Tag Archives: Guitar

Back to the Basics: August 2014

Do you love what you do? Really, do you? I love to play music. I am not at place where I am able to make a living making music, but I love to play any musical instrument I can get my hands on. I have the honor and privilege to play the Drums and Play the Bass Guitar on a pretty regular basis over the past few months. More and more often I am seeing Drummers and Bass players stepping up as Band Leaders and Musical Directors, so I cannot say that it is rare to see a Drummer or Bass Player as a Leader.

People can tell if you love what you do. I have tried to make things better for the Praise Band that I am playing in; I would say gigging with, but we are not getting paid. Getting paid is not the point. Loving what you do is the point. I have blogged about being the guy who carries extra cables, converters and drum sticks, and working with the sound man to make sure everyone is being heard. I am the guy who tries to make it better for everyone involved. When I play the drums, people say they enjoy the way I play the drums. When I play the Bass Guitar, I get more compliments from Musicians than from anyone else. I have started to notice, people may not be able to tell what I am playing; but they can tell if I am having fun playing.

When I play the Bass Guitar, my sound level and tone is in the hands of the sound man. I run directly into the main Sound System with No Amp and No Monitor. This makes it easier for everyone else to hear what they are doing. I am the last person to hear the sound of the Bass. I do this because it challenges me as a musician and because it is fun. It is more fun when the Bass is louder in the mix. This seems to depend on how many people are playing other instruments.   The more guitars in the mix and the more the Bass seems to get lost. Again, this is not the point. The point is people can tell if I am having fun whether I am playing the Drums or playing the Bass.

When I play the Drums, it is obvious I am playing the Drums and I have control over the volume of the drums. The harder I play, the louder the drums are in the mix. Again, I try to make sure everyone else is heard so I try not to drown everyone out. I play loud enough to set a solid foundation and I listen for everyone else. I have found that when I miss a beat or make a mistake, I seem to laugh. I just love to make music. I get a sense of joy that over takes me, even when I mess up and make a mistake. I love that I get a chance to play.

When I play the Bass, it means we have a Drummer and at the Very least, Someone Playing Piano. It may also mean we have anywhere from 1 to 3 Guitar players in the mix also. I am the guy who makes sure everyone else is plugged in and heard in the mix. I am the guy who asked the sound man to take me out of the monitors so everyone else can hear themselves more clearly. I did this not because anyone can tell, I did this to challenge myself. Can I give it my all and not be a prima-donna while I am playing the Bass Guitar? Playing the Bass Guitar is a thankless job. Most people do not know who the Bass Player is unless they sing or write the songs. Running Sound is a Thankless Job. Most people do not know what the sound man does. That is why I thank the sound man and help him out as much as possible. The more I help others be heard, the more they accept me as a leader in the band even though I am not the lead musician.

I know others can sing better than I can. I know there are better drummers than I am. I am not ready to tell you there are a lot of better Bass players than me; because I have worked very hard to perfect the gifts and talents I have been given. But that does not matter, I will let someone else play the bass and have volunteered to step aside, if something else is needed more. The point is that people cannot always tell what I am playing. People have thought I was playing the Guitar when I was on the Bass. People have thought they could hear me play, when the sound man had turned me off by mistake. The challenge is not being the loudest. The challenge is to love what you are doing.   People can always tell if I am having fun, even if I cannot hear what I am playing. I love having the chance to play anything, the Drums, the Bass Guitar; I would even play the tambourine, if that is what is needed.

I believe that you cannot be an effective leader if you are not willing to help others succeed. I also believe that you cannot be an effective leader if you do not love what you are doing. People can tell who is willing to help others. People can tell who is ready to sacrifice so that others can succeed. People can also tell if you truly love what you are doing. Are you having fun? Do you love what you do?

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Back to the Basics, Part Two:

I love playing the Bass Guitar.  I love making music.  I have told me exploits as a Drummer and a Servant Leader.  I have been trying to learn to become a better leader by doing the best I can to help move the group of musicians I jam with forward.  Well this week I learned quite a lesson.  I will share it with you if you will stick around for a minute.  Welcome to 60 Seconds of Motivational Mojo.

Have you ever heard of the term, “Fake it until you make it?”  I am not sure I agree with that term.  I believe you should do the best you can, do not be afraid of making mistakes; but learn from the mistakes you make, and keep trying to get better at what you do.  I play the Drums in a Praise Band, because that is what we need the most.  Every now and then I get to play the Bass Guitar.  This week for the second time only I got to play the Bass.

