Author Topic: Phil's Playing Style...  (Read 1473 times)

glocke

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Phil's Playing Style...
« on: November 23, 2017, 10:00:23 AM »
Phil Lesh of course.


This topic came up in the course of a conversation i had a few weeks back.  Basically a guitar player was complaining about his bass player never playing "on the one", and he was looking to replace him for that reason as well as some others.  Flash forward to this current week and I was discussing this with a drummer friend of mine and he said "so he got fired from a Dead cover band for being to Phil like?"...


I've been listening to the Grateful Dead since the 80's, been playing Dead tunes almost since than, and I still can't figure out where this idea that he doesn't play on the one comes from.  Sure, during the improv/solo sections he gets out there, but during the actual structure of a song, rhythmically he very much remains consistent with the bassists role. 


What am I missing here?

acoustic1

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2017, 11:16:20 AM »
This is a great question!!! I would like to know the answer to this myself!!

Have to agree , Phil has a good sense of time, perhaps it's just me , but , I never really noticed if Phil was playing slightly behind the beat.

In my years as a musician (Bassist) one of the first lessons that really sunk in was, in playing any musical form or style, a bass player can not loose the one beat!

Would really not be much of a rhythm section if you cant keep time!!!

I remember Louis Johnson once said, "a bass player constantly helps a drummer (that means any drummer) stay in time"!
« Last Edit: November 23, 2017, 11:20:06 AM by acoustic1 »

pauldo

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2017, 02:48:46 PM »
Louis Johnson is correct.
A bassist doesn't have to play on the one as much as infer the one... the pulse of the beat should be present.  Sometimes the pulse has space/ silence as a part of it.
1984 Distillate Zebrawood

mavnet

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2017, 04:34:19 PM »
I think a lot of what's going on is that, rather than a quick repeating part, Phil's parts often go on for quite a while before repeating (although it was a big reveal to me long ago to realize that, in fact, he was playing repeating (or almost) parts, not just jamming during the verse/chorus). During what's usually a pretty melodic contrapuntal line, there seems to be less emphasis on hitting the one than finding the through path through the other parts played by other musicians. But I always found his sense of time to be impeccable, especially noticeable in the stuff in 7 and 10 - he's actually playing in those time sigs, not just doing 5+2 or 4+4+2, even in the extended jams during with some of the other players are basically playing in 4 and eventually doing catchup to the top of a bar. My 2 cents, your mileage may vary. :)

acoustic1

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2017, 04:46:45 PM »
Great !!!

Gentleman , your nothing short of a "Bottomless Pit" of knowledge!!!!  Much appreciated :D :D

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2017, 06:18:36 PM »
I'm not nearly the bass player as the folks in this crowd, or enough to even understand a lot of this conversation, but playing with a newgrass band that covers a lot of Grateful Dead tunes, (ironically, tunes where the Grateful Dead were covering bluegrass standards...) what I've found most interesting is how he approaches things thematically. In my situation, there (usually) is no drummer, so the other rhythm components of mandolin and guitar depend on me to not only play the ones, but to accentuate them. So to sell some of their tunes in a believable way, I kinda' have to at least borrow from passages Phil Lesh plays. But again- it's often enough to tune into what thematic course he was playing through and just pull a couple textures. I really didn't get it for a long time... I have a lot more appreciation these days. 

acoustic1

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2017, 05:38:47 AM »
Amazing as this might sound, I have found these posts to be particularly inspiring!!

What really comes through for me here is a simple reminder to "Be Yourself" & don't loose sight of it.

It brings to mind another valuable lesson  "have fun" !!!  Trust me, When I first started I wasn't having any fun !!!  That's the truth !!!

I can only speak for myself, but, my practice sessions were only about striving to reach a certain amount of proficiency, just to get everything right, and eventually interpret what was written on the page,  No joy in it what so ever  !!!!

The pulse wound up being quite a "game changer" for me !!!

All the best Gentleman.

