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Developing music/bass in isolation (Long)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Vynns, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. Vynns

    Vynns Guest

    May 5, 2008
    Evening all,

    A few days ago, our guitarist told me he liked my playing, because you can hear it's self-taught. Now, he didn't mean to say my playing sucks and I need to get me a teacher, but more to say my playing style is uniquely me own and not copied, borrowed, taught or stolen by/from a teacher or other bassists.

    I thanked him for the compliment (which it was) and, even though I didn't agree with him (I think I can hear the influences in my playing very clearly), I left it at that. Mostly because we were both blind drunk/stoned immaculate at the time.

    Anyhoo, when I woke up the next day (somewhere around two-ish, hehe), I got to think about his comment. He liked my sound and technique, because he percieved it as being developed in isolation, and therefore unique.

    But what if you'd expand on this concept?

    All of us have musical influences. We are born into a certain culture which has evolved, grown and changed over many, many years. Music has evolved, grown and changed together with the culture you live in and is (in my eyes at least) inseperable. And now here you are: born some years ago and listening to the music of the culture you've grown up in all your life. This affects your tastes, and thusly ('s that a word?), the way you practice music. It has a profound effect on the type of music you (want to) make, the music you like, and even your goals with that music (though, let's not go into that last one here).

    Now, think about this:

    If you take away the outside influences (The "nurture aspect") completely, what would happen? Say, for instance, you've been kidnapped at the tender age of zero, and held captive in a cell until, say, you're twenty. All that time you are denied human contact, but given what you need to survive (Food, drink and whathaveyou). That, and a nice jazz bass, and an amp. And let's say you played with that bass all the time.

    What the hell would happen? Well, you'd go batsh*t insane of course, but, apart from that. How would you emerge from that cell years later? What would your approach to bassplaying be, if you develop it in total cultural isolation?

    You could say you'd never learn to properly play the bass. Sure, the first three years you probably won't know even know that strange thing in your cell can make sound at all. But you'll figure that it eventually. After all, you'd have a lot of free time and no World of Warcraft to distract you.

    It is known that there are people - mostly tribal people - that have little communities in isolation from our modern world, who naturally find the intervals we think are pleasing to the ear (like octaves, fifths and such) really appaling. They also don't immediatly recognise the emotional content of harmonies. That is to say, they don't think of a minor chord as "sad" and so on.And these people still have communities. In our little experiment here, you've grown up without human contact whatsoever. How will you perceive music?

    This question alone is endlessly interesting. But if we take a little sidestep in our story, you'll see it is not only interesting, but empowering (God, I feel like Oprah saying that. Ew.)

    You see, not only are your musical tastes formed by your environment, but there is also a tradition of playing technique. Who but the utmost adventurous of us have incorporated techniques into their style other than fingerstyle, slapping, pickplaying or tapping? I mean, a lot of you have probably mucked about a bit, trying to get sound from your bass, (I know I have), but really develop something different? That doesn't come around very often, I believe. And this is where bass guitar (not electric bass) really should shine. But doesn't.

    The electric bassguitar is a relatively new instrument. For most other instruments, the "rules" if you will, are set. But this is a lot less true for us bassplayers, due to the youngness of the instrument. Hell, the precision was developed only what, 48 years ago? 48 years! My dad's older than that!

    Seriously consider this. Not considering the upright but the electric: We are playing an instrument that did not exist less than one generation ago. The techniques aren't established, the role in the band is (arguably) still up for debate. We are almost able to develop our instrument from scratch, and the possibilities are endless. We live in exciting times indeed.


    Hmmm... I'm really sleepy now and not sure if I make a valid point or if I'm just rambling actually. My apologies if it's the latter.
  2. santucci218


    Jan 26, 2007
    Too much of the smoking and drinking has gone to your head, haha. I dont see how we havent established the instruments role in the band, as for some players it just replaced upright, thus it took its position from upright bass. Anyways, yeah, there is a lot to develop about bass, but we are are generation doing that. its not hard to figure out what to do with it, ya know?
  3. ilovethesechord


    Jun 27, 2008
    :)Very, very, very cool idea.

    God knows what that would sound like. I'd imagine the farthest one would get would be.. Crank up the volume, lay that bass flat on the ground, and slap the **** out of it. Eventually, the person in question would begin pinching off strings at random positions, or using different body parts to hit the bass with (forearm, foot, etc)

    It would definitely be music, but what would it sound like?

    Lets say the bass was placed in standard tuning. The music would be the most grittiest sludge metal noise ever created. But what if it were tuned to an open D chord? Or even an A? Would the music sound "Happy?" "Hopefull?" Would the subject come out of the experience a happier person? AH!!! Mind Boggling!!

    The image i cant get out of my head is "August Rush."

    Only more like Gwar.
  4. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
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  5. cyrusstark


    Nov 2, 2009
    Chicago, IL
    One of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card (he writes mostly sci-fi =P ), wrote a short story similar to this general idea. I think it's called "Unaccompanied Sonata," where a boy is secluded at birth with this instrument that is capable of making a huge array of different types of sound and such, and all of his influences are from the natural world. Then people are amazed by all of the strangely unique types of music he creates. The main conflict then is that he's exposed to some classical music, and it alters his playing style enough that it's no longer pure. I haven't read it in a long time, but it's a quick read if you ever wanted to check it out. I don't think he quite gets to the same point that you are, where technique and all that is built from scratch, but it is on some imagined instrument that doesn't exist except in the story, so I guess it's just assumed. I think this is a very interesting topic, and it does make one wonder how well someone with no experience with fretting or using an amp, etc, would deal with these things given enough time. And what sort of theory they would come up with, the pleasing sounds, all that jazz. =P It also reminds me of when I went to see an Indian (from India, not Native American) group perform. Their theory is often quite different to the regular theory most people in America know, and it was a very interesting comparison. One of the most striking differences was how the audience (most of them were Indian as well) helped the musicians keep time through alternating series of hand motions. If you ever get a chance to see groups from other countries perform, I highly recommend it! It is a great chance to compare just the sorts of things you're wondering about.
  6. konodl18


    Jun 6, 2008
    *Wiping diet coke off my computer screen...


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