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"You don't even notice the bass. It's just providing such a beautiful harmonic foundation that's linking in so beautifully with the drums and the other instruments" - Dr. Barry Hill

In this episode

  • Barry's academic career

  • How Barry got interested in humans imitating machines

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) in music

  • Barry's past projects (The Bird, CyberBass) and current projects

  • Getting your instrument set up for comfortable playing

  • Pedal boards - blessing or curse?

  • Kick and bass - friends or foes?

  • The mindset of successful musicians

Links from this episode

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About the 

guest

Dr. Barry Hill is a bass player and Senior Lecturer in Music at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia. He is a renowned musician and educator, having played with many notable Australian artists. Dr. Hill's expertise in bass playing and music education makes him an invaluable resource for his students and the wider music community.

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The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music


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Jan 'Yarn' Muths or mixartist.com.au, in the studio

Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at mixartist.com.au

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.

transcript

Transcript

(auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error)

Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, Yarn, of mixartists.com.au. In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So, if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. This is the Production Talk Podcast episode 74. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome back to another episode of the Production Talk podcast. At the beginning of this episode, as always, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country that we are meeting on today, the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation, and I would like to express my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: With me today is Mr. Barry Hill, bass player, guitar player, and academic. Welcome to the podcast. How are you, Barry? Dr. Barry Hill: Thank you, Jann. I. Edit that initial and say, Dr. Barry Hill, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Oh, excuse me. Of course. , Dr. Barry Dr. Barry Hill: Hill. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Sorry about that. Well, look maybe let's just get started with that. So you've got an academic background. You've got a BA from Monash, if I'm not mistaken, and PhD from S U u. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah, I I actually started out just doing an arts degree in Macquarie University. I left high school really just wanting to be a musician, liking lots and different types of music. But my parents were really keen for me to do something to do with academia, and at the time, I wasn't really a great classical musician or a very well studied jazz musician, and there was no real courses back then in the dark ages of the late eighties for people who were sort of more interested in contemporary music. Dr. Barry Hill: So I just did an arts degree and just got into the music scene in Sydney, and I've actually spent most of my music career as just being a professional musician and a bass player. And along the way I just got more and more interested in the, I suppose, the. What, what you might say, the intellectual side of music making. Dr. Barry Hill: And a lot of my band mates were going, gee, you are, you know, you talk a lot about this stuff, you know, maybe you should study it again. And, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. So Dr. Barry Hill: after a music project fell over in Melbourne that I was with, I was at a loose end and went back to finish my arts degree in honors and focused on music at Monash. Dr. Barry Hill: And really. I'd, I'd hated doing a, a normal arts degree and when I got into music and the stuff that I was interested in, I just, I just, yeah, really sailed through the program down there. Fantastic music school in Monash Mu in university in Melbourne, and then got a scholarship to do my PhD up at Southern Cross University here in Lismore. Dr. Barry Hill: Beautiful. Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Beautiful. Nice. Can you explain in a bit more detail what exactly you were specializing in? Dr. Barry Hill: Okay. I think I've got a seven second grab for my PhD. So I, I, I was, at the time, I was, went back to working or went back to studying. I was playing in a live electronic band called The Bird. That were quite famous in Australia in the early two thousands. And, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: up. Everybody. Look 'em up. They're Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. The, yeah, the bird. Dr. Barry Hill: Especially the, the album I was involved with, which went really well, actually called Birdville Sessions and. And I was playing in that, I was really getting interested in the way that the dance music scene or the electronic dance music scene was starting to interact with the jazz music scene. Dr. Barry Hill: And I was seeing, you know, I was attending a lot of jam sessions where like a turntableist would come along or a person with synthesizers would come along and it was. As really is the first time I'd seen a bit of a meeting between electronic dance musicians and improvising musicians playing in inverted commerce traditional instruments. Dr. Barry Hill: So I focused on my PhD, this idea of humans making music with machines and. , and I won't go into it because you can talk about your PhD for hours and hours, but what I was interested in was that the way that musicians had changed their, their way of working or what they were ins that were inspired, by was no longer just musicians like jazz musicians, like great musicians like Miles Davis or John Coltrane. Dr. Barry Hill: People starting to listening to DJ Shadow or Apex Twin, or, I was interested in Alteca and a lot of the L T J Buk albums of the late nineties, where, which is all drummer bass or computer programmed and sequenced. and I just I just was interested in the way that musicians were starting to be influenced and trying to imitate computers. Dr. Barry Hill: And so that's why I came up with this idea of human machine music. And I did a PhD where I looked at. I looked at the sort of nuts and bolts of trying to play like a computer in a, in a live band. So rather than thinking about verses and solos and, and breaks, we were sort of more talking about developing a, a sound texture, like electronic music. Dr. Barry Hill: Like, like elec, like electronic music producers do to, to try and get a, get that sort of amazing sense of Tamil variation that exists within electronic dance music, but keep it in a live music context and make it a little bit improvised. So that's what I was interested in. I won't maybe go into too much more detail about it. Dr. Barry Hill: The only other interesting thing I'd like to