Today’s Daily Prompt: Do you play an instrument? Is there a musical instrument whose sound you find particularly pleasing? Tell us a story about your experience or relationship with an instrument of your choice.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the thousands of hours I′ve spent with it, a few times over the last ten years I have taken a mental step back and viewed my instrument, the electric bass, with defamiliarized eyes.
Broken down, a bass is four metal strings stretched over a beam of wood, whose vibrations are converted into an electronic signal. It’s just moving your fingers in complex patterns to make different pitches. And this can be said for every instrument; music is just vibrations, as Bob Marley and The Wailers nearly said. But why is music, this thing, such an institution, such a big thing, and not just to me, but to the rest of the world? Why does it carry such cultural weight?
I don’t know. I have no chain of logic at my disposal (I suppose a psychologist or music therapist might) which I can use to explain this jump from thumping on metal strung across wood to it being something that’s intrinsic to the lives of so many people. But I′m alright with not having this link.
At its best, the bass has been a part of how I see myself, and my way of being part of something bigger than myself. Walking in the footsteps of giants, whether in Flea’s take–off marks or the furrows ploughed by Cliff Burton, has been and continues to be a great feeling, as does writing my own material or contributing to the bands I′ve been in (some more so than others).
At its worst, the bass has always provided a benchmark which I have not always been able to reach. Over the years there have been several songs which I have failed to finish learning, and when I think of them every now and then I feel a guilty pang. One day they will be mine; the difficulty is making sure that day happens. And, in a neatly cyclical manner, the bass guitar helps me find that drive.
It’s never too long after I take a step back and look at my bass that I step forward and pick it up again. I have never actually lost familiarity with it, it’s just been something I′ve tried (and continue to try) to understand. It’s my corner, my stake, my way into the world of music. And if someone recognises it, that would be great. But just being part of that world is good enough for me.