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What keeps us from greatness?


HypnoBassMan

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I have just returned to the bass after many years away from it. I would like to know what the most common mistakes that beginners and intermediate players make that keep us from really succeeding?

 

I know there are many sucessful and even great bass players on this forum and I'm wondering what you have seen other bassists do wrong that keeps them from reaching your level of success?

 

What have you seen that have caused otherwise promising bassists do (or not do) that keeps them from becoming really good?

 

I would like to avoid these problems if I can.

HypnoBassMan

 

The deeper you go the better you feel! (True for bass and hypnosis.)

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i think it's mostly Mental. Call it lack of commitment, or lack of discipline, or lack of focus, or all of the above. We sit down and watch TV instead of practicing...we don't use our practice time efficiently...we just don't make it the priority it should be IF we want to achieve the level of greatness we are capable of.

 

Many self-help books talk about keeping a Positive Mental Attitude (which differs from Ego). We need to think "I CAN be one of the best, how can I get there?" Instead we can get caught up in either a negative viewpoint ("aw, I'll never be good enough") which keeps us from breaking through....or we get caught up in the other extreme of Ego ("I'm already the best") which keeps us from learning more. (Self-confidence is different from ego, BTW.)

 

Just my 2 cents worth of Saturday morning psychobabble.

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I guess it depends on someone's standards and definition of what greatness is. Myself, I think lots of us could stand to have more music theory in our backgrounds. I don't consciously use music theory, and I don't believe it can compensate for "feel" - but it can sure inform ones' playing to great advantage. Maybe even more important, it can take composing/songwriting beyond the mundane.

 

Practice of course helps. And there are many things to practice, including tone...

 

But if this was the 80's I'd say that taping a huge Polish sausage inside your trousers would be a well-taken step to greatness ; }

.
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To be honest though: to have something to say and having the need and the discipline to say it well so that it is no poor imitation of what comes from inside is where true greatness lies. We all have an inner voice; learning to hear it over all the noise the world inundates us with is the first step.

 

One might call this "following the muse". It's not the same as "fitting in", "tapping into trends", or anything else that comes from calculated thinking processes driven by ego. Its the difference between (to make an accessible example) Saliveri and Mozart.

.
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Greatness ? Hard to define. We recently played a gig to 35 people. Whilst on stage and directly afterwards I felt GREAT. Unfortunately it wore off when I was trying to find a lift home. Greatness to me is getting it right in reheasal. Knowing that you've added to. Not taken away. And not done more than was needed. This little greatness seems exagerated when other people acknowledge the music you're creating.

 

Greenboy.....do I tape this huge Polish sausage to the front or back of my body ?? :freak:

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Greatness. Success.

 

Exactly what is that; or, how do you define it?

 

I guess, in the normal sense, bass greatness is kinda like playing so well that other people envy you your skill, and desire to syncophant after you. And Success is turning that skill into tons of money.

 

Another sense, which I think is the point of hypnobassman, is greatness is following a course of action to become "really good." "Successful" in the learner's sense...that you've set a goal or level of playing and achieved that.

 

So, what's good enough? What's successful enough? What's the endgame?

 

The answers to these questions are as varied as the motivations and hidden desires of every person on this board. They might range from "getting my hands wrapped around the notes enough to jam with my friends" to "making a living only playing bass" to "being the next Bass God, having the adulation of many adoring fans."

 

Or, perhaps, to "getting laid."

 

So my answer to hypnobassman is: the biggest obstacle to achieving greatness and success on bass is failing to define those things adequately from the onset, and failing to know oneself well enough to be able to define those things.

 

I love bass; the world is bigger than it.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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I suspect the hypnotic one meant virtuosity when he said greatness. If not tough, cause that's how I'm taking the question.

 

I think the comments about commitment, music theory, and having something to say apply. You have to be open to knowledge and technique. And you have to play. Most stories about virtuosos (on any instrument) that I've read talk about a practice regimen that is heavy.

 

For myself, I could use lots of things to move in the right direction.

But numero uno is practice time :idea: .

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Practice matters. Practicing well/efficiently matters. Learning music theory helps.

 

What I would add is that finding musicians to play with who challenge you really helps too. Ideally playing with musicians who are better than you, but not so much better that you can't keep up. Some of my greatest growth musically came from playing with folks who were at the "next level." (I apologize for the vague and undefined terminology, but I think y'all can grasp my point.)

 

The times when my playing grew/improved the most rapidly were when I was:

1. taking lessons

2. practicing regularly

3. playing with musicians who pushed the extent of my knowledge and abilities

 

Unfortunately, currently only #3 is happening, and although I'm strapping on my bass every day (#2), I'm not using that time in a focused, developmental way.