Now as a Drummer, I have tried to make sure everything was good for all the other musicians.  I bring extra Cables, converters and spare batteries to make sure you can clearly hear each instrument.  I have explained to the people in the band that the person running the Sound System can make or break our performance.  The mix of the Sound through the Main System is what the people in the crowd will hear.  We will hear the mix through the stage monitors first, and the sound going out to the crowd will sound like an echo to us on stage.  Everything has to be mixed just right.

I have gotten used to different mixes because I have played different instruments and different styles of music.  It never sounds exactly the same twice.  Most of the time people in the crowd are not 100% sure if what they are hearing is mixed just right, or if it is even being played live at all.  You see people pantomiming to music in the Movies, On TV and even at some Concerts.  A lot of Television Appearances are set to pre-recorded music.  I never much liked watching people fake it on Television or in the Movies.  I really like movies where when you watch the musicians’ they look like they can really play, not just fake it.  I never like watching people fake it on Television or Live.

Ok, quick switch.  Name your five favorite singers.  Now name your five favorite bass players.  Most people can not even name five bass payers.  Most people can not really tell who is playing what on stage.  I can. I am a musician.  Some styles of music are truly built upon what the Bass Player and Drummer are doing.  Usually the best Bass Lines can be found in Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Funk Music.  In other Styles of Music the Bass Player can sit in the back ground and just provide deep notes that sit under what everyone else is doing.  I like playing the Bass in a way the weaves in and out of the mix.  I play the bass in a way that can sit back or take the lead.  I like to play in a way that will push the other musicians’ and add a lot of energy to the music.  I want people to feel what I am playing.

Well because of strange scheduling we did not get to practice with our sound man.  We made it through practice, but there we some sound problems.  Noisy cords that were creating a popping sound in the music.  Because we were not able to really pin point the problem we just did the best we could and got through practice.  During our performance, something went terribly wrong.  The Acoustic Guitar and Bass Guitar were low in the mix to start with, but halfway through the first song the Guitar and Bass were turned completely off in the mix.  We were reduced to playing along, but nothing was coming through the Main System or the Monitors.  We tried to wave to the Sound Man but we could not get his attention.  I was basically faking it.  The keyboards, drums and vocals were the only thing being heard by the crowd.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the music, everyone but me.  The Bass Guitar was plugged directly into the Main System, no Bass Amplifier on Stage.  I knew what I was playing, and I was trying to play to the best of my ability.  I really, really wanted people to feel the Bass parts I was playing.  I wanted to take each song to New Heights.

All the weeks I spent behind the drums making sure everyone else could be heard, and now I was not being heard at all.  Many a Rock Star has walked off the stage when the mix was wrong.  I wanted to sit down the bass and walk off stage.  I had to convince myself that the sound could be fixed at any minute.  I had to fake it.  I had to keep playing not knowing if I would be heard or not.  I have read stories of Guitar players who would jump around and go crazy one night and really concentrate on their playing the next night.  People like to see people jumping around more than really trying to play their best.  I knew what I was playing.  I could hear it in my mind.  No matter how much I tried it would not be heard by anyone else.  I would not be able to make people feel what I was playing.  They would only see what I was trying to play.

I gave up trying to signal to the sound made.  I tried to let it go and just have a good time, somewhere between faking it and really playing.  The performance made me realize it is not about me; and if the sound man could not hear what was wrong, no one in the crowd would hear it either.  No one else could tell that the Acoustic Guitar and The Bass Guitar were turn off in the mix.  We were really playing but not being heard.  We were being seen though.  A few people even told me, that they could not hear me in the beginning.  The Bass was actually “On” early in the first song.

The whole thing made me wonder if I could every “fake it” for a TV show.  I am not sure if I could.  I think I would at the very least need an Amplifier turned “On” even if it was not part of the Main Mix.  As much as I wanted to show off my skills to the world, how much will it really matter?  Someone has to really be tuned in as much as I am to what each instrument is doing.  Maybe this is why some many people can just fake it.  Maybe people really do not even really know what they are hearing.  Live or Pre-Recorded.  It is more about liking what they hear more than how it is being made.  I still want to really play; I do not want to fake it.  Maybe this is why more and more bad singers are famous, and why so many acts out there can just put on a tape and jump around.  They just fake it.

