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Here come the dots

The Four Hour Bassist: Health & Wellbeing For The Working Musician

This post is concerned with an aspect of being a musician that is often neglected – health. Before I get started let’s get the common sense health & safety stuff…

This post is concerned with an aspect of being a musician that is often neglected – health.

Before I get started let’s get the common sense health & safety stuff out of the way:

Disclaimer #1: The opinions expressed in this post are a result of personal experience and are simply an account of a particular diet/exercise/practice regime that works for me. This may not apply to all readers of this post.

Disclaimer #2: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. Always consult an appropriately qualified health practitioner before making any significant lifestyle changes.

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about my own health & wellbeing. I began to feel unwell after a gig and then spent the following 3 days in bed with some sort of miscellaneous food poisoning/manflu affliction. Then this morning I read this excellent post on NoTreble which serves as a good primer on nutrition for the gigging bassist (it is, of course, more relevant to US readers – I’m yet to find a service station on the M1 that offers a turkey hoagie or a Philly cheese steak…).

Here’s the thing: working as a musician often involves being active for long periods of time, often at extremely antisocial hours and in locations where it’s difficult (if not impossible) to get hold of anything apart from junk food. In order to sustain energy levels, it’s vital that we give our bodies the correct fuel to run on. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing concentration on the gig, dropping a few notes, forgetting the form, botching an arranged ending to a tune, getting cranky with bandmates during load-out and nearly falling asleep at the wheel on the drive home… Sound familiar?

About a year ago I was introduced to Tim Ferriss’ book ‘The 4-Hour Body’ by a friend who said he thought it would be “my sort of thing…”. Turns out he was right. Here’s the tome in question:

Firstly, I’m aware that this is a very silly book. Much of the content is aimed squarely at the testosterone-driven teenage boy that lurks within every grown man. However, if you skip past the sensationalist marketing tripe and pick out the advice that can realistically be adopted by most ‘regular’ folk then there’s actually some incredible, life-altering stuff in there.

The main thing I got from ‘The 4-Hour Body’ is my current diet, which gives me everything I need to cope with the often hectic and unpredictable lifestyle that I lead. Food, along with music, is one of my chief obsessions, and taking on Ferriss’ nutritional advice has helped me to get a much better insight into how what I put into my body affects me.

So, what do I eat? It’s actually more constructive to list the foods that I DON’T eat:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes (no crisps, no chips!)
  • Cereals
  • Rice
  • Tortillas/wraps
  • Fruit/fruit juice (except tomatoes and avocados)
  • Soft drinks
  • Beer

For a more detailed overview and explanation of the so-called ‘Slow-Carb Diet’ (as well as the infamous ‘cheat day’) there’s a book extract here

“But what does all this have to do with music?!” Good question.

I found that once I’d given up ‘white’ carbs (particularly anything bread-related) that my energy levels become much more consistent throughout the day – I stopped getting post-meal energy slumps and my blood sugar levels became far more consistent. This means that I can get through long days that involve practice, rehearsals, traveling to/from gigs, lugging gear around and writing voluminous blog posts much better than before.

I’m not suggesting that you all should rush out and buy a copy of the 4-Hour Body, renounce bread and embrace lentils. What I’m advocating is taking the time to reflect on what you’re putting into your body and how that might be affecting your energy levels (not to mention your concentration, productivity, relationships, sleep and physical appearance…). A lot of guys (and girls) that I regularly work with don’t seem to give any thought to nutrition and consequently often wonder why they don’t feel great when all they’ve consumed is a packet of crisps and a can of red bull…

On a practical level this means avoiding stuff like this when you’ve pulled into a service station at 1am on the way back from a gig:

I’d rather spend an eternity listening to Kenny G than ingest this. No, really.

Queries/comments/suggestions are encouraged – doubt and scepticism are healthy.

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Spine O' The Times

It’s been shamefully long since I posted anything on here or added any new transcriptions to the archive, so apologies to those of you who have worked through the charts…

It’s been shamefully long since I posted anything on here or added any new transcriptions to the archive, so apologies to those of you who have worked through the charts I’ve already posted and are itching for something new. More transcriptions will be uploaded soon, I PROMISE!

Part of the reason that I’ve been slack on the blog front is that I’ve spent the last 4 months having curvature added to my spine through traction in order to avoid needing some fairly serious surgery in the next decade (and yes, having your spine reshaped is about as much fun as it sounds…).

For those that are curious, here’s how things look now:

See that? 43 degrees of lumbar curvature. Beautiful.

I’ll try and get a new transcription up by next week, but in the meantime here’s some footage of a recent gig that was shot in St.Pancras International station. I was helping out good friends Felix Fables while their regular bassist was otherwise indisposed. The bass of choice for this was my trusty ’80s P bass (which was the star of this earlier post) strung with D’Addario nylon tapewounds.

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The (Comic) Genius Of Bernard Purdie

Steely Dan’s classic album Aja is one of the cds that permanently stays in my glovebox – there’s something about the tunes that make it ideal listening for driving home…

Steely Dan’s classic album Aja is one of the cds that permanently stays in my glovebox – there’s something about the tunes that make it ideal listening for driving home from gigs and trying not to fall asleep when you’re on the M25 at 2am…

One of my favourite moments on this record is Bernard Purdie’s playing on ‘Home At Last’, which features some serious shuffle groove. Here’s the man himself explaining (or, more accurately, ‘splaining) the Purdie Shuffle.

If I ever find myself in a bad mood, I watch some Bernard Purdie. The man is a comedy genius.

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Lick Recycling, Pt.2

Continuing the previously aired topic of lick recycling, here’s another borrowed lick that gets a workout from two great fretless players, Jaco Pastorius and Pino Palladino. The phrase in question…

Continuing the previously aired topic of lick recycling, here’s another borrowed lick that gets a workout from two great fretless players, Jaco Pastorius and Pino Palladino.

The phrase in question originates in Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’, composed in 1913. Listen to the opening line played by the bassoon:

 

Fast forward to 1977, and Jaco’s phenomenal solo on Weather Report’s ‘Havona’. Listen out for the third phrase of Jaco’s solo (at 2:51) and you’ll hear the Stravinsky lick:

 

 

Another Jaco recording from the same year shows him borrowing the same lick from Stravinsky again, this time on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Talk To Me’. The third phrase of Jaco’s intro melody should be recognisable by now…

 

 

The next link is slightly more tenuous as it’s not a direct note-for-note insertion of the ‘Rite of Spring’ melody, but whenever I hear Pino Palladino’s opening melody on Paul Young’s ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)’ I can’t help but be reminded of the Stravinsky/Jaco phrase:

 

Here’s the transcription of the phrase in question, first Jaco’s lick from ‘Talk to Me’ (the line has been written down an octave for ease of reading):

 

Pino’s part from ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’ shows similarities in both note choice and phrasing:

In fact, Pino admits the Stravinsky quote in this interview. I love his reaction to hearing the tune on the radio for the first time:

All the examples mentioned feature the lick in the context of a major chord, where it outlines a major 7 sound. It could be applied in other areas – play the lick in C against an F major chord and you’re instantly implying a Lydian (major 7#11) tonality.

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