Beyond the Bass Clef:
The Life and Art of Bass Playing
by Tony Levin
n the beginning there was a bass. It was a Fender, probably a Precision, but it could have been a Jazz - nobody knows. Anyway, it was very old ... definitely pre-C.B.S.
And God looked down upon it and saw that it was good. He saw that it was very good in fact, and couldn't be improved on at all (though men would later try.) And so He let it be and He created a man to play the bass.
nd lo the man looked upon the bass, which was a beautiful 'sunburst' red, and he loved it. He played upon the open E string and the note rang through the earth and reverberated throughout the firmaments (thus reverb came to be.) And it was good. And God heard that it was good and He smiled at his handiwork.
Then in the course of time, the man came to slap upon the bass. And lo it was funky.
And God heard this funkiness and He said, "Go man, go." And it was good.
And more time passed, and, having little else to do, the man came to practice upon the bass. And lo, the man came to have upon him a great set of chops. And he did play faster and faster until the notes rippled like a breeze through the heavens.
And God heard this sound which sounded something like the wind, which He had created earlier. It also sounded something like the movement of furniture, which He hadn't even created yet, and He was not so pleased. And He spoke to the man, saying "Don't do that!"
ow the man heard the voice of God, but he was so excited about his new ability that he slapped upon the bass a blizzard of funky notes. And the heavens shook with the sound, and the Angels ran about in confusion. (Some of the Angels started to dance, but that's another story.)
And God heard this - how could He miss it - and lo He became Bugged. And He spoke to the man, and He said, "Listen man, if I wanted Jimi Hendrix I would have created the guitar. Stick to the bass parts."
And the man heard the voice of God, and he knew not to mess with it. But now he had upon him a passion for playing fast and high. The man took the frets off of the bass which God had created. And the man did slide his fingers upon the fretless fingerboard and play melodies high upon the neck. And, in his excitement, the man did forget the commandment of the Lord, and he played a frenzy of high melodies and blindingly fast licks. And the heavens rocked with the assault and the earth shook, rattled and rolled.
ow God's wrath was great. And His voice was thunder as He spoke to the man.
And He said, "O.K. for you, pal. You have not heeded My word. Lo, I shall create an soprano saxophone and it shall play higher than you can even think of."
"And from out of the chaos I shall bring forth the drums. And they shall play so many notes thine head shall ache, and I shall make you to always stand next to the drummer."
"You think you're loud? I shall create a stack of Marshall guitar amps to make thine ears bleed. And I shall send down upon the earth other instruments, and lo, they shall all be able to play higher and faster than the bass."
"And for all the days of man, your curse shall be this; that all the other musicians shall look to you, the bass player, for the low notes. And if you play too high or fast all the other musicians shall say "Wow" but really they shall hate it. And they shall tell you you're ready for your solo career, and find other bass players for their bands. And for all your days if you want to play your fancy licks you shall have to sneak them in like a thief in the night."
"And if you finally do get to play a solo, everyone shall leave the bandstand and go to the bar for a drink."
nd it was so.
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