Global Bass Online October 2001
met Keith recently, after the release of “Only
A Whisper Away”, a disc he made with his vocalist wife, Denise.
As it turns out, the disc is the new favorite of both my wife and our
young daughter! So, after a listen
to the disc for myself, I began preparations to get in a telephone call to this
busy session bassist.
I knew of Keith through his books:
'n' Blues Bass" (Hal
Lost Art of Country Bass"
I didn’t know what type of person I was going to encounter.
I was more than comforted by the fact that Keith is an incredible human
being who has a powerful, all-consuming love for the bass!
We share many similar experiences, and it is also nice to know that there
are others in this world of music who also have a deep conviction to support
their families as a first priority. I
have often recommended Keith’s “Studio Bass Masters” book to my students
who have expressed an interest in session work.
and I chatted on the telephone during a recent, lazy, warm Sunday afternoon.
Though we were a thousand miles apart, geographically, we were
experiencing identical weather (HOT!)
as we both sat in our respective backyards and chatted about our favorite
instrument! After a lengthy
conversation, that covered myriad topics, I hung up knowing that I had made a
Though it’s a strange way to start… Let’s dig right in, and begin
with the instruments you take to sessions and gigs, and why.
I’ve been using my 1966 Fender Precision Bass (stock), an early sixties
original Silvertone single ‘lipstick’ pickup short-scale bass, and an early
1900’s German-made carved upright bass equipped with a Pierre Josephs magnetic
pickup and a David Gage Realist pickup with their outputs joined and soldered
together. I use Dunlop .88 mm picks. I pretty much show up at most live gigs
with this setup because it covers a lot of bass tones and styles. I run these
basses into an AC powered effects pedal board arranged in the following order: a
Boss OC-2 Octave pedal, an old DBX 117 analog compressor/expander, and a Boss
CEB-3 Bass Chorus. I’ve found that you should experiment with the order of
your pedals until you find the best tone. Some
pedals can have higher output impedance than others and can load down your
an Alessandro Guitar Two cable, I plug this setup into a great sounding old
70’s Alembic F2B bass pre-amp I got from Stanley Clarke. The output of this
pre-amp is plugged into the full range effects return jack of my Glockenklang
Heart Core 400-watt bass head. This allows me to bypass the input section of the
Glockenklang, yet still have access to the Glock’s 5-band EQ and DI output.
For speakers, I use a Glockenklang Take Five 4x10 bass cabinet. It’s a dream
always bring two basses to every job in a double gig bag. For casuals and pickup
gigs, I tend to use my original 1966 Fender Jazz Bass a lot because its neck is
easy to play and, sometimes, I’ll bring my James Tyler Custom 4 string.
I like to keep it light and easy for most casuals because you sometimes don’t
have an easy load-in. I use my modified 1966 Fender Bassman head w/Fender 2x12
speaker cabinet or my original 1963 Ampeg B18 flip-top amp. Both amps are 50
watts. I had an Ampeg B15N pre-amp circuit installed in the Normal channel of
the Bassman, and I use that channel most of the time. I’ve had both amps
completely revamped including replacing filter caps, worn parts, and tubes. Old
tube amps need the caps and tubes changed every couple of years if you use them
a bit. I use NOS Mullard pre-amp tubes in all my tube gear.
recording, I use the same basses. I
sometimes lean more toward my James Tyler Bass because it prints to tape
strongly, with lots of personality. Other basses I use include: an Epiphone Jack
Casady Signature Bass - for its rich tone making any track sound more organic;
an old Mexican guitarron acoustic bass - made into a four string that sounds
like an upright and a guitar playing together; and an early 60’s hollow-body
‘hockey puck head stock’ Kay electric bass – that has that famous Duck
1966 Fender Jazz and Precision basses record well, too. The Jazz has a clanky
tone for rock tracks, and the P Bass has a beautiful low end. At sessions I plug
the DI of my Alembic/Glock rig into the board or use the studios DI. I don’t
usually add much EQ when tracking unless it fits the situation. I like to use my
DBX 117 compressor/expander because it adds a warm presence to my sound. It has
a normal and slow
release switch that I use for different effects. I set it on slow for upright
bass and when playing ballads because the notes seem to expand or bloom nicely.
