It’s never too late to learn bass

Just a few tweaks, to both your body and your mind, can make all the difference in the world

By Jon Liebman
November 18, 2022

It’s happens every day. People who identify as “old rockers” are lining up at For Bass Players Only to (finally) get serious about learning bass.

I’ve seen some incredible transformations so many students. And as far as old rockers go, truth be told, I’m right there with you. And I’ve got my share of battle scars to prove it!

So it was only fitting when I talked to CCR’s Stu Cook, in a conversation published as this week’s FBPO interview, that I ask him what advice he had for people over 50 who want to learn bass.

“As an amateur advice giver,” he said with a smile, “starting from scratch, I think that it’s probably the best time to actually learn how to be a musician.” 

He then cited the large number of opportunities available for bass players, especially if they can read music.

“Not getting injured,” he continued, “and knowing as much about music as you could possibly absorb I think are the two keys to really enjoying any instrument, but bass for sure.”

What about those who aren’t as young as we used to be?

“For the people that are already playing,” Stu advises, “I would say warm up. It’s the single most important thing you can do, for players that use their hands. We all have to warm up and get the muscles warm.”

He also cautions old rockers to be mindful of their bodies and to come to terms with the aging process.

“The older we get,” he says, “we’re going to be more and more prone to injuries, which will interfere with our progress and our enjoyment.” 

According to Stu, while warming up is a good start, there’s more you can do too.

“Anything you can do to prevent tendonitis, from keeping your hand in one position all the time,” he says, “as we get older, we get less and less flexible. We need to stretch more, much more than younger people do.”

Watch out for bad habits

So now that you’re warmed up and you’ve stretched, what’s next for someone like you who wants to learn bass?

Learning bass can be hard on the body if you’re not careful. It’s important to approach the instrument in a way that’s not going to cause injury. In fact, there are countless examples of great bass players who have modified their technique in order to accommodate their bodies.

“The electric bass is very easy to develop bad habits on,” Stu says. “Unless you’re professionally trained, you can get into a lot of weird habits.”

Oftentimes problems can start when wannabe bass players see dazzling feats of virtuosity from some young hotshot on YouTube and think that’s what it means to be a great bass player. 

Wrong!

The good news is that that’s not what people want in a bass player. The even better news is that you can make the music feel great, even with the simplest bass line, one that doesn’t put a lot of undue wear and tear on your muscles and bones.

Stu agrees. “Absolutely,” he says. “Very few of us are going to be able to play like these guys who shred,” referring to Billy Sheehan, the first “shredder” that got his attention. “Now’s there’s hundreds of guys that are absolutely amazing.”

But again, that’s not what people want in a bass player.

How to develop your musicianship

“If you want to get the most out of the bass with pretty near the least amount of investment,” Stu says, “train your mind and train your ears.”

Speaking from experience, he says the right kind of training is helpful, especially if you want to play some gigs.

“I’ve been around the block with this,” he says. “I think it’s actually more efficient to learn how to read music and learn some basic music theory for whatever instrument you want to learn. If you can read, you can always work.”

It doesn’t mean you have to be a career-bound bass player. You can still have fun learning bass and making music with others.

“You don’t have to do it full-time,” Stu says, “but if you can read music, you can play all kinds of gigs with all kinds of players in any genre. It doesn’t just have to be pounding out Aerosmith covers on Saturday night. If you’re serious about music in general, then that’s the way to go.”

If he had it to do over again, Stu says he would have been more serious and more focused on studying music and learning bass.

“I wish that I had continued with my formal music education,” he says, “but I can’t complain. The work I did put in got me a lot further than anyone would have expected!”

Your turn. How about you? As an “old rocker,” how do these things resonate with you? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. And be sure to watch my interview with Stu. here. 

Comments on It’s never too late to learn bass

  1. Paul Traynor says:

    Excellent Jon very enjoyable read thanks for sharing 👍

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Glad you liked it, Paul. Thanks for letting me know!

  2. Joe says:

    I can’t speak for everyone, but my neck and back issues affect my wrists and foreams. I discovered this via yoga and pilates. It’s all connected by a system called your body.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks, Joe. I hope you’re able to find some improvement. Keep me posted.

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