Perspective, Part 1: Technique

Up until recently, I think I had probably the very worst perspective on being a musician. Well, maybe not the worst perspective, but one that wasn’t healthy or productive, or even relevant for that matter. I don’t even know if you could call what I was thinking a perspective on being a musician necessarily, it was more so a perspective on being a bass-technician.

I really love the way solid bass technique looks. To have control with apparent ease over something as cumbersome as a double bass is just cool to watch. Having the half steps between the 1st and 4th fingers in the left hand, the half steps between thumb, 1, 2 and 3 in thumb position, and the relaxed bow hold with swift strokes is candy to my eyes.

I know, even the bass geeks with Dragonetti t-shirts on are laughing at me.

In fact, my previous teacher, Rich Armandi, told me on numerous occasions,

“Ben, nobody gives a damn about your technique! It’s the sound. What your doing isn’t musical. Everything your doing is just technical fireworks.”

He was right. My perception of the relevant factors of being a good musician were totally skewed. Music is emotion through sound, not emotion through sight.

___________

Nevertheless, I became obsessed with the idea of flawless technique. My twisted way of thinking was sparked by watching Edgar Meyer play. In my opinion, his left hand technique is flawless and beautiful. His intonation, vibrato (when he chooses to use it!), and agility are all as good as it gets. Even if the sound was muted, I could watch that guy play a bass for hours. All of his movement around the instrument is smooth and fluid. I can remember thinking, my playing must look like that someday.

Of course, I loved the sound he produced, but I had never seen a bass player move so comfortably from the low C extension to end of the fingerboard harmonics with such ease.


Now, I still do think that players like Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma, who play in such a way that it looks utterly effortless, have something very special, but, their technique serves their music. They are musicians first.

Obviously, technique is still highly relevant and important to the good bass player, but, at the end of the day, music is an aural art form, and thus the sound we produce is what counts.

As I said, up until recently, the idea of a flawless technique was sort of what drove me, as stupid as that sounds. I’ve totally readjusted my views, and I’ve come to realize how irrelevant that perspective was. People listen to music for different reasons: to dance, reflect their mood, enjoyment, etc., and not one of those reasons has anything to do with what you see. Edgar Meyer is still one of my favorite musicians, but only because of his creativity, passion, and the wonderful way he articulates music on a double bass.

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This is the first half of my Perspective series, I’ll be putting out the second half in the near future.

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~ by benjamin86 on December 14, 2007.

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