On Banging Gongs & Basses

les claypool

So, I recently took up the bass guitar.  I quit Facebook so as to have more time with family and farm,which also freed up some time to pursue some creative aspirations.  Yeah, I was on Facebook way too much. Now,  I’ve always loved the bass, and I have some good friends who are bassists.  Even some that have managed to make both a name and a living at it.  And, of course, who *isn’t* a fan of God Himself, Les Claypool, shown above.  (If you don’t know who Mr. Claypool is, please stop reading this and go away.  We simply can’t be friends anymore.)

I originally thought I’d tackle the guitar first, then the bass.  Well, that was stupid.  I bought myself a really nice ESP guitar and tried to get busy, only to be thwarted every time I picked it up.  Those damn strings were just so thin and, well, stringy.  I was constantly in fear of slicing my precious little digits.   I needed something with some girth, some meat (alright, settle down over there in the gutter).  So, I picked up a wickedly wonderful Dean Edge 5 string.  Because, you know, I’d be a pro right after picking it up and would need a 5 string. Right?  Right.  

Anyway, I was so immediately happy with this new bass, that I was knocking out some tunes pretty quickly:  Every Breath You Take, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and a couple of others. I had forgotten how much of a pleasure it is to play something. In school, I played the alto sax and every now and then I sit down to our piano.  Our 12 year old is far superior to me at that.  She’s got a real ear for the piano.  So, anyway,  to pick up this bass and start taking off right away has felt wonderful.  

I’ve been trying to practice at least an hour per day.  During that time, I’ve noticed something.  One is that the best sound out of those thick strings often comes from a softer, more delicate touch.  Trying to hammer out a note with force is often counter productive.  So it is in conversations, isn’t it?  I know that’s the case for me.  When I don’t feel heard or understood or respected, I’m far too quick to raise my voice.  To exert more force.  To become more stern and aggressive.  As if speaking in such ways would hammer out understanding and respect.  What is that saying about hammers?  When it’s all you carry, everything starts to look like a nail.  The opposite is really so much more successful:  A soft voice, a kind word, a peaceful countenance, is so much more likely to bring about mutually beneficial communication.  And it sounds so much better than banging gongs, dissonant notes, raised voices, and the like.

Of course, I’m a slow learner but I’m remembering this a bit more frequently these days.  About every time I hit a string too hard, but even more so, every time I hit it just right.

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One thought on “On Banging Gongs & Basses

  1. Ah, isn’t music a stress reliever? So glad to see you are enjoying playing bass. I recently learned as well that a lighter touch produces a better sound. I have yet to try it out. The last time I played bass just to try it I was playing for about an hour and it left bruises on my fingerprints – therefore I am anxious to try it again, as you described to see how that goes. I much prefer the guitar, so far. Music touches one’s soul.

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