Enjoying music can sometimes be a problem for a musician, it sounds odd, but like anything else, if you do something enough it becomes work, no matter what it is. I’ve struggled with this from time to time, listening to music becomes research, study and homework. There’s always a set to learn, and if there’s not a set to learn, then you really should be studying a piece to expand your playing, even as i write this, I should probably at the very least, be practicing scales. It’s kind of non stop, there’s no real clocking in and out, you develop a kind of strange guilt if you’re not doing something that makes you a better musician. So it becomes less and less that you listen to music for pleasure, as you always feel you should always be learning. I wouldn’t change it, but it has changed music for me, but it’s all about finding that balance between study and fun.
So i approach it a little differently now, I immerse myself in a style for a while, pull it to pieces and try to make it make me into a better musician. At the moment i’m all about motown, and who doesn’t like motown, even if you’re not a fan there’ll always be at least one song you like, and if there’s not? …..well you’re probably dead inside, you’re definitely dead to me. In all fairness, I never tire of Motown, there’s too much of it, and so much of it is so very good. But for the moment, i’m calling it study, and why not? The level of musicianship is outstanding, and for bass players Motown means one thing, James Jamerson.
Jamerson was part of the unofficially named ‘funk brothers’, a band that until recent years, went uncredited for their work on the Motown label, but if you’re listening to motown, you’re most likely hearing the funk brothers and that beautifully melodic, bouncy bass that makes you do that slow motion, chicken head bobbing thing (you know the one, don’t lie to yourself) that’s James Jamerson. So while i listen to all of this fantastic, uplifting, soulful music, I’m also focusing on the bass. There is such a thing as the Jamerson groove, and i’m pilfering it, trying to incorporate his style into my playing, stealing bits here and there and making it my own. All musicians are thieves, we just like to call it ‘referencing’.
By approaching it this way, I’m enjoying music, but i’m still studying and I’m still learning, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself to be spared the guilt….you do what you can.