Playing bass with other people vs. going it alone

A lot of people are totally happy playing bass all by themselves

By Jon Liebman
March 10, 2023

How important is it for you to play with other people? A lot of people, it turns out, are happy just playing bass by themselves.

It’s easy to assume that anyone learning bass does so with the goal of getting together with other people, being part of a band. 

Makes perfect sense, right?

Playing in a band is not everyone’s goal

It turns out that for a lot of people, playing in a group is not a priority. They’re perfectly content to sit in a room, learning, practicing, grooving, all by themselves.

When I discovered that that was the case for a lot of students in the Bottom Line Club, I was a little surprised, at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized… that’s what I do most of the time these days.

While there’s certainly a lot of joy and pleasure that comes from interacting with other people, there’s also something to be said for sitting down, figuring it out, and making it happen all alone, totally at your own pace.

Why would anyone want to do that?

I had an interesting conversation with Steve Millhouse recently, published as this week’s FBPO interview. When I mentioned the fact that a lot of people like to go it alone when learning bass, he seemed surprised.

It’s almost as if he wondered why anyone would actually prefer playing alone rather than experiencing the give-and-take, the interaction and camaraderie that comes from playing with others.

“Maybe they’re nervous about it,” he speculates, “or they don’t want to be put in a weird spot.”

Technology is so much easier to use these days

I also pointed out how, these days, technology makes it easy to have virtual jam sessions – and virtual groove sessions – citing things like variable-speed backing tracks and other resources, like those included in the Bottom Line Club.

“You know, back when I was teaching,” Steve tells me, “those kind of things weren’t readily available. There weren’t all the things that you’ve brought to the community to make it easier to do that.”

Not everyone sees things the same way

It’s easy to assume that people are naturally frustrated when they can’t find anyone to jam with and how the situation was especially irksome during the pandemic.

Not everyone sees it that way, though. Some people find time alone to be more productive and plenty fulfilling, especially with the ability to jam, groove, and solo with a virtual band. 

“It’s great that there are those options now,” says Steve, thinking back to when he taught privately. “There wasn’t that kind of information out there at that time.”

Which do you prefer?

What about you? How important is it to be making music as part of a group? Is it something that’s “nice to do” or is that the whole reason you decided to learn bass? Is playing by yourself satisfying enough, or do only do it because there’s no one else around? Leave a comment below and share your story.

Want to learn bass? To join the Bottom Line Club, click here.

Comments on Playing bass with other people vs. going it alone

  1. Rod Goelz says:

    Both… I don’t hate practicing alone with a drum machine. But I always viewed it as preparation for playing with humans. There’s a connection that only a human can provide. That said, it’s got to be a listening, feeling, and reactive human.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Great approach, Rod. Thanks for weighing in!

  2. Keith Copeland says:

    I practiced and studied for years but when I started playing with a band, everything changed!!! It was very scary being responsible for playing my parts correctly at the proper volume level with other musicians. This elevated my playing, practice, and preparation to another level!

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Yes, playing in an environment with other musicians is definitely an education! 🙂 Thanks, Keith!

  3. Craig James says:

    I’m one of those guitar turned in to bass players types, due to band needing a bassist. The growth I experienced was life-changing for myself and the other bandmates. It was like learning to ride a bike, but so much more. For all the positive and negative experiences, i would not change a thing, it was well worth every second of it to play in a band vs alone, but thats my experience!

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Thanks, Craig!

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