For the love of...tone?
I’m still not sure why I felt the way I did when “Cliff’, my bass guitar teacher in year 9 of high school, started to shred on his bass on our first day of classes. Was it the tone of his ‘60s Fender Precision? Was it the popping and slapping he was confidently throwing around? Was it the rumble coming from the amp? Was it the beauty of this instrument I knew existed but knew very little about? I‘m still unsure today!
All I know is that I was mesmerised!
That was the first time (at least that I remember) that ‘music’ gave me goosebumps and a wave of tingles down my back. I knew that I had to play what Cliff was playing.
He handed out a bass to each of us, we plugged into a tiny amp, and we sat, poised to burst into a face scrunching groove. Cliff began to explain the open E and asked us to mimic his technique while we play it with him. I thought “how cool is this.” He went on to F...I think it was that very moment that I realised it!
This ain’t so easy!
Buzz...can’t hold the note down...tongue sticking out...buzz...my hand hurts already, what the hell is this?! It took a few more goes to finger the note properly before I finally produced a continuous note, free from fret buzz. There, I did it, now let’s have a break ’cos I’m exhausted.
Nevertheless, this first introduction to the bass has firmly planted the bass into my psyche for 30 years now. Holy moly! 30 years? Time sure flies.
Around the same time as my introduction to the bass, I was totally obsessed with intricately and accurately drawing everything I could see, all the while my Grandad was trying to teach me about life. This involved being outside, doing and building stuff. He would make something out of nothing and stockpiled all manner of materials around the house. I got to learn from him that I can build most anything I want just by thinking about what it is I want to make.
I think the intersection between these milestones in my life were important in forming my love of creation in both music and in crafting.
While I’ve never aimed at achieving greatness in my playing, nor achieved it, I have aimed at enjoying what I play, what I play with others. That I have definitely achieved. More importantly is that this enjoyment has brought me the gift of both technical and creative appreciation for music, for people creating music, for the instruments that channel a musician’s sound, and for the creativity and crafting that produces those ingenious instruments.
So what is music to me? It’s human, it’s nature, it’s love! It‘s in harmony with our own rhythm of body and of life. It’s respect and restraint and order and anarchy, all at once. It connects, creates, constructs. It connects people, creates harmony, constructs joy.
I feel compelled to create. I seem to have been (fortuitously?) exposed to so many people and circumstances in life that lead me to where I am now - compelled to create bass guitars that I’ve always wanted. Perhaps they’ve always been there, just waiting for me to wake up.