What If You Have to Play Music You Don’t Like?

How learning bass sometimes means learning to be your best self

By Jon Liebman
Week of November 18, 2019

It’s always fun sitting down with the young, energetic Cody Wright, whose interview we published this week. After some upbeat banter about Cody’s forthcoming solo record, and a rundown of his equipment and gear, I asked Cody what advice he had for someone who wants to learn bass.

The first thing he said was to “find songs that you love.” Elaborating a bit, Cody suggested that those who want to learn bass seek out music that “cuts through and makes you feel a certain way.” The source doesn’t necessarily have to be a bass player; it could be a guitar player, a piano player, or anyone whose music you find meaningful. The technique and the theory can come later, he says.

I thought that made pretty good sense, overall. So I asked him how he reacts when he finds himself in a situation where he’s called upon to play music that he just doesn’t like.

After all, it’s just part of the territory. If you’re a professional musician, you may get called for all kinds of gigs and shows, or even weddings and club dates, when the music is just not something that excites you. In responding, Cody seemed to speak from experience. “Put on a smile, and a great attitude,” he says. “Hold your nose and just jump into it.”

Most of us have been there. Rather than telling yourself, “This is not why I chose to learn bass,” look at it as a challenge. How good can you make it sound? How super-focused can you become about your time, your groove, your tone? Is it possible to play it in a way that might actually make you enjoy it? “If you come into it with enthusiasm,” Cody advises, “you’ll find something fun in it at some point.” 

The same can be said for any situation, whether it’s musical or not. What do you do at the office when your boss assigns you a project you know you’re going to hate? Throw a hissy fit? It doesn’t even have to be work-related. Suppose, for example, you’re seated next to your sister-in-law at a family gathering? Are you going to mope and sulk all evening? (Okay, maybe we’re getting off track here…)

The point is to accept the fact that, even with all the time and dedication you put in to learning bass, there will be times where you don’t like the music, or the venue, or the other band members (or the food, if you get any). The best thing you can do is to make the most of the situation and find ways to turn each experience into a positive one. As Cody sums it up so beautifully, “Be your best self.”

Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Cody here.

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