When I was a young guitar player in the 60s, I thought that my guitar-god idols were BORN with the ability to play incredible, faster-than-light electric solos that split the mind and healed the soul. Truly. I thought their music was a gift from beyond this realm that was miraculously realized and then nourished. I understood practicing - I practiced folk and bass guitar a lot - but I never studied with a teacher. So I truly thought that Hendrix, Clapton, Zappa, Allman and all the rest sprang from the womb with their innate ability just waiting to blossom. Some of us were just destined to be gods while the rest of us were simply plebeian.

Over the years I came to realize that there was more to the equation than my simple conclusions, but it wasn't until maybe 40 years later that I discovered three additional truths that put my organic naivete into perspective:  1) While all my guitar heroes DID and DO have organic talent, their ability to use that talent required countless hours of hard work called practice. 2) There are very specific drills necessary to practice - scales and intervals and repetition - that give shape and form to the passionate music within their hearts. And 3) the more you practice, the better you sound.

Ok, this sounds stupid even as I write, but about 15 years my friend and colleague in music, don E, started showing me scales to practice during one Lent when my prayers involved lots and lots of guitar playing. I would leave meetings after 90 minutes so that I could pray with my instruments - and we would play and jam and practice until our fingers hurt. Later, when I was working on my doctoral dissertation, I took breaks and played these same scales over and over until one day I GOT it! Making the music I so loved was something I COULD DO TOO if I was willing to practice, practice and yes, you got it, practice! I would NEVER be Hendrix. But with enough practice I could play some hot-shit riffs. Hell, I could even make some real music if I tried
hard enough! Some seven years ago I had that same encounter working on electric jazz bass; I had the fundamentals (mostly) but with LOTS of practice, I could make something beautiful happen (sometimes.) And let me never forget the encouragement and help of Andy Kelly during this process, too! 

So now that's what I am doing:  practicing and then practicing a little more - this time on the upright bass. I am walking around Montreal with Di, too. And becoming even closer to my wiggy and wonderful dog, Lucie, as we help her adjust to the city. And OMG, sleeping. I think I average about 10 hours a night! But a good deal of the time over these next three months will be given over to reading and thinking about the music I love - and practicing it with a new sense of enthusiasm and freedom. I don't have any illusions that I am going to soar with the eagles. My talent and ability is much more limited. But with more practice I can make the bass sound sweeter - and give some expression to my heart in the music I love - so that's what I am going to do. 


Popular Posts