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Jeff Berlin


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‘Dukes It Out’


Warning: In this interview Jeff will force you to question  everything you think you know about practicing & playing bass !

 Be forewarned



oted for being not only a spectacular bassist and composer, Jeff Berlin offers the interviewer the opportunity to talk to someone who pulls no punches and is willing to say what is on his mind. Not a fool by any measure, in fact he makes it very clear from the very beginning that he is more than willing and able to back up everything he says with proof. Global Bass Magazine is honored to welcome Jeff Berlin, with his first interview for his newest release, "In Harmony's Way". He sets the mood in saying:


Jeff:  I DO speak my mind about learning how to play. But, I won't cast dispersions on anybody personally or any group or any school. It's not my style to be personal, because it's not personal what I say about some of today's educational methods. These are general things. I'm very opinionated about them and I think there's a lot of bad musical advice being given out. With BASS PLAYER Magazine, you know I write the column for them? 

GB:  Yes, I do. 

Jeff:   Okay, so you know about some of the fireworks that have been going on. I feel that I've been the only columnist to say something concrete. I said in my column things about education that, to me, are irrefutable. Not only me. There are plenty of top teacher/players who know what would help someone learn how to play.  Also things that will NOT help someone to play, but people still want to practice these methods. You tell somebody that what they subscribe to isn't valid and usually they'll take it personally. So some people were up in arms about the fact that I said things such as handgrips will not help their playing or their musicality at all. 

GB:  Neither will tarot cards or tealeaf readings for that matter. 

Jeff:  There you go, it's kind of in the same category. The reason is that there is nothing wrong with the hands of most musicians, yet they practice as if there was something wrong. Unless they have a medical problem and have a specific need to use a handgrip, then handgrips are not going to help a musician play any better because playing bass is not about hand strength. It never was about hand strength. It's about having a lighter touch, which automatically gives the player more dexterity. It's about playing with musicality, with knowledge of the instrument and knowledge of the style of music that you're playing. None of these require hand strength. 

In music, practicing is as essential as playing. They are totally different in that playing is a Real Time experience, which is music being played spontaneously, at that moment in time. Practice is evaluating new music and is, most of the time, not in Real Time. You don't practice new music in real time.  You practice it OUT of time so that you can figure out what the notes are and where they are on the neck. So practicing and playing rarely relate. 

The result is that once I learn the information, I can play it in real time and this is why playing and practicing are two completely different elements. 

GB:  I can't help but think of what you are saying here, the differentiation of the two elements and how in experiences in the past with band members I've worked with where there hasn't even been the attention to detail necessary to learn the songs properly. More often than not, the motivation for a lot of these players to play their instruments is simply to create an excuse to go to bars and meet women. They have no higher musical goal than that. 

Jeff:  That's the reason I started out! I wanted to meet girls. I was like any other kid who had the idea of putting a guitar around my neck and having some girl saying "Jeez, you're cute, let's go somewhere!" Music got many of us into bed with women that were completely unobtainable without it. I mean, have you actually noticed just how ugly some of us players really are? Thank goodness for music, or we still might be virgins.

GB:  You have a firm focus on practicing, don't you? 

Jeff:  Well, I admit that it's not everybody's role in life to subscribe to my views of practicing. For me, I'm a very focused musician. To me, practicing is so essential to my life in music that as I get older I have become more involved in it than I ever was and the results have been just great. 

If I say practicing is important and recommend that people do it, I know that many players won't. But what happens is, that by not doing the required procedures in order to get the skills on the instrument that they profess to love, they are going to find that their playing is going to be greatly reduced and their knowledge of music is going to be held back.

GB: And their opportunities are going to be greatly held back as well. 

Jeff: Yes, absolutely, because most people won't get a record deal and most people won't get famous. Since most players won't become well known, my thinking is that they stay in this fucked-up industry for the love of music alone since fame will elude most players. If they are in music for the long haul and don't put in the time to support their craft, then they should not expect great things from their music if they're not going to put great things into it in the first place. 

