On Saturday 27 July 2019, a group of 18 bass players assembled at Coorparoo Bowls Club to attend the It’s All About the Bass workshop offered by Mark Cryle. Mark is a nationally and an internationally well-known bass player, who performs with both session musicians and bands. He’s one of Australia’s leading singer-songwriters, and also plays the guitar and mandolin.

Bass players at Mark Cryle’s workshop, July 2019.

Mark’s workshop concentrated on the underlying fundamentals of bass playing (tempo and rhythm) rather than teaching a particular piece of music, and was loosely divided into three sections.

Firstly, the bass as a rhythm instrument and understanding the fundamentals of keeping time and staying with the rhythm of the piece; the fact that the bass is the link between the rhythm and the melody; and the importance of deciding which beats to accent.

Secondly, (and I suspect with his tongue in his cheek) that, “No one knows the chord until the bass player decides which note to play!”… which was a discussion and demonstration of the concept of the “root note”, knowing when to play it and when not to.

Thirdly, what to play between the “root notes”, understanding the importance of scales and harmony theory in deciding which notes to play and not to play. This part of the workshop included scales 101 and basic harmony theory and why they are important to the bass.

Aspiring bass players came from as far away as Byron Bay and Toowoomba. Robert Soothill, a keen bass player, from the Gold Coast, found it well worth the trip. Robert reports …

Mark started his workshop by talking about the role of a bass player within the group and the importance of the beat and pulse set up by a skilled player. He covered basic harmony, substituting notes, accenting beats and many topics important to bass players.

Everyone attending expressed areas in which they had gained new knowledge and skills. It was a great workshop, well done Mark, most enjoyable! Perhaps YOUR ukulele group will now benefit from its bass players new skills!                                                           Robert Soothill

Brisbane northsider, and NUMB BUMS baritone (and occasional bass) player, John Low, found the workshop inspirational. Here’s what John thought.

The workshop was designed and advertised for BUMS members who played the bass, and while it did focus on the bass as an ensemble instrument, it also covered areas of tempo, rhythm and melody which are a major benefit to any ukulele player aspiring to play in a group.

The content was neither as boring nor as dreary as some may assume, and showed that a little musical knowledge can take you a long way. There was also a discussion on ‘riffs’ and Mark made the point that while they could add significantly to the ‘drama’ of a piece of music they should be used very sparingly or not at all.

Mark interspersed the important bits with amusing anecdotes and his jokes and insights were well worth the price of admission. He seemed to have an innate sense of what was important and kept returning to the critical elements, the importance — and the difficulty many experience — in keeping time and staying with the rhythm of the piece being played.

Just to reiterate, while it was advertised as NOT being a beginners workshop, — and that to get the most out of it participants needed to have the fundamentals of playing bass and knowing the notes of the bass fret board — any musician interested in playing in an ensemble would benefit from Mark’s discussions on the links between tempo, rhythm and melody. If you have an opportunity to attend a workshop given by Mark Cryle — no matter what the context — I recommend you grasp it with both hands.           John Low

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