Saturday, February 16, 2008
Time to Get Serious
It occurred to me at the Protest the Hero show the other night that although I've been playing bass for 12 years (and I was a quick study, I might add), I've hardly improved at all for at least 10 of them. Since I started in grade 10 I've played bigger shows with progressively better bands, but I haven't built a repertoire of cover songs, I haven't learned to read music on the bass (it should be a cinch, since I can read it for piano and trumpet), I can't slap well, I can't tap at all, I can't count out odd time signatures or polyrhythms, I can't solo or play with a pick to save my life, and when it comes to improvising, I'm hamfisted, slow and limited to three scales. I've always embraced the "less-is-more, deeper-is-better" philosophy of bass playing, and it's served me well, but, truthfully, part of why I denouce flashy bassists as masturbators is because I'm envious of their skill.
I've always said to myself, "Well, if I just practiced more, I could be better if I wanted to," but now I'm starting to think that I'd learn more, faster if I started taking lessons from a competent teacher. Following one's own inclinations can only take the learner so far, because the best knowledge, skills and techniques in any field are rare, hard-won and often counterintuitive. Some people might argue that any kind of "true" classicism violates the spirit of the rock ethos (this is probably the only point in the known universe that Alan Bloom and punk rockers would agree on, and I hope to return to Bloom's ill-tempered but philosophically interesting critique of rock music as irresponsible, vulgar and onanistic in a future post), but I think this is balderdash. It may seem paradoxical that submission to the rigours of tradition would be profoundly liberating, but I believe it's nonetheless true. I just hope I can find the time and the self-discipline to go as far as I can with this, because I really am getting too old to be a poseur or a dabbler.
I was thinking I'd find some inspiration if I spruced my old Fender Jazz 5 up a little bit with a truss rod and intonation adjustment, lighter strings and a fancy new pickguard, but I need to get a goddamn job before I start worrying about all that.
(Image from www.gand.com)