The most important thing is to do what is best for the group and move forward.  The lesson is to really tune in that sound system and each sound man to what sounds they are hearing.  The sound man can make or break the mix of the music.  So on wards and upwards in my journey as a leader, sometimes you just have to adapt to the worst possible scenario and keep moving forward.  Next time, there will always be a next time!

Back to the basics:

Sometimes you can see it coming.  Sometimes you can just tell which way things will go.  Sometimes if you are lucky, and you play your cards right; you get to help steer the boat.

One of these days I am going to write a book and call it “Leadership Jazz.”  Until then I am going to keep blogging about my adventures in my weekend ensemble.  I have been playing the drums as of late in an inspirational outfit.  But this weekend, I got to switch to my main instrument, the Bass Guitar.  Now I am not going to spend a lot of time name dropping top flight Bass Players, this is not what this blog post is about.  It is more about the fact that I was playing the drums because the drums was needed most, and how we evolved as a group to the point where I was able to switch back to the Bass.

Ok, our group started with a Singer / Keyboard Player, who added a Guitar Player.  I was asked to play the Drums and we also added a Second Guitar Player.  To fill out the sound the Second Guitar Player would switch between Bass or Drums if I was out-of-town and could not play.

As the group grew in size, I would help out where ever I saw need.  I always tried to have extra cables and connectors and help trying to figure out how to plug everything into the main sound system.  Being a Leader is about looking a little ways down the road and making sure you are prepared for the next obstacle.  I was not worried about the spotlight, but making sure everything we played sounded right.

We always kept things loose, practicing on Saturdays and performing on Sundays.  Things would sometimes sound a little rough around the edges on Saturday, but something magical seemed to come over us on Sundays.  I guess you just need faith.  After practice I would grab the Bass and play for a few minutes jamming with whom ever hung around, or just running through some warm-up scales before we shut everything down.

This weekend, the Keyboard Player lined up a Drummer and freed me up to play the Bass.  Now the first thing that went through my head was how to make sure the lineup would work with the main sound system.  So I put together a little travel bag of extras.  I had an extra pair of drum sticks.  I also had two extra guitar cables, and two extra microphone cables, a couple of converter boxes and two extra nine volt batteries.  You know I really did not notice I had everything in pairs until I typed this out.

So I was very excited to be back on the Bass Guitar.  People had been telling me they liked the way I play the drums.  I just try to keep is basic and let it flow when I am on the Drums.  Most of all, I just try to have fun and let the spirit take me.  But I have something to prove on Bass.  So as much as I want to do things for the good of the group; I have to admit, I was looking forward to being a little selfish.

When we got everything ready; and checked all the cables and instrument levels, everything sounded full and rich.  I was pretty jazzed, I had to keep stopping myself and make sure I was on track with everyone else the first time we ran through the songs.  I had to stop myself and reminded myself; don’t go over board, keep it simple.  I have to admit, I got lost a few times.

We ran through the songs again, adding more singers to the mix.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the second time through, mistakes and all.  I was having fun, but I had to keep reminding myself to remember the basics, keep it simple.  I was having fun and it seemed like it was rubbing off on everyone else.  The singer / keyboard player was the first to notice the two guitar players and I were locked in to the rhythm of the drums and bouncing along.

I began to notice how the first guitar player was the most locked in to the keyboard player and was singing along.  He was carrying the rest of us through the changes.  I also noticed the Second Guitar Player, who had been playing Bass was more confident on Guitar when we had more people in place.  I also noticed the subtle difference it makes to have someone who plays drums full-time instead of part-time.  I also noticed that I had to keep myself in the moment, play through any mistakes I was making and just get back to the basics.  Keep it simple, not flashy.

When we were done, people seemed very happy about the sound.  Everyone, the singers, the keyboard player, the guitar players, the drummer and I were all pretty about how we sounded.  I did not get as many compliments about how I played the Bass versus the Drums.  It seemed like I was making more impact when I played the drums.   Maybe this is a lesson in humility.  I know I am a better Bass Player than Drummer, but no one really noticed.  It is a lesson I will gladly accept to keep learning and moving forward.  This was a bigger mix of music and I was happy to be on that Bass Guitar for a weekend.

One day, I want to perform more with my wife, and have a studio and make our own music and lead our own group.  This is just another step in my evolution as a musician.  To be flexible and do what is needed to keep things moving forward.  I want to learn to be a leader regardless of who is in the spotlight.