GB:  Tell me your thoughts about metronomes and chops developing exercises. They seem quite controversial and go against the common belief that these items will help you to play. 

Jeff:  A metronome is not going to give you good time. Handgrips are not going to help you play better. Picking and technique developing lessons are not going to help you play faster. These concepts are all supported by a faction of musician/columnist/magazine editors whose playing careers have not improved because of their practicing using these tools. Much of the time, the people that get the most enraged about what I say are the inexperienced guys.  

When I do clinics, I'll get a few guys who try to challenge me about my thinking which is great because this makes the clinic more interesting for the participants. Inside of five minutes, they are quiet and thoughtful about what I've just showed them. You see, I can prove everything that I say. The bass column is a difficult place to make a point since there's no way to spontaneously answer any questions that may arrive because of what I've written. But, at a clinic, nobody goes away without being convinced that what I say makes sense since I can prove it right in front of their eyes.

GB: They sometimes are also the ones that haven't yet decided whether or not they are going to throw themselves completely into a musical career or play it as a hobby. 

Jeff:  My father plays golf as a hobby. He is never going to join the PGA. But still he studies the game as if he is going to. In other words, he will learn to putt with the attention to detail that Tiger Woods might have put into his putting. My father wants the satisfaction of being able to take a little white ball and putt it from this place to that little hole over there. This way he gets the pleasure just from the experience of playing the game properly. 

Many musicians own guitars, and don't know how to play them! They don't know how to tune them without a tuner. The retail industry sold 6 billion dollars worth of hard good a couple of years backs. You know, guitar, drums, picks, strings, and amps. Every accouterment of music and I dare say that many players who made those purchases don't know how to use the tools that they have. 

So when I come along and say "Come on guys, you need to dedicate a little time to the instrument you own", it does not mean that you stop playing the music you love. We all started playing music for the reason that we love a certain kind of music. We love Rock, we love Blues, we love Jazz. And you don't stop playing the music you love just because in the practice room you encounter music that is mostly academic in nature. 

I own The Players School of Music here in Clearwater, Florida. Our students are made to understand that, when they walk through our doors that they are here to work and learn new concepts of music. This does NOT mean that they have to throw into the garbage the music that they love.

Jeff Berlin’s Players School    

GB:  Have you had critics saying that the reason you are saying this is simply to promote your particular school, your particular business? 

Jeff:  Well, I have been pontificating on these subjects for many years, long before the Players School came into being. That's why I created the school in the first place. Do you know that we have nearly a 100% improvement rate from our students? If they didn't get better, then I would be forced to reconsider my opinions about how to learn to play.

See, I was also a violinist for 10 years, I was a seriously trained Classical student. Having that background and seeing the way that Classical musicians paid attention to their instrument and the notes on the paper in front of them, taught me that the practice element of music is best served when paying attention to the small details. Our students do this at whatever level of playing or reading, or NON-playing or NON-reading, they are at. That's why they all get better. 

Practicing can cut someone's learning time in half, it would save 20 years of learning time, if they did it right. 

GB:  So exactly what do you feel is the 'right way' to practice. 

Jeff:  The 'right way' to practice is practicing the elements of music that are guaranteed to produce positive results on your instrument.  Since music is made up of harmony, melody and rhythm, it just logically goes to say that as a musician, we should learn these things.

What education does is it teaches the notes that exist in the music you enjoy. If I play a C Major triad, the notes are C, E, and G. But, the very same C triad is in "Jump" by Van Halen. It is in the C Major Sonata by  Mozart. It is also in the score from "Papillon" written by Jerry Goldsmith. This chord has a name and a way to construct it. But, if you don't know the name, then how are you going to use it? 

