Playing within your capabilities just might be enough
By Jon Liebman
October 13, 2023
So you’re finally ready to get serious about playing bass.
Congratulations! Good for you.
Problem is, you’re not as young as you used to be and your body seems to enjoy reminding you of that fact.
Maybe you’re second-guessing your decision?
Well, not so fast…
Playing bass isn’t nearly as demanding on the body as most people think. In fact, it’s amazing how great you can make the music feel even with a super simple bass line.
You’re not too old to learn bass.
I see it every day. Most of the students that come to For Bass Players Only to learn bass are in their 50s, 60s, 70s… In fact, I had someone sign up the other day who’s 83!
Don’t give up too easily on your desire to play your favorite rock riffs or whatever else you love. Instead, why not go for it!
I had a fun conversation the other day with Andy Fuchs, founder of Fuchs Audio Technology, a company that’s known for making high quality amps,
speaker cabinets, and accessories.
Andy’s also a longtime guitarist and bass player who still gigs regularly.
You don’t have to do what the kids are doing.
I asked Andy what advice he had for someone over 50 (or even older than “over 50”) who wants to learn to play bass.
“What’s interesting,” Andy says, “some of the open mics and blues jams that I go to, I’ve seen people in that age bracket come and play. And they’re a little intimidated. My son sent me a link to some phenomenal guitar music and I said, ‘I’m so glad I spent 50 years playing guitar and some snotty kid who’s 20 years old just wipes the floor up with me!’”
Nonetheless, Andy remains undeterred, taking it all in stride.
“You have to keep it in context,” he says. “I have to adapt to my ability.”
I like that kind of thinking. It puts things in perspective, in a healthy way.
“I’m kind of at a point now,” Andy says, “where I have to be a little more selective about what I try and do because I may not pull it off as well as my mind may think I could.”
“A more intelligent musical product”
When that happens, it forces you to think more about the music and not chops for chops’ sake. It’s actually a good thing.
“I think I’m putting out a more intelligent musical product,” says Andy, “and my flashiness, if there is such a thing, is in careful note selection.”
The end result is an improvement in his playing and in the overall sound of the music.
And people are noticing.
“When someone comes over and says, ‘Man, I really like what you did on that tune,’ and it wasn’t fast, it wasn’t showy. It was tasteful. I did what was within the realm of my abilities.”
And what about those things that happen to our bodies as we age?
“I’m still putting on Voltaren before and after the gig,” Andy says. “I’m still taking my supplements for arthritis and muscles and joints and all that kind of stuff.”
Andy continues running his business full time in addition to his busy gigging schedule. Somehow, though, he manages to make it all work and encourages others to do what they can.
“My advice would be don’t overdo it,” he says. “If I spend a lot of time on the workbench during the day and then I’m off to a gig, you know your hands can get tired at my age, so I’m cautious about what I do in the course of the day or on a gig that I don’t overdo it. There you go.
How about you?
What kinds of things are you dealing with that might hamper your ability to learn bass as you’re getting older, and how are you coping with them? Leave a comment below and share your experience. And be sure to check out my interview with Andy here.