F is the C, Isn’t It?

Murphy Henry

I don’t blog much about bass players. Mostly that’s because I don’t teach many bass players. But perhaps it’s also because they tend (as a general rule with Missy Raines the notable exception) to be a bit quieter than banjo students. A bit more subdued. More likely to just quietly roll with the flow.

Bill Morrison, the subject of today’s blog, is all of the above. At least on the occasions I have to interact with him, which is at the lessons. (He did, however, show a surprising flair at the square dance classes! And he has a droll sense of humor.)

Anyhow, he and his banjo-picking wife Susan along with Bob Van on guitar, Nancy on mandolin, and the Fabulous Ruth Steelman, also on banjo, have been playing together regularly now for some time and have started performing occasionally at nursing homes. (I keep trying to get Bob to blog about that.....hint, hint, Bob.)

So, at Bill’s lesson this week we were talking about their latest nursing home gig. He said it went fine, that the only confusing part for him was the addition of How Mountain Girls Can Love to the show—played in C—when it wasn’t on the set list. (That, of course, is the bluegrass way!) Bill is learning to play in C and we’d actually been over Mountain Girls in that key, but having the song thrown at him unexpectedly (so to speak) was a little disconcerting.

And unlike banjo and guitar players, bass players don’t have the luxury of throwing on a capo. They can’t just slap that thing on at the fifth fret and play out of G position. They have to learn to play in all the keys. So, on the spot, Bill was having to transpose from the comfortable key of G to the harder key of C. Under pressure. While he was on stage.

I was asking him how that went when he uttered the priceless line which became the title for this blog. He said, “I got a little confused. But I just kept playing. F is the C, isn’t it?”

Oh, yes it is, Bill! I understood exactly what he meant. And was proud of him for the mental peregrinations that brought him to that conclusion. Can you follow his meaning? Think about it. In high-faluting technical language he was saying that F is the “four” (IV) chord in the Key of C. Just like C is the “four” chord in the Key of G. In other words, F is the C!

The moral of this story (if there is one) is that everyone has their own way of thinking about this stuff. You go, Bill!

3 thoughts on “F is the C, Isn’t It?

  1. Jim Hand

    Yes, nobody pays much attention to us bass players until we are not around and then everybody is asking about us or better yet to get everybody to look at you, STOP PLAYING in the middle of a song, that is REAL funny.

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