SBL Student Spotlight - Deryl Gallant

Published July 27, 2017

Deryl Gallant chats to us about his influences, his bass gear and how SBL helped him to conquer Donna Lee.

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.

Deryl Gallant - Wear Many Hats

“Wait… you mean there was life BEFORE” Canadian bassist Deryl Gallant is talking about the sudden and immense impact that SBL had on his bass playing... “I kept seeing it on social media and on YouTube, so I signed up for a free trial and quickly realised that I needed to enrol in a full membership. I signed up in April 2014 and haven’t looked back.” Deryl is a relaxed, laid-back guy and a busy working bassist. His diligent approach means that he happily absorbs music of every kind. “I’m fortunate to get a healthy amount of calls for good gigs in varying styles,” he tells us. “I could be on bass with a bebop septet, backing a singer songwriter, throwing down some fretless sounds for a studio session or performing some Doors and Cream tunes for a college faculty showcase. I don’t mean to sound braggy, but my environment demands that my playing style be flexible. I need to be able to quickly adapt to whatever style of music I’m playing.”

Deryl recalls his early days as a kid whose musical direction was decided by a chance lesson. “As a fourteen year-old, my only real ambition was to play ball hockey, Nintendo and eat pizza. I had zero desire to play music. My friend wanted a bass and his mother would only buy him one if he agreed to take some lessons at school. He bugged me to come along and I agreed. Up until that point, discovering the cheat codes for Contra had been the greatest moment in my life, but now I was hooked on the electric bass and I had to have one.” He continues: “I found a picture of an electric bass in a department store catalog, which I cut out and stared at for hours. I begged my parents for that electric bass, but I knew we had almost no money. My future brother-in-law knew a guy who kept an electric bass under his bed and I even offered to sell my Nintendo to help buy it!”

Getting his first bass, one Christmas “Before long, I was the proud owner of a red Harmony electric bass with a black pickguard” Deryl soon discovered that he had a natural talent for playing bass. “I spent countless hours playing that Harmony bass. It didn’t come with an amp, so my father figured out how to hook it up to one of those old grey ‘ghetto-blasters’ and that was my setup for over a year, but I was in bass heaven. I learned every Guns N’ Roses song from Use Your Illusions I, which had been released just months prior.” “SBL is such an incredible resource. There’s nothing like it on the planet."

Tell us about your projects outside of SBL

I’m involved in a monthly jazz series called Winterjazz, which admittedly is a bit of a misnomer as it takes place October through May, but the name has a nice ring to it! We’re a jazz quartet and we open with an hour of instrumental jazz before hooking up with a regional artist for the second set. We’ve just finished our 10th season. Here’s a clip from our instrumental set:

Here’s a guest set featuring 17 year old Logan Richard:

A friend and I also started a weekly jazz series that’s in a similar fashion. It’s become pretty popular and I had the good fortune of producing a Jaco Pastorius tribute night to a sold out crowd! Here a video from that night:

I’m currently in the middle of recording an album with a singer songwriter called Jill Chandler. Her husband passed away suddenly 4 years ago and she’s started to find herself again in music. What started with a few Facebook posts has steamrolled and we’re now in the middle of recording a full-length album. Here’s a sample from a recent show:

Back in 2014 I started working with a man named Brian J Dunn. Brian’s story is very similar to Jill’s in that his wife passed away and he’s since found his way through life thanks to a love of songwriting. The recording sessions consisted of Brian strumming and singing the tune and my good drummer friend and I finding something that worked. The recording engineer hit record and it turned out to be a pretty magical session.

What have you gained from being a member of SBL?

SBL is such an incredible resource. There’s nothing like it on the planet. The biggest thing I’ve gained is an entire community of bass friends. Even as a professional player I’ve found that reading through other people’s posts and watching their videos has given me inspiration to be a better player. I joined one of the challenges a couple years ago and worked on Donna Lee, which was my albatross for years, but SBL helped me conquer it. When I watched this lesson on 'Rest Stroke VS Free Stroke' that was the key to Donna Lee’s undoing and completely changed my playing.

Who are your favourite players?

I know it’s a common answer, but Jaco Pastorius is my guy. I love his groove and his overall approach. I am LOVING the recently released Jaco CD Truth, Liberty & Soul, which is a 22 track close mic’d recording of the Word of Mouth big band. It’s SO good. I also love Duff McKagan, James Jamerson and Joel Quarrington.

How do you practice?

For years I didn’t! Not in the sense of really taking some time to improve on my technique. I’d only practice the songs that I needed to know for a gig. I had a wrist problem that made practicing not overly enjoyable, but I got that fixed a few years ago and since then it’s been a whole new world.

How do you unwind?

I watch Netflix. I love a good movie or a good TV show. I’m not sure how many would call this unwinding, but I love coming home after a long day at the office and hanging with my 5 kids (ages 2-11).

What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?

I’d be an educator or a software developer and team lead, which is what I currently do aside from my bass playing. I enjoy the creativity that software development allows, but if I wasn’t a software developer then I’d be a chef. That was #3 on the list after high school. I love to cook.

Tell us about your gear…

I used to have pretty basic gear, but about five years ago I finally got a good amp (a Gallien Krueger MB500 and a Neo 112 cab) and realised that my basses weren’t that great. And so began the quest for tone. Last year I commissioned a local luthier with building me a fretless bass and he built me this.  I can’t put into words how happy I am with it. He’s building me a fretted version now. This year I’ve also bought a 1974 Fender Precision that I’ve outfitted with LaBella Deep Talking Bass flats. I also have a mid 1980’s Larrivee electric bass that’s made here in Canada. It’s a solid rock and roll instrument, but I don’t use it enough. I’m still waiting for the call from Guns N’ Roses!

What's your best gigging tip?

As much as possible, I try to be awesome in all aspects of the gig, but here are my top tips.

1. Communication: respond to gig requests promptly by keeping your calendar up-to-date. Avoid any double bookings and awkward ‘oh, it turns out I can’t do that gig’ conversations.

2. Preparation: be prepared for rehearsals and gigs. It’s a simple win and makes you repeat-employable.

3. Gear: have suitable gear. You don’t need a $5000 bass (

" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as Scott recently pointed out in this video)  but you do need an instrument that’s reliable and stays in tune. You also need an amp that moves enough air to keep up with the environment.

4. Punctuality: I arrive early for everything! If you’re late and you don’t have a good reason then I am harshly judging you ..right now.. yes you! You may end up waiting around, but you’re there ready to go, and you have time to deal with any surprises.

5. Serve The Project: use those ears of yours and listen. Know when to shine and when to support. What does the project need? If you’re not sure then solicit feedback. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions, but don’t take it personally if those suggestions aren’t used.

6. Record and Review Your Gigs: reflect on what worked and what didn’t. I highly recommend the Zoom Q2n for ease of use and quality of sound.

7. Play In The Style: when I was in my second year at university and my two good friends were in their first year, I remember sitting in a coffee shop and feeling kind of high and mighty by saying; “Come on guys. You just need to play in the style!” It’s a long running joke between us, but they admit getting cranky about it because I was right. Go watch a movie called The Commitments. There’s a scene where the sax player starts playing jazz lines over a soul tune and the band get cranky with him. Don’t be that sax player!

8. Have Fun: you’re playing music, not digging a trench. What a blessing!

9. Don’t Have Too Much Fun: stay sober and don’t steal the focus from other musicians who may be in the spotlight.

10. Be A Good Human: if you’re generally enjoyable to work with then this alone can get you hired.

11. Volume: just because this list goes to 11 doesn’t mean your amp has to. Learn how to retain the energy at an appropriate volume.

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