Nobody here reading this interview will have any problem with the grammar and the words that are in this article, yet they are reading this particular combination of words for the very first time. Having never seen this particular order of these words, they still know every individual word that they are reading, but they have never seen them in this order. Now the only way that they could have gotten the interpretation of what these words actually mean is by knowing what these words meant individually before being put into this group. 

It is the same with music. If you can learn what an F# looks like, you can interpret that note every time it comes up. That's why learning how to read music isn't that difficult. But some players don't seem to know this. Without any coercion from anyone else, they went out and bought an instrument to make music and they can't get the music out of their instrument because they don't know the notes or where they are on the neck. 

GB:  This must upset some people when you tell them that they don't know their instrument. 

Jeff:  I often hear from players who say, "How dare you say I don't know how to play?"  It's kind of amusing to me. It's like that joke where the guy who is not very smart robs a woman of her purse. When they catch the guy and they put him in the line up, the woman comes forward to identify the crook. But, the crook steps forward and says, "That's her". I'll write that some players don't practice, and a guy will write me back and almost scream through his letter, "Yes I do." Well! Great! If you do, then obviously I wasn't talking about you so chill out. 

I'll get guys who write me and say”! I'm married and I've kids and what do you want out of me?!?!" 

What I want is for the general group of musicians who play the same instrument as I do to recognize an irrefutable fact. The music industry has no use for non-able players except in a band that sells like Microsoft. In those cases, the record companies couldn't care less how you sound. Other than this scenario, don't expect much from your career if you don't put everything you can into it. Do you want to be a great player? Then work for it. 

It's like saying 'I want to be a studio musician, but I don't wish do the work to get there'. 

GB:  Are you are saying in effect, that some players who only work with chord charts or tablature are not working for their career development? 

Jeff:   Tablature is a bunch of shit and has delayed the musical growth of many musicians who use it. Tablature is not an existing form of music. It never shows up on a studio session, it never shows up on a gig. It never shows up in music of any kind in any way, shape or form except when it is used by guitar magazines or rock solo transcriptions. It is a complete fallacy. It is in use today because musicians will not learn the language of music that has been proven to work for 400 years. 

To be quite honest, tablature is a musical version of how they teach a chimp to do tricks. That chimp has no idea what he is actually doing. He just knows that once he does the trick, he is going to be rewarded for it. 

GB:   You know this is gonna makes some waves Jeff ! 

Jeff:   Malcolm X. Martin Luther King. Galileo. I'm not comparing myself with these people. I'm simply saying that just because I'm in the minority about what I say doesn't mean that I am wrong. Were they?  It's always upsets the majority when someone comes along and says that what they subscribe to may not be as meaningful to them as they thought. 

GB:  What are your thoughts about the art of music? 

Jeff:  There was a bass player that used to play in Frank Zappa's band, after I was fired. From what I understand that bass player used to rub mayonnaise on his chest before a gig. To be quite honest with you, as an art choice I support it 100%. I am not joking here.  I support it 100%, because he made a statement that he felt was a correct and artful statement for him to make. It isn't MY choice for meaningful art. But, it is here that art must become subjective. In this case, I am the most liberal guy on earth, because no one should decide what, and what is not, art. But the minute they make a video about how to teach the 'Mayonnaise Technique', that's when I am going to write a column about what a bunch of knuckleheads there are out there who follow this brand of learning lunacy. I've always separated education and art which many players haven't caught onto because they don't read what I really write in my columns.

GB:  For the bassist that doesn't have immediate access to the Players School, what would you hope to convey to the reader at home that will help to focus their practice time? 

Jeff:  My first suggestion is to find as best a music teacher as you can. It could be a piano teacher because they read bass clef as well as treble. You don't have to go to your town's best bass player because the town's best bass player might not be as good as you think he is. Also, a good player doesn't mean that he will be a good teacher.

You go to the musician who knows the generic musical information and can convey it to you. 

GB:  How do you feel about a student trying different teachers over a period of years to gather different knowledge, different approaches to music? 

