01 August 2008

Bass Desires

I've been undergoing something of an identity crisis lately. It centres around the fact that the church I'm going to has an abundance of highly skilled pianists available, and a small number of significantly lower skilled bass players. I'm only too happy to help out where I can, so I'm on bass two weeks out of four, which is great, but having people know I can play the bass and not know that I play the piano is playing havoc with my established order of social interaction.

It came to a head last night while I was chatting with my pastor. He was talking about how he often sees me up there playing, and wonders (tongue in cheek) why the piano or the saxophone always get the solo. "You never get to see a good bass solo," he said. I casually replied that bass players don't need solos because they're big enough posers as it is. He laughed and said "Yes. Maybe it's better that you stay up the back." I realised in horror that having so frequently seen me playing the bass at church, and never having seen me playing keys, those at the church who don't know me so well have got it into their heads that I'm some kind of ... bass player.

I mean obviously I'm a bass player if we're defining bass player as "one who plays the bass," but anyone who has had any involvement with any band ever will understand that the term "bass player" communicates a lot more than just "the one with the bass guitar". It communicates a certain personality, a certain social status, a certain gravitational effect on members of the opposite sex (no-one knows why, by the way) and a certain predisposition towards being a complete poser. And I really don't identify with any of those. Well... maybe the poser bit, but even that's a completely different genre of posing.

Most people who play the bass don't actually fall under this classification, since it is reserved chiefly for people whose first instrument is the bass guitar, or who made the jump from guitar to bass early enough for it to count as a first instrument. Having the bass guitar as one's musical background has some sort of mystical affect on a person's approach to other instruments, music in general, and basically life, the universe and everything.

True bass players are a fascinating, if simple, sub-species. It's not that they're necessarily good-looking, charming, witty, sensitive or literate (although they can be). Bass players don't acquire any inherent traits to which we may attribute their automatic popularity the moment they first pick up a guitar. It's just a fundamental property of the universe. The sky is blue, light is fast, water flows downhill and bass players are popular. That's just how it is. Your average after-church conversation with a bass player goes something like this:

"Hey Matty. I really liked your playing tonight." (All bass players are called Matt, Chris, or Adam. Again, no-one knows why)
"Hey, thanks (insert name here). We had a really great time up there tonight."
(Giggling incessantly) "So... how's your weekend been?"
"Pretty cool, I guess. I was down the beach yesterday for a surf, then I had work in the afternoon."
"Where do you work?"
"I have a part time job at the uni giving guitar lessons to supermodels."
"Wow... that must be so interesting and rewarding."
"Yeah, it's a pretty sweet deal. Not as sweet as you though." (cheeky wink)
"Oh, that's so nice" (collapses in a fit of unrestrainable giggling).

Whereas your average after-church conversation with Garry cunningly disguised as a bass player goes something like this:

"Hi Garry. I really liked your playing tonight."
"Thanks. We had a good time"
"So... how's your weekend been?"
"Fairly relaxing actually. I got some match preparation in yesterday, and caught up with some old linguist friends from uni for lunch this afternoon."
"Match preparation? What do you play?"
"Chess. I've got an open tournament game on Tuesday night"
"Chess? Linguistics? Wait a minute!"
"You're not really cool and dreamy at all, are you?"
"GUARDS! GUARDS! Seize this imposter, and cast him into outer darkness, where there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth."
"What? Hey! Unhand me, you fiends!"

Okay, so our church doesn't actually have guards. Furthermore, I am aware that the above descriptions of conversations are probably sexist. Get over it. For the record, obviously female bass players do exist, but they're rare, since most girls' first instrument is the flute, violin or piano. They don't attract the same amount of attention as male bass players do because they are usually already going out with the drummer. And I'm not implying that all church-going girls are as predictable as the one in the conversations. Just the ones that hang off bass players. And you can't blame them for that. Telling them not to would be like asking the sun not to rise in the morning. It's not an optional occurrence; it just happens that way.

Far from home

Garry with 2 Rs
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