Are you being too hard on yourself?

“Anybody can pick up an instrument. I don’t care how old you are.”

By Jon Liebman
December 8, 2023

How long have you been “thinking about” learning bass?

It’s easy to imagine how much fun it would be to play your favorite music. Maybe for you that’s blues, or classic rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Regardless of what kind of music, you know it would be a blast.

Unfortunately, it’s even easier to come up with a list of all the reasons why you can’t learn bass:

  • I’m too old.
  • I missed the boat.
  • I have arthritis.
  • It’s too late for me.
  • Who am I kidding?

Does any of that sound familiar?

What’s (really) holding you back?

At this point in your life, you know you can’t get something for nothing. You’re also wise enough to know that anything worth having is worth working for.

So let’s put things in their proper perspective. 

Are you setting out to be a rock star? 

Do you fantasize about touring the world, playing sold-out arenas to thousands of adoring fans?


You just want to make music and have fun.

I had a great conversation with Joe “Bearclaw” Burcaw recently, for a conversation published as this week’s FBPO interview. In addition to being a highly accomplished bass player and bandleader, Joe is a passionate music educator who’s taught bass to all kinds of students, including many in the “over 50” crowd.

I shared with Joe how so many students in my Bottom Line Club membership are in their 50s, 60s, 70s… some even older. So I asked him what advice he could impart to someone in that age group who wants to learn bass.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t… you’re right.”

“Number one, don’t judge yourself,” Joe says. “Don’t go into a situation and think, ‘I can’t.’ That type of verbiage… not going to fly.”

He reminded me of that famous quote by Henry Ford: 

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t — you’re right.

“Anybody can pick up an instrument,” says Joe. “I don’t care how old you are.”

Learning bass at a later age has its advantages

“I compare my little kids that I teach, who are elementary-aged, to some retired folks,” says Joe. “I have a couple of students who are in their early 60s and they are so passionate. They are some of the best students that I have. I think it’s just because of them having that life experience they are so focused.”

That’s the key right there: Focus. 

You’re not an 8-year-old kid whose parents are forcing you to take piano lessons. You’re learning bass because you want to do it. And you’ve got the life experience, along with the motivation to succeed.

Can you accommodate arthritis, tendonitis, and all that other stuff?

There’s no shortage of adults over 50 who are confronted with arthritis, tendonitis, recovering from surgery… maybe you have your own list. You’re not trying to become a virtuoso. You don’t dream about playing Carnegie Hall. So just do what you can — with your doctor’s okay — and have fun.

My students are constantly blown away when they discover that you don’t need super human strength and endurance to enjoy playing the bass. It’s amazing how even the simplest bass line can really groove and make the music feel great!

“Don’t second guess yourself,” says Joe. “Come in and know that it’s about having fun.”

What about you?

Did you decide to learn bass even though it looked like the odds were stacked against you? I’d like to know about your story. Leave a comment below and share. Then be sure to watch my interview with Joe here.

Comments on Are you being too hard on yourself?

  1. John A Ewing says:

    I had some natural ability, but thought I will be training needed. Then started playing with some real musicians. Thought… I settle? I am learning every day. When read these interviews.. I learn. Every time I pick up my bass I am determined to put it back on the stand having done something different. 👍🏾

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Beautiful, John. Keep on learning!

  2. Picked up the Bass at 40 yrs old.Now 59. Still having fun.Have my own band(Motown, Oldies Soul,etc). Now dabbing in Jazz.The journey continues.🙂

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Good for you, Donald. Keep it going!!

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