Interview - Ross MacIntyre

Ross MacIntyre

Ross MacIntyre has been playing bass for over 25 years. He studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and got his degree in jazz performance from the University of Toronto. He's played with all sorts of great musicians from Canada and around the world. He can be heard on over 50 recordings, 7 of which have been nominated for JUNO awards, and one of which won for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year.

What are some important musical and other lessons you've learned that you can pass on to aspiring bassists?

While it's very important to be the best musician you can possibly be, being personable and reliable are equally, if not more important. There are always going to be great bass players in your community, but people will want to hire the one who they can count on and who the get along with. So always be early for the gig, and don't be a jerk.

What are three of your favourite recordings that you consider essential for any bassist to check out?

Jaco by Jaco Pastorius. It's essential listening for any aspiring jazz musician. His playing, tone, writing, arranging, and overall musicality set the bar higher than it had ever been.
Oscar Peterson And the Bassists. OP did a live concert in Montruex in 1977 with Niels Henning Ørsted Pederson and Ray Brown. The two great bassists would trade walking and solos with Oscar, and it really shows off their different styles.
Gettin' to It by Christian McBride. I love Christian McBride. He's the keeper of the flame of the great old school bassists, and he pushing the art further too. I think he's the best all around bassist today.

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.

Most of my practicing is done with the bow. I start with long tones, then exercises (these days I'm working through Joel Quarrington's Daily Exercises book), then etudes, then some classical repertoire (cellos suites, orchestral excerpts, solo pieces), then I'll get into jazz stuff. Often I work with the iRealB app. I'll choose a tune, play the melody, walk for a chorus or two, solo for a chorus or two, then play the melody out. Usual I'll pick a tune I don't know very well so I can get more comfortable with it.

Do you have any advice for overcoming difficulties or obstacles?

Don't get discouraged. Difficulties and obstacles are part of being a musician, and if you don't let them get you down, they can only make you a better musician and a better person. Without them being a professional musician would be easy, and everyone would do it, so just know that they're part of the game, and learn from every obstacle you face.

Do you have any advice for players just beginning their careers? What worked for you?

Say yes to every gig. You can learn a lot from practicing and jamming, but you never learn as much as you will by being on the bandstand. The more opportunities you have to do that, the better you'll be.

Do you have any gear advice (specific pickups, strings, amps, etc. and what to look for)?

Every bass is different, and every player is different, so you have to find what works for you. I use a Realist pickup, Evah Pirazzi light gauge strings, a TecAmp 112 combo amp, and a Hofner upright bass from the 1950s. My main electric bass is an F Bass Jazz type 5 string bass, and I use a 1968 Fender precision sometimes too. I have a bunch of other electric basses, but they're not in the regular rotation.

What's coming up for you and how can we follow you (website, social media, etc,)?

I'm very proud of all the people I play with on a regular basis. I list my upcoming public gigs on my website:

Any other thoughts to pass along?

I'm writing this as I look out over the Caribbean Sea on a cruise ship gig playing with one of my musical heroes, Guido Basso. Three weeks ago I was in Tokyo, and an a few weeks from now I'll be touring Europe - again.  There are many challenges and difficulties that come with being a musician, but it offers a life that few other professions can. A dear friend of my said "take care of the music, and it will take care of you". I can't imagine spending my life doing anything else.