Do it Yourself

| November 30, 2010

Background

I met Caroline Paquita while living in Gainesville, Florida. I wanted to capture the way she learned how to play bass and how it relates to how she learned to create art. Caroline’s style and ethos is very do-it-yourself and I think she has some interesting things to say about the dedication necessary to teaching yourself a craft. She is currently in the band, The Forgetters.

Teaching with the Video

In this video Caroline talks about the importance of interest. She has interests, and these interests lead her to take on new projects and to fold her new interests into her ongoing work. Does formal schooling encourage students to take on new interests? Does it support the interests that students have? More, how can we create schools and learning environments that help students develop the confidence exhibited by Caroline as she takes on new hobbies and new projects?

Extended Interview

 

Why did you start playing the bass and how did you learn to play it?

In 8th grade I started to become more interested in music and the idea that I could play rock and roll, that it was accessible. Maybe Courtney Love had something to do with that, or her band, Hole. I thought oh, there’s these cool crazy weird women who are playing music and I don’t think they’ve gone to school for this. It seemed more accessible.

I bought my first bass, which I had for years. It was a pawnshop special, no name, heavy as a cinderblock for 50 dollars. My mom had somebody that she knew come over and give me lessons. I had three lessons, I didn’t understand anything he was saying, I really wasn’t interested. I thought it really made playing bass seem like the most boring thing in the world. I knew a lot of young men that played instruments and I would try to have them show me, they were always doing things that were way too complicated. It wasn’t until I was 18 or so, that I really took it seriously.

In college I started my first band by going to this awesome woman’s house, Sam. I had met her before hand and she was known as kinda a rocker. So I showed up at her house and I said, hey, lets start a band. She said okay. I said I didn’t really know how to play bass but I feel like I could learn because I have an ear for it. So that’s how my first band started. And that’s how I learned.

I’ve been paying bass for 12 years now and it’s only in this band that I actually started learning what notes were. I knew what the strings were before hand. For a long time I would just tune by ear. But now that I trying to be more professional and everybody be on the same page, I actually, I have for sometime, used an auto-tuner. That’s the worst thing, is seeing a band out of tune. Even though I come from a pretty DIY punk background, I think that you should be in tune still.

What advice do you have for someone who is just learning an instrument?

I would say don’t be discouraged. There is a lot of fumbling, whenever you pick up an instrument there is always going to be some period of time that you don’t get it. Your body doesn’t get it. Unless you are born a genius, just practice a lot. And finding people so you can learn together. Finding somebody that is better than you are, ask if you can play along with them. Ask them questions. Put your time into it. Like anything, it takes a lot of time to become your best at it.

You are also an artist, in what ways does your learning art relate to learning music?

I also taught myself photography. I set up a dark room in the back hallway of my parent’s house. I had my own functioning darkroom that I printed in. I found out there was a magnet program that was in photography and so I went to that. It was great, the first half of the day we did photo-related stuff. Then went thought the day with the rest of school stuff, which wasn’t as fun.

I think the common thread between all of them, is it all takes a certain amount of energy and focus to get better at any of those things – when I zero into a project and I decide, oh I am going to learn this, I will read a bunch of books, music is probably the thing I have read the least about, in terms of music theory. I feel like I can pick up a lot of things just through listening closely. So my informal training in learning process this way – I’m sure there is a lot of interesting music theory that if I sat down and had. Music you can only experience and hear it. It’s not like looking at a photo ephemeral and hard to pin-point. The main thing is to get proficient you will have to spend some time doing it. So we practice twice a week for hours at a time. So that’s 8 hours a week – if you put in a show there its nine hours. i think that’s a lot for a hobby.

I do feel a lot of people ask me how to make art and how to go about it. its kinda like, its the same thing with playing an instrument. Let’s say you play a trumpet for the first time. it sounds horrible. and you just have to keep on making that horrible noise until you get it. its the same thing with drawing.