Back To The Bass(ics)


Don't be intimidated: it's not like you haven't practiced in over a month...

Don’t be intimidated: it’s not like you haven’t practiced in over a month…

The problem with being someone who likes to keep a lot of plates spinning at the same time is that occasionally I lose momentum on one of my projects and it slows to a crawl and then stagnates. Recently this has happened to my bass playing.

At first I left it alone, taking it as a sign that I had too much going on and that I needed to concentrate on fewer things at once. There was some travel on my mind and I was struggling to find the gumption to get through the daily basics like housekeeping and eating so I thought it was no big deal to take a break for a little while. I promised myself that I would get back to it in no time. I wouldn’t even notice the lull.

It turns out I was right: I didn’t notice the lull because my daily routine absorbed that extra hour that I normally dedicated to practicing and filled it up with Facebook. Suddenly that hour was very busy even if it wasn’t very productive. I made excuses about not practicing because my bass got moved out of the privacy of the office and into the “public” space of the living room which meant that my options were to practice out in the open or not practice at all and I still writhe in horror at the thought of anyone seeing and/or hearing me play.

All I can do is scales. Major scales.

So for a while it was OK to not practice even if I felt just the tiniest bit, deliciously guilty for not doing so. It is the same kind of guilty pleasure as cheating on a diet.

The trouble is that I am hardwired with a strict and unreasonable conscience that was probably the dominant allele among my Puritan ancestors who lived in the fear that someone, somewhere might be having fun. In the evenings we would sit in the living room and watch television and Tetris: the saddest, loneliest bass in the whole wide world, would stare longingly at me from the corner wondering why I had abandoned him.

Why did you leave me? Don’t you love me anymore? Tetris seemed to say. I’m- I’m falling out of tune!

Idle hands are the devil’s playground! My Puritan Conscience would tell me. You should have been practicing all this time! No wonder you can only play major chords!

So then I’d feel guilty for not practicing, but the more I let it slide the bigger of a deal it seemed to become. What used to be a routine hour of my day suddenly required the logistics of an amphibious attack to schedule and prepare for. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that kind of major project and the more I avoided it the bigger it got and the more guilty I felt and the more I avoided it.

This happens to me on almost all my projects at one point or another, I’m ashamed to say. Practicing. Taxes. Filing paperwork. Doing laundry. The best trick that I’ve learned is to avoid charging at the problem head-on. Projects are only intimidating from the front. I’ve discovered that if I can ease myself around to the side of the problem then it is much easier to break out of the guilt-avoidance-intimidation cycle. For the bass that meant putting a new battery in the tuner on one day, plugging in the bass and tuning it on another, noodling around for half an hour on a third day and then finally (today) putting in a solid hour of finger-numbing practice.

So I can still only play major scales, but at least now I don’t feel guilty anymore.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 17, 2013.

One Response to “Back To The Bass(ics)”

  1. […] Back to Bass(ics): In which I describe the circuitous route necessary to get me back in the habit of practicing the […]

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