Get to know the player behind some of the best bass instructional books around! Ed Friedland talks with Chris Tarry about gear, writing, school, and developing a career.
Chris Tarry: Hi Ed thanks for taking time out to talk with us here at
Bass. Can you fill us in a bit on your background, influences, and possibly
how you began playing bass?
It's my pleasure Chris, it's a nice change to be on the other
side of an interview!
I grew up in New York City, started playing guitar
I was 10. When I hit Junior High School, I joined the orchestra, picking
bass because it had the same bottom 4 strings. Knowing my way around the
really helped. I studied classical bass for 5 years, and even considered
going to a conservatory, but my life changed in High School when I heard
for the first time. I went to the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan,
and our jazz band included Marcus Miller on bass and Kenny Washington on
drums. These guys were hitting pretty heavy even at 15 years old, and it c
ompletely changed my mind about what musical direction I wanted to go in.
instead of the conservatory, I went to Berklee.
Berklee was still primarily a "jazz" school then (1977). The pop thing
really taken hold yet, though fusion was very big. I recieved alot of
instruction there that has stayed with me my whole life, even though some of
my old teachers may have thought I wasn't listening! Until I left the East
Coast, I'dsay the majority of my professional contacts were all somehow
connected to Berklee.
My background as a "studied" player is really on upright bass. My main
influences were/are Scott LaFaro, Eddie Gomez, Paul Chambers and Ron Carter.
You have the whole upper register soloing thing with Scott and Eddie, and
serious bottom groove thing with Paul and Ron. When I was 18, I figured if I
was going to be a bass player, I'd better get an electric bass, but I had
typical upright/jazz snob attitude. I thought it wasn't a "real" bass. Hah!
Thankfully that didn't last long. Jaco was the primary force in electric
bass then, and I got hooked. I ripped the frets out of my aluminum necked
Kramer bass and gave it a shot.
My first electric bass influence was Marcus Miller, as I mentioned we went
the same school and I saw him play alot back then, everyone knew that he was
a phenomenal talent, even in High School. Watching him really shaped my idea
about what the electric bass could do. Of course, Jaco was a big influence,
one that I'm still absorbing 23 years later! I got heavily into Larry
the source of slap! Also James Jamerson, Jerry Jemmott, George Porter and
I spent many years gigging around Boston and New York taking all kinds of
gigs - Jazz, Rock and Roll, Fusion, R&B, Pop, Country, Brazilian, Theater,
Studio, whatever came my way. If I were to make an honest assessment of my
skills, I'd say I'm far from being the best at any one thing, but I can do a
lot of things really well.
CT: I attended Berklee as well and one thing I noticed about it was the mini
micro giging world it created internally just through the fact of having so
many players. Sessions, shows, and professionalism all operate much like
outside world but at a smaller scale. The top players
the busiest and I
found as a bass player this really prepared me for the real world. Did you
find the same thing?
Sure, as you get known around the school, you start getting into the
"session" scene - jamming after school. During school there was always
up the ladder in the ensemble program as your ensemble rating improved. Then
there were student concerts, recitals, recording projects. Plenty of
opportunities for a good bassist. It can be a great training ground.
CT: You have some of the most successful bass instructional books around and
as you know AB is a site dedicated to teaching bass. How did you decided to
get involved in writing instructional books and what do you feel are some of
the most important points you try and stress to players wanting to improve?
A Great Bass Resource!|
Building Walking Bass Lines by Ed Friedland.
I had been teaching for several years and while there were plenty of
materials out there, I felt they weren't suited to the way I wanted to
so I started writing my own hand outs. I highly recommend that anyone
teaching do this. It's the best way to clarify your vision of what you have
to offer as a teacher, and you will learn alot in the process.
My first book, Building Walking Bass Lines was actually my Masters thesis. I
had always had in mind to write a bass book, but had no idea how to do it.
