1) Recall a number of past discussions regarding the decision as to committing to a single organization and hitting the road (and my decision NOT to do so). In my case, the decision was to build a regional domain and commit to my wife, children, and (now) grandchildren. There are of course huge benefits to becoming a ‘Road Scholar’, and also a huge price to pay as well. Reminder: Should you choose the glory of the big stage, don’t forget to ask yourself how to get OFF! Should you choose my path, do NOT commit to a single organization! Certainly create some obligations, but also establish a number of duos, trios, small groups, as well as a major group. The more musicians with whom you work on a regular basis, the better! The point here is- get yourself a duo and assume the load. Sing some lead vocals.
2) Alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs- Speaking to the youngsters, it’s all out there my friends. In this business, it cannot be avoided. Of course our advice is to abstain; however, taking on a judgmental attitude is not advisable. Use and abuse is an unfortunate component to our culture and history. The good news is that being ‘straight’ (a non-user) is highly desirable in today’s workplace. Tolerance is key, particularly for road musicians. Should you be both straight AND judgmental, oddly enough you will find yourself (off stage) being less desirable than the users! That’s Show Biz! Do yourself a Big favor….Keep it Clean, but Be and let Be!!
3) When I’m the boss (that is, leader of the group because I booked the show), I have one rule: Everyone Gets Paid, No Matter What!!! Regardless of what happens in terms of contracts, a broken down bus, weather, misunderstandings, etc; when you call a musician to a gig, it’s your obligation to pay them! Period!! I hate to think how much money I’ve paid out of pocket to the guys through the years because something went wrong……
4) The Tip Jar (Casual gigs ONLY. NEVER put out a Tip Jar if performing on a stage)-- As a rule I don’t like tip jars, but that’s just me (and I’m in the minority). That said, there IS a protocol, and it goes as follows- -4/A) the band is responsible for tipping the sound, lights, servers, etc. regardlessof tips to the group (hopefully not in the form of a ‘jar’) ; 4/B) small groups such as singles, duos, trios- tip jars are a great idea and can boost your income many times over, thus 4/C The leader should never relocate the tips out-of- sight of the group a any time. 4/D) Typically tips are divided evenly between the performers (see 4/A) . 4/E) In my opinion, if tips total less than the paycheck of a single musician, I cut myself OUT as leader. 4/F) If for ANY reason the leader chooses NOT to share tips with the group, that understanding MUST be made clear (preferably in writing) to each musician at the point of engagement or otherwise prior to arrival. 4/G It is appropriate for small club groups to tip servers OUT of group tips, and if a minority of group members incur extra travel expenses, by all means it is appropriate to reimburse from shared tips as long as the recipient is an equal contributor, and the leader is taking an even cut. If the leader takes a bigger cut, the leader pads the ‘out of town’ guys out of his cut, NOT the tips!
5) A while back I mentioned a number of reasons to save your old strings- giving them to friends and students for example, but also that the core makes a great tool for a number of uses. Particularly useful is the core of the ‘G’ string. Take a G string, cut it into 4-6 inch segments, remove about half the winding/ segment, and give to your friends. There’s NO better tool for cleaning the carburetor on your lawn mower.
6) Please recall that from time to time I draw attention to the highly informative articles found in the ‘International Musician’ (the American Federation of Musicians trade magazine). The July issue, 2016, contains two critical entries which you can Google. Check out Robert Baird, Contract Basics for Touring Artists. It’s 101 information every musician should know. Please see tomorrow’s blog for more info!
7) Yesterday’s blog alluded to an article found in the International Musician (July, 2016) by Dr. Randall W. Dick- Athletes and the Arts: Staying Healthy as a Musician…. With a vast number of publications addressing the physical issues haunting professional musicians, this particular article is simply a ‘must read’ for all musicians regardless of age. In fact, Dr. Dick’s information is likely MORE curtail for younger musicians hoping to avoid that which the future brings (in terms of MY hindsight)!
Did you know that 50% of all musicians have some form of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)? 75% of musicians will develop at least one musculoskeletal disorder from playing during their lifetime. Piano practice ranges from 60 dB to 105 dB; hearing damage can occur when exposed to 94 dB for 60 minutes or less. My Jeep is twice that loud. Dr. Dick states, “ The Athletes and the Arts (AATA) website, www.athletesandthearts.com, is a resource for artist health information through it’s own content and links to the 13 collaborating organization websites”. BTW, about 3 million notes are played in a full length Broadway performance (again, according to Dr. Randall Dick). That’s a LOT of sound!
8) I recently noticed (2016) that the US Air Force advertised a gig for electric bass ; High Impact is their rock/fusion group. Just saying, these gigs are extremely rare and an unreal opportunity for bass players. You might take this one off your radar- the competition will be fierce, and the winner will be a flat out ‘monster’. Ouch!
