Throw your bass-playing self out there!

You’ll learn bass a lot faster, even if you’re the “worst guy in the band”

By Jon Liebman
Week of October 25, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I was kind of a latecomer to learning bass, starting quite a bit older than most others in my peer group. 

As a result, I was constantly finding myself playing with people who were so much better than I was. Looking back, it’s hard to believe they were even willing to have me around.

What brought this to mind was a conversation I had with my old friend Will Lee, published as this week’s FBPO interview. When I asked Will what advice he had for someone who wants to learn bass, his answer really hit home.

“Make sure you’re the worst guy in the band,” he says. “Surround yourself with musicians better than you, if you can find them, because that’s always so much fun and it improves your playing.”

Think about it. How can you not get better if everyone around you is more advanced than you? And when you’re learning bass, there are specific things you can really hone in on.

“Do your best to find a great, for instance, drummer,” Will advises, “and learn how to lock in, to focus on the way that person feels.”

When you consider the role of the bass player – lay down the foundation for the band, along with the drummer, and make the music feel good – Will’s advice is spot on.

“Try to learn how to predict where their foot’s going to land,” he says, “because you can do it, you can adapt to that, no matter what your inherent groove is that you play when you’re by yourself.”

Which raises another good point. Not only will you learn better and faster by playing with people who are better than you, but you’ll improve by playing with other people, period.

“The more you play with other people, the better you can play with other people,” Will says, “because you can get into bad habits playing with yourself. So it’s a really healthy thing to do to get in a room with other players and create some sound together.”

Bottom line: On the one hand, being the “worst” player in the band will naturally help you learn bass faster. At the same time, playing with other people, not just by yourself, will also take you further, regardless of what level bass player you are. 

So be brave, keep your eyes and ears open, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. That way, your bass playing will surely improve, no matter how long you’ve been playing. 

What about you? 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 Will here.

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