3 simple concepts to keep in mind when learning bass

Breaking it all down into manageable chunks will keep you motivated and focused

By Jon Liebman
Week of November 1, 2021

It seems there are so many things to keep track of when you’re learning bass, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You’ve got to think of what your left hand is doing, what your right hand is doing, whether you’re playing smoothly, consistently, fast enough, strong enough… It’s enough to make your head spin.

But if you break everything down into manageable “buckets,” it’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders, and you’ll start to make real progress. No doubt you’ll have more fun too!

I was speaking with James LoMenzo recently, in a conversation published as this week’s FBPO interview. James, who just rejoined Megadeth after a ten-year absence, offered some very practical perspectives on learning bass, simplifying the whole process by identifying three basic concepts to keep in mind when learning bass.

Even better, James’ advice can be adopted by every bass player, regardless of what level of player they are. Below are some excerpts of what he said.

1. Listen. If you really respond to the bass, you really should listen to great bass players. It’s not hard to do. You can go on YouTube, you can go on your favorite music streaming service, or even go into your CD library if you have that. Or for some of the older people, pull out your cassettes and just start listening to, pick any band, like the Rolling Stones, and just start focusing on what the bass guitar is doing and how it’s related to things. 

2. Expand. The next thing is, after you get kind of better at doing that, stop listening to the bass player and start listening to the saxophone player, and start learning how to expand into melody and all these other great things. 

3. Nurture. And the third thing I would say is just go slow. If it’s something that you really love, you have to nurture it. You want to make sure that you do it correctly, and you don’t tax your musculature, and that, mentally, when you start to learn how to read, you do it very slowly and very methodically so that you can put one concept into your mind after another.

James also shared some practical insights on how to replicate what you hear, how to approach various genres of music, and to make sure you’re always keeping the big picture in mind.

“The main thing,” he says, “is just stay excited about it, and I think these kinds of concepts can keep you excited, not get bogged down with, ‘Oh, I have to do this scale perfectly.’ You will. In time, you will do every scale perfectly if that’s what your heart’s desire is.”

Taking a step back and reminding yourself why you’re putting in the time to get everything right with your playing will help keep you motivated to lay down those feel-good bass grooves you really want to play. And breaking things down into accessible chunks makes things a lot easier too.

What about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with James here.

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