Author: Campbell, Bruce

Knocking off the Rust

The holiday season is usually a fallow time for gigs, in my experience. It comes at a good time. After the warm months of festival pickiní and gigs, itís nice to take a respite and spend time with the oft-neglected family.

Sometimes, the layoff leads to some serious lackadaisical attention to musical skills, and the rust can be hard to knock off when returning to action. Often, the calluses so carefully acquired during months of frequent playing can become soft and result in some interesting infirmities when you step back into the mix.

A few years ago, I didnít play bass at all for at least 3 weeks during the holidays, and my first gig of the new year was a three hour bar gig. I raised a huge blister that ran the entire length of my right index finger. It hurt, but I hung in there, praying the thing wouldnít break, but my luck ran on the very last song. I wonít go into the gory details, to spare those readers with tender sensibilities.

Lisa Burns tells me if youíre playing bass correctly, you should NEVER raise blisters, and I must have figured it out, because I never get blisters any more. I played two plus hours of bass last night after not touching the instrument for several weeks, and not even a hot spot.

Itís important to stay in practice, but returning to playing after a time of not playing has its rewards. You get to re-experience the joy of playing music with a poignancy that gets blunted when youíre playing often. Working off the rust requires extra concentration, too, and that heightens the thrill for me. You can get to appoint where your fingers seem to know what to do without much brain intervention, and hey - the brain deserves some fun too!

Sometimes there are benefits that seem nonsensical Ė a song that seemed to defeat you when you were trying to play it often may suddenly fall into place when revisited after some time away Ė go figure! Also, new ideas can bubble up when you have a chance to look at something (figuratively or literally) with a fresh perspective.

Maybe this all sound like nothing more than rationalization for being lazy, and perhaps thatís exactly what it is. But I did have a great time returning to band practice last night, and now that blisters arenít part of the re-entry process, I actually feel a little break made playing music all that much better. I actually had a little trouble falling asleep last night thinking about how much fun I had Ė and I am eagerly looking forward to ramping up for yet another of pickiní and grinniní!

Posted:  1/20/2010

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