1 Year Ago
June 27, 2020
I recorded myself playing and singing without YouTube or iTunes accompaniment. I don’t think I’ll give up my day job. I love love love everything about my bass – my voice, not so much.
This is still who I am.
I bought a cheap starter guitar kit from Amazon in April 2018 because my boss (and good friend) started taking guitar lessons. It made me think back to the lessons I myself had taken as a preteen back in the 1969-1970 timeframe. I wondered if I could still do it.
I fiddled around with the guitar on my own, not making much progress, but I realized I liked playing it. I just needed some direction. In late September 2018, I started taking lessons from a guitar teacher. Guitar was fun, but it was still hard. I never enjoyed playing chords. I wanted to pick up a guitar and play the screaming guitar sounds I heard on my metal albums. I never got that far. I had to learn the basics first, and the basics didn’t interest me.
Three months after I started guitar in mid-December 2018, I bought a bass, and my world changed. Bass 100% suits me. It was low key (pun intended) like I am. It was easier to learn. There weren’t any fussy chords, and most bass lines (unless you’re Geddy Lee who started life as a guitar player) aren’t complicated. I like that. The simplicity of keeping the beat is soothing to me.
Most bass players stay in the background. Most bass players (again Geddy Lee is an aberration here) don’t sing. It’s difficult to play (and mentally count the beat) and sing at the same time. Bass doesn’t usually go with the melody. It’s playing its own thing and not playing along with the tune the singer is keeping.
At first I tried to do both – bass and guitar. It was very challenging. When I realized that bass was where my heart really was, I closed up my guitar cases for good and never looked back.
My goal was to learn the instrument and to play along with my favorite tunes. My aspirations (if any) were to maybe one day find some like-minded musicians close to my own age to jam with – maybe in a garage band type situation. I never wanted to or thought I would perform on a stage.
I took bass lessons for two and a half years. The first year I just played bass. Then one day my teacher decided the students would all select a Christmas (or holiday) song, and we’d all learn the music (and in some cases vocals), and then we’d go to an actual recording studio and record it live. It sounded interesting.
The song my friend and I picked to do together was Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby. It was quirky enough and different. It was fun. At least until you have to practice it over and over and over again. Once the holidays have passed, no one wants to hear Christmas music, much less work it (to death). My friend was going to sing and play her guitar. I was going to play bass.
One day at a co-lesson at my teacher’s house, my friend was having difficulty with the vocals. I stupidly sang a piece of the lyric, trying to be funny. It was suggested that I sing along with her as it would make it easier for her. Looking back now, I wish I hadn’t done that.
I don’t have a singer’s personality. I have NEVER wanted to stand at the front of any stage. I wanted to be in the background, playing my bass, if I was anywhere. I did a live performance with my teacher and other students in June 2019. That was fun. I wasn’t nervous, and I sat on a chair to the side of the singers, just playing my bass. I focused on what I was playing and didn’t even look at the people in the bar where we were playing.
Mele Kalikimaka changed the focus of what I was doing. Suddenly my blissful one hour bass lesson turned into half vocal lessons and half bass. Sometimes the silly voice exercises and practice ate into my bass-playing time. I was no longer learning what I wanted to learn.
Covid further complicated things. Lessons went from in-person to via Zoom. It was harder to hear what the teacher was playing and difficult to see her fingers. She certainly couldn’t see mine and sometimes couldn’t hear me either. I know that because on some of the hard parts, I didn’t play bits and pieces, and she didn’t even know. Learning by Zoom stinks.
Covid also exacerbated my issues with anxiety. I became fearful of a lot of things. Leaving the house was hard most days so I didn’t. I have been working solely from home since March 2020.
As we finally start to emerge from the lockdown nightmare, a live performance on a local stage was scheduled for the week after the Fourth of July. I was rehearsing two Foo Fighters’ songs where I’d sing and play bass. I was also rehearsing playing bass on another student’s song. When it was far off, I was fine. As it got closer, I wasn’t.
It came to a head, and I stopped playing my bass. I didn’t touch it for 10 days. That has never happened to me. I was supposed to attend a pre-performance rehearsal at my teacher’s house, and I found I couldn’t do it. I canceled an hour before we were supposed to start the rehearsal.
A couple of days after that I withdrew from taking lessons.
I’m not sure I will ever go back. I believe my teacher and I have different agendas. She’s about the performance. Playing live isn’t that important to me. And I certainly don’t want to sing. I never wanted to sing, and I let myself get nudged into something I didn’t really want to do. I should have protested, but I didn’t. It’s my fault I didn’t speak up, take charge, and stop what was happening. I love singing, but I’m strictly an at-home or in-the-car singer. I don’t want to do it live.
I don’t want to be the center of attention.
On a happier note, I am playing my bass again. I’m doing online lessons, having started over from scratch with a guy who is a bass player. I wanted to learn from someone who focuses on bass and just bass. The video lessons are short and focus on technique.
Happily, I’ve also started therapy for the anxiety issues. Maybe someday when I’m stronger, I will feel differently. For now, I stand by my initial statement and Facebook post. I want to play bass and nothing else.
This is still who I am.