Learning bass is supposed to be fun

Stop putting so much stress on yourself and just enjoy it
By Jon Liebman
August 18, 2023

How many things do you do just because you have to? You’ve already got plenty of obligations and responsibilities. Learning bass shouldn’t feel like one of them. Playing bass is something you do because it’s fun!

I was having a conversation with Joe Lynch recently, which I published as this week’s FBPO interview.

Joe’s a very busy, high-level lawyer in New York. He spends his days talking to clients about taxes, financing, restructuring, dissolutions… 

I’m not saying he doesn’t like what he does (actually, I never asked him), but those things are Joe’s responsibilities, obligations he has to fulfill.

Playing bass, however, is something Joe loves to do! It’s something he’s chosen to learn, strictly for the enjoyment of it. 

“I think a lot of us took up an instrument at a young age,” Joe says, “and life got complicated.”

Gotta do things versus wanna do things

Joe knew he’d get a lot of enjoyment out of learning bass and playing rock and roll. So he joined the Bottom Line Club a few years ago and has never looked back. I’m not sure where he found the time, but obviously it was a priority.

Joe finds learning bass to be a much-needed release from all the time he spends in the corporate world.

“We do so much in our lives because we have to do it,” he observes. “We do so much in our lives because we’re obligated to do it. We sit in traffic two hours a day sometimes.”

The ultimate stress reliever

So what does he do to relieve the stress? Same thing he advises others in the same situation to do:

“Pick up your bass,” he says. “Put on some music. Put some sheet music in front of you. Just try to mimic it. Just try to learn.”

Okay, that helps. But what about those times when that frustration kicks in? Learning bass is supposed to have the opposite effect, isn’t it?

For Joe, the answer is simply to keep things in the proper perspective.

“Remember, you’re choosing to do this to have fun,” he says. “If you get a little frustrated by it, if your fingers aren’t moving the right way, if you’re just having a bad day, just put it down. And maybe put some music on. Or watch some bass player play or something.”

Keep the end goal in mind

What’s your reason for wanting to learn bass? If you’re trying to be the next Jaco by tomorrow, well, that’s definitely going to add some stress to your life. 

On the other hand, if you just want to learn bass and have some fun, that’s a whole different story.

“I am not the best bass player out there,” says Joe. “I’m far from it. But I know what I’m good at. And I’m good at playing well with others, getting the reaction from the crowd, enjoying that.”

Going to… school???

Does it take work to learn bass? Of course it does. “It means going to school,” Joe says, “doing some of the theory, learning the songs because you’ve got to sound good to have fun with it.”

It’s not the kind of school you have to go to; it’s the kind you’ll want to go to.

“It’s not easy,” Joe says, “but you’re doing this to have fun. You’re not doing it to add another level of responsibility or obligation or frustration in your life. You’re doing this for another reason.”

Stop beating yourself up

Not many people can just pick up the bass and be good at it right away. Like anything else, learning bass takes effort. At times it might get frustrating too. And when that happens, just think of Joe.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” he says. “Just don’t. Life’s too short. You’re doing this for yourself.”

Keep in mind, no one says he need to become a virtuoso. Just take it a day at a time and have fun.

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” says Joe. “Sometimes the best music is played (with) the simplest things.”

How about you?

How much can you relate to Joe’s situation? If learning bass is something you’d like to do, give it a try. Join the Bottom Line Club like Joe did and see how you like playing bass. It’s 100% risk-free. Get started here.

Comments on Learning bass is supposed to be fun

  1. Grayden Provis says:

    Good piece. The only thing I would take issue with is the advice to put the instrument down and walk away when you can’t do something. If you do that you miss a great learning opportunity. Better to have some humility and accept that you need to break the task down into smaller bits or do it slower. Besides, if you walk away without doing this, when you return you will be in exactly the same boat!

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Good point, Grayden. It comes down to whatever works for you. Thanks for weighing in.

  2. Tim Craig says:

    Jon great stuff! For me sometimes I do need to walk away…it’s like trying to force a round peg in a square hole so I do agree with the “just put it down” statement. I’ve played for a long time and used to do the “gosh I should be playing at this level etc” thing. So kudos on the “don’t beat yourself up”…statement. For me it applies to a lot of other life stuff besides playing my bass. And now I get to hang out with some other old guys 2/mo and we play blues and funk…and occasionally get to play out. Marked this one off my bucket list! Years ago I ran into one of my bass idols here in Nashville…Michael Rhodes. I asked him “man…like I’m uh…well…I guess an intermediate player? When I practice what should I be doing?” He responded with “play what you like to play”.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Craig. And yeah, Michael was great. I had the privilege of interviewing him a few years ago — in the back of Joe Bonamassa’s touring bus! Here’s the link. Enjoy! https://forbassplayersonly.com/michael-rhodes/

  3. Eric Booker says:

    1. Have fun. Bass is my fun instrument. I have to remember how excited I was when I first picked it up.

    2. Don’t beat yourself (myself) up over “complex” pieces. Stay in the shed and work through it. I’ve had/get a sense of accomplishment when doing so.

    3. Remember the end goal. For me, it’s been to have fun and prepare to competently play with other musicians in various settings, when called upon or given the opportunity.


    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Right on, Eric. Thanks!

  4. Charlie Irwin says:

    I’d like to amend Grayden’s advice just a bit. Sometimes, if you are stuck and frustrated, putting something down and leaving it temporarily can be a good thing. Give your back brain (sub-conscious) time to work on it while you untense. Take a walk, have a nap, play with your cat/dog/grand-kids. Then go back to the problem with a clear head and – quite possibly – a new approach to resolving whatever was bothering you. And remember that learning to play the bass entails building neural networks and physical growth takes time. I find that I learn a lot more in several 10-15 minute sessions than when I beat my head against the wall for an hour…

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks, Charlie. I totally agree. Like I also said, different things work for different people. Whatever you need.

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