Learning bass is all about consistency

Even with the best of intentions, you could be holding back your progressBy Jon Liebman
March 25, 2022

We all know that “practice makes perfect.” But how much time should you carve out toward practicing when you’re learning bass?

A couple weeks ago, I had a very enjoyable interview with Louis Ochoa, published as this week’s FBPO interview. Louis is an excellent bass player with a fascinating gig in the Video Game Orchestra, a high-energy ensemble – sometimes including over 100 musicians – that specializes in playing music from video games! (Interesting times we live in, eh?) 

When I asked Louis what advice he had for someone who wants to learn bass, he said consistency. 

The word “consistency” can mean several things, especially when it comes to learning bass, so I asked him to elaborate.

“Consistency,” he repeated. “Really, that’s for any trade or whatever skill. It’s consistency.”

Louis was referring, specifically, to practicing. It’s easy to assume that if you practice a few hours here, a few hours there, putting in as much time as you can, the only thing that matters is that the total number of hours adds up to a respectable number.

Not so, says Louis.

“You can say, ‘I want to learn to play bass,’ and spend two hours one day, skip four days, and think you’re just going to pick up where you left off. My advice is, be consistent.”

In other words, the aggregate number of hours alone is not what’s going to make you improve as a bass player. It’s how you spread those hours out.

“I’m not saying spend three hours a day practicing,” Louis says. “You can spend 15 minutes a day practicing and get a lot more results through that, if you’re doing it every day.”

I can remember my teacher telling me something similar. The context at time, though, was about never missing a day. Louis puts a slightly different spin on it.

“If you’re just spending 15 minutes a day,” he says, “just warming up your fingers, taking the song that you want to learn… that’s really what’s going to take you far.”

Louis practices what he preaches. Outside of the Video Game Orchestra, Louis has a busy life, including raising two kids. Still, he says, he remains ever consistent with his practice regimen.

“I could be in between gigs for months at a time,” he tells me, “but I can’t let go of my chops.”

Sounding much like he’s speaking from experience, Louis may have learned a few things the hard way.

“For anybody learning, even if you’re playing the simplest song in the world,” Louis says, “don’t think that you can just learn it, put it aside (and) pick it up again a few days later.”

I started to think of a few analogies where the same principle would apply. Farming and exercising are two that immediately became apparent. It would be pretty ridiculous trying to “batch” those types of activities. Louis cautions that it’s also true with learning bass and practicing a piece of music.

“Always come back to it,” he says, “and that’ll… drive you to learn more and more and get more adept at learning songs. And you’d be much quicker at learning stuff.”

You may have the best of intentions, and your schedule may not have much flexibility, but to whatever extent possible, try spreading your practice time evenly throughout each week, rather than bunching it up. The results will surprise you.

What about you? Have a thought on consistency when it comes to practicing and learning bass? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, watch my interview with Louis here.

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