There’s never a dull moment when Victor Wooten comes to town! The bass legend made a visit to the AMS Tone Labs to drop some musical philosophy on the crew. We talked about how music is a conversation, how to get over your musical insecurities, and one of his favorite endeavors: Wooten Woods.

Of course, we also talk about Wooten’s beloved Hartke amp, and the AMS crew even got to gear up and play a tune with the Jam Master General himself! We laughed, we cried, and we all came away a lot wiser in the ways of music — and life. Check it out for yourself.

Victor Wooten’s Hartke gear

It takes years and years of practice to play like Victor Wooten. But you can sound like him by playing his gear. And he was nice enough to show us what he’s playing these days.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that Victor’s gear comes from Hartke. He’s been a long-time Hartke player and always praises their stuff! But he did come to the AMS Tone Labs with something a bit new.

Coming in at a super-portable 30 pounds combined, Victor Wooten’s current rig consists of the Hartke TX300 head and the HL 112 cabinet.

The Hartke TX300 might be micro-sized at only five pounds, but it packs a punch at 300 watts. Victor loves the versatility with the three-band EQ, drive, and what he calls the “shapeshifter” knob. You can even run it straight to the house via XLR or plug in some headphones for a quiet jam.

But if you want to crank it up, hook the TX300 to the matching Hartke HL 112 cabinet. It features a 12-inch hydrive speaker for crystal-clear tones with plenty of bassy punch.

Since this amp and cab are match made in bass heaven, you can pick them up as a bundle to get a complete rig shipped straight to your door!

Becoming a bass master by playing… fiddle?

Victor Wooten was born to be a bass player. It’s true! He’s the youngest of five musical brothers. And before he was even born, his brothers knew they needed a bass player for their band. By the time he reached two years old, Victor Wooten had a bass in his hands.

His brothers were his best teachers. They all contributed loads to his growth as a musician and a person. Victor Wooten likes to think of them as four additional parents — but in a good way!

Everyone knows the Wooten Brothers are a force to be reckoned with in the musical world, but it wasn’t always the case. When Victor was five years old, he and his brothers were playing gigs all over, including a few tours. They even scored a record deal!

The producer in charge of making their record was also making Whitney Houston’s first album, along with another Kenny G album. And since the Wootens were already in the studio, the producer often asked them to pitch in and play on some of his other projects. That’s right; if you’re listening to Whitney or Kenny G, there’s a chance you’re hearing Wootens!

When the producer went on tour, he took some of the Wooten brothers with him. The three younger siblings, including Victor, were typically left at home. Bored and wanting to play music, Victor Wooten reached out to Busch Gardens, a local amusement park. Unfortunately, he was only 15 at the time and wasn’t old enough to be in their live shows.

However, Busch Gardens eventually became so desperate for musicians that they asked the young Victor Wooten if he’d play… fiddle. Of course, Victor Wooten doesn’t play fiddle, but he was so gung-ho to be a musician that he accepted anyway.

He borrowed a fiddle from his high school and taught himself the three most popular fiddle songs at the time: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “Orange Blossom Special,” and “Louisiana Saturday Night.”

Victor admits the audition didn’t go perfectly… but the people at Busch Gardens were so desperate that they hired him anyway! A 15-year-old Victor Wooten was the official fiddle player for the Busch Gardens bluegrass band.

Busch Gardens had two bands on rotation so there could be live music all day. The fiddle player in the other band was Kurt Storey — and he was a real fiddle player. The two became friends, and Storey taught Wooten some tricks to improve his fiddle playing.

Wooten played at Busch Gardens for two years before picking up where he left off in his music career. He decided to head to Nashville to visit his old buddy Kurt Storey who introduced him to all the big-time players in Music City:

  • Béla Fleck
  • Mark O’Connor
  • Edgar Meyer
  • Jerry Douglass
  • Sam Bush
  • And more!

And you’ve heard Victor Wooten play… It wasn’t long before he was jamming with all these guys, joining bands, and quickly rising through the ranks in the bass world.

In Nashville, Wooten met his wife, played with a lot of amazing musicians, and eventually all his brothers moved down to reunite the Wootens — who are still going strong long after their original label has gone.

That’s the story of how Victor Wooten became a bass legend by playing the fiddle at Busch Gardens.

Music is a conversation

Victor Wooten dropped some serious knowledge on us in the AMS Tone Labs. Apparently he’s as good of a philosopher as he is a bassist! And he told us the secret about being musicians (and people as a whole) is that everything is just a conversation.

When someone asks you a question, you’ve probably been asked a similar question before. You know the words and how to put them together to come up with an answer. And once the other person asks their question, you can respond accordingly based on your experience and personality.

Music is exactly the same thing. You’re responding to the people around you. Think of the notes and progressions and words and sentences. Someone plays one phrase, and you respond with your own ideas. You both go back and forth, building on the ideas and have a great time jamming.

But what if you don’t feel like you’re up to snuff with the other people playing? Don’t worry about it! You don’t have to use the longest, fanciest words when you’re having a conversation. You only use the words you know and are comfortable with. The same thing goes for music. Play what you know and have a good time conversing.

How do you get better at “conversing” through music? Victor Wooten has the answer:

Wooten’s Woods

Nashville is Victor Wooten’s town. And back in his early days gigging around, he met a fiddle player named Mark O’Connor who hosted an annual fiddle camp out in the woods, teaching people to play the fiddle. At the time, Victor Wooten was taking nature courses in the area and thought it’d be a great idea to combine music and nature into one amazing camp experience.

In 2000, Wooten held his first bass/nature camp. His theory was that when you see someone who picks up a skill quickly, you call them a natural. It comes as natural to them as you can talk. You don’t think about how you move your mouth when talking. You don’t say you “speak mouth.” The goal of the camp was to get musicians away from thinking about their bass as an instrument and more about how to grow their natural abilities, teaching them to communicate through music without thinking about the instrument.

Naturally, the course was a success! As his career grew, Victor Wooten eventually purchased 150 acres of land just outside of Nashville on the Duck River and opened Wooten Woods (opens in new tab) — a permanent place to host his music and nature camps.

Today, Wooten Woods is still going strong. Hundreds of musicians visit every year from all over to learn how to communicate with music, experience nature, and have a great time with new friends.

And of course, Victor Wooten will be there 24/7. He said his original goal was to be around so much that people started seeing him as normal rather than a ridiculous bass legend. But much to his surprise, that never happened. Instead, everyone at the camp rose to his level.

Wooten Woods isn’t just a music camp. It’s a life-enhancing camp that’s done through music. No matter what you play or your experience level, you’re welcome in Wooten Woods.

A big thanks to Victor Wooten

The crew here at AMS had a blast talking to Victor Wooten. His positivity and outlook on music is absolutely contagious, and we all feel like we learned a thing or two about both music and life.

And before he left the studio, we just had to have a quick jam session led by the Jam Master General himself. Play me out, Vic! You’re welcome back at AMS anytime.