Instrument Talk Levelling up with Theo Henderson - NZ Music Month Feature
Levelling up with Theo Henderson - NZ Music Month Feature
New Zealand Music Month is an amazing annual event that celebrates local music and musicians. For KBB Music we see this as the perfect time to celebrate making music and encouraging Kiwis to take their music to the next level!
Through this month we are profiling friends of KBB Music. These include incredible upcoming homegrown artists who are on their way to achieving amazing success in their respective musical fields. Through the process of a quick-fire interview, we were interested in finding out how they levelled up their music journey and the instruments that they recommend to other budding kiwi musicians.
Meet one of the Southern Jam Youth Jazz Festival musicians, Theo!
Born and raised in the deep South, in 2003 Theo picked up the double bass just as he was starting at Papanui High School in Christchurch. After a year of finding his musical feet, he picked up the electric bass as well.
Now in his last year of school, and Theo still takes lessons through the Christchurch School Of Music (CSM) and has joined in quite a few groups! These include the school jazz combo, the two big bands at school, the CSM, the Christchurch Youth Orchestra (CYO) and the New Zealand Secondary Schools Symphony Orchestra (NZSSSO).
This talented musician has also played in some musicals, and is currently the Musical Director of his school’s production, Grease! In his spare time, Theo loves playing in an ‘Indie Rock trio’ with some schoolmates, as well as a Gypsy Jazz collective with the University of Canterbury (UC).
Thinking back on your musical journey, what were the breakthrough moments that made you the musician you are today?
For me, it would be playing with the ‘Dirt Road Ensemble’. They are a fantastic Gypsy Jazz group who play very intense, frenetic and highly improvisational music from around the world - mostly made up of UC students. They were my first paid gig, and playing with them has taught me lots about being a working professional, how to busk, and how to play improvise sympathetically to all of the crazy stuff going on in the music!
Check out this sneak-peek of the Dirt Road Ensemble in action!
Another breakthrough music moment was playing with the University of Canterbury Musical Theatre Society (MUSOC), for their production of ‘How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’. This was great because it really jump-started my passion for music, and I met so many interesting people from the Christchurch scene. It was also fun playing in a proper orchestra pit for the first time!
Now thinking about your gear: what is the one instrument that you will never part with?
I will never part with my Thomas 3⁄4 size double bass!
I got it second hand around two years ago, it was originally made in England circa 2004. It’s got a beautiful ebony neck and a maple top and back. After a fresh set of strings and lots of playing, it’s really opened up and has such a rich, full sound. I got it right as my musical journey was beginning to open up, as well as when my playing developed to the next level. It is my first double bass that I own, beforehand I rented them from the CSM. This makes it very near and dear to my heart. It’s also great both for jazz and classical, making it perfect for where I want to go in my future.
What instruments would you recommend to other keen musicians?
Beginner - As far as recommending gear for beginners, I cannot recommend enough Squier electric bass guitars for their value for money. My Squier Affinity Series Jazz Bass still sounds fantastic some years later. It’s an absolute workhorse – which is surprising considering how affordable it was. Check out the full Squier Affinity Series Jazz Basses available at Rockshop & KBB Music here.
Intermediate – A higher-end Squier is also fantastic for intermediate players. In my opinion, it rivals some Fenders (even though many people think Squiers are just cheap imitations).
Professional – Going into a professional level, I’m either looking at buying a Mexican-built Fender or upgrading the pickups and bridge on my Squier. In particular, I have my eye on Seymour Duncan Jazz bass pickups because I have a few friends who have them and love their tone.
Going into the Ara Music School and furthering my professional career, I’m looking forward to my Markbass Minimark combo amp arriving. I put down a deposit on it at my local Rockshop after trying one out. They are great, all-around amps with plenty of tone and a potential for some awesome volume (despite their modest size).