Ever since Warwick’s Bass Camp cancellation in 2018, Ove Bosch kept trying to think of a way to keep that vibe alive and bring bassists back together to share their passion together. Different scenarios were thought of, but most of them would have required a major partner to help support a large-scale event, which is exactly not what Ove desired.
April 2020, Covid-19 started to shut down gigs/events and Ove’s idea for an online bass camp was born. When social distancing became the standard and norm, the idea to bring musicians together from all over the world seemed like the perfect time to bring them together online and in the comfort of their homes. Ove was not sure the Warwick Bass Camp vibe that he was looking to achieve (chat/hang, and all that energy when musicians get together) would work online in a multi-person chat room. He started figuring out how this could be done and how much it would cost. Calculations were made; he contacted several potential instructors, negotiated fees, considered/tried different software/app solutions, etc. The preparation began in April and continued through the actual event in August. Not every day was spent working on this event, but a good majority of Ove’s time was put into planning the date, graphics, advertising, press releases, sponsoring, sponsor giveaways, and the most important aspect – the guest speakers. Decisions on whether or not to invite additional guests, give away free spots, collaborations with other bass tutors etc. was intensely considered and some of it came to fruition, some of it not.
Most of the advertising was accomplished via social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and mailing lists. The sponsoring companies and the instructors spread the word on their channels and so it all began. As time went by, the event became clearer and real when instructors were confirmed, and attendees continued to sign up for this new event to replace the previous in-person bass camp. In the end, there were 5 guest artists, 1 luthier, and 30 attendees (60 were anticipated to be the maximum), who were all a part of history in forming/participating in a new form of a “bass camp” now called #BassConOnline.
Future plans are to hold another #BassConOnline in the Spring of 2021, but with the early feedback from this inaugural event, there may be one more prior to the close of 2020!
Day 1, August 21, 2020 8:00am
The first session started with Stu Hamm playing a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with a mixture of tapping and fingerpicking! He mentioned that he also has a lovely rendition of America the Beautiful on YouTube. He then went right into an instruction on the importance of breathing correctly, warming up, stretching and getting the entire body, not only your hands/fingers, ready for playing or a practice session. Lose the tension and death grip. It’s okay to just noodle, run some scales, and/or play a favorite go-to warm-up song, instead of just grabbing your bass and expect to play your best. Play everything as a piece of music, even the practice session. Play with feeling and play even notes and always use a metronome! A 20-minute warm-up will increase your strength and improve your skill. Get your hands in the right position and train them to refrain from the “flying fingers,” as this is very important to increase skill and comfort level. If you have flying fingers, you can try a rubber band to hold the fingers together during practice. If you experience any pain or strain, stop! Rest and come back. He has an effective, great regimen for anyone/any level to follow for improving their skill level, and he’s highly recommended for lessons, and or self-training with his CD tutorials – all of this is available on his website. I felt completely in-tune with Stu Hamm’s presentation of his heartfelt instruction/advice and in my opinion, the audience as well. The session went fast and there were no dead spots! Very engaging!
Day 1, August 21, 2020, 10:30am
The second session include both Leland Sklar and Guy Pratt. Unfortunately, I missed most of this session due to a prior scheduled appointment. When I joined in, there was little to no interaction between the attendees. Lee and Guy were discussing people who listen to music on cell phones, rather than other portable devices that support better-than-MP3 quality. Musicians spend a ton of time and money in hi-tech studios, and then most of it is only heard on low-quality playback devices. It is reality and it is a shame not to hear all the nuances of studio-recorded music as it was intended to be heard. The discussion carried on about life, the COVID pandemic, and gigs being canceled, one after another. Dave Swift joined in the chat and added some insight into his life and similarities of the current situation for musicians. I certainly missed out on most of this Q&A session – super bummer!
