If I were to pick a profession in the performing arts more
difficult than being a professional
musician, it would be that of a
stand-up comic. This is open to
debate—because mimes are a
close second—but think about
how terrifyingly difficult it is to
make it in that business: Just like
musicians, comics drive themselves all over the country, staying
in crappy hotels so they can play
one- or two-nighters. But comics
have to do it all alone. And inspiration and motivation can be hard
to come by without any outside
help. That’s a little disheartening.
Luckily, we musicians have
chosen a path that puts us in a
constant working relationship
with many people. The stand-up comic walks into a club and
does his thing. Not much needed
there. We musician types, on
the other hand, need a team of
people to get things moving. The
team may be as small as you and
your front-of-house engineer,
or it could be of Rolling Stones’
proportion, with more than 200
people on the road. The point is,
no matter how hard you try, you
can’t do it all by yourself. And
here’s the thing: Being with others breeds new ways of thinking.
Once in a while, you’ll find a
crew of people that make every
night great. There’s nothing like
a band and crew that can put
it all together and find a flow. I
was once told that the definition
of “groove” is the path of least
resistance. Whoever came up with
that was right on when talking
about music, and they were especially correct when it comes to a
“working” groove. When all you
have to do is play and not worry
about anything else, it really
makes for a good night.
But that just scratches the
surface of how valuable a good
tour crew really is—and how they
can help you become better. As
we strive to improve our sound
or our playing, sometimes we
overlook the most obvious source
of illumination—our own crew.
There is a wealth of information
sitting right in front of you. Just
talk to the guys you play with.
Something as simple as a conver-
sation over coffee can change it
all for you. And since they are not
bass players, it makes it that much
better. Talking with the different
people in your touring entourage
can open your eyes and ears to
a whole new approach to your
instrument—even if they may not
be the first ones you would nor-
mally talk about music to.
As we strive to improve our sound or our play-
ing, sometimes we overlook the most obvious
source of illumination—our own crew.
and played bass for 20 years, but
to anyone else he’s just the quiet
driver getting us from point A
to point B. Sometimes you just
never know. All drivers say the
same thing—“I’ll be here a lot
longer than this artist will.” And
sadly, it’s almost always true.
There’s another lesson in there.
But if you want to get back to
the players in your band and talk
music, start with your drummer.
The two of you are the foundation, and musically you should
be on the same page. If your
favorite music and his aren’t the
same, then open your ears and
see what makes the other player
tick. I’ve heard of guys trading
tapes (or loading and swapping
flash drives) and then getting
back together to compare notes.
It’s this musical growth that
brings the rhythm section closer
together and makes for more fun
at soundcheck. Again, hitting that
groove is a special thing.
Another unlikely source of
musical knowledge can be the
fans. They do come out and
see you play, so hopefully you
appreciate their taste. I am
always hearing from music fans
about new bands and players,
and it almost never fails that
after a few minutes with a true
music listener, I discover songs
I’ve never heard before. All of it
goes in the melting pot.
STEVE COOK is currently fortifying himself
in the back of a tour
bus, awaiting the low-end revolution. He can
be reached at info@
shinybass.com until the
coast is clear.