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Obsolete (Mutemath) – In The Pocket

In this video, I look at the mechanics and influences of the "Obsolete" bassline; the story behind the studio recording and creation process; and translating this upright bass part to the bass guitar.

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Hello, my good people and welcome back to another episode of “In The Pocket”! Today, we’re going to be looking at “Obsolete.”

So, “Obsolete” was recorded, I believe in 2005; it’s on the MUTEMATH debut album. It’s a very interesting track; I remember starting to mess with the idea of “Stare At The Sun” in early rehearsals with the guys. That’s when we put up the bass drum, the marching drum on the X stand so I could play that. It was like this 808 sound that they got from the Slingerland kick that I would play live and it was a really cool song. Somehow, somewhere while recording that song, at the end of “Stare At The Sun” something developed. I remember getting to the studio one day and the song needed some bass and I had my upright. I’m not even sure why I had my upright; I wasn’t even playing it with the band. So, we started putting this bassline over this track. Before I started playing, I just remember hearing immediately this line and kind of going right into it. I had kind of took inspiration from a classic jazz standard called “Footprints.’

This song was recorded in C# minor so for those of you that want to play along you’re gonna have to tune down a half step.

So back to the creation, I remember being in the studio and this line just kind of came out of nowhere. It was a very ominous kind of strange night I remember; I think there’s footage where Darren started filming as we’re recording. I was laying down this bassline and we looked out the window of the studio and there was just a swarm of bats in the air, creating this is tunnel, this havoc. I don’t know what they were doing; it just fit perfectly with the vibe of the song and everything that was going on and what we were capturing at the moment. We were so excited and it was just one of my favorite experiences ever in the studio. I treasure it and I’m glad that this song has been a staple of the Mutemath diet (if you will). It was a real joy for me to be a part of that process, the creative process.

So I realize a lot of you may not play upright and want to learn this and play on an electric bass, a fretted electric bass, which is totally fine. There are many gigs where I had to do that because I couldn’t fly with an upright or I couldn’t take a fretless as well. Especially just for one song, it was just kind of a bit much when we were flying all over the world. So I had to adapt the bassline to just a regular bass and it was a little tricky getting the right feel. Obviously, I’m doing things a little bit differently because I’m interpreting it from the upright, which is a completely different instrument to me. I approach the upright using a lot of different technique as opposed to the electric bass, but there were certain things that I just had to do, like open strings that I wouldn’t normally play. When I would play this live on the fretted bass, I like to do as many slides as possible, to emulate some of the upright-ness of it all. It was a little tricky but I would try to kinda slide into things and make it a little slinky.

This song is a lot of fun to play; it’s at 91 BPM in 6/8 if you want to put it into your DAW and play long, maybe with the track and record yourself. I encourage my students to record themselves and listen back to see what they’re doing.

If you’re interested in getting a bass course for me, I’m gonna start to develop some material and I would like to know who’s interested in learning more about my methodology and getting a more in-depth focus on some of my techniques and theory, if you’re interested in getting ideas on how to create basslines and different exercises you can use to become a better bass player. This is for beginners, all the way to advanced; so there will be something for everyone. If you’re interested, sign up above to get more information.

Thanks again!

1950s Kay Upright Bass, Flood Damage Photos (May 2010)

Original Blog Post
MONDAY, MAY 10, 2010

Thanks to Levi for taking these pictures and going to check out the damage while we are out on the road. Without question, it was a lot harder to look at these photos than I thought it would be. I keep thinking of all my memories with this bass: from straight ahead jazz and salsa gigs in South Texas to MM recording sessions and touring. With the help of my parents, I bought this bass in 1997 from a student at UNT, and I started lessons there with various teachers, learning the basics in classical and jazz.

Then, with the help of Salvador Giardina (one of the best luthiers in the country), we modified the bass to be amplified and adjusted to my playing style. I firmly believe that with lots of time and money this bass can be restored, and that will be my aim in the near future.

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