• Curtis Papworth

Featured Student - Karen Clarke

Updated: Jul 4, 2018

It is only right to give credit where credit's due. Karen is proof that it is never too late to learn how to play an instrument. At the age of 55 (Yes I asked permission to mention her age) Karen is one of my oldest students as well as the first who signed up for lessons with me over 2 years ago. I couldn't be more proud of her and how she has developed.

Karen's aim was not to pursue grades but to try and learn the music she loves to go watch and listen to. Just to name a few artists we have covered:

  • Adam and the Ants

  • Iggy Pop

  • Pink Floyd

  • Queen, Joy Division

  • The Beatles

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers

Lessons are always fun and varied and to be honest opened my mind to some music I wouldn't normally have listened to. As Karen's technique has improved she has progressively pushed herself covering different playing styles like Finger Style and Slap.

I have invited Karen to tell her story in her own words and I hope that it inspires anyone in a similar position to learn an instrument.

I give you featured Student. Karen Clarke


My Musical influences:

Mainly punk and New Wave i.e early Adam and the Ants, Siouxie and the Banshees, the Stranglers, the Clash.

Why I chose to take up bass:

A friend suggested I learn a musical instrument after I lost my husband to an epileptic fit. I gave it some thought and decided that I would like to learn bass. It was a cool instrument and my idol started out on bass before he turned to lead vocals. My first bass was bought from a Cash Express outlet and unfortunately turned out to be faulty. I didn't discover this until my first lesson as it wouldn't work with either my amp or the one belonging to the studio. Its replacement was more successful.

I had been trying to teach myself for about three weeks but decided I would make faster progress with a tutor. I asked at Remarkable Studios which was in my home town and Mark, the owner said he had somebody starting out as a tutor towards the end of that month. I booked a lesson with them and that's how I met Curtis. Once I had my replacement bass I was able to start learning properly. Although I had played acoustic guitar in my teens, that was a long time ago and I basically returned to the start of the learning curve.

Fortunately Curtis was, and still is, very patient with me. As time went on I mastered the basics and went on to learn simple tunes. I then looked to challenge myself more. I am now the proud owner of four basses plus an electro acoustic guitar.

Going to college to further my music studies was not something I had planned when I first picked up the bass. However, I was looking through the ERC online prospectus to see if they had any art courses I fancied. I didn't see anything of that kind but I did spot the Level 2 Subsidiary Diploma for Music Practitioners. It sounded really interesting and they were still recruiting. I decided to try and get on that. To my surprise and delight I actually passed the audition to get on to the course. I told Curtis once I'd secured my place and he was really pleased and said if there was anything I needed more help with, just to let him know.

There wasn't a massive amount of performance work in that first year, just as well as I was quite camera shy and liable to rush things once it was turned on. Some of the units involved the technical side of the business such as setting up studio or live environments and recording artists. To cut a long story short, I graduated with an overall Merit and went on to the next level which involved a significantly larger amount of performance work. I joined a group in my year which played predominantly metal-core. Not my first choice but preferable to the kind of music the other band in our year were playing.

Despite changes in line-up and other personnel issues we did manage to play a short set to the rest of our year in our final term of the first year. I also had to perform to camera in our Thursday afternoon class. I think I have managed, to a fair degree, to overcome camera fright, although I do try to distract myself when I think one is being pointed at me.

I'm now in my final year and I don't play with that band anymore, in fact I think they have had another line-up change. No hard feelings, just musical differences and the fact I come in on a different day.

I have been doing Open Mic sessions at my boyfriend's local in Hull to gain experience of playing in public and I really enjoy that. Eventually I hope to find a suitable group to play with. I would prefer to play with a punk or hard rock band.

Future plans:

My plans for the future i.e. the end of the course are a bit in the air at the moment. I need to apply for a student loan. If I can get one I will be able to go on and do the HNC. Otherwise I will leave and look for work in the music business.

I would really encourage anyone who wants to learn to go for it. Age is not a barrier. Thanks for reading my story and thanks to Curtis for his help and support and wanting to feature me.

Please check out my bass blog: All about the Bass