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.
POCKET CENTRAL, 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? You spend 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.