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Play the Bass Part

February 24, 2014

It’s been very important throughout my career

that I’ve met all the guys I’ve copied,

because at each stage they’ve said,

“Don’t play like me, play like you.”

— Eric Clapton

I was playing bass.

The guy running the recording session was a bass player.

Trying to impress him, I added a great little riff in the middle of a verse.

He started waving at me with one hand while taking his headphones off with his other.

I stopped playing and took mine off, too, knowing I had really wowed him.

“Whoa, whoa, what just happened there?!”

“Thought you’d like that.  I added that to fill in that empty space.”

Silence.  He looked around the room.

“Joe, if you do all that, what’s the lead player gonna do?”

My turn to be silent.

He went on, “And anyway, maybe that empty space is there for a reason.”

My turn to look around the room.

“You’re the bass player here.  Play the bass part.”

I learned a lot right then.

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  1. Nina permalink

    This reminds me of a frustrating experience I had. I was asked by a singer to write out a flute part for my daughter to play to accompany this singer, and I also offered to include a bassoon part for me to play, as well. I took the piano accompaniment, and worked out something I thought was rather nice. But in rehearsal, it turned out the singer had no intention of counting out his measures of rest between verses and choruses, skipping right over the parts where I had added things for the flute and bassoon. “Oh, this part is boring,” he said, without ever listening to it. “It’s my solo! People want to hear ME!”
    I suppose rather than rehearsing this insult in my mind, I ought to be asking, When I have I done this? When have I assumed it was all about ME, and not allowed someone else to add their bit to make it more beautiful? How can I listen better?


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