Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Zen and the Art of Playing Bass

My Big Band music class starts up again tomorrow.  This morning I began practicing the songs (on my string bass) that I learned in the last session.  I noticed how much easier it is to read notes this time around.  What once was torture is now an achievable task.  You do something many times over and it becomes easier to do.  Funny how that works.  I am not "there" yet, but I am further down the road.

Before I started this class, my two string basses sat in their stands, untouched, gathering dust.  No more.  Now they both get handled a lot, played, tuned, adjusted and repaired.   I am forever tweaking the setup of each one, always seeking the best playability (the "action") and sound possible.  I even ordered a well known book to teach me better how to do that:  Chuck Traeger's book, Setup And Repair of the Double Bass for Optimum Sound: A Manual for Players, Makers, And Repairers.

Mastering an instrument is similar to learning a new language.  It requires immersion, study, practice, contemplation and great patience.  Zen might help too, except that it is difficult to play bass while holding the full lotus position.  

Stick with it long enough and you may come up with something like "The Abe Train" (see video below).  The Abe Train is a jazz quartet of young musicians in their twenties.  They are from the San Francisco Bay Area and damn good.  The bass player really grooves.  Use headphones so you can hear every note of their rendition of "Autumn Leaves."

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