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cluttered sound - bassist complaining

edited August 2016 in Gypsy Rhythm
I would like to hear some opinions. I formed a sort of gypsy jazz/funk, Latin sextet in Korea (guitar, ukulele, bass, trumpet, sax, percussion). My bassist, who has never played jazz manouche, has recently insisted that I play more drop 3 chords and fewer roots, leaving the roots to him, as the sound can get rather bassy and cluttered when we are all playing. I kinda see his point, but at the same time I feel can't really get the chunky jazz manouche pompe sound I want unless I'm playing the Django-style root chords. Also I am not so good at comping on top string chords. What do you all think? Are there some good rootless Django chords I might learn? Should I be open to evolving musically, and sacrifice the pompe (since we have a drummer) or resolve the problem another way? Maybe less percussion on the swing numbers?
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Comments

  • learning to fit harmonically with a group is not easy. all band members need to be hearing what is happening, be sensitive to the overall sound and be able to react accordingly. With a group that large probably a good idea to agree upon some arrangements, particularly with horns if they are playing pads or fill lines. Its not just on you.

    Welcome to the forum
    Ted Woelke
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Given your lineup and the "funk Latin" part of the style description, you're already some distance from classic Hot Club territory, and I would think that means some adjustment to the purity of the guitar part. The bass is indeed going to be supplying the bottom, and the drums are going to have more power in the setting-the-groove department, and in that environment the guitar has to find its own niche. (Be thankful you don't have to contend with a piano as well.) Sounds like the whole band is going to have to sit down and figure out how to voice itself--and maybe the bassist needs to listen to how his instrument operates in traditional Hot Club units. My suspicion is that everybody is going to have to back off a bit (well, probably not the uke) and find a balance.
    Ted Woelke
  • BonesBones Moderator
    edited August 2016
    Not much time so I'll be brief even though this is a huge topic.

    Where to begin...hmmm...

    Start with the concept that less is more. You can always add but if you are comping as well as the uke the last thing you need to be doing is comping on the top 4 strings (along with the uke) in the high register stepping all over the soloist (unless u want to :-)).

    As far as roots, and I know I will probably piss off a few JM guys, but I'm with the bassist on this. Lets just look at G major chord. If you play one of those big fat barre chords (3 5 5 4 5 3) and lets say the uke is comping a similar inversion (but an octave higher) that means you will have 6 effing roots. Really??? Plus all kinds of stuff going on in the high register.

    Sure if you are in a trio or quartet and playing unamplified and you need to crank it up, fine, play fat chords but if it isn't necessary why clutter things up.

    Conversely, if you like to comp that way REALLY damp out the chord quickly is another technique. Mostly a quick percussive beat.

    But I'd play 3 x 2 4 x x or 7 x 5 7 x x. Hit the high strings with the pick to get the percussion but they are damped. Or if you really don't want any roots 8 x 7 7 8 x but I try to not emphasize that A on the second string too much color in the rhythm section (could play 8 x 7 7 x x if you can damp it).

    Also, the uke (or mando, etc) in the high register REALLY needs to damp out their chords quickly to keep the ringing out of the high register. That isn't a problem anyway since that short percussive beat is what helps keep it from getting muddy (true for the comping guitar as well). Think about the space between the beats.

    Just my 2 cents. Gotta run....
    Ted Woelke
  • BonesBones Moderator
    BTW, I'm only talking about the pompe subject that you were referring to.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    PS- it's actually quite 'freeing' to not have to hold down the root. Try the third, fifth, or seventh in the bass. As a bonus, you'll find that just a few 'shapes' will cover all the chords that you will need.
    Ted Woelke
  • Thanks for responses, everyone. Very insightful indeed! :)
  • Also, the volume balance in the rhythm section needs to be considered. A rooted chord and a rooted bass note usually work just fine together.

    Is the bass player a busy note person? Maybe as Bones said less will be more
    Ted Woelke
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • BonesBones Moderator
    edited August 2016
    Good points by Stuart and Jazza. I second that if your technique is dry and light it shouldn't make all that much difference what inversion you pick as long as ur covering the 3, 5 (and 6 or 7 as req'd). Actually, all you really need to cover is the 3 and 6 or 7 but that's another story (try playing a blues progression with just the 3 and 7 on the third and fourth strings, interesting eh? Same shape for the I IV and V chords just move up and down one fret.) You can always add in more complexity if you want that sound.
    Ted Woelke
  • From the American-swing-rhythm side, it's the 3 and 7 that matter--my first teacher in this style called them the "heart of the chord" and organized the fingerings, um, accordingly--mostly three-string moveable shapes. (This is the same approach suggested by every account of "Freddie Green" style I've seen.) And as a semi-reformed folkie fingerpicker who still sometimes uses 5- and 6-string voicings, I'd second the comments about adjusting both right- and left-hand comping technique to match the rhythm environment. (I play in duo, trio, and larger settings, with and without bass or drums, and have to fit myself in accordingly. Mostly my ear guides my fingers.)
    Ted Woelke
  • If there is only one harmonic instrument (guitar, piano/kb) I don't think its important whether the chord has 2 4 or 6 notes. IMO what is important is the chord voicings make melodic and harmonic sense (voice leading, counterpoint) and don't throw the soloist off.

    If one has a incorrigibly busy bassist, then backing off becomes necessary as does playing with horns if they are doing pads and fills.

    Once one gets a couple of harmonic instruments definitely less is more and is vital to a clear sound.

    in
    Ted Woelke
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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