When it comes to learning bass, the older guys do have it easier

Learn bass, have fun, and don’t stress over the other stuff

By Jon Liebman
Week of January 24, 2022

As I look back on my years as an up-and-coming bass player, it’s amazing how many things I used to obsess over that I don’t even think about any more. I can remember taking all kinds of tools to the gig, “just in case.” I fixated on having the right gear. I used to save all my toll road receipts… It’s almost laughable.

At this stage in my life, I don’t dwell on that stuff any more, and you shouldn’t either. Just learn bass because it’s fun.

What is it you like to play? I bet you’re a blues fiend. Or a classic rock fan. Or both. Maybe you see yourself playing some swingin’ walking bass lines over jazz standards. 

Whatever trips your trigger, just focus your efforts on just learning bass and having fun. How wonderful is it that you don’t have to be mired with all the stuff that only career-oriented players have to worry about.

I had a fun conversation recently with a fascinating musician, Jair-Rôhm Parker Wells, published as this week’s FBPO interview. Jair-Rôhm’s advice for people in their 50s, 60s, 70s… is to “just keep it fun.” And why not? There’s so much stuff you don’t need to worry about.  

“I was pretty obsessive when I was coming up,” Jair-Rôhm says. “I wouldn’t suggest that that’s going to work for anybody else,” he continued, laughing.

It’s always interesting to look back on the things that were once so important to us and compare them to our priorities today.

“I made my living as a bass player,” Jair-Rôhm says. Describing his former self as a journeyman, he says, “My greatest asset was being able to fit into any musical situation, and that required a skill set that included reading and gear maintenance, and things that people that just want to go to the local blues jam session don’t really need to be bothered with.”

I’m not telling you to cut corners. You still need to practice your bass technique, work on laying down the foundation for the band, making the music feel good, etc. If a certain piece of gear turns you on, go buy it! If like to tinker with software, effects, and electronics, go for it! Do want you want and have fun.

“At that point in life,” Jair-Rôhm says, “if you’re reaching out to do something or find something to enhance your life…, definitely keep it light, keep it fun. Learn what you want to learn. Play with whom you want to play. Play what you want to play.”

You don’t have to do what I did and stress over having all the right screwdrivers in your gig bag, or keep track of all your toll receipts. That stuff doesn’t matter any more (I’m not sure it ever did). Just learn bass and have fun. 

Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, watch my interview with Jair-Rôhm here.

Comments on When it comes to learning bass, the older guys do have it easier

  1. Pete says:

    Good advice I’m An obsessive maniac..it’s time to make life more fun in ALL areas!!!!!!!!

  2. Joyce Sheridan says:

    I have Lyme arthritis and have had a lot of hand problems in the past because of a neck being messed up due to child abuse. The median nerve that comes down to your hands comes off the neck. I play my bass really weird, but I can’t bend my hands very far without pain. I anchor my right thumb on the end of the neck where the downward curve of my jazz bass is. That keeps my hand straighter. I stick my fingers between the strings to stop strings from ringing. My biggest problem is I have to do a lot of shifting with my left hand from one note to another; that is my biggest problem. I have no interest in playing with bands. I just want to play pretty music like classical at home. I don’t like playing with a bunch of guys suffering from testosterone poisoning. I used be a drummer and if they need mixers or something else adjusted during a concert,(because someone didn’t show up) they throw it at the drummer. I’m a drummer not an octopus! Being at home is a good thing and then I can play what I want and I’m not far from my Ibuprofen.

    1. Jon Liebman says:

      Your determination is inspiring, Joyce! (I like you remark about “testosterone poisoning” too! 🙂 ) Sometimes, we just have to find what works for us, coupled with what we truly enjoy. Thanks for weighing in!

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