Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz bass, Godin A5
Semi-Acoustic 5-string prototype with L.R. Baggs
undersaddle ribbon transducer, 7/8 double bass
of unknown origin (studio only), 7/8 or 3/4 double
basses provided by venues (live)
It’s a whole different philosophy of being in
tune. If you grow up playing violin, everything is about how you get to the right note
in time. Then, if you land on the wrong
note, how do you quickly adjust? All these
things really revolve around intonation.
Intonation becomes about distance and
time—how much time do I need to get a
particular distance across the fingerboard?
And your ear guides so much of what you
do when you’re playing a fretless instrument: So much depends on being able to
quickly hear how close you are to the pitch.
Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 head driving two
Aguilar SL 112 cabinets with neodymium drivers
and custom crossovers (for electric basses), David
Dean Markley Blue Steel flatwound medium sets
(.050– . 105), Thomastik-Infeld upright strings
Which instruments are you mostly
playing these days?
For electrics, I’m playing a Fender Jaco
Pastorius Jazz bass and a Godin A5 Semi-
Acoustic 5-string, which has an L.R. Baggs
undersaddle ribbon transducer. The Godin
is really cool—it just sounds beautiful. It
was different for them, and different for
me, so they encouraged me to experiment
with it. For uprights, I play a 7/8 double
of a smoldering cross between a Jaco
Pastorius and an Adele.
You began on the violin and upright
before picking up electric bass. How
does the one inform the other—what’s
Functionally, there are a lot of things
that translate across the two, but the
situations I’ve played electric in are so
distinctly electric. I wouldn’t have tried
to do that music on upright, and vice
versa, so it’s hard to tell. I will say that
things that are second nature for me on
upright, I really need to think about
Fretless bass is a very difficult instrument to play well—you almost need
experience with an upright to do it.
Well, I play fretless partly because frets
defy my capacity to understand. Never
having played a fretted instrument,
the frets just… wow—I don’t know
where to begin on a fretted instrument!
With a guitar, I’m down with that. I
get it: For chords, it helps you stay in
the right place. But on the bass, with
melodic movement and lines, it really
trips me up.