say is that there's a really great. Writer called Jacque Sati, who talked about the way musicians in the creative class innovate change within society. And a lot of the ways that musicians, and this is his ideas a lot of the way musicians and artists work is the way the rest of society works in the future. Dr. Barry Hill: So in the sense musicians are the canary in the coal mine for the way society is going to Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Well Dr. Barry Hill: change. And so, And so if you look at the development of computer music in the sixties and seventies and eighties, it was sort of musicians who were the first people to adopt computing as a big part of their creative process. Dr. Barry Hill: And the big changes that happened with technology in the seventies with digital, you know, synthesizers and samplers and MIDI integration all that stuff. It sort of predates. Was happening with word processing and Excel spreadsheets. So I got into this idea that maybe we are all gonna start imitating machines in what we do in our wider work. Dr. Barry Hill: So I suppose that was the intellectual or pedagogical background for my PhD. But my supervisor seemed to like it, so. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: so, wow. Wow. That's deep. Okay, look I, I usually leave this question for the end of an podcast, but what is your prediction for the future? Oh, Dr. Barry Hill: it's Jan 'Yarn' Muths: AI on the horizon and, you know, what, what else, what else is gonna happen and what, what, Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah, it's really, it's, it's a really fascinating one. What we've been seeing, I think is a real change in the way that people consume music. People are less in, are less able to actually play it or participate in music making themselves. Much more People are just listening to it on their headphones. Or working with computers to make music. Dr. Barry Hill: I was just reading yesterday about the new Korean K-pop band, which is completely ai. There's no actual people involved in the band anymore. So this is, this is, maybe they're saying it's the next B T s Sensation in Korea, and you've gotta look at the Asian music industry as one that's becoming much more prominent these days. Dr. Barry Hill: In a sense, in the, in the, you know, if you think of United States as being this incredible powerhouse of cultural innovation in contemporary music in the late 19th and 20th centuries and the way Europe. Has also been an innovator of change and really promoted the electronic dance music scene. You can now see this sort of pivot to Asia in terms of the cultural influence Asia's having, just because the market is so big and music is always an industry as well as a culture and an art form. Dr. Barry Hill: So, you know, the, the popular music industry may well be AI driven, but I think we'll never be able to recreate with ai, that sort of human interac. That, that happens on stage, the theater of playing music together. So I think the, the human nature of music making will always exist, but I think AI will play a bigger and bigger role. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm, interesting. Wow. Okay, look let's look at a couple of projects that you are currently involved in. What are you up to these days? Dr. Barry Hill: I'm still I still collaborate with my longtime collaboration partners, Rob Walsh and my brother Matt Hill in a band called Amphibian and I can spook the website, amphibian music.com and we've, we've released a couple of vinyls in the last few years, changed a bit of our direction to be more what. Dr. Barry Hill: I suppose you might call post rock sort of a bit different to the more ambient music that I was making in around, say, around 2000 with Amphibian and that, and that project has been quite successful, sort of in an underground way for us. Probably more successful overseas than it has been here. Dr. Barry Hill: Especially we seem to have a huge fan base in Japan. And so every now and again we dig, we get this nice big appra check from Japan and it's like, oh, that's nice. But but, but we aren't really playing so much together. But we are in the moment just re-releasing sort of our back catalog catalog on all the digital platforms because that band was really sort of coming into prominence just before the whole shift to downloading and streaming. Dr. Barry Hill: So the catalog for that band sort of exists on CD and vinyl, and so we're just sort of converting it all to, to the streaming services even though they don't really pay us that much. And I'm involved in a couple of acoustic projects just locally here. A great one with my partner Jesse Vent Till, and a great singer friend of hers, tisa, and her partner Dan Reid. Dr. Barry Hill: Got a band, which we've called in a sort of, sort of a funny way, the the husband's auxiliary because it's, it's sort of tits and Jesse's band. And me and Dan are sort of just the people who are supporting them. And that's just, you know, we're playing a bit of sort of Americana, a bit of. Blues grass, you know, in our sort of Australian way and a bit of swing, sort of gypsy style. Dr. Barry Hill: And that's just, that's a nice, fun band to play. I'm also playing with a really lovely Colombian salsa piano player up here Carmelo and a couple of Congo players, and we're slowly putting together a, I suppose, Afro-Cuban. Sort of dance Jam band, which is really fun Wow. To play. I've always loved Afro Cuban music and had a sort of Columbian connection in my family on my mother's side. Dr. Barry Hill: So I've been to Columbia quite a few times and loved the music scene over in Columbia. It's, I was there earlier this year and it was, it's just going off over there. Just fantastic music in all sorts of genres. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. That is a lot of projects you're involved with. Well, yeah. That should keep you on your toes. Dr. Barry Hill: I, the other project I suppose I, I like talking about is this solar powered sound system project, which we've been developing at the uni, which I've sort of taken in a few different directions. Dr. Barry Hill: So ostensibly it's just a a solar battery. Generator that can take the place of diesel generators at festivals and power stage equipment. And that's been going for about 10 years. We've done about 60 festivals around Australia, and it's been going really well. I've also turned that into a, I've got a bit of a geeky side to my creativity, so I like I've turned that into a musical instrument in itself. Dr. Barry Hill: So convert, converted the photovoltaic data. This can get very geeky. Sorry people, but Aho changed the, the photovoltaic data coming off the solar panels and put that into a system called Open Sound Control, which is, you can consider to be like a wireless midi. And then made, made sort of note values out of that in Ableton and MaxMSP, and created, created an instrument which is played by the sun. Dr. Barry Hill: So that's also a fun project that I've been doing. