Sign Up for BellerBytes
the latest news & inside info
just click here to sign up!
   


YOU'RE READING THE OLD WEBSITE,
FROZEN IN TIME FROM MAY 14, 2019
THIS IS THE OLD WEBSITE!
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE NEW ONE!



WHY READ THIS OBSOLETE WEBSITE?
CHECK OUT THE NEW ONE!

Crime And Punishment
(Soapbox Column #9)
Bass Player Magazine
Published March, 2001



There's this e-mail that's been going around for the better part of a year now called "Bass Player Infractions." Some of you have probably seen it, some perhaps not, and some of you may not even own a computer (and if you're making your living as a freelance bassist, one could hardly blame you). Whatever your level of cyber-awareness, the "infractions" listed within were universal enough to make me both laugh and cringe. After all, I wondered if I might be brought up on charges myself.

The e-mail itself is a list of offenses against an unspoken code of musical honor among bassists. Each offense carries with it a financial penalty equivalent to the severity of the dastardly done deed. For instance, "Playing loudly during warm-up" will run you ten bucks. "Continually shouting ‘Yeah!'" costs twenty-five smackers. "Taking cell phone call during trading 4's" is a rough one, lightening your billfold by a cool Benjamin.

I chuckled along with the first few, but my demeanor soon turned to fear. "Excessive sweating" - guilty. "Missing root at end of blistering fill" - guilty again. "Playing Jaco groove on samba" - so, so very guilty. By the time I'd finished tallying up my offenses against the State of Bassdom, I was a hardened musical criminal who owed the coffers of justice over two thousand dollars, or forty singer-songwriter gigs in Los Angeles (with rehearsals included, of course). The long arm of the law was so deep into my pocket that its hand was touching my ankle.

Well, I wasn't about to take it lying down. Acting in my own defense, I submitted my arguments to the court of musical opinion. Below are some choice excerpts of the transcript:


Offense: Sound-checking amp with funk slapping
Penalty: $25. fine

My defense: "I was only reacting to the request of the soundman. He said he wanted to hear some bass. I wanted to make sure he knew the peak level."
Judge: "Were there any tunes in the set that required slap bass?"
Me: "Yes, one tune, during the guitar solo."
Judge: "How many tunes did you play that night."
Me: "Uh...twenty-five?"
Judge's ruling: Guilty as charged, full fine due immediately.


Offense: Playing with a pick
Penalty: $50. fine

My defense: "I never really wanted to, and never did before 1997. But when alternative rock went mainstream, I had to do it so I could get more gigs."
Judge: "The court shows that during the two songs you were witnessed using a pick, you dropped it during the second verse in each case. What's your explanation for this?"
Me: "I had already missed several big downbeats, and then my thumb and index finger started to cramp up, so I figured I'd better just let the pick fall out of my hand." Judge: "What do you mean, you missed several big downbeats?"
Me: "One time I went to hit an open string and I whiffed. Another time I hit the E and the A string both at once."
Judge's ruling: Guilty of a reduced charge of bad general technique, fine reduced to $25.


Offense: Playing written-out walking line
Penalty: $50. fine

My defense: "The gig was a Steely Dan tribute band called The Steely Damned, and the tune was "Bodhisattva," which has a walking line during the guitar solo. Note-for-note accuracy was requested by the bandleader, and a chart was provided." Judge: "Hmmm, I see. Did you in fact play the walking section of the chart note-for-note?"
Me: "Uh, yeah, most of the time. I improvised in a couple of places, but that was it." Judge's ruling: Not guilty of charged offense. However, defendant is found guilty of failure to play written-out walking line, $75. fine due immediately.


Offense: Playing sixteenth notes
Penalty: $10. each

My defense: "Your honor, I feel this is most unjust. I was on a gig and the bandleader called ‘What Is Hip?' What was I supposed to do? Play whole notes?" Judge: "Do you have any precedent to back up your claim?"
Me: "In the cases of State v. Pastorius and State v. Prestia, sixteenth notes were found by the court to be both appropriate and musical when used in the proper context."
Judge: "Bailiff, look in the evidence file and tell me how many notes we're talking about here."
Bailiff: "The defendant is charged with having played some one-thousand four-hundred and thirty-nine sixteenth notes during the song in question, resulting in a potential fine of $14,390."
Judge's ruling: Case dismissed.


Offense: Blacking out during ballad
Penalty: $200. fine

My defense: "I had a gig the night before that didn't get done until two in the morning, and then I had to drive sixty miles home. Then I had a bar mitzvah gig the next day, which was outside in ninety-degree heat."
Judge: "According to our records, you were out on your feet for approximately thirty seconds. How did the band react to this?"
Me: "I have a sworn affidavit from the lead vocalist which states that I didn't miss the changes while I was, uh, blacked out."
Judge: "I find that hard to believe. Let me see that. [Judge summons bailiff to show him the affidavit.] And what song was it that benefited from your unique approach to power napping?"
Me: "'Memories.'"
Judge's ruling: Guilty as charged, fine suspended due to extenuating circumstances.


Offense: Asking to borrow Real Book for "All Of Me"
Penalty: $1,000. fine

My defense: "I feel that this is a biased statute, your honor. I would not expect jazz players to be fined a thousand dollars for needing The Complete Led Zeppelin book for "Whole Lotta Love."
Judge: "Yes, but our records show that you are a graduate of Berklee College Of Music. Do you deny this?"
Me: "That's true, but--"
Judge: "The record also shows that your major was in Performance. And yet you don't know the changes to ‘All Of Me?' This is a very serious offense, Mr. Beller."
Me: "I would only ask the court to consider the offenses on this list that I have not committed. I have never checked my hair between tunes. Between sets, maybe, but never between tunes. I have never forgotten my strap. I've never asked the bone player about his day gig, though I've been tempted to on several occasions. I've never played an E while the horn section was tuning to Bb. I've never practiced scales during the drum solo, I don't even own a bass with skull decals on it, and I always turn my cell phone ringer off during the set. Surely this counts for something, your honor." Judge: "You said you turn your cell phone ringer off during the set. Why not turn the phone off entirely?"
Me: "I set it to Vibrate Mode, so if somebody calls I can check the Caller ID during the next ballad."
Judge's ruling: Guilty as charged, fine waived in lieu of 500 hours of community service teaching upright players to play Led Zeppelin tunes on electric bass.

Judge: "And, bailiff - confiscate that cell phone immediately."


Reprinted with permission from the March, 2001 issue of BASS PLAYER. For subscription information, please visit http://www.bassplayer.com.


All site contents © Bryan Beller except where noted. All rights reserved.