Bass : Authentic Motown to Wide-Open Progressive Art Rock, Pop & Metal. 4,5 & fretless, For the song's needs. Lifelong Pro, No Ego.
Style and flexibility. Groove and melody. Subtle Dynamics. Fingerstyle & Pick.
I never show up to show off: What does the song need?
But if someone says "do it like like Jaco Pastorius or Geddy Lee, Tony Levin, Sting, or Steve Harris, or James Jamerson,"
I truly have those styles. I'm a full-time Guitar and Bass teacher, and I work this stuff every day.
I never phone in or imitate a style. I play and teach every genre five days a week, and I learned Bass and Guitar equally by playing everything that came on the radio, so my "Specialization" is true and authentic flexibility.
I record sessions from my teaching studio, which is also a well- outfitted recording facility.
Tell me about your project and how I can help, through the 'Contact' button above.
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Interview with Alex Ben-Kori
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: In college a friend was making a cool silent movie, based on "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari." He asked me if I would write the soundtrack. Naively, I said, "Sure! Then staring at my keyboard, I said " I can't possibly fill even a continuous 15 or 20 minutes with a short symphony! I have made a terrible mistake." But I just started, and thought "Theme and variation, every character has a theme, you just vary that theme over time, you just raise and lower the tension, it's...a symphony of sorts, and a symphony has nicely defined guidelines...keep going." And it was really quite good. I got the WRONG VHS cassette from him...I never kept a copy. But I still clearly remember the overarching theme of the opening movement, and it's recapitulation at the end, and it holds up, and one night, I'm going to start a proper full length symphony based on it. It's not so much pride as realizing... when your back is against a wall, you *will* get it done. Thank God for pressure. Much later I ended up being offered a friendly gig covering for a world-class, well-known bassist who was on tour quite a lot. What was there to say, but, "Yes, and THANK YOU." We're still friends, I learned things from him I may never have learned, and again, I thought I wasn't good enough to do it. I stood in for him for about four years on and off. Same thing all over again...but I think I'm getting better.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: This thing right here. And getting to bed because of the 18th Movie/ TV song in the las 45 days I started and am trying to finish. I'm working on getting outside to see the sun, instead of just teaching, then writing and recording until dawn, and going to rehearsal...and doing session work. But it's addictive.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Not yet. I was just told about it.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Hard to say. Probably Analog, because it lasts longer, because it requires more hands on work, real contact, and it's easier to just be quite good than to learn all the workarounds and software that fixes and covers up not being that good. It's 3-d, it is tangible. But we'll see. I like being able to write a symphony on my expensive computer, a row of SSDs, gobs of RAM, and costly software, with a keyboard. I like not having to imagine by just playing the piano. A lot.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: "I do not short the people who pay my bills. Your money represents your time, the moments of your life, and that is a gift you give to me. They say money isn't everything, but time is. So you get my best effort." Usually there's no need to say that, but I do, when it's appropriate. Most often, I genuinely thank them, and as a pro, I think about improving myself, and helping them improve their work and art. That's what we're all doing.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: It's not a job, it's even beyond a career. In music, you have to choose the right path to live a good life and be well compensated as a true professional- as in any other field. It's a life that I love. I have toiled for ten, twelve, 14 straight hours more days and nights than I could remember. And I've even done many a night, writing and recording, unaware of time, that turned straight to 8am, and I just stayed up, But it's honestly not work, in any sense I used to think of as "work." And because I give it my all, it- and really, the people in it, give me back all I could ever want or need.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Q: So what do you do for a living? A: Kyle, you just handed me $200.00. Like last month, and like nine months ago, and by the way, THANK YOU! And you notice there's always someone here in session when you arrive, and someone waiting when you go? This IS my job! And I laugh and we get to work. Never ceases to amaze me.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: 1) That it isn't serious. 2) That it's any more special than being a dedicated and good plumber or carpenter or mother or father, or trash-truck driver.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Enjoy every second of this, including that fear of a half- written song, and all the work it takes to reliably get a good take- then a perfect one, as that DAW rolls through record-loop mode. Never give up on a song. Some great ones are right there, in the tunes you thought had something special, then you thought you had misled yourself, and said "this is crap." Go back tomorrow and take it up again... and again. A decent percentage of them will turn around. You keep doing that and you raise your minimum standard for what's OK. Then do it again, and again. You'll write and perform- or produce- whatever your role is, better and better, and you'll cross that line of greatness at some point, though you'll be not- so impressed, because you expect to perform at that level. Is it worth it? Well, would you go back to what you could do, what you knew, 10 years ago? Is that something you'd give up, though you think it's so little? The answer is probably "Oh, God, no!" That's about the most real measure of true progress in any musician's life. And it means your standards are higher. You gotta' keep that going, honor that. Honor your own life. And when you're 83 or 93, you'll probably be incredibly great, and still saying..."I think I'm getting better."
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: I have no idea. But I know I've got a song to finish and submit!