Going back to school to study education taught me how to find a gap in the
literature and fill it, developing an outline (very important!) and
communicating your ideas effectively. After I graduated, I was using my
homemade version of the book with my students and they seemed to like it.
of them was Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith. While 'Smith was in rehearsal prior
the recording of "Pump", he was taking lessons with me and learning to play
through "Satin Doll". He liked the book and knowing that Aerosmith was
published by Hal Leonard, I asked him for a name at the company. I caught
them at a good time as they were just starting to get the Bass Builders
series going. SInce then I've done 5 books for them, all in the Bass
Another Great Bass Resource!|
Jazz Bass by Ed Friedland.
When I write instructional materials, my goal is to break the subject down
into a chronological sequence of events. I teach that way as well. I'm
thinking "what's the first thing this person needs to know?" Then it's
"what's the NEXT thing this person needs to know?" If you follow that line
thinking, you wind up with a method, the next step is learning how to
it to someone that doesn't know what you're talking about. I think I've
figured out how to do that, and the feedback I receive from people tends to
CT: Do you have any plans for another book?
Well, my 6th and newest one is due out any day, it's called "The Working
Bassist's Toolkit" and it's put out by Miller Freeman books. It's
a collection of a lot of articles I've written for Bass Player Magazine over
The New Book!|
Turn yourself into a pro!.
Putting them into book form allowed me to expand on them,
writing is very "space conscious". I added lots of new material and included
a CD with an Ear Training workout, and lots of tracks to play with. Some of
my favorites are the "Style-O-Rama" vamp, a I-VI-II-V vamp that changes
styles every 8 bars and the "Random Modulation Torture Test", another
I-VI-II-V vamp that modulates every 8 bars.
As the name implies, the book is
geared toward developing the skills a professional bassist needs to survive
in the real world. There's always alot of attention paid to cool stuff like
tapping, soloing, double thumbing and what have you, but in the average day
of a freelance pro bassist, you rarely need that -you need to be able to
fast, come up with something that works for the tune, and groove like a
CT: Can you fill us in on some of the current musical projects you are
Well, I now live in Tucson, AZ and it's although it's a small town,
are things happening. Mostly I gig locally, I was never that much into
roadwork. I've always been more of an "in town" guy. I like sleeping in my
own bed and eating my own food! While I've done some nice touring gigs, I'm
perfectly content to work within a 20 mile radius! One thing I do quite
is back up visiting jazz artists for the Tucson Jazz Society's concert
series. Since moving here in 1996, I've played about 40 major jazz shows for
them. It's a great scene, playing in a beautiful outdoor venue with (mostly)
perfect weather for large appreciative audiences.
In addition to
I've been leading a lot of different bands, I have a fusion group, a swing
group, a quartet where I play piccolo bass, an "out there" jazz thing, and
most recently a classic New Orleans R&B group called "Lazy Ed and the
Strat-O-Loungers" in which I'm also the lead singer. None of the bands work
full time, I book whatever I'm in the mood to do.
I've done a little producing for people, and recently written some music for
an independant documentary film. I've been writing some tunes for The
Strat-O-Loungers, rootsy New Orleans R&B stuff. We're recording soon, and if
it comes out okay, maybe I'll make it available on the web, just don't make
fun of my singing!
CT: You are a big contributor to Bass Player magazine. How did that gig
come about and how has it helped your career?
When Bass Player first came out I was so excited to see a magazine for
just us low enders. I had been wading through the guitar content of Guitar
Player for years looking for the stuff I wanted to read, and now it was
finally all bass, all the time! I knew I had to submit something, so I
for an idea that I thought would be of help to as many players as possible.
wrote "The Metronome As Guru" (BP 4/93) and sent it in. Editor Jim Roberts
liked it, but they sat on it for almost a year looking for the right issue
put it in. In the meantime, he asked me to write a "sitting in" column which
I called "Soloing In The Stratosphere" a piece on some of the methods I use
for learning to solo in the upper structure of chord changes.
came out, I kept getting al these ideas for pieces based on my experiences
the bass workforce. Things that I felt people needed to know to be a working
player. They kept taking my articles, and eventually they brought me on
as a contributing editor and monthly columnist. Being involved with Bass Player has been a terrific thing for me in many
ways. It's given me a wide platform to get my message across to players, I
feel like I'm providing a service to my fellow bassists. Writing for Bass
Player has also helped me learn more about my craft, as a player, a teacher
and writer. Once I stopped taking the editing process personally, I realized
that there is always a more consice way to express an idea, something I'm
still learning. It has also given me a fairly high profile in the bass
community, especially for a guy that is not on any major records or doing
high level touring. Wherever I go, people know me from my work at Bass
and it's very gratifying to hear how something I wrote may have helped them
learn something. It's been a very important association for me, one that I
very grateful for, and proud of.
