My student is learning bass and qualified last year, but recently took up the 6 string guitar.
Every lesson is different: sometimes I struggle with the formations of chords, and particularly the speed, rhythm and instant reconstruction across six strings with three not-exactly- slender fingertips yet…when that one chord sounds perfect, the swell within this poorly-tuned rib cage rises, momentarily, to meet the kaleidoscopic emotions released within that one down-thrust of emotive expression via this right hand.
I began, tentatively, playing the four strings of the bass, under Gavin’s auspices, many moons ago and have continued to enjoy very much the process and the successes but also the challenge of these journeys…and they are multiple…within the same arena, different styles, different moods, the same charged diversity.
Today was no different…happily!!
My student gets a huge kick from working the notes out himself. Read about the common things that can happen during practice, a few things I see students experience during the week. Unusually I had a couple of hours free this Saturday afternoon and took the bass for an unexpected workout…and what a workout! In my sun lounge, which was very sunny for once and with both neighbours out for the afternoon, I worked on and rehearsed Kevin Kendle’s“Dance of Electra”, Ozric Tentacles‘“Lost in the sky” and the new attempt at their song, “Papyrus”. Whilst the left hand was generally accurate, the right was far too trigger-happy again but calmed with tenacity and some self-restraint. The thrill of
getting it right (the accompaniments) was difficult to contain so I sought out two additional pieces that would have some additional energy, namely Simple Minds“Themes for great cities” and then a surprise encounter….
With Amazon Music on my smartphone, I stumbled upon a very energetic old favourite and, within sixty seconds, unbelievably, worked out the D# and F theme with its D#, C, B, A coda.
For years I’d imagined it to be very complex and at some sweat-inducing pace. Not so. In the end, I’d discovered and played, with real gusto, the introduction to “Baila mi hermana (Dance, sister, dance)” from the Moonflower album bySantana. It was a serotonin and adrenalin hit simultaneously! I worked it out. I had done it…and with no one to hear me…performing with all the potency and rhyming hyper-salsa of this 70s Classic…to my thudding hearts content. AS
At the start of my learning, my apprenticeship, today, my coordination was inexplicably erratic. I couldn’t work at the required pace without some obvious incompetence. Yet, never the judge, Gav reminds me that this is MY learning time and
that through challenge will arise achievement (I paraphrased what he really meant to
say!). I remind myself too that time is space; right now, time isn’t holding the reins. I am!
However, as self confidence re-emerged and competence returned, experience, learning
and enthusiasm slowly began to increase. Acquired sound sequences and patterns rose
to the surface again, like a wave-breaking Nautilus; timing and rhythms we’re
beginning to conjoin, all elements coalescing, with both purpose and tension, towards the tonal stairway to the final climactic C sharp! My feet left the ground!!
A nondescript overcast morning in the dull old
West Midlands....was completely
transformed by a new interpretation of "To be over" by Yes (Relayer 1974) on the bass guitar.
Whilst, in part, elevated once more by the Roger
Dean artwork on the CD cover (with a scene of ancient Oriental riders trekking through
the harsh, wind-eroded landscape), I was challenged by Gavin to work through the more demanding C and A
scales first so that I would recapitulate on existing skills which Steve Howe, the songs principal composer, would have used when constructing the overriding theme. Gavin doesn't just give it away: through worked understanding and practice, the reasoning comes to the fore, prior to the metamorphosis and the release.
The metamorphosis comes in the form of seeing and hearing the shape of the theme trying to emerge from
the aforementioned scales from the guitar and the fledgling guitarist; certain recognisable notes which, in time, pitch and volume, are just beginning, like planetary fragments, to coalesce into gradually recognisable melodic repeats and refrains.
The release occurs when the apprentice finally traces over the notes with accurate
timing and pronunciation (given the guidance and motivation from the composer, the band recording and
imparted experience of the craftsman), finally enabling the enunciation of the theme in unison with the
recording and the mentor...and he, the novice, gasps in momentary gleeful achievement.
From the stone egg, lying dormant on the grey earth of the Relayer cover, has
emerged the performance, replete with the kaleidoscope of atmospheres, gleaned on
the first hearings some 42 years ago, now re expressed in person and a once
forgotten song rises again on the warm wings of remembering.