Global Bass Online January 2001
Editor's Note: This is the last in a series of six articles written by Dann for Global Bass. In his always unforgettable style, Dann leaves us with thought provoking opinions, some basic home truths, his acerbic wit, and with our cages thoroughly 'rattled'.
By Dann Glenn
2001~A Bass Oddity
Well, here we are. Now we're in the "real" new millennium. The piano just celebrated it's 300th
birthday. Our wonderful instrument of choice is little more than 60 if you're an electric bassist.
Before you start to see it as a youngster in comparison to the piano, please bare in mind that
our illustrious and beloved acoustic upright bass is even older. We have serious roots.
In it's relatively short life, the electric bass guitar has come a considerably long way. It's suffered a minor identity crisis from time to time, but never anything that wasn't within the normal parameters of growth.
After the lava has cooled and solidified from a new instrument erupting into the music realm,
the original bastion of heroes that helped shape and define it's voice can never be repeated.
This is why there are periods of time when it seems the instrument may be wandering or even in temporary decline, waiting for the next messianic voice to carry it to a new plateau.
This is of course only a knee jerk reaction to the most formidable efforts of those that forged the way in the formative decades after it's genesis. My mentor was Monk Montgomery, the first cat to record on a jazz record with the electric bass. He was an amazing study in what a person can do if they put their mind to it. He told me he was inspired by the success of his brothers Wes and Buddy, not to mention tired of working in the factories of Indiana.
This man didn't even begin playing or practicing the bass until he was 30. When he
took a "Fender" bass to a gig and people rolled their eyes in disbelief, he didn't put it back in the case and break out his upright...he stuck to his guns. Thank you Monk. On behalf of the bass nation...we thank you.
Those that followed did what they had to do in terms of exploring and giving the instrument credibility in the eyes of the world and for our own peace of mind.
Once it hit the Stanley Clarke, Jeff Berlin, and of course the Jaco Pastorius phase, the electric
bass guitar had been ordained, to preach it's subharmonic message forever more.
In spite of the fact that there are and always will be players that boggle the mind with their
technical prowess, the simple fact still remains that if we players do not find a way to tell our stories with an original voice, we will soon fade away into the abyss.
You won't see the Constitution being re-written, nor is the launch and landing of the space shuttle carefully monitored by throngs of astonished onlookers any more. Business as usual.
If the Constitution is violated or if a shuttle crashes then the attention is brought sharply back into focus. But only until the smoke clears. This is just human nature.
Our instrument has now turned that corner. Reached that point of no return. Now we are in
a wonderful neo period where one finds the semblance of an actual history to learn from,
cling to, and motivate ourselves with.
This is why I can only laugh every time I read about the hot player du jour' being referred to
as the next "Jaco" or the next "Stanley." Not only is this impossible, it's counter productive and I find it insulting. Not just to Mr. Clarke and Mr. Pastorius, but to the player it's being hung on.
There never again will be a need for the invaluable contribution of the aforementioned.
That's why they did it in the first place. Test pilots are always the cream of the crop.
Now players can feel good about venturing off into new and exciting directions in playing the bass without feeling as if they must light it on fire and pull it out of their ass to get people's
attention or approval. Point of reference is one thing, but insisting on besting the founding fathers is to play Russian roulette with six rounds in the chamber. Spin it all you want, no
matter where it stops...you're dead.
Sometimes I look in on bass chat rooms to see what the kids are up to. It's a cool feeling to see young cats spreading their wings and exploring their first years of bassmanship.
Having said this nothing makes me more nauseous than seeing posts like "Need Tab for Teen Town" or other variations of diametric insanity. Tablature is a false language. It doesn't exist.
Why bother learning how to grunt, torch your farts, and beat on your chest, when you could simply learn how to read music? What a waste of time.
My opinions on not using a pick to wank on a bass guitar have caused a controversy in
the bass realm. I happen to believe that a players sound comes from the marriage of their hands and their strings. That happens to be "just my opinion." I have no problem with people
having an opposing opinion on this topic. None whatsoever. Refer to it as "an artistic choice" or a religion if you so choose.
When it comes to Tab I must say that I cannot and will not be as subjective. It's one of the most worthless and stupid things I have ever seen. Were I to walk up to an 18 year old
with a face full of metal piercing smoking a cigarette and say "you can always yank those
ornaments off of your face, but that smoke is blackening your lungs and giving you cancer";
they really wouldn't be able to give me much of a serious argument.
If I tell young players that Tab is giving them a permanent brain wedgy, they will scoff at
me as if I'm out of step with the times and go along their merry way. As far as I'm concerned
Tab is to music notation what smoking is to your lungs. Cancer.
I hate to say this but I would rather see players not learn to read at all rather than involve themselves with the backwards world of Tablature. Learn to read music. It's fun, and should
you find yourself actually playing bass for a living it's a must.
Can you imagine showing up at a gig and the music stands are all filled with page after page of Tab? It looks like a road map for people with a two digit IQ. Don't insult your own intelligence trying to convince yourself that this is "an option" to reading notation. I'm serious about this.
Who ever came up with Tab must have also invented the "Pet Rock." In this new century and millennium let's strive for raising the standards so those that follow will have a good foot hold on the future that we've left for them.
Happy New Year lowenders.
The "Mad Professor of Bass" can be reached at:
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After six thought provoking and oft times controversial articles for Global Bass, Dann Glenn is retiring his monthly Illuminating Disclosures article. We at Global Bass would like to thank him for his contribution to this venture. In no small way have the number of readers of this magazine grown due to the input he has given us so freely. buddy
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