These days it is incredibly hard to focus on anything because there is so much noise. Work on something with dedication for three months, then evaluate: are you getting the results you are after? If yes, keep going; if not, tweak until you do. – Ariane Cap, Bass Instructor
In this awesome interview with bass guitar instructor Ariane Cap, you will learn how classical music combined with psychology can create the perfect bass study routines and guarantees for some awesome bass chops.
How would you introduce yourself?
Ariane Cap, bassist, author, educator. AKA “Ari”, and yes you may call me that!
When did you decide to become a music teacher?
I have always had a knack for teaching – even back in school. So it was a natural progression to teach music (piano, singing, theory, then bass). To become a bass educator was a perfect fit for me. If I had to choose between performing or teaching, I’d have a really hard time to pick! Luckily I don’t have to :)
Was the bass guitar your first instrument?
Bass was not my first instrument. I started with the piano at an early age. Bass came much much later, after flute and guitar. I wish I had found the bass earlier, but piano was a really great foundation. I was a keyboarder and guitarist in a blues-rock band when we lost our bass player. I picked up the bass and had my first gig a few weeks later and never looked back.
Your style of teaching really stands out. People love it! What makes your way of teaching differently than the “mainstream” music teachers?
Thank you, that is very nice to read! I spend a lot of time testing what works with students. I keep meticulous notes about what we do and what the results are. I have tweaked and adapted over and over, over many years. Psychology and the brain is my passion – I read many books on peak performance, sports psychology, on using language patterns for optimal learning, on motivation and on the power of attitude. All this informs my advice to students. At the same time, I pay keen attention to my students and come up with specific approaches/exercises for each unique challenge. All science aside, though, I learn the most from paying keen attention to my students. And I see myself not “only” as a music teacher but also as a performance coach and a mental trainer. This led me to develop my PORA approach and incorporate Tiny Habits into my teaching (to name just two of several such concepts I use).
You seem to master a lot of different styles, even classical music! Why did you choose to play classical music on your bass guitar?
Classical music was my first love, especially Bach. (And Bach really rocks some bass lines!). While I first played Rock and Pop and then Jazz and Fusion on the bass, the classical influence never left me. Especially when I started teaming up with bassoonist extraordinaire Paul Hanson, my love for classical music got revived. The bassoon is a classical instrument and Paul sure blows what that instrument traditionally does out of the water. That really inspired me to approach the electric bass in a similar way. My compositions tend to show my classical roots, too. I just love the whole spectrum – whether it is playing a funky groove with a super tight drummer bringing down the house or checking out tapped chord melodies and finding creative ways around my six string.
You have a lot of positive comments on your bass sound. What makes it so special?
Thank you! A lot about good sound has to do with good technique – I worked on playing even, minimizing tension, alternating my right-hand fingers and optimizing my posture, positioning of the thumb and fingers etc. I find the best angle to pluck the strings and I pay close attention to coordination between the hands. Both the hands as well as the mind need to be on the same page with the notes we are playing!
I love my Marleaux basses because they have such a breadth of tonal expressions. A few of them have programmable electronics, so I can dial in precisely what I am looking for. I use Revsound cabs and TC amps. My strings are Dean Markley SR 2000’s. When I record I love going direct with my Tsunami cables. I think it comes down to knowing your gear very well and dialing in the right sound for the tune. For mixing the sound in all of my videos I have Wolf Wein of Wolftrackaudio to thank – he is a bass player himself as well as a composer, so he knows sound!
What are some major milestones in your life?
Meeting my teacher Wolf Wein who encouraged me endlessly was a huge milestone. Up to then, I had been a marine biologist, so talk about a turn of direction! But when I met him and he gave me awesome feedback, I went back to university, but this time not for zoology, but for music. Other milestones were passing the hard entry exams to the University of Music in Vienna, getting selected for a scholarship for the University of Miami School of Music, Bass at the Beach with Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten, and moving to the States. But most interesting I think are those little milestones – when I get a musical idea out of the blue and it turns into a song. Or when the music just flows with my favorite bandmates. Or every single time one of my students has a light bulb moment! Self-publishing my book and creating my courses was a milestone. Meeting Scott Devine of Scott’s Bass Lessons at the 2015 Warwick Bass Camp was a big milestone. And whenever I get an email from someone somewhere in the world who tells me a video or my book helped them or encouraged them in some way, then I feel like I am on the right track.
What do you think is most important in being a successful musician?
Being creative and solid. To understand how to best serve the situation. And to create your own
Focus! Decide what to learn (a book, a style, a program), and then learn it. These days it is incredibly hard to focus on anything because there is so much noise. Work on something with dedication for three months, then evaluate: are you getting the results you are after? If yes, keep going; if not, tweak until you do. The PORA method I developed is all about training one’s attention – it accelerates learning. Being open-minded is also important, and looking to learn from everyone, drummers, singers, soloists, harmony instruments… Learn as many styles as possible, it will enrich your experience.
Do you have any great music projects coming up with a band?
I have a new project with trumpeter and GRAMMY recognized producer Nick Phillips. We do original compositions as well as adaptations and re-harmonizations of Jazz standards. We are working up a program at the moment. My duo OoN with Paul Hanson is playing a few upcoming gigs. Recently I recorded for a Disney production for kids and I am exploring the LA scene. I am also writing several more books and courses.
What does a typical music day in your life look like?
I meditate, workout and clean my space in the early morning. I do one short practice session and a few minutes of ear training and piano. Then I either see students online for a few hours or do business-related tasks. The afternoon is reserved for writing. I try to write about six hours every day these days – books, blog posts, teaching materials. At around 8 PM I do my own practice, including learning band material and composing. Sometimes I see students very late at night to accommodate time zones.
What advice would you give other musicians that are just starting out?
Focus on the quality of your practice, not the quantity (a good teacher or program can set you on the right path). Cultivate good technique habits early on (relaxed posture and hands, the economy of motion). Don’t try to find justifications for shortcuts that sound alluring but don’t work. Don’t waste time trying to find answers to questions like “What is the best bass for me”, “Should I use TAB or not?”, “Does learning theory stifle my creativity?”, “Am I too old to learn to read?” etc. Instead, hunker down and do it. Start with regular, focused practice sessions. They don’t have to be long, but consistent and focused. My view: the notion of talent is way overrated, and smart regular work is underrated. Don’t wait for motivation to show up – just do it! When you feel you are getting better it becomes easier.
Where can people find you, and why should they connect with you?
My book: https://amzn.to/2jhcqpK
My wall chart: https://amzn.to/2qGxgix
My course: https://arisbassblog.com/coaching-course/
If you want to start playing bass guitar or want to improve your bass guitar techniques, check out Ari’s course here (along with other great bass guitar lessons)
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