After picking up on some of Victor Wooten’s techniques, Sylvain “Sly” Audet slowly began his own style. While experimenting with double thumbing, the Canadian bassist began what he calls thumbpicking. Audet also incorporates a Kahler tremolo bridge in for some cool effects.
Not relegated to being a sideman, Audet has released his own CD, with half of the proceeds going to charity. We caught up with Sly to find out more about his New School style.
What makes you new school?
I think the alternate right hand technique I call ‘thumbpicking’, and the music I’ve written to help develop it, can be qualified as “new school”. Using my thumb as a pick created new challenges, notably for muting open strings and for using vibrato, which brought me to play a four string bass with a Kahler tremolo bridge.
The thumbpicking lets me keep the tremolo arm in hand at all times and really opened up a world of possibilities which inspired me to write a lot of riffs and exercises in many different styles ranging from intimate solo bass pieces to heavily overdriven prog-metal.
Approaching the instrument with a new technique gave me the freedom to try new things and just have fun exploring and rediscovering the instrument.
How did you discover your new school style?
About three years ago, I was interested in learning Victor Wooten’s double thumbing, index and middle finger thumping style. I was of the Oppenheim ‘Slap-it’ school of slap, so I started with the double thumbing and was having so much fun with it that I never got around to integrating the ‘popping’ side of it. I just kept trying to find interesting ways to use the double thumbing, switched from five to four strings, researched and installed the tremolo, and it just kept developing from there.
The difference in tone and phrasing that the new technique created, seems very unique to me and is a source of inspiration to keep on pushing and trying new things.
Share some of your New School videos
What kind of gear do you use?
For my thumbpicking stuff I use a Fender Jaguar bass with a Kahler 7410 Tremolo Bridge with no-name light gauge steel strings.
What kind of gigs do you get with your new school style?
I’ve presented my solo bass pieces at my EP launch, as an opening act for Mosaicordes (a harp guitar and voice duo), and at a recent fund-raising concert and also as a feature spot at The Quebec City Jazz Festival with the Sébastien Champagne Quintet. With The Jack Rozz Project, a fusion trio, I challenge myself to play exclusively with my thumbpicking technique.
Any traditional playing gigs?
Freelance gigs of all sorts are my bread and butter, from jazz standards, to 80’s hard rock, dance, disco, retro, country, gospel… I love playing all styles. After many years of playing covers or others’ compositions, and having the traditional role of bass guitar, it’s very exciting to work on my own projects with this very different approach on the instrument.
Do you have albums where we can hear your new school style?
I released an EP of my solo bass compositions last fall called Road to Forgiveness, with half of the proceeds going to two organizations working on suicide prevention. You can listen to excerpts and/or buy it here.
Where can we find you on the web?
What’s next for you?
I’m hoping to book more gigs for my solo bass pieces, to finish composing, recording and releasing the music for our Road Kill Soup prog-metal project and to continue exploring and writing thumb-picked bass lines in different styles.
If there’s any interest, I’d like to make transcriptions of my pieces available and also write a thumb-picking method book. Any takers?? ;-)
What else do you want to share?
Getting back to being creative with my bass playing really helped change my life in a positive way. Aside from the pleasure of playing, taking a step back to listen to the music I was writing brought me to ask myself why I was doing it, which really helped me let go of a lot of things that were holding me back. That may sound silly to some, but for me, the role of music has changed in my life from being a place to escape, to a place to grow.