Area”bassist”

I realize, while looking over my past few months of entries, that as a website with “bassist” in the title, I spend very little time talking about bass.

This is something of a recurring theme in my adult life; I have cycles of intense involvement followed by relative lulls.This is bound to happen, as I’ve been playing bass for damn near TWENTY YEARS. I never really had a “playing bass as a hobby” phase in my life, I went directly from purchasing my first bass to a rehearsal for a paid gig, all at the tender age of 13. Being a bassist has always been the major driving force in my life.

After college, I spent a couple of years being a professional musician. Which means, of course, that I played a handful of paying gigs, taught lessons, and worked a crappy day job. I realized early on that the musicians I ran into who made a living at it were busy. Four shows a week, plus lessons, plus rehearsals – and those were just the jazz musicians. All the rock bassists I knew had steady full time jobs, and played in bands for “the love of the game”.

So, I decided that finding a decent full time job would be a decent idea. And for a few years, I did both; worked 40 hours a week in a cube, taught lessons after work and on weekends, and played show. Eventually, I got burnt out from teaching, and walked away from it. I still play the same frequency of live shows and have the same amount of rehearsals I used to, but since I don’t teach, my actual “practice” time has dropped to virtually nil.

That’s not to say that the time I have available to practice has actually changed; it’s just that my interest to spend that time practicing has. I used to have what I realize now was a ridiculous practice regimen; four hours a day at the very least, with a peak of eight while I was in college. That dropped down to one or two after I graduated, and in the last few years, maybe an hour a week.

Part of this is the natural plateau of practice time; I don’t really need to work on scales for two hours a day (well, technically speaking, I should). Required practice time scales down with experience, and so most of my time now is spent on working on new material, rather than learning the instrument.

What it boils down to, really, is that I don’t really want to practice anymore. Part of this is my own inherent slacker tendencies. More of it, however, is that I recall a quote I learned in my formative years studying jazz: “Don’t practice anything you don’t intend to play onstage”. I can appreciate the efficiency in this methodology. While I certainly understand that spending hours working on the modes of the melodic minor scale will improve my playing, I’d be far better served in spending that time playing a long with old Motown records.

A few years back, the rut with my bass playing caused me to seek out the advice of a local professional bassist, Erik Fratzke*, who shares a very similar musical background as myself. He mentioned that instead of focusing my studies on bassists, I could listen to some drummers or saxophone players. Or, alternately, I should spend more time focusing on writing music.

What I’ve wound up doing since that lesson, I’ve realized, is spent more time recording music. Mainly covers, but quite a few original tunes. I’ve spent quite a bit of that time playing guitar, programming drums, and oddly enough singing. This, overall, is a good thing.

While I certainly could spend some more time keeping proficient with my instrument,** my overall branching out in music is probably serving me better than just playing the same scales over and over again.

* who you may remember from such bands as Happy Apple and Zebulon Pike.
** if you know what I mean.

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