 

Peace.

 

--sweets

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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I am truly inspired by what I have read so far! Mental attitude, focus, goals, practice, music theory and playing with others who help us grow.

 

I think that I am getting the idea.

 

For me, I'm going back to the fundamentals. I'm working on reading music and improving my ear. Also, I am focusing on my playing in a very basic way, playing things slowly trying to make every note count, and then slowy bringing my playing up to tempo.

 

I don't play professionally, but I schedule practice sessions with musicians that have played professionally and my goal is to improve significantly enough to where each jam session demonstrates my improvement. This gives me motivation to practice between jam sessions. And, I am even more motivated afterwards when I can see improvement (and even sometimes when I don't because I will have to admit to myself that the lack of improvement is because of lack of practice, etc.).

 

In my initial question about greatness, I was asking about what the more accomplished players have noticed about the players than never seem to go anywhere. They either stop playing or never really develop beyond some stagnant state of mediocrity.

 

For myself, I want to see consistent steady growth over my life time. I may only be half as talented as the next guy, but I can always improve with time and consistency of effort.

 

One thing that I did notice from your comments, no one has said that you had to have a $300-$1200 bass to become great.

 

Tell me more, oh wise ones :D I'm all ears...

HypnoBassMan

 

The deeper you go the better you feel! (True for bass and hypnosis.)

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a great bass wont make you great but a bad bass CAN hinder you. All in all NOTHING can stand in your way if you dont let it. its all mental. Dont think that because your hands are small or your ear sucks etc that you can never be good (although i must admit I fall into that trap a bit) you can be as good as you want to be.

 

I find however that playing improvments are made in steps, not steady progress.. sometimes you hit platoes (haha spelling!) and THATS where people usually loose faith and fall to the wayside of mediocrity.

 

having a teacher at the outside is a solid way to ensure you are doing everything in a nonhindering way

 

alright that sounds good

 

Dave

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A bad bass can hinder you...check out my sig.

 

I think improvement is not gradual, but rather following the "punctuated equilibrium" theory of evolution. (POTD for the random Stephen Jay Gould reference.)

 

If your interested, try a google search on that. But as applied to bass, skill stagnates (or at least, stays on the same level) for a long period of time, and then, as a result of some stimuli, undergoes a growth spurt.

 

Here's an example: You play bass in the courtyard after school...with a bunch of other guys who know nothing but Nirvana. You spend the entire school year playing the same 10 songs.

 

In the summer, you go to camp for a week, where there are kids who introduce you to Neil Young, The Who, Pink Floyd...and you struggle to play along...

 

The rest of the summer, you buy those albums, and within a month, have quadrupled your technique.

 

But back to your post: what makes people quit?

 

A lack of an opportunity to play.

 

I know a guy who plays root-fifth bass lines and country music. If there's a jam session, he'd rather not bring his bass at all, than to risk having his lack of knowlege on bass be exposed.

 

Eventually, people who do not have a reason to grow in a certain skill give it up.

 

For me, I gotta keep a half step ahead of my students (or at least pretend that I am!!!)

 

Luck.

Dave

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Actually being a "success" in the worldly sense has a huge amount to do with luck. Being in the right place at the right time, your taste being in fashion etc.

 

Being a great musician is different. IMO the key factor is innate talent. Talent itself may not be enough without hard work, but no amount of hard work will compensate for lack of talent.

 

This isn't a popular view with many. It's a dangerous idea because it can be demotivating (even people with talent may come to doubt it and decide not to work). Also it goes against what many of us WANT to believe. But I think the idea that anyone could have been a Mozart or a Hendrix if they only had enough desire just doesn't stack up with the world I see.

Bassbloke
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Honestly, it depends on what your goal is.

 

I have a friend who's a good bassist. He's got a quirky style reminicent of McCartney and the dude from Radiohead (whose name I forgot). I love the way he plays, but he couldn't just walk onstage and fake his way through a jazz gig. Does that mean that he's not "good"? Hardly. He put in his time working on something else, because he had different goals.

 

What I DO notice keeps people from becoming even decent musicians is a lack of ability or desire to LISTEN to what they sound like with a critical ear.

 

If they decide they're frustrated with their lack of knowledge of the fingerboard, then they need to spend time on the boring stuff (scales, arpeggios, etc.) for a while to get that under their fingers.

 

If they don't like that they're sloppy from a rhythmic standpoint, then they need to spend some time with a metronome and a drum book.

 

Different musicians have different natural abilities and different goals. One person may not have to work very hard on their tone or rhythm, because it may be obvious to them that those things are important. For another, it may take time for them to notice.

