BillyRadd Music

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why I Practice

My Bass Station

My small music room/studio is a real kick in the patootie for someone like me who can’t get enough bass, rock n’ roll and music in general.

I feel there is so little time and so much to learn so wish I’d taken the music lessons on the accordion that my parents offered when I was 12. Accordions always reminded me of Lawrence Welk and were not considered cool by my generation. But, I can’t effect the past, only the present.

Making films and videos made my living, but The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney were my heros. If I could live long enough to be able to play bass AND sing like Sir Paul, I’d be eternally happy. So, I continue to practice to make progress with scales, arpeggios, riffs and licks.

My first electric bass guitar (I’ve owned 6) was a nice little German Framus that my parents bought me in 1964 for my 16th birthday along with an iconic  B12N  Ampeg combo amplifier (not pictured here) which I still use after 50 years. Working as a full-time film maker took me away from practicing bass very much for 40 years but I always thought that someday I'd start playing again and get good at it. This is that someday.

The picture above of my bass practice kit consists of (counter clockwise from the left) a diminutive solid body California model  Kala Ubass that I’ve had for a year and a half, my old Casio Tone Bank CT-650 keyboard sitting on top of an old directors from my film making career, my new Gibson SG Special bass, the very cool DigiTech RP1000 Integrated Effects Switching System, and in the center, my Fender Rumble 15 Combo practice amp which is plenty loud enough for practicing in my little room.

It is true that I can only play one bass at a time, but having two offers a variety of tones AND, more importantly, a comparative basis for polishing up fingering skills since the two basses have very different neck lengths (neck scales), and thus different sized fret spacings.

On the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show I consider this room and my daily presence in it as a direct and continuing reverberation of that seminal event in my artistic life, and indeed, the first time I can remember wanting to play and create music, specifically the bass guitar, or any other creative pursuit.

The Fab Four’s appearance on the pop scene in the early ‘60s facilitated an artistic renaissance that, for my generation and those afterward, caused a realization that art was freedom in the most personal sense. And, that the whole world was our canvas.

I am now practicing bass every day for one to two hours and even at my “seasoned” age of 66 years, I am slowly but consistently getting better at it. So now, when I hear the phrase, “You can never go back”, I think, “Wrong, wrong, wrong!” Reinventing yourself at any age is limited only by one’s own negativity and, given enough time, anything can be achieved through dedicated practice and step-by-step discipline.

That’s exactly how the Beatles got to be showcased on The Ed Sullivan 50 years ago and why the surviving members, Paul and Ringo, are still actively performing today.

Practice is how I learned cooking, filmmaking, being a parent, Tae Kwon Do, and now, playing bass.

Practice is The Only Way!


  1. What you are doing is inspiring!

  2. An impressive array of electronic gear to be sure, Billy, but what's more impressive is your passion and attitude. I, too grew up with the Beatles as my inspiration, and to this day I practice daily from my "Complete book of Beatles Music." It was so fun to see Sir Paul up on the stage Sunday night. Thanks John, Paul, George and Ringo!

    1. Thanks for the nice comment, Bob. But, hey, you should write a book about impressive passion and attitude because you have been an inspirational friend to me. And, yes, the Beatles influenced many of us "boys" back in the 60's and 70's, mostly in how to get the girls, but luckily for both us, we wound up with just one each - and the amazing thing is that they stayed with us through thick in a thin. Now, that is fab!

  3. where is the Ampeg B15?

    1. I wish I had an old B15, but I have an old B12N, which is in my living room along with my other stringed instruments. You can see most of it along with with my Utah Plates 4-string guitar on this post.