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: Victor Wooten
Bands & Artists: The Wootens, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, SMV, Trypnotyx, Bass Extremes, Solo artist
Home: Nashville, Tennessee
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been relaxing for the most part, playing music very little, and spending a lot of time with my family, which I haven’t previously been able to do enough of. This is the longest I’ve been home in probably twenty years, so my family comes first. I’m also getting a lot done in terms of organizing my life and my house.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
Mainly I’ve been working on a condition I have called Focal Dystonia. It’s like a bad habit where my brain tells my fingers to play the wrong things. So instead of playing at my normal pace, I’ve been playing very slowly and re-training my hands to respond correctly. I’m also working on concepts that don’t require a bass to be in my hands, like theory and ear-training—listening to chord qualities and trying to identify them. I’ve been delving into playing more melodically by just looking at the chordal harmonies and seeing all the possibilities.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
One of my favorite records that I’ve been listening to is called Quartet [Bebyne, 2009]. It’s by the Flamenco bassist Carles Benavent, best known for his work with Paco De Lucia and Chick Corea—amazing album. I’ve also been listening to Miles Davis’ Nefertiti, with Ron Carter on bass; especially the laid back tracks because I’ve been enjoying laying back and chilling.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I haven’t been trying out much gear, but since I’ve been home I’ve done a couple of recordings for people using API preamps. One is the API 512c and the other is their TranZformer LX Bass Pedal. They’re both terrific.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
My recommendation, since we have to be inside, is for each of us to go inside ourselves and figure out who we are. For me, music is what I do, but who I am is apart from what I do. I’ve been working on going inside of myself and trying hard to make who I am better, so that when I get back to what I do, that will be better. I’ve also been taking a lot of walks because where I live in the woods there are safe walking spaces, as well as a trail I built around my house. And I’ve been exercising with my sons, both of whom are athletic.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’ve finally finished the sequel to my book, The Music Lesson, which is called The Spirit of Music. Hopefully it will be out in the fall. Steve Bailey and I are bringing back a new and improved version of our website, The Bass Vault [www.thebassvault.com], so watch for that. My website is running but my merchandise site [www.vixmerch.com] is being overhauled, as well. We’ll have a lot of new products and other interesting offers. I’m still teaching at Berklee, but from home, which has been more enjoyable than I anticipated. And I’ve been to three family reunions over Zoom; it’s amazing how much fun they were! We even had a “cookout” where everyone cooked out from their location.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Keep playing, practicing, and sharing with people. Don’t always play alone, put on a record to play with, or make tracks with friends that you can both jam to. One cool project we can do is make a list of all the things we’re doing differently because of the quarantine. Once you’ve compiled the list go through it and put a check mark next to the ones you want to keep doing once we get going again. Maybe it’s practicing a certain way or cooking with the family. Make a habit out of them so when we’re up and running again you’ve improved yourself. Going back to normal should not be our goal. We need to come back better than normal. That means coming back better musically because of the extra tiime you had to study and listen, but it also means coming back better personally. Because ultimately, music is about life—who we are and what our lives are about. Make your life better and your music will be better, and that way we’ll all come back better than normal.
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria and Chris Jisi