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Musicianship Archives

Ask Damian Erskine

What is Your “Voice” on Bass?

A reader asked Damian “How did you come to settle on your voice?” While Damian has written about fostering the development of your “voice” in the past, he’s never covered what your “voice” really is. So that’s what he did in this new column.

Ask Damian Erskine

Mugging for the Camera on Stage

For this week’s “Ask” column, Damian decided to do it as more of a PSA - on musicianship, serving the song, and a trend he’s seeing that is sometimes counter to those things. Check out what he calls “Mugging for the Camera on Stage”

Ask Damian Erskine

What Is It To “Play Compositionally”?

What do you think people mean when they say, “play compositionally”? That’s the question a reader sent Damian this week. Check out what he has to say on the subject.

Ask Damian Erskine

Finding Your Voice vs. Conventional Bass Playing

Q: I have really been obsessed with wanting my own unique voice and approach on the bass. Do you think that I’d be doing myself any harm in the long run if I avoid conventional approaches to learning (like scales, changes, learning blues lines, etc…) in an attempt to develop something new? A: That’s an interesting question, (and one that...

The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: Antici…pation

It’s 6:57pm. I made it — and with three minutes to spare! Sixty minutes ago, I was at work, way across town, biting my fingernails as I shut down my computer for the day and ran out of the office. Thankfully, the traffic gods smiled upon me and aside from a few inescapable red lights, I managed to weave my...

Ask Damian Erskine

Learning Music: A Discussion on Bass Tab, Notation and Ears

Q: I have been interested in music all my life, but never played an instrument. Now that I’m retired, I have taken up playing the bass for the last six months from an instructor. I started out learning the notes on the bass itself and one song using notes. But since then, all of my learning has been by the...

The Lowdown with Dr. D

Improving Your Musical Ears

Being a musician requires a great number of skills. However, the aural component is by far the most prevalent. So, to perform at the highest levels, we must have good listening skills. Ultimately we need to hear, and understand, exactly what is happening around us. Only when we can do this can we respond in our most communicative and artistic...

The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: A Quarter Note For Your Thoughts

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the college admission process — the worst part about being in high school. Clearly, a full day of classes followed by extra-curricular activities and homework isn’t enough to deal with; there are standardized tests to study for, essays to write, schools to visit, interviews to prepare for, and meetings with your...

Ask Damian Erskine

On Musical Expression and Playing Freely

Q: I’ve been wondering about what people really mean when they speak of “music as a language,” and how this applies to improvising. When I take a solo, I feel like I’m just running the same patterns over and over again and never really doing anything different from song to song. What thoughts do you have about this? A: This...

Ask Damian Erskine

Thoughts On Multi-Instrumentalism

Q: What is your opinion on playing multiple instruments (for example double bass or piano) versus focusing on one instrument? I noticed a double bass in the background of one of your recent videos and wondered what your thought process had been when deciding to take up a new instrument. A: I was primarily a drummer until college, so from...

I Wish I Knew That

Playing Music with an Open Mind

Playing music is a curious thing. We excite at the opportunity to play with and for other people. We look forward to it, prepare for it, take pleasure in it, and enjoy the feeling of making music together. Sounds perfect, right? Well, the funny thing is that the more you play in a “formal” scenario (such as a gig or...

Ask Damian Erskine

Truly Listening: Playing Bass with Impaired Hearing

Q: I’m an intermediate level hearing-impaired bassist who cannot identify notes or pitch or key by ear. I play songs by memory. How would I go about breaking through to the next level? A: Wow, this may be the hardest question I’ve ever had to attempt to answer. The impression that I have is that with something so outside of...