Learning To Play

May 31, 2009 · 1 comment

It seems easy enough when you watch other people do it.

One just casually places the soft pads of one’s fingertips gently on the sweet spots on the neck. The other hand strums and plucks with confidence. Steel laughs and hums into the wooden cave, and then the miracle happens: beautiful ballads, haunting love songs, and soft pink lullabies waft forth.



The reality is that learning how to play my upright bass activates myriad uncharted neuropathways, all clamoring for personal and immediate attention. What note am I supposed to be playing? What string do I need to find, with both hands committed to completely different tasks? The tender tip of my finger needs to press the thick steel string on to the neck at precisely the right spot, and hit it HARD.

I am to ignore the pain.


Simultaneously, my right hand has its own assignment: damp the previous note, find and play the new one. All this while my short-term memory gropes for the words, and my ears, lungs, and vocal cords strain to croon like Diana Krall, with the whole thing on pitch and in perfect time.

I know it’s possible. I just don’t know if it’s possible without peeing my pants.

I’m seeing glimmers of hope, though. I played a whole song without an error yesterday. (Okay, there are only 2 open-string notes in the bass line of “Sally Goodin,” so technically, you could do it on a set of well-tuned drums, but still….) I can play both the C and G scales in both directions. I figured out both “Frere Jacques” and “Doh! A Deer” by ear.

Rick and I even wrote a song together: Silent Angels. We’re going to perform it, as well as ten other songs, at a Rett Syndrome benefit concert in Teton Valley.

In front of many attentive people.

Just the two of us.

With nowhere to hide.


Excuse me. Gotta pull on the Depends and practice now.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: