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March 1, 2007
Inspiration and Perspiration... Two essential ingredients needed to become great at anything. As a young musician I always came home totally pumped up after I saw a concert featuring one of my favorite bassists like Phil Lesh or Stanley Clark. I couldn't wait to get my bandmates together to play and try out all of the things that I'd heard my idols play. Of course it wasn't all that easy, and for the most part my technique just didn't support the ideas were rolling around in my head. Not at all that surprising actually.
The recent Ice Festival provided many folks with some well needed inspiration to get their climbing happening. There is nothing like taking a course from a major climber like a Steve House, Mark Wilford or a Barry Blanchard to get you all pumped up and on the right track. Any of these great climbers can help you hone your skills, and for those of you who attended any of the superb clinics or slideshows, it is up to you to spend the time to take what you learned or saw and apply it to your own climbing.
Last night a friend and I drove down to Boston to Sculler's Jazz Club for the first time in quite a while to see 3 of my favorite bass players in concert. The "group", if you can call it that, is called BX3 and consists of Stu Hamm, Billy Shehan and Jeff Berlin plus a guitarist and d rummer. Each bassist gets a 20-30 minute feature in a trio format and then they all play together. While they are about as different as one could possibly imagine stylistically, they manage to work together incredibly well. These are truly world class players, on the same level in their thing as the afore-mentioned climbers.
Needless to say I cam home totally wound up about playing and about what I had seen. However, I also realized that to even come close to what I had seen was going to take a huge amount of effort and, dare I say it, perspiration. At 59 years old and with a family, full time job, playing music a couple of times a week and some guiding there is a limit to what I can reasonably manage. So I have to figure out what I can do. For me right now it means taking some of the ideas that I saw and work them into the fabric of my playing. I'm not going to be able to play Bebop like Jeff, tap bass like Stu or heavy metal bass like Billy, but I can use some of those things to spice up my playing. AND in a 2 minute conversation with Jeff after the concerts I got a hint about soloing over chord changes that may pay big dividends.
You may have watched Barry pull up and over a mixed roof at Texaco and
somehow realized that for many of us (you & me), at 50 years old and 30 pounds over weight, that just wasn't going to happen. BUT, if you paid close attention to how he racked his gear and dealt with running in screws and placing rock gear, you came away with something that you can directly apply to your own climbing. Even watching how these guys do something as simple as swinging their tools or finding rests on a climb can be directly applicable to your climbing. I remember watching Steve House on Dracula 2 years ago (I think it was) and was totally impressed with how he found these no-hands rests in places I would have never imagined. Or many years ago watching Mark WIlford be so incredibly focused as he tap-tap-tapped his way up a very thin smear of ice at the Flume.
Of course all of these things will be lost if you don't think about and practice them on your own. One of the high points for me last night was Jeff Berlin's absolutely mesmerizing interpretation of Eric Clapton's ballad Tears Of Heaven. I may never be able to play that tune that way, I probably wouldn't even try, but I can certainly find a tune to arrange that would work for me. You may not be able to pull over that 6' roof, but you certainly can be a better climber if you work on the things you saw that great climber do. It's really up to you.
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:
Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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