Why do you play? Who are you playing for?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Bunk McNulty, Jun 28, 2020.

  1. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Suspended Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    Don't know where else to put this. A friend who is heavily into avant-garde music sent me this interview with an avant-garde bassist, Simon Fell. A couple of his comments struck me as likely to cause a few heads to explode:

    "...I’ve never really thought of myself as a bass player in a specialised "city & guilds" way – i.e. excessively interested (if not obsessed) with the mechanics of basses and their construction, technical questions, the theory and history of bass lines etc. Essentially, I’m simply interested in all musical questions, all instruments and their potential – I just happen to (mainly) play the double bass. For me technique (on any instrument) is simply a means to an end, i.e. the realisation of something musically worthwhile. The kind of musicians I feel little connection with are those (and there are many) who seem to see music as a potential way of demonstrating technique. Such musicians are often incredibly impressed by other people demonstrating their technique (rather than making interesting music); in fact some musicians sometimes give the impression that they play music mainly for the specific purpose of impressing other musicians. This whole side of music-making is something which I’ve always found incomprehensible."

    As for myself, I enjoy listening to players who have great facility on the instrument; I'm never going to be one of them, and it doesn't seem to matter, anyway. Whatever it is I'm doing when I'm playing, people are entertained enough by it to actually pay me to do it. [Insert Gallic shrug]
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I can see his point. For me, the joy of playing bass comes from being part of a living, breathing song. I get the most joy from other players and singers who, like me, are zoned in on what's going on around them. Yes, my current band play covers. But I've been in both kinds of cover bands.

    One kind had technically advanced players who perfectly execute memorized parts from original recordings with very little feeling.

    The other is made up of friends who also happen to be good at what they do. They all take joy in propping each other up. They all focus on the overall vibe of the song. They all CARE IF THE AUDIENCE IS HAVING A BLAST. And they can musically finish each others' sentences.

    I am fortunate in that I am in the latter band.

    Keeping it alive and interesting for both musicians and audience is where it's at. If the whole room becomes on breathing organism, we've done our job. So sometimes I get out front and go nuts on bass. And sometimes I lay back and dumb down the already simple bass line from the original recording if another band member is commanding the stage and bringing our audience along with them. I go with the flow.
  3. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I was always much more into feel than technique, and at the risk of sounding like a pretentious ass, I like to think of the bass as a paintbrush :). I get bored quickly watching and listening to virtuoso players. I don't knock it, and I think there's a lot of value in that kind of thing, but I always connected more to music with my heart than with my head.

    That being said, I play music for multiple reasons. The past 3 years I've been playing for money, but having the world shut down put an end to that... and the future right now isn't looking so bright. That has brought me back to what I really love doing, writing. I believe I was born an artist. I believe there is a difference between musicians and artist, and that many (if not most) are both. I feel its part of my responsibility, AS an artist, to practice expressing myself as best I can through my playing, and I'm happy to have the time to get back to that finally. I'm in the middle of writing a bunch of songs... and I like how some are coming along. Simple stuff, but I'm saying things I really want to say, and doing it in ways I'm happy about.

    When I was in college I got into writing some avante garde stuff that I liked a lot. I have it on cassette, and get a kick out of listening from time to time. I think its a great thing for any artist to do, even if nobody ever hears it. For me, it broke down some walls. I feel it opened me up a lot, too. I don't have the head for that kind of thing these days, but who knows what the coming months might bring.
    DrMole, garak7, Relayer71 and 12 others like this.
  4. SidNitzerglobin


    Feb 12, 2019
    I play for me & the others I'm playing w/ because I enjoy it. In particular the almost "one mind" feeling you get when everyone is just clicking together as a group. There's a good payoff in feeling like I'm expressing myself as well.

    My personal enjoyment goes down proportionally the more money, ambition, & competition get involved.
    Relayer71, whero, GregC and 3 others like this.
  5. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I definitely relate to that part. The whole YouTube "bass cover" or playalong thing has less than zero entertainment appeal to me in the vast majority of cases. Using it as an educational process is fine, great even, but I don't really even want to ever hear the original artist play it note for note like the record, much less anyone else.

