Interview - Calvin Beale
Calvin Beale is an in demand Live/Studio bassist who lives in Toronto. Calvin has recorded on various Juno award winning/nominated albums. Calvin grew up playing country, blues and jazz but spends most of his time since moving to Toronto playing urban-pop. Some of the artists he has worked with are Divine Brown, Kardinal Offishal, Maestro Fresh Wes, John Scofield, Steven Page, Kesha Chante, Jully Black, Orianthi, Matt Dusk, Snow Bryan Mcknight, David Clayton Thomas, Debrah Cox and Amy Sky.
What are some important musical and other lessons you've learned that you can pass on to aspiring bassists?
Play and practice as much as you can NOW. If you are lucky enough to do music as a career you will find that between gigs, rehearsals, writing, prepping for gigs and just plain old life; the time you get to focus on your own development as a player becomes much harder to schedule in. Enjoy this time you have to hone your skills. Most of us who do this professionally are envious of you for that.
What are three of your favourite recordings that you consider essential for any bassist to check out?
Voodoo- by D’angelo- This album was a game changer for me and had a major impact on how I thought about bass.
Lewis Taylor- by Lewis Taylor- Such great songwriting and production. Every tune you learn makes you feel like you came out the other side a better musician for your effort.
Ten Summoner’s Tales-by Sting- I still listen to this without skipping a single track. For me it is an example of one of those “perfect” albums.
Can you share some practice ideas? What should aspiring bassists focus on? What worked/works for you? I realize this is a very broad question that varies with individuals' needs, but I'm looking for some general ideas, and in particular what worked for you.
In the broadest of strokes I feel that getting comfortable with the neck is the first thing that has to happen as quickly as possible. You won’t be able to get to that next level of your playing until you feel that the fret board is a comfortable space to move around. For me the key is always trying to remind myself that playing music should be comfortable and that practicing should be uncomfortable. If you can do a 1 octave scale in G with your eyes closed then add an element that makes it challenging again. for instance you could; change key, change the starting finger, lowest to highest note on the bass in G, say the notes as you play them etc…
Over time you get more and more comfortable and keep adding elements to make it harder you create a cycle of growth that you can look back on and observe the results..
Do you have any advice for overcoming difficulties or obstacles?
If you are bashing yourself against something over and over again without any progress then put whatever you are doing down and take a walk around the block and come back to it fresh. That change in scenery and a little exercise will really help.
But you HAVE to come back to it. Discipline and persistence used in an intelligent way is usually the way to go.
Do you have any gear advice (specific pickups, strings, amps, etc. and what to look for)?
When it comes to gear; finding what works for you as a player is a very personal journey. For me I prefer a bass that can do as close to 100% of all the different musical situations I find myself in rather than having a bunch of different basses that are more style specific. I use Fbass basses. As to other gear I am finding that I am doing a lot of gigs on in-ears and so instead of using an amp I bring my ‘line 6 G75’ wireless system with a DI out the back and I am good to go. My bass’s preamp is powerful enough and I have solid drivers in my in-ears to give me what I need to hear.
What's coming up for you and how can we follow you (website, social media, etc,)?
I have been doing a lot of work and travelling with an artist named Sean Jones. 2016 is shaping up to be an even busier year with Sean. When at home in Toronto I keep busy with live work, recording, and teaching. I have been involved with a website called bassguitartips.com for the last few years as an online instructor. That has been a lot of fun and we are still putting up new content all the time.
Any final thoughts?
You may hear about “the good old days” of the music industry and a sense of pessimism from some musicians.
I feel like this is a great time to be involved in music as a profession. It has always been a career that requires self discipline, talent, luck, and the over-riding desire to make music the center of your life. Nowadays an individual with all those qualities has the ability to be rewarded for their hard work more than at any other time in history so if you want it- go and get it!