Are the “rules” of learning bass getting you down?

Stop thinking so much, and just have fun!

By Jon Liebman
Week of March 29, 2021

When learning bass, why do we practice what we practice?

It seems like there’s so much to know. And anything new we learn, we have to incorporate into our playing, not instead of, but in addition to everything else we’re supposed to know.

“Practice this. Practice that. Learn your scales. Learn your modes. Learn theory. Learn to read…” The list goes on.

It’s easy to lose perspective of why we want to learn bass: To make music and have fun. 

The subject came up in this week’s FBPO interview with an outstanding solo bassist, Mike Hall. In the interview, Mike simplifies the concept in a way that’s sure to inspire anyone.

“I have always been sort of that kid,” Mike says, “trying to be creative and just trying to be silly and think outside the box with how to express myself musically.”

That doesn’t sound like someone who allows himself to get bogged down with a bunch of rules, does it? When you keep the end result in mind, the pathway feels a lot more enjoyable.

“I’m not trying to think of the rules and the time signatures that are happening in each and every song,” says Mike, “but what is it in a song that’s making you feel good? What about a song is making you dance?”

Instead of feeling like a slave to a bunch of rules, try imagining yourself laying down some (smooth? nasty? funky?) bass grooves in a band, watching the people’s reaction, and knowing you’re the one making them feel like dancing.

“Once you start introducing a lot of these more traditional constraints of education,” says Mike, “like, ‘No, you must learn the bass through playing these scales in this way. In this form. In this fashion,’ you take a lot away from what made the music very palatable and fun.”

The next time you find yourself feeling held up by too many rules for learning bass, keep Mike’s words in mind.

“I would probably tell anyone who wants to become a bass player to maybe not think too much,” says Mike, summing it up. “Just have fun with it.”

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 Mike here.

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