The Harsh Reality of Covid-era Musician Depression

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Jay Corwin, Sep 2, 2020.

  1. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Like a lot of musicians (especially in NYS) this year has been trying. For all practical purposes, gigs were a thing of the past by March. I was sent home for what would end up being 9 weeks from work (paid, so no complaints there). I spent that time practicing, working on demos, and writing. It wasn't uncommon for me to spend 3-4 hours in my practice room. I was on my game.

    Then eventually the online collaborations winded down, NYS went through it's several phases of reopening, I returned to work, summer arrived......and gigs are still for all practical purposes, a thing of the past. Sure there are some acoustic dudes on patios and such. But the clubs are dark, the festivals are canceled, and in NYS the laws are actually getting more restrictive for allowing live music. I don't see how the clubs will make it through all of this.

    With little prospect of playing live music, and tiring of collaborating digitally - musical depression started to set in. Motivation began drying up. Then my wife and I both got Covid. Now it's been about a month since I've picked up an instrument. The only time in life I've taken a break that long was due to injury/surgery.

    Guess I'm one of those people that that just really need other humans in the room with me to care about playing music again. That and the idea of getting out and playing. In the pre-covid music scene, I had more offers to play with people than I would of ever had time to entertain. Now I'm just a dude with a bunch of nice gear collecting dust, and little motivation to knock any of it off the top.

    End Rant I guess.
    Amano, Element Zero, mikeGJ and 22 others like this.
  2. John Chambliss

    John Chambliss Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Memphis, TN
  3. John Chambliss

    John Chambliss Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    Damn. Sorry to hear about that. I was just about to PM you to see how your lo-fi recording was going these days. I’m trying to stay engaged by focusing on arco and listening to different world music - sometime bowing along.

    The club scene in Memphis is about the same and won’t improve anytime soon. Leaving only time to do what you can do to please yourself.
  4. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Okay... and...?

    Little steps, be kind to yourself and your wife, play for ten minutes and go out and buy some flowers for her. Small steps - 2 forward, one back -- and what have you never played on the bass that you could try now?

    I'm 71 and strictly an amateur bassist. The three or 4 community orchestras I play with are all shut down. My main gig (and income) for 50 years has been directing theater and opera (US, London, Tokyo, Europe etc) and that is shut down hard easily until fall of 2021. Since March, I've written a play, a book for a musical and one and a half screenplays. The odds they'll get produced are slim and none, but it kept me sane and productive. Next - dunno, but...

    This whole thing, Covid and the economy, is going to get worse before it gets better, and it is easy for all of us (definitely myself included) to slide into the slough of despair. I don't know you from a hole in the wall, but you're more than "just a dude with gear." That was who you were yesterday. Writing us in the TB community today was the first step back - or forward -or onward. Just keep going, one step at a time. Don't worry about the goal. Just take the step.

    Good luck,
    ScatCat, nealw, Amano and 31 others like this.
  5. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar Jazz & Cocktails

    Apr 17, 2005
    Central Pa
    I hear you. I spent three solid months revisiting a ton of jazz standards and after that, did a deep dive into the Stevie Wonder catalog. (This is all an ongoing project btw)

    But all the cancellations, postponements, rescheduling, and subsequent changes have been a continuing bummer. Somehow I managed to squeeze a few really nice gigs in and made a little bread, but so many good paying jobs just ain’t happening this year.

    I’m feeling a little blue myself with some family issues at hand - but we’ll get through those. It’s just tough with all the restrictions.

    My optimistic outlook is this: one thing we’ve learned about people - even during a pandemic - is that you can’t stop them from Congregating and Celebrating! I’m hopeful next year will be as busy as ever - so with that in mind, we all better buck up and keep sheddin’ LoL
    CallMeAl, JRA, DrMole and 4 others like this.
  6. marcox


    Dec 10, 2007
    Hey @Jason Hollar, I envy your takeaway from all of this. Mine has been a sharply diminished opinion of my fellow citizens.

    As the leader/co-leader for a couple of bluegrass/Americana bands, the first month or two of the pandemic was kind of a relief. No practices to coordinate! No gigs to hustle up or promote! No setlists to write!

    But as the days settled into a dull sameness, I was reminded that part of what I enjoy about playing music is having something to look forward to: a rehearsal, a gig, a tour. Without those things on the horizon, my motivation to pick up the instrument or write new material has plummeted.

    So, @sevenyearsdown, I feel you.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
    DrayMiles, oren, bassfran and 4 others like this.
  7. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    I think the situation for bassists is maybe a bit different than for other musicians. Most of us play because we enjoy what happens on top when we lay down the foundation. The foundation alone seems pointless to me after a while, and I was never in it for the solos. I burned through the few play-alongs I have, but there is no interaction to be found.

    On the plus side, the layoff from gigs has presented an opportunity to climb out of some ruts I may have mistaken for grooves, and when I do play the bass I feel a bit more free. I have been spending more time at the piano, which for me is a more enjoyable experience when playing alone.