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: How does it, how, how does it sound? Dr. Barry Hill: We did a pro at the last Woodford Folk Festival. We set it up on the hilltop stage cuz that was powering the hilltop up on the top of Woodford Folk Festival and we pointed it at the, at the sunrise and and it was powering the Tuban throat singers at the time. Dr. Barry Hill: And we, I hit record. on the, on the Ableton system and as the sun came up and also time did a time lapse video of the sun coming up as well. And I've synced the video and the music together and it sounds, I dunno whether, you know, sort of the mi the, it sounds like the. A minimalist classical composer, sort of contemporary, like AVO part or something. Dr. Barry Hill: It sounds like a really slow moving string quartet. So I, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I, wow. Dr. Barry Hill: mapped all the values of the regulator data of battery charge. System voltage and power consumption and production instantaneously to four different string sounds. And so it sounds like a string quartet is being played by the sun. And it was, I didn't know quite how it was gonna sound. Dr. Barry Hill: And as the sun went behind the clouds the, the music went really dark and, and brood and sort of brooding and minor. And as the sun came out again, it resolved to this beautiful major chord. So that's online. I, I can, I can give you the, the details for that podcast as well, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: please. I would love to put the link into, into the show Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: that, that sounds phenomenal. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah, so, so I'd really like that project. It's sort of a bit left field, but, but the, it's also just teaching people about how we can power things with sustainable energies and get rid of the diesel generator. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That is a fantastic idea. Yeah. Excellent. I think I actually saw you operate that sunflower system. Dr. Barry Hill: Yep. That, that's what it's called. Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: At the Island Wife Festival a couple of years ago. Yes. Dr. Barry Hill: Yes. It's a bit of a regular island vibe. We didn't get it there this year though. We just had a couple of two, we had too many things on, but yeah, it powers a, it powers a 15,000 watt sound system there. And we've got some really good data to show that the average. Dr. Barry Hill: Of a sound system at a festival is only like 900 watts, even though it says it's, even though you're powering four subs and all the back line and all the L e D lights, just the average of everything because it's all so efficient these days, you can power it pretty successfully off batteries and panels. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. Cool. I'd like to change the subject a little, if that's Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. Great. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Great. In, in your role at, at Southern Cross, you work with a lot of young creatives and you, you probably, I guess, see them grow creatively and intellectually and academically. Have you come across certain character attributes or, you know common denominators that, that all the really successful musicians have in common? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Can, can you comment on that? Dr. Barry Hill: Yes, I probably. Can when I'm thinking about the current students we've got in the course, there's a couple of people who really I suppose have, have, have, have patience and they really, they practice every day, and so they've got discipline. You know, as well. So I've, on my electric base, I got three little motives put on my fret board when I got the fret board changed and I, I just called them practice patience and discipline, and I just look at those little symbols and they remind me of that. Dr. Barry Hill: Those are the three things that I think musicians and artists really need to. To be successful because it's, it's, it's a long road and a very twisty hard road to actually make it in the music industry. And you have to be simultaneously very organized, very focused on what you want to achieve, have to be very creative and doe things originally. Dr. Barry Hill: And. And not try and recreate something that's already out there. I try and tell students that you know, miles, you can't try and sound like Miles Davis or John Coltrane or even a band like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. You know, it's not no point trying to recreate what's doing well out there. Dr. Barry Hill: What you really need to do is go with what you want to be as an artist and try and. For yourself. So if you've got a sophisticated way that you can, you can get your creativity out and make it sound original. I think that's the key. Okay. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Excellent. Let's look at the bass instrument for a moment. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: you play electric bass also double bass. Yes. Let's start right at the beginning. What should a musician do with their instrument to check or to ensure that the instrument sounds as good as it can and. Dr. Barry Hill: So if we are talking about the actual instrument itself, I think. I think some, you know, we can talk about things. If I talk specifically first about electric base and maybe some of these are also applicable to acoustic or double base. I started out as an electric bass player and I. Sort of, sort of quickly realized that if you could play double bass as well as electric and you could read a bit and you were a reliable person. Dr. Barry Hill: There was a lot of work around in Sydney in the nineties at the time. So, so I started off. Playing double specifically for a business reason that I thought, okay, I'm gonna get double the amount of gigs if I can play double and electric. So, and as far as the actual instrument goes, I think making sure the, the action or the height of the strings above the neck is quite is quite balanced and symmetrical and for each string. Dr. Barry Hill: And there's no, there's no sort. Curves or warping or twists in the actual neck of the instrument. That's, that's really important for, for keeping the tuning and the playability o o over a long period of time, just making sure all the electrics work. You know, pickups and electronic stuff has been around for a long, long time now. Dr. Barry Hill: They haven't really changed a lot since the fifties and sixties, so just, just getting some basic electronic knowledge. Will really help you out. You know, when inevitably at a gig or at a rehearsal like I had yesterday for, with a dance project, of course my electric guitar that I hadn't pulled out, cause I play a bit of electric as well. Dr. Barry Hill: I hadn't pulled it out for a few months and they wanted me to play guitar as well as bass. So I plugged in and of course the jack's gone a bit moldy and so, You know, those sort of things are really easy to fix. So check the electronics, check the action. Also just check the way the ergonomics of the neck and, and the actual body of the instrument relate to your own body. Dr. Barry Hill: You know, humans are all different sizes. We've got different shaped fingers and elbows and wrists and hands and legs, and they all sort of, Impact the way you connect with your instrument. And in a sense, there's no real one instrument that's gonna suit everyone. So it's more about if you can play the instrument and feel like it feels comfortable to play and you're not straining or you're not putting tension on your, any of your limbs to try and play it. Dr. Barry Hill: I think that's the main Jan 'Yarn' Muths: thing. Mm-hmm. . Okay. Being comfortable when playing. Dr. Barry Hill: Yes. Yeah, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: that makes a lot of Dr. Barry Hill: lot sense. