Turning life’s lessons into lessons in bass

It’s not what happens to you; it’s how you respond (with bass too)

By Jon Liebman
Week of February 8, 2021

Do you ever get frustrated? Anxious? Depressed? Have you ever experienced an, “Oh, what’s the use?” feeling?

We all go through periods like that, not only with learning bass, but with life in general. Sage wisdom, however, tells us that it’s not what happens to us that’s important; it’s how we respond to it that really matters.

I got to thinking about the subject while reading this week’s FBPO interview with Tesla bassist Brian Wheat, conducted by Gary Graff. Much of the interview is about Brian’s recently released memoir, Son of A Milkman: My Crazy Life With Tesla, in which he opens up about how he’s dealt with some of the highs and lows endured as a member of a multi-platinum rock band, including substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and more.

“The underlying thing,” Brian says, “is that no matter what life throws at you, you keep moving forward and you keep trying to do your best. That’s what I hope people get out of the book.”

The concept can apply to everything from a failed relationship, an unsuccessful business venture, political defeat, and countless other examples, including learning to play an instrument.

If you’re learning bass, for example, it’s natural to feel frustrated, even depressed, if you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like. On the other hand, if you have a well conceived practice schedule, with tangible results and goals, you can take a look at what you’re able to do now on the bass that you couldn’t do a year ago, six months ago, or even one month ago.

Not to say that learning bass is as weighty an issue as the ones Brian has dealt with, but if there’s a lesson that can be applied to learning bass, why not do it? I’ve gone through some difficult periods in my career as a bass player, but I was determined to deal with them, to overcome them, to conquer them. 

I took the “how do I respond?” approach with everything from improving my sight reading, to grooving ability, technical aspects, and more, achieving exponential results.

Obviously, when it comes to dealing with the heavier issues in life, having the right attitude is even more important. “Yeah, I’ve had some bad things come at me and stuff,” Brian says, “but I deal with them and I do the best I can and come out still standing.”

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out Gary’s interview with Brian here.

Comments on Turning life’s lessons into lessons in bass

  1. Greg Emmanuel says:

    This message was very timely for me. I’ve had thoughts of how easily my hand gets tired, are my fingers to short, am I to old to be trying to learn the bass (I’m almost 60). I am even more determined to master the lessons that you provide. I also consider that my playing has become cleaner each week. Jon your FBPO program is world class. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and talents.

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