Jeff:  Sure, that's a very good thing to do. But, if you ever get with a teacher who, once you walk into their studio says to you, "What do you want to work on today?"  My suggestion is to walk out.  It isn’t your job to know what you are supposed to be learning. So whoever asks this question is, in my opinion, doing a disservice to their students. 

You need a teacher with a repertoire of lessons. You need people who know how to listen to you play and be able to decide the best course of action to make you a better player. 

GB: You have made the controversial statement that studying rock music with a teacher or in a school is a waste of time. Please explain. 

Jeff:  Every rock musician that I can think of that has ever had success in rock and roll has learned how to play their art form by doing it in clubs, in their garages, in their basements. I would bet anything on this, that nobody can make a list of 10 well known guys in rock & roll, past or present, who has ever gone to a school to learn how to play rock and came out successful from the experience. 

I know that Steve Vai went to Berklee. But, he didn't go there to study rock. Neither did Paul Gilbert when he went to MI. They were in school to learn music, not rock which is why I feel that it is nearly impossible to name ten players in rock who got there, in part, from academic rock studies. 

Since I feel that it is difficult to name 10 successful rockers, graduated from school, this is why I say that the rock educational system with all the rock videos, and transcribed rock solos using tablature is a flawed system of learning and ought to be dismissed. If the medical industry had the same results with its patients as the rock industry has had with its clients, they would have closed down modern medicine years ago! 

GB:  What about slap bass lessons? 

Jeff:  It's the same with slap bass academia. In my opinion, it doesn't work. Just about every famous 'slapper' has developed their skills by doing it, by practicing it on their own, listening to records. 

Again, make a list of 10 guys who got their slapping skill in part, by attending some academic program using organized slap curriculum. These lessons are as meaningless as the videos, in my opinion. If these videos make for an entertaining evening, I would think that hey haven't benefited anyone in terms of playing or professional benefit. If the majority, if not the entire group of famous slappers, accomplished what they accomplished on their own terms, then the academic slap industry is flawed and ought to be dismissed as well. 

And here's this last little thing, now check this out. Would you go to a doctor if that doctor studied medicine with the same attention to details that many musicians have put into their music?  Your answer about what you practice lies there. 

GB: Lots of players decry, "I can't read music, I just can't crack it, it's just draws a blank for me." What do you think that person is doing wrong, is it a matter of attitude, are they with the wrong teacher? Should they try and teach themselves how to read? 

Jeff:  Teaching yourself how to read music is difficult. I know very few people who have done it. A good teacher would be invaluable to you. I could teach you how to read music in ten weeks. That's not a lie, that's not even a challenge, that's a fact. The reason is because I don't expect them to attack a symphony. I expect them to read a few notes in a few different variations. 

If you can read several notes in various ways in four weeks, you will absolutely de-mystify the terror of notes and rhythm. The next six weeks are much easier and fun. You will see that it is not that awful at all. There is nothing frightening or threatening at all. You just have to learn how to do it the right way. 

GB:  So they fill themselves with all this fear, this crap. 

Jeff:  Oh yeah, you should see some of the faces when they sit down to read music with me for the first time. You would have thought they were going to The Chair. 

Here's something that I subscribe to a 100%.  You're allowed to make mistakes in music, you're allowed to make mistakes in practice. In fact, it's guaranteed to occur. 

In the Jewish religion, you put an empty seat out for Elijah at Passover. I 'm saying, put an empty seat out for Mr. Mistake, because he's coming. Guaranteed, put out a plate of food for him. You're going to make mistakes, it's going to happen. So, when they DO happen, So what? What's the big deal? 

What's wrong with making mistakes? 

Mistakes are a cause for celebration. You know why? You know EXACTLY what to fix. How very few musicians can make this statement. 

There's a whole nation of musicians out there that play all the time and make mistakes and haven't a clue what to fix. I would know exactly what they would need to fix, I would know it in 5 minutes after hearing them. 

