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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



A questionaire…

December 7th, 2004 | No Comments | Categories: Uncategorized |

I quite often get sent mini-interviews by students studying music who are doing a project on solo bass. Here’s the latest one – feel free to add to it over in the forum…

1) What is the biggest problem with young (18-30) bass players? What is the main obsticle that hinders young players from becoming well rounded musicians?

I think the biggest single factor is the shift in the west towards a culture of immediacy. Closely followed by the cult of celebrity. Becoming a ‘well rounded musician’ requires years of dedicated and focussed practice, a lot of unglamourous work, crappy gigs, rehearsing, jamming, mistakes, expense, lessons, books etc. Before you really get anywhere. There are no shortcuts, and there’s no ‘secret’ to it. It just takes effort.

Couple that with the tendency with the entertainment industry to value celebrity over integrity, fame over talent and exposure over experience, and you’ve got yourself an uphill struggle to ignore all the millions of distractions and do the work required, then keep doing it, never stop learning. That’s tough.

2) What do you see as the future of solo bass?

I think the music made on bass will continue to develop as more people see past the restrictions of the ‘function of the bass player in a band’ and see it as an instrument full of unexplored potential. The bass guitar has very few fixed physical properties in terms of what’s possible design-wise with the classification ‘bass guitar’ – and those limits are always expanding. I think we’re going to see a lot more hybrid instruments that go beyond the standard divisions between guitar, bass and other stringed instruments.

3) When you pushing the musical envelope on bass, are you thinking musicality or “is this even possible to do on bass”?

The purpose of pushing the envelope is to find the music that’s behind the limitations… pushing limitations is fun, but unless the quest is meaningful music, it doesn’t really hold that much interest for me. I love working on new ways to access sound, process sound and peform music on the bass, and seeing what new textures, sounds, ideas, and compositional processes are facilitated by that exploration.

4) What is the average time you put in per week for practicing?

Not enough. I guess it ranges from about 6 hours up to about 20 hours, depending on what else I’ve got going on…

5) Who has been the single most influential player for you musically?

Michael Manring. As much conceptually as sonically. The feeling of reading an article by someone who was able to articulate a lot of the thoughts I’d had and was already forging ahead exploring that territory gave me a lot of encouragement to head down a similar path. Our music doesn’t really sound all that similar, but the thought process behind it shares a lot of territory.

6) Why do you push yourself musically? What drives you to expand your musicality?

All sorts of things – boredom and frustration are great motivators, as is the need to come up with new material for different projects. Hearing new things that move me and trying to conjure up the same emotions in my own music is a big one for me. Lots of things outside music inspire me to play – nature, cities, people, relationships, faith – big things, small things. There’s a corresponding soundtrack to most of life’s events, and I’m perpetually exploring that space.

Soundtrack – Paul Simon, ‘Hearts And Bones'; Paul Simon, ‘One Trick Pony'; Bill Frisell, ‘Blues Dream'; Wheeler/Konitz/Holland/Frisell, ‘Angel Song'; Theo Travis, ‘Earth To Ether’.

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