The Upright Bass…

has a sound that simply is not possible to mimic electronically. It has, as well, a presence that its electric brothers lack. Played with passion, and in the right context, its depth has the power to make or break a composition. Guitars may be the stars but the bass line is essential for people to feel, and not just hear, the music. When you play the bass you are the power behind the dance.

These great gifts, though, come with a cost. From the fingering to the transportation the upright bass is a physically demanding instrument. Not particularly heavy but tall and wide the upright bass is less a tool than a partner. It stands by and with you and is never held per se but balanced by being attached to you. The strings are resonant, but thick, and your fingers must be strong. It is graceful in its own way but not easily moved. You extract sound from it and it takes energy from you.

And when you’re done, you can ache. To work the magic of the bass the player themselves must work, not just fingers or lips but the whole of a body, arms, shoulder, legs to stand, and a core for the energy that becomes sound. Everything goes into every note and when the lights go down and the stage is empty the effort is noted in every muscle used.

This Monday morning a good deal of last night’s nearly four hours of music is with me. The notes are in my head. The good company is in my heart. And my shoulders? They remind me that I play the upright bass. Such is the life of the guy in the back next to the drummer.


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