Author: Campbell, Bruce

Peering Across the Abyss

First of all, as I write this, Iím not even sure Iíll be able to post it to the CBA Website, which is still suffering the effects of a cyber attack. Before you get your conspiracy theories out, please understand that most attacks of this nature are not directed at a site chosen for any specific reasons. Rather, the miscreants who launch these things release an army of web ďbotsĒ that prowl the net and detect obscure technical vulnerabilities and exploit them. They donít rest, and they donít give up. Itís a tough job to stay ahead of them, and occasionally, the bad guys get a leg up. But not for long, I hope!

I just got home from a terrific jam. I tell you folks, for an exhilarating jam, the best thing to do is be in a jam with musicians whose abilities far outstrip your own. Actually, for the past 15 years, I have been a serial infiltrator of bands whose members are better musicians than I. One of these days I will be exposed (and probably sued or prosecuted), but until that happens, I have an awful lot of fun!

Tonight, one of the fellas in the jam was a Nashville pro out visiting a friend. I have only had the privilege of spending much time with big time pros a few times, and itís always an interesting situation. Making a living at music is so hard Ė we all know people who play or sing really, really well who still find it necessary to maintain a ďday jobĒ to be able to buy a house or drive a decent car. Itís flat out hard to make a living playing music.

Now, consider going out to Nashville to do this. Iíve heard a line that ďNashville is a town where the drummer plays better guitar than you.Ē That town is FULL of excellent musicians, so the competition is fierce. To be a ďgo toĒ player in Nashville, you have to really be on the ball. To sit across the room from one of these guys and pick with him for a few hours in the intimate confines of a living room with just a few other players (there was only 5 of us tonight) is really special. You get to see, up close and personal, how these players are different from the rest of us.

Iíve been a musician for 40+ years, and I have enjoyed the journey enormously. I have worked hard on my skills some years, and sort of coasted in others. I have seen that everyone processes music in their brains differently. The senses of rhythm, melody and pitch vary from person to person. I have seen that playing music comes easier to me than some people, and there are many people for whom it is a wholly natural act. And there are some, for whom it all comes together in a really elegant fashion. And these are the folks who get the call in Nashville.

The gap between them and us isnít that wide Ė itís an abyss you can peer across. You can lean over this gulf and see the other side really clearly. But the musicians on that side of the gap are the ones who will consistently play the hot licks, and play them at just the right time. They donít overplay, because they can make their musical statements in the exact time allotted. Oh, Iíve pulled it off a few times, and I bet you have, too. But these folks do it pretty much every time. Thatís why they get hired to do the big shows on the big tours, and labels sign them. Thatís why we pay to see them. And once in a while, if youíre lucky, you donít have to pay Ė you just get to sit in and pick with the ďbig dogsĒ! Yeah! Infiltration successful, yet again...

Posted:  3/17/2010

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