GB:  How do you go about fixing their mistakes? 

Jeff: As a teacher, the first thing I would fix is to lessen the amount of homework they have to do. I don't give 10 pages of homework to a musician who is struggling. I give two bars of homework. I want these guys to come back to me and say "Hey man, I'm bored with this!". When I hear that I start smiling to myself and think, 'Bored with this, huh, two weeks ago you were practically in tears, scared out of their minds!'

Now they are coming to me and saying, 'Man, when am I going to get more reading?' It's a beautiful thing to see. 

GB:  With the Players School you offer a One-Week Intensive in September. Will that be happening again this year? 

Jeff:  In March, the 12th to the 15th 2000.  We were going to do it last September, but I was recording my next record in September. 

GB:  Yeah, you can't be everywhere and you appear to like a kind of hands-on approach to doing things, including your school. 

Jeff:   Yeah, I don't like the idea of people coming in here and I am not around. I'm a hands-on teacher. All the teachers here are. We’ll knock on the guitar player's doors and the drummer's doors and say, "Let me hear that again." "Are you sure you're playing that the correct way?" Being involved with the student's development; I really believe in this. 

GB:  Now one of the things you mentioned to us was your highly intensive practice regimen, can you tell us a bit about that? 

Jeff:  I've been practicing now for about two, three months, actually it's longer than that. It's been gaining momentum. It's closer to 6 to 8 months, practicing hard. About 6 to 7 days a week. I've been practicing out of David Liebman's book, which has now become my bible. It's called 'A Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody'. Published on Advance Music, it is my bible. It is the most thought provoking musically stimulating document of advanced study methods that I have ever gone through. 

GB:  It challenges you then? 

Jeff: It challenges me to a place where when I go to sleep, I can't shut my brain off! I'm thinking about all these exercises. I'm also practicing a lot of transcriptions. I'm a very big fan of Pat Metheny's guitar playing. When he plays Jazz, I think he's maybe one of the greatest jazz guitarists that ever lived. A phenomenal talent. I've always had a desire to be free musically on my instrument in a way that other bassists haven't. One way for me to accomplish this is to transcribe Pat's his solos. I've transcribed Michael Brecker's solos, I have some Hubert Laws' here, I have some Pat Martino, who is a very 'inside' Jazz guitar player. He's incredible. 

GB:  What do you mean by 'inside'? 

Jeff:   His tonality is very much 'in' the key, he approaches notes in the key he is in. If you are in the Key of C, he doesn't play in the Key of B. Brecker does. 

I used to play with Pat Martino. In my youth, my jamming buddies were Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Bill Frizell, and Mike Stern. Stern and I were neighbors and would study with the great music teacher Charlie Banacos. We would compare notes and play all the time. These days, I am fully involved in playing solos and studying out of the Liebman book, playing Cannonball Adderly solos too, things that I have written out. 

I am involved in music that is not meant for the bass. We play an instrument that is very symmetrical. You know, that E A D G symmetry. And to be quite honest, that's a very limiting symmetry. We have a tendency to play Diatonically. 

I've found that by forcing myself into non-diatonic situations, I'm playing solos that no bass player would do. 

GB:  So how do you get past the symmetrical bass lines? 

Jeff:  By playing their solos slower than they do, because some of the music that I practice is really hard on the bass. I might start by practicing two or four bars in 12 Keys at a time. I'll take Pat Martino and I will play. (Editor's Note:  Jeff puts the phone down and picks up his bass and says.) Pat Martino is the easy one because it is 'inside', you can hear the tonality. It's like a C7, he does a line which I would do slowly, about 8 bars of it.  (Editor continued…Jeff begins playing a riff that actually does come across exactly like a guitarist would play a jazz solo line, with the same lightness of touch and the buoyant dance we have all heard over the years.) 