9) Perhaps check out- ‘How to get a Job in the Music Industry’, 3rd Edition, by Keith Hatschek with Breanne Beseda, Berklee Press (online, berklee.edu). I’ve not seen it yet, but it is listed under Resources in the IM monthly periodical.
10) I have a friend who is the most valuable session musician I’ve ever known. He is a walking encyclopedia of tunes in most every genre, and is among the most accomplished on his primary instrument of any I’ve ever heard. Recently I hired him to do a ‘casual’ show with one of my groups, and we started the night with a few jazz standards. To my astonishment, he was totally unfamiliar with jazz protocol; that is, the unspoken structure for performing a jazz tune. In terms of style, his groove, changes, solos, etc, were amazing, but clueless as to when to and NOT to play- - ending his solos in mid form, or starting a solo in the middle of someone else’s. I’m guessing he is not alone. Be certain YOU understand the bones of a jazz performance! This was covered in a previous entry, but I’m thinking I’ll go over this topic again in the near future.
11) Are you aware of the rules and regulations for booking a gig in Canada? If you are planning to do so, look in to the stipulations under the heading- “Letter of Invitation”. You’ll find all the info you need from A-Z, and there’s a LOT you need to know. If using an agent, this is part of their job description. If you are planning an over seas tour, do your homework! I’ve done five, and always used professional assistance.
12) Snoring! Do you snore? Does your drummer snore? Believe it or not, snoring is likely THE biggest point of contention of all traveling tribulations. If your roommate snores (or YOU), that’s an issue that must be resolved! Not so bad on the bus, but formidable elsewhere. I travel nowhere without a fan. I use a Stanley shop fan on stage, and it goes with me to the room. Actually, I am addicted to white noise so I use a fan 365. BTW, it’s great for tinnitus (which we all have). The good news is- a smaller fan is more effective! Though headphones and/or buds are the norm, any audiologists will advise against sleeping with them! SO….if you can sleep in silence, plugs are the obvious solution. If like the rest of us, use a fan. The main thing is rest your ears the very best you can….
13) [The following should have been the very first entry to this page the day the site was launched]
Like all instructors of jazz theory & improv, I spend a lot of time discussing ‘chord/ scale combinations’. We instructors use these formulas as a means to demonstrate how the puzzle pieces of jazz fit together. As a student, try not to take it all so literally! For example, if I said “over an FM7#11 use G pentatonic or B Locrian”, YOU need to note that those two scales are doing nearly the same thing. Just get a feel for it and move on!! It’s like saying 50+50=100, when in fact there are untold combinations which reach that same total.
14) [The following is in reference to performance technique regarding the right hand using fingers, not snap and pop] Seated and/ or standing, do you rest your right forearm on your bass guitar? I do, though I tend to I tend to rest closer to my wrist while standing. So….here are some observations: If you rest your forearm, the closer you do towards your elbow the sharper the angle at your wrist; and of course if you strike close to the bridge, your right hand (RH) likely looks like a banjo player. Ouch! (just kiddin……kinda). Though I am somewhat guilty, those sharp angles can take their toll down the road. In the event of a cramp, lift your forearm off the bass!!!-- There’s a lesson here so think about it! Otherwise, the closer you strike towards the bridge, the closer you should rest towards your wrist. Again, remember to float your thumb as a mute, not an anchor. Also, pay close attention to where your elbow is in space. Your elbow should not stick out nor should it jab your ribs. As you check out your favorite bass players, observe their entire right arm and shoulders.
15) If you missed yesterday’s entry, please look back….. Relaxed positioning, seated or standing, is critical! Cramping and spasms are an absolute bummer, and can be avoided to some extent. Also hydration is key in addition to potassium (bananas, sweet potatoes, and supplements). SO………
a) If you like to perform seated, bring your own rig. Spend the bucks on a real gig thrown with adjustable everything including back support and foot rest. Many bass players do this. Make sure your rig takes your head level with those standing. Folding chairs are fine for super casuals, but may put you in a position nothing like the way you are accustom at daily practice. I prefer to perform in the same position as I practice! BTW, I use a ‘Pyle’ brand throne.
b) If you like to perform standing, spend the bucks on great shoes and the expensive inserts. If your little toe ever ‘stings’, you need inserts! Keep your workspace clear of cables and wires. I am anal about my area being absolutely clear of clutter. It makes all the difference in the world.
c) Spasms in your RH are usually a result of tension in your elbow putting pressure on a nerve. It’s a huge problem for me, and I’m learning to control it (to some extent) using relaxation techniques and exercises (at home) which eliminate nerve restriction. If this is a problem for you, contact me at home. There are things you can do on site to stretch those nerves.
d) If you have spent a lifetime developing mad chops just to have them fail you on stage, hydration could be key. Drink plenty of water the day of!!! Also, I am a potassium freak these days. You will be amazed how your fingers move and forearms relax when maintain your levels…
e) The most important point to take from all this is maximum comfort in terms of positioning while performing. Simple things like a folding chair putting your legs at an awkward angle can be a show killer. Do what it takes to get comfortable.