CT: What kind of basses are you playing right now and what do you enjoy
about playing them?
My upright is a 50 year old Juzek carved bass. It's not what you'd call
pedigree axe, but it sounds great and is very solid, it has never cracked in
5 years of living in the desert. It has a very even response, nice growl in
the low end and it sings in thumb position.
I use a Fishman BP100 combined
with the Crown PG200 mic. I put them through a Fishman Pocket Blender
through an Acoustic Image Clarus head that pushes a Carvin 15" speaker in a
custom built cab.
All my 5 strings are Carvins. I've been playing them for about 7 years. My
old trusty Koa/Maple BB75 has been re-strung in "high - C" tuning, the Koa
has a nice tight focused sound that is ideal for soloing and chordal
Tried, tested, and true! Ed's workhorse, a Carvin BB75
My new "career girl' is a Swamp Ash BB75 with a maple fingerboard. I can't
tell you how much I love this bass. It feels just like my old one, but the
Swamp Ash is amazing for bringing out the low end, the B string is massive.
And the slap sound is crispy and buttery at the same time. It's punchy,
consistent, and very versatile. I need a bass that can do everything, this
one does it. I also have an LB75 that's my piccolo bass. I just strung it up
an octave higher, I never bothered to change the nut. I use the front pickup
and it sounds like a fat jazz guitar.
I'm also getting a new fretless, it's going to have the BB body, but as a
special favor they're putting on the narrower LB neck, I like the narrow
spacing for fretless, it's also going to be Swamp Ash. Swamp Ash RULES!
My 4 strings include a '74 Jazz with a Bartolini TBT preamp and a Badass II
bridge. This bass is the standard by which all others are judged, it's the
bomb for slap or just about anything. I have a '73 P Bass that I play alot,
it has a Lindy Fralin P bass pickup and a Quadrophonic Bartolini J pickup in
the bridge position with an Aguilar OBP, it's my Swiss Army bass.
and joy is my fabulous Egmond bass. It was featured in Bass Player's
Weird Basses" (BP 9/00). It's a cheapo Dutch axe from the 60's. It's plywood
covered with contact paper, and genuine mother-of-toilet-seat. The strings
are 30 year old LaBella flatwounds, and it sounds terrific. I use it for
blues, country, reggae, anything that needs to be FAT.
All my basses (except for the Egmond) are strung with LaBella Hard Rockin'
Steels. On the 5's I use the M-42B set, and for the 4 strings I use the M45
set. I love their B string, I have never found another one that produces
clarity in the low register with a strong fundamental and sounds good even
above the 12th fret.
CT: You are so right about Swamp Ash! The openness of the wood is amazing.
find that (ala Willis) it is the best wood for fretless bass. Do you prefer
bolt on's or neck through's on your fretless basses?
Well, it's hard to say, I tend to agree with Gary Willis' ideas about
fretless bass construction. I played a few of his personal basses and was
very impressed with them. However, the Carvins I've used are neck through,
and I really like them too. I think this Swamp Ash one I'm having built is
going to be great. Ultimately, for me the best fretless is still a
Jazz Bass, except that I really like to have 5 strings and a 24 fret neck. I
think that's at the heart of Gary's design concept.
CT: Is there an Ed Friedland solo album available or one in the works?
Not at the moment. I've thought about it alot over the years, but
honestly, I'm not driven to put out a "bass CD." The kind of CD I'd put
together would be so incredibly dis-jointed that there would be no place for
it. I'm into so many things, I couldn't see doing a whole CD of any of them.
