Bass Lesson 9: Listening
Listen to yourself and others
Listening: your band has rehearsed a lot and now, for the first time, you’re in a recording studio, where you’re going to record your first great demo CD. After a lot of waiting on your part, the technician is ready for the first take. Your band plays enthusiastically, so everything seems to go alright… until you listen to the take. Everybody is disappointed in the way they play. You realize you’re not the great bass player you thought you was and you never heard it before. How is this possible?
I discovered that when I find something difficult to play, I just don’t listen well how I play it. Something happens on a subconscious level: a sort of defense mechanism seems to take over. I hate having to listen to myself not playing well, get tensed because I think I won’t play a difficult passage well. This tension makes me play bad, but now my subconscious protects me, by making sure I won’t hear what I’m playing. I don’t hear so well when I’m tensed, see lesson 1. Maybe this mechanism holds you back also, anyway, it’s worth investigating. The only way to rid yourself of this misery is to relax consciously, and to keep listening to your playing at all times – and certainly when you play something difficult.
Music making is like driving a car in one respect: you have to take care all the time. You must keep listening to your fellow musicians, also when your playing the same lick over and over and you’d rather concentrate on that.
One of the reasons why you have to do that, is that you have to react adequately when there are small (or big) timing problems, caused by your fellow musicians (or yourself). Nobody’s timing is entirely perfect, we’re not machines, and us bass players, we have the responsibility to keep the band together.
Another reason is that a song can take an unexpected turn. Some musicians like changing everything unexpectedly on stage. You have to be very flexible as a bass player.
Especially when you’re playing improvised music, the playing together can be so tight and total that at some point the whole band chooses another approach at exactly the same time. For some reason, I just know what to do in such a moment. Such moments are pure magic, they’re the main reason I’m playing. This is a very, very rewarding experience. These moments only happen when the communication in the band is total and everybody in the band understands perfectly what’s happening because everybody listens to each other with practically total concentration. So listen!
You may find this page interesting.