Jeff:  Then I would play the whole thing in the Key of F. Then I would play it in B Flat, E Flat, A Flat and D Flat, and after a while.

(Editor's Note: Jeff begins moving through the keys phrases faster and faster and soon you realize that this is so far outside the usual things you expect from a bassist. These parts are for all intents and purposes guitar parts simply played in lower register!)


Now I am starting to work through these lines faster and faster because I started out at the beginning very slowly. So I do a lot of this stuff. Want me to play you some more?  (Editor: Yeah, 'cos I am going to turn down the offer to listen to Jeff Berlin play!)  Well, I've got these Michael Brecker lines, are they are really hard lines! I've been playing this one for about two months and I still can't play it. I intend to just keep doing it. It's like looking for gold. You just have to keep digging. 

Jeff begins a line and flubs it a bit. He laughs and says, "Well what did I tell ya, there's Mr. Mistake!”  He starts ripping into this complex piece that would give a Grade Twelve Piano student a migraine, playing things I would have never thought of. It's as if he is reading my mind at this point, because he pipes up, "Man, I would have never thought of these tonalities!" 

GB:   So people will be saying, 'What a brilliant man, what brilliant playing', which though true, it still won't occur to them that also you are using the knowledge of these unusual tonalities as a stepping stone to a new form of expression on the bass. 

Jeff:  By placing myself into "Brecker" country, I'm forced to regard music first, then use the bass as a vehicle for what I know. The music always comes first. The instrument is second. Harmonically, these guys are better than I am as players, (the Martino's, the Brecker's, Pat Metheny). Oh I've found some things for the bass that are totally unique. I've always felt like there has got to be something on this instrument that isn't about being fretless and harmonics. So many players haven't gotten past Jaco's contributions. 

GB:  They really do seem to be stuck on him, don't they? 

Jeff:   It's obvious to me and, by your comment, it's obvious to you. But, if you ever suggest to a fretless guy that what they are playing puts them smack dab into the Jaco clone camp, get ready to duck. Those guys don't like to be told that their careers are based on the musical contributions of another player. 

GB:  One can't help but wonder, without trying to put words in Jaco's mouth, that he might be wondering when we are going to just get over it. 

Jeff: Jaco was hurt about how so many players used his style and made their careers from it. He wasn't flattered by the outright imitation of his playing style. Metheny told me this years ago. 

Up until today, fretless players slide harmonics, chords and harmonics. . . 

GB:  Spam, spam, spam, eggs with spam, spam with eggs. 

Jeff:  It's hard to be different on your instrument. It takes years and lots of dedication. And how do you do that? It's by denying yourself access to someone else's playing unless you are a new player just putting your playing skills together. In this case, it's a great idea to imitate players. Just don't hold onto their styles too long. 

Years ago Keith Jarrett told me this story. He never liked to play with electric bass players, but he gave me a ride home one day after a gig in New York that we both played on. He was in one band. I was in another, by the way. Miles was maybe one of the most beautiful ballad players of any of the Jazz musicians. He was a phenomenal player in that regard. One day he stopped playing them. Keith asked him, 'Why did you stop playing ballads?' Miles said to Keith, 'I stopped playing ballads because I love to play them so much.' 

He felt he was in a situation where he couldn't grow. So he denied himself access to a playing style that he was comfortable in so that he could challenge himself in musical styles that he wasn't. 

Herbie Hancock was playing with Miles at the time.  One night Miles said to Herbie, 'On this tune, play these three, four notes'. Herbie said, 'What are you talking about, these four notes are weird notes, they don't fit!' But Miles said, 'Just play them'. 

And when they were playing the tune, Herbie starts playing these odd notes during Miles' solo and Miles is physically jerking while playing his trumpet. He is trying to find a way into the music. The next night, they played the same tune, with the same 4 weird notes. Herbie covered the same harmony. Miles was jerking a lot less and on the third night, Miles wasn't moving, he was just standing there, playing. He found his way into the music. The challenge for Miles was to do something that would cause him to rise to the occasion. That would cause him to become, to seek out something that was not natural to him. He desperately wanted this. 

