The Mechanism of Working
The mechanism of working was a concept I started thinking about when I was a local musician that many people didn’t know about, and I was getting all this great work. I was getting all these students and becoming a “first-call “ bassist at a couple of studios, and getting all these gigs. I was wondering why guys who were as good as I am, and guys who were better than me, were not getting the same opportunities. It would be easy to say that I got the Victor Wooten gig because I’m his friend, but Victor has ALOT of good-bass-playing friends. When I started getting calls, not just to play bass, but to play keys, guitar, or do charts, I started thinking that there is a mechanism to this; a process, that I unconsciously understand that maybe other people don’t understand. To sum it up, the word is professionalism. I don’t like to use that word because that word can be intimidating, or it can be broad, or it can be elitist. That is why I call it the mechanism of working.
The Mechanism of Working is made of a lot of simple things, things like having reliable transportation. As simple as that is and as non music related as it is , people over look it. There are many students that say, “I’m going to be 10 minutes late.” or so many musicians on sessions or gigs that say, “I’m going to be late.” “My car overheats a little bit“…and end up not getting a second call back for that. That falls under the title The Mechanism of Working. Just maintaining your car. Maintaining and having reliable gear falls under that category. So many times a student comes in and plugs in their bass and it doesn’t make a sound because the battery is dead. That is something that can get you fired from a gig or removed from a session. It seems like trivial stuff but it does make the difference. There are many other examples that you can probably think of.
The reason this effects you is because people make assessments all the time of you as a musician and as a person. It’s not always fair but you cant do anything about “always fair.” An assessment has been made about you, and you wont get the call because of what is perceived as a lack of discipline or laziness. One of the things I always do when I do a session is make charts of each song and make copies for each band member. Most won’t need the charts, but it looks professional. I come in with a briefcase, a stool, and a music stand for each session. I sit down, open my briefcase, give a chart to each band member and then I present a chart to the artist. There are not too many things that will make an artist feel better than to see the music that they have created notated. You will get calls back just for that. So many singers or singer/songwriters don’t know how to read or write music or read or write chord changes. They know how to strum a guitar and sing. I’m not making an assessment about the song based on that because writing a song exists independently of knowing that stuff. But if they don’t know that stuff they are going to hire somebody to do it and that’s why I always take the initiative to do it.
When you hand a singer who is just good at singing, a chart of their song, something changes in them. That makes them feel that they have taken a step up and become a professional. If you do that and then play well on the session, that person will always call you back whenever they need a bass player. To me, I understand that. To me, that makes sense. I didn’t start doing it for that reason, I started doing it for myself. I realized the results that I got from that, and the benefits of those results. I think there is a mechanism in all aspects of the music business and that the more you understand those aspects the more work you’ll get.