The lesson I learned by switching back to the Bass is to stick to the basics.  Keep things simple.

Maximum Awesomeness!

Search out Awesome on the internet or look it up in the dictionary.  Would you like to be known as or do something awesome?  I would.  And I am here to motivate those of you who agree with me, in 60 seconds or less with whatever mojo I can muster.  Maximum Awesomeness or Max Awesome for short; can be yours if you will lend me your ears, or eyes in this case.

Solar Awesome

How to Gain Awesome!  Can you become more awesome?  Sure you can.  I will run down the steps for you.  Erase all doubt and follow me on this one.  Did you search out awesome?  Are you ready? OK, let’s do this!

Lot’s of times when people start a new workout or new exercise routine they want to either lose weight or build muscle.  I am telling you that the answer is the same if you will shift your thinking.  Forget about losing weight or gaining muscle, focus your mind on Maximizing your Awesomeness.  How do you gain awesome?  It starts in your mind.

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Focus your mind on the fact that you can be awesome.  Think about the things you like to do.  Focus on your goals and hobbies and dreams and wishes.  Stretch them to their limits, say in your mind that you can be awesome.  Don’t say it out loud, or at least not when people are around.  Keep these thoughts inside your head; when someone says you can’t do something, repeat in your mind that you can.  Repeat in your mind the fact that you can gain awesome, you can aspire to Maximum Awesomeness; Max Awesome for short!

Now act on your thoughts.  Action creates confidence.  If you want to lose weight, start working out. If you want to gain muscle, start working out.  If you want to play the guitar, practice.  If you want to sing or dance, practice.  If you want to be a great accountant, practice.  You have to act on your thoughts.  Awesome does not fall out of the sky; that is luck.  Awesome has to be built upon.  If you have set you mind to being awesome, then you have to create a habit of working toward being awesome.

Maximum Awesomeness, you have to be convinced.  You have to be inspired.  You have to think awesome thoughts and build upon awesome actions.  You have to use a system of rewards to continue to motivate yourself.  If you are working out, eat the foods that make you feel good about your workout.  Listen to music that makes you feel good about your workout.  Watch shows that get you pumped up before your workout.  Don’t over think it, focus and act.  Same with playing the guitar, or dancing, or singing, or being an accountant; I am not being funny, you have to be convinced and inspired.  No one is going to hand you awesomeness on a silver platter.

awesome

Now, if you are working hard, and you are making gains; if you are gaining awesome, if you are about to reach a state of Maximum Awesomeness, do not put your self in a position where you will self destruct.  Lots of people try to take short cuts, or push things too far.  Some people engage in destructive behavior on their road to awesomeness.  Do you want to be a flash in the pan, or do you want to leave a lasting legacy?  Know your limits, and then help others maximize their awesomeness.  Do you want to be known as Max Awesome?  You have to believe you can do it, you have to keep it in your head, and then you have to protect it.  Don’t destroy your own progress.  Not everyone will want you to be awesome, so why would you destroy what you have worked so hard to gain?

logical_awesome

Set your mind on awesome thoughts; be inspired by awesome things, and see yourself in awesome situations.  Maximum Awesomeness is a mental thing before and after it is a physical thing.  Awesomeness can not be bought, it has to be built.  You will not be awesome because you buy an awesome computer, but you could be known as awesome if you built an awesome computer.  You will not be known as awesome if you have a great guitar and can’t play it.  You could be known as awesome regardless of what kind of guitar you own, if you are the best guitar player your friends have ever seen.  You can’t buy awesomeness, you have to build it; you have to create it!

Computer

Max Awesome must become your goal, your state of mind, your practice and your reality check.  Remember, it is about a lasting legacy, not an endless stream of self-destructive behavior.  To reach Maximum Awesomeness you have to continually be building on and protecting your level of awesome.  You have to be convinced that you can gain awesome, no matter what level you are at currently.  It starts with your thoughts, and it follows with your actions.  Remember you can’t buy it, you have to build it.  It’s not the car, it’s the driver!

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I have plenty of Mojo left, but I am taking up more than 60 seconds of your time.  Stay tuned.  You will see a common thread in my posts.  I believe that you can be awesome.  I believe you can because I believe I can.  I am trying to inspire myself as much as I am trying to inspire you.  Maximum Awesomeness, Max Awesome for short; make it your goal!