    Also, these last five months are the first time in 35 years of marriage that my wife and I have eaten dinner together every evening.
  8. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I think what was once frequent gigs will now be sporadic, small group jams for a little while. I have also considered just setting up and playing in a park somewhere with another musician or two. I have had a few gigging opportunities recently, but even those are sketchy. A couple got cancelled and others you wonder if it will be safe/fun. Also i have started playing some guitar again to keep things fresh musically, along with my usual bass time.

    So pretty much just having to search for other outlets, whatever they may be.
  9. bcamp

    bcamp Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2013
    Photos.jpg If you can't go to the mountain, the mountain has to come to you. I live in a small town and my band (a string trio) loaded a generator into a pickup and our PA onto a trailer and spent a couple hours cruising town like an old time ice cream truck, just plying old time standards everybody knows. We did this with the City's permission, of course, and we had en escort. It was a blast and the whole town enjoyed it! Try it, you'll like it!
  10. LowWay

    LowWay It’s got 4 strings ‘cause they’re bigger! Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2009
    W Mass
    I’m in the opposite scenario. Over the past 5 years I’ve had 2 near death experiences caused by lupus. I have been undiagnosed until last May, and too arthritic to play because of it. I have been in quarantine since Jan 9, 2019 because of the severe attack last year and the horrible nature of the lupus drugs.

    So in January this year I started to crawl out of my bunker, moved 150 miles, was finally making a recovery now that the lupus was diagnosed and treated, and by early March had covid. That took me out until about May.

    When I started to come around in May, I pulled out the ukulele, and by June dusted off the old bass. I’m just starting my musical rejuvenation after a long absence. I’m starved for real musical interaction, as I am still in a quarantine bubble of just myself, but my girlfriend and I are about to be able to expand our bubbles to include each other safely, and she plays keys. We have almost no common ground for musical tastes. It’ll be an expansion of experiences for both of us. I’m excited to expand my skill set, as is she. There’s no escaping tragedy in life, and it’s ok to take some down time and allow the tragedy to have its effect on you. Just be glad you have those nightly dinners with your wife. I can only talk to my gf on the phone/zoom.

    The day will come and the music will come back. Try to take advantage of these slower times and view them as an opportunity. It sounds like you have the luxury of secure income, food and housing. Your rant is clearly deserved, but the one thing I’ve learned in my nearly 600 days of isolation, is deeper patience and gratitude. It’s helped a lot.

    I know you can’t just choose to snap out of it. But try to find things to embrace that are available to you. The music will return.
  11. LowWay, thank you for sharing with us. You are hopefully coming out of a very dark place, much darker than most of us will ever be in. You have reminded me that any aches and pains I may have as a 79yo are trivial by comparison. Apart from being in the high risk age group for Covid's horrors I am in a way luckier than most of my fellow Australians of working age in that I am retired and own my own home. The only current limitations I have are no playing in the shut down local community orchestras and not being able to travel interstate because of border closures.

    I can send you some music via PM if you wish. I am a classical player and teacher of all ages and have a pretty good music library. Just let me know.

    Best wishes and keep safe, DP and Pip

    Attached Files:

    Oddly, CaseyVancouver, LowWay and 4 others like this.
  12. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I agree with this. Double bass is much less often a melody instrument, hence the lines it plays are more dependent on having a melody to balance with, and that interaction helps with stimulating improvisation. Even a person who is extremely content playing harmonies all the time can get a little board with not playing against melodies.

    Without my planning or knowing it in advance, this year has become my mandolin year. I've spent hours and hours playing it at home alone and at home in online jams, and my progress with it has been pretty pleasing. I've kept up practice with banjo and DB too, but the mandolin has so many advantages with online jamming situations that it's become my go-to instrument this year.

    I'm also very lucky that my wife loves music and that we enjoy playing together. I've not had as hard a time of being locked down as a lot of musicians who have absolutely no one they can share music with. And our band actually has an outdoor covidly-correct gig this Saturday evening, our first time together since March 13. My wife and I are 1/2 the band and have been practicing together at home. And we've been brainstorming about the gig with other band mates on the phone. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.
    Jason Hollar, LowWay, Winoman and 2 others like this.
  13. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    What's kept me sane, musically, has been working on the Bach cello suites. I work from the old Peters edition and the cello edition attached. As I said above, I'm strictly amateur, so I don't worry about playing them at "pitch" in thumb position, and there are some passages (like the last dozen bars of the first movement of No. 1) that I will never get. And there are some passages where suddenly the tempo that I was playing at slows to half!! Just to get the fingering. I don't care. I'm not auditioning and I'm not planning a recital. I'm just encountering, exploring and connecting to some of the greatest music ever written. I get through about 15-20 minutes a day (with Bach, Casals and Koussevitsky all spinning in their graves, I'm sure!), but it gets my head in the game and grounds me for the rest of the day.

