Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with Random Ruminations – bass guitar edition

Here we go with my first non-Freeperati post, people.

The first reader to reply on what my first non-political post on First Draft should be, said this:

“I’ve always enjoyed the reminiscences of the days as an itinerant musician and recording engineer, having some tangential connection to folks in those professions.”

gratuitous

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Well, I’m going to start out with my bass guitar stuff, and expand from there – so – it’s The bass guitar and me :

Ok – surprisingly enough, other bassists actually ask me how I started and how I developed my style/sound (some people are easily entertained).   Here goes:

When I started, it was the era of Cream and Led Zeppelin.

Unfortunately, it was also the era of Grand Funk railroad.

My earliest bass sound was that of a tonal dinosaur fart. Part of this was due to the rudimentary nature of my rig, but part of it was due to the attraction of how a combination of playing with my fingers and mucho low-end and distortion sounded. I mean, you just couldn’t play a wrong note. As least, no one could hear it. It wasn’t even a prerequisite to be in the right key.

So, I blundered and thundered along for years, secure in my ability to perform as a rhythm instrument without having to worry about pesky details like being in tune and knowing all the chord changes. Then a tech at Ray Hennig’s Heart Of Texas Music (in the original Waco location) invited me over to his house. He had a incredible Altec Valencia sound system, and said “So you like to play bass, do you?”, and put on The Yes Album.

Everything changed. All the percussion of the bass was still there, but you could hear every note being played. And it was awesome. I determined to have this sound for my very own.

I tried this and that, boosting the treble, lowering the bass, starting to play with a pick (at first, just for Deep Purple covers – how’s that for irony?), but I knew I had to have that bass. That Rickenbacker bass. This HAD to be the key. So I finally got one.

Horror.

This is the time as I always describe as “wanting to sell my crap and buy a motorcycle”. Because I could really really hear myself for the first time.

And I sucked.

I was sloppy, rushing, dragging, misfretting – this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I almost quit.

But instead, I got mad. I started forcing myself to unlearn every old bad habit, and before very long at all, I was actually playing like someone who knows how. Buying that bass did more to improve my playing in one year than the preceding 5.

So – it was all about hearing what I was actually doing, rather than what I heard myself doing in my head.

And I still have that bass I bought new in 1977.

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3 thoughts on “Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with Random Ruminations – bass guitar edition

  1. gratuitous says:

    Holy crap! Someone actually read one of my posts.

    I had a friend (let’s call him Mark, because that’s his name) in a choral group who did with his tenor voice pretty much what you did with the bass. Talking with the guy who stood next to Mark, he said that Mark took a lot of liberties with the notes as written, but it usually worked out okay even if he never sang a song the same way twice.

  2. Ten Bears says:

    Unfortunately, it was also the era of Grand Funk railroad.

    I think I know you 😉

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