The Life and Art of Bass Playing
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 98 14:32:34 -0700
Subject: The Life and Art of Bass Playing
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Forwarded-by: David Lincoln
Beyond the Bass Clef:
The Life and Art of Bass Playing
by Tony Levin
In the beginning there was a bass. It was a Fender, probably a Precision,
but it could have been a Jazz - nobody knows. Anyway, it was very old
... definitely pre-C.B.S.
And God looked down upon it and saw that it was good. He saw that it was
very good in fact, and couldn't be improved on at all (though men would
later try.) And so He let it be and He created a man to play the bass.
and lo the man looked upon the bass, which was a beautiful 'sunburst'
red, and he loved it. He played upon the open E string and the note rang
through the earth and reverberated throughout the firmaments (thus
reverb came to be.) And it was good. And God heard that it was good and
He smiled at his handiwork.
Then in the course of time, the man came to slap upon the bass. And lo
it was funky.
And God heard this funkiness and He said, "Go man, go." And it was good.
And more time passed, and, having little else to do, the man came to
practice upon the bass. And lo, the man came to have upon him a great
set of chops. And he did play faster and faster until the notes rippled
like a breeze through the heavens.
And God heard this sound which sounded something like the wind, which He
had created earlier. It also sounded something like the movement of
furniture, which He hadn't even created yet, and He was not so pleased.
And He spoke to the man, saying "Don't do that!"
Now the man heard the voice of God, but he was so excited about his new
ability that he slapped upon the bass a blizzard of funky notes. And the
heavens shook with the sound, and the Angels ran about in confusion.
(Some of the Angels started to dance, but that's another story.)
And God heard this - how could He miss it - and lo He became Bugged. And
He spoke to the man, and He said, "Listen man, if I wanted Jimi Hendrix
I would have created the guitar. Stick to the bass parts."
And the man heard the voice of God, and he knew not to mess with it. But
now he had upon him a passion for playing fast and high. The man took
the frets off of the bass which God had created. And the man did slide
his fingers upon the fretless fingerboard and play melodies high upon
the neck. And, in his excitement, the man did forget the commandment of
the Lord, and he played a frenzy of high melodies and blindingly fast
licks. And the heavens rocked with the assault and the earth shook,
rattled and rolled.
Now God's wrath was great. And His voice was thunder as He spoke to the
And He said, "O.K. for you, pal. You have not heeded My word. Lo, I
shall create a soprano saxophone and it shall play higher than you can
even think of."
"And from out of the chaos I shall bring forth the drums. And they shall
play so many notes thine head shall ache, and I shall make you to always
stand next to the drummer."
"You think you're loud? I shall create a stack of Marshall guitar amps
to make thine ears bleed. And I shall send down upon the earth other
instruments, and lo, they shall all be able to play higher and faster
than the bass."
"And for all the days of man, your curse shall be this; that all the
other musicians shall look to you, the bass player, for the low notes.
And if you play too high or fast all the other musicians shall say "Wow"
but really they shall hate it. And they shall tell you you're ready for
your solo career, and find other bass players for their bands. And for
all your days if you want to play your fancy licks you shall have to
sneak them in like a thief in the night."
"And if you finally do get to play a solo, everyone shall leave the
bandstand and go to the bar for a drink."
And it was so.
© 1998 Peter Langston