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Frustration!

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by DryDrunk, Nov 21, 2002.


  1. Steve, Michael, how's it going? Lately, I've been feeling like I'm not improving as a musician. I'm in a real slump. I think it may be due to an unproductive practice routine. Any advice on theory books, exercises, routines, etc., would be greatly appreciated. You both are incredible bassists, which is why I'm asking for your help. Thanks in advance guys.
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi,

    first thing - don't stress over it, you'll just make it worse - we all go through crap patches in our playing and motivational stuff... it's just part of the territory. Sometimes it's just your brain taking time out to assimilate stuff that you've picked up but not really taken on board. Other times it can be non-musical distractions cause a lack of focus, and sometimes it's just as simple as not knowing where to go next...

    So here's a few rut bustin' suggestions...

    1) take a lesson - even if you have regular lessons, it can sometimes be good to find someone else to give you a different perspective. find someone who has something specific in their playing you want to have a go at, and talk to them about it.

    2) find someone new to play with - not a whole new band, just a duo with guitar/piano/sax/whatever - work on some music you've never played before, get them to show you their thing and see if there's anything new for you in there...

    3) work out some stuff you've never played before. Whether you write it out or not is not the point here (transcribing is a great exercise, but it's not required to get benefit from working something out...) - just to get some ideas from someone else. Extra points for working something out that wasn't played on bass...

    4)set yourself a task - ie. write a one minute long solo tune that would sound out of place in a wedding band... :) or find a slap sound that would fit in a country set up... or play a johnny cash tune in the style of primus... whatever it is, it's all about getting you to think in a different way - it can be as specific or as abstract as you like, just think differently!

    5) - get a book - I'm a big fan of books about music rather than books of music - try The Inner Game Of Music by Barry Green, Improvisation by Derek Bailey, or Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner.

    6) spend a load of money on CDs you wouldn't normally listen to - email 5 musical friends and ask them to recommend one CD that you don't own but really ought to. Get them and learn something from them..

    how's that lot :D

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. Thank you, Steve, for the wonderful input. I'll make it a priorty to try those suggestions, exluding suggestion #1. It may seem hard to imagine, but the only music lessons I know of in my area are piano lessons. I live in a very small town in eastern Kentucky, leaving me almost no musical resources as far as lessons go. Books have been the foundation of my playing. I will be sure to check out those books you mentioned! Thanks again.
     
  4. Not to hijack DryDrunk's thread, but... :D

    What does Bailey talk about in his book? His music is incredibly intimidating to me and I'd love to figure out some of his methods, just so I'm not always saying "what the hell?" when I try to listen to his music.
     
  5. hey guys
    not that i'm in any kind of slump or anything (far from it) but sometimes if i don't pick up my bass for 2 days or so, then pick it up, it feels that little bit more refreshing.
    *Si*
     
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Pete,

    Derek's book has very few specifics about his own spikey weirdness (maybe that's a good thing) - it's basically a set of observations and interviews relating to the broader practice of improv in music, including interviews with Steve Howe, Jerry Garcia, Gavin Bryers, an Indian musician... very very interesting conceptual stuff...

    I find almost all of Bailey's stuff that I've heard completely unlistenable. I went to hear him in concert a couple of years ago, with a DJ and a lap-top manipulator, and it went so far over my head it was scraping the clouds... Interestingly even The Wire magazine said they thought it was a dreadful gig, so it wasn't just me then... ;)

    still, his book is fascinating

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  7. chris griffiths

    chris griffiths

    Aug 20, 2002
    nashville tn
    Endorsing artist: Gallien Krueger
    you could also set yourself a challenge in the spirit of Mike Keneally. tune the bass to random notes and then try to make melody out of the mystery tuning. find the smallest quality of the bass and try to exploit it for the max amount of sound like a tone knob you know play with it on every setting, middle setting, Micro setting. You know anthony jackson has no knobs on his bass? he changes his tone and everything just with the movement of his fingers and the depth of his pluck



    Also check a book called standing in the shadows of motown it's awesome. and if all else fails use my shop teachers technique. cut off one of your fingers to gain a new perspective on the bass...
    *Caution: cutting off your fingers would be dumb and is this writers lame attempt at a joke because he likes the sound of his own voice*
     
  8. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Everyone here has offered great suggestions, so I can only support what's already been said. Please don't beat yourself up over it -- everyone has creative ups and downs. Do consider looking for inspiration in other areas of your life. Sometimes it's a good idea to put down the bass and spend time with interesting people, go to interesting places, read a book, go to a movie, museum or just take a walk. In my opinion, music should be about life and having motivating things going on in your life helps you make more engaging music.
     
  9. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    DryDrunk, I understand how you are feeling. I get frustrated many times.

    You say your practice routine is unproductive. That's a clear sign to make up a different, more challenging practice routine.

    Ruts, creative slumps, what-have-you are usually a sign that you need a new challenge. And the best thing is: they don't last. You may think at the time that you'll never come out of it, but then a new day comes as they say. When I need some inspiration I listen to other musicians of course. But I also look to other forms of art: Paintings and atmospheric movies are my favorites. I also look to nature and the universe. Nature always has the answer.

    I like this quote from a book that I have describing steps on The Development of Intuition (great for inspiration): "Take in more and more. Expand in time, with the knowledge of hundreds of millions of years, of light years, to the nearest star. Then move through space from earth to the sun, and thence from solar system to solar system till the brain reels and the very stars go wheeling round the sky...". It always opens up my mind to new possibilites and creations.

    Hope this helps :)
    Stephanie
     
  10. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks, Stephanie. Great ideas!
     
  11. chris griffiths

    chris griffiths

    Aug 20, 2002
    nashville tn
    Endorsing artist: Gallien Krueger
    Hey drydrunk. why don't you go see that movie standing in the shadows of motown? that oughtta offer a little inspiration.
     
  12. xtian

    xtian

    Jul 13, 2000
    Budapest, Hungary
    One very simple thing I have done to get out of ruts in the past was to simply practice somewhere else!

    I have a headphone amp (Walter Harley's wonderful Cafe Walter HA-1), and I will go out into a park, or on the mountain, or into the back of a cafe somewhere. With the headphones on I don't bother anyone, and being in a different place dramatically changes the way I play.

    It may seem silly, but I suggest you try it. You will be surprised!

    - Christian
    Budapest, Hungary