Welcome to NAMM Show! Wait, what?



No doubt you have heard about this loud spectacle in Anaheim that commences every third week of the new year for four days! But – if you have never been – what is the hype about this event? And what, actually, is it?

NAMMWhat is it?

NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants. NAMM is the 117-year-old association that puts on several events throughout the year including the NAMM shows – a smaller one in summer in Nashville and the huge winter NAMM in January. So, NAMM show is a business trade show and typically the biggest show the (sizeable!) Anaheim Convention Center puts on all year. Instrument manufacturers, gear creators, techies, educators, publishers, distributors, studio owners, marketers, lighting designers, sound engineers, software designers, musicians and performers of all genres and walks of life – all convene in order to learn about and participate in the latest of the art and business of music.

“Business” as in for example:

  • Instrument manufacturers connecting with distributors from all over the world
  • Music gear developers to pow wow on latest developments and trends
  • New companies breaking into the worldwide stage
  • Copyright law, social media, labels… – how is it all changing and how does it affect us?

“Art” as in for example:

  • Hearing artists use old and new instruments and technology
  • Catching up on how the latest in technology can support creative ideas

Companies can rent booths and showcase their gear. Some rent entire halls and put up huge stages and elaborate branded architecture, others keep it intimate and less bombastic, some evade into floors away from the main halls and rent big rooms that they transform into their own little worlds, often welcome escapes from the main hubs.

In this day and age, face-to-face meetings are not as essential as they used to be, so the business aspect has slightly shifted over the years (I hear that a lot of deals and face-to-face meetings happen in hotel or meeting rooms even prior to the show starting; many companies see NAMM show as a once-a-year touch point with their business partners). Truth be told, the place is so loud and unfocused that it is hard to focus on things like numbers, deals etc., so taking business cards or attending meetings set up prior to the show is as effective as it may get in that arena. Yet, being there, showing your latest creations, mixing and mingling is still high on the list of many music pros and companies. Whether NAMM is perceived a must-do-yet-again or an exciting first-time proposition, it is an expensive effort for everyone there to be there. Some get paid to be there, flown in and put up nicely (but someone picks up that tab!), while others max out their own credit cards just to be there.

What’s it like?

Loud and overwhelming.

The sheer amount of

  • halls
  • booths
  • stages
  • standing-in-some-line people
  • gear
  • people
  • sounds
  • screens with lots of colors and blinking moving things on them
  • amazingly dressed people
  • lights
  • guitar people
  • flat wound strings
  • famous people
  • selfies
  • shiny people
  • 80’s hair and mullets
  • people you-know-and-love people
  • people-you-wanna-meet-people
  • tired people
  • fired up people
  • fired up tired people

is mind-blowing. Every two steps you run into someone you either know or recognize from TV. I can’t hear what they are saying, though, because there is a drummer testing these new cymbals right next to me, while someone is checking if this Orange amp really goes to 11 and they just escorted a famous bassist out of the building because he turned up too loud and wouldn’t stop. Wait – what? (true story).

It is busy. You have to walk like you walk the sidewalks in New York – slaloming between talking, hugging or rushing people (late for the next meeting!); there are guitarists testing gear and demonstrators of the latest Waves plugin trying to get you to check out their cooest newest. Stars are giving autographs, so there are lines.

Booth babes in pink high heels and not much else give you free guitar picks and some earbuds and I still wonder how come they didn’t get the memo that booth babes don’t work… but, wait, it is NAMM show and maybe the logic has to do with the fact that there will be guitarists or guitarist-wanna-have-booth-babes-wannabes. I don’t know, but there they are.

Note: Booth babes of all varieties should not be mistaken with awesomely and outrageously dressed artists from all walks of life who have some heavy duty skill actually using said guitar picks the booth babes hand out. It is the entertainment industry after all and for some, the outfit is part of the legitimate musical package.

Oh, the Swag!

Grab your Orange bag early in the day (it is the biggest) and fill it with picks, free tuners, pens, fresh mints, magazines and weird gadgets. When you get home you will likely have forgotten what that gadget was actually for, but you will feel good about having scored it! Or not.