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: Never got to pro football. Realized the only other hope for a worthwhile work life was music. I realized at age 16, I wasn't going to hit 6'0, and that music was as good or better anyway, after being there all my life. Wasted time in college and grad school because it seemed easier than earning a good living in music, I knew the road was a hard life after just a short while out there. But I played with teachers who encouraged me to become a teacher myself. When I did, I woke up to the reality that work can be both lucrative and always a day well- spent. I have never dreaded or regretted a day of work since then, only felt fortunate. When I started teaching, I was not only able to, but was supposed to think of nothing but music all day, every day. My musical world exploded, and 13years later, it keeps getting broader and deeper. 40 years being a born musician who could never stop playing, professional since age 16, and a true career professional with only one occupational focus for about 13 years, more bands, literally than I can remember, more songs than I could even count. I never thought it would be this path to get here, but it turns out if you never stop, you get there. Then, you keep going. It never ends.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Digging for the emotional gold in a song. It comes from the rhythm, some magical recombination of the same stuff, but sometimes it happens. There's also the exact timing of when you hit a single note...a split second's hold, and it would make someone drop that needle...wait, rewind that...uh replay that bit over and over again. And when you find it, try to give them just a taste so they hope it comes back later in the song. They hope so much that they will sit in the parking lot, late for work to hear it again. My style is always hunting for that gold.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Artists that challenge my abilities or adaptability in one way or another: They're so good in some way they both force and allow me to get better. It may be my first experience on that higher level, and only temporary, unless I keep insisting I retain it. But that is, was, always will be the task...it never ends. And, I like working with Artists who need the help to bring the project up a level, which also means they themselves will go up that far, at least for the time being. Just getting there on one song or two is amazing. Then you realize that was just another step. Was it Pablo Casals who was asked why, at age eighty-something, he practices so much? His answer, as we know, was," I think I'm getting better." At a point, you realize, he wasn't joking at all.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Yep. Just my experience, but interleave parts if you can...leave a bit of space in terms of time, and definitely open up some frequency range between instruments: in the case of guitar it might be a highpass (Cutting lows) filter all the way up to 275 Hz... no more amp power supply hum, no need to clamp it down later... it's gone, and, anyway, the bass needs that territory... and cut the bass where it *feels right*, because you may not be able to hear it unless the room is quiet enough for you to hear your ears ringing. Probably around 65 Hz. The kick needs some exclusive space, and that's a good general place for it. Stuff like that. Volume went down, noise fell away, with no effort or artifacts, and headroom opened up. More room to grow. It's awful to have a master stroke genius idea to apply, at the end of a mix, when there's no more headroom for it!
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Anything new to me. After many years studying the great bassists and guitarists down to the last bend and squeek, that's enough. I mostly avoid every cliche' I can, unless that's the charm of the song. But as to Genre, I'm writing and recording a lot of old Soul, and fusing it with more modern elements. Heavy groove, great lyrics, strong songs...Mostly on the instrumental soundtrack stuff, but it still has to be useable in a vocal context. In the group, though...Being in a band with an exceptional writer/ frontman singer guitarist, looking at our first full length album and being invited fully into the writing of a style already well- developed before I got there, it's the biggest challenge, because the band was already on the right trajectory. But that's always the challenge: get better or go dead in the water.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My strongest skill is overall musicality: creating or at least seeing the entire vision of the song and realizing that the music is always for someone else to like. It's a producer mindset, even if I'm not the producer or session director. No ego battles, but I listen to the whole, and pay attention to every player. Never, ever refuse to do what you're asked, by the session director or songwriter. If you don't like it, you do it anyway, just play it the perfect way: remember what a hired gun is, vs. a collaborative writer. That's just day one professional communication. Never get hung up on principle. Make the best of what is available. Not only will you get called back, you'll learn how to make better songs because you accept the challenge when it comes.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: 1) AWARENESS: As a bassist, I hold the tempo dead on, if the drummer isn't utterly perfect. If they are, it's a team effort. In a band that purposely changes tempo, both drummer and bassist have to be nearly perfect, and have one ear on each other. That's the best. 2) Adaptability: As a guitarist, there's huge room for phrasing variation, but being a bassist also, I gently try to queue the drummer and bassist not to speed up or slow down with me: so the unique dynamic doesn't get lost. If they still go that way, we just ride it. That's the bottom floor: 3) Recognizing my role: As a bassist, I may be more a support player with subtle style if that's the role intended, or step out as boldly melodic and aggressive as Chris Squire, Geddy Lee, Steve Harris, Stanley Clarke, or anybody and everybody. If it helps the song, if the band depends on it, I do that. 4) I aim to give the song a bit of originality: I'm always melodic as a guitarist or bassist, much more so than most, but it's subtle. I think chordally more than modally, so the stronger points of a melody are always on tap, more powerful phrases. Phrases are THEMES that strengthen the power of the song, variations on it's core...I don't noodle much, but sometimes the right kind of Pagey/ Beck squack is perfect. Then you go modal, and hit the best daring blue notes and bend up or push the neck forward, drop the whammy bar (musically, precisely controlled), or pre-bend, it can be magic. So both chordal and melodic visualization can give that little original push. 5) Try not to limit what's coming next: If it's someone else's song, I ask them to tell me what else they think is going to get laid down after my part, if they know. I keep that in mind, so as to avoid redundant, competing themes, or painting a horn player, for instance, into a corner, or making the engineer go in and heavily edit down my part and eat up unnecessary studio time. But I still roll with it even if the director or songwriter isn't sure. That's when you just commit with your best judgement.