The Mechanism of Working

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.



About anthonywellington

Musician, Clinician, bass Player for the Victor Wooten Band.
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5 Responses to The Mechanism of Working

  1. Pingback: Reply to Mr. Wellington | heydomajor

  2. heydomajor says:

    I started writing a response and it got so big, I turned in to a blog post.

  3. Matt says:

    This is a great post.

    I think it’s drilled in to most people at a very early age that music “isn’t a real job.” However, musicians have real deliverables and responsibilities to meet in order to get and keep money flowing. A recording company, band, night club, wedding party, etc. are all expecting something in return for investing time and money into an individual musician.

    I’ll be the first to admit, I have not applied professionalism to my music. Even just jamming with friends is a good place to start with this. Other people see the behavior you exhibit when you are just jamming with your friends. Now is a perfect time for me to correct past behaviors.

  4. uzin5strings says:

    Good stuff Anthony! Thanks man.

  5. Roy Vogt says:

    Man, that’s well put indeed!
    One component I’d add is that it never hurts to be nice. We’ve all come in to a work situation after a trying commute, a stressful morning, etc. It’s a real discipline to unplug from our “stuff” and just deal with the task at hand. One thing that I’ve noticed about most hyper-successful bassists is that they are by and large very positive people. Nathan East is my favorite example but there are others. Nathan seems to always be able to create a positive energy when he’s playing- a neat trick when your flight gets cancelled, you have to ride in the middle seat from Nashville to Paris, and the gate agent insists on putting your very expensive bass in it’s gig bag under the plane. Still, I think Nathan would deal with that pretty well and I try to become more gracious about it myself when it happens to me.
    Nashville (where I live and work) is a very small town. I often say if you screw up here it’s like throwing a hand grenade in a swimming pool. You may not get a chance to redeem yourself for a while, so all of those aspects in your blog become even more important.

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