Health Risk

This place is a total challenge to your health – my guitar player friend and bandleader Brian aptly once called the whole place a “huge petri dish”. NAMMthrax is a known strain of an amazing flu virus, something like H1C7b9 or something! The food on site is terrible, everyone is dehydrated and the internet is crazy slow. That NAMM app never works and now I forgot whether Victor Wooten is playing the Hartke stage or at the Fodera booth at 11AM. I have five minutes to get to my next meeting, booth numbers are a confusing mess and the bathroom is on the other side of that gigantic hall. I want to step out for a moment to sort my notes, business cards, and brain, but even there: stages everywhere and the line for that subway sandwich shop wraps around the building three times.

So, it’s loud, a horrific assault on the senses, it is overcrowded and generally overwhelming. I am wearing the most comfortable shoes I own and my feet still hurt. I have not sat down since I left the car (oh, traffic was gnarly and don’t start me on how long it took to find parking!).

Yet, we all put up with this because of the passion that unites us: music and the people and things that make it!

Then There are the Satellite Events…

When the show floor closes, it is all far from over! Many companies put on their own events, renting stages and rooms near and far. Some are huge – Tec Awards for example, or – one of my favorites but no longer on during winter NAMM – All Star Guitar Night. Some are very small, intimate dinners – by invite only. And some of the best things happen unplanned and impromptus when you hear a bunch of guitars jamming in a hotel room and you happen to have a bass on your back and can’t walk by without peeking in.

A staple for bassists: Bass Bash – founded by Pete de Cur – started out as a one evening event at a German brewery and has evolved into one of the biggest attractions for many NAMM going bassists; this year celebrating its 15th anniversary and presented by Tone Compito-Wellington it is a breathtaking two-day event on a big stage with sponsors and booths right then and there, featuring star-studded lineups, as well as beer, brats, and bass!


Don’t stay out too long, however, because even before the show floor opens the next day, NAMM offers very relevant educational tracks in the early AM and throughout the day. Presentations on the latest in marketing, social media, copyright, and advocacy, from the must-know tools for DJs to the surefire way to get your fans to like you on YouTube, all events are highly relevant, well curated and of benefit if you pay attention (and can get yourself out of bed). Star-studded panel discussions and award shows await you in the AM. Thankfully they moved the She Rocks Awards to later in the day now!

Why is it the Rage?

Instrument companies work with endorsing musicians. All these amazing drums, trumpets and sound libraries there – it is all about hearing them in action! Artists from all over the world come to NAMM – sometimes because their endorsement contracts require it – to demo gear and showcase what the exhibited marvels can do. There are huge stages, little stages, booths with stages (and the sound police with their little DB meters trying to keep it all in check).

Here is a true story: my friend R (a promoter and educator) – annoyed with all the gushing about NAMM – finally joined me. Within her first hour on the show floor, she literally bumped into Stevie Wonder in a small busy aisle. She rushed to tell me: “Ariane, I get it now!”

So, NAMM is the rage, because the who-is-who of the business is there, and that includes artists, instrument builders, creators, distributors, writers, PR people and the list goes on. For professionals, it becomes a way to reconnect, do business, catch up and check out each other’s latest.

At my very first NAMM show, I ran into Tony Levin and scored a little personal – though very star-struck on my part – talk with one of my big idols. Then I started attending bass camps and NAMM became this once-a-year event to meet up and catch up with beloved bass buds from all over the world.

Being There

NAMM is not open to the public (with a few exceptions at times, such as a few hours on Sunday afternoon some years). The only way to get access is to be invited or work for a music manufacturer or be a member because you have a studio, educational company or are otherwise a full-time, dedicated music professional with the business license to prove it. There are strict rules who may or may not attend and they are there for good reason.

If you scored a first-time ticket and you enter the huge vast floor filled with music and possibility, make sure to stay down to earth, though. I have unfortunately encountered a few people who did not contribute to the event in a positive way. Okay, truthfully, there are quite a few of those people and they are somewhat legendary and met with eye rolls behind their backs by the people who really do the work.

