From December 1993
THIS WAS A GREAT ISSUE FOR TWO
(unrelated) guys named Lee: Geddy and Will.
On the cover, we spotlighted Geddy Lee in a
Karl Coryat interview that probed the sound
behind Rush’s latest album, Counterparts.
Geddy had been on the cover of the first
“test issue” of BASS PLAYER, sold on newsstands
in 1988, and I welcomed him back
in my editor’s column. Inside, we featured
Will Lee in a couple of spots—an unusual
giveaway and a one-of-a-kind column.
We had run a giveaway in every issue,
featuring gear that some lucky reader could
win by clipping and mailing an entry. (We
were hoping entrants would buy a subscription,
too, although that wasn’t required.)
But this one, sponsored by Dean Markley
strings, was a bit different. The prize
included a year’s supply of bass strings,
but the winner also got a trip to
New York City on American
Airlines, a hotel room,
a backstage pass to
the Late Show with
David Letterman, and
a private lesson with Will
Lee. (The winner was Mark
Tilford of San Antonio, Texas.)
And, on page 69, we had the latest
installment of Will Lee’s instructional
column. This one was titled “Stop Playing?”
and included what was, to me, the
coolest musical example we ever published.
BY WILL LEE
It’s another day. You’ve barely gotten out
of bed, eaten breakfast, and pulled on your
clothes. Before you know it, bass-a-holic that
you are, your bass is hanging around your
neck again like an albatross, whether it’s to
practice or to play a gig or just to jam. And
you find yourself in this rut you’ve been in
for days, weeks, months. You just haven’t
been enjoying it, no matter how hard you
try. Nothing pleases your ears. You focus
on all the wrong shit, stop listening to the
other players, stop feeling loose about the
groove … and every note sounds like a mistake,
a clam, a bivalve, a quahog.
Where has all that
sweet inspiration gone?
the next few days
in hell, pulling
out your hair and
biting your nails. You practice until
you throb in all the wrong places. You
dig up every record that used to inspire
you. You try playing with different musicians.
Nothing works. Have you lost that
magic? Where’s the pleasure that seduced
you in the first place? What’s going on?
This is the desperate situation in which
I found myself recently, right up to the
moment when I left town for my first recreational
trip in over two years. It wasn’t until
I returned, after a week away from playing,
that I realized what had been missing from
my musical life: space.
There have been a couple of points in my
career when I desperately needed to get away.
You know how every bass has its idiosyncrasies—
the C# dead spot on the G string, or
the way an F# on the G string always sounds
a little flat against an open D, or that sharp
A on the 17th fret of the E string? Well, I’ve
gone as far as to throw away a couple of
perfectly good vintage necks because they
were driving me crazy—when all I had to
do was get away from them! You might find
yourself blaming your axe, pickups, effects,
amp—you could go bonkers. (Recently I had
to talk one of my bass-playing friends down
from a tower where he was about to start
picking off innocent bystanders with a highpowered
rifle … well, maybe that’s an exaggeration,
but you get my point.)
Musicians are afraid they’ll lose a muscle if
they get away from playing. It’s only a mental
thing, dearly beloved! You gotta have faith.
Don’t be afraid to let it go—the groove will
still be there when you come back. It ain’t
goin’ nowhere. So if you’re feeling stale, put
your heart and soul into the exercise below.
All the bass, Uncle Will.