Don’t be afraid to play with people who are better than you

You can’t help but learn faster and make incredible progress!

By Jon Liebman
Week of June 28, 2021

In pretty much every situation you encounter, you’re likely to find people who know more than you about certain things, and others who know less. 

Similarly, you can expect some people to be better than you at performing the task at hand, and others less skilled than you.

Of course, the same thing happens in music, including of course: Learning bass.

I had a great conversation recently with Israeli bass sensation Guy Bernfeld, published as this week’s FBPO interview. When I asked Guy what advice he had for someone who wants to learn bass, his answer hit me really close to home. I could totally relate to what he was saying. 

Chances are you’ll find it helpful in your quest to learn bass too.

“The main, main thing that I think got me to where I am,” Guy says, “is playing with people all the time. That was 100% the main one. Being around musicians who are better than me, that’s the most important (thing).”

Being a latecomer to the bass myself, it’s almost as if Guy was talking only to me. It wasn’t until I was about 19 or 20 that I immersed myself in the study of bass, both classical and jazz. 

The “problem” was that all the people I was playing with were so much better than I was. As it turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened to me!

“Always play with people who are better than you,” Guy says. “Don’t be scared to get some criticism or to feel like you’re the worst one. It’s fine because the benefits of that are in indescribable, really.” 

It may not always be fun for the others, but you have to get over that. When everyone around you is better than you, you can’t help but learn fast. And if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll even encourage you.

Bottom line: When learning bass – or any other instrument, for that matter – don’t be afraid to play with people who are better than you. On the contrary. Seek out people who are better than you and watch how much faster your progress grows!

How about you? Do you have a similar story, or a though on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Guy here.

Comments on Don’t be afraid to play with people who are better than you

  1. Ted White says:

    Starting bass late I knew from the beginning I had to play in several ensembles and with better musicians. At 84 I continue on that path and as a result not only do I improve but I’m exposed to many genres. Being a classical bassist means I play everything.

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