You can’t be a bass player without having heard of For Bass Players Only and its founder, Jon Liebman.
For bassists, few sites offer insights, knowledge and stories as complete, thorough or insightful as ForBassPlayersOnly.com, a site dedicated entirely to all things bass (electric and upright) and the bass culture. FBPO is consistently updated with the very latest happenings in the bass world, with some of the foremost players and thinkers, offering no shortage of content for bassists to sink their teeth into.
To many, Jon might appear as just the man in front of the camera, interviewing the who’s who of bass players, including Victor Wooten, Andrew Gouché, Billy Sheehan, Jack Casady, Nathan East, Abraham Laboriel and countless others. But Jon is a very accomplished bassist and musician with a slew of accolades and credits to his name. Some include:
- Performing with Billy Eckstine, Eartha Kitt, Cleo Laine, Buddy DeFranco, Amy Grant, The Drifters, The Platters and many other touring and/or recording acts
- Performing in the pit orchestras of Broadway productions of Dreamgirls, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Misérables, Into The Woods and Phantom of the Opera
- Penning six (soon to be seven) books for Hal Leonard Corp. on bass, including Rock Bass, Blues Bass, Bass Grooves: The Ultimate Collection and the best-selling Bass Aerobics, all have which have become must-reads for bass players everywhere.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the influence Jon has had on me. When it comes to FBPO and bass interviews, Jon’s interview style and depth have had a massive influence, making more of a point to reach out and talk to other bass players through Smart Bass Guitar. Jon helped show me that the bass playing community is a very open community and very invested in sharing the skill and the craft with anyone who will listen.
I had a chance to reach out to Jon to see if he would like to participate in Smart Bass’s ongoing series, How I Play and, sure enough, he was thrilled to do so. Get to know a little bit more about the man behind “For Bass Players Only” below:
Where Are You Currently Located?
I’m in the metro Detroit area.
What is Your Current Gig?
“FBPO” features daily bass news, 1-2 new interviews every week, bass features, reviews/new releases and an e-commerce store. JonLiebman.com is an online bass instruction site with a large collection of lessons for upright and electric bass, covering a wide variety of styles and techniques. I also sell my bass method books through that site. We just announced the development of our newest site, “For Guitar Players Only,” which is scheduled to launch in February 2016. It’s gonna be killer!
As for “current musical project,” I just finished my 7th book for Hal Leonard Corp. It’s called Play Like Jaco Pastorius and is scheduled for worldwide release in early 2016. While in the midst of writing and recording for that book, the folks at Hal Leonard hired me to record a bunch of tunes for another Jaco book, a play-along. Both books contain the most meticulous Jaco transcriptions I’ve ever seen, including complete tunes, solos, articulations, etc. I hope I did them justice with the recordings!
What Is One Word that Describes Your Playing?
Describe Your Current Setup and What is Your Favorite Piece of Gear at the Moment?
It’s kind of funny. My main bass started out as a Fender “Jazz.” After I’d had it a while, I replaced the stock pickups with EMGs and swapped out the bridge for a Schaller. Then I attached a Modulus Graphite neck. Eventually, I swapped the body for a Chandler. Now there’s not one original part of my original “Jazz” bass (except maybe the knobs!).
I also have a couple Tobias 5-strings that I like very much. One is fretted; the other is fretless. I have a couple other 4-string fretlesses: a Fender “P” bass and a Gibson “Ripper.” During the Jaco projects, I got really into fretless!
My main upright is a German bass from the early 20th century. I play with a German bow, made of pernambuco wood.
I still play through my trusted Walter Woods amp, which I’ve had for about 35 years!
What is One Thing You Could Not Live Without?
Peanut butter, preferably crunchy!
What is your Practice Space Like?
When my wife and I finished our basement, we included an office/studio for me. Nothing fancy, just four walls, a closet, a handful of gear and a workspace for computer, printer, files, etc.
What Album Are You Currently Listening To?
In my line of work, people are sending me stuff all the time! Recently, I received an advance copy of Billy Sherwood’s new release, Citizen. I interviewed Billy not too long ago and we opened up a dialogue. We hung out a bit when he came through Detroit with Yes, filling in for Chris Squire, who had died just before the tour. I recently interviewed Mexican session player Pepe Hernández, who sent me three or four of his solo CDs, which are very cool.
I interviewed Harvie S in New York in October and he gave me copies of his latest releases. One is a duo recording with Sheryl Bailey called Plucky Strum, that I’m looking forward to checking out.
What Book Are You Currently Reading?
I was just given a copy Ron Carter’s memoir, Finding The Right Notes, while visiting the new La Bella showroom in Brooklyn. I’m only about 30 or so pages into it, but I’m riveted!
“I’d Love To See ____ Answer These Questions.”
Les Claypool or Mike Watt would probably provide some pretty colorful responses. Billy Sheehan always has something insightful to say. Guy Pratt is quite a hoot, too!
What is the Best Piece of Advice You Ever Received?
“Serve the song.” I’ve heard Leland Sklar say it a million times and it’s so true. There’s nothing wrong with chops and there’s nothing wrong with soloing or being flashy – at the right moments! When it comes right down to it, though, the bass is mostly a supportive instrument. Listen to the music and just give it what it needs.
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