You never know, it could happen, but I would have to go into a real studio
with players. I'm not inspired to do a solo overdub thing. I'm amazed at
that can do that, it's like they just turn on a switch and it's all there, I
feel like I need the energetic exchange from the right group of players to
get me going, I'm not one of these guys that can stand there alone and be
amazing. Maybe you've planted a seed, ask me again in a few months!
CT: You heard it here first at Active Bass!
I do have my website going up at www.edfriedland.com and as I get more
savvy with html, I plan on having soundfiles to download. I do have a few
things that I've done with other people that I'd like to share with the rest
of the world, I just need to get "tooled" up to make that happen.
CT: There are a lot of Active Bass members who want to know what it takes to
sustain a career as a bass player. How do you do it and do you have any
advice for people looking to make it their life's work?
Well, there are many different types of career opportunities for
bassists, and the answers would vary slightly for each. However there are
many universal principles to good bass playing that would apply to all
First of all, you must be competent. You don't have to be
brilliant, you don't even have to be great, but you must be competent.
Competency implies a solid familiarity with your instrument, clean
skills, a good sense of time and groove, and a workable knowledge of musical
concepts. Naturally the better shape your core skills are in, more
opportunities exist for you.
I think bass playing falls into two categories. There's the artist, and the
craftsman. Both are equally noble. The artist has a vision that must be
followed at any cost. At the highest level, these are the people that define
the instrument in new ways. They create situations for themselves so they
exist as artists. The craftsman is the player that absorbs styles and
their pleasure from doing the job well. Playing the "right stuff" and
the need, whatever it may be. They are usually sidemen, maybe well known,
maybe unsung, but they aren't into drawing the focus to them. The craftsman
sees their role as a service industry to other musicians. Personally, I lean
more toward the craftsman side myself, but I think there's a bit of artist
If you're going to be a craftsman, learn as much about music as possible,
keep your core skills at a high level, be able to get along with people, and
develop your musical intuition. If you feel the call of the artist, then
listen to those little voices inside your head!
CT: What kind of things do you still practice and how do you stay motivated
to keep improving?
I practice different things at different times. I like working on my
melodic vocabulary, I'm still very much at heart a bebopper and there is
always more to absorb from the great masters. I don't practice chops much, I
feel like they are there when I need them. If I'm on a blues gig, I
physically CAN'T play all my fancy stuff, it just won't come out! My
technique seems to naturally adjust to the present need. When I'm on a hard
core jazz gig and I have to play tempos all night, it's there. I still
practice reading, it's a skill that you can never be too good at. I also
spend time with my metronome, recharging my internal clock and washing away
the sins of the weekend!
CT: Who are some of your favorite bass players out there today and why?
There has been an explosion of amazing players in the last 10 years, the
instrument has reached alot of new heights.
For my money, Victor Wooten is
undoubtedly the greatest living electric bassist. I'm not just amazed by his
technique (which is as close to flawless as I've ever seen), but he is
supremely musical. He grooves like the devil, he has the melodic and
vocabulary, he has jaw dropping mastery of the instrument, and he's a
genuinely humble person. I really dig Matt Garrison, I love his concept, g
reat lines, and chords - I'd like to be able to do that! Otiel Burbridge
really plays wonderful stuff, he has a great melodic sense and a well tuned
ear, and he's a super nice guy. Gary Willis is great, I had the chance to
take a lesson with him last summer, I like the way his mind works. He zeroed
right in on some things that I need to work on. His melodic sense is very
cool and advanced, he's a deep cat. John Pattitucci is also a favorite.
a doubler myself, I find him very inspiring. He has truly mastered both
Whenever I hear a track that has some ridiculously hard stuff to play on
upright, and it sounds flowing and in tune, I know right away it's him! He's
also one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I'm sure I'll hear about
new players coming up, that's another nice thing about writing for Bass
Player Magazine, you get the inside track on all the new monster bassists!
CT: Ed, thanks again for hangin out with us here at AB and best of luck in
Thank you Chris, I think it's a really cool site, it's great to see so
much dedication to the art of bass. It's a great resource for players.
for inviting me to talk!