I understand that this environment can be very intoxicating for an aspiring music professional (in whatever music or music related field) – all of a sudden you are “in”, you are “there” you have arrived. But here is the thing to keep in mind: if you are new or aspiring to be a professional, take it as an opportunity to learn. Don’t hope that anything you say, do or play (especially not if it is a thumped funk in E-, bassists) will make the experienced Artists Relations person or label great or the hiring manager of the Fender Marketing Department drop what they are doing and offer you a gig, deal or signed contract right then and there. Nobody is waiting for you, nobody owes you the time to listen to you, and nobody hates you either unless you behave to earn that…


  • No gear testing unless you know what you are doing and are truly interested in the gear; if unsure, ask if it is okay
  • No turning up too loud – companies pay horrific fines if the sound police ding them with a ticket and they may be busy talking to a client right when you hit the 130dB mark. Don’t. Just don’t!
  • No groupie behavior – be a nice person. Don’t yell “You are a legend” when Bootsie walks by (really! True as t is, but… no!). If you run into your hero and say a quick hello and how they inspired you, that is probably okay because most people are nice people, just be respectful, truthful and to the point, because NAMM is overwhelming!
  • No wannabes – companies get inundated with requests for endorsements. If you understand how endorsing works and think you have something to offer, it is okay to briefly and respectfully connect about that, but you may have a better shot asking for a card and following up later with a serious proposal. I have seen terrible misuse or misunderstanding of what endorsements mean, so be respectful of the expensive items and hard working people you encounter and understand that they get a lot of these requests.
  • No giving out cards, CDs, birth certificates or other without making a connection first.
  • Never under any circumstances play Stairway to Heaven

Keep in mind, you just flew in on Thursday morning, but some of the companies and people there may well have scrambled to get their gear and booths ready for months, are jetlagged since Monday morning, when they got there just to dive into setting up, shlepping heavy props, securing expensive gear, standing in various lines, potentially dealing with a non-native language, or customs regulations and shipping issues gone all wrong. They are not there to wait for you to tell them how great you are or how the business works. You may well be awesome, it is just not the place and time to hit anyone over the head with it.


Learn. Listen. Watch.

Watch people who you look up to or who do what you would like to do and look for ways to contribute (by the way, offering to bring a cup of coffee or bottle of water to someone who cannot leave their booth over long hours is truly appreciated)

Be a nice, upbeat and positive person. It is easy to succumb to the thoughts that “the business sucks”, that “gigs don’t pay like in the old days”, that “YouTube kills the live scene” and that “Basses should only have four strings”. But stop yourself right there – things keep changing, business keeps changing and the fact that NAMM – the music industry trade show – is as huge as it is should be an indication that there are opportunities galore! People there are committed to this music thing. I truly appreciate how hard this business is, how brutal and unfair it can be to various ages and demographics, I truly get that, but if you are there, open your eyes, take it in, attend clinics, observe the people who are successful and see what it is you can contribute to today’s marketplace, how you can shape the future of music and help everyone be more successful. Most answers are found by asking questions, not by assuming to already having the best answers.

To Sum it All Up

NAMM Show is an interesting intersection of business and art. It is where the mundane (if you have ever broken down a booth, you know what I mean) and the exhilarating (amazing jams happen between artists who usually don’t play together) meet. It is where lifelong friends reconnect and it is where pivotal first connections are made. Most striking, it is an amazing, strenuous, loud, overwhelming, overcrowded and oversized beehive – yet we all happily put up with it for the love of the music and the people that make it.

If you are there and want to say hey

Please come visit me at the Marleaux booth!

My performance calendar as far as for scheduled performances is below. You can also find me at these booths:

for impromptus or scheduled performances and/or hangs with all these fine companies I am happy to be affiliated with.

January 25, 2018, with Muriel Anderson & Tierra Negra, Whittier, CA Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College  Time: 7:30 pm. Admission: $25 adults $20 Seniors $10 students of any age with ID. Address: 6760 Painter Ave, Venue phone: 562-907-4203. With Tierra Negra and their International Band! With special guest blues legend Bobby Messano. and stunning visual backdrops by Bryan Allen.

January 27, 2018, Fri NAMM Booth outside Hall E 11:00am-11:30am

January 27, 2018, Fri NAMM Booth outside Hall E and 1:00pm-1: 30 pm with Tierra Negra

January 28, 2018, Sat 11:00am-11:40am Grand Plaza Stage. Outdoor stage with Muriel Anderson and Tierra Negra

January 29, 2018, International Guitar “Peace Through Music Concert” at University of La Verne, Morgan Auditorium United States Time: 6:00 pm. Admission: Free for students, and open to the public. Address: 1950 3rd St. $20 recommended donation to Guitars in the Classroom. Doors open at 5:30, No reservations required but for best seats reserve online, Featuring internationally known guitarists: Muriel Anderson, Nadja Kossinskaja (Ukraine), Se-Huang Kim (Korea), Luis Gallo (Spain), Tierra Negra (Germany), Don Alder (Canada), Michael Ryan and Special Guests, with visual backdrops by Bryan Allen.

