rumblepup – the other stuff

the big little guy

My First Bass Guitar

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I’ve been playing the bass for about 25 years now, and I love the instrument as much today as I when I first heard it.  I remember it fondly, and I have to say that I’m always flooded by that memory whenever I pick up my axe.

I’ve been involved in music since I was a kid.  Music was something that was a constant presence in my home as a child.  Either the radio or a record of Latin, Jazz , and some Rock could be heard from our home.  In retrospect, it really was a kind of magical time in my life.

My younger brother and I started playing the “drums.”  In other words, we’d bang, stomp and beat anything we could find in the house.  It could be pots, pans, the floor, the walls; literally anything that had a nice sound to it.  Eventually, we graduated to drums, bongos, and a djembe.  I always tended to play in the lower registers.  I liked the thump and bass of congas or the deep growl of the Cajon, a type of drum derived from a box or crate.  However, my brother excelled where I would simply play along, and I wanted to be a bit more involved.

I had always loved the sound of the bass guitar, but the connection between my heart and my hands didn’t happen until my cousin took me to a Motown Revue concert when I was 14.  This wasn’t a bona-fide Motown Revue, those ended in the 50’s and 60’s.  This was more a tribute band with a few of the old stars.  But the stage band was absolutely excellent.  The horns, the drums, the keyboards created an atmosphere that felt like you where inside the record player.  But what stood out was this one cat, the bass player.

I can’t remember his name, but I remember his playing and his axe, a vintage Fender bass, as he thumped out bass line after beautiful bass line from legendary players like James Jamerson and Carol Kaye.  I also remembered his playing style, holding the bass close to his body, syncing into the beat and the melody as he explored the low end.  I was hypnotized by what the bass was, and what it could mean, to me, and to the music I wanted to make.

The next day, the only thing in my mind was getting my hands on a Fender Precision bass and an amp.  What’s funny is that my desire to play bass taught me the value of hard work.  I got my very first part time job in a garage, working as many hours as I could, and I saved every penny until I could afford to pay for the bass of my dreams.  By the end of summer, I had enough to see the local instrument shop’s offerings.  Of course, I couldn’t afford something as beautiful as I saw the Revue musician playing, but that didn’t deter me.  You see, the desire for the bass also taught me how to negotiate.  I got my first bass, a respectable P-Bass, and a decent amp for all of the 800 dollars I had saved all summer.  Believe me, that shop owner was more than happy to have me OUT of his store.

I ran home with my new axe.  My feelings where quite mixed, but in a very pleasant way.  I was excited and nervous, but also a deep sense of satisfaction.  Opening up the case and plugging in my amp, I remember hearing the first buzz of the speakers, the crackle of the plug going into its socket, and the first droning harmonics of the bass strings as the magnetic pull of the pickups first stirred them to life.  There I was, with a bass in my hands, with only a few guitar lessons in my pocket, and I hit that first note.  It should probably be the first note all new young bass players should play; an open E.  The first bass string in the low range, with no fretting, just..open.

This is the memory that floods my mind and my heart every time I pick up my bass, and I hit that open E every single time, remembering what it was to first play music on your own.   How can you ever forget that?

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Written by rumblepup

November 19, 2009 at 2:13 pm

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