How to Be a Bass Player

The illustration above, clipped out of an old issue of Musician magazine, has been inside my bass case, underneath either a 1962 Precision or a '61 Danelectro, for a long time now. Every time I see it, unpacking before a gig or a jam, it makes me smile. It's a three-second bass lesson, an inspiration, a quick reminder of what's important no matter what kind of music you play: who you are, why you're there, what it is that you want to happen.

Jazz. Ron Carter, Charlie Hayden, Charles Mingus, Scott LaFaro... Listen to jazz combos, especially trios - the bass not only holds the root down through the changes, but sets the mood and direction of both the song, and the band. It's the living breathing bridge between the rhythmic (Yang) and the melodious (Yin).

A quake, a seismic deep rumbling disturbance, a rift opening upon the earth's crust. It's the groove: deep, wide and pulsating-- dance as close as you can on the edge without falling in. It's within the power of your fingers to excite the rhythmic beast and bring down the house, or lay back and float after the eruption, on a mellow stream of cool vibrations.

Shake that booty. What else needs to be said? Shake it baby, shake it all night long.

From Within The Imminent Grove: Track 2: Sakura Falling Onto Snow


One year ago, in March of 2020, I went into Kyle Everett's Robotboy Records studio in Eugene to start a recording project. The original plan was to do a few demos, translating what there was inside my head into at least some form of basic song structure, and take them home to listen and see which tracks had potential to expand upon and eventually build up into something more than just an idea.

And then the plague hit, and a lot of plans had to be put on hold, for a lot of people. Before the studio closed for the duration of the pandemic, we had five solid basic beat + guitars + vocal song demos recorded over two relaxed four hour sessions, any of which could have been morphed into a completed song with the addition of more instrumentation, and a sixth sketch track of a germinal folky sci-fi tune.

Last summer, after seeing that things weren't going to return to normal anytime soon, I put together a home recording setup in a quiet upstairs bedroom, and began learning how to record, edit, and mix on my own. For a guy whose concept of hi-tech is assembling and blowing up high compression air cooled VW engines and designing and building tube amps made to be detonated - both 1920s level technology - working with 21st century digital recording was a steep learning curve, but the journey was more fun than not.

Note: There should be an embedded YouTube vid below, with the song Sakura Falling Onto Snow, but if you're reading this on a phone or iPad, it's probably not there, Google only knows why. Here's a direct link to the song on YouTube.

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Sakura Falling Onto Snow was little more than a sketch of a song last March, and none of its previously recorded demo tracks were kept. Since then the key has risen two steps and the melody evolved, the tempo slowed a few bpm and new words written, and gradually a somewhat different song emerged from what was once a string of Haikus held together by a guitar pretending to be a Koto.

Sakura Falling Onto Snow
Words and music by James Aoyama
Copyright 2021

For Kaede, Audrey, and Takeo
Basic tracks recorded at home with vintage gear
Remix, mastering, and additional tracks recorded by Kyle Everett at Robotboy Records, Eugene, Oregon:
James Aoyama: guitars, vocals, bamboo flutes, intro synthesizer
Kyle Everett: DX7 synth and percussion
Taiko drums by Jim and Kyle

Thanks and credit due to the memory of science fiction and fantasy goddess Ursula K. Le Guin for the title of the collection, "From Within The Imminent Grove".

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Contact James at