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Okay. Let's talk about pedals and amps and cabinets. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah, I think that can be a rabbit hole. I, I, I, I have, I see a lot of students rock up to the university workshops and tutorials with this huge petal board and , they can't play a major scale. They can't play a blues scale and they can't really read very well. And, but they've got this incredible work of art, which is this pedal board, which has got the best compressors, the best distortion units, the best EQs, the best delay in and reverb effects. Dr. Barry Hill: And their guitar has the potential to sound incredible, but without the good skills of the person driving it, you. Back to front, it's a bit back to front. And I find that that students, and I've gotta say, men and boys usually get really obsessed by their pedal board and Jan 'Yarn' Muths: and Dr. Barry Hill: and so, so is, there's something to be said for really good pedals. Dr. Barry Hill: I use Eventide MXR pedals. I don't use that many. But I've found them to be really awesome for sound quality and just, Build quality. You know, there, there's some really great pedals out there. There's an amazing one for base called the aai Deep Impact Pedal, which they made in collaboration with Roger Lynn, and they only did it for about three or four months before the agreement with Roger Lynn and. Dr. Barry Hill: Who's an amazing electronics designer and AAI sort of fell apart. I think he made the original Headrush loop station as well and also was the designer of the mpc. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm. Dr. Barry Hill: So but so that pedal in particular I love, and if you see that in my pedal board, it's. Bashed up and trashed and looks terrible, but it still works so well, really cleanly. Dr. Barry Hill: And it's a base synthesizer, emulating pedal, and it's one of the few ones, which sounds really, really deep and fat, and it's got this fantastic preset system so you can play like an electronic. Producer where, you know, through the song the baseline might be played by two or three different digital instruments or synthesizer or plugins. Dr. Barry Hill: And so you can emulate that as an electric basis. And Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's really cool. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. But I think. You know, with pedals, it's, it's, it's, they're really good. They define your sound. I, I'm thinking about guitarists like Bill Frak or John Scofield or Jimmy Hendrix even, you know, their, their fame is really their sound. Dr. Barry Hill: It's not necessarily their technique. And And so pedals is a part of making your own sound. And so if you have a, if you have pedals and effects that, that help you play more creatively, then yeah, you've gotta Jan 'Yarn' Muths: gotta Dr. Barry Hill: them. But don't forget the basics. Don't forget the major scale and all the theory and harmony that humans have developed over thousands of years, which really helps us communicate with each other as musicians. Dr. Barry Hill: So I tell, I tell my students that knowing theory and Harmon. Not just a language for yourself and your own creativity, it's a language of communication with other instrument other, other musicians. And so if you can, if you can tell a musician, ah, can you play that a seven in a different inversion, then you are giving them a really clear instruction, which they know how to interpret. Dr. Barry Hill: Whereas if you say, ah, I don't like the way you're playing that, that doesn't really help them that much in explaining what you want to do with that idea. So, mm-hmm. , it's really a creative language theory and harmony, and so I, I really encourage students to, to get into that, even though it might not appear as fun as the flashing lights of a pedal board. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: pedal boards have the the reputation of being buzzy and noisy and cause all kinds of trouble as Dr. Barry Hill: Yes. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So have you get any advice on staying of maintaining a clean sound while still using new pedales and avoiding all of those platforms? Dr. Barry Hill: This is probably coming up against my limit of electrical knowledge, but I know that I know, and I've definitely experienced that, that, that you've gotta make sure that all your connections between the pedals are really high quality, so all your leads you know, leads your, your. Your microphone or your audio leads are, are, are terribly problematic these days. Dr. Barry Hill: Even my new dios that I've bought, which have lifetime warranties on them, have only lasted a couple of years with the way I treat them. And so you've gotta be on top of all your connections, making sure they're making sure they're really clear, and also your power supplies matching the right amage and voltage with the pedals you're using. Dr. Barry Hill: It might seem that any of those little nine. Power connectors that you use to power, power boards and power pedals can work with each other, but I know that, for example, my even Tide has a very specific level of milliamps that it needs and it's very specific voltage. And if it's not getting that, it starts to, you know, it starts to not work properly and also create that terrible. you know, good old RF hum and all the different other electrical, you know, you know, electrical interferences that can affect your signal. I always try and just buy the best possible pedals I can. Yeah, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Nice, nice. Yeah. So fewer but better qualities is the key, I Dr. Barry Hill: yeah, yeah. I've, I've, I've always found that for myself. When I was younger, I bought, I remember there was a brand of pedal that came out to try and compete with boss called Orion. Dr. Barry Hill: These made of plastic and they were like half the price, but gee, they sounded bad and they, and they cut out frequencies and yeah, you'd plug them in. If you plugged a few of them in, you'd get this terrible gain hiss that would just, you know, it's very hard to get rid of. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: stay away from those. Dr. Barry Hill: yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Okay. Good. I need your advice on communicating with bass players about a sensitive topic. It's called over overplaying. is, is this something you're comfortable talking about? What is, what is the right amount of notes for a song? When, when is, when does overplaying damage a song or wait on a song? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And, and when do you know that you've got it right? Dr. Barry Hill: Oh, look, I've gotta say yarn. I'm totally guilty of this. In my earlier career, I really wanted to become the next Jocko Pastorius and I used to play things that initially that I thought. Sounded good because they felt good to play and they felt impressive to play because I had developed quite a good technique early on cuz I, I just dived into practice when I started playing bass and, and and so I did develop a pretty good facility early on and I was studying with a bass player in, in. Dr. Barry Hill: Sydney called Steve Hunter, who's still, he's a great player, but he, he was a virtuoso, he was a lead instrument. When you went and saw the Steve Hunter Quartet or the Steve Hunter Trio, you know, the bass player was out the front being like a saxophone player and took me a long time to realize that that's not the way to play bass. Dr. Barry Hill: in most settings. And you know, I've come to, I've come to really like bass players that are able to play in a way that you really don't notice them in a sense. And so one of the first things to answer your question, I would say is that if you can, if you can notice the bass, if you can hear the base, then there's potential for that base to be, it might be overplay. Dr. Barry Hill: A lot of great tracks. You don't even notice the bass. It's just providing such a beautiful harmonic foundation that's, that's linking in so beautifully with the drums and the other instruments that, that you just feel it as a feeling of the music as you don't actually. Identify the melodic tones that it's making. Dr. Barry Hill: I've, I remember there's a really good quote from Joni Mitchell who was playing with Jacobo Pastorius in the late eighties or the mid eighties, just before he died. So sadly that Joni said that it was really great playing with Jacobo Pastorius, but she'd really loved to have a bass player as. Dr. Barry Hill: There's a fantastic, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: There's a Dr. Barry Hill: album called Shadows and Light, which is. , which is a live album that Joni does with, you know, it features, you know, just an incredible cast of great jazz musicians. Pat Mathy and Michael Brecker, Lyle Mays play on Don Elias. Just a, just the absolute super band of the eighties. Dr. Barry Hill: And you really hear Jack O's playing on that album. And he's not playing the bass. He's playing. This, this sort of lead complimentary instrument to Joni Mitchell. And it sounds fantastic, but, but you're talking someone who reached, you know, who really defined a new sound on the instrument and had a beautiful tone on his electric fretless and played stuff that was really Nuanced and always linked in with the music. Dr. Barry Hill: And he had an incredible musical knowledge as well. So here's someone who has incredible theory knowledge, incredible harmony, knowledge, incredible facility, and a great tone. And in that sort of setting, I think a bass player, maybe like a soccer player, like Lionel Messi, you can get away with doing anything you're, when you're, when you're absolutely the best in the world. Dr. Barry Hill: You, you can play as much as you like, but, but you, I can really hear what Joni's saying in that sometimes it would be really great for the music, just for the bass player to play whole tones, you know, play just the root notes of the chord and play them in a way which is really beautifully supporting the other instruments because that is the tradition of bass. Dr. Barry Hill: And the word double bass is where the bass is doubling the. Stringed instruments in the orchestral section. So in an orchestra you don't really hear the double bases so much, but a good orchestra like the Berlin Symp for Chicago Symphony have an amazing bass section and, and it makes the music sound really great. Dr. Barry Hill: So there's always a danger of overplaying. And I suppose I sometimes tell my base students when I'm, when I'm saying to them, just play one note and then breathe. and then listen and then play another note, and then breathe and then listen, rather than play lots of notes all the time and just assume that that's gonna work with the music. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I see. Yeah. Yeah. Nice. Well said. And I guess it's not necessarily easier to. Play like that because I've, I've found, you know, at least on other instruments, I'm, I'm an amateur drummer that playing simple things consistently for a long time is actually one of the hardest things I've ever done. Oh, that's, and that's pretty much what we ask the bass players to do, you know, Dr. Barry Hill: Yes. And that, that is so true, that playing simply and playing consistently and constantly. So as a bass player, I've you know, you are actually playing the whole tune. You are like a drummer in a sense that when the tune gets counted off, you start playing and you don't stop till the end of the tune. Dr. Barry Hill: Whereas say other instruments like keyboard players or guitarists or singers, or even have these long breaks where maybe they don't play anything at all, and so they can wait and wait and listen and get ready for the next section that they're gonna play, you don't have time to do that. As a bass player, you always have to be thinking about the next note that you're going to play, and in a sense, playing every single note consistently and constantly. Dr. Barry Hill: Appropriately. I won't, I don't like using the word correct, but pl but playing it in a way that makes the music sound good. Just playing a really simple baseline is really quite, quite hard. You know, when I get students who are really interested in trying to improve their chops, I get them to listen to people like Fella Cootie or something on one of the, some of the Afrobeat baselines where they'll play the same baseline for nine minutes. Dr. Barry Hill: and it might be syncopated and, and, and have some fast runs in it. But the trick is you've gotta play the same line for nine minutes. And that really, that that's a tough ask for a lot of musicians. And I find like what you're saying, just to get him a bass player, to go dom regularly and consistently for a three, three and a half, five minutes. Dr. Barry Hill: It's a hard skill. It's a meditation. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yes. And yeah, you're right. It it takes a certain mindset to do that. Well, yeah, Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah, it does. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: gotta distract your mind from wandering off because when you think about other things, then you. Yeah, lose the groove. So it takes a certain mindset to do that. It's, it's almost like a, a trance or meditation, as you said. