Being versatile – Versatile being – Part I: Listening.

As a “professional” musician, I may not be gigging around playing with big names in different towns, but what I am doing is playing with a lot of great people in a lot of different places around one town. I previously wrote  how I enjoyed playing jazz bass one night, the next night playing acoustic guitar at a house party singing John Prine songs, and then maybe improvising with my brotha Clay on drums and me playing electric fretless bass. I believe as much as a person needs to be proficient on his/her instrument they need to work on becoming versatile. This post is about the importance of being versatile. I have always wanted to be able to play in any style when I was jamming with friends, I didn’t want to be stuck playing pentatonic scales, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix chords. One way that I built my versatility was to LISTEN. I have listened to countless hours of different types of music, from Fela Kuti to Greg Brown – Paul Simon to Mingus. As well as just listening, playing along with my favorite records was extremely beneficial to me in many ways. Some of the most fun I have ever had was by putting on an album and playing along. My favorite musicians, playing their grooves, and me playing off of them. When I was 19 my favorite album(My Dad has a killlleeeerrr vinyl collection) to play along to was Miles’s “Bitches Brew” It was just soooo cool. Playing off of Miles’s trumpet and trying to anticipate or harmonize with him was a blast. I also loved to play along with John’s guitar, I know that helped to develop my sound. I wasn’t transcribing(which is also extremely helpful) but I was still learning and growing. I took that same approach into gigging: I have been fortunate over the last four years to play with so many musicians, but I started noticing that I was absorbing some of my friends’ style into my own. It’s kind of weird to think about, but it happens. My best example is hearing my Fiddle playing friend Trevor Krieger plays his lines. I took some of that style and applied it to playing lines on the electric and upright bass like the intervals of a violin. I am basically sliding down in fourths and fifths which sounds nothing like a fiddle when played on the bass, but it turned into an original sound and style for me. There is so much to hear when you listen and I don’t think enough people are sensitive enough to listen well. Listening is the number one part of playing and hearing music. Chew on this: you might be listening and not hearing; you might be hearing but not listening. What are you doing?


The reason I posted this was because I recently played at my bandmates church. I played all weekend and didn’t notice that I played in a different style for almost every song. I was prepared and didn’t know it. Because of the playing and listening that I have done I was able to do each style justice playing different styles of arco, bluegrass bass and fiddle tune guitar reel type bass lines, to a soul bass groove on our last tune. I watched the video of the music and realized that I am becoming more solid in my versatility. That is what I have always wanted. Here is the link to the music:


if you need a date it is from 3/25/12

Teaching: “Anything – Love = nothing”