It’s actually not a new passion, more like the reigniting of an on again, off again love affair Ive had since early childhood. I’m referring of course to the bass guitar, or for that matter any other heavy string instrument.
My introduction into the world of making music actually began at the age of 8. My weapon of choice, the trumpet. Not really sure why I chose that instrument, or if I was even inspired by any of the brass greats of the era, but I know I liked it enough to stick with it for a full 3 years. I actually got pretty good at it too, playing the lead position in the School band and even winning a few competitions. It was a pretty sweet gig, playing my little Al Hirt solos at the school talent shows, but just as I’m getting ready to graduate into the 6th grade, the Beatles happened and everything changed. Suddenly it wasn’t cool to play the trumpet anymore.
Other than the Beach Boys, the Beatles were the first modern rock band I had ever heard who harmonized their vocals. I really didn’t even know what harmony was back then, but when I heard that 3rd Yeah, Yeah..YEAH(a G6th chord btw) on “She loves you yeah yeah yeah”, I was totally hooked! I would find myself searching out keys on the piano trying to recreate those wonderful harmonic combinations, known as chords. I was starting to discover that there were more components to a song than just the melody. There was rhythm and this thing cool thing called bass. Sure, Id seen an Acoustic upright bass before, there was one in our school band, but it wasn’t until I saw Paul McCartney playing that violin shaped electric bass guitar of his, that I knew that this was the instrument I wanted to play.
From that moment on, it seemed like no matter what song I would listen to, my brain would zero in on the bass line. My brain was like a bass filter.
I spent a good part of teenage years in search of my very own bass guitar. We were extremely poor and asking my parents for another instrument was totally out of question. I think I finally managed to obtain one before I turned 18, but it wasn’t until I was 24 or 25 that I actually took my first formal bass lesson. Even though I had messed around and taught myself how to play a quite a few things over the years, I wanted to learn to sight read. I had always admired those studio musicians I worked with during my sound engineering days for their ability to read and play any type of music put in front of them. So I signed up for lessons at the local music store. I already knew how to read the treble clef on the trumpet and the entire musical range on the piano, how hard could it be to learn to play the bass clef on a 4 string instrument? Wow, plenty hard, that’s how hard. Unlike the trumpet or piano, there are several ways to play the same note on a guitar. It took me about a year of lessons before I could sight read even slowly.
I was very self-conscience about jamming with strangers, which is basically what you do when you learn to play the bass at a school, and eventually I just didn’t go to class anymore. For the next couple of years I would keep up with the bass mostly as a hobby, but as time went by and the demands of making a living caught up with me, and I was playing it less and less until eventually I quit all together and sold my guitar. Over the next 3 decades I would occasionally try to start over, but each time I would get frustrated with my progress and quit again. I fell into that trap of believing I was too old to do the things that I really loved and did well when I was in my youth.
Then just this last spring it came to me. I knew my lung disease was getting too severe to do anymore marathons,so why not focus my enormous capacity for learning and my love for a good challenge into something I’m really passionate about, but something that’s less physically demanding. Hmmmmm let’s see, what could that be? Duh, you stupid idiot. How about picking up the bass again??? But will I ever be good at it? Who the heck cares. I don’t plan to make a living from it, I’ll do it because I love the instrument and I love to play.
So here’s to the next chapter. If I can achieve on bass what Ive achieved with my walking, I’ll probably be one heck of a good bass player. Old man or not.