 

The most important thing is to try to have fun! :D

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I agree with a lot of the stuff here.

"Greatness" is a very subjective term. What's great to me may not do much for anyone else on this board, and vice-versa.

 

And that's OK.

 

We're all different.

 

IMO, I find that really talented, valuable musicians (not just bassists) LISTEN to other musicians when they're playing with them. They listen for dynamics, volume, direction, etc. All of this stuff is important. A "great" bass player does this stuff while putting the shit right into the pocket with unwavering consistency. Anyone can learn to play simple bass lines, but really talented musicians know how to make it work with a whole band.

 

Personally, I shoot for taste and solidity. As a bassist, I just try to play parts that fit and support the songs without stepping on anyone else. I see that as my role. If that comes off as "great" to someone else, well.... that's nice, too.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Originally posted by cornbread:

There are a plethora of reasons people quit playing. There is only one reason people continue to play and become virtuoso: desire.

One great example of this, is the URB player "Lance Romance" of the Hillbilly Hellcats. He was ridicuously great at rockabilly, bluegrass player, and was even a multi-state champion banjo player!! I think he just burnt out, which is really tragic. He no longer plays ANY music... :( Now he builds pre-fab houses... :confused: Kind of an odd coinky-dink if you have ever seen one of thier album covers... While greatness is completely subjective, I think one of the major stumbling blocks players face, is the ability to set and continually surpass personal goals (which probably gets back to the point about ambition)... Another, is the ability to HAVE FUN!! We as players so often lose sight of WHY we play music, and what music means to us as individuals. It is easy to get lost in technical abilities and musical knowledge, but you have to make it interesting and keep it fresh. Becoming better should definitely take effort and determination, but it should also be an exciting journey...

 

(<---Man, I sound more and more like a hippie every day. ;) What WOULD my father think? :D )

"Suppose you were an idiot ... And suppose you were a member of Congress

... But I repeat myself."

-Mark Twain

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/63/condition_1.html (my old band)

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Originally posted by greenboy:

Cupmcmali: Greenboy.....do I tape this huge Polish sausage to the front or back of my body ??
Better take that to the Where do you see music going? thread ; }
Why? Is it moving back to spandex fashions? WHOO-HOO!! ;):D I'll get the chicks now for sure! :thu: Thats another hangup younger players have. Looks are not everything. Sure you want your band to look the part, but dressing up like Gwar or Slipknot or Twisted Sister, probably wont get you anything if the music doesn't have any substance . Tastes in genres excluded, another pitfall IMHO is putting too much pressure on yourself. Think about your immediate goals realisticly AND honestly. I know I will never play like Vic Wooten for instance, but I know I can steal some tricks he does that are almost within my grasp, and enhance my playing... I also know, no matter how hard I try, I don't understand Jazz... A goal for the future maybe, but because I'm not drawn to it at the moment, I don't think I would have the heart or ambition/drive to play anything by Jaco...Yet.

"Suppose you were an idiot ... And suppose you were a member of Congress

... But I repeat myself."

-Mark Twain

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/63/condition_1.html (my old band)

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I'm sitting here at work after seeing a client for a double session of hypnotherapy. I did hypnotic age regression with her, where I take her back in time so that she can relive an experience(s) and remove the erroneous programming that she picked up as a child. She is feeling much better about herself, her future and is entirely a much more hopeful person.

 

I've done thousands of hypnotherapy sessions and it is simply amazing how we can pick up beliefs in childhood that are not true. Then these beliefs run our lives. They are like little programs that run automatically. Or, like invisible walls that limit us.

 

They are beliefs like:

 

I'm not smart enough.

I'm not the tallented one.

I don't have what it takes to make it.

I don't have a good ear.

I don't have good timing.

 

And, so on. I think that the great ones did/do the following:

 

1. Grew up in a family where their musical efforts were supported and reinforced (or basically received the message that they are capable and can be successful in life).

 

2. Grew up in the exact opposite environment and then totally rejected everything that they heard and decided to prove them all wrong. (Then they looked for proof in their own actions which enabled them to succeed.) If they had self-limiting programs then they became aware of them along with any negative self-talk inside of them and did something about it.

 

The mediocre and poor performers (in any pursuit), become experts at blaming others and making excuses. Then they find themselves flipping from one interest to the next, never becoming really good at anything.

 

I fell victim to stinking thinking myself. And, I quit playing years ago for just about all the reasons I listed above. Then a few months ago I visited with my old drummer from my old high school days of rock and roll. He still plays drums and has added guitar and bass to his talents. He asked me why I quit. I told him that I just never had a very good sense of time. He looked at me shocked! He said You always had a great sense of time! Coming from a successful musician/drummer it made me take a closer look at my own beliefs.

