Saturday, January 26, 2008

Musings on Gearheads

by JW

I have never been a double bass gearhead. Even in the times of my life when I was thinking about music and bass 24/7, I was always more interested in talking about phrasings, musical ideas, technique pointers, fingerings, and bowings than I was in talking about rosin, strings, setup, string action, bows and basses. In my student days I was often dismissive of the gearhead crowd. "Why don't they just practice instead of yakking about the latest Flexocors?" I would think. I imagined myself inhabiting a more idealized world of "pure" music-making while they concerned themselves with the minutiae of bass mechanics.

With age comes (at least a little) wisdom, and today I have much more respect for the gearheads. Part of this came when I finally purchased a bass that was really easy to play solos on. For years I had played solos on my big orchestra bass, and I figured that any difficulties I experienced were the result of my own inadequacies as a player. Then I found out that I could play solos amazingly well once I had an instrument that really worked for solo playing... This may seem like a big "duh!" to some of you, but it was a surprise to me. I think this was at least partially because I didn't really trust my solo playing for a long time and couldn't imagine that it was my equipment holding me back.

Playing bass is a physical act, and to realize my idealized musical goals I need to consider what tools I need to use to accomplish them. That includes basses, strings, bows, rosin, endpins, but most importantly, it includes my own body. When I use my body in a natural and efficient way, not only do I keep myself from getting injured, I also am able to be the best musician I can be. Good music making involves both understanding and hearing the idealized concepts that we want to create and making sure that all of the physical elements we use go into creating that ideal performance are a help and not a hindrance.

In future posts I'll return to some of these concepts...

1 comment:

Ove Mjåtveit said...

Hi, I just want to say that this is a great blog - and that I'm looking forward to your comments about gear and setup. Trying to get advice from newsgroups/forums is complex and often contradictory, whilst you beeing professional bassist, really gives the advices credibility.