Friday, October 27, 2006

My one year anniversary with bass

Jazz bass: 1 pot © Andrew D. Barron, 10/2006

Here's a shot of my bass with the pickup modification. The lower left chrome piece has two black circles where tone and volume potentiometers once lived.
Ad hoc bass rig, first show, Davidson's Distillery, Renofailure, NV©Andrew D. Barron, 10/29/05
It's Friday before Halloween. I learned to play bass when a guy named Jim quit one year ago. I had three days to figure it out. That first night we played at Davidson's. I assembled my Dad's old Mustang bass I had owned for a couple of years. I had aimed to refinish it for heirloom's sake, so 53 weeks ago it was in pieces. It was the bass my dad bought when I was one year old and played in bars around Chico until 1991. Anyway, in 2003, I was jammiing with a friend Kevin Mass, who was going to learn to play bass. Funny how things turn out, cause Kevin barely held the thing. (Just a note, if you learn a wind instrument, pick up a string instrument at the same time.)

Back to the first show. My friend and former bandmate Joseph Martini (banjo) came out with his wife. I can't remember the last time he's been to a show. Anyway, I borrowed (another former bandmate) Luke Hoffman's 1x15 cabinet, which failed during the second set. Then I played through Adam's pedal steel amp, a Peavey Nashville 15. We made it through.

But the next day I spent nearly $2000 on a new bass rig, the one I am using still. Shannon at Bizarre Guitar gave me a reasonable price on 1x15, 2x10, and a 400 watt head, all Fender PRO stuff. I have numerous compliments on the overall good sound of these speakers. I had some trouble with the Mustang over the next few month an purchased my Jazz bass by January 27, 2006.

I didn't imagine things would take off this way for me. Playing bass has put me in touch with elusive musical qualities like tone, soul, groove, and taste. If someone told me playing electric bass would sharpen my musicianship, I'd have scoffed. The proof is in the pickin', which I can't honestly judge. But I think I'm better.

Happy anniversary to me and my bass. Nothing I have ever taken on has given me so much for so little.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Piano teacher and Spanish lessons

All right, I want to learn more about piano. I know, I've got plenty on my plate, but piano was my first instrument. I'd like to figure out how to make it work, particularly left hand stuff. I'm not interested in practicing sight-reading music. That's never been very fulfilling.

Also, since I want to go to Spain next summer, it's time I start to learn the language.

So if there's a bilingual piano teacher here in Reno, it's time get crackin'.

OR, I may learn Spanish while practicing classical guitar (my weakest guitar technique by far). Hmmmm.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I've archived my blogs at the more functional blogger web site here.

I'll be dressed as Paul McCartney again because I have that Beatle suit replica I bought last year. I figured that if I wore it 10 more times it'd be worth it. That was an impulsive gash into the savings account. It was kind of funny to play a show dressed that way, alone. It was at the Satellite, Reno's best bar, according to the RN&R reader's poll. Not me. Anyway, Honky Tonk Halloween was the bill. DJ Brandi was there spinning Hank Sr. and other good old country between sets.

Last year I even had a Beatle wig made. Makes me look quite dapper. I'm not proud that I had to go to the Inner Woman on Wells to find a wig that my hairdresser could work with. Shit, said too much again.

2005: Adam in my 2003 Willie Nelson costume, Lanie, and me

However, since I have this whole 'band guy' thing, I'm out of the social loop for what normal people do on the weekends. So invite me to your party, and keep the Tanqueray away.

Off to sushi.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday mornin' coming down

Two shows with Johnny Dilks were really a treat. Friday we packed Shea's. Apologies for the short set/early finish. I guess we have a reputation of playing all night, so folks weren't ready for the on-time start and one hour set. Last night we played one of the coolest bars I've ever been to, the historic Owl Club in Roseville, CA. Great ambience, great 'live' room with hardwood floors and lots of windows. I was tormented knowing the Saddle Tramps played without me. This will continue to be a balancing act between the bands and I know it won't be easy. It will be great.

I always talk Dave Gleason's ear off. I'm not sure why, but it may be that he's just one of those unpretentious pure spirits. He guests during our sets because he just loves to play guitar. I was proud to stand next to him for these shows.

I got new pickups for my bass. Jazz basses have two pickups, a volume knob for each and a tone knob. I wired the pickups together, directly to one volume knob. I removed the tone circuit and have been running my amp flat (that is no EQ). It is a gratifying to see a simple idea turn out like I imagined. It's like this: I think that tone comes from the musicians hands primarily, coupled with the instrument's innate characteristics. So I strive to have as little in the way between the mechanism of the instrument and the sound it makes. Some other examples of how I see this through: for a long time I ran my Telecaster with one pickup wired directly to the output jack. Similarly, I try to get the back of mandolin off my body so it can resonate entirely.

The Jazz sounds so sweet. I was a pure joy to play this weekend, particularly Friday. I am fortunate to play with such talented guys all the damn time. My fingers are trashed because I haven't played bass for three weeks. I've got blisters on my right hand. My left fingers are worn from the Saddle Tramps mandolin sessions. They are very, very funny guys. Our personal mix is comfortable and a continuous running joke.

My film production classes are over. That turned out less than I'd hoped in some ways, more in other ways. I'm looking forward to 'the project' that inspires me to get down to business with it. I've much to learn but am equipped to get there. I digitized some of my VHS collection, and was inspired again by Rowland Salley's documentary Why The Artist Creates. I didn't find the thing he said that has been stuck in my head. After little digging I found it on his website. He wrote this about inspiration: There are literally thousands of inspirational events for any musician...for me they go from Stephen Foster to Howlin' Wolf and back again several times a day. Also...I think it's a good thing to fall in love with your waitress once in awhile. Well put Roly. I can find a moment in so many songs where one musician did something that touches me and inspires me. Particularly in band-oriented music; that is to say albums that are recordings of a band versus a collection of studio musicians. I believe great albums can communicate to us the telepathy that the band members have with each other. I know it's real because on stage, Chico reads my mind all the time. Likewise, I read Leroy's. That's why we're a good band -- the rhythm section is 'one thing.'

I've been way out on the creative edge for the last two weeks. Way out. I've never laughed so much or played so much. It is exhausting being so far out here. I played as well as I think I am capable for the studio sessions last week. I was displeased with some of the technical aspects, but mostly I just wrestled with the notion of trying to maintain what I do. I had to constantly tell myself to 'just play; that's why I'm in the band'. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors that erode self-confidence are always lurking. What we recorded sounds good. It is a new, very different sound. It is good. It will be fun to develop the live show in the months to come. Tim O'Brien has said that bluegrass is a strong spice. It's not for everyone and that's a good thing. The spice gets mellowed with just one bluegrass instrument in the band but it's still strong.

This one is a tough read and I thank you for getting this far.

Sending out the good vibrations,

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