First, go for it. Then, keep moving!
By Jon Liebman
October 20, 2023
You want to learn bass, but it seems there’s always something slowing you down or making it hard to begin.
You’re not alone. I can tell you countless stories of the thousands of students I’ve had over the years who’ve dealt with these very issues.
What’s amazing is how so many of these people have managed one workaround or another to find themselves actually playing bass and having fun.
Keep it simple
It’s especially gratifying when the light goes on and they realize that playing bass – and making the groove feel great! – is not nearly as physically demanding as most people think.
I’m always reminding my students that in most cases even a super simple bass line is enough to give the song what it needs.
And when you can supply that, YOU feel great!
But don’t just take my word for it…
I had a very enjoyable conversation recently with longtime Paul Simon bass player Bakithi Kumalo, published as this week’s FBPO interview.
Bakithi understands these issues, as he’s worked with students of all ages, mentoring, advising, and teaching them how to play music.
I took the opportunity to ask Bakithi what advice he has for someone who wants to learn bass, especially when they’re over 50.
“I would say go for it,” he replied, right off the bat. “Anything you can play that’s going to make your fingers move, it’s important. It’s therapy. Just keep playing, just go forward.”
And that’s especially relevant for older students, he says.
“I have a bass player in his late 50s,” Bakithi continues. “He’s taking bass lessons with me and he wants to play. And then another gentleman, he’s almost 80 years old. This man is a painter, a famous painter, but he wants to play music.”
Just play something, and keep moving…
Bakithi provides oodles of support and encouragement to his students, regardless of their age.
“Just play something,” he tells them, “as long as your fingers can find the notes. It doesn’t have to be right notes, whatever. You’ll fix it later, but keep moving.”
And, according to Bakithi, that therapy isn’t limited to bass players.
“It doesn’t matter what instrument you play,” he says, “banjo, piano, even drums. You get physical. You have to stay with the music. It’s very important to get your fingers (moving) for arthritis and all that stuff.”
Easy does it
It’s also important to pace yourself, he says. Don’t try to be a virtuoso overnight.
“I’ve been playing for so many years,” says Bakithi. “I can play upside down, this way, that way, slap, all these things. But you can just take it slow. Take your time, don’t get frustrated. Just stay with it.”
How about you?
What kinds of roadblocks or hindrances have you experienced while learning bass? Leave a comment below and tell me how you’re coping with them. And be sure to check out my interview with Bakithi here.