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Challenging Gigs--go for it or wait 'til I'm "ready"?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by winston, Jan 22, 2004.

  1. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I'm currently at a point (after being out of the scene for a few years) where I'm itching to get out gigging. I'm letting all my friends (musician and non) know that I'm available for just about any serious playing situation, paying or not, so I can get my name out there. I'm into Latin, jazz, reggae, hip-hop, rock, funk, blues--anything with soul and feeling.

    I'm honest about my skills on DB. I've been playing it about 6 months after 17 years on electric. Of all the instruments I've ever played (quite a few) I feel like DB comes most naturally--I can play with good tone and intonation pretty easily, and I'm inspired by the creative possibilities of the instrument.

    At the same time, I've barely explored thumb position, I've got a long way to go toward arco mastery, and my walking bass skills are not yet top notch. I think I've got a good melodic sense but my technical abilities are not particularly impressive. I worked with a teacher for much of last year but now I'm in the process digesting what I was taught before going back for more.

    Lately I've been answering classified ads and I'm starting to encounter opportunities that match my ambitions (playing real jazz with serious musicians for $$$, among other things) if not my current skill level. I don't want to sell myself short but I also don't want to get into situations where I'll blow my chances of getting known on the scene.

    However, I know (from the times I have been lucky enough to play with 1st-rate musicians) that nothing makes you improve quicker than playing with people better than you.

    I'm not looking to be convinced of any particular course of action, just kinda thinking out loud and wanting to hear others' experiences. Thanks.
  2. In my somewhat limited experience, bass players don't get hired because they can play in thumb position or do an arco solo or play as fast as John Pattitucci. They get hired because a)they have good time b)they can lock in with a drummer to create a good groove and, c)they know a LOT of tunes, or they have good enough ears to be able to pick up tunes quickly (good intonation helps, too).

    If you feel pretty solid in these areas, you're ready to get out there and start doing it. As for walking lines, I never knew anybody who learned this without the benefit of being in an actual playing situation, either in school, jam sessions, or just on the job. If you've got your time down and can at least play an outline of the chord, they'll forgive you for not sounding like Ray Brown (who could, anyway?).
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    "Risk is what moves all of us forward. If you are playing in your comfort zone, that ain't jazz." -- Herbie Hancock

    Go have fun, hombre.
  4. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    I think there are 3 levels to gigsmanship, regardless of instrument:
    1. The loose cannon: has a fair chance of butchering alot of the music.
    2. He can hang: this player, though not amazing, can support most situations S/he is dropped into with confidence.
    3. Smokin': this cat gets paid double scale.

    It sounds like you're a #2 on DB right now, go play!

  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    My thoughts:

    1. Arco is not required for jazz gigs unless it's a Slam Stewart tribute gig.

    2. I just saw Charlie Haden playing in a duo with Kenny Barrron so he soloed a LOT. He never once went into thumb position. Besides you don't have to solo on EVERY tune.

    3. As far as walking if you can outline the chords with a strong time pulse you'll be fine.
  6. SleeperMan2000


    Jul 31, 2002
    Cary NC
    This question was specifically for Gigs, but what about open sessions at jazz clubs? If you are somewhere between a "loose cannon" and one who could "hang", would you be better off staying in the audience or should you go for stand and work your way up to hanging?

    A club just opened here in Raleigh, NC which hosts open sessions on Tuesdays. I'm a little intimidated, but attracted because the "challenge" of it always pushes me to be a better player.

    Obviously the answer is to go check out the scene and see how friendly it is. You would think the more in the scene the better, especially in a small city. But I'm looking for any general tips on how to behave and approach open sessions.

  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I think as long as you are cool and respectful with your fellow players, honest about your limitations and communicate your desire to be better, most all other musicians will enjoy and appreciate playing with you.

    As you mentioned, it all depends on the scene. We have a local "acoustic" session at my town's art center every other Wednesday. If you walk into that place with an instrument, you'll be mugged by friendly people. Other places may not be so receptive.

    In fact, IME, many will also impart much of their own knowledge and experience, making the time even more valuable.

    If you butcher a tune then look at the pianist with the "who farted?" face, you may not get many calls.
  8. SleeperMan2000


    Jul 31, 2002
    Cary NC

    If you butcher a tune then look at the pianist with the "who farted?" face, you may not get many calls.

    Priceless advice! I'm ready to go now. I've had that look in my repetoire way too long now.


    Seriously, thanks. I think I'll head on down there next week.
  9. I say go for it. Arco and Thumb position, as mentioned earlier, shouldnt really be determining factors. Walking lines will only improve with time and experience.

    throughout my gigging and playing experiences I've learned (among other things) to turn it down, and also to know my role as a bass player, and not goof around too much or play alot of frivolous (sp?) notes, depending on the situation of course. So I guess my advice would be to present yourself as reserved, but confident. There are more qualities to musicianship than sheer technical ability.

    And now I'm at the point where people are telling me to turn it up and dig in more (which could mean one and the same thing...) Which is a definite confident booster.

    Sidenote: turn it down, because it was too loud, not bad playing or the like..
  10. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    I like virtually all of the feedback above. I say go for it. One safe play is to ask for an audition before the gig. That way everybody knows what they are getting into beforehand and the worst thing that could happen to you is that you make some friends and learn specifically what you need to work on.
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I strongly disagree. I feel that the reasons you list here are the main reason my phone rings, and the main reason I work as much as I do. I wouldn't dream of going out on a gig unless I could play in thumb position as fast as Pattitucci.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY



    coughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcough coughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcoughcough ...HAAAAAACK!!! ...coughcoughcough coughcoughcoughcoughcoughcough coughcoughcoughcoughcough....



    I say go for it!
  13. I've been playing electric for nine years and have switched to double 3 months ago - did my first jazz gig a couple of weeks ago and even got a couple of solos! It was the best gig I have ever done. Just Do It - it will work out fine. I had the time of my life.
  14. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    in my experience those who wait until they're ready, are never ready. i've seen actors take classes for years (so they'd be "ready") and wind up as stage managers. i've seen bands rehearse endlessly, and either never perform, or fall on their faces when they do and then hit the rehearsal studio for another 2 years. i don't play standup, but i've i've played enough electric and other instruments to know that one gig that's out of my league is worth years practice in my house.

    i've also learned (or at least believe for myself) that falling on one's face is something someone needs to do and get comfortable with. it's the only way i know of to learn to do it gracefully :D .

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