How do you approach creativity?

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by ras1983, Jul 8, 2005.

  1. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    hey guys; i have only been playing for a year, but i find it very difficult to be creative/spontaneous in creating my own bass lines. (i'm not talking about soloing, just creating original basslines).

    I have always believed that what sets pros apart from amatuers is the creativity pros can conjure up to create original work. Mates, how do you go about increasing creativity, creating original ideas and then perform what you can hear in your head?

    Thanks Steve and Mike;

    Ray. :)
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Personally, for me, not claiming to be a pro or anything, but for me. I spent a long time studying the technical aspects of the instrument. I learned how to really have a handle on my ax, with fairly extensive knowledge of as many 'techniques' as I could muster. When I first started learning all that, it was for largely the wrong reasons, I wanted to be able to play flashy stuff like wooten or claypool or manring...etc. However, as I progressed as a player, I realized that this study of technique was vital in that, it gave me a level of control that enabled me to not have to worry so much about whether or not I "could" play something. It opened a lot of doors for me and it became more about whether or not I "should" play something ;)

    Once at that point, my creativity flourished. When I no longer had to worry about whether or not I could keep the strings down, I have be able to more thoroughly and creatively explore the instrument.

    Of course, I would never claim to have mastered any techniques or any aspect of the bass really, but, of what I have done, the results I've seen are none too shabby.

    Aside from that, you've only been playing ~1 year. I've been playing for nearly 8, michael and steve have been playing longer than dirt. Some things just take time. As you become more aware of music in general(not just through the bass) and as you open your ears and let everything in, you can only stand to improve all aspects of your playing, from creativity to execution.
  3. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    so you're saying that by parcticing and becoming proficient enough with different techniques, you could focus on the 'creative' side of music without worrying about having the ability to technically pull it off?

    i.e. knowing you can pluck at 300 bpm (for example) and being able to stretch 4 to 5 frets has allowed you to put what you hear in your mind into your fingers and ultimately your bass with greater ease and effiecency?
  4. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Well, not exactly, the goal is not "oh I can pluck at 300 bpm woohoo" it's to obtain a level of control over the instrument where you feel confident and comfortable executing whatever it is you hear in your head.

    Technique is just a means to an end, all the various ways you can play the bass, muting techniques, slapping, tapping, strumming, plucking, thumbing...etc. they are just different ways to hit the string they don't dictate your musicality any more than the bass itself does. The music comes from inside, but if you don't know how to speak, then how are you going to say anything?
  5. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    What do you normally do to create your own original work. is there a certain way that you get inspired, do you go for long walks, do you just listen to music? its easy to copy and emulate other musicians, but its unbelievably difficult to create my own niche. that's what i'm struggling with, i know i haven't been playing for long, but i feel like i should start working on my creativity now, so i can just weave it in with the technical things i am learning.

    Thanks. :)
  6. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Well, if there is one thing I've never really struggled with, it was creativity. I don't mean to brag or anything, but I've never had a problem creating new material that is radically different from anything I've ever made.

    In fact, I should note, that the only times I've ever felt stifled with my creativity was when I was studying a specific player. For instance, I was a huge jaco nut a couple years back, after a while I found myself almost subconsciously playing like him, and no matter what I did I kept going back to 'jaco' styled riffs. This happened with michael manring for me as well.

    Now, the interesting thing about that though, is that through studying(and getting a little obsessed) with these players, once I finally broke away from that "gotta play like X" mentality, I suddenly will find myself occasionally playing something that may remind me a little of manring or lawson or duck dunn or whoever my favorite bassists are at the time, and it doesn't bother me because it's authentic, it's become a part of who I am and I'm not faking anything.

    The actual creative process for me is infinitely varied. However, I have found that very often I am inspired by sounds.(this is also part of the reason why I love the bass so much, it is so versatile with the sounds it can create) I'll hear a sound that is really interesting, or unique, or just fun to listen to and I'll want to utilize it to make something neat. Often times, what may begin with simply working with a specific sound will end up not even using the same sound that I started with, but it's okay because it's not so much about specifics, it's about where you go with it and what it says.(imo at least)

    I do go hiking a lot, and that does provide a certain calm of mind that I can find relieving, I can't really say it directly influences my creative process, but It certainly doesn't hurt.

    There is another thing though about creativity, and that's a tendency a lot of people have to setup roadblocks for themselves. Where maybe "I'm not creative if I can't make a new song every week" or "ugh! I can't get this part to fit! I'm not creative enough!" That type of mentality is very counter-productive and it helps sometimes to take a step back and consider the bigger picture.

    Shrug, this is all just my opinion, it's not necessarily right or wrong, I don't know if anything I suggest will work for you, but, it can't hurt to keep your eyes and ears open to any new ideas, you may find that is what stimulates your muse.
  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Oh yea, I should also note, a lot of younger players struggle with this when it comes to creative lines. They feel like they need to play a lot of notes, or to play with a certain technique, or whatever. You don't need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to creativity. You can be playing through relatively simple changes in a tonal setting and still do creative things with your line that will set you apart from others. When it comes to it, creativity should take a back seat to what is right for the song. Which is the primary operative you should function under. imo.
  8. Wow. Good points. I agree with you 100%!!!

    But for me, the "creative process" simply involves sitting down and JUST DOING IT because "I HAVE TO". If you noodle around enough, something cool is bound to happen! :)


  9. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    Oh yes!! definitely cannot overlook the virtues of sitting around and noodling till something cool happens. I would further recommend recording what you can when you can, just in case you do inadvertently stumble upon your next opus.
  10. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    As obvious as it might seem:

    Learn about making music on your instrument. Creativity is what happens when you have learned enough to use what you have forgotten :bassist:

    I'd put things like learning to read music, learning to apply some basic harmonic theory on your instrument, and learning to play melody as well as "bass" and counterpoint, into this category.
  11. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I agree with a lot of what’s been said here. The creative process is magical, mysterious, powerful and yes -- sometimes frustrating! Creativity is a bit different for everyone and I hope I can encourage you to do some self-reflecting about your own relationship to it. For me it’s largely about following what I love. I sometimes find I‘m headed in a direction I didn‘t expect, but if I follow that path it often leads to a place I find very rewarding.