“Jim shares his journey as a bassist, why he prefers headphones as monitors when recording, and how using Pandora led him to Blake Shelton.”
Leigh Lim: Hi Jim! Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself. Looking at the videos you have on YouTube, at the moment it is geared towards different artists. What are your plans for the next videos you’re going to upload?
Jim Bryan: I mainly do covers of songs I enjoy, sometimes more popular songs to get some extra views! I do take requests and have done a bunch of them in the past. I’m currently working on covers of Train, Cutting Crew, and a few others.
LL: What were the last two requests you’ve gotten?
LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?
JB: I started playing about 5 years ago. The very first thing I started doing was looking for tabs online of my favorite songs, from there I looked up how to position my hands properly and read various books/online lessons for beginners.
I eventually got into music theory and scales but I still have much to learn in that regard. Practice, practice, practice!
LL: Just five years playing? Amazing progress! Are you surprised as well as to how far you’ve come after 5 years?
JB: Not really surprised, I put a lot of time and effort into practicing and learning the instrument.
LL: Has the time you spent practicing during the last five years changed?
JB: I never had a set amount of time to practice, I would always just pick it up and play, sometimes would get really into it and learn more than one song at a time and just play for hours and hours.
LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?
JB: My warm up is usually just running up and down the fret board a few times for about 5 mins. After that I’m usually ready to go.
LL: Was there something specific that you wanted to learn that you struggled with?
JB: I struggled with learning the song Rio by Duran Duran. It’s a really difficult song and has you moving around nonstop for the whole duration. What I did was go really slow at first to learn the different riffs of the song.
I usually break a song into different halves and learn them one at a time. Such as an into, pre-chorus, chorus and outro. After playing it over and over I eventually got the speed and dexterity to play the song and I then did a cover.
LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?
JB: I would recommend to get a music teacher if they have no musical experience. Learning to play on your own is really hard and it would be nice to have someone that knows a lot to help out from the start. Everyone is different, so it might come easier to some people than others.
LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?
JB: I mostly use the brand DR for my bass strings, they are currently my favorite since they have a nice sound and tend to last longer than other strings I have tried. I have a bunch of old picks my dad used to play with but I really just use my fingers to play.
I have an Ibanez sr600, Squier vintage modified 70’s jazz, dean edge 09 (my first bass), yamaha rbx a2. I use a Sansamp bass driver DI as my main pedal going through a Behringer BXL450 amp.
LL: What’s the story behind each bass purchase?
JB: The first bass I bought (Dean Edge) was a beginner practice bass, it was cheap but I just wanted something to start learning. After that one of my friends said he was getting rid of a bass (Squire Jazz Bass) and if I wanted it for a good deal. So, I said heck yeah I’ll take it!
He then later on sold me his other 2 basses (Ibanez sr600 and a Yamaha) since he wanted to focus more on electric guitar playing.
LL: What are the tell-tale signs you watch out for to remind you that it is time to change strings?
JB: The strings will start sounding dull and the sound won’t be as bright, a good rule of thumb is to change them for bass every few months or so.
LL: Do you have a Maintenance and Storage routine for your bass guitars?
JB: I keep 3 of my basses on a guitar stand, when I’m ready to play I grab one and start jamming. I do wipe them down often and I use Tone Finger Ease spray to keep the strings sounding bright. When changing strings, I really wipe the fret board and make sure it’s clean.
LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?
JB: My friend recommended I try DR strings and have been using them since. It did take me a while to find out what guitars I like, since there are so many different kinds/brands out there.
LL: In what instances would you use each of your guitars?
JB: I like to use the squire for slapping since I have the strings higher just for that reason, and I use my Ibanez for most other things since I put the strings really low.
LL: Did you do the set-up for all your basses?
JB: I did eventually change the bridge height/truss rod adjustments etc. That wasn’t until I’d been playing for a few years though.
LL: Did you change the bridge height/truss rod (adjustments etc.) because the bass felt different to play?
JB: I messed with those adjustments mainly because of sound and making it easier to play. Making the strings higher lets me drop the tuning of the bass really low without having the strings sound muddy and out of tune since I don’t have a 5 string bass.
Having the strings really low is easy to play since its less stress on the fingers to press down, so I have different basses set at different string heights etc
LL: What would your advice be for a bassist confused about the array of choices?
