Folks talk about practicing until your fingers bleed as an indication of your dedication to your craft.
I only had that happen once, over a series of two or three gigs at a club in the suburbs of New Jersey. I was playing bass in an Irish/pub rock band, and this was a really fun place to play. Lots of dancing and conviviality.
So we did a series of three or four gigs there – something like every other Saturday night And it would be a three set night and we’d get paid something and it was great.
One of these Saturdays, I finished Set One, and noticed that I’d ripped open the ends of the third and fourth fingers on my right hand. My first reaction, of course, was “Cool! I’m bleeding! I’m a real rocker now!”
I think that using band aids (they have to be the right kind to allow for movement) and maybe switching to a pick would have been the best solution to deal with the next two sets. Naturally I had none of those things with me, so I just kept on playing with the open wounds.
The rest of the night was not as painful as you might have thought. It actually didn’t hurt while I was playing. Bass strings vibrate as you play, and that seems to have numbed the pain. By the end of the night, there was blood spatter on my nice white pickguard.
I went home after the gig, and spent the next two weeks taking really good care of my fingers. I also checked out my bass to see if there were any issues that might have caused them to bleed, and there weren’t.
When the next gig came, my fingers were healed and I was all set to play a night of music. I felt extra rock and roll that night because I just made my fingers bleed, man. I rock.
And the exact same thing happened again. Same fingers, even. Now I know my limitations when it comes to being cool, and although someone else might rock ’til they bleed at every gig, I don’t. I do not rock that much.
You may have noticed by now that it hasn’t occurred to me to check my amp. But finally it did, after a total of 4 sets (about 3 – 3.5 hours) over two gigs with no fingertips. And yes, that was the problem. The amp was gradually losing volume during the sets, and I would unconsciously respond by playing harder.
In my defense, that was a tough problem to diagnose. I couldn’t hear what was going on very well during sets, and when I went to check my amp before each new set, it would sound fine again.
But … I should have thought to check ALL of my equipment when something unusual happened. Lesson learned.
Still, I waited a long time to clean that blood spatter off of my pickguard. Kind of gross when you think about it, but rock and roll is not for the squeamish.
So in honor of my poor fingertips, here are a few songs that finger-bleeding cool.