 

I went out and bought a bass, Im playing again and loving it!

 

Just reflecting on how things seem to be...

HypnoBassMan

 

The deeper you go the better you feel! (True for bass and hypnosis.)

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Originally posted by hypnobassman:

I would like to know what the most common mistakes that beginners and intermediate players make that keep us from really succeeding?

 

There are technical mistakes that a player can make. To avoid them, work with a good teacher. Teachers can also help you bone up on theory. Lack of theory isn't always critical, but you can't fail to profit from knowing how music works and why.

 

One of the biggest mistakes that players of ALL instruments make, not just bassists, is failing to understand the context into which their instrument fits. You may be a candidate if when listening to music, you concerntrate on the bass and vocals and not much else. Do you appreciate what the keys and rhythm guitar are doing? Do you understand why they're essential and why the song would fall apart without them? How about background vocals? Brass section? Percussion? Do you ignore them? The arranger didn't. The band leader doesn't. Why would you?

 

Along the same lines, do you play parts that are appropriate for the arrangement, or do you try to jam too much (or too little or the wrong style) in in an effort to make a personal statement (or just show off your chops).

 

Another problem is musical illiteracy, i.e. not knowing how to play effectively in a variety of styles. If your practice routine is 80% Geddy and Jaco, you're probably not going to impress anyone when you're playing something other than Rush or Weather Report.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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Interesting thread. First off, I really am glad you picked up playing again, Hypnobassman. Good for the soul, don't ya know. I've known a few players, even one who did some keyboard work on some older Rod Stewart albums, who quit playing and went off in a way different direction. For whatever reasons we do the things we do, or are the way we are, it's amazing how our belief system factors in.

 

Proficiency, knowledge, etc, have been mentioned thru this thread, and I'd like to add another factor, which is character and attitude. It's been my experience that being nice, friendly, easy to work with, lack of ego, can get a player of mediocre skills more gigs than assholes or difficult players. There have been times I've been called or hired because of just that, beating out the players that can play circles around me. And there are players I wouldn't work with, phenomenal as they are, because they're walking sphincters.

 

A person will be remembered and referred, expanding their list of contacts, as I believe being as widely known and liked as possible is an important factor of greatness.

 

And dispensing beer can be a deciding influence too, as you'll think you're great, and so will they when they're drunk enough....Woohoo! :)

Bassplayers aren't paid to play fast, they're paid to listen fast.
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Originally posted by hypnobassman:

What have you seen that have caused otherwise promising bassists do (or not do) that keeps them from becoming really good?

Drugs.

"Suppose you were an idiot ... And suppose you were a member of Congress

... But I repeat myself."

-Mark Twain

http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/63/condition_1.html (my old band)

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So far this has been the most important thread that I read. Each day I read it and then I practice my bass with renewed commitment. I will never be a rock star. (I'm busy enough being a hypno-star.)

 

But this thread reminds me that even a hobby bassist needs to develop a level of commitment in order to continue to grow as a musician.

 

By the way, self-hypnosis is better than drugs. But then that is a topic for another forum :D

 

Thanks goes out to all of you!

I feel like I belong to the Brotherhood of the Low Down Boom Boom Boom. :cool:

HypnoBassMan

 

The deeper you go the better you feel! (True for bass and hypnosis.)

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Hmmm. Lots of talk of technique still, and even mention of people skills. But look at great people in other fields. That stuff isn't what made them great in other people's eyes. That such qualities were there they were merely reflections of something closer to the core, indeed: many people are personable and have technique. Not enough to make a huge positive difference in the world though.

 

Still comes down to something more essential (at least by my definition); something that made Ghandi much more than Tony Roberts, and Sister Teresa much more than whatsername and her Thighmaster.

.
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Maybe I could benefit from some regression therapy.

 

