What was the first bass groove that really “made your hair stand up?”
By Jon Liebman
Week of June 21, 2021
Do you remember what first inspired you to learn bass? If not, think. Then think some more. It can make a huge difference in getting you through some of the more difficult moments in learning bass.
So says Mike Merritt, this week’s FBPO interviewee. During my conversation with Mike, we talked about his 25-year gig with the Conan O’Brien band, heartfelt remembrances of his late dad, legendary bassist Jymie Merritt, and a few other things.
When the subject of learning bass came up, Mike didn’t hesitate in offering up something every one of us should keep in our back pocket. We may not think about it all the time, but what he said was quite inspirational.
“I think the most important thing,” Mike says, “is to never lose touch with what inspired you to get involved with playing music, wherever the inspiration was.”
That mindset not only holds true when things are going well and feeling good, but also during those frustrating times, no matter what you’re trying to play.
“It could be a very difficult part, or it could be very simple part,” Mike continues, “but when you have trouble interpreting it, never lose sight of what inspired you in the first place. That’s the most valuable thing.”
Mike’s advice will definitely keep things upbeat and exciting for you, especially when there’s a line or a groove you really want to play, but the notes – and the feel – just aren’t coming.
“Whatever that is, follow that,” Mike says, “follow that inspiration because that can pull you through whatever difficulty you might have in physically learning a part.”
Do you remember a certain groove that made you decide to learn bass? If you try to rekindle that excitement, you can’t help but be inspired.
“If it was a particular song or a particular genre or a particular player,” Mike says, “or a certain record, the way somebody’s bass sounded on a record… if that’s what makes your hair stand up, go after that, pursue whatever that is because the inspiration will pull you forward.”
For Mike, it was Cream’s Wheels of Fire album and discovering Jack Bruce. “I never heard anybody playing bass like that before,” says Mike, “and that was the big inspiration to me.”
Learning bass is fun, but like anything else, it requires focus, concentration, repetition, and diligence.
So when the going gets rough, try to remember that certain groove, that unmistakable line that made you want to learn bass, just like what happened to Mike when he heard Jack Bruce.
“It drove me to do more than just copy what he was doing,” Mike says, “but to explore things on the bass and figure out things on my own and push myself forward.”
How about you? Was there a particular bass part you heard that made you want to learn bass? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Mike here.