Here’s What Playing Bass Is All About

Bass-playing advice from… darn near everybody!

By Jon Liebman
Week of July 20, 2020

When someone you respect offers you advice, what do you do? What if somebody else, whom you also respect, offers you that same advice? Does that make you sit up and take a little more notice?

How about when ten, twenty, fifty people whose opinions you value offer you the same words of wisdom? You start to believe there just might be something to what they’re saying.

Case in point, this week’s interview with my longtime friend and major heavyweight bassist Neil Jason. I asked Neil the same question I’ve been asking all of my interviewees: “What do you think is important to know for someone who wants to learn bass?” I hope you’ll pay attention to what he had to say.

At first Nail touched on a few “housekeeping” type things, like having a good instrument that’s set up well. He then went on to talk about avoiding bad habits and being physically prepared to play (I love how he referred to the fingers as “little, tiny miniature athletes!”). 

He then proceeded to talk about what we’re really here to do as bass players. Understanding the role of the bass player means knowing how to lay down the groove, support the song, make the music feel good, and make the rest of the band sound good. What it comes down to, as Neil puts it, is “the basics of playing a simple bass line that makes the song the important factor.”

Those concepts are at the core of what For Bass Players Only members are taught when they come here to learn bass. It doesn’t matter if it’s Rock, Blues, Jazz, Funk… even the Scales & Theory and Sight Reading courses are designed to groove! When teaching soloing or chops-oriented techniques, I always give my disclaimer: There is a time and a place for everything, but at the end of the day, our job is to groove and support the band.

“There will be times to solo,” Neil says, “but the function of the bass is for you and the drummer to support the song and the artist, and the sound of everybody else. If you keep that in mind, it’ll help you go a long way.”

Sounds familiar, Neil. Where have I heard that before??

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Neil here.

At For Bass Players Only, I take the frustration out of learning bass, so you can build confidence and thoroughly enjoy making music! Start your free trial membership here!

Comments on Here’s What Playing Bass Is All About

  1. “That’s why they call them money notes”

  2. Scott says:

    I really enjoyed your interview with Neil as well his comments regarding playing to support the song. This is so very salient. I would tell my drum students the very same thing about supporting the song in addition to being respectful of the other musicians. WHO CARES if you can play over the top of the bar and twirl your sticks at the same time, if you can’t do the most important thing, groove, you’ll never get called, and never get a referral.
    As a student of the bass now, I have adopted and applied those very same principles as I grow into a mature player. I appreciate your constant reminders, it keeps me in the groove!

  3. Great work Jon, very sage advice! Much love to you, For Bass Players Only and Notehead MediaGroup!

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