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  • Writer's pictureSteve Bryant

Bass Pro in the Nashville Studios - The Gig

As I was asked to recall from sessions past details from by my cadre of bass students, other musicians, or fans of the artist I am tracking with.. I decided to blog about the craft of bass playing in the Studio. I've done this generically at times, and on my facebook page as well (

Here, I'm diving into specifics and discussing technical, musical, and social aspect of bass playing in the studio...

Artist: Gretchen Wilson

Song tracked: '' All Jacked Up'

Studio Location: The Rukkus Room in the Berry Hill area of Nashville...

'' All Jacked Up'' was released in 2005 on Epic Nashville. It debuted at number one in the Billboard 200 with 264,000 copies sold in its initial week.

This was a live tracking date ( All musicians playing together, overdubs added at the tracking date.. a completed track in one session)

If you are a bassist setting your sights for the Nashville Studios, the thing to remember is while technical ability is a given.. the more challenging aspect is '' getting a track '' by coming up with ideas and a bass line that will frame the song and '' build the house' .... this all has to pretty much happen on the fly. yes, there can be a few passes and modifying the parts of each musician as things get refined.. but doing this with a minimum amount of fuss is key.

As customary in the session scene here, number charts were handed out and we listened to a basic outline with just guitar /vocal in the control room in order to get a feel for the tune and discuss very briefly the arrangement and any specific parts that were asked for as a rough idea..

***BTW.. getting comfortable with reading and writing number charts is absolutely a skill you want to have in order to work.. it's not hard, really .. and it opens newly arriving bassists to much more work opportunities.. most certainly, get that together.. it allows specificity for a song , the '' road map'' .. and allows for quick changes to an arrangement on the fly.. THIS is why it is possible to get multiple songs ( 3 to 5 ) in a basic 3 hour demo session. In my private teaching via Skype or in person in my home studio here in Nashville .. I teach this very basic and most necessary skill.

This tracking date, however.. being a '' Master Session'' - a song that will be a commercially released song .. was going to be the single song for our three hour session.. allowing adequate time to do multiple takes, change entire sections of the song, different instrument parts, especially for experimenting with instrumental fills, specific parts etc.

I used my Sadowsky 24 fret quilted maple top 5 string with soapbar EMG's thru a Demeter VTBP-201 preamp and an Anthony Demaria 1000 tube compressor. Regardless of what gear a bassist uses in the studio... the less hum, noise, and easier to dial in a tone, the better! I alway tell my students the the tone is in their hands.. typically, I don't use a whole lot of eq, comp, or processing . I feel that the final tone shaping will be done in the mix and mastering ... giving an overall clean signal gives much more latitude for the final product to reflect the producer(s) vision.. Really, there is so much great gear out there it comes down to personal taste and a bit of trying out things. Many times the type of environment you are working in guide you in choice of gear.

As we got to work on the song.. we ran it down once.. reading the chart as it was laid out. We worked out parts very quickly and got immediate feedback from the control room/producer as to changes to feel, chords, dynamics etc.. it is all very rapid fire and it is very important to keep your ears open to what is being talked about... there were a couple of things I brought up that were adopted into the track.. everyone really got their two cents worth in .. conversations that sometimes sounds like a group of magpies ..Ha! that's how that session was .. and many I've worked on are like that.. However, there are occasions when the producer is very specific and the majority of the time the only one speaking... different production styles and it's all good.. Each an every player wants to get a good track and make the song '' tell the story'' :-)

We had fun doing this track!

No, the band shown in the vid is not us studio guys... -)

Playing sessions is a combination of listening to the other players, and finding a bass line that snaps the tune in place.. it very much is a chemistry of hearing and producing your own part.. energy is really playing on the fly with emotion and preparation..

Being confident is important . Equally so with having a work ethic that says '' I'm prepared'' .. laugh a lot and be easy to get along with... music is a participation sport and putting your talent and ability to the service of the song and playing with your brothers and sisters in the studio is a very special thing. Nashville is still by and large a '' live tracking town'' ....

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