28 May, 2011

Hey! Can I get some bass?

The long process of emerging from a musical funk took a baby step forward today.

For weeks, I've been thinking, vaguely, that I should get my bass back into a condition where it could be played easily. It's a 2000 USA Fender Jazz Bass, and I've barely ever played it because I'm primarily a guitarist. But if you want to do home recording, you need a bass. This one seems to have drifted, through the years, into a state of having very high action. And I can't afford to have any hindrances to my already lacking bass-playing ability. So I've been contemplating learning how to set up a bass guitar. I've done plenty of set ups on regular guitars, including some more bold adjustments such as neck angle. And I've become reasonably comfortable that I can get myself through whatever adjustment is needed; at least on an electric guitar. I don't feel nearly as comfortable with acoustics unless it's just bridge height.

So, after pondering for weeks, I finally got down to it today and, in less than 20 minutes, I've got myself a bass that plays as well as you could possibly want.

This has been a long process, that of emerging from a year-long musical funk. I am still not completely out of it yet, but there's been a gradual shift. For about 9 months, I hardly touched a guitar. Probably didn't even play for an hour in that entire time. For some reason, every time that I did touch a guitar, I felt like nothing that came out of my hands was worth playing. It all felt trite, and pointless. Then, about a month ago, I dropped the tuning on one of my Stratocasters (a mint-green Mexican model, that just happens to play very well) into open-D tuning and, suddenly, the "player's block" seemed to be lifted away. Something about being in a tuning where I have only spent a little time seems to free me from the feelings of triteness (I have always had a dabbling interest, due to guitarists like Keith Richards and Michael Gurley (of dada), each of whom have used a little bit of this tuning -- though, as you surely know, Keith is much more of an open-G player). It's like forcing your brain to get out of the automatic patterns because even just playing a simple 1-4-5 progressing is, not difficult, but different than what you always do. Eventually, you discover that new patterns make more sense in the different tuning. And that new rhythms reveal themselves when you're in fresh snow.

So these have been two steps in the reemergence. First, playing again. Second, getting the gear ready.

I can't say what will come of it, but I feel like the one certainty is that it has to come from the fresh snow.