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Beyond Bass Camp

Digging Deeper Inside the Bass, with Steve Lawson.

Oct
13

This post was partly inspired by Michael Manring’s masterclass last week at Chappell’s Music Shop in London, and the conversation he and I had after it.

The catalyst was his difficulty in answering questions that required him to fragment his thinking about music – and even detach music from its place within the rest of his being/existence. It wasn’t – it seemed – that he was unwilling to. It was that to do so felt somehow dishonest, especially if the question seemed to be loaded with an expectation that a certain fragment of information – whether it be about a particular technique, bit of music theory or piece of equipment – would somehow prove to be the key that unlocks ‘music’. (more…)


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Jun
26

OK, this is one of the best presentations on learning music I’ve seen in ages.

I got to play with Evelyn Glennie a few years back, in her studio – she had been talking to Rick Turner about electro-acoustic music, and he’d advised her to talk to me about looping. I went to meet her and talk to her about looping and processing, and demo the Looperlative for her. Her sensitivity to everything we played, every processed element I added to her percussion, was incredible. Her profound deafness was certainly no impediment to her musical performance or her ability to collaborate. Given just how quickly she reacted to every change, and how sensitive her touch was, one could just as easily suggest it was an advantage, based on experiential evidence alone.

What certainly is advantageous is the way that Evelyn has used her profile as a musician and her unique history in studying and performing music to speak about learning music, and learning in general, across the globe. Including the talk embedded below from the Ted Conference.

It’s no overstatement to say that this is one of the finest presentations I’ve ever seen on learning an instrument. Evelyn demonstrates and explains so clearly many of the things I talk about when teaching, particularly the point about learning music in the context of playing music, rather than what I refer to as ‘practicing practicing’ – getting good at musical exercises without rooting them in the magic of playing actual music.

Watch, learn, be inspired:


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May
27

I’m always amazed – and dismayed – at how often I fail to ask the above question in my life. I spend a whole lot of time on trivial, time-wasting things as a diversion from the important things I really ought to be doing. That’s not to say that ‘trivial fun’ isn’t valid – sometimes what’s most important is some rest n’ relaxation, or a good laugh, or some time playing a computer game to wind down – it’s just that so often trivia is the default because we don’t stop to think about what it is that really matters to us and what it will take to bring that about. (more…)


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May
12

I have certain pre-arranged responses to some of the questions and comments I get about my music.

One of my favourites to throw out is to comments like “hey, Steve, you should do a whole ambient record” or “I really like the funky tunes, you should do more of that“, or any other ‘you should‘-type comments. My response is invariably “no, YOU should, cos it’s you that wants to hear it!”
(more…)


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May
02

On the blog post announcing Beyond Bass Camp, Kevin posted a very pertinent question relating to syllabus/curriculum. So here’s an outline of the kind of approach I’ll be taking.

As with everything I teach, much of the content will remain fluid and be based on the needs and personalities of the musicians who attend… Having taught privately now for 20 years, and lead masterclasses of this type for about 6 years, I’ve found that the best format is to have an outline of the ‘approach’ and allow the detail of the content to form itself in response to those needs.

That said, each day long class will be split into 3 two hour sessions. (more…)


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Apr
27

The question in the title is one that is so often ignored and yet is fundamental to the process of learning music (and a lot of other things!)

Because so much that happens in music education is based on a model established for teaching classical repertoire, the emphasis is hugely on “Is It Right?” - the notes on the page are the right notes, any other notes are wrong notes, and there are pre-established measures of what are the ‘right‘ ways to play a piece, what are the ‘right‘ techniques to use… The fact that at some point they were were established as ‘right‘ because of someone’s idea of ‘good‘ has been lost somewhere down the years – the subjective aesthetic assessment of a piece of music by the person playing it is no longer a factor in deciding whether the performance is worthwhile, meaningful, pleasing or anything else(more…)


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Apr
23

screen grab of susan boyle on youtubeFor a week or so now, it seems like everyone has been talking about Susan Boyle. She’s a 40-something year old woman from lowland Scotland, who went on Britain’s Got Talent - the latest Simon Cowell vehicle – and ‘wowed’ everyone with her unexpectedly amazing voice. (more…)


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Apr
23

Photo of Steve Lawson from someoneoncetoldme.com licenced under creative commons

The title of this post is taken from a book by American futurist and Christian writer , Tom Sine. The thrust of his book is that by chasing ‘stuff’ – bigger/better/faster/more – we end up missing the magic in life, that which we were born to do.

As musicians, the parallels are many – I know so many musicians who are downcast not because their music is in any way ‘bad’ but because in the pursuit of someone else’s idea of what music needs to be in order to succeed, they’ve ended up playing music they have no belief in, love for, or commitment to. (more…)


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Apr
22

Steve Lawsons bass set up, on stage at the XOX Theatre in Kleve, Germany

I asked a question the other day on Twitter, whether or not people thought that music education (in Britain specifically, but Twitter has no national boundaries) was complicit in peddling the myths of fame and superstardom, in collusion with ‘Big Music’ (a few people asked what ‘Big Music‘ meant – I used it in the lineage of terms like ‘Big Tobacco‘, ‘Big Food‘ and ‘Big Pharma‘ to refer to the multinational corporations who operate businesses on an international level making millions and, generally, caring little for much beyond profit margins.)

The reason I asked it is that my own answer to that is very definitely yes. Having been around music schools a lot, and having studied in one, there’s a heck of a lot of talk about ‘the music business’… I’ve even got ScotVec modules in it to tell me that I know all about the workings of the PRS/MCPS/Record Deals/Lawyers etc. (more…)


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