I use the normal setting for electric bass because the slow setting can’t
catch the fast passages very well. I won’t use my 117 if the studio has an
LA2A, Tube Tech, or other great compressor. I find that most engineers will add
a touch of limiting or compression when they track.
strings, I use Rotosound Swing Bass 45-105 gauge for most basses with the
exception of the Kay, Jack Casady Signature, and Silvertone basses which use
LaBella Flatwound 760S (45-105) or their short scale medium gauge set. For my
upright, I use Pyramid brand Ultraflex double bass strings made in Germany.
Unfortunately, not many American bass players are aware of Pyramid. The Pyramids
are the easiest playing and most gut-sounding metal string I’ve tried –they
really are exceptional. The trebly sound of most upright strings doesn’t work
for me, but the Pyramids don’t have that problem.
I like the fact that you’ve never gotten on the bandwagon, and run out
to buy extended-range basses, and that you’re a dedicated “4-string guy”.
Are there any words of encouragement that you could give to young players
who are feeling the need to get into extended range basses… because everyone
like the sound of five string basses, and anyone with a set of ears can hear how
great a well played extended range bass can sound, but I’m more comfortable
playing a four string. Looking at my gear, one might see me as traditional. I
definitely feel the extended range bass is here to stay. I’ll sometimes use my
octave pedal for the ending note of songs… trying to duplicate a five string
bass. I would suggest every bassist at least try one. Young bassists should find
and play the bass that appeals to them four, five, six, seven, eight, or ten
strings… it’s all good.
us about your most memorable sessions, and also what makes a session great in
was called to do a movie date on upright bass and guitarron. The arranger faxed
me some of the charts and asked me if I could handle the bass clef reading. The
charts displayed slow Latin feels, simply written. I said no problem. I show up,
and the orchestra work was already done… so I was to overdub my parts. The
engineer set me up in the middle of the room with a microphone on my bass. The
producer, the director, an actress from the cast, and others involved in the
making of the movie were all there staring at me through the control room glass.
They had me record a few musical pieces. Everything was going along great. Then,
they handed me the hard charts for the chase and intense scenes which the
arranger didn’t bother to fax to me. The charts contained rhythms I’d never
seen or counted - fast, intricate, syncopated, quick tempos! It soon became
apparent to everyone that I was having some trouble pulling it off.
Imagine playing a song you’ve never heard before, in a time signature
you never played before… and playing really fast with no time to practice! Not
only that, but when you’re finished with that, they want to hand you 6 more.
look on the arranger’s faces was indescribable. It got very uncomfortable,
very quickly. What could I do?
I couldn’t just leave. That
was my job, and I had to finish what I was hired to do. After asking the
arranger for help with some of the rhythms, I finished the job.
It was a long day, but definitely a learning experience and the score
came out great!
most sessions I have a great time and I’m sometimes inspired to play things
I’ve never played. I usually have
the freedom to come up with my own parts and people usually don’t suggest what
artists or producers are more concerned with their own part, not bass parts, so
they hire me because I will know what to play. The best recordings involve good
songs and good musicians. Playing and creating with musicians who play well and
play for the right reasons is like jumping into a warm bath. When I say ‘the
right reasons’ I mean playing from the heart and with selflessness. Being
creative and making good music has nothing to do with ego or power.
also tell us about the special skills you have acquired after so many years of
playing in the recording environment.
learned not to have a set approach to every session or gig. I’ve made the
mistake of determining to keep it simple; of having rigid and unbending time;
and of maintaining a certain tone. Each musical experience is different and
needs to be approached individually. I’ve learned to listen to myself and to
try to be honest about my shortcomings playing-wise and professionally.
also important to be a versatile bassist… So, I picked up the double bass 10
years ago. I’ve also been honing my tic-tac playing technique and pick bass
style, and also my use of bass effects.
and producers really like having a super-solid bassist who plays different bass
instruments because of the sonic versatility they add.
I don’t depend on metronomes for time-keeping, or to determine how good
my time keeping skills are. This is because metronomes have nothing to do with
real, natural music. I think it’s important that players are self aware enough
to tell when they are speeding up or slowing down.
The thing I’ve most noticed about your playing style is that you are a
bona fide, and fiercely dedicated pocket player.
