There are times when I look at my bass and wonder: “How the heck do I play that thing?”. I then pack up my gear, head to one of my regular jams, and still I pound out some decent bass lines. I’ll never be as good as Geddy Lee or Bruce Thomas, but I’m doing fine, and getting better each time out.
Back when I was young, I took piano lessons. I hated it! Later, in my teens, I tried my hand at guitar. While I was more motivated to practice, it never really stuck at the time, and I stopped playing. Fast forward to 2007 when I turned 50. That December, Sylvana asked me (as she usually does) what I wanted for Christmas. I said that I wanted a ukulele. After all, at the time, the ukulele had been gaining in popularity, and I was indeed curious. She did get me one, and I loved it! I had finally truly discovered the joy of making music.
Over time, my collection of ukuleles grew, and I branched out into other instruments, including banjo, and more recently, bass. I’ve found that choice of instrument is important in maintaining an interest in making music. Ukulele, in particular, is a wonderful introductory instrument since it doesn’t take a lot of practice to get it to sound like it’s supposed to. But with practice you can still do a lot of interesting things with it. And while I learned a bit of music theory during those painful piano lessons, ukulele can help bring the music theory into a practical focus.
Likewise, when learning bass, I started with a Gold Tone Micro-bass. Although it’s bigger than a typical U-bass, the M-bass is sometimes classified as a bass ukulele. The M-bass is a lot of fun and easy to play. In fact, I was jamming with it after just six days of practice.
This Summer, I’ve been making an effort to learn how to play the full-size, solid-body bass guitar by borrowing instruments from Joe’s MILL. Since the M-bass is so much easier to play, I tended to grab that first when practicing and jamming. However, an accident with my M-bass forced me to bring my borrowed Yamaha to a jam, and I managed fine with it. The full-sized instrument has additional challenges in technique, mainly in the realm of limiting fret noises and muting the unplayed strings. But once I broke the ice with that first jam, I’ve been jamming mainly with the Yamaha since then.
(When I return my borrowed Yamaha to the MILL, I’ll probably buy a Yamaha bass. Of the basses I’ve borrowed this Summer, I like this particular instrument the best. It feels right and play well. From what I’ve read, the Yamaha’s are considered very good value.)
My point in this tome is that, while I’ve been making music now for almost a dozen years, I still sometimes find it hard to call myself a “musician”. Some artists describe the creative process as if there were some supernatural spirit controlling them. And sometimes I too feel like it’s not really me playing an instrument. But that ignores the dozen years of experience and practice I’ve gone through. I’m fundamentally a lazy person, though, and I have difficulty focusing on things that I don’t enjoy doing. But I enjoy making music. What I’ve done over the past dozen years doesn’t seem like practice at all since it’s been so much fun.
With what I can now do with ukulele, banjo, and now bass, there’s no reason now for me to avoid saying this: I am a musician.