(Keep in mind all the above is my personal take on NAMM. I have been attending NAMM shows for over two decades, the last 15 or so of which I have been heavily involved as an endorser of many wonderful products I love, and the last 12 or so being hands-on involved with the Marleaux Bass Guitars booth).

Rare in-person Clinic on the East Coast: For the Love of Tone

RevSound Clinic Ariane Cap

East Coast, Anyone?

Come join me for this cool live Clinic!

Please join me for a rare and free in-person clinic in Burlington, MA!

There will be break-out sessions, master classes, concerts and more. Check out the featured artists, gear samplings, and sponsors on the poster above!

RevSound is the company putting on this clinic – I am a proud endorsee of their awesome sounding (and light!) cabs.

Check out my review of these terrific cabs here – includes a playing sample:

Join us in Burlington at the Real School, on Sunday, February 11th, from 10:00AM to 4:00PM!

Sign up here – it’s free!

WHO: Free and open to the public. Space is limited and we anticipate this event FILLING UP. Complete the form at the above link to RSVP.

WHAT: Connect the dots between theory and practice while learning strategies you can bring to your band and jams! Join us for a master class with bassist/educator and author of the best seller ‘Music Theory for the Bass Player’ Ariane Cap! In an interactive presentation,  Ariane will bring music theory to life on the fretboard with engaging practice regimens such as her famed “Groove and Fill” exercises, creative note finding drills, and training using a delay pedal.

PRESENTERS: Ariane Cap, bassist/educator/author, and others.

WHERE: The Real School of Music – Burlington 

WHEN: Sunday, Feb 11th from 10AM to 4PM

QUESTIONS? Give us a call at 781-328-0530 or email info@therealschoolofmusic.com

Pivot Permutations Series (Talking Technique)

Pivot Permutations

Pivot Perms…

Pivot PermutationsIf you have been following my prescriptions for good bass technique you have come across my recommendations for permutation exercises (powerful technique exercises to get your fingers nimble and moving independently from each other, yet in sync with your plucking hand); check out the basics of permutation exercises here, a few variations to permutation exercises, and how to do them if you struggle in lower registers of the instrument. There are many ways how you can do permutations, so here is one other way: I call them “pivot” perms.

The idea of the pivot is that we keep returning to the same finger throughout, and also place it on a different string. Here is a whole series on pivot perms. They will get your fingers moving and grooving, also with an application in the last episode of the three.

I often hear discussions about these types of exercises:

  • doubt about their usefulness – wouldn’t it be better to play some songs or music instead?
  • or worry how dangerous they are – will they break my fingers and give me tendonitis?
  • or maybe just how boring they are – not at all if done right!

Do yourself a favor and just do them.

  • Stop wondering, just do them and your songs will sound better.
  • Will they break your fingers? No chance! Not if you relax. Tension is the problem; learn to monitor for tension and let go of it. Permutation exercises give you the perfect opportunity to do just that! Pivot permutations are great for practicing relaxed playing!
  • If they are boring to you, you need to do something about that – use the PORA method and you will be sweating these little exercises mentally!

Three times for three minutes a day is plenty and your technique, tone, and playing comfort will soar. Also, your speed, if that is important to you. And, your phrasing, if you tune your ear to it.

These seemingly innocent exercises help you to stop fighting against yourself and let your music flow.

This Triple Series provides a fun challenge. Are you up for it?

Or visit part 1, part 2, and part 3 on notreble.com

New Year Snapshot: Skills Assessment Sheet

Happy New Year, Bass Blog Friends!

Ah, a fresh start! 2018 is here and a new adventure begins. In a way, it is just a date on the calendar, but since our time on earth in our current form is limited, a new year is always a milestone, reminding us of that fact while feeling fresh and full of possibilities. 

The beginning of the New Year is a great time for new year’s resolutions, though some have mixed feelings about them. Whether they work for you or not, here are two tips for you regarding…

New Years Resolutions

  • If you are looking for help practicing consistently and with lasting results in this New Year, please sign up for info on my upcoming program (currently in development).

  • I am also teaching a method that in my experience works better than New Year’s resolutions to adopt new habits,; learn about the  Tiny Habits method here.


Skills Snapshot

In any case, a beginning of the year assessment and skills snapshot is a great idea. 


