Author: Williams, Dave

Random Rambles

Tin ears, autumn equinox, Oktoberfest and writerís block

Starting with the latter, some months I find it very difficult to come up with a hook or topic for my monthly column. I can usually write something fairly easily to amuse myself but I take the responsibility of trying to write something worthy of the 1st Thursday of the month posting on the CBA splash page, with thousands of hits each day, somewhat seriously. Certainly, the editor and PTB allow lots of flexibility and room for creativity but the audience has expectations. From my perspective, I strive to give more of a story than where I jammed or what gigs I played in the previous month, although I have fallen back on that a few times. So you are probably mumbling to yourself (if youíre still reading) why is he telling me this and what does that mean for this month?

If I knew the answer to that question I wouldnít have wasted the previous 140 words on the subject and instead given you a couple paragraphs of very humorous and clever prose on this months topic.

Just to belabor this further, I did some research on writerís block and found this quote in the process by a writer named Lili St. Crow. I never heard of her and am not familiar with anything she wrote but this quote made some sense to me.

ďÖ.you do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get in the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of her.Ē

(I am paraphrasing here as Ms. St. Crow was a bit more colorfully explicit in describing the Muse and I edited it for general consumption. If you are interested in the non edited version just google her.)

Obviously, the above was all about hoping the Muse shows up. So letís move on.

I have used this column from time to time as a confessional and self-examination tool regarding my bass playing. You remember a while back I confessed to having difficulty with syncopation and syncopated bass lines. Lisa Burns my bass teacher took that as a challenge and worked me through this problem and on into playing calypso bass parts to Harry Belafonte songs.

My next challenge is that I have tin ears when it comes to hearing chord changes in jams. Sure I can get through 1-4-5 changes okay enough but when 2Ė6 or 7 are added I can get bamboozled quickly. Also quick back and forth changes between the easy ones can toss me a curve sometimes. This ainít good for bass playing in jams. Fortunately I know lots of standards by memory and am actually quite good at analyzing tunes and charts and then playing them well by reading or by memory but I donít pick them up by ear anywhere as near as well as I would like.

This may not be as critical as it sounds as I can very easily hear when I play a wrong chord (so does everyone else in the universe) and they tell me this is half of the battle. I know there are exercises I can use to work on this problem but the truth is, the answer, in my opinion, is jam more with my ears open and then jam some more, listening while I play. Old time jams are good for this as they can get crooked very quickly and provide some opportunity for extracting tin from my ears. Furthermore, I am on a mission to learn more tunes so when they are called I will be able to play them from memory. There are a number of tunes that are regularly called in jams that I know will stump me in parts. I just got to get them into my aging memory banks

Being retired, I am open most days so if you have a jam looking for a bass player, give me a holler. Iím really not that bad.

Letís handle Oktoberfest next and save the equinox for the finale.

In my copious (lack of) spare time I am seeing publicity and ads for a few Oktoberfest celebrations in the South Bay. I am telling you this so I can tell you that it seems to me that bluegrass would fit well in these ďnewĒ world beer festivals. Sure the promoters of these festivals are going to hire an oom pah pah band, complete with accordions and glockenspiels as the headliner for the event. It is traditional but these are all day and some times two-day events and there canít be enough oom pah pah bands to fill all the slots. It would seem to be that a few sets of bluegrass would fit well with beer at these festivals. So my question: is anyone getting these gigs? I pitched the promoter of one in Mountain View to see if they had an opening for my band and Iím waiting to hear back. I am not holding my breath though, he probably doesnít want a band with a bass player with a tin ear. Are any bluegrass bands getting any play at these festivals or any other large community events that donít involve haystacks or sheep shearing?

Finally, we can get to the Autumn Equinox, Iím sure you remember my escapades just south of the tropic of cancer that I reported on in April. Well, for that kind of party this time you would have to get just north of Rio de Janeiro. Iím sure the natives will be partying heartily at quarter to nine on September 22. You know how people, including me, just go crazy when the earthís sub solar point is directly below the sun at the equator. Anyway, due the restrictions on Class C Motorhomes crossing the Panama Canal into South America, we wonít be going.

There I go amusing myself again. Thatís it for this month. Iíll be looking long and hard for the Muse this month even if it means writing more.

Posted:  9/5/2013

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