Black Sheep Bass-ic Training

Doing The Christian Walk With A Funky Strut

Walking wool

A recent stumble in the Christian walk:

The paycheck provision has been driving me crazy for months.  There are certain people there that work my last nerve just by showing up, there’s been that many not-pleasant interactions with them.  And I’ve been praying to get my mind right about that, because Jesus did not go about His business with perma-scowl, which is what I’ve been reduced to on an average workday.  I’m grumpy enough that I can’t even stand to be around me.  Follow?

So I get the mail a few days ago.  I’m a monthly partner with Joyce Meyer Ministries and they send a teaching CD every month.  This month’s shows up.  Title:

“Developing A Merciful Attitude”

BAHAHAHAhaha hahaha haha ha ha     haha   heh   hrm




Can you say God’s timing is perfect.

Listened to it of course.  It promptly whipped my spiritual bottom.  I have been an unmerciful so-and-so and with God’s help I will extend my co-workers the mercy that I use up in spades every day.


Taking a musical walk:

Bass line to “Moondance” by Van Morrison.  I had fun this evening working on this.  (For those familiar with the recording but not necessarily musical terms, that is a “walking bass line” you hear bouncing all over the place)  Working on a transcription of the line to aid in memorizing the changes.


So, learning how to walk more fluidly in more than one arena at the moment.  Hoping for less faceplants in the coming days.



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Emergence from the solitude

So I did something weird this last week.  Put myself on a week-long solitary retreat from EVERYTHING.  Even church.  Had someone kindly sub for me on Worship Team.

My days consisted of nothing but getting in the Word and spending time with God, and stewarding the musical gift He’s given me.  And taking good care of my physical body–decent diet, sleep, bit o’ exercise.  Did not leave the house.  Kept contact with people to absolute bare minimum via text message and e-mail.  No phone calls.

Like I said, weird.  People just don’t do this.  But.  I felt led to do it and I am oh so glad I obeyed.


–Newfound appreciation for God as a loving Father who always wants the best for His children.  Gained through reading in the Old Testament of account after account where, even after He’d allowed His people’s enemies to overrun them because of their disloyalty and disobedience to Him, He still would go after those very same enemies if/when they got an attitude about it.  Like, “Oh, no, you’re not going to sit here and mock My kids now because I’ve got them on punishment.  I only LET you do what you did.  Keep up the ego trip and I’ll give you what I gave them.”  And He would give it to them good.  And no matter HOW bad Israel/Judah were, He always sought a way to bring them back around, He wanted fellowship with them so much.  We all know, of course what He ultimately did to this end–gave us His Son Jesus.  But.  To go back and see how many times He kept trying before that…how many times He was merciful…how many times He gave them a free pass…the depth to His love for us is truly unsearchable.

–Reworking of priorities.  Time to stop just SAYING God is #1 priority and to start backing it up with meaningful action, CONSISTENTLY.

–I need to do less to keep the household ticking smoothly than I think I do.  Need to be aware of when I’m creating ‘busywork’, and I also need to be diligent about routine scheduling, so as not to interfere with time set aside for the pursuits that matter.

–Much-needed perspective shift regarding my job.  Praying I can carry through this peace to actual time on the company’s premises, and be the light I’m supposed to be.

–Increased proficiency on both bass and trombone.  Bass…I might yet be able to slap, got down to brass tacks with a workbook and had some success with the exercises so far.   Increasing my fingerstyle speed in the meantime.  Etc etc etc.  (logged crazy hours spanking plank and have the calluses to prove it)  Trombone–had borrowed a friend’s horn about 2 months back in hopes of recapturing glory of 20 years past.  *laugh*  Was shocked at how quickly the embouchre started to come back with just 15 minutes blowing a day.  Praying I get that house I’m waiting for soon, so horn practice doesn’t entice a call to Chicago’s finest.  🙂

–Experiential awareness that as long as you stay busy doing/thinking right things, you don’t have time to mess with the bad.  Did not crave junk food once, didn’t even THINK about it…didn’t get off into negative thinking or brooding…didn’t indulge ANY of my bad habits.  Didn’t have time.  I either had a Bible or a bass in my hand for the majority of my waking hours.  Hard to wallow about the injustices at work when you’re busy picking apart Jeremiah or trying to memorize chord changes for worship tunes, for example.

–Got practice leaning on God to get past my #1 excuse: “I don’t feel like it.”  I called on Him a number of times to press me past my feelings and into something fruitful.  And He faithfully gave me the fortitude I needed, every single time I asked.   I need to remember this.

–I did come out with what I prayed for…a deeper hunger for more of God, and a deeper desire to develop the gifts He’s given me and be a better steward of His provision.

There were many smaller side things as well.  Bottom line:  This was a good thing.  And I think I need to make it an annual thing.  More emphasis on prayer and meditation next time.

