To those who believe that the only way to be funky is with your fingers or your thumbs, I encourage all those people to watch bass player and session veteran, Bobby Vegaplay with a pick! Known for his session work, Vega has gained an even bigger following for his funky pick playing abilities. Vega’s has filled in the bass seat for a whose-who of acts including:
Tower of Power – where he filled in for the legendary Rocco Prestia for over 40 shows!
Vega is certainly a bassist’s bassist. Though Vega is far being a common household name in the same way that Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and Flea have become, bringing up Vega’s name among a circle of die-hard bass players will cause a round or resounding praise to emerge.
The video below is a short bass solo by Vega recently posted to YouTube that neatly captures and displays a wide range of playing styles in one 2 minute video.
Vega sets up the beginning of the video with a softer, gentler array of harmonics across the upper register of the neck and in between harmonics, Vega throws in a few quick finger style runs to add additional color and background to the harmonics that continue to ring from one to another.
As the harmonics die out, Vega transitions smoothly into a combination of tapping and finger style creating a seamless transition from one musical idea into another. What’s particularly interesting about this section is just how seamless that transition is and how well Vega works in different tones while keeping other tones resonant. To my ears, it seems to be the musical equivalent to spinning plates.
Around the 44 second mark, Vega reaches for the pick from his mouth and showcases his signature finger funk. Listening to this section of the solo, you can feel Vega outlining the 16th note pulse of the tempo with a combination of muted notes between playing struck notes.
After a few bars, Vega transitions from a single note syncopation into a progression of strummed chords. Vega’s playing, to my ear, instantly recalls the feel of a good rhythm guitar player in an old-school funk band. Some consider strummed chords on a bass to be sacrilegious, but it’s instances like this that show that strummed chords can, in fact, sound very good.
The rest of the video is as if the first part was being played in reverse. From the strummed chords, Vega returns to his pick funk and then back into a delicate outtro of harmonics and pedal notes.