David Houck

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2017, 06:30:45 PM »
Playing "on the one" might mean different things to different people.  For instance, Bootsy was famous for playing "on the one" because James Brown told him to play on the one (or so my always suspect memory tells me), meaning that the emphasis for the bass line, in James Brown's band, was always the down beat.  As Bootsy would say, "it all starts on the one, baby".

I take a different view to Bootsy and to some of the remarks posted above.

In my view, there can be compositions where the bass line, or bass instrument, doesn't have to be confined to providing a rhythmic underpinning (nor, for that matter, is there necessarily a need for drums).  It seems to me, that "bass" can be said to be a frequency range, differing significantly in range from, say, a mandolin.  But a bass instrument can be providing melodic content within that frequency range.  And while it is doing so, a guitar, for instance, can provide rhythmic content.

(One interesting example that just came to mind is Jaco Pastorius playing with Joni Mitchell.)

And as for being "on the one", I think lots of interesting things can be played in a group setting where the bass line starts on the two, or the upbeat of the two; or where the guitar player is playing in four while the bass player is playing in five.  There are seemingly endless possibilities for musical expression.

There need not necessarily be any hard and fast rule that says that the bass player has to always be on the one; unless you want to keep your job and the bandleader insists on it; like with Bootsy in James Brown's band.

      :)

acoustic1

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2017, 07:10:06 PM »
TREMENDOUS INSIGHT DAVE!!!!

THANK YOU!!!!!  :D :D :D
« Last Edit: November 24, 2017, 07:14:53 PM by acoustic1 »

cozmik_cowboy

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2017, 07:38:00 PM »
I don't have time to find the passage right now, but I have read - I think in Phil's book - about the Dead coming to the conclusion that the one was where you felt it, and everybody could play a different one in such a way that that the whole band "felt" the overall one in the same place - or something like that (hey, I fingerpick cowboy chords in my office; this stuff is way above my pay grade!)


Peter
"Don't take life so serious; it ain't no ways permanent"

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edwardofhuncote

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2017, 02:08:40 PM »
I spent a lot of drive-time last weekend listening to the 5/8/77 Barton Hall show, and found the 16 minutes worth of "Dancin' in the Streets" to be a master-class tutorial. Can't get it outta' my head now.  :)

Plenty of ones there, just spaced out a little.

rv_bass

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2017, 04:01:30 PM »
Welcome aboard the bus...enjoy the ride!  :)

elwoodblue

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2017, 04:11:05 PM »
Plenty of ones there, just spaced out a little.


That sorta sums up their following too   ;D




.... the conclusion that the one was where you felt it....


...At times it's just seems Furthur to the other ones, ::)

lembic76450

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2017, 05:27:48 PM »
This always gets to an interesting area of just what is he thinking?  I have always thought that he is not really avoiding the one,
I feel like his concept is he is not thinking in terms of 4/4,  he is thinking beyond a single measure, to 3,4,5 measures and beyond.
I may be confusing my '77 gigs, but, if you listen to Estimated from this time,  he is playing figures that are multiple measures long.  It almost seems
he does not "turn around" for 14, 21 or 28 beats instead of 7 beats. 
I seem to remember an interview a number of years back that they would experiment with them playing in different time signatures and tracking when
they all would return to the one.  Of course, Phil has always had extraordinary feel for odd times. As for me, "I am only an egg."

cozmik_cowboy

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Re: Phil's Playing Style...
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2017, 07:48:59 PM »
This always gets to an interesting area of just what is he thinking?  I have always thought that he is not really avoiding the one,
I feel like his concept is he is not thinking in terms of 4/4,  he is thinking beyond a single measure, to 3,4,5 measures and beyond.
[snip] It almost seems he does not "turn around" for 14, 21 or 28 beats instead of 7 beats. 

Years ago I saw an interview with Bob & Jerry where they talked about Phil's playing (J: "You figure out what he's doing and tailgate him, and he'll hear it and change it up." B (laughing): "Yeah, he'll de-tailgate you!").
They said that you don't hear an 8- or 12-bar pattern, so you think he's not playing one - then you speed up a tape & realize that he is - it's just something like a 63-bar pattern.

Peter
"Don't take life so serious; it ain't no ways permanent"

Pogo