"A kid sent me a message on Myspace about wanting to be a pro bass player. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t resist a reality check, especially after his getting such an off-hand remark about going pro from another road guy.
From: >XXXXX< style="font-style: italic;">[he’s 14 now] and everybody says I could go pro. XXXXX XXXXX also told me this but I don’t think so could u please give some advise so I can get better? I really would appreciate...
And here was my response:
Great to hear from you! If you just want to play for fun and profit, then work on your intonation, be familiar with the basic bluegrass keys, and work with a metronome. If you want to be a pro, certainly go for it, but you'll want to want to have a bit more backing up your playing -- such as...
TO START WITH...
Learn all your scales, learn all your keys, learn common practice theory and jazz theory and how to apply it to your playing, learn how folk music styles are different and how to apply that to your playing, learn how to play jazz standards and folk standards in multiple keys, learn about time and how to play in it and with it and around it, learn to play with the metronome on beats 2 and 4, learn how to make your bass sound like several different players, learn how to solo in various standard styles (in every key), learn as many tunes from memory as you can and then learn a whole bunch more, listen to as many records and songs from as many styles and genres as you can and STUDY THE PARTS (who's doing what, when, and how), learn how to play your way out of a paper bag so that you can save the tune if you or anyone else completely messes up, learn how to amplify or plug in and get your sound for at least two different applications with a couple of backups in case something breaks, and be able to do all of that without ever hearing yourself in case the stage sound is terrible.
Learn how to do anything on little or no sleep, food, or during illness; learn how to sleep anywhere; learn how to wash your clothes in an ice bucket and dry off with a wash cloth; learn how to get along with anyone, when you won't be able to, and when you shouldn't get along with them; learn to fix your own stuff with a butter knife, string and a paper clip, and learn how to pack 7 days worth of clothes into a backpack.
WITHOUT FORGETTING TO...
Make sure you have your schedule, itinerary, routing, gig clothing, gear, back-up gear, contacts, contracts, financing, and provisions taken care of at all times.
Learn how to listen and learn from those who have been there and done that before you. We're all just dwarfs standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before us...
Make sure you REALLY want to do it before you do it. It's an awesome and amazing job, but WILL BE your job.
No word yet if there was any response.......
Seems my old man gave a good interview, so I come by it honestly I guess. Here he is featured in a publication called JPSP, explaining the Jewish Experience at at an Oklahoma Ag-Tech College. Those who know me well will here echoes of his verbiage in both my language and my attitudes today.
Bonus: My first public appearance as a Jew, age 5. And they got my name wrong, presaging my relationship with journalism and writers for many years to come.
Of particular resonance with me was this observation about the singers working the cuircut today: "A lot of these guys don't even know the country standards, the songs you always heard and had to know," Watson says, calling in from his Austin home. "You couldn't get onstage anywhere in any honky-tonk and not know 'Your Cheatin' Heart,' but some don't." Watson says most of the new country boys and girls who came along during the '80s and '90s had no roots -- they just started doing country music a year before they had their record."
In the very same issue, I noticed another interview with Bob Mould, one of the small fraternity of musicians who used to crash at my house in Norman Oklahoma during the mid-80's punk rock explosion. Like Watson, he is touring behind a new release and he too spoke to the shift in culture that has lead to the state of affairs music finds itself in today:
"The current state of the business is enough to get a man all worked up, but today's Mould discusses it calmly, with a sense of humor. "Music used to be a religion to people, and now it's simply an accessory," Mould said by phone from his Washington, D.C. home.
The singer/composer recalled the sacred ritual of procuring vinyl records in his youth. First, you saved up your money from the crap job you hated, caught the bus to your downtown record shop where you frantically perused all the hip music magazines to see what was worth a listen. You took hours making your selections before working up the nerve to see if your selections were good enough to escape the disdain of the hip employees who rang up your purchases. Even then you wouldn't know if you had wasted your hard-earned money until you unwrapped the cellophane and put the platter under the needle for the first time.
Now, the journey is only as far as a keyboard. "It wasn't as easy as walking to a laptop and going, 'Look, an MP3 blog with 38 new songs that aren't even out yet,'" says Mould. "I'll just download all of those. I have no idea what the artwork is, I don't care anything about the band, maybe there's 15 seconds in here that speaks to me. If it does, I'll drag it into my iTunes library and maybe I'll remember it's there tomorrow.Mould says he wouldn't have made it in the current marketplace. "If I was coming up now, I'd just throw my hands up and go 'This is nonsense,'" he says. He thinks he'd be better off as a graphic artist, a painter or perhaps in social work. "I think that's always a good alternative to music, to get out in the community and help people less fortunate," he says. "You're actually gonna have a much richer life than if you try to be a musician."
Now, the casual reader, a younger music fan perhaps, might think from these riffs that these guys are complaining or are bitter or even burnout. But in reality they are simply reporting accurately on the field they find themselves in. Both Watson and Mould are about my same age and experience, albeit with quite a lot more commercial success than I've had, and both are cats I respect a whole lot, though in completely different ways.
Personally I find it encouraging that even in the current atmosphere of "good-enough" that they strive to continue to make "great."