I’ve always loved pop tunes — everything from Christmas carols to “Walk like an Egyptian.” It’s all good.
A couple of years ago I started thinking I’d like to do a solo cello set with some of these great tunes. Record new arrangements in my studio, using synthesizers, take a P.A. system into a club or wherever, and play the melodies on cello over pre-recorded backing tracks.
I did quite a lot of work on the recordings. “Lady in Red,” for instance. I never cared for it when I heard it on the radio, but it is an awesome cello solo. I basically have the entire set on my hard drive, ready to go. But as I got close to being ready to look for gigs (this was back in 2008), I started feeling sad and lost. The prospect of doing the whole thing my myself no longer sounded like fun.
There are some specific issues. Doing a soundcheck, for starters. The cello has to be miked, which means I have to sit behind the P.A. speakers to avoid feedback. While sitting there, I have no way to tell whether the cello sound is balanced properly with the backing tracks. I can’t get up and wander out into the hall to listen, because if I do that, nobody is playing the cello.
Also, I’m nervous about bathroom breaks. If there’s nobody to watch over my stuff while I’m down the hall, some idiot teenager could think it would be funny to walk off with my bow. It’s a $2,000 bow, okay? I can chain the laptop to a table, and if somebody steals the P.A. amp, that’s no great loss. Even so, the whole setup is a lot more vulnerable than I like.
If I’m going to spend the entire gig being nervous about bathroom breaks, playing won’t be fun. And part of the point of playing music is that the people who are listening hope to see that you’re having fun. Moods are infectious.
Cartage is no fun either. I’m in darn good shape for an old guy, and I have no trouble carrying the P.A. speakers … unless my back goes out. But setting up is a lot of work, and tearing down is a lot of work. Loading the car beforehand and unloading it when I get home — more work.
Finding gigs and promoting them, too: It would all be on me.
It’s very possible that I’ve built this whole thing up in my mind, blown it way out of proportion. Maybe if I just grit my teeth and start doing it, I’ll find out it’s a lot more pleasant and less burdensome than I expected. Maybe I just need somebody to give me a firm kick in the seat of the pants.
Giving yourself a firm kick in the seat of the pants is anatomically difficult. There’s some risk of falling down.
No solutions come readily to mind. I’m just revisiting the question this morning because I woke up with “Starry, Starry Night” running through my head, and I was thinking, yeah, that would be a good one to add to the set. And “Year of the Cat,” that’s another good one. I never did finish that arrangement of “Yesterday.” I recorded the backing tracks for “Sir Duke” but I never properly learned the cello part. What a great tune!
I love the tunes. All I need is a firm kick in the seat of the pants.