No such thing as a boring gig
Or: "It's your (lack of) creativity, stupid!"
by Harald Weinkum hwein.com
A little (true) story for starters: When a fellow M.I. instructor had a break during a casual he was playing, he sat down at the keyboard to mess around with some harmonies, only to get some crossover sounds between the late Schoenberg and early Stockhausen out of the monitor.
Trying to warn the keyboarder of a possible instrument malfunction, he was informed: "That's o.k., I split the keyboard and transpose one half a few halfsteps up or down, just to keep myself challenged."
Makes 'ya think, doesn't it? (if it doesn't, this lesson is not for you. Return whatever media you found it in and apply the refund towards your next tattoo/piercing/bottle of whiskey).
For all others, I will now give you a variety of techniques to challenge yourselves on your next maybe-a-little-bossa-nova-or-some-jazz-ballad-please-but-not-too-loud-thank-you-gig:
("the instant boredom buster"): You can NOT use any of your index fingers!
.what?? Not my right index, nor my left.? - that's right!!(and left): you have to do your picking with either "m" (middle finger) only, or you can alternate pick with "m" and "r" (ring finger), or you gotta use your thumb; also, your left hand will have to do with m,r,and pinkie, giving them a probably long deserved workout.
(When Steve Bailey decided to get his right ring finger up to speed, he used his then Disneyland gig to accomplish this, completely omitting his right index. Con: Nobody got to hear what a flashy player he really was. Pro: Steve could care less.)
You can NOT look at your instrument whatsoever
That means: not at the fingerboard, not at the strings, not at the little dots indicating your 5th, 7th and 12th fret; only at your future ex-girl(/boy)friend in the audience, or your drummer (just kidding!), or the singer (just superkidding!!). However, this will turn your easiest shifts into little micro-adventures and force you to totally rely on your ears, for once.
You can NOT use any open strings
uh-oh. have we neglected our low B string far too long? Yes, it does have a low E on it somewhere. You'll also discover that you now can apply some of that Rocco-Prestia-left-hand-muting on every note if you stay away from open strings.
You have to use an open string WHENEVER possible
Sometimes you will jump an ocatve up or down in your lines - however: did you know that you can play the entire intro to "Proud Mary" on open strings (of a 5 string bass)? D-D-B D-D-B D-D-B-A-G-G-G-G-A-E. I actually HAD to do this once when my music stand collapsed, and I had to reassemble it without interrupting my playing.
You cannot play below your 5th fret
Yes, we all know that "there's no money above the 5th fret." But we're not in it for the money, right? Doing this, you might discover more unknown territory than Lewis and Clark, especially in the 10th fret area!
You try to play your left hand coming from ABOVE the neck instead of underneath You might have seen Eddie Van Halen do it, now it's your turn. Guaranteed to be a showstopper when applied during a slap solo.
You D-tune your E string, regardless of the necessity. It sure keeps your brain busy for a while to play those octaves on the same fret! However, you can tune down ANY string a whole step (or all of them - no wait, that's been done I think). Or a half step (if that doesn't mess you up, you're prepared for that sight reading gig at the playboy mansion).
You have to stay away from a certain string Let's say, you cannot use your D string for a whole set. If you're hardcore, take it off! (However, fellow players might start thinking you're not taking your gig seriously enough, and nothing could be further from the truth!)
You have to EXCLUSIVELY stay on one string Can you walk through "Autumn Leaves" on your E-string? And if so, how about "Giant Steps"? And, imagine the fun of playing a bossa nova bass line on 1 string!!
Here comes a special soloing section
Try to solo in one position (4 frets + 2 "extended") EXCLUSIVELY
You probably have already been forced to do this by one of your crazy instructors, who obviously needs to get "a life", right?
Try to solo on one string EXCLUSIVELY This is just like "walking" on one string, only exactly twice as hard (provided you're playing 8th notes)
Try to solo on 2 NON-ADJACENT strings This one I got from Gary Willis, and you'll be surprised what it'll do for your soloing - you might for the first time ever find yourself playing 6ths and 7ths!
Start EVERY line on, say, the 3rd of every chord Thiswill be easy on"Blue Bossa", but how about on "Moment's Notice"? (However, don't do this on "All the things you are", 'cause people will assume you're taking "the melody out")
Here comes a special fretless section
Try to play IN TUNE for a change (just kidding.or ain't I?)
Which of the following is true: You can never be too rich, to skinny, or too much in tune? (Hint: Yes, you CAN be too rich and too skinny - just watch the sickoes on "E!" for a while)
Try to play in tune WITHOUT watching your fretboard like Michael Jackson watches Nickelodeon (assuming he does)
See how much you can rely on your ears! If you suck, you're still in good company (me, for instance)
(if you're the next or the real Steve Bailey:) Intentionally turn one (or two?) strings slightly out of tune (and still play IN TUNE!!)
I've seen Steve mess up the tuning on his 6 string fretless and still play a classical piece in tune while using artificial harmonics on the highest of the 3-way harmonies. Or was I dreaming the whole thing? I'm afraid not.
Now, the next time you play that same old restaurant/lounge/casino gig, try implementing some of these techniques, and you'll see time flies by, but most important: you're playing will take a big step forward on every one of these occasions.
Legal Disclaimer: The author can assume no responsibility for the reader getting fired from all his engagements after trying to implement ALL the aforementioned techniques at the same time.
Stay tuned for Harald's my next CD titled "ÜBERTHREE". It will feature Mike Stern, Frank Gambale, Dave Weckl, Steve Weingart, Joe Labarbara and Kirk Covington, and, like the "BASS BOLERO" be exclusively in 3/4 time. Go to hwein.com for some audio samples
gary willis, victor wooten, steve bailey, jimmy haslip, rocco prestia, alain caron, marco mendoza, abraham laboriel, bill dickens, alexis skljarevski, dave carpenter, ric fierabracci, james genus, jimmy earl