The dangers and risks you need to know, before it’s too late
By Jon Liebman
May 12, 2023
For most people who want to learn bass – or just about anything else – the most obvious place to start is YouTube.
Seems logical. After all, there’s a treasure trove of great stuff there. You’re bound to find something worthwhile, right?
The good, the bad… and the dangerous
There is a lot good stuff for learning bass on YouTube. But there’s also a lot of bad stuff. I’d even go so far as to call a lot of it downright dangerous.
It’s been obvious to me for a long time, but it came up again in a recent conversation I had with Michael Kenney, former bass tech for Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, published as this week’s FBPO interview.
Having just retired after 40+ years of working alongside one of the most iconic bass players in rock, Michael was happy to weigh in on the subject.
“There’s everything you could possibly want to learn on YouTube,” he says, “which didn’t exist when I was a kid. When I wanted to learn something, I had to get the record and practically wear it out, moving the arm.”
While bringing back a lot of memories of all the times I used to do that, Michael’s comment brought a smile to my face.
Wow, that’s really awesome. So what.
Then I shared my concerns about some of the content on YouTube and how it requires sifting through so much bad stuff before you can find anything even remotely worthwhile.
“It can be daunting now,” Michael acknowledges. “Bass players are just lightyears beyond where they were. In fact, it’s turning into a solo instrument, which I don’t think it was ever meant to be.”
These days it’s super easy to find YouTubers who are ridiculously talented, technically. But while going “all-out-chops-crazy” may dazzle your friends and get you a lot of likes, that’s not what it means to be a good bass player.
“It can be interesting,” Michael agrees, “but it’s not what it’s all about. Your point is exactly what I was saying. There’s 10-year-old kids out there playing Jaco!”
Is this really how you want to spend your time?
Is it possible to find something genuinely helpful for learning bass on YouTube?
Sure. But you’ll likely have to plow through countless videos, spending untold hours trying to guess which ones may have what you need.
What’s more, even when you find something that looks promising, you’ll have to test it to see if actually gets you any results with your bass playing. And if it doesn’t, you’ll have to go back and start the whole process again.
Is that really how you want to spend your precious time? I doubt it.
What you need to get good at… and why
Bass technique is important. Having a lot of chops can be a crowd pleaser if played appropriately – and sparingly.
My concern is that too many people don’t understand that learning bass means learning how to lock in with the drummer, set the foundation for the band, and make the music feel good.
It’s not about how many notes you can fit in to your solo or how fast you can play.
“I’ve got a friend that practices night and day,” Michael says, “shredding to the hilt. I said, ‘Great, you can play 10,000 notes a second. Now play ONE and rip my heart out and I’ll believe you.’ And that’s kind of where I am.”
What are your thoughts?
Do you have an opinion about learning bass from YouTube? Leave a comment below and share what’s on your mind.
My lessons and courses in the Bottom Line Club provide you with everything you need to learn bass in a way that prepares you to give the song just what it needs and have a whole lot of fun in the process. Get all the info about how to join here.