Stand[ing]-Up Bass

How you stand greatly affects how you practice and perform bass

standupbassAs I mentioned in my September newsletter, I was recently involved in a recording session, with several weeks of 3-hour rehearsals. Unlike the other instruments in the big band, I had to spend all that time on my feet. In spite of a mildly humiliating, pre-rehearsal stretching routine, I’d still end up with my feet, legs, and back aching. While my yoga practice has allowed me to stand up and play bass for much longer than before (a combination of proper alignment and equal weight distribution), I was clearly still struggling.

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The Five Levels of Practice

5levelsFive seems to be the magic number for me. As of now, I’ve narrowed my professional focus to five areas: gigs, ensembles, lessonscourses, and blogging. On the one hand, I’ve been unwittingly honing my focus in performance and teaching to almost exclusively jazz (a process that deserves its own post, being as I all but abandoned this career path almost a decade ago). On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about how to expand the focus of my writing to encompass many different forms of practice.

To that end, I have identified five basic levels of practice. To a certain extent, each of these levels builds on the previous. I’ve arranged them from most fundamental to most complex. Obviously, many activities encompass multiple levels of practice.

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Practice Makes [Better]

As I wrote in a previous post, last week I had my car stolen. My car was finally recovered on Monday. The whole process was incredibly exhausting and overwhelming – although I did receive some twisted pleasure from my torn apart car (I could tell that the frustrated thief had clearly discovered that he’d risked jail time for access to pennies and years-old foodstuffs under my car seats). My mechanic discovered a bunch of problems with the car – it’s likely that some are the result of the theft, while others are merely a byproduct of the car having 200K miles on it. Because I don’t want to invest an insurance deductible’s worth of money into my current car, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will keep working until I scrounge up the money to get a slightly newer car.

The most frustrating part dealing with the theft was that it disrupted several professional projects. However, now that the dust is starting to settle, I’m realizing that this experience helped me to gain maturity, clarity, and – strangely enough – happiness. After I finished my “different hats roll call” series before the theft, I still felt unsure about how to integrate all of my diverse interests. I knew that I wanted to focus on bass and music (particularly U.S. music) as areas of expertise, but wasn’t sure about the meta-level of my foci. I wanted to figure out an area of focus that was applicable not just to non-bassists, but to non-musicians.

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So Your Car’s Been Stolen and You Need to Get to Your Gig…

This nightmare-inducing scene happened to me. Here’s what to do if it happens to you.

dwmcAre you a gigging musician with an instrument or rig that requires a car to transport? If you’re reading this now, I want you to stop reading, go make sure your car is parked where you left it, and if so, do the following: remove any and all instruments, music stands, music folders (lest $500 worth of hand-copied music end up in a Jack-in-the-Box dumpster somewhere), and anything else of remote value – spare car insurance cards, parking receipts you need to save for tax-deductions, etc. Get in the habit of this – never leave any gear in the car at any time NO EXCEPTIONS! About 3 months ago, I had the good sense to implement this policy and it made getting my car stolen a pretty major nuisance, but not a huge devastation.

Here’s the thing that I didn’t realize: no matter how crappy my car looks, no matter how much of it is held together with duct-tape, no matter how many gigs I do that I’m mortified to be seen with it – to some people, it looks like a convenient, luxurious carriage fit for a king to shoot up in or hit up the local am-pm. Fun fact: according to the po-po, cars made before 1999 are waaaaay easier to break into. Since the majority of working musicians I know drive cars old enough to be attending college, I figure this is helpful information to know.

So hypothetical scenario: let’s say you’re loading up your gear for a gig that starts in about an hour. You get outside and go to where you last parked and your car’s not there. Here’s what you do:

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LP Stitch: Grace

  1. Jeff Buckley, GraceI finally finished my LP stitch of Jeff Buckley’s Grace! The final product is – like its inspiration – devastatingly beautiful. It also got me reading the 33 1/3 series volume by Daphne Brooks (who I’ve worked with on a conference panel before and is absolutely awesome!). It’s given me a major bug to get back to writing about pop music (and to read every single volume in the 100+ book 33 1/3 series). Expect things to get a little more pop-music-focused around here…
  2. I was featured in an alumni spotlight at my alma mater, College of DuPage. The spotlight incorporates an interview I did three months ago with the biography I gave 6+ months ago for this talk. In true millennial fashion, my professional plans have since been majorly altered or modified. That said, I really enjoyed returning to COD to give my talk and was flattered to be profiled.  A lot of who I am today was shaped by my time there (in a very good way) – as is hopefully evident by my interview.