Friday, March 30, 2012

Everything I Needed to Know about Denying Myself...

I learned from being a bass player.

Okay, maybe not everything. But more than you might think.

Ever heard the old “knock-knock” joke about bass players? You know, the one that goes, “How can you tell when a bass player is knocking on your door?” And the answer, fiendish in its cleverness: “Because he keeps speeding up!” (Insert knee-slapping, loud-guffawing response here, to encourage all the smug lead guitarists whose life ambition is to keep this joke in circulation.)

But the photo-meme in this post is more accurate than not:
  • If there is a timing problem, the traditional response is “blame the bass player.”
  • Keyboard players love to write complex symphonic arrangements that have both of their hands racing up and down (sometimes multiple) keyboards, all the while saying to the bassist, “Uh, could you just do whole notes or something?”
  • Lead guitarists complain that the bassist is “too busy”, even as they wipe blood and smoke damage off their fretboard from their latest string-stretching pyrotechnics.
    • Ever notice that nobody ever tells a keyboardist or lead guitarist: “less is more, dude”?
  • When you’re the bass player, you quickly learn that all the attention goes to the drummer. Or the lead guitarist. Maybe the hunky/gorgeous lead singer. In a pinch, the keyboardist. You get to load the gear.
  • Typically, we tend to retreat to the Lost Island of Other Bass Players, comforting ourselves with the knowledge that Geddy, Victor, or Chris would appreciate our contribution.
But seriously, folks...
It’s all about denying yourself. (Luke 9:23)
What makes a good bass player an asset to the band is their willingness (if they’re mature enough to recognize this) to serve the song, to serve the band, and to serve their band-mates.

Sometimes, that really does mean playing a minimum of notes, if the song works best that way. You don’t insist on being noticed.

And by letting the lead guitarist or keyboardist or even the drummer have the spotlight, you are allowing others to shine, while you provide the foundation for their talents to fly.

By loading the gear, while the other more prominent members of the band are signing autographs or being talked up by fans, promoters, etc., you are contributing to the mental health of the band (if you think it’s not exhausting talking to people endlessly about the same things, night after night, and then having to pack up later...)

And seriously, if the problem with the timing was your fault, own it. Crack a joke. Be the peace-keeper and set a good example of what grace under criticism pressure looks like.

And if you can do all of this without developing a smug martyrdom complex, you’ll be on the right track. :)

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