Liz Lulu was 26 when she first picked up bass guitar. That she did so while auditioning for a local rock band is beside the point. “I asked them, ‘How do you hold this thing?'” she recalls, speaking by phone from her home in suburban Toronto. “After they got over the initial shock, the band saw how devoted I was to the instrument. I played with them for more than 10 years.”
Formerly a guitarist, Lulu has since added other instruments to her collection, including piano and drums. She also is studying cello.
We recently caught up with Lulu, who found out about Music for People (MfP) through her involvement with Victor Wooten’s Center for Music and Nature in Nashville. She is a Level 1 member of MfP’s Musicianship and Leadership Program (MLP).
I understand that you found out about MfP through founding board member Jim Oshinsky, whom you met in Nashville. Is that true?
It is. Jim and I met in 2012. Over the years, he has shared with me the similarities between both organizations. Wooten Woods [named for the five-time GRAMMY Award-winning bassist] offers programs that, like Music for People, stress the spiritual aspects of music. One of his overarching concepts is that there are no wrong notes. Sound familiar?
What was your first MfP experience?
It was the virtual “Art of Improvisation” workshop, held this past summer. I loved it and was hooked. I immediately signed up for the Musicianship and Leadership Program.
Is bass your main instrument?
It is, along with guitar. I play mostly by ear but can read tab [short for “tablature,” a form of musical notation indicating fingerings instead of pitches] on bass and guitar. I also can pick out a few chords on piano.
After 20 years of playing in rock bands, I am taking cello lessons and finally learning how to read music.
Why the change?
COVID, of all things. I recently lost my job, due to the pandemic, so I’ve been using the free time to attack my bucket list—playing cello, studying theory and sight-singing, teaching my 85-year-old mom how to play piano. It’s never too late to become a musician.
With cello, I’m applying what I’m learning from MfP. Concepts like “sing what you play, play what you sing” and the “one-note story” enable me to approach my instrument in new, unconventional ways.
What are some misconceptions people have about rock playing or music making, in general?
That you have to know how to read music, understand theory or be at a certain technical level with other musicians.
I learned bass quickly because I was thrown into the deep end. Our band, Lovejoy, played our first show a month later and, within six months, recorded our first CD.
Playing by ear—a blessing or a curse?
It certainly is an asset when learning a song, but it has made me lazy with my sight-reading. Once I have a new melody in my head, I often catch myself playing by ear. Then I have to refocus and make sure the notes and rhythms are correct.
Playing music is like learning a second language, something I’m also doing. It is a form of social bonding that requires work but is good for the soul.
Author: Rob Enslin