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: As a session player, guitar and bass, or keys, or backing vocals, I ask for the music, rough or not, well in advance if it is available, to "live" with it in my head, just let it repeat automatically, because there are all the queues to the other melodies and harmonies that are already there. After many years, I realize the ideal parts will suggest themselves if I listen enough. If theres little time, I do it like I do in lessons every day: often, I've never heard the tune, but when someone is paying me, I hyper-focus, because they deserve it, and just analyze the chord progression, the modes I might extract parts from- IF that is needed, but usually it's the less- conscious creative way. A rhythm, then a phrase, then the whole part unfolds. Like most musicians, even educated ones, I prefer to go where instinct guides. When I write my own instrumentals, soundtrack and vocal tunes, it's almost always the same process. If the arrangement involves much modulation, I'll fall back on theory to make transitions strong and clear. When there's a singer they rule the song, live or in the studio, so no matter what else, there's an ear and an eye on them constantly. You ride up and down subtly to buoy their performance to the best you can. Basic stuff. If it's a live performance recording, you make sure the singer isn't fighting unnecessary volume, and check in with them, at least how their voice sounds after a few takes. Live, you are ready to step ito your mic with a note here or there, if it looks like they are going to falter. Again, basic support. Even if you're the real lead instrument, the voice rules. Drummer and bassist just link and listen on a deep level to each other's shifts.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I use ProTools and Logic 10.4.4 on a late 2013 Mac Pro Cylinder, 64GIG of RAM, 3 SSD drives in a Thunderbay, both a Digi 003 and a Focusrite 8Pre x (the larger one), Main audio inputs are a Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II channel strip/ preamp with a Teltronix Opto- compressor, two API 512 c Preamps, an API 550b EQ and an API 527 compressor, too many WAVES plugins and VIs to mention, the entire LOGIC suite of Plugins and Vis, Albion ONE Orchestra by Spitfire Audio, Slews of every Rhodes and Wurlitzer, and Steinway and Yamaha C5 Grand Piano VIs , Melotrons, etc. Numerous AIR sample players with lots of wavetable synths (such as PPG), Analogs like Oberheims, Moogs, etc., I use A Yamaha MOTIF Keyboard, I track initial takes myself on drums, trigger BFD3 samples for better sound, then often bring in one of several world- class drummers for far more dynamic parts. My main mics are Rode NTK Condenser, SHURE KSM Condenser, SHURE 87 Condenser, SHURE SM7-B, SHURE SM 57s, and a few others. 99% of guitars are tracked using condensers and dynamics, in stereo, with a 1968 Fender Champ and a 1973 Fender Vibro-Champ and any number (or none of) a host of Eventide Delays, Reverbs and multiple modified overdrives. I also use my Marshall1983 JCM 800 50w Lead Series head atop it's original Lead Series 2x12 cab, currently loaded with it's original 75 w Celestions: sometimes I remove the back for a far more open sound. Generally the Champs are actually superior, and amazing, though for the British sound, it's the JCM. I use some bass amp VIs from Waves and occasionally LOGIC, but find that the real vintage hardware is often more pleasing. I don't use much compression on bass because of good dynamics, unless the song calls for the drive of a good compressor. I use a variety of monitors from Tannoys to Alesis Monitor Ones, KRK Rokits, and sometimes Yamaha NSM 10s, but default to mid grade Rockits and Older Alesis Monitor Ones, because I am so used to them, especially in the studio I record in. I find the beautiful sounding Tannoys to be too superior to everyone's own speakers to be the most useful reference. I demo all mixes on the iphone 6 ambient speaker, 3-4 sets of various headphones- cheapest skull candy to Shure in- ear, and DCM & Klipsch home speakers, cheap bookshelf speakers and at least two cars, before and after mastering. I choose to mix in a rather typical room that has decent balance of absorption and reflection, to better approximate real- world listening. My favorite engineer, a great friend, a guy at a true world-class studio, has the *worst* stereos in his car and his house.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: It's VAST: Aimee Mann, Midnight Oil, Rush, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Marvin Gaye, Most all of Motown, James Brown, Pete Townshend, Bush, U2, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Yes, Pat Metheney, Tower of Power, Led Zeppelin, The Talking Heads, The Smiths, Anything with Johnny Marr, Thomas Dolby, Later-day Genesis, AFTER Peter Gabriel, ALL Peter Gabriel...AFTER he left Genesis, The Beatles, Gustav Mahler, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Steely Dan, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Sinatra, Vince Gill, Mark Knoppfler, The Police, Miles Davis, Tom Petty, Robert Plant and The Band Of Joy, Alan Holdsworth, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Detroit Spinners, Bruce Springsteen...
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: My Daily Career since 2006 is as a private guitar, bass, songwriting, music theory and formal ear-training teacher. I do session work as a bassist and guitarist for artists ranging from contemporary rock to pop, Indie- Rock, Americana and more.