Friday, January 04, 2008


I found this in my Gmail account when I was clearing out my 'drafts' folder earlier. I corrected some spelling mistakes, and Gmail autosaved the changes, so I don't know exactly how old this is. I'm pretty sure that it dates from about a year ago, when my copy of Word went mad, leaving me with no word processing software - hence it being written in Gmail. I decided to post it up because it's reasonably amusing, and saves me writing something new. I've just put a set of new strings on my bass, but they are elixirs*, as opposed to cheap rotosounds.

I've bought new strings.

This is a much bigger deal than it would first seem; it's not that these are some kind of amazing, life changing strings in themselves - just a standard set of Rotosounds made about ten miles from here, the cheap kind with no silk winding because I'm a poor student and the silk comes off when you boil them - but the knock on effect that they've had has cheered me up. I turn to my bass when I'm bored, frustrated, have some free minutes, have a song in my head, want to show off, feel that my fingerprints are getting a little too visible, want to jam, or just when I need to keep my hands busy to stop them from dismantling things when I'm watching films. In short, I play my bass a lot.

Recently I've been faced with a serious lack of life giving wonga, well, I say recently, it's more like since the start of the summer. It would be more accurate to say very recently, I've been suffering from a more acute than normal lack of money. This lack of money means that all my non-essential essentials have been dropped, so I've had to say goodbye to my budding alcoholism, my massive crack habit, and I've not bought any new bass strings in about 4 months. The result of these cutbacks is that I'm dangerously sober, my dealer is having to pawn his bling and my bass sounds rubbish.

Of these it has to be the rubbish sounding bass that makes me most sad, I'm used to bouts of extreme sobriety - I even managed to stay on the wagon for the first 17 years of my life - and personally I think that Scary Jimmy's bling was a little ostentatious anyway. When I have a bass that sounds nasty than I start to think it's me, and in the absence of any money for new strings or people worse than me I'm left only with my collection of Vic Wooten, Les Claypool and Flea recordings and rapidly decreasing self esteem. I sit around listen to their amazing sound and immaculate technique and want to sell my bass, make my amp into furniture and actually start taking my schoolwork seriously.

Perish the thought.

When I start to actually think about paying attention in seminars and doing something more than the bare minimum of reading and preparation I realise that it is time for new strings, or I might slip down that soapy slope towards a decent job and something approaching respectability. Today I cleaned my bass, made some repairs to the fretwork, lowered the action a bit and stuck on the new set of roto 100-40's. It makes me happy.

I was noodling aimlessly just now, sitting at my desk, with my bass on my lap. It is dark outside but I'd not bothered to draw the curtains so I was looking at my own reflection in the window, watching my hands moving around the fretboard. I had one of those strange detached moments, where you see something without the blinkers that familiarity puts up, like when you notice that a girl you've been hanging around with for a while is really pretty, or when you see a pattern form out of something that was previously obscure.

I sat there looking at my hands and thinking, "how on earth did I learn to do this?" I'm completely useless when it comes to pretty much anything that requires dexterity or control, I can't sew, I'm bloody useless at soldering and my airfix models were always awful when I was a kid, and yet, I can make my fingers dance in these amazing patterns without even having to think about it.


*they cost about the same as a big weekly shop, are coated in teflon, and make everything really wonderful. They're also made considerably more than 10 miles from here.