JB: It will take a while to find strings you like, so try as many as you can, and the ones you like stick with them! I would say buy a beginner bass package that comes with a bass and an amp, straps, picks everything you need to get started. After a while of playing you can then upgrade and shop around to see what’s best for your style of playing.
LL: Description of your playing style?
JB: I tend to keep it simple with a few fills here and there. I prefer playing with the fingers on my right hand since I feel I have more control over the sounds that I can make with the bass. I do use a pick sometimes but I’m not very good at it.
LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?
JB: I’m not working on anything specific at the moment, and am happy with where I’m at. There’s always room to improve and as long as I play everyday, I’m always getting better.
LL: Have you specifically worked on something because of a suggestion from someone watching your videos?
JB: Yes, I have people leave suggestions on songs to cover or sometimes an easier way to play a part in a song.
LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?
JB: I use a Sansamp bass driver DI plugged into a Behringer BXL450 amp that connects to the back of the soundcard of my computer.
LL: If you didn’t have a DI what would you be using?
JB: I’d be using a Digitech brand pedal that I keep in the closet just in case.
LL: I noticed that your earlier videos (like this) had the bass with a similar volume level to the music. Your Later ones have the bass playing a more prominent part, in your more recent videos — music seems to be 60% less volume than the bass. Was there a specific reason you decided to have that approach to audio?
JB: Back then I was using different programs and audio settings etc. I think that people watching a bass cover video would want the bass louder so they can learn how to play by hearing and seeing what I’m doing. If the music is too loud they might not be able to hear what I’m playing.
LL: Was there a specific reason you wanted to use headphones for monitoring (In your videos)?
JB: Since I use headphones for PC gaming its easy since they are right there to pickup, and also so my neighbors don’t hear me rumbling at 3 am.
LL: Do you have multiple headphones?
JB: I actually just bought new headphones and I am switching to them for recording/gaming also. They are Steelseries Siberia V2 USB.
LL: For gaming, are you partial to specific headphones?
JB: I usually use Plantronics or Steelseries
LL: Have any of your headsets/headphones ‘die’ on you?
JB: I break headphones A LOT, I just bought a new headset because my older ones broke haha
LL: Do they break the same way?
JB: Not all of them break the same way, it depends how they are made and the quality of the headset itself. It’s usually the wires that get yanked out or one the ear pieces loses sound. They usually last 6 months to a year. Sometimes longer if I’m really careful :p
LL: Yanked out!? Are you also guilty of walking away from your computer and forgetting that you are wearing a headset?
JB: Yeah i do that all the time, also if I step on the cord while Im standing up the headphones get thrown off my head
LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?
JB: Incubus, Silverstein, Blake Shelton, Black Label Society, and many others
LL: Blake Shelton!? Interesting! So different from Incubus, Silverstein, and Black Label Society. Is it because Blake did Footloose?
JB: I just heard a song of his on Pandora that I really liked, I think it was Sure Be Cool If You Did, after hearing that one I went on Spotify and listened to a bunch of his hits that I now like.
LL: Was the song a suggestion from Pandora?
JB: Yes it was from Pandora
LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of?
JB: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory album by Oasis I listen to that A LOT at work.
LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?
JB: Reddit, Youtube
LL: Are you interested in technology?
JB: I’m very interested in technology. It’s what has helped me get my bass playing on the internet for others to see and enjoy.
LL: Your YouTube Channel Banner looks great — is it one of your creations?
JB: I had one of my friends whose a graphic designer help me out with that one. I gave him the idea and I thought what he came up with looked awesome.
LL: Would you be open to ask your friend if he would be open to credit?
JB: Sure, his portfolio is at http://simplybiscuit.com/
LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?
JB: Velvet Revolver – Slither. It was a fun song to learn for sure.
LL: Have you collaborated with other artists?
JB: Yes, and I have actually done that a few times. I met a few people and we made a few songs together over the internet just recording our own parts and mixing them with audio software.
LL: Still open to do collaborations in the future?
JB: I’d collaborate with anybody, it’s such a fun experience!
* Jim Bryan is a bass player based in Wilmington, Delaware. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below. Jim welcomes messages containing collaboration ideas, bass cover requests, the name of a cool song you’d like to send his way, and other gamers wanting to connect (his Steam username is Dramacyde5 and his Facebook page is here).
Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-July 2014) between Jim and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.
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