Pages

Saturday, August 02, 2014

How To Play The Bass. Lesson One: Don't Play The Bass, You Idiot, Play Something Else


[Editor's Note: Written in December of 2008 and never used, then recycled twice. Not sure why]
Author's Note: Don't ask me; I just write the stuff. There is no editor]

Play That Fonkee Music, White Boy

I (used to) play the electric bass. It's not a bass guitar, although everyone calls it that. There actually is an instrument called a "bass guitar." It has six strings and is tuned lower than a regular guitar, but it's not a bass. A bass is that doghouse with the four strings. The electric kind hangs on your neck and gives you a bad back (left side), deafness, and a couple hundred bucks a night for as many nights as you'll show up, because every other person in the world is an unemployed guitar player. Own a bass and you'll always work.

That's what my brother told me all those years ago. He actually knows how to play the thing properly. Everything I learned about it he taught me in one afternoon in his freezing cold, decidedly downscale apartment in Providence RI. I never had to learn anything other than what he taught me that day, and I've forgot half of that, and I could still work every night if I wanted to. I don't. No one owns one, shows up, and plays bass -- instead of monkeying around like the guitar player they wish they were on the wrong part of the neck.

But you need bass lessons, and I'm busy and don't know how to play, and my brother's busy and in lives in LA, so we're stuck with YouTube. I'll teach you everything you need to know, right now.

The Blues Is A Chair. Sit On It First

You have to play the blues first. It's easy. Just shut the hell up and never venture past the fifth fret. There are only three chords, and if you play with John Lee Hooker he's not even interested in all three of those; I did, and he wasn't. Muddy Waters will show you how:



That's the first song I played for money three days after my lesson. I stunk, but everybody else did too, but they practiced so they had no excuse. The audience was drunk, what difference did it make?


Movin' On Up To Interstellar Blues

You can actually practice, and you can hang all sorts of musical drapes on that framework. Like Miles Davis' friend Paul Chambers. This song is a mere bagatelle; hell, two or three cloned kids can play it.




Next Up: Gigging At Bob's Country Bunker

But you're a hack whitebread dude. You gotta eat too. Duck Dunn will show you the way to play in barbands where the all the fights are merry and the dancing is violent:



This Is Where Those Tuba Lessons In Fourth Grade Really Pay Off

Nuffin' to it. But what if you want to play pop music? Well, it's really just tuba parts from the music hall. Macca gets it.



He sings OK, too. Remember, no matter how bad you sing, make sure there's a microphone in front of you or you'll make less money than the other guys. Even Ringo figured that out eventually.

Now It's Time To Join The Chest Hair Club For Men

But you need rock music, too. The thudding kind, not the Beatles kind. You only need to learn one song --any song-- by any one of a dozen bands with guys that go to Chest Hair Club for Men. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd; makes no nevermind. This is as good as any:


At The Session, They Said Play Like James Jamerson. So I Left

If you want to play like a real bass player, you'll have to devote your life to figuring out what the hell got into James Jamerson to make him play like that on all those Motown records. Good luck. How Einstein came up with the special theory of relativity is an easier poser.



Got all that? Me neither. I used to try to play like 10 percent of that and had to sing over it, too. The seizures are getting better, now.

Reggae: The Audience Is Blitzed, They'll Never Notice If You Don't Play On The One

Reggae bass playing is easy. Just play like James Jamerson, only backwards.


I Know What Boys Like. I Know What Guys Want. And I Don't Care

But you've got to learn one lesson, and learn it fast: Girls don't want any of that. They want to dance, and they don't want it too sophisticated. This was the National Anthem of girls in a tube top right up to the present day: Easy, too. The song, I mean:


See, even Helen Reddy will have an extra sloe gin fizz and get jiggy when that's going on.

Now You're Ready To Enter The Leo Fender Memorial Couch Surfing Pageant

There you have it. You're qualified to make a crummy living from 8 PM to 3 AM three nights a week and two weddings a month. Hope your girlfriend has a comfortable couch.

What's that? Country music? Which country? Our country? Don't bother. There's only two notes, and neither is all that compelling.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unless you're Steve Harris

chasmatic said...

A lot of the blues I heard during the early sixties back in Chicago featured Willie Dixon on bass and Otis Spann on piano. Chess Records.

Anonymous said...

Maggie sent me over....I'll just leave this here.....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFgFFNXahcg