Today’s Know Your Player is about legendary fingerfunk bassist Rocco Prestia of Tower of Power. Prestia revolutionized the fingerfunk style in the 1970’s by incorporating complex left-hand string muting. This muting enables him to play the fast syncopated 16th note staccato grooves that have become known as the “Rocco” style.
About Prestia from Vintage Guitar:
The hardest working right hand in the bass business has to belong to Prestia. There has been a steady stream of staccato 16th notes and offbeat accents flowing out of the West Coast ever since he exploded on the pop music scene as a member of the Rolls Royce of funk bands, Tower Of Power. If you’ve ever tried to play any of Rocco’s bass parts, you have my sympathy. Your hands are probably just starting to uncramp. The technical demands of playing his lines from Tower Of Power songs like ‘Soul Vaccination,’ ‘You’ve Got To Funkifize,’ or ‘What Is Hip’ are overshadowed only by the creativity and originality of his melodic ideas and overall concept.
Prestia’s incessant, two-fingered, 16th-note approach is best illustrated on the aforementioned “What Is Hip?” from the band’s self-titled third album. A minor miracle of stamina, for starters, it drives the song’s jackhammer groove like few bass parts in the R&B canon.
Prestia on his influences
“The guys with James Brown, from Sly… Larry Graham. There was Duck Dunn, Chuck Rainey, Jamerson, Jerrold Jemmott. I wasn’t big into rock guys. Once I got into soul, that was it. That old soul stuff is where I come from. I don’t listen to music that often, but when I do that’s what I listen to.”
Gear: In the 1970’s Prestia played a 60’s era Fender Precision Bass. In the past few years he has also played Conklin and ESP basses. Prestia has his own signature bass head from TC Electronics called the Staccato 51. He also endorses Dean Markley NPS RoundCore Strings.
Style: Rocco fingerpicks right above the neck pickup and he always leads with his first finger. Practice 16th notes with a metronome and slowly work up the tempo.
I had trouble narrowing down Rocco’s best bass grooves, so I am taking a “more is more” approach. Below are some of my favorite bass lines. Check it out.
“What is Hip”
“Down to the Nightclub”
“On the Serious Side”
“Walkin’ Up Hip Street”
“Don’t Change Horses”
“Diggin’ on James Brown”
“So I Got To Groove”