Learning bass: Fun or frustrating?

It all depends on how you look at it

By Jon Liebman
Week of March 22, 2021

Every now and then, we’re bound to find something that frustrates us when learning bass. Just like any new endeavor, it takes time and effort.

But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun.

I talked about this very subject in this week’s interview with the amazing upright and electric player Chris Minh Doky, who’s played with everyone from Mike Stern to Al Jarreau to Dianne Reeves and so many others. 

As soon as Doky realized what he wanted to learn on the bass, he became laser focused, more determined than ever to get the sound, the feel and the groove he was after.

In learning bass, if you think you have to approach the difficult stuff as “paying dues” till you get to the fun part, you’ll definitely appreciate what Doky has to say.

“The first order of business,” Doky says, “is to nurture your love of playing the bass. You should practice, yes. You should try to get better, yes. But the first order of business is always take care of your love of playing the bass.”

In other words, when the going gets rough, remind yourself why you decided to learn bass in the first place.

We do need to pay some dues. But it’s a lot more enjoyable if you look at the effort you put in as something that will make you better along the way. You don’t have to wait till you achieve the status of “monster bass player” in order to enjoy the process. There’s fun to be had at every level.

“We all know that feeling,” says Doky, “beginners, and advanced players. If you work on some stuff, and you work on it and you work on it, you get so frustrated, because the more you work on it, the more frustrating it can become, even though you do get better.”

At For Bass Players Only, I’m always reminding people of how “I take the frustration out of learning bass, so you can build confidence, have fun, and thoroughly enjoy making music.” That’s why Doky’s words really hit the spot with me.

“It’s important to never forget why you’re doing this,” he continues. “Because it’s fun as hell. It’s fun as hell! But if you let go of the fun aspect, then you risk of losing your love of what you’re doing and why you’re here to begin with.”

And don’t forgot why learning bass is so much fun. Doky sums that up perfectly too. “Man, this is like the best spot in a band,” he says. “You’re part of the harmony, and you’re part of the groove. There’s no better place!”

Even during those (would-be) frustrating moments.

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 Doky here.

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