Planting the Seeds

So I’m sure that the dozen or so people that have regularly visited this website have been rather shocked to find my usual regularly scheduled blogs lacking for the past couple of months. Well, it’s easy to find out the where and why, so here we go!

Bass Musician Magazine: I’m still writing monthly articles for Bass Musician Magazine and receiving some great feedback from that. My latest series, Tales from the Pit, has gotten a lot of interest from fellow musicians and I really enjoy talking shop with other folk who’ve played some of the same shows, and yet had completely different experiences.

Seymour Duncan: I was approached by the fine people at Seymour Duncan in the beginning of February to see if I’d be willing to start writing for them as well, as they were looking to create some bass-related content. So far it’s been a more structured process than BMM, but I enjoy it quite a bit. I only have a couple of articles thus far (to see them, please click here), but have a number of exciting articles in the works.

Phil Jones Bass: About the same time as the SD contact, I was also approached by Phil Jones (yep, THAT Phil Jones) of Phil Jones Bass asking if I’d be interested in writing press releases and other things for them. Being an enthusiastic endorsing artist, I gladly accepted and have started work on writing releases, creating lists of contacts and creating relationships with those contacts. We’ll see what all transpires with this, but as of now it’s very challenging and exciting.

So, that brings us back to here, which as many have probably noticed is not nearly as regularly scheduled as per previous. At some point, I knew that this would happen as I started taking on these other projects. But, that was the goal; the hope was that by sharing all of my information and knowledge on this site that maybe, just maybe, some seeds would be planted and that someone would say “You know, we need to get them onboard” or “We could use some of that knowledge here.”

That’s what has happened, and that’s what will continue to happen as I plant more seeds. But that’s the thing: you HAVE to plant those seeds. And like any good farmer, you need to know that not all seeds will bear fruit and some years will be rougher than others. But still, you have to plant those seeds. Because if you don’t, nothing will happen.

Take that chance. The worst thing that will happen is nothing, at which point the journey itself will give you plenty of experience to get back up and plant again.

Jaco Only Needed Four Strings

Chances are, you’ve stumbled upon this comment on forums. If you are like me, you get a little surprised at the comment itself, or the way that people seem to hide behind it, thinking that an innovator like Jaco would be that close-minded. Anyway, without getting too much into it, here is my retort.

We Three Kings – Solo Bass

A quick solo arrangement of the traditional Christmas tune. Contact me if you’d like a PDF copy of the song, in notation and tab.

Review: GHS Pressurewound Flats

While talking with Chris from GHS Strings in May, he mentioned that I should look into doing a video review on strings. Thinking this would be a good challenge, I took on the task of making one.

The biggest thing I needed to do was find out what was missing from the current bevy of YouTube videos with guys reviewing strings. To do this, I took some time to watch a lot of videos myself, but also utilize some musician forums that I frequent and ask the members there what they would want to see in a string demo. The general consensus of what I discovered is below.

Focus on the Strings, not the Player: Seems easy enough, right? Surprisingly, the bulk of ANY review that I’ve found online has dealt more with the musician flaunting their skills over showcasing the product(s).

String tone and longevity: Many of us know that strings, once they break in and have been used a while, will change tonally somewhat. Since this is usually where the string sits for the bulk of its life, many people wanted to hear that sound. Others like me that enjoy that “new string snap” of strings, want to know how they will sound out of the box.

With all of that in mind, you have this video. I hope this video shows you enough of the strings that you can easily hear how these may sound on your personal bass. If you have any questions regarding these, feel free to contact me; I’d love to hear from you.

BMM: Am I Calling It In?

Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Bass Musician Magazine

My grandfather said that “you can learn something from everyone, even if it’s what NOT to do” and it seems that whenever I forget this saying of his, it finds a way into my life. The latest instance of this was when I was doing some research for some upcoming articles (which let me tell you, I’m getting very excited about). A colleague and close friend wrote to me – in response to a question I had – that ”two-three hours of focusing on just music is a rare gift that we have.” It resonated with me for about a day, coming to a head during a double gig last night.

How many times are we just “calling it in,” and going through the motions over being totally committed to the task at hand? As a freelance musician, I wind up playing a lot of music that other musicians may lift their noses at, citing that it’s either below them or not something they want to play. Oftentimes the money is very good, but I also love jumping into a situation where I’m not that familiar in an effort to expand my knowledge base and learn some new things that may work their way subconsciously into my playing at a later date. I attack these new gigs with an open mind and willingness to learn from the more seasoned musicians in this field.

However, what about those other gigs that are “old hat?” To date, in the past seven years I’ve done 79 theatre productions at a variety of venues in and around the surrounding area. Very little surprises me anymore and I end up playing with many of the same musicians. But after my friend’s comment, I felt grandpa’s words sink in and I had to ask the question of myself.

Am I calling it in?

I’ve said it just now; very little surprises me anymore in the theatre realm. But I have to wonder if I’m subconsciously just putting myself on auto-pilot when playing a show, knowing that there is a clear roadmap in front of me, and while it IS live theatre, many of the productions I work with are top notch, eliminating any real possibility of a train wreck onstage. There is a clear and definite disconnect between the pit orchestra and the crowd (you can certainly hear them, but it’s not the same as when you’re the band they’re coming to see). That is still no excuse to present your best foot forward, and be completely present and in the moment.

As said previously, music is a rare gift that we have. How many of our friends and family are just in awe that we can play an instrument that looks completely foreign to them? We shouldn’t take this for granted, no matter how simple, easy, or “old hat” the gig is. We should approach every gig like it’s our first one, with that excitement of trying something new and the open mind to be in the moment and learn from everyone that’s performing with you. We deserve to present our best, to the people paying us (obviously), but more importantly to the crowd coming to see us, the other musicians we’re in the trenches with, but lastly ourselves.

No one likes to finish a gig and say “Eh, it was alright.” Take the time to approach everything with complete focus, and you might find out that the person that is teaching you what NOT to do was the person in the mirror. Have a great month, and feel free to share your thoughts with me on Twitter at @monjoody.

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