I desperately want this too. I am not in Miles category, but I desperately want it. You see, I practice for myself. I never practice to be a better entertainer on my instrument, ever.  But I have practiced for myself so that when I play, I can invite people to come and share the experience with me. In that way, I feel I am the best entertainer I can be because I'm giving the best of what I am possibly capable of giving. What I am giving them is everything I have. Music to me is a selfish art form. Picasso was a selfish artist, yet he invited people to share in the experience.  Miles was selfish artist but he invited people to come to share in the experience. 

GB:  Do you feel you get the best out of a musician when you allow them to be selfish in that way? 

Jeff:  Yes, I think so! You do need entertainment too, I am not saying it's not a complete 100%.  But that is why I practice what I practice. I've been long ago capable of playing any gig that comes down the road at me, so I don't practice for the gig, I haven't for years. But I practice intently for that something that is slightly eluding me. That something I search for is the joy of music. Every day I get closer. One day, I may get it for a few hours, then I plateau off and I am suddenly not happy with what I am doing. But the joy of music is that tomorrow you can always do it a little different and a little bit better. 

GB:  I have heard that Allan Holdsworth is someone who is never satisfied with his own playing, that he is always seeking that higher goal. Would you think that this is due to similar reasons? 

Jeff:   I would say so. We did a gig years ago and they gave us a Winnabago as a dressing room. We were chatting after a set and we couldn't find Allan. I turned around and I saw the closet door cracked open a bit. I opened the door and he was standing all alone in the closet with his head in the corner of the closet. 

He felt so bad about the way he played, even though the place went berserk for him. I understand what he was going through because nobody can hear what he hears. So it isn't that he is playing poorly, he won't let down an audience ever. How could a guy that amazing ever let down his audience? He never will. He is probably one of the most fantastic guitarists that ever lived and yet he is demanding on himself. 

That's why people can't understand why I am yakking the way I am yakking. It 's because I want people to suffer for their art more than they do, I want them to pay a price for their art, I want to give up things for their art, I want them to surrender time, surrender friends, surrender family, surrender health, ( I am not speaking in literal terms now, I just want them to pay something for their art). 

In Rocky II, his wife Adrian went into a coma. He was going to fight Apollo Creed again and he wouldn't train because he was waiting for his wife to come out of the coma. The fight was drawing closer and closer. So Mickey, his trainer, goes up to him and says, "Rocky, for you to fight 45 minutes, you gotta train for 45,000 minutes!" 

Sure, it's a movie. But, the point is a good one. To play a 32 bar Jazz tune, you have to train for 32,000 minutes. To play a decent 12 bar Blues, you've got to train for 12,000 hours. There is a reality in there. 

GB:  This new Dean bass you're using, can you tell us a bit about it? 

Jeff:  It's the best bass I've ever played. It's better than the Palaedium because the neck is ever so slightly thicker. It has low action. There are three versions of the bass; the Jeff Berlin Basic, the Standard, and the Exotic.

 The  Basic 

The Standard 

The Exotic

Jeff Berlin Dean Signature Basses


On the Standard and the Exotic, the pickups were built by Bill Bartolini. We're old friends from 25 years back and I always felt he made the best pickup in the business, end of story. The best sounding pickups I ever played were Bill Bartolini pickup. 

I use Carl Thompson bass strings. Carl and I have been together for 25 years as well. 

GB:   That is a long time to go without trying other strings. 

Jeff: I have experimented with other strings throughout those 25 years. Every year at NAMM, String manufacturers have given me some samples of their product and I've tried them out of curiosity. But I must confess that the best bass string that I have ever put on my bass were, and are, the Carl Thompson bass strings. For some reason that I can't put my finger on, my sound, my approach, my feel are intertwined with his strings It's the most remarkable bass string I've ever played. 