There is no facet of a soloist in your approach – though you have great
Tell us about your approach to the basses, and to the song.
my playing style fits the instrument’s most basic role which is identifying
the chord root and providing a groove. I really enjoy playing a note at the
right time and listening to it expand to the next note. A short list of bassists
who knock me out are: Bob Moore, ‘Lightning’ Chance, Lee Sklar, Edgar
Willis, Joe Osborn, Jerry Scheff, Ray Brown, and Bob Magnusson. These superb
bassists play a big, strong, fat note and provide a solid foundation to any song
or groove. With that in mind, I try to play with a relaxed, but firm groove no
matter what the tempo. I’m careful about how many notes I play and that they
make sense to the typical listener and work for the song. It’s important to
play enough to propel the song, but not to be distracting. I also try to stay
out of the singer and soloists way at all times. Groove-wise if I’m sounding
disconnected with the drummer I won’t fight against what’s being played,
I’ll quickly adjust and find the groove again. I try to keep my head in the
game at all times by listening and watching for cues. I’ve learned that if I
bring it down a touch on the verses it can create dynamics. After years of
working and trying to hone my skills on upright, I’ve found my hands and ears
adjusting together when I play so I’m enjoying what some call ‘muscle
I choose basses for each job and artist. If someone says they really like my
Jazz Bass I’ll bring that to their gigs. I like a bass that I can roll off the
tone control for a ballad or dime it for a rocker. On a bluesy thing I might
leave the tone control wide open and slide my picking hand up towards the neck.
If I sound too bassy or trebly I quickly adjust my tone and make it fit the
moment. I’m not perfect, and I never will be, but I always try to play my best
when I pick up my bass – that’s the most important aspect of my approach.
The musician’s roster for Denise’s disc is outstanding!
I’ve been a huge fan of John Molo’s since his days with Bruce Hornsby
& The Range!
Tell us about the musicians who played on Denise’s disc, and about your
obviously great relationship with them.
Molo, drummer for Bruce Hornsby, Wynonna, Hot Tuna, and others played drums and
percussion. Molo is single-handedly responsible for putting me on the map in the
Los Angeles music scene, and he is one of my musical heroes. John basically
handed me a high profile gig recording, performing in videos, and touring with
Charlie Sexton that started everything for me back in the mid 80’s. When
producing projects I use Molo whenever I can because he inspires creativity in
the other players, and makes a session happen -which shows that players bring
much more than playing ability to projects.
Metzger, producer and guitarist for Leonard Cohen, handled most of the
acoustics, lots of electric rhythm guitar, some leads, and 12 string guitar. Bob
plays very intricate and intelligent parts, and takes the acoustic guitar
seriously as you can hear on the album. He also modifies and cares for my - and
many other LA players - tube amps… when you can catch him at home!
Livingston (Randy Newman, Sheena Easton and others) played all keyboard parts
and patches, along with pedal steel. He played all the parts on the fly and I
call him a “one-man studio army.”
good friend, Ron Fin, played lead guitar, electric rhythm guitar, and played
acoustic mandola. Ron is also involved in movie editing and scoring for major
film and TV projects. He has used me on many movies and commercial projects, and
kindly continues to do so.
(Author’s Note: Keith makes a point that I would
like to stress here… making connecitons and lasting friendships is absolutely
“key” to establishing and maintaining a career as a session musician!
My personal discography would be virtually non-existent without the likes
of this type of relationship.)
The guys on Denise’s disc played with the passion for and with the
conviction of the song, and it’s always a pleasure to hear great
musicians making good music together.
met Denise Rosier, my wife and soul-mate in 1991. Meeting and marrying Denise
and having our daughter, Madeleine, is a continuing blessing that I’m most
thankful for. Denise told me that she sang when we first started going out and I
thought she was quite good. I had no idea how good, until we went into a studio
a month or so later in 1991 - with Denise tracking only with an acoustic guitar
player for backing! The finished
recording was very, very good and showed what a pure talent she is. I wanted to
include it as a hidden track on her debut CD “Only
A Whisper Away” but Denise wouldn’t let me.