Day 2, August 22, 2020, 8:00am
Rudy Sarzo started the second day with an ear-to-ear smile and eagerness to provide insight and instruction for those in attendance. He felt the mornings were the best time to get into the practice mode, because you start fresh with a clear head and no stress. I hadn’t thought of this, and he may be right! Rudy shared with the group that he tunes his 6-string bass like a guitar! He mentioned that the chromatic scale is the most important scale to learn and practice for all bass players. There was quite a bit of Q&A between the audience and guests Lee Sklar and Dave Swift (Jools Holland House Band). This was another session that sped along and before we knew it, time was up. Rudy is very entertaining and genuinely friendly.
Day 2, August 22, 2020, 10:30am
Mike Tobias came on after the 30-min break and fielded many questions without hesitation. He shared some color samples of various types of woods and how they brought out more of the wood grain while others did not. Mike shared some intel on current projects in the shop: a new semi-hollow model, some R&D on the fretless model, new Kingston short-scale model due towards the end of the year, and Daniel taking the reins of the day-to-day work in the shop. Mike mentioned the fact that an instrument needs to be played, letting the strings vibrate and resonate the wood to wake it up. He says it can take years to fully open-up an instrument. Something unknown to me is that Mike is a guitar player, not a bass player. The Q&A session was another one that flew by quickly. He was extremely gracious and just emitted this aura of luthier knowledge for the BassCon group. This was a true delight to have a custom bass luthier in this event!
Day 3, August 23, 2020, 8:00am
John Patitucci started out with the same message that Stu Hamm emphasized: use a metronome while practicing and playing, locking in with the drum beat. He recommended an app called Percussion Tutor that you can download onto your cell phone. John mentioned he is a musical schizophrenic and applying musicianship to bass is playing the notes with feeling, emphasizing the hi/low sounds when applicable and mentioned Lee Sklar is great at this very aspect. John mentioned to practice ear training and arpeggios every day. Learn to transcribe. Dave Swift joined in on John’s discussion on the importance of rhythm and inflection being very important. Both in agreement that these two aspects are critical to playing bass. John demonstrated his vibrato technique, something Stu Hamm had discussed regarding players who over-emphasize vibrato. John was exciting, engaging, friendly, funny, and a pleasure to chat with in the Q&A session. His insight and advice was something not to be missed.
Day 3, August 23, 2020, 10:30am
Michael Manring started the second session after a short break with an interesting/celestial-sounding arrangement using an Ebow and applying tapping, some slapping and picking techniques. If you haven’t heard of this tool, it sits above a string, never touching it, and provides an everlasting sustain while you play. He discussed throughout the Q&A session on the topic of bringing out the inspiration/creativity that is inside all of us and communicating it through our bass playing. This was an intricate and extremely deep topic which had everyone glued to Michael’s thoughts and wisdom of this topic. It was my feeling though that maybe too much time was spent discussing creativity/inspiration, and instead, maybe more demonstration on the bass would’ve helped this topic along, as it seemed to consume the entire session.
On the positive side of this event, it was a great first stab at bringing musicians together for the purpose of obtaining some instruction, tips, tricks, gear setups, life experiences, and peeking into the worlds of professional bassists and a custom bass builder, sharing something we all have in common, playing musical instruments, staying safe and healthy and social distancing as best we can. And seriously, how often do we get to hang with professional musicians, icons, luthiers and be able to ask questions, interact one on one? That was pretty darn cool!
On the flip side, I had expected something different and I came into this thinking that each session was going to be instruction, advice, tips and mostly bass demonstration, with the attendees having a bass in their hands to play along. I was a bit surprised and slightly disappointed that some sessions were only Q&A. I honestly felt this event was lacking more information on what was going to take place over the 3 days. The schedule listed the guest speakers, but not what we should expect from attending each session. Having an outlined curriculum up front would’ve been helpful for everyone.
I provided some detail on the first BassCon activities that took place over the course of 3 days, 4 hours/day. There was so much more that I did not mention above and I hope you as a reader will be curious enough to join in the next #BassConOnline. I know I will, as I enjoyed the various musician’s backgrounds and varying advice that they shared with the attendees. I just hope there is more info on the event for the guests/attendees so we can all better prepare ahead of time.