As the world continues to recover from the Coronavirus, we're all finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory given the subsequent lockdown that is keeping us off of stages and confined to our homes. Luckily, there's comfort in the fact that we're all in this together, and that there are still many outlets for us musicians to keep us active and sane throughout this quarantine. We're checking in with bass players from all over the world to see what they're doing to stay entertained, healthy, productive, and safe during this trying time.
Bass Player: Ryan Madora
Bands & Artists: Garth Brooks, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Marren Morris, Hanson
Home: Nashville, Tennessee
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
On the musical front, I’ve spent more time practicing, teaching online lessons, and creating content for YouTube, TrueFire, and my Patreon page. I’m trying to focus on how I can be a better educator, especially in this mediated world. I’m learning about shooting and editing video so that I can provide useful resources for the bass playing community. I’ve always been frustrated by this process and am, for the first time, experiencing small victories! I’m still writing columns for No Treble, starting to prepare for “Volume II” of Bass Players To Know: Learning From The Greats, and I’ve upped my merch game with limited edition T-shirts! As for leisure, my husband and I are diversifying our culinary repertoire, watching movies, reading, and planting a garden. He’s a singer-songwriter, so we’ve had time to record music together and have performed a few live streams.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’m trying to focus on things that I haven’t worked on in years, such as technique exercises, adding to my repertoire of jazz standards, and soloing over changes. I’m also trying to give myself a bit more freedom, especially when it comes to learning material, since I’m not required to learn a specific song for a specific gig. I’ll think about an artist with material that I regularly play—let’s say, Stevie Wonder—and I’ll find myself picking up my bass just to work on the “B-sides,” or songs that aren’t typically called on the bandstand. There are so many incredible bass lines that I’ve forgotten about, so this has been a great way to remind myself of how varied an artist’s catalogue is.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I’ve been turning to two areas lately: instrumental music and music created by my peers. Weekend mornings seem to be the perfect time to dig in to Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, Scary Goldings, and Medeski, Martin and Wood—especially when accompanied by freshly made biscuits. I’ve also made playlists that include music created by my peers—artists, songwriters, and session players in Nashville. It’s a way to feel closer to the community even though we don’t get to see each other or work together in person. Plus, if I listen to a record by one of my friends, I’ll be inspired to reach out to them, see how they’re doing, and let them know that their art is being appreciated. Here’s a playlist with some of my favorites: Click Here
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’m sticking to the basics: my Mike Lull P4 for learning classic bass parts and teaching online lessons; a Fender Precision with flatwounds for remote sessions. When I’m in practice mode, I typically use my Mike Lull PJ5, especially because I enjoy doing technique work on a 5-string. I’ve also set up my “gigging rig”—two Aguilar SL112s with a Tone Hammer 500—so I have two rooms outfitted with bass gear.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I’m currently reading Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert Sapolsky. It’s an intense read, and quite academic, but it has been insightful in terms of understanding and interpreting stress. I have a subscription to Masterclass and I’ve enjoyed digging in to some of those courses—Neil deGrasse Tyson and Massimo Bottura’s classes have been my favorite so far. I’m a fan of watching Choppedon the Food Network, and I’ve started following Michelin Guide and various chefs on Instagram. For workouts, Yoga With Adriene on YouTube is awesome! I also have a friend in Austin who is a physical trainer—he’s been doing stay-at-home workouts on Instagram a few times a week (@trainerahmad).
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’m looking forward to a few sessions in Nashville, particularly with Americana artists. I’m hoping that touring gets up and running again, when it’s safe and makes sense to do so, because I miss traveling and working with artists on the road. I’m also planning to do more to promote my book, Bass Players To Know, and I hope to reschedule a few book tour dates.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Take this opportunity to really enjoy music. Pair it with activities that bring you joy, whether that’s cooking, doing yard work, or making yourself a beverage and sitting in your living room. Find a new artist that speaks to you. Or, visit an old record and enjoy the memories, times, and places that come to mind. Take advantage of the fact that everyone is at home and that they want to share things with you. Many players are offering online lessons, streaming performances, or masterclasses to keep in touch with fans, to raise money for charity, or to spread knowledge. There’s never been a better time to reach out to the players that you’ve always wanted to learn from. And don’t feel too pressured by social media; it’s quite overwhelming to see everyone posting videos and showing off their “new skills.” If you’re feeling particularly motivated to practice, then go for it! But don’t let social pressure make you feel as if you’re not “doing enough” during this insanely stressful time. It’s more important to be in touch with your physical and mental health. If you’d feel better about the world by going for a walk, watching a show, or cooking dinner, then that’s what you should do.
http://bassplayer.satisfactoryprinting.com/bass_player/shop/home (shirts available until April 30)
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria and Chris Jisi