As part of the celebrations for International's Women Day, we have interviewed some incredible female musicians about their experience and perspective of the music industry in 2018.
Please tell us who you are and what style of music you play.
My name is Ariane Cap, I am a bassist, educator, author and blogger.
I play most styles in the studio as well as live, lots of Jazz, funk, pop, rock. I love to groove and play my four or five string basses for that. I also play in an eclectic duo with an amazing bassoonist (Paul Hanson), where I get to play chords and tap on the six string. I love effects and looping and exploring the bass as a solo instrument.
How did you get into music, what triggered your interest?
My grandfather was a conductor. He taught me about Bach and Beethoven. I played piano at a very young age. I later stumbled on the bass because a band I played keys in, needed a bassist.
Did you have a role model who was a musician?
When I saw MeShell Ndegeocello play I knew I wanted to get serious about the bass. I also attended camps with Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, Chuck Rainey and Kai Eckhardt that inspired me hugely. Seeing Steve Lawson play his solo bass shows or checking out some of the online cats, like Zander Zon or Cody Wright blows my mind. But the most formative for me was my very first teacher who encouraged me to no end and taught me to look at music and learning in a different way - to include mental practice, a way to know the instrument so well that you can let go and let the music flow rather than the lick learning they had us do at some universities. This creative approach gave me much more confidence and changed everything for me.
It is the approach I share with people in my book and courses.
Why have you chosen to become a musician?
I have a Master‘s of Science and later had aspirations to be a psychologist (I am fascinated by the human mind). Becoming a musician was not at all a straight line for me. Rather, music or cool projects kept pulling me back in until I finally decided to give it my all.
Are you interested in any other form of art?
I love good films. Of course, music is a very integral part of this. I love Nick Park movies.
What does it take to become a professional musician?
Discipline, courage, passion for the music, an open mind and a willingness to listen.
What is your advice to aspiring female musicians to make their hobby a profession?
Go for it! Find a good teacher who supports your goals. Join professional associations (The Recording Academy for example). Attend conferences, camps, seminars. Don’t worry about a university degree, go after the knowledge. The best education in terms of music, as well as business aspects, is to put your own band together.
Why are there more male than female musicians? Is it easier for boys and men to pursue a career in music? If so, why?
Traditionally there have always been many more male bass players in the types of music an electric bassist would play. I have had my share of gender-based discrimination, stupidity and rudeness. Like that sound guy asking me as I start setting up ‘do you have a real bass player too?’ Or a university teacher in the first day of a rhythm section class saying he hates three things: Europeans playing Jazz bc they can’t swing, electric bass players and women playing Jazz. Well, I ticked all three of these boxes. Granted, I worked my back off and even picked up the upright during that semester and he ended up giving me an A in his class which he never did. I learned a ton from him and am grateful but it was excruciating at the time because I was insecure and unsure of myself anyways.
I also could not get into auditions sometime when my voice on the phone was obviously female. Then there are the trolls who comment on boobs etc. They just make you roll your eyes. For the most part, my experiences with my male and female peers have been wonderful. I love my bass friends and bandmates! The working relationships are grounded in mutual respect, and we know we can count on each other professionally, creatively and as people.
I have been teaching at Jazz and Blues camps for women and girls for almost ten years now and I did not realize until a few years in, how important that work is, however. Reason being that some women and girls quit because they get subtle or not so subtle cues that playing bass or drums or a horn is not for girls. Often they are the only girl in the band. The boys close the door to the band room in her face or she just feels awkward being the only girl. This is definitely not always the case but it is something that still happens to girls and definitely happened to women. I just attended NAMM last month and there were a few Highschool bands playing - still just one or two girls per big band. That is just sad for me to see.
The power of these all-girl camps or all women camps with an all-female faculty is to draw those out who would otherwise not feel spoken to or who gave up because they wanted to avoid getting hurt. It is not about excluding anyone or segregating. It is about creating an environment where the participants are shielded against gender-based experiences. I have seen the women and girls blossom so much in that environment. Of course, the goal is for those camps to not be ‘needed’ anymore and for everyone to play together and learn from each other.
I also love teaching mixed camps but there are still way fewer girls in them and I notice they flock to me as a role model. It is very important for the faculty to be mixed so the girls and boys see a female pro musician as nothing special.
You can read more about the All Female Jazz Camp here.
Is it easier for male musicians to earn a living as musicians?
Earning a living as a musician is a challenge these days regardless of gender. The good thing is we can create our own music and online presence quite easily with the tools of technology and the internet.
I have not personally witnessed unequal pay. Other than auditions that I could not even show up for because they needed a ‘serious’ bass player, I have not seen discrimination there. I have been in projects because the requirement was an all-female cast.
How are talent shows like the Voice and The X Factor impacting the music industry today for girls and women?
The impression made at such shows is that it is all about ‘talent’. Gee, they woke up one morning with this voice or ability. It ain’t so, people, it is hard work and nothing happens overnight. These shows are a lot of superlatives and the requirements for age, looks and styles are quite narrow. The idea of judges knowing ‘good’ from ‘bad’ is also a bit problematic for me in that context. But as long as people watch it keeping in mind that it is entertaining show business it is fine. The performers definitely have my respect. But so do many who don‘t make it through the first qualifying round even (I know some amazing performers who did not get through the first prequalifying off-camera rounds because of looks or age and that is sad to me).
Are you involved in any bands, orchestras or organisations that promote music to girls and women?
Yes! I teach at Berkeley High‘s Jazz Day (incidentally this weekend). I am also a regular faculty member at the Berkeley Jazz School‘s Women‘s Jazz and Blues Camps. And I play with an amazing all-female group called Girls Got the Blues lead by Lara Price. I love playing with my sisters!
About the Author
With over 30 years in the music business, Lars Mullen does indeed wear many hats, as a writer, journalist, photographer, press person for his own company Music Media Announcements. As an extensive traveller, he's a familiar figure reporting from music trade shows around the world. Spending many years touring as a professional guitarist, Lars has also interviewed a host of top bands and artists, continues to write articles for magazines globally and still finds time to track down Fusion artists for our Artist Spotlight column.