Nick Wells meets Ben Walker, bandleader, sideman and trainee gym instructor.
In this regular feature we shine a light on a select few SBL students regarded by many as ‘ones to watch.’ Throughout the year, we’ll be catching up with a diverse set of breaking and established talent to air their thoughts and experiences about bass playing, tunes and music in general from their own vantage point (the only thing that anyone can do, really). Want to join them? If you're studying with SBL and would like to share your experiences, then please don't hesitate to CONTACT US.
Ben Walker - 6-String King!
Ben Walker is the latest breath of fresh air to drift through the SBL campus. Blending a love of Latin and Afro-Cuban music into his bass playing, his command of a 6-string Warwick Streamer continues to gain acclaim among the world of instrumental guitar music. He learnt the ropes while still at school, and thanks to a succession of school gigs, Ben soon grasped the fundamentals of bass playing, while his natural instincts were turning into calculated theory as his practice persevered. “I was staying back after hours at school,” he remembers. “I was walking past some of the practice rooms and I heard a bass player jamming with a drummer. I had never heard anything as cool or as funky before, so I went in the next day and told the head of music that I wanted to learn to play bass. My first bass was a Cort GB24, MM-style bass and my first gig was around a month after I first started playing.” “I was walking past some of the practice rooms and I heard a bass player jamming with a drummer. I had never heard anything as cool or as funky before..." As far as Ben’s bass goes, these days he rarely uses anything other than his Warwick Streamer. “My main bass is a 6-string 1997 Warwick Streamer. It’s been modified over the years and I’ve added an East UK U-Retro preamp, a finger ramp, some small banjo frets and a set of Gotoh Ultralite tuners. I’m fascinated by the chordal and harmonic potential of the 6-string bass and it’s a wonderful instrument. I feel completely at home with it every time I play.”
Ben has quite a few plans for the next few months, including the mouth-watering prospect of teaming up with session singer Louise Turner to record, and his own album as a bandleader. “Right now, I’m writing the music for my first record as a bandleader. It’s taking a lot longer than I had anticipated coming up with the music, but I’m slowly getting somewhere! I’ve also just gotten involved with a wonderful singer/songwriter called Louise Turner. We’re in the middle of pre-production for her first record and have our first studio session next month. It should be released sometime towards the end of the year.
What do you remember about your first gig?
It was a rock covers gig and I only knew about six notes on the fingerboard! We didn't really know what we were doing, but we loved music and just wanted to play!
How would you describe your playing style?
My playing style has changed a lot since I really started digging into improvised music a couple of years ago. I’m a lot more focused on melodic playing than I used to be.
How did you find ScottsBassLessons?
I first met Scott through university. I took a couple of private lessons with him and started checking out his online videos. His instructional stuff has been a fantastic resource for me over the last 5 years, so when he re-opened enrolment I signed up for the Academy!
What have you gained from being a member of SBL?
Motivation has been the main thing. Seeing so many players motivated to explore and improve gives me a lot of motivation to practice and continue developing as a player. Some of the courses coming out now have been fantastic. I’ve been working on Damian Erskine’s 3-finger technique for a while and his course has been incredible to take in.
Who are your favourite players?
There are a lot of bassists whose playing I really like but the ones that influence me most at present are Damian Erskine, Matthew Garrison, Rich Brown and John Patitucci. They all have a really unique voice and approach to the instrument, which is something I'm actively striving for. Other musicians that influence me include Pat Metheny, Tord Gustavsen, Hiromi, Mike Stern, Guthrie Govan, Marco Minneman, Steve Smith and Jojo Mayer.
Tell us about your backline…
I use a Trace Elliot AH300 head and a pair of Vanderkley 1x12 cabinets. I have a small collection of pedals too, but the two mainstays are the TC Ditto and the TC Nova Repeater.
What's your best gigging tip?
Do your homework and make musical choices! It’s always better to sweat while you’re in the shed so you can relax and really enjoy the performance, rather than sweating on stage. If you’re working as a sideman, try and make your MD’s life as simple as possible by showing up on time, learning the music and being easy to be around.
How do you unwind?
I usually unwind by listening to music and hitting the gym. I’m also training to become a gym instructor and a strength/conditioning coach.
What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
I’d probably be a personal trainer.
Check out Ben...
To join Ben and our other amazing students within the SBL membership click here and grab your 14-day free trial today.