Sunday, April 23, 2006

First Lesson

Well, I had my first double bass lesson yesterday. My instructor's name is Doug Richeson (for those interested, here's his bio).

I was very nervous before my lesson. I haven't been in a lesson situation for probably 20 years! I had my bass packed and ready to go a full 3 hours before my lesson, just in case (of what, I don't know).

The lesson took place in his studio at Denison University. There was a soap-box derby race going on in front of the building, so they had the street blocked off. As such, I had to park a block and a half away. My first lesson - even though the bass is hollow, it's heavy!

Doug was very cool. We spent the first 15 minutes going over my left hand technique (wrong!) and my right hand pizzicato (plucking) technique (also wrong!). Then we immediately started talking about theory and improvising walking bass lines. I've never been good at walking bass lines - I just can't seem to think fast enough - but I remind myself that's why I'm taking lessons. And if I want to play jazz, I'd better learn.

My first big test came when he placed a chord chart in front of me for a standard 12 bar blues and put on a play-along CD. I had to try to play a walking line with chord tones, using leading and passing tones on the fourth beat of every measure. When it was over, I had old B&W movie footage of a war-time plane, flames shooting out of the tail, spinning wildly as it crashed into the ocean, going through my head. Then my instructor said "Good. You'll get this in no time." That's when I noticed the pilot floating gently down with his parachute.

After we talked about theory some more and he outlined my study material, we talked about my right hand arco (bowing) technique (wrong!).

Needless to say, I have a lot of work ahead of me. But it's good work. And I feel good about it. I went into my lesson wondering if this is something I'd be able to pull off, or if I was just wasting my time...too old and too set in my ways to learn something new. Now my only concern is finding enough time to practice.

An interesting sidenote: when he asked me to name some of my favorite bassists, two at the top of my list were Charles Mingus and Paul Chambers...and unbeknownst to me, yesterday was their birthday.