Here’s What’s Most Important for Learning Bass

Trends and interests change, but foundational skills do not

By Jon Liebman
Week of November 11, 2019

I’ve always greatly admired Lincoln Goines as a bass player, especially all the Latin jazz/funk grooving he’s known for. When I first had an opportunity to interview Lincoln for FBPO, back in 2012, it was all done online. I’d seen him perform, but I’d never actually met him in person till now.

How great it was sitting down with Lincoln on his own stompin’ grounds, the campus of Berklee College of Music in Boston. We covered a lot ground in the interview, including his early years in Oakland, CA, the time he spent in New York, and of course, how he currently molds young, impressionable wannabe bass players into professionally-minded musicians.

Having spent over 25 years in higher education myself, I relayed to Lincoln a few words of wisdom that were imparted to me by a veteran of the teaching profession: Every year, we get a year older, but the students stay the same age.

So, in that spirit, I asked Lincoln, who’s currently in his 10th year as a faculty member at Berklee, about any evolution in attitudes or expectations he’s noticed in the students during his tenure at Berklee.

Throughout the course of the last decade, Lincoln has no doubt seen his fair share of changes in trends, interests, and new styles of music. When it comes to helping his students learn bass, however, his role hasn’t changed at all.

“They still have to learn how to play scales,” he says, “they still have to learn how to groove, they still have to learn how to read.” Regardless of what genre they’re playing, or which artist they’re trying to emulate, “they still have to learn to do things that bassists have to do, which is play their instrument well, and listen, and be the heartbeat of the band.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. These words definitely bear keeping in mind, regardless of what situation a person may be in when it comes to learning bass. 

How about you? Maybe you’ve got kids that have shown an interest in a musical style you just don’t “get.” Or maybe you’re a newcomer to learning bass, and don’t quite yet have the confidence you need when performing with other players (by the way, during the course of our conversation, Lincoln also happened to mention that it’s never too late to learn how to play the bass!). Or maybe you’re already somewhat seasoned when it comes to learning bass, but you want to be the best bass player you can be. Mastering the foundational skills is absolutely crucial for every player at every level of learning to play bass.

When you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, make sure to listen to what’s happening around you and focus on doing what’s expected of you. The better grasp you have of the fundamentals, the greater your progress in your quest for learning bass. 

Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Lincoln here.

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