Here’s why you’re not too old to learn bass

Muscle aches, schmuscle aches! There’s an easier way to do it.

By Jon Liebman
July 8, 2022

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t learn bass because you thought you were too old? Let’s talk about that. 

As we get older, things don’t work the same as they used to. It’s harder to play bass when you have arthritis, or tendonitis. It’s frustrating if your hands hurt, or if you have pain in your back, your shoulders, your neck…

Know what I mean?

Don’t give up too easily

But those things don’t necessarily have to make it a non-starter when it comes to your ability to learn bass. There are a lot of simple things you can that don’t require a lot of strain on your bones and muscles.

A couple weeks ago I was talking with Mark Damon, bassist for The Pretty Reckless, for this week’s FBPO interview, and I asked him what he thought about the subject.

“From age 9 to age 89 (or even) 99,” Mark says, “I always tell people, ‘You’re never too young, you’re never too old to learn to start playing bass.’”

Look at it this way

The thing that’s holding a lot of people back is the misconception that they need to attain a certain level of proficiency, even mastery of playing bass. Otherwise, what’s the point of learning?

“The trap I see a lot of beginning players fall into,” Mark says, “is, ‘Oh, I’ll never be as good as so-and-so.’ So what! Do you enjoy doing what you’re doing? Are you making progress? Are you having fun? That’s what the real gauge is.”

Put another way, you need to cut yourself some slack. Learning bass doesn’t have to be hard. It’s supposed to be fun!

“Take your time,” Mark says. “Be easy on yourself. You don’t have to play Jaco. It’s so much fun just layin’ it down behind a drummer, just groovin’ along.”

Be yourself (everyone else is taken)

Nobody’s saying you shouldn’t listen to bass players you admire or try to learn some of your favorite bass grooves. You absolutely should do that. You just need to have the right perspective.

“It’s great to have heroes,” Mark says, “and it’s okay to try to emulate that. But realize that they’re them and you’re you, and that’s okay. That’s actually what makes it unique and fun, that no two players will ever play the same thing the same way. And that’s the beauty of it all.”

In most cases, playing a really simple bass line is all you have to do to let the music groove and make it feel good. And it’s not as hard you think.

Imagine this kind of transformation!

So many of my students learning bass in the Bottom Line Club at forbassplayersonly.com are in their 50s, 60s, 70s… And believe me, they have their share of aches and pains. In fact, I’m right there with them! So I start everyone off with the simple stuff. I only encourage them to move on to the harder stuff if and when they’re ready, totally at their own pace. I’ve got to tell you, some of the transformations I’ve seen in them have been nothing short of remarkable.

“It’s bass,” Mark says. “It’s not like brain surgery. It’s not a life-or-death situation. You’re supposed to be enjoying it. Dude, we get to make an inanimate object sing. How incredible is that!”

Pretty darn incredible, if you ask me.

What about you? Have you ever felt like you couldn’t play bass because you thought you were too old? Or because you have physical challenges that are holding you back? Leave a comment below and tell me how you’re dealing with your situation. In the meantime, watch my interview with Mark here.

Comments on Here’s why you’re not too old to learn bass

  1. David says:

    At 61 I wanted to learn bass (played guitar decades ago). After two shoulder surgeries, a short scale bass was more comfortable. Now, at 62, my Ibanez MiKro and I enjoy playing along to The Monkees, Gypsy Manouche, Blues, and some Jazz.
    YouTube has some great tracks, sans bass, to play along with.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks, David. A lot of people mention short-scale basses for similar reasons to yours. I’m glad things seem to be working out for you. Keep on groovin’, my friend!

  2. Jill says:

    Thanks Jon for posting this! I’ve had hand injuries, neck injuries and back injuries. I was “one of those” – you know, the one who thinks if I don’t play like my heroes – and I can’t because of injuries – maybe I shouldn’t try? But your encouragement, and that of other FBPO folks – keeps me going, and striving, and having fun. Thanks!

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks, Jill! You know you have my unwavering encouragement and support.

  3. Thomas Shell says:

    Nice article! Although I started playing bass in my late teens, it is more enjoyable now that I’m in my mid 60s! It’s never too early or late to start!

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Right on, Thomas! Thanks.

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