PK’s Advice from a Life Long Bass Player
By Pattie Kettle
In everyday life, I have loads of opinions on a variety of topics which I love to expound upon and share, but ask me to write an advice piece and I clam up. Well, not totally clam up because here I am writing an advice piece and feeling that whatever I have to share is completely inadequate for what I truly need to say.
I’m a musician. It’s taken me a long winding road and a couple of decades of denial to realize that that is what I am, but, there you have it. I am a musician.
I think originally I thought I should be Pamela Des Barres (minus the blowjobs, of course). You know, sharing the joy and yourself and being the ultimate groupie. Don’t get me wrong I do still have my groupie side and for some strange reason, it still is a kick to talk with a musician whose “made it” and has successfully written a song that actually sold. Not that the mass market has any taste at all whatsoever, but it is a kick to speak with someone famous who is actually giving yours truly, the dear fan, more than the peremptory 30 second handshake. But those are different stories, this is supposed to be about my advice to other musicians and my experience as a musician.
I didn’t honestly count those beginning years of piano lessons and stints in the school choir as being a musician. Nor did I think that playing flute in band qualified either. Now, I think differently. Having had some brief experiences at open mics with the wide variety of talented musicians and music right here in Denver, I’ve changed my perspective about what a musician is. I think a musician is anyone who loves music and attempts to sing or play an instrument. I don’t care how good or bad you sound — you are a musician.
My secret passion in life has been to be a competent bass guitar player. Some people want to be Mick Jagger, others John Bonham, or Peter Gabriel. Not me, in my imagination I am Peter Hook or Tony Levin or Tina Weymouth. That is my hidden fantasty. Only its not so hidden anymore.
After a rather drunken, gushy, fan conversation with an international act (Snow Patrol), I came to the conclusion that I need to release my secret passion and get the music going on. Thank you, Gary Lightbody for having more than 15 minutes for me in 2008 at the Gothic Theatre. I rang up Swallow Hill Music Association for a teacher and purchased an acoustic 4-string bass guitar. How unusual people thought, but there actually is a method to my madness: a) it makes my fingers stronger, b) I can practice more because it is not as disruptive as an electric bass, and c) it makes me a better musician. So there.
Where am I today? I am still taking lessons, have been in 3 bands which formed, unformed, went through the usual band nonsense and moved on, and still practicing every night because if I don’t my fingers get mad at me and I get grumpy. Music is my prozac — whether listening or playing.
So, what advice does a former singing telegram girl who has re-discovered her inner musician as a kick-ass bass player have to give to the HeadAboveMusic readers, you may well ask? “You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?” — David Byrne. My main advice is to play, play, play and don’t stop playing. I think Keith Richards could agree with that simple maxim.
Now, having also been an English teacher in a previous existence long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I do have more than one book to suggest to you dear Web readers, a couple of pithy maxims, and a favorite piece of gear.
Here are 10 books everyone needs to read to either disagree with, enjoy, or expand your inner being:
Here’s a couple of pithy maxims out of my brain, probably influenced by my current fixation with Pema Chodron.
Number One — Any one who proclaims to be a Christian (or any organized dogmatic religion — yes, this means Jewish as well — Jews aren’t exempt just because they’re Jewish) will most probably behave in the most un-Christlike fashion in their everyday lives. (I’m not just thinking of those Christian Fundamentalist ministers who get caught having Gay sex after many years of proclaiming homosexuality a sin, I’m cynically thinking about the unkindnesses I’ve seen committed regularly by people claiming to be religious or “Christian.”
Number Two — Don’t be afraid of the bright side. Things are truly better than they appear to be.
Number Three — Don’t wait.
My favorite piece of gear is my Dean acoustic 4-string bass guitar. Her name is Julia and she has served me extremely well since I started playing. She has survived both mine and my sons clumsiness, my initially hesitant playing, and several open mics.
Something I couldn’t live on the road without would be a laptop and wi-fi access. Of course, this is presuming I actually get involved in some sort of project which gets on the road. I am thinking Dramamine would be helpful and some decent sheets and pillows. Oh yeah, WET WIPES would be indispensible as there’s never enough time or facilities to bath regularly.
Th-th-that’s all folks. If you enjoyed reading this piece, please come check me out at: