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No bass, no safety blanket, no problem!

If you know me in real life or online at all, you are aware of my electric bass obsession. I can't tell you how grateful I am to play bass, and to be a part of the amazing community that surrounds the instrument.

However, sometimes I feel it's hard to separate myself from my "tool" of choice. It's easy to talk about bass in everyday conversation, and it's always given me a sense of comfort in social situations. Come to think of it, my bass is even a security blanket when I'm walking around the city or when I'm on the subway - it's something I use to instantly define myself and make myself feel important. Of course, this is a fallacy, and sometimes being away from the bass gives me a well-needed reality check.

I just spent the week visiting family for Chinese New Year, with NO bass. I occupied my time by reading, eating great food, and working on music (sans bass).

During my stay, I started to read Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined". So far the book has brought up some interesting statistics, questions, and theories pertaining to trends in human violence.  I'm really digging it!

In the evenings, I went on Youtube to learn a bit more about synth programming, and spent some time tinkering with new sounds. 

Inspired by the book and synth tutorial, I came up with a new song, "We Shall See".  Since I didn't have my bass, I programmed and performed the tune on a laptop in the following stages:

  1. I typed in a drum rhythm, and added effects. Then I loaded 4 more effects, and assigned keys on the computer keyboard to trigger and manipulate them. 
  2. I came up with a few different analog-style synth sounds, inspired by the Youtube tutorial. These sounds were used for bass, lead, and pad parts. I assigned each part to a key.
  3. I went online and downloaded a speech that was inspired by the Better Angels book for the middle section of the song. I also searched though my existing sound library and found a cool 8-bit Nintendo-like patch to use. 
  4. Finally, I performed and recorded the song live by triggering sounds, parts, and effects with the assigned keys (see below for a video of the actual performance/recording).

When all was said an done, it felt great to finish the song without needing the bass. 

We all have things that we fall back on... it could be our job, talent, clothing style, anything.  Creating this song was a good opportunity to grow out of my comfort zone a bit. Sometimes I need to realize I don't need the bass to define myself or worth.  

I encourage you to try a similar exercise: simply do something without the safety blanket you normally use. For example: Say you are coding, and you write all of your programs with C++ . Try writing your next program with Python or Ruby.

The possibilities are endless, and once you complete the exercise, you will see the connections between your "comfortable" way of doing things and the "new" way of doing things. Hopefully these connections will inspire you, and give you a bit more confidence in whatever direction you are going! 

Here's a clip of the "keyboard performance/recording", as well as the final song. Enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions about the process.