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Yeah. Dr. Barry Hill: I think about a track that I'm, was on the first Amphibian album that we made which called Shelter, which is the, or the Tracks Call Shelter. And the baseline is no. , it's six notes over four bars and maybe six notes over eight bars, and it repeats for eight minutes. Dr. Barry Hill: Pretty much the same. And when we recorded that track, we had a big argument in the band, cuz I thought the track was really empty sounding that everyone would think it's boring, that it didn't, you know, it didn't have enough happening. And I'd always try and play more notes and the producer was always going. Dr. Barry Hill: Too many notes. Too many notes. That track has been our most successful track. It's been played on videos and tv. It's by far and away the track that's made us the most money. And it was really great lesson in minimalism in understanding that if you get the right connection between the drums, the bass, and the other instruments, and maybe a vocal, you don't need to play much at all for it to sound good. Dr. Barry Hill: And maybe it's gonna sound good if you play less. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. . Well, well said. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You're a bass player. I'm a drummer. , are we natural enemies kick and bass in the mix? Are they friends? Are they foes? What, what is your take on that? Dr. Barry Hill: I think very much friends or they're, they're companions. Companions, yeah. Yeah, yeah. They walk down the funk road or whatever. Beautiful musical road that we're on together. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Please explain. Dr. Barry Hill: Well, I. Let me put it this way. You know, we're in Byron Bay, so I tell some of my surf students, I, you know, they get a bit, I'm pissed off with my cheesy surfing analogies to playing music and I sometimes think if the, it is like the drummer is the shape of the wave and the swell. Dr. Barry Hill: If you're surfing the drummer is the wave and the bass player is the surf. and so, okay. They work beautifully together. If you've got a beautiful surfer on a beautiful wave, then it's gonna. awesome. You know, and it's the same with music if you've got, and, but you, they have to be, you know, worked together. Dr. Barry Hill: And maybe the analogy breaks down cuz the wave doesn't really listen to the surfer at all. . But but I've found, I've, I've found the best drummers are people that I know are really listening and reacting to my baselines and I'm doing the same thing. I think there's two aspects to the question in terms of there's a performance aspect and then there's a recording and making the music aspect. Dr. Barry Hill: In the performance aspect, it's, you know, I find a lot of my students who are learning bass or just starting out on bass, they're, you know, when they're playing with a drummer in an ensemble, they might just be listening to the hi. , you know, and I, and one of the things that I do, and this was a, this was something that Steve that Jim Kelly, another great guitarist who lives around here, taught me to do in his ensemble sessions. Dr. Barry Hill: You get people really listening to each other in the ensemble. And so I tell the bass player after they've played through a song once, okay, can you, can you sing me the kick pattern on the drums? Can you sing me the snare pattern? and then I asked the bass, asked the drummer, can you sing me the baseline? Dr. Barry Hill: And invariably for people who are quite new or novices to playing together, they won't be able to, they won't be able to, you know, sing back the parts. Which proves to me that they actually weren't listening to what the drummer was playing on the kick drum. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I see Dr. Barry Hill: what the bass player was playing as the bass line. Dr. Barry Hill: They might have picked a couple of notes. Right. But not the whole phrase. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got it. Yeah, Dr. Barry Hill: I think as a bass player, I, you know, the kick drum and my instrument share the same frequency range, and so we. I, I, I have to know how the drummer is hitting the kick, how hard they're hitting it, you know, what sort of tone they're making. Dr. Barry Hill: And I've gotta, I've gotta try and sculpt my sound to make something beautiful between the two. And, and I find that the good drummers that I play with do the same thing. . And so the, you know, halfway through a session, I, I did a session with Hamish Stewart, this fantastic drummer in Sydney. And he was, he was great because he was so, you know, he's a, he's one of the best musicians in Australia and I was quite nervous playing with him cuz Wow, I'm playing with Hamish Stewart. Dr. Barry Hill: But he was so encouraging and so interested in what I was playing and sometimes he'd stop and go, oh, I really like what you were doing, can you just show me again because I really want to get onto that. And then he'd. Design his drum part around what I was doing. And so it's just, it's that thing about being, you know, being a real collaborator with the rhythm section and the, especially in the base frequencies. Dr. Barry Hill: And then when you get to the recording studio, It's all about the tone that the two instruments are making, and so if you've played together beautifully on the track, or if you've been listening along to a sequence and you've been really locking in with that sequence, then you give the sound engineer or the producer, or maybe it's yourself doing it. Dr. Barry Hill: Lots of options. For way you want, for the way you want those two instruments to sound together. Because, you know, in some sorts of music, say maybe in hip hop, the, the bass is sitting way below the kick drum. The bass is just this suby thing that's just quite a tonal. It's not really providing any harmonic foundation, it's just more providing an energy to the track. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. Whereas say maybe in other forms of music, , it might be the opposite. It might be I'm just trying to think. Maybe a little bit more so in jazz, maybe not. Because they're, both of the instruments need to have that sort of definition within the mix, but, You know, there's lots of ways within the studio you can sort of separate the instruments so the frequencies don't interfere with each other. Dr. Barry Hill: So, you know, you can filter off the bottom of the base or the bottom of the kick drum depending on how you want them to sit together or, and so you've got two frequency or two sets of instruments that have specific frequency ranges. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yep. Dr. Barry Hill: So I dunno, that's maybe a long wind. Answer to a question, but yeah, they're definitely companions and not enemies. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Fantastic. , I was hoping you would say Dr. Barry Hill: that. Yeah. Yeah. I find, I find I've had the good fortune by luck or whatever, to have played with a lot of the really great drummers around Australia. and a lot of drummers generally, and I find that I can sometimes tell whether the drummer is gonna be good or not in the first four bars or eight bars in terms of the way they play the high hats and the way that their sound is interacting with mine. Dr. Barry Hill: Mm-hmm. High hats especially because high hats give you a real sense of whether the drummers in control of their sticking, you know, high hats are a, as you. Realize there they're a lifetime of work to get that control really, really under your fingers. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: well said. Dr. Barry Hill: yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Do, do you find yourself producing and recording and mixing music at times? Dr. Barry Hill: Yes, yes, I do. Probably more so now and I think maybe it's becoming more and more of a way of the way people work with, for a large chunk of their career, maybe as they're starting out that you really have. Understand the production side of things as well as the performance side of things. I, I remember when I had a residency when I was working on my PhD on this on the human machine music project and I had a little electronic ensemble called Cyber Base that we used to do a gig at the old Arts factory every Friday night. Dr. Barry Hill: It was fantastic Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I remember those days I was always there. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. And and and, but I used to have to set up the PA and then. . And so, because we didn't have enough money to, to play a sound engineer, and, and inevitably that's what's happening more and more if you're especially doing SMO gigs, when you start out, you've gotta, you've gotta set up the sound. Dr. Barry Hill: And I find that that is a sort of slightly different head space to actually performing and creating where very much and and, but I, I try to tend to, when I'm, when I'm producing or when I'm recording, I tend to try and use the old software packages that I've been using for a long time, which for me is Pro Tools and Ableton and and you, you can get so caught up in, in the actual process of the technology and clicking through various menus on your screen that you can really forget the creative goals you had and the beautiful thing. Dr. Barry Hill: Musical instruments is that they're really great interactive tools in terms of, I can close my eyes and just listen to the sound that I'm making on my double bass. And I can really absorb myself in that, whereas I still find I'm not probably the same with a mixing desk. I'm sure great sound engineers develop the same sort of symbiotic relationship with the technology and the desks. Dr. Barry Hill: Absolutely. But you know, I find that as a musician who spends a lot of time recording, I still have to switch Headspace a little bit and make sure that how's my gain structure, you know, how's the phase, you know, is it going to the right auxiliary? Have I got the, everything patched in properly? You know, they're, they're all. Dr. Barry Hill: More mechanical, logical. I don't know whether it's left brain or right brain, but it's a different, seems to be a different part of my brain to when I can strap on my bass or just pick up my bass and just close my eyes and play. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I've got an engineering question for you, Dr. Barry Hill: Ooh, I hope, I hope I can answer it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: it for we we, we all love a really powerful base with, you know, a lot of base energy. Yeah. , however, the problem is today that a lot of people don't listen on speakers. But on phones yes. On iPads. Yes. If we are lucky on, on earbuds. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. How do you get a base to sound? Well on those, you know, you don't want to, if you make it too suby, then it sounds amazing on a pa and, and really powerful. on, on an iPhone. It might not be even, you know, we might not even hear the base at all. Yeah. So how do you find a compromise? Dr. Barry Hill: Wow. That's a really, I know I, well, my first thought is that that's a big sound. That's the big sound engineering question that that I've got some strategies that I do and they might not be the right ones, but the right in inverted commerce. But I, I tend to, I tend to start off, if I'm, if I'm a bass player, I tend to start off with making sure that my tone. Dr. Barry Hill: Under my fr that I'm getting from my fingers. So, so the sound of the base really starts with your fingers the way you play the instrument. If you want a suby tone, maybe use, if you're using your fingers, maybe more of the fleshier part of your fingers and not the ends. , you know, obviously cutting off your fingernails so you don't get that poppy sort of transient or high frequency transient that you can get with fingernails, that that will actually start to be uneven and not consistent maybe during the recording. Dr. Barry Hill: So file your nails make sure that, that you are, you can play really evenly. So, so one of the things I find with bass players who haven't done much recording, Or playing live is that they, they can't actually make a sound that's constant in terms of its amplitude. Yeah. You know, cuz that's a real headache. Dr. Barry Hill: That's a real headache for engineers. It gives them so much work to actually have to make sure that the sound is actually. You know, of a consistent amplitude, and it's really good to do that with your fingers. You know, obviously compressors, compressors help that. And compressors will color the sound a certain way and sometimes that's a good way to go. Dr. Barry Hill: Depending on the sound you want to get to, you know, to introduce compression early on in this side, in the, in the signal chain and also, System where you've got a whole range of frequencies being nicely amplified. I'm, I'm just thinking of, of the Avalon S three seven, S3 7 37, which we have at uni, which just, I love the sound that that makes on a base. Dr. Barry Hill: It's just can really bring up the subs and the mids in a way that then makes mixing it really easy. Just in terms of once you've got it tracked, And you're interested in mixing? I, I really the thing I talk to with my students and what we try and get students to do in the audio production sessions is to use reference tracks. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Oh, that's a good idea. Dr. Barry Hill: idea. Really, really listen to the, the, the instruments or the music that you really love the sound of that really moves you. When you listen to you just go, ah, that's awesome. That's the sound you want to go for. And, and so whatever you're listening back to, Whatever you're listening back through headphones or speakers or whatever, that's the sound you're going for. Dr. Barry Hill: So if you can, if you can, I suppose, calibrate your hearings, so you use that reference track. In a way to do that, and then you can hear how that sounds through your headphones or through the particular monitors you are using. It's, and yeah. And then, and then it's just a matter of using your knowledge of eq, your know, of, of dynamics, of signal processing to actually help and maybe sound spatialization, just to make that sound, sound in that way. Dr. Barry Hill: I find headphones personally really good for, for checking out the sound field of a reference. Maybe more so than monitors, you can really hear how, where they've placed all instruments in the mix. And also headphones are useful for, for really hearing the nuances and maybe glitches and pops and sort of artifacts in your recording, which you're trying to get rid of. Dr. Barry Hill: But I also, You know, find that after you've done a mix, it's really important to listen to it through in your cast area, through your headphones, through a big room, because it's gonna sound slightly different. Yeah. And that's where all you know, you know, all, all this, that sort of art of mixing comes into play. Dr. Barry Hill: Personally, I've, I'm, I, I've got into really using multi-band compress. