeffrey – Ampeg Rocket Bass amp. It is clean & quiet & sounds great at a low volume. It is also wonderful at revealing the tones & overtones that come from playing quietly.

QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass? 

Jeffrey – Electric bass.

QRD – Do you prefer to use a pick, fingers, or a bow? 

Jeffrey – Fingers & thumb, but not for slapping.

QRD – How many strings do you think a bass should have?

Jeffrey – Four.

QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar?

Jeffrey – It has more possibilities & the sound of the bass has always moved me.

QRD – How is a bass different than a guitar other than being lower in pitch?

Jeffrey – That should not even be a question as they are completely different instruments. They serve completely different purposes in an ensemble & each has their own wonders & limitations.

QRD – What’s your main bass & what are the features that make it such?

Jeffrey – 1961 Fender Precision. It has a gigantic variety of nuances & sounds that fit almost everything.

QRD – What do you think of the thumb rests on some basses?

Jeffrey – Never use them.

QRD – If you had a signature bass, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?

Jeffrey – 1961 Fender Precision.

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?

Jeffrey – I do not use pedals anymore.

QRD – How many basses do you own?

Jeffrey – Two

QRD – How & where do you store your basses?

Jeffrey – In their cases in my studio.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a bass?

Jeffrey – Great tone first & then how does it feel.

QRD – How much do you think a good bass should cost?

Jeffrey – Under $1,000 certainly.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your bass or just stick with what you get?

Jeffrey – I have used a variety of Jazz Bass pickups to augment the P Bass pickup, but that is all. Currently I’m using a Lindsay Fralin.

QRD – Are you after one particular bass tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?

Jeffrey – I use my fingers & thumb to create the sound based on the piece I am working on or to fit in with the band if I am accompanying.

QRD – What are some basses, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Jeffrey – I would like to have Toru Nitono make me a bass.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first bass that aren’t always there?

Jeffrey – It should be easy to play as playing the bass is very hard in the beginning.

QRD – What have been the best & worst bass related purchases you’ve made?

Jeffrey – I bought a Guild D50 acoustic without any electronics, which is like playing a string bass. I have bought so many bad sets of strings it is laughable & kind of pricey.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & bass brands you particularly like or dis-like & why? 

Jeffrey – I have always liked Ampeg small amps & for years I used one of the original Alembic pre-amps, which was insane.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a bass?

Jeffrey – Something across all the strings & up the neck. Usually very slowly as otherwise you have no way of knowing what the bass sounds like.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing bass?

Jeffrey – 16.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best bass playing?

Jeffrey – 59 or right now. The bass is so subtle & complex really that it is a lifetime project.

QRD – Do you feel bass lines should echo & emphasize guitar & drum parts or be their own distinct elements?

Jeffrey – The bass has several functions, which do not include emphasizing other instruments’ parts. It should tie the drums into the other instruments by being the bridge between the pitched & non-pitched elements. I know drums are tuned, but the bass does pull together the rhythm of the drums with the harmonic & melodic elements. The bass should also supply the counterpoint to the main melody, be it vocal or instrumental. & if the musicians playing with the bass will somehow manage to leave room, it can carry off many independent ideas. This can be as simple as just eighth notes or a complicated figure.

QRD – Would you rather people hear or feel your bass?

Jeffrey – Both.

QRD – Why do you think a bass fits you more so than other instruments?

Jeffrey – I have always wanted to play & hear it being played.

QRD – Do you see your bass as your ally or adversary in making music?

Jeffrey – Partner & soul pal.

QRD – Who are the bassists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Jeffrey – It is endless Jack Bruce, Paul Chambers, Willie Dixon, Jerry Jemmot,
Joe Osborne, there were so many great bass players in all idioms when I started that it is hard to not say everyone.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their bass is natural or silly (e.g. naming their bass)?

Jeffrey – I do not have a name for my bass, however I get that people do it.

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a bass & how did you do it?

Jeffrey – The great thing about my bass is that it has been dropped so many times that it is beyond being damaged. There is a really large gash out of the front & I cannot remember what happened.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?

Jeffrey – I do not practice “practice” at all anymore. I should!

QRD – How many hours a week do you play bass & how many hours would you like to?

Jeffrey – I play several hours a day & more when I am working or preparing for a record or live performance. I could play 10 hours a day & be happy.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Jeffrey – Medium gauge & as they sound right for my solo work.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Jeffrey – Yearly or whenever they start to become too dull.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Jeffrey – I used to break them all the time, but not anymore as the music I play now is quiet.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming/bowing hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?

Jeffrey – It used to be my right hand; however now I have developed so many ways to fret the bass without any noise in the most naked of settings, so I would say it is now my left hand.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Jeffrey – Standard tuning & sometimes I detune the E to a D.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Jeffrey – Notation as I am a reasonable reader. For popular music I would rather read chord charts.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Jeffrey – I would like to be less interested in complexity.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s bass playing?

Jeffrey – Keyboard definitely.

QRD – What’s a type of bass playing you wish you could do that you can’t?

Jeffrey – While I have played country music & not embarrassed myself, good country bass is a whole other animal. I have heard some crazy great country players.

QRD – What’s a bass goal you’ve never accomplished?

Jeffrey – I wished I could have played with Miles Davis & BB King.

QRD – What’s the last bass trick you learned?

Jeffrey – There are no tricks in music.

QRD – Did you ever take bass lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Jeffrey – I studied bass with Ray Siegel & sight-reading with Joe Valenti. Two musicians who taught me so much about being a professional & how to study music. A good bass teacher should organize through technique, which then allows the student to develop their own ideas of what they want to play. I was fortunate that my teachers gave me the tools to do anything with the bass I wanted to.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a bass lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a bass teacher?

Jeffrey – To ignore all the bullshit & to find their own way & their own voice & sound. I taught bass for a long time & many students are overwhelmed by other musicians’ views of the instrument or the most common feeling of needing to be something other than what they are or want to be.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Jeffrey – Try to listen to all the great musicians on all instruments & bring back to the bass their approach. I have never sounded like anyone else because I wanted to form my own view of the bass. It requires listening to so many different bass players for so many different reasons. I appreciate the great blues players like Willie Dixon; but also the great jazz players like Paul Chambers, rock players like Jack Bruce, funk players like Jerry Jemmot etc. But I do not copy them; I just try to absorb the feeling. Really now to play in my style you would need to believe that the sound of the bass is so beautiful that it is sufficiently interesting by itself & without devices or technical mis-directions to stand on its own.

QRD – If a band has good bass work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?

Jeffrey – No.

QRD – What famous musician’s bass would you like to own & why? 

Jeffrey – I would not mind having a Jack Bruce bass, as really starting out he clearly was the one player who said, “things are going to be different.” I have always wanted to meet him to say thanks.

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative bass player & why?

Jeffrey – Lamely enough I have fallen behind on who is it now.

QRD – Where can people hear your best bass work?

Jeffrey – My last two records, the New Albion records recording titled “seeds of happiness” & my newest release titled “bridge to the other place” all works for the solo electric bass without any other instruments or loops.

QRD – Anything else?

Jeffrey – I very much hope that bass players will release themselves from the frenzy of what they believe to be great playing & discover besides that technical overplaying all the things that the bass can do. I think too that bass players need to stake out their own territory in music so that receive the space both musical & sonic that they used to get. Maybe if recordings contained 20 or 50 less overdubs & loops the bass player might be able to play a part that would be interesting & audible.