GB:   Do they stay 'live' fairly long? 

Jeff:    For months, and that's the funny thing. I live in Florida and everything gets sopping wet around here. 

GB:    You've never bothered getting involved with 5, 6 and 7 stringed basses? 

Jeff:   No. I doubt that I ever will. However, a bass player with a focus on being a sideman may need the low B string, now that it's kind of an industry requirement. 

I'm into finding new things on the four string. On my new record, I found new ways of doing things. Want to hear something? Turn off your tape machine.

(ARRGG!  I don't blame him, it's a new album that hasn't been released yet, but I would have loved to been able to listen to this again and again. He moved into an incredibly animated percussive line that was spellbinding) 

Jeff:   I've found a way to play percussively, so I wrote a tune that I call 'Runaway Train'. It has this incredible chug-a-lug sound that has never been done on bass, as far as I can tell. It's  simply an ostinato line, but it is technically difficult.  I've got it down now, so I don't have to think about it any more. It's a particular way to play that sounds like slap, but there is no thumb involved.” 

GB:  Is it something that once your album is released, at some point you could see incorporating into the lessons at the Players School? 

Jeff:   No, because it doesn't benefit these musicians to know how I "played that line" on the album. However, I WILL show the guys bass lines for fun. I might come over to your house, watch the fights on TV, and pick up your bass and show you stuff. But no, I won't incorporate it into the Players School Curriculum, because it doesn't benefit a student a whit to know how I "did it". 

GB: It's what you were talking about earlier regarding the slap technique. It wouldn't benefit them professionally. But you're going to have people hounding you, they're going to want to know what you're doing here! 

Jeff:   And I will show `em. I don't hold anything back, what would be the reason, so they won't sound like me? Go for it! Sound like it. Do it! Just drop it after a while so you don't get compared to me. I am a very selfless guy about giving up information. Whatever you want to know, I'll show it to you. It's not going to affect my career in the slightest. I'll show anybody anything. I just won't charge for it, that's the point. 

GB:  So if I were to attend your School, would I find that you would spend almost as much ‘unteaching’ old habits as you would teaching new ones? 

Jeff:  Sure! I also hope that this interview did this in some way. Do you know who Huey P. Long was? He was the Governor of Louisiana in the early 20th Century. He was a brusque guy, but he also did some interesting things, one of them was dragging the State of Louisiana kicking and screaming into the 20th Century. 

GB:  You certainly hold strong to your convictions, don’t you? 

Jeff:  When anybody goes against the grain, they are perceived as making strong comments. Malcolm X said that black people are to be accorded respect as men and that they should accomplish this "by any means necessary". Thirty years ago, this statement sent terror into the hearts of most while people. Today that statement is emblazoned on people's clothing and nobody bats an eye. New era, new thinking. Today, this has a ring of people standing up for their rights As I said, earlier, standing against the majority does not mean that I am wrong. Of course, my comments seem strong. They are directly in the face of the majority who take exception with what I say. We'll just have to wait a little time to see who was right. Let's wait when some of my critics turn 40 or 50 and get the full impact of the kind of investment they have made in their musical lives.

So the people are going to read all this?  I don't know if you're going to print all this, it's sort of a long-winded thing. It was a long interview. Boy, I really can go on..  

Global Bass:  But worth every word and every minute!!

Look for Jeff's new release early in the New Year. This interview has covered a lot of ground, he said a few things that are going to rattle a few cages, but hopefully his real intent got through to you. To make you think, to make you question your old ways of doing things, including practicing and the profound gift made available when actually learning to read music. Including the doors it will open and the opportunities it will bring to you.

You can reach Jeff the Players School @ 

                   (727) 725-1445

You can inquire further about the Jeff Berlin Signature Bass at:


Photo’s used in this article taken from the Players School website.





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Last modified: June 16, 2009