We’ve been performing together since our meeting, and finally have her
debut album out.
producing the CD I kept in mind the best producers I’ve worked for were hands
off in the tracking stage. I also stayed out of the players way, unless they
asked for assistance. Arrangement-wise, I wrote out chord charts and noted where
the starts, stops, and pushes were to occur, and where each instrument should
play fills or solo. I relied on the players to come up with their own parts and
made suggestions about overdubs such as strings, acoustic guitars, and
percussion. Then, we tracked live - overdubbing two or three players at once
while listening to a definitive playback. All the tracks for the album were
recorded in one weekend… just like the old days!
It was fun and nerve-racking all at once! I kept all my live bass parts
and we only fixed the obvious mistakes.
used my Jack Casady Bass w/flatwounds for tracks one, two, and three. The Tyler
Bass w/roundwounds was used for the rest of the tracks… with the exception of
track five, which I used my 1966 P Bass w/flatwounds.
We recorded all basses direct with a Demeter tube DI. Then we mixed all
the basses through a Pultec EQP1A tube EQ boosting a little @ 3K and 100hz. Then
we compressed lightly with an old LA2A tube compressor.
Michael McDonald at Trax studios recorded, mixed, and mastered the CD.
How are you promoting the disc?
after releasing “Only A Whisper Away”
we had a label interested. They sat on it for a few months and never made a
move. Then another label with a hit pop group on the charts at the time came and
heard Denise. That label felt she wasn’t street enough for them. We’ve sent
CD’s out to labels and publications and received many positive reviews, and
are hoping for the right connection and label. You can read the reviews and
order the CD from our site at www.deniserosier.com
happening next in your busy life?
about to produce a new rock/pop artist, Neil Morrow, who’s hooked up with RCA
Germany. We’re gathering new material for Denise as well. I also played on
Jann Browne’s new alternative country disc that’s about to be released.
It appears that you have made a decent sanctuary for yourself in Los
Angeles – a rare blessing!
Out of curiosity, why haven’t you moved to the Nashville area?
19 I knew I had to get out of the Texas Panhandle if I was going to do anything
with music. I like rock ‘n roll
so the obvious choice was Los Angeles. I loaded up my station wagon with my bass
gear, some clothes, 300 bucks, and drove to California not knowing a soul.
Everyone back home thought I was crazy. I
got a cheap apartment and started working in after-hours bars - and any other
gig I could find! I started at the
bottom and worked my way up. 20 years later I now make a living off the road in
LA playing casuals, gigs, casinos, corporate gigs, and sessions. I stopped
touring in 1997 because Denise became pregnant with our now 3 year old beautiful
daughter, Madeleine Denise Rosier… who is a heck of a dancer, by the way!
BAJ: How did
you get into writing books, and can you tell us about the approach to getting
your books published?
1996, I was doing a lot of country gigs and I wanted to learn how to play the
style convincingly so I started studying country recordings old and new. I
really liked some of the players like Bob Moore, Allen Williams, Glenn Worf, and
others. So on a whim, and in
homage, I wrote “The Lost Art of
friend did the artwork and I sent it to Hal Leonard. They liked it and let me
do, “Jump ‘n’ Blues Bass”,
too. I followed that with “Studio
Bass Masters”. All of my
books have play-a-long CD’s which I feel is important because the CD allow
bassists to play with top musicians while never having to leave their home. I
would recommend anyone interested in writing to come up with a commercial
concept, write it completely, and send it addressed to the person at the
publisher who reviews new book submissions.
Are there anymore books in Keith Rosier?
just finished a beginner book for upright and electric in all styles. I hope to
have it published soon.
Do you dedicate specific writing time?
Or, do your books just fall out?
decide on the title... Then, I mull it over for a few weeks and start writing an
outline or I will make up chapters. It can take up to six months to complete a
book and record the CD.
What advice can you give to a player who is moving toward a career like
bass for a living is a dream come true for me. I meet and play with people I
admire and get paid for it… and I get to travel! Could any career be better?
The reality is that it’s not all roses, and there have been many lean times
and many mistakes made. Fortunately,
those mistakes and hard times are important to your development.
Play bass because you love to do it!
If things start happening for your band or you decide to give “making
it as a bass player” a try, then give it all you’ve got.
man! It’s been a blast chatting
with you, and I’ll look forward to reading the new book when it comes out!
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