Turn Off the Auto-Pilot, Be Intentional
by Jason Wisdom
I played the bass guitar in a band called Becoming the Archetype for nearly a decade. I performed dozens of songs in concert, on three different continents. I recorded the bass lines on almost every song that appears on our studio albums. You probably knew that. But here is something that you probably didn’t know: During all of that time, I never really learned how to play the bass guitar.
How is that possible? It is actually really simple. When we wrote songs, we always wrote the guitar parts first. I was busy writing lyrics and vocal parts, so when it came time to add the bass, I would just ask one of the guitar players to show me what to play. I didn’t spend any time thinking about notes, intervals, chords, or anything other than the rhythm and which frets to press. Then, one day, I got asked to play with the worship band at church. The structure of each song was infinitely simpler than what I was used to playing. If I could handle technical, progressive metal, then surely I could handle playing G, C, D on a worship song. It should have been a piece of cake. Right? Not if you have no idea where G, C, and D are. I had been playing bass professionally for years, and I had to learn everything from the ground up. Well, not entirely…
You see, the even crazier part is, I took music theory classes in both high school and college. I already knew major and minor scales, modes, intervals, key signatures, all of that stuff. I even took piano classes, guitar classes, and courses in music composition. But when I was in high school and college, I wasn’t a bass player. I was signing in the choir. That’s not so different. Right? The information should transfer easily to playing an instrument. Well, not in my case. Why? Because it literally never even crossed my mind to apply the things I already knew in my head to the instrument I was holding in my hand. I could have, but I didn’t. I never even considered it.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Is it because I just want to embarrass myself? Mission accomplished, but no. I want you to learn from my mistake. “But I don’t play an instrument,” you might say. That isn’t the real point I am trying to make. The point is that I was…
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