I've been thinking about this topic for some time, ever since I first read it. I tried to make some prophetic statement, but it ended up being a passing comment. I realize we all lead different lives and the sum of our experiences yield different avenues we go down and, sometimes, these avenues cross paths. I tried to apply this to my life and noticed I suffer from those pre-programmed beliefs. After giving up a career in the NFL because of a severe knee injury, I concentrated on bass. I should have put as much energy into bass that I did in football, but I was a kid and just having fun. When I was filling out my college applications (hard to do when you have a full ride to the National Champion, but can't play because you like walking), my dad was griping at me because I put down that I played bass. They always said I would grow out of it. It was just a fad. He told me I would never make anything of myself playing bass because there were a hundred bass players 10 times better than me starving because they thought they could do something. I know, it sounds like a movie plot, but bear with me, I have a point.....I hope. Anyway, I practiced and played as much as I could. I tried out for the college group and thought I didn't have a chance. Well, I landed the gig, and held it until I graduated, earning more than $10,000 in scholarships. Well, my dad has changed his tune since. He was proud of me for not giving up and sticking to it. He was more proud of the scholarships, I might add. Now, he brags on me every chance he gets. To me, this was success. I never was featured in Bass Player, or Time magazine, for that matter, but I see this as one of the greatest accomplishments ever. I really don't care if I'm as popular as Britney Spears or as highly regarded as Abraham Lincoln. I was successful in my eyes.

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Looks like this thread is splitting into

 

1) Greatness as a musician.

2) Greatness as a human being.

 

The two are not mutually exclusive. There also seems to be an element of fame or popularity in some of the posts. The reoccuring theme seems to be practice, knowledge, desire and ambition. Seems to me that greatness is a journey. Recognition is a byproduct.

 

Practice - having a work ethic and sticking to it as well as you can.

Knowledge - doing those things to improve your understanding. whether it be taking lessons from a teacher or enrolling in a music theory class.

Desire - de·sire Pronunciation Key (d-zr)

tr.v. de·sired, de·sir·ing, de·sires

To wish or long for; want.

To express a wish for; request

 

the internal movement or motivation to be come better.

 

Ambition - am·bi·tion Pronunciation Key (m-bshn)

n.

An eager or strong desire to achieve something, such as fame or power.

The object or goal desired: Her ambition is the presidency.

Desire for exertion or activity; energy: had no ambition to go dancing.

 

the willingness to expend the energy for your desires.

 

The Suzanne Sommers/Mother Theresa comparison is a good analogy. Is Mother Theresa considered greater because she helped thousands. Is Suzanne less great because she helped her family (I am assuming this and have no knowledge of her other than what I see on TV). What about the element of fame that surrounds both these personalities?

 

Anyway having a good work ethic helps a lot. Improvement happens as both the flash of the light bulb going off over your head as much as the culmination of lots of little steps leading to some plateau. It is definetly NOT an either or thing.

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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:idea: As I'm reading the posts another thing dawns on me. I'll bet the successful bassists or even the great ones have guts!

 

I teach a certification course in hypnotherapy and I notice that some people just don't have the courage to do the work that I teach them to do. So, they never use the information that I give them and as a result help no one. They never move from having information to having skill and it's application.

 

I remember that when I played bass in a rock band in high school, our lead guitarist was shy. Because of his fear of performing we only ever played two gigs. It hurt everyone in the band. No guts - no glory... and, no guts - no greatness.

 

I think courage is a big factor in greatness. I have also noticed that courage is sometimes replaced by despiration in those who have no other choice but to act and eventually succeed.

 

I hope all that makes sense.

HypnoBassMan

 

The deeper you go the better you feel! (True for bass and hypnosis.)

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OK gang, time to put on my sociologist's hat for a moment and tangentialize a little (but hopefully still contribute to point of this thread).

 

While we all play a significant role in our own development/growth/etc. (broadly speaking as well as musically), we are all also subject to the social forces and structures around us. Because of the social situations we face during our lives (e.g., growing up poor, living in a community full of artists, living in an urban/suburban/rural area, etc. -- the list could go on and on), we each face different choices. Yes, there are outstanding musicians and bass players who emerged from and live in a variety of social circumstances and have been bounded by or have overcome a variety of social constraints, but for each of us, the opportunities available to us and the choices we make are conditioned by our families, friends, schools, communities, and society. Therefore our path to greatness, whether it be musical or personal (RobT's distinction above), comes from how we interact with the social forces around us -- we don't have absolute control, but we do have some control. So while all the pieces we've discussed in this thread already are meaningful, some of the answer lies also in how we negotiate social worlds -- and for each of us, that means negotiating in ways that allow us and/or create for us the spaces and opportunities to develop musically.

 

No matter what we do, for some of us there will be social forces in our lives that make it impossible to achieve some kind of "absolute" greatness (as bassists), but for all of us there is access to relative greatness -- defined on our own terms (e.g., "I've improved as a player.") or on the terms of one of our communities (e.g., "Dammit, my son can really play that bass gee-tar. That thumpin' from his room doesn't sound like $#@% anymore," or "Dr. Zarkov's band really kicked it at the company shin-dig last Friday, and the Doc himself was really groovin' on that Kinal 5-stringer!").

 

Does that make any sense?!?!

:confused:;):confused::):confused:

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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