Learning bass doesn’t have to be uncomfortable

There’s more than one way to get where you want to go

By Jon Liebman
Week of May 17, 2021

All beginnings are uncomfortable. 

Chances are you remember someone showing you how to play your first chord on a guitar. “Comfortable” is likely not a word you’d use to describe that experience. 

The same can be said for learning to ride a bike. Or being exposed to a new software program. While awkward, or even painful at first, the goal is to get used to new experiences until they no longer feel uncomfortable.

So what about learning bass? Who says learning bass can’t be fun, even from the beginning?

Not me!

I got to thinking about it during a fun conversation I had with Hollywood Vampires bassist Chris Wyse for this week’s FBPO interview. 

Given the way he morphed his classical double bass background into a successful career in rock and roll, I was curious what advice Chris would have for someone who wants to learn bass.

“I think the passion is the thing that’ll keep you practicing and finding the things that really spark your desire to play,” Chris says. “Just go there first.”

Makes sense to me. One can definitely make an argument in favor of bypassing the drudgery of going through the motions, not allowing all the “rules” to detract from the reasons you want to learn bass in the first place.

“If you’re forcing yourself through some song that just seems like a big pain in the ass,” he says, “maybe that’s not where to start.”

He’s not talking about taking shortcuts or cheating. It’s really about efficiency and enjoying the process. When learning bass, or any instrument, it’s about finding the right path that will get you the results you’re after.

“I think (it’s) getting into whatever it is that turns you on,” Chris says. “For me, it was the punchy tone of Steve Harris and the speed and the power. I would just get inspired by playing that main riff and getting the tones similar.”

I like what he’s saying. I also think it’s important to understand how the music is constructed and why it’s put together the way that it is.

When learning bass, we need to keep the ultimate goal in mind, which is to lay down the groove and make the music feel good. There’s more than one way to get there, so see if you can find the one that works best for you.

“Whatever it is,” Chris says, “find that passionate place. Find that stuff you love and do that and then fill in the blanks as you go because it’s really artistically driven.”

Playing bass is a blast! Naturally, there are certain processes we need to go through when learning bass. Fortunately, they don’t always have to be uncomfortable.

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Chris here.

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