Bass guitar master Marcus Miller, is one of the world's most renowned bassists, known for an impressive solo career, as well as, for working with such jazz legends as; Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, and many, many more.
Marcus has offered his Top 5 tips that every bassist (and musician) should reach for...
Chatting with Music Radar, Mr. Miller stressed the importance of jamming, keeping an eye on the big picture, crafting your tone, and staying healthy. A few quotes from the interview are given below.
1. Play with other musicians
"You know, we've got a new generation of bass players and I call them bedroom players because they basically play solo on a six-string bass. They can play the bass and the chords and the melody, but they're more like guitar players because they play by themselves a lot."
"It's beautiful, but I would just warn the guys that you really need to make sure you play with other people, because that's a whole other education. Bending your rhythm to match a drummer or a guitar player and really learning how to work in a group is important."
"The one complaint I've heard from other musicians about the new generation of bass players is that they don't know how to make the music feel good. They know how to play beautiful and very technically interesting things, but they kind of miss the main reason for playing music!"
"I would advise bass players to go and play with other musicians, every opportunity they get. It's not as easy these days because everything happens over the internet, so you don't have guys playing together like they used to."
2. Pay attention to your tone
"You just need to be aware of where you are and what might be necessary from you. If you've got guitars and keyboards and horns that all operate in the same mid-range area, then you might need to get a big thick fat sound and fill the band up and help the drummer out, you know what I mean? It’s really important to do that."
3. Listen beyond your instrument
"You've got to figure out what you're playing, man, but listen to the whole sound and figure out what you can do to make the song sound good - like, don't play your crazy sweet bass lick right in the middle of when the singer says the most important word in the song, you know what I mean? Listen to the song, man, and make the song sound better."
4. The bass players we admire most only played one bass
"When I think of the guys that really made an impact on me - Jaco [Pastorius] played a 1962 Jazz Bass, Stanley Clarke plays an Alembic bass, Victor Wooten plays that Fodera, Larry Graham plays a Fender Jazz Bass and James Jamerson played a Fender Precision.
"They didn't walk around with five basses and say, 'For this song, I'm going to play my blahblahblah...' They were connected to their instrument and their voice became that instrument. And this includes me, too, because I've been playing the same [Fender] Jazz Bass since my mom bought it for me in 1977. Although it's really fun, and I have, like, 35 basses or something like that, but I only really ever play one consistently."
5. Take care of yourself
"I don't drink and I don't smoke. You know, it can take me a while to find the right head-space when I’m writing music or when I'm getting ready to go onstage. I've got to do a little bit more work than somebody who just smokes a spliff or something, you know what I mean?"
"But I think, in the long run, man - and I've been around a long time - I think it's really benefited me to keep myself together. It's so easy - especially when you're traveling on the road - to not get the right sleep. There are always people around after every concert wanting to invite you to hang out at the bar or wherever and it's very dangerous. I've seen a lot of musicians suffer."
"If you work in an office for a big corporation, you can't show up high, period. You're going to get fired but, as a musician, you can get away with a lot. People know you're high but you've played so great that they just forgive you or they say, 'That's part of it!'
"That's dangerous, because nobody's going to call you up for being under the influence. All they're going to do when they read in the newspaper that you checked out at a young age is go, 'Oh yeah, that's what musicians do!' You have to have the self-discipline to keep yourself together. I think that's really important."