While we are in the process of learning and developing our skills it is very easy to lose track of where we are. A good practicing routine will always push us to play beyond our comfort zone; in the beginnings of learning a new style, new piece or set of drills we feel challenged (maybe even discouraged) at times rather than like we are any good (yet!).

And that feeling is exactly part of the learning process!

It is, then, very helpful, to once in a while take a snapshot of your skills. Good times are when starting a new program or evaluating a teacher or method, or, on the first of the year!

This enables you to take a step back and take a good look at

where you were at the last time you did a check-in,

where you are now and

where you’d like to be.

It is super motivating to make these “before” and “after” skills assessments, because they can show us just how far we have come! Or they can show us that what we are doing is not working and we need to change it!  

The more concrete you are in your skills snapshot the better. Therefore it is helpful to measure your abilities. Not everything in music is easily measurable, but here are a few examples of what works well as a skills assessment yardstick:



  • Think of the hardest tune you are currently playing. Write it down.

  • By the same time next year, what would you like to be able to play? (Favorite milestone tunes are Continuum, Giant Steps, Teen Town, Dean Town, or a fast disco tune such as “I feel Love” (that is Giorgio Moroder synth bass in its original, but hey, if Flea can do it, so can you!)


  • At what tempo can you currently comfortably play sixteenth notes on one pitch? (be able to stay with it for at least one minute without cramping up or tensing up)

  • By the same time next year, how about a 20% increase?


Good technique means playing with relaxed control. Play a tune that is a bit hard for you and scan for tension. If you are not used to doing that it may be very hard for you initially because tension often happens unconsciously. Consciously we are aware of stress and that it does not really flow. Ask yourself if tension is holding you back. Imagine your favorite bass player – and with how much ease they usually play.

By the same time next year, how much more relaxed can you play? What would that feel like when the music can freely move you (by the way, relaxed playing may mean you are head banging and putting on a heck of a show. Music flows freely. That is different than tension throttling the flow of the music and movements being forced and uncomfortable like you are fighting against yourself. Ease and flow are the goal).


Sharpening our ears is always a goal. Maybe it is hard for you to hear the functions of notes in context, or you struggle with focusing on the bass sound in a tune you are looking to transcribe, or you are trying to pick up chords by ear and want to understand the entire chord structure, not just the root note. State your current ear skill and goals for next year. There are many ear training apps available for multiple computer platforms. They typically have functions that track your progress – make good use of them!

Timing and Groove:

Record yourself playing, single out your track or record with just a metronome. How accurate are you? Does it make you bob your head and want to dance? If not, why not? Frequent culprits are unintended unevenness of tone, unruly phrasing, not playing according to the feel of the drummer or the underlying subdivision. 

Get an app that allows you to record yourself playing to a drum groove. Zoom into the wave form and check how close to the beats your playing is. You can even measure this in milliseconds and keep track of it.


Got your basics covered? Know your chords, scales, modes? Only know the stuff or ready to use it creatively? You can test yourself on how fast you can recall what you have studied. use a stop watch – how quickly can you recite diatonic triads, the cycle of fifths… whatever you have been working on.

And how quickly can you play it on your bass?


  • What is the hardest piece you can sight read right now and at what tempo? Track the tempo by using a metronome.

  • How many notes can you read ahead? How quickly do you recognize key signatures, key and meter changes, the overall range of the piece? Again, you can time yourself.

  • What milestone piece would you like to be able to read on 1-1-2019? 

Fretboard Knowledge:

Are you equally comfortable playing in all keys? All areas of the bass? What is the next step for you?

We will explore this in much more detail and systematically in our upcoming Pattern System course. Stay tuned!

Equally important, but harder to measure areas are:

There are other aspects to examine – how confident are you when playing? How comfortable are you improvising? What is your practice experience now versus what you would like it to be? Are you hearing music internally that has not quite found its way through your fingers yet? What else can you think of?

You can diligently examine each of these parameters at length by yourself or with someone more experienced. Get direct feedback from an experienced player or teacher.

Skills Assessment (or should it be Bassessment?) Sheet

For a quick self-assessment fill in the attached questionnaire. Hang it up in you practicing room and let it guide you throughout the year! Remember, if you see no improvement in what you are doing after three months, change your approach. If you are unsuccessful doing that, ask for help. Remember, just keep playing is not working. But the good news is there are strategies that work. 

Use this assessment sheet as a yard stick and tool for self observation.