Day 4: Hot and Sweaty, At No Extra Charge

Day four was much of a blur for a number of reasons. We started out with 90 minutes of what felt like advanced Yoga which both exhausted and rejuvenated me. Our Yoga instructor put us through the gauntlet in the dome, on a day that was approaching about 95 degrees. After an hour and a half of the workout from hell – in a sauna, I felt better than I could imagine. My shorts and shirt were entirely soaked, and I was entirely covered from head to toe in sweat… yet somehow I felt remarkable, as if my body had been through a transformation of sorts. Doing it to some Cheryl Crow made it enjoyable at least. What did we get out of it? We learned how to strengthen our muscles, how to relax, and how to breathe. All things critical to a bass player.

After Yoga, we had three classes back to back along with a bunch of exercises. The first class was with Victor: the power of chromatic scales. Vic had us play the chromatic scales to a groove and taught us how to make it sound like a solo. A few tricks: start a fifth up or down from the root, and start walking back to the root every quarter note. By the time it resolves, it makes for a real pleasing solo to the audience. Also try soloing on the chromatic scale starting a half step below the root for a similar effect. Lastly, start on the flat fifth and work your way up to the ninth. Vic also cleared up some issues I’ve had with chords for years. A lot of chords I’ve tried never sounded quite right, so I’ve been sticking with the ones I’ve read in tabs and such. The secret to great sounding chords is to raise the third of the chord an octave. He also showed us some basic chord 101: Any chord with a 7 or above in, the 7 is minor unless specified as a major. And the third is always major unless it’s specified as a minor.

After Vic, Steve Bailey taught us something revolutionary which we’ll all be practicing for the next year. There are four different fingering positions that, when learned, allow one to play in any key from anywhere on the fingerboard. Instead of shifting our hands to where our second finger is on the root, he showed us how to start on the root from any finger. None of us have mastered it yet, but everyone can see the power in it. Steve can play anything in any key without shifting his hand on the fingerboard.

Today was one of the camper’s birthdays. For a present? Chef John made him what I imagine was the world’s best cake ever. And he got his own personal “happy birthday” solo from Vic Wooten. Geez, all I ever got was a card.

To top off the evening festivities, we learned about cicadas and how their mating patterns are mathematically harmonious; musical even.

A lot of other things went on behind the scenes. A lot of personal growth and self discovery. This camp is no doubt going to stir the pudding in my life. The camp really is more about freeing your mind so you can become a better player; while there is plenty of new technique and music to learn about, the most important thing you learn is about yourself. This is no doubt going to be a life changing experience.