Do we really gotta know this?

How much dedication “should” someone have if they’re learning bass just for fun?

By Jon Liebman
Week of March 1, 2021

Maybe you’re really serious about learning bass.

Or maybe you just want to have fun.

My guess is that you’re not trying to set the world on fire or be a rock star, but you just want to learn bass and have fun. Maybe you want to lay down some classic rock riffs, play a little blues, some walking bass lines… 

(If I’m wrong, that’s okay too. Let me know and we’ll talk!)

The subject came up in this week’s FBPO interview with 12-string session bassist Tony Senatore, whom I’ve admired for a long time. 

When you’re learning bass, what do you really “need” to know? How much time should you spending on your scales & modes, learning to read, or improving your bass technique?

Or does just asking the question mean you have the wrong attitude?

Some people know from an early age that they want to pursue a career as a professional musician and are willing to do whatever it takes. Others make the same decision later in life. 

Most bass enthusiasts, though, just want to learn the instrument and have fun. And if that’s the case, is there a healthy approach to learning bass that doesn’t feel like taking shortcuts or cutting corners?

Tony worked hard to hone his craft. But did you know he originally wanted to be a doctor? Somewhere along the way, though, he “just got bit by the music bug,” and went down a different path, which has given him a balanced perspective on the issue.

“Music,” Tony says, “for a lot of people, should and could be something for their own personal enjoyment. They don’t necessarily have to know all the modes, and how to read, and work on their ear training.”

With “necessarily” being the key word, Tony still acknowledges the benefit of learning as much as possible. “Those are the things,” he says, “that, if you want a career in music, “they’re never going to go out of style. Those are skills that all musicians should strive for.”

So how much dedication “should” someone have when setting out to learn bass, especially if they have no aspirations of making a career out of it? As an educator, I have my own opinions. Still, I’m curious about what goes through the minds of the hobbyists and enthusiasts who just want to learn bass.

“For the people that just want to have fun,” Tony says, “it’s about not worrying about stressing out, about playing fast or even reading. If you know the tools, if you know how the songs are constructed, then you can figure it out for yourself.”

How about you? How far are you willing to go and how hard are you willing to work on learning bass, even if it’s just for fun? Leave a comment below and let me know what’s on your mind. In the meantime, check out my interview with Tony here.

Comments on Do we really gotta know this?

  1. aaronw.rucker says:

    Just want to learn to play and have fun

  2. Bass Man says:

    I think the more you know and learn the more fun you will have. It’s great to have those “ah ah” moments on why someone plays what they do and learning more takes the frustration out of trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s all been played before, unless your a Jaco P or Jimmy H or Eddie VH : )

  3. Dean Mcgill says:

    I’m a 61 year old bloke who loves the bass beat.
    I bought a cheapie bass and amp. just to have fun and make that FAT sound.
    Although I’m still languishing on the 3rd. Lesson, I already know I want a bigger amp for a FATTER sound.
    I don’t want to be in a band or set the world on fire, I just want to make simple music and maybe play along with some STONES or something.
    I know I’m slack, but I don’t care.

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