Back to school

Tonight I’m starting bass guitar lessons again, with a new teacher. The last one, a  good musician but only a fair instructor, was frequently late, occasionally a no-show, and almost always smelled bad. Here’s hoping tonight’s is better.

My goals, having fumbled around with my chosen instrument for a few years now, are somewhat different than they were then. My main objectives are:

  • Improve my right-hand technique
  • Learn some useful exercises
  • Begin to understand theory in a less theoretical fashion – mainly by learning about the construction of the songs I want to play

As for songs, the ones I’d like to learn – my ineptitude notwithstanding – are almost uniformly old (like me!) but covering a range of styles. Some bluesy rock (Cream, Led Zeppelin), some post-punky pop (Joe Jackson, The Police, The Talking Heads), some old-school hard rock (Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath).

Maybe, someday, I’ll feel confident enough to add prog rock (Yes, Rush), early metal (Iron Maiden) or jazz (Marcus Miller). Maybe, but I’m not counting on it.

Of course, my new instructor may have other plans, and if they seem reasonable I’ll follow them instead.

Strings attached 

They say you shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry. The same apparently  goes for music shops. Especially if they’re having a big ‘everything must go’ sale. I know this because, on the very same day I wrote about wanting to chuck everything & hit the road, I bought a guitar.

Now, it’s important to note that I don’t actually play the guitar. Yet. Lessons are in my future. But even though I don’t know how to play it, it seemed to speak to me. The finish, the feel, the sound… it wanted to be mine.

So… hopefully by the year’s end I’ll be able to crank out some simpler rock & blues songs. If not, watch for a good deal on a used Telecaster.

Lend me your ears…

Nietzsche once wrote that “without music, life would be a mistake.” Some people likely think that was an example of hyperbole (which Nietzsche was prone to). I am not one of those people.

Since I was a baby, there has been music. My father loved jazz, gospel, calypso, country and western, and bagpipe music. An eclectic mix, to say the least. On long drives to visit family on Vancouver Island, I recall hearing Louis Armstrong, Harry Belafonte, and Johnny Cash coming from the 8-track deck mounted under the dash. Every Christmas, he played Mahalia Jackson’s renditions of “O, Holy Night” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

One of the things I’ve inherited from my father is a varied taste in music, and a near obsessive need to have my hours filled with it. Jazz, Classical, Folk, Rock, Blues, Ska, Funk. The genre almost doesn’t matter. (Although, I mostly don’t like radio songs or club music, or anything that seems to lack originality.)

Even within a genre like “Rock”, there is a wide variety styles I like. Classic Rock, old Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock, New Wave, Punk, et cetera. I expect most of my playlists would leave others confused.

There are favourites, of course. Music I listen to more frequently, more repeatedly, and this tends to change over time. I used to listen to Beethoven obsessively, but now, when I listen to classical music, it is more likely be Bach or Arvo Part. In jazz, I have become more attuned to Coletrane and Sonny Rollins of late, though I still listen to a lot of Miles. In rock, there’s no one I listen to more than Rush these days, especially the remixed Vapour Trails. Although, Peter Gabriel is a close second, and my appreciation of the Rolling Stones has been increasing.

I can’t imagine not being able to listen to music for any length of time. When I was a child, I would sing to myself if I didn’t have a radio or record player handy. I still do this when I’m riding my motorcycle. (It’s a good thing others don’t have to hear what goes on inside my helmet!)

For this reason, I think hearing is the sense I’d have the hardest time living without. Although, I can hear whole symphonies in my head, in the way others can picture a beach. So maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world to be without hearing, since I’d still have music. If that were to go, though, I think Nietzsche is right: life would be a mistake.