Beauty and the Bass

Ida Nielsen spent 5 years as the bass anchor for Prince. She is now stepping out in her own right as a singer – songwriter, following Prince’s tragic and premature death. In our exclusive interview and subsequent private conversations with Ida I discussed a number of topics with parallel lessons for anyone seeking to make their mark with their personal passion. Film production by Rory Gill roryjrgill@hotmail.co.uk:

Balancing discipline and freedom

Ida is a perfect example of a professional musician who combines discipline with freedom in her musical life. She took up music at the age of 16, having learned to play piano and bass mostly by ear. She then attended the Royal Danish Academy of Music to hone her natural born musical skills. When amateur musicians tell me that improvisation is all about creativity and freedom and nothing to do with discipline, I believe they have missed the point about the importance of structure / discipline / order. I’ve observed on many occasions musicians who have oodles of disciplined musical training, but who are unable to improvise and sometimes vice versa. Ida is a living example of someone who combines both sets of skills. Prince puts it simply:

“Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay”

In the business world this is what Tom Peters refers to as “simultaneous tight and loose properties”. I’ve just been discussing direct parallels from music for people interested in bringing more creativity and innovation to their enterprise at Innovation Mauritius

Beauty and the Bass - Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Beauty and the Bass – Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Deliberate practice

Ida is also testimony to the concept of “deliberate practice” proposed by K. Anders Ericsson. This requires the systematic desire to extend one’s repertoire beyond one’s comfort zone. In my experience, some musicians reach a plateau of competence, due to rerehearsing that which they already know. To master an instrument requires practice outside of the known regions of your competence. I know from my own experience that I had to switch from playing rock music to gypsy jazz in order to move my playing skill up a level through seeing and hearing things anew. This concept applies in many fields of human endeavour. Ida has respected great innovators in her field and built upon their innovations, for example Larry Graham, who is credited with the invention of “slap bass playing”, in his case due to not having a drummer in his band so he had to develop a more rhythmic way of playing the instrument. 

Here’s a section of Mr Graham with Sly and The Family Stone and a bass solo from my good friend Mr Paul Moss at a corporate aftershow event we did at Henley Business School from 2 minutes 08 onwards:

Get into the Groove – Working with Flow 

Mastery, unconscious competence, effortless genius, being “in your element” …  These are all ways to describe what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called the state of ‘flow’.  Prince’s sax player Marcus Anderson offers some practical insights into the state of flow:

“Although I can read music and therefore understand the “mathematics” of jazz, the real skill of improvisation comes from using your ear / intuition, paying attention to the other band members, feeding off them and finding a flow that moves the group performance up to the max.”

Marcus Anderson, interview taken from “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“, Bloomsbury

Ida is clearly in the state of effortless mastery or flow with this performance, recorded at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London at an aftershow at 3 am in the morning:

We spoke outside of the main interview about Ida’s 5 years spent working with Prince and she had these things to say about what she gained from working alongside a master of innovation in music:

Serendipity :

Ida explained how she got to play bass with Prince: 

“I simply got a call on my cell phone. The person said they were Prince’s manager and they wanted me to go to Minneapolis and jam with Prince and the band. They said they would call me back – they did not and I began to think it was a hoax, but eventually they called back and I went to Paisley Park to play with them for three days”. 

I completely got the mixed emotions of Ida’s story, having once had an e-mail from Sir Richard Branson telling me I had won a prize, then nothing for two weeks – a social media “expert” mailed me to say it was bound to be a hoax, completely bursting my bubble!  It turned out it was not a hoax mail and I ended up writing and delivering events for the Virgin group.

richard-branson-invite-linkedin

Mastery : When performing with Prince, Ida had to learn more than 300 songs in order to have the flexibility to vary a given performance, sometimes on the fly. This is quite different than performing with most professional musicians, who prefer to hone a set and perform this as a set piece on all dates of a tour. This level of agility gave Prince and 3rd Eye Girl the ability to personalise their music to a given audience. To do this requires mastery at the individual and team level, with everyone paying close attention to each other’s performances.

“Doing a residency in any particular city requires a large repertoire to ensure repeat business”.

Prince

Teaching as the best way to learn : Ida mused that she had been lucky to have the greatest guitar teacher on the planet in Prince. Moreover, rather than the usual situation in terms of paying your teacher for lessons, Prince had actually paid her !! The greatest gift of innovation is to transfer your skills to others to improve your game.

Check out Ida Nielsen’s music at her website for more insights into the skills of a master craftswoman.

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check book “The Music of Business” out, which has a chapter on Prince and 3rd Eye Girl.

Charlie Mingus AOR

On the One, Bass Ida

We’re very lucky to be interviewing Ida Nielsen, aka Bassida at Camden’s Underworld on Wednesday September 07, organised by Nigel Hart of Nitro Management. Ida has a new album out called Turn It Up.  For the last 5 years was the anchor in Prince’s New Power Generation and 3rd Eye Girl until his sad passing at just 57 years of age.

Ida

Bass in ur face – Ida Nielsen and Prince

Ida Nielsen hails from Denmark. She started playing bass at age 16, studying music at The Royal Danish Academy of Music. Ida is a multi-instrumentalist and in 2010 received an out of the blue invite to play with Prince which she assumed was a joke! She is something of a bass tech expert and an advocate of TC Electronics equipment, which a number of my friends also use in their rigs.

TC

Beauty and the Bass – Ida’s style combines resonance in the low register with superb slap bass for punch and sparkle in the high end

There will be a full report on my film interview with film maker Rory Gill and the concert after Ida’s performance. Her music is cool and funky. Ida’s bass playing combines beautiful low registers to reach your soul and a healthy dose of popping to excite your synapses. For now, read this interview about this all round musicologist at Bassida. Here’s two extracts from that piece on what she learned from working with Prince:

“I learned to play tight. He was so tight about making space in the music. There’s always a lot going on in my music, and I’m trying to clean it up because I know that’s what he would do. Not that I wasn’t playing tight before, but he taught me to not play all the notes in between that we bass players normally do. It’s a little bit like a drummer who is always rolling on the snare instead of keeping a tight, simple beat. Prince taught me to keep it simple. With my own stuff, I make everyone else play simple so I get all the space! 🙂

The first time I was in the studio recording with him, I was in shock because I found out he doesn’t use a click track. I was like…what? When you hear every record it sounds like there is a click because it’s so tight. It’s all about locking within the band and getting it that tight and I feel like that’s what it’s all about. I love the whole idea of, “we don’t actually need a click. It doesn’t matter if the tempo goes a little up or down as long as the energy and the life is there.”

Check Ida’s new album Turn It Up on iTunes.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics – offering long term development programmes on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity and shorter masterclasses and keynotes via The Academy of Rock, which uniquely fuses Business School insights with parallel lessons from the field of music. Author of 7 books on creativity and business – check them out at Amazon:

Click to view books on Amazon

Click to view books on Amazon