Father, help me to carry out everything You’ve taught me in these days, so people can see what a difference having You in one’s life makes.


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How to take one’s mind off the family drama–

Haven’t touched my basses in 2 weeks thanks to the family obligations.  Back to church tomorrow, short set list, it’s all songs we’ve done before.  I could have just cruised through it.

But decided to shake things up a bit, perhaps literally.

Felt moved to drop tune and learn all the songs that way.  I haven’t messed with drop tuning in at least a year.

Turns out it works splendiferous with this week’s set list, and it completely distracted me from the weight on my mind for a while.  Particularly while doing a bit of transposition work (on one song we’re playing in a different key to the original).

Stepped out of my comfort zone, to find a new comfort and peace.

Thank You, Lord, for my musical gift.  You’ve always worked Your healing touch through it.

Hoping that peace and healing flows through my instrument to someone at service tomorrow.


Bye, comfort zone.

So.  Earlier posts addressed my fixation on a 5-string bass and how I wasn’t allowed to peep up about it anymore.  New mantra is “Do More With 4”, right?


Went through this week’s setlist this evening.  Knew we were doing ‘In The Sanctuary’ with an additional key modulation to usual, didn’t think too much about it…

…until I actually looked at the chord chart, and it confirmed what I kind of expected.  To play the usual hook in the new key, would mean drop tuning, since I don’t have that B string.  I don’t have a Hipshot on any of my basses.  I’ve done manual drop tune in church before, but it’s been on a week where everything was kind of laid back arrangement wise, and I could just leave it in that tuning and transpose accordingly, the fingers didn’t have to be in a hurry.

I don’t have that luxury this week.  At least not to my feeble mind.

So, if I can’t drop…gotta bump.  Up an octave.  And this is where my comfort level gets tested.

I typically hang out in the ‘money frets’ ‘cuz I like to bring the thunder.  I don’t get up the neck much.  To jump an octave and still have some beef to the tone, gotta go waaaayyy up the neck.

12th fret and beyond!!!!  EEEEEK!!!


But it actually worked out OK.  Turns out it’s easier to play that hook up in that space, once I get used to what’s where.  Hopefully my different register to usual will sit in the mix alright with the band on Sunday.  If not…ummmmm….*grimacing smile*

Funny how this involvement with Worship Team is prodding me to higher skill levels without trying.  🙂


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Woot. After 6 years of tryin’…

…I can play the intro to Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights” at tempo, about 95% clean.

I know, I know.  Not Christian music.  But I’m trying to increase my skills as a bass player and that intro is an excellent speed drill.  How fortuitous that it was almost exactly 6 years ago I’d made my first attempt.  It was featured in Bass Player’s ‘Woodshed’ section in the August 2007 issue.   I’ve been noodling on it off and on since then, think I started trying to play it quarter notes @ 60 bpm.  Every time I’d pick it up, would do it just a bit faster, but then I’d hit a wall at some point.  Then I’d get mad, and chuck the mag back into my pile of stuff to work on, where it would get ignored for months at a time.  There were times I was convinced I’d never be able to play it.

See, I have hands that aren’t well suited to electric bass.  Small hands.  Short fingers.  Fingers different lengths, with the pinky being a full inch shorter than the ring finger.  And the ring finger and index finger kind of kink in toward each other rather than pointing straight up.  Now, on the plucking hand, the configuration isn’t a problem…I can zip across the strings pretty handily, alternating fingers as good technique dictates.  But this hand shape over the frets…oh, my.  Have a hard time with the 4-fret fingering in the lower 8 ’cause I have a small “wingspan”.  Always have to hold my wrist at a somewhat wonky position to accommodate for the short pinky, and have to roll it more frequently to shift up and down the strings to accommodate for the overall smaller hands.  All this extra/weird/strained movement adds up to compromised playing speed.

But it’s always funny who God uses.  The Bible is full of examples of people who were “unqualified” for their particular jobs, yet God used them in a mighty way.  I don’t know how much He intends to use my musical skill beyond its current service, but I will testify that He’s been able to take these mutant mitts and teach them how to get around a bass.

They were flying over the frets n’ strings tonight, eighth notes @114 bpm.

I know there’s plenty of bass players that could smoke me and make that look like child’s play…but hey, for me, this is big, something I thought I wouldn’t be able to do.  Still needs some cleaning up–the weakness in my left hand pinky made itself very evident and I’ll be concentrating on building up that strength–but it’s encouraging all the same, I’m more willing to set higher goals now.

I can do this.  Really.  *squee*  Nice to celebrate some progress on something after the (well-deserved) spiritual butt-kickings I got this week.  Think this is God letting me know He still loves me and still wants to use me.  Looking forward to making my joyful noise unto Him at church tomorrow.


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An Autistic Christian Techie


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