    Give it a shot. What have you got to lose. (and as Chris Fitzgerald has shown, you don't need to do these with a bow)

    Attached Files:

  14. Pat Harris

    Pat Harris Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2006
    Austin, TX
    This is a good thread.

    Honestly, the only thing keeping me sane is the complete insanity of my home situation for the past six months: Working I.T. from home while taking care of two kids under two years old. There is no time for bass or music, and I'm not about to start doing any live streaming because it's just not for me. A silver lining has been that I have been able to have dinner with my family and read books to my kids before bed every night for the past 6 months. I feel guilty because it's been great, and had there not been a pandemic, this amount of time on the home front simply wouldn't have been available.

    Confession time: I miss playing with the people/groups that I really enjoy making music with, but if I never have to play a steakhouse and do battle with a horrid piano (not piano player), that would be alright.

    I think there's just too much internal pressure on everyone/artists/musicians right now to be productive or do something with all of that "free time." Forget all that. Take the time you've got on your hands. Read a book. Do something/anything else that might be of interest. I think we all need to be "okay" with taking our hands off the instrument, walking away for a good bit of time, and then coming back to it. Yes, you'll probably be out of shape, but I bet you'll still "sound like you" and you're not going to forget what makes the music work from the bass perspective.
    ScatCat, Jason Hollar, J_Bass and 6 others like this.
  15. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Public schools are still closed & week 25 of homeschooling for someone that is NOT a school teacher with no end in sight, while still being expected to maintain all of the other adult responsibilities....

    While my bass has been collecting dust, my guitar and mandolin chops are getting fantastic playing to empty rooms at 3am.

    Work is strange too. All of my daily driver reliable regular working musician customers are dirt broke and non existent, but plenty of older folks who have been waiting on big projects for years have been showing up.

    If you can remove your politics and passion it is a fascinating time to be alive. People will be writing about this for 100 years. The trouble is that passion and politics are what makes life worth living and they are very confusing right now, no matter where you stand.

    Remember that after all of the pandemic chaos from 100 years ago, the world recovered and they had an incredible time afterwards. Personally, I can't wait for the binge of our own roaring '20s!!!! Laughter and groups of humanity having fun and hugging strangers in public will return.

    Will the moderators please delete 2020.....
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I wish!

  17. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    I always made a joke out of buying a new date calendar by calling it " An investment in the future of the music business". My calendar for 2020 is pretty much blank after mid-March and a pretty poor investment but I try to stay optimistic. James Stockdale, who was the longest-held prisoner in North Viet Nam during the war used the mindset of " I know this will end, I just don't know when". An attitude like that might help us stay sane.
  18. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's not a rant to me!!!

    I didn't even pick up a bass for weeks after everything closed around St. Patrick's Day. I finally played a gig last Sunday (Aug. 2) and have one booked for Sept. 19. Both are outdoors. That is very likely the end of the line until next spring at the earliest.

    Geting ready for these gigs has been motivational. Otherwise, I have to push myself to do any practicing. According to my practice log in 5-1/2 months I've put in less than 20 hours total of practice time. I had originally planned on doing a lot of transcription, never even started on that.

    Hope I'm not bumming everyone else out :roflmao:
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  19. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    two years.jpeg

    nuff said
  20. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    Not much if any good has come out of this covid business. I try to remind myself to appreciate and enjoy every healthy day. Rinat Ibragimov is sad proof it can all go south in a flash.

    I’ve adjusted my daily practice routine since March. Instead of getting a part down and prepping for engagements I’ve simply concentrated on getting a good sound and enjoying it. In tune, one end of the bass to the other. I have a stack of method books 3 feet high I used to stress over. Forget it. Just get a good sound and enjoy one’s own playing. One to three hours a day lol.

    I visit the Bach Suites a few times a week. They are sounding better. I’m enjoying them more. Orchestral excerpts are sounding better. I’m sounding better.

    Before March I had a gig or rehearsal every day of the week. It was my reason to get out of bed. I have almost 50 years of regular gigging under my belt. Now I see myself re evaluating my little music world. Do I really want to do 75 commercial casuals a year? Perform commercial gigs with bad amateurish players and corporate (my least favourite) work?

    I enjoy playing music with musicians. Amateur players in community orchestra’s who want to be there are awesome. I love playing my basses every day. I get a kick out of shooting the breeze on gig breaks. After this covid clears up I can see myself picking only engagements I want to do. I get an AFM musicians pension. I own my house and paid my dues.

    To help keep covid sane, as well as playing each day, I jog daily with my Boston Terrior. An hour a day, with a long one once a week. Experience has shown me they are fine even for a half marathon if the weather is reasonable. I also ride a bike and was even competitive in road racing until a serious crash at age 60. Until then I’d race criteriums with 20 year olds. Winning for me was finishing with the fast guys at the end :)

    If you read this far thank you

    Be kind
    Be calm
    Be safe
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2020
    Fat bob, J_Bass, statsc and 10 others like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 12, 2021

Share This Page