Have you gotten a late start at learning bass?

Here are some things to think about…

By Jon Liebman
November 3, 2023

How sad is it that so many people think they’ve missed the boat when it comes to learning bass and making music because they feel like they’re too old.

What’s even sadder is when they don’t do anything about it.

As I’m heard saying at the beginning and at the end of every interview I conduct…

You’re never too old and it’s never too late to experience the joy and the pleasure of making music.

Speaking of interviews…

I had a great conversation the other day with Bass UpFront founder David Sutkin, published as this week’s FBPO interview.

David and I were talking about how much joy can come from learning bass, no matter how old someone is. In fact, I shared with David that a lot of my students at For Bass Players Only are in their 50s, 60s, 70s… even 80s. 

These people aren’t trying to be rock stars. They just want to learn bass and have fun.

So I asked David what advice he had for someone like that who wants to learn bass.

“That’s such an easy, and such a complex answer, all at the same time,” David says. He seemed to have already given the matter some thought and offered up a few nuggets of wisdom.

Get a bass that feels good to play

“My advice to a new player,” he says, “is, first of all, find an instrument that you’re comfortable with. If you’re going to a store, ask them if they would do a set quick setup. Let them know you’re interested.”

A beginner wouldn’t even think of making that request. After all, at that stage of learning bass, people don’t even know what to ask. Concepts like adjusting the truss rod or lowering the action aren’t even in their lexicon yet.

“I found, when doing a little teaching on my own,” David continues, “that an instrument that’s easy to play is an instrument that you’ll gravitate more towards.”

Money alone can’t make you groove

Anyone who wants to learn bass has to put in the time – no matter how much money they have.

“Think about it,” says David. “Bill Gates or any of the richest men in the world… they can’t learn any faster than you can, (than) a beginner can.”

It’s not only about having money to pay for lessons, or school, or being friends with superstar bass players. It’s about actually doing the work too.

“You can’t buy your way in.” says David. “No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy your way into becoming an amazing player.”

There’s no finish line, so there’s no need to stress

David’s been at this a long time. And he loves the learning process.

“40-plus years I’ve been playing,” he says, “and when I take lessons with my teacher, I feel like I’m still on page one. And that’s awesome!

He then cited a famous quote by world class cellist Pablo Casals. When asked why, at age 80, he continued to practice the cello four or five hours a day, Casals replied, “Because I think I am making progress.”

There’s always room for improvement. That, of course, goes for learning bass too.

“I still consider myself an intermediate bass player,” David says. “I’ll always consider myself an intermediate bass player because whenever I turn something on and I hear Richard Bona play, it immediately humbles me and sends me right back to the woodshed.”

Don’t jump around

David also recommends finding the right person from whom you can really learn and sticking with that person.

“Stay linear when you’re learning,” he says, “where you’re not jumping around from this person teaching this to this person teaching this.”

Then it comes full circle: You’ve got to do the work.

“And practice,” David says. “You can’t get past practice, right, Jon? There is no finish line. Stick with it. You’re not going to be a monster right away. Put in a little bit of time every day. It’ll come.”

What about you?

How old were you when you first started learning bass? What’s kept you going? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. And be sure to check out my interview with David here.

Comments on Have you gotten a late start at learning bass?

  1. Darryl says:

    I started at 65 been playing for 8 years. Have 4 5 and 6 string.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Awesome! Keep it going, Darryl!

  2. Bill Burrell says:

    Hi Jon,
    Two takeaways that I truly understand is having an instrument that feels and plays great to me. Second, staying linear in practice and skill sets.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Right on, Bill. Thanks for weighing in!

  3. Anthony G says:

    I first started playing bass at the age of 11. Actually, I began playing guitar and I found myself playing the guitar as if it were a bass, so I made the switch with a suggestion from my then music teacher. I practiced almost all the time, between school and athletics and I became pretty good. I learned mostly by ear and gave up reading music. I played in a variety of bands and even wound up with a recording contract with my last band in my mid twenties. But then, life took its course, children, bills, and my bass playing suffered as a result. My love for the instrument remained, I just didn’t have the time that I once had, before life caught up to me. Over the years, I bought basses and gear, but never could make time to do any of it justice. Now, I’m retired and I can’t stand the sight of my lonely basses (both 4 and 5 strings) and my desire to play is beginning to rekindle inside of me. It’s time to get back to my first love and passion.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Anthony. Your situation is actually very similar to that of many others in the For Bass Players Only community. You should feel right at home here! 🙂

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