How to, as Victor W. says, "Make them sound better"?

This is a topic I’ve had stuck on my head for a long time now and definitely something I’m likely not ready for, having played for a couple of months only.

I keep re-watching this victor wooten video over and over: which I think was included in another topic but the link won’t load for me: Victor Wooten Must Watch Video - #29 by John_E

What jumps at me the most is “zero people teach you how to make OTHERS sound better”. Granted I’m still figuring out how to sound good myself, but I’m intrigued by this… how can I/we learn this?

Second thing is how he “reshapes” the guitar rhythm, ending in two cool slides, what is he doing there? I think it’s running through the Eb scale notes up and down + some harmonics, but I know very little.

Third and final (for now, lol) thing, is how he plays “wrong notes so good, he makes (the guitar) sound wrong”, also wondering what is he doing there? I’m guessing it’s just playing a rhythm so “funky” or “groovy” that it’s easy to accept that as the main rhythm?

Thanks for reading! The music world in general still feels huge to me, and I definitely feel like I’m drinking out of the fire hose here, but I love it.


Can’t help much with the other stuff as I’m trying to figure that out myself but I can with this one and you’re pretty much right. Vic’s playing during that part of the demonstration was far more complex and groove forward than the relatively simple playing that Tyler was doing. This naturally caused your ear and focus to shift to Vic and, as a result, made Tyler sound like his playing was off.

Think of it the same way magician’s do their thing. They will cover up a tiny movement with a big one. Your eyes will ALWAYS be instantly drawn to the big flourish and not the casual looking dipping of the hand below the table for a split second. More is more and less is more or less less unless it isn’t (yay, English!).

Which I think plays a bit into the “make others sound better” thing. When Vic shifted into support mode, he drastically simplified his playing and then immediately started playing notes that specifically complimented Tyler’s playing. Suddenly, Vic’s playing faded into the back just a bit. So tip 1, I think, is to make sure you’re not trying to be the center of attention in a band where the bass player isn’t the center of attention.

“The eyes in the room are all looking at the star but their butt’s are all shakin’ to the bass guitar.”


Never heard this before, but I love it now!

Thank you so much for your explanation, it made a TON of sense! Groove has been a funny concept to me for a while, but after your explanation, I understand the real power of bass a lot more.

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This is the definitely the business end of the music fire hose!

He is “re-shaping” the guitar by playing some lovely complementary harmonies, building huge tension, knowing that if he drives hard on this one note that it will make you - subconsciously - want to hear the note that he finally starts to groove on.
It’s a combination of a massive, massive musical vocabulary, impeccable technique, and the biggest musical ears.

At the beginning, he’s playing in an entirely different key from the guitar.
Because it’s 1-on-1, you don’t know who wins.
If the entire band was with the guitar, the bass would sound clearly like the thing that didn’t match.

This entire video is incredible and inspirational and wonderful as an example of the power of the bass to frame how we hear things…
As a video to analyze and try and understand as a beginner, it is very… conceptual.

If you showed up to 90% of musical situations and did what Victor does here, you’d get massive stink eye, the band might stop, you might be fired, everyone would be yelling at you what the actual chord is, etc.
This kind of playing only works in a very open, trusting, musically advanced scenario.

The take-away here should be aspirational only.
The idea that with massive musical experience - learning tons of bass lines, studying tons of songs, playing with tons of people in tons of situations… - the boundaries of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ start to dissolve, and you can do some incredible, free-ing things to create musical moments with the people you play with.

How this is done can be explained with lots of theory and music words, but that just confuses the point with jargon and the words/concepts don’t bring with them musical understanding.
The path to this point is directly through the ears and fingers. It almost completely bypasses the analytical/logical brain.

So - keep this as a lovely beacon of what bass superpowers look like, and learn every bass line you hear, learn every song, play in as many scenarios as possible, and steady on through the B2B course!
That way lies the truth and the light.


You described it perfectly via the actual effects (tension, etc) of what the applied techniques did.


In applied theory, listen to AC/DC.

Cliff Williams often fills a chord with a major 3rd


Man, that was beautifully explained.

I’ve had this same question but assumed it was about being able to change the chord in a song with a different note choice on bass and doing the James Jamerson thing where he plays to the vocals of the song.

Victor is amazing but some of his talks about learning and playing don’t seem to apply outside of Victor Wooten land.

His experience learning music and all he has been able to do with music is so far outside the realm of where most people are, I often wonder whether he realizes how very different his experiences and abilty truly are.

He often comes across as, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, lots of practice, and it’s all good. Like anybody could do what he does. He’s really down to earth about being one of the greatest musician/bass players to have ever touched the instrument.

Sometimes I roll my eyes and talk the screen and say, “No, Victor. Just stop. The rest of us aren’t Victor f@cking Wooten.”


I think this happens in every walk of life.
People that are real far down a path that they started walking on in childhood don’t always know how they got there, or how tough the road is for other people.
I feel this every time I talk to someone in the trades.

They’re all, “Oh, that’s no problem, you just gotta get yer (insert weird tool name here) and just find some joists (which are made up) and then do a little (insert unknown technique here) and then just repatch the rebar to the foundation and you’re fine. Easy.”

It doesn’t matter what we’re good at - it’s really hard to be at the expert end of things and explain things to a complete beginner. (Hats off, @JoshFossgreen )

Victor does a good job, I think, in that he always gives these mind-bending musical examples of what is possible on bass, but his concepts are always “listen to this,” “feel this,” and he never says it’s easy, and he never says it’s impossible.
He is deep in the experiential, conceptual, feeling end of the bass pool, which makes him - on the one hand - immediately accessible to everyone, but on the “oh, now I can do that!” end, very much in deep outer space to most of us mortals.

Still one of the best heroes you could pick, if you ask me.
But also, yes, I fully identify with the “Just stop, the rest of us aren’t (insert name of expert person trying to explain difficult things here)” sentiment.

Don’t get me started on contractors…


Thanks so much for your explanation!

I definitely never expected to try this out, Vic is a legend, but I was totally blown away by what you described, even though I couldn’t put it in words as well as you did.

I have rewatched that video many times, and I likely keep doing so, it’s quite enchanting.

I love being the support musician, that’s why I was very intrigued in learning how to better support others, and hearing Vic say “no one teaches you that”, made me really want to focus on it.

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Thanks for expounding on all this @Gio. It helps a lot with trying to digest where Vic is coming from. I think I get frustrated because I would love to be able to see music the way he does, have a conversation with him, and really understand where he’s coming from.

I once asked Josh if he had a lesson for this…

He responded, “That was the lesson.” :rofl: :joy: :rofl:

Vic himself is a walking, living music lesson :slight_smile:

I was THIS close to going to his show yesterday, but I couldn’t make it due to stupid weather, that’s going to haunt me for years, I’m sure…


It’s actually much more common than the opposite. Being a good instructor is a very different skill than being an expert in most fields, and it often has to be coached on its own as well.

I’ve known so so many people that were brilliant at what they did but disasters as mentors.


I usually go by the guideline of “If you can’t explain it in a way that most people can understand then you probably don’t understand it well enough yourself.”

I’m finding, however, that music seems to be a glaring exception to that rule. There is such a huge gap between knowing how music works to applying it. In the grand scheme of things, music theory is pretty straightforward for the most part. It’s figuring out how that theory relates to your playing that is the challenge and many instructors just don’t seem to be able to bridge that gap very well, regardless of their own playing ability.


I agree with this in terms of acquired knowledge in general, but music has the creativity component and I think that’s what most people want taught, people don’t want to learn the major scale from Victor Wooten, they want to know how he does what he does, that’s not so easy to explain, because he just does it… same with the skills, only practice give you those, no teacher can pass it to you. It’s similar with sports, great player usually don’t make good coaches

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It’s really not that difficult :sunglasses:


I loved this very much, and thank you for introducing me to it.
(typed by a man currently trying to paint his staircase)


I recently finished reading Victor’s book, “The Music Lession”, which was certainly interesting. But yeah,

Exactly what Victor did in the book, the characters “he” was interacting with were a metaphor or abstractions of a bunch things can be “shown not taught.” Near the beginning of the book when “The Teacher” came into the narrator’s life, the narrator asked him “What can you teach me?” and The Teacher replied “Nothing! But I can show you”.

He even had a verbal breakdown in one of the chapters of the process @JoseMtz describes in the original post.

I’ll likely be mentally chewing on it for a while, and will have to give it a yearly re-read. Planning on starting his other book soon.

Yeah, that exact thought came to my head numerous times while reading, but his laid-backness about it all keep me compelled to keep reading. Sneaky him. :grinning:

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That was an awesome description.


While we’re sidetracked on the subject of old British TV @Gio . I think this is the high water mark as far as contracting gags go. Every time I have to work up high on scaffolding next to the ceiling around a light fixture I think of this.