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Oh yeah. Dr. Barry Hill: I find them to be really creative tools for making a sound sound a certain way. And, and be, you know, that's one of the things I've found in mixing in the box that multi-bank compression, actually, if you get, if you use one of the good plugins you can really sculpt the sound in, in minute detail. Dr. Barry Hill: Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Very. If people want to know more about you where can they find more information? Have you got a website or social channels? Dr. Barry Hill: Suppose you can you can go the website you can go to amphibian music.com. That's, that's one place. We have a Solar Sunflower project website as well at s at Southern Cross University, so you can just Google Southern Cross University Sunflower. It's the, the, the link is a really. You know, corporate web link. Dr. Barry Hill: But if you Google Southern Cross University Sunflower, you can find more about that project. I've got a, I've got a sort of Twitter feed called Dr. Baz h where I'm just posting. I just tend to post interesting stuff on that and also on my own Facebook, which is Hill. And the other one I was going to say is, Gee, it's funny how things drop out of your, drop out of your mind quickly. Dr. Barry Hill: The, the S su Sunflower has one oh, the YouTube channel is probably the other one. I'm, I should also, I should always make these all the same name as I tell my students to do. But I've got a funny name to YouTube channel called Cyber Byron Bay Bass. So, so it is like a play on the concept of, of the project cyber base that I had. Dr. Barry Hill: So, cyber Byron Bay Bassman. I tend to post all sorts of interesting videos that I've, that I've made. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I've done, I've been Dr. Barry Hill: enough to do some interesting traveling around the world, so there's some footage of musicians in France and Africa and all sorts of places. We, I also was teaching. Dr. Barry Hill: The king Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard when they were down in Melbourne and R M I T. And I've just found some footage that of them in a performance workshop class at R M I T University that I was teaching at. And it's pretty much the first gig of that band. And I remember telling that band in the. Dr. Barry Hill: Music industry, cl sort of business classes to not worry about Australia and just go straight overseas. And I'm really glad that they did that. I dunno whether it's because they were planning to do that or they followed my advice, but, but they went straight overseas and they've become huge. And so that's, that's, yeah. Dr. Barry Hill: Good luck to them. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Well, thank you so much for your for sharing your base wisdom with us today. Thank you. It's really good to have this space special episode. I took a lot out of that for myself, so thank you so much. Dr. Barry Hill: Thanks heaps ya. And, and it's great to be in this beautiful studio you've got here in Mul and hopefully we can chat again. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Okay, Dr. Barry Hill: Cheer. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Cheers. Thank you so much Dr. Barry Hill, a special episode on your backgrounds, on your musical career, and of course all about bass. That was really insightful. Thank you so much. I'm looking forward to meeting up soon again, and may we do some work together? Who knows. If you enjoyed this episode, please go to the show notes and scroll down. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You'll find all the links to Barry's website and social channels right there. Also in your podcast player, please hit the like button or subscribe button, whichever it is, and I would really appreciate if you could please leave a five star rating and maybe even a little review that would make my day. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And since it's the beginning of a new year, I would like to ask you for a little favor, please. Podcasting is a bit like a one-way street from me to you, but that also means I'm making a lot of assumptions. What I believe is important to you and what you want to hear, and who knows, I might be completely wrong, so I need you to communicate it back to me. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And the easiest way to do that is with the survey. I would like to find out more about who you are and what your interests are and about your music, what you like about the show. Are the episodes too long or too short? Is there anything I could do better? And so on. So at the beginning of each year, I would like. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: To run a little survey, which is now already live on my website. So if you could please head over to mix artist.com.au/survey and tell me about the things that you do, your interests and what I can do better to help you even more. I would really appreciate this because so far it's been an amazing ride. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I love podcasting. It's fantastic. And I need to hear from you if I need to do anything differently. This is really important to me. So if you've taken anything out of these episodes, please head over to mix artist.com.au/survey and fill out the survey. It's gonna be there for a couple of weeks at the beginning of this year, 2023. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: and the next year I will do another one, and so on and so on, because I want to tune my podcast. I wanna make it better. I wanna make it more valuable for you, and I need your help with that. So let's start a conversation. And it starts pretty much by you filling out the survey. You don't need to leave your name there. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's perfectly fine. It can be anonymous, however. Course there is an option for you to voluntarily leave your name and email address if you want to get an email contact with me, but you don't have to. Either way, please fill out the survey, ask you so many times I think you know exactly what to do. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: What's the link again? It's mix artist.com.au/survey. Head over straightaway. Thank you so much. Speak to you next week. Bye for now.
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