    As far as the other parts, I was an audio technician/sound provider before I was a gigging player and I've always enjoyed the production and technical aspects at least as much as being up on stage. I can and have gigged on other instruments perfectly happily, and now that I've retired from gigging I expect and hope to expand that palette a bit further. Bass is cool, so are lots of other things. ;)
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
  6. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I fell in love with music and wanted to make it myself. The bass is a vehicle to do that. I love the act of speaking through the bass(or any instrument), and just creating an interesting sound. Music in alot of ways is a miracle to me, organized sound that can invoke a feeling or experience. There is not much cooler than that to me!
  7. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    1. To get out of the house.
    2. For whoever is listening.
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  8. Similar to other responses - I play because I get a HUGE kick from seeing people enjoy the music. I love to bring that feeling to others, to kick them out of their seat and make them dance. I’m a weekend warrior but blessed to play with some other, very talented, weekend warriors. I have some chops - nothing crazy, and far below the few full time pros in my area - but can play whatever is needed to make people have a good time. That’s good enough for me.

    so why do I gig on bass while I also play guitar? Because the Bass ties every element together. I love fulfilling that role.
    Yellow Bang66 likes this.
  9. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    I refuse to answer without an attorney present.
  10. And what kind of present from an attorney might induce you to talk?
  11. ElectroVibe

    ElectroVibe Suspended

    Mar 2, 2013
    I am probably more into the chords and structure of the music, myself. But I have always appreciated those musicians who are devoted to their instruments. And I wish I had a little more of that sometimes.
    skycruiser and Bassaga like this.
  12. I have no idea what I'm doing or why. So, carrots, I guess?

    Honestly, I could tell you one thing now, go to bed, and wake up with a different answer. I like to play video games. I also like to play bass and tinker with synths.
    Passinwind and NortyFiner like this.
  13. Blueinred

    Blueinred 21st century Genz-Benz guy Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2009
    Greater Cincy
    I enjoy playing the most when multiple biological units, with vastly different loves, likes, dislikes and personalities come together as one musical being and just flat nail a great tune.

    It doesn't always happen, but that's what keeps me coming back. Unified group magic.
  14. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Have taken stock of this recently given the COVID shut down. I play for the moment. Every band I play with now has a distinct voice and I’m very much a part of it. It’s either in the faithful to the arrangement execution of cover tunes, time and time again, or, the openness to go with flow in a jazz context. It’s the best drug I know, has been all these years too.
  15. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    Dayton, Tennessee
    I’m here.
  16. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Drunken Sailor Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    I have always loved music, and just wanted to try to play some myself. Basic music classes in school quickly proved that I have no natural talent for it, so it's taken real effort just to come as far as I have. I tried the band thing a few times long ago; it never worked out. So I play just for me loving music. That's all.
    Splash7 likes this.
  17. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    Dayton, Tennessee
    I would rather spend money on gear/strings/lessons than on therapy/booze/food or whatever else is supposed to provide solace. I truly relax when I play. Playing in a band to an audience is a really big bonus, but I would play along to an endless song shuffle and practice for hours on end with no one listening until I expire because I do it for me. The evolving action of improving and hearing myself make music is soothing.
  18. Raoul_Duke


    Jun 13, 2010
    I like chefs at greasy spoons and triple-D style places. They make good food that I like to eat.

    Classically trained chefs who are pushing the boundaries or sushi places where food is pretty artistic are also enjoyable to me, and oftentimes worth the money.

    Why in the world should anyone consider liking one and liking the other to be mutually exclusive? That quote is probably from a perfectly nice person who is also a great player, but the comment itself reeks of pretense. Just my opinion.

    EDIT: I forgot to answer the question! I play for me, and I enjoy working on difficult techniques as much as I enjoy learning great songs regardless of complexity.
  19. I play for me. Because I love listening to music and from a very young age I wanted to make music too. I love that I can make a harmonious noise with a small group of people whose company I enjoy. The fact that we play out a couple of times a month is cake. That people enjoy what we do and dance and clap and come up and talk to us and say nice things is the icing on the cake. That I make enough money to more than cover my costs is the sprinkles on the icing on the cake.

    But if all I ever did was jam in my rehearsal room with those people who I like enough that I'd gladly have a beer with them even if we weren't in a band together, that'd be enough.
    ajkula66 likes this.
  20. glocke1

    glocke1 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2002

    At the core of things I mainly play for myself. I like the sound my basses make, i like the feel of the air moving in those situations I'm able to get a lot of air moving, and I like figuring out how to navigate harmonic structures.

    I just wish i could do a lot of that stuff better...
    ajkula66, SidNitzerglobin and dmt like this.