Who’s a bass player’s best friend?

How the right relationships can help your playing

By Jon Liebman
Week of January 4, 2021

As bass players, we share a certain camaraderie, a special bond understood only by other bass players. So it stands to reason that if you want to learn bass, you should hang out with other bass players, right?

Well, maybe. But not so fast…

Suppose you want to gain experience not just in learning bass, but by actually playing with other musicians? If you want to practice your bass grooving with someone else, who are you going to pick? Will it be another bass player? I doubt it.

The subject came up in my conversation with this week’s FBPO interviewee, Joe “Bearclaw” Burcaw, formerly of Black 47, now involved in a very special project with Living Colour’s Corey Glover. 

When I asked Joe what advice he had for someone who wants to learn bass, his response was quite different from the ones I usually hear.

“I know a lot of people say, ‘Become friends with bass players because they can help you,’” Joe says. “I think you should be friends with drummers because, let’s face it,” he says, “we are the anchor behind the band.”

I don’t think Joe is saying not to befriend other bass players. It’s just that drummers can offer a different perspective.

“When I was first starting out,” Joe says, “especially when I moved to New York City, when I was trying to get my break before I got into Black 47, I became friends with a lot of great drummers who would recommend me for different gigs. And as a result, I was playing out all the time.”

So yes, learn bass, practice bass, hang out with bass players, make friends with other bass players. But if you want to get some practical “real-world” experience, make friends with drummers and get together with them often. And groove! 

“I think it’s very vital for a bass player to become friendly with a drummer,” says Joe, “and to make that drummer your best friend.”

On a personal note, my best friend for over 40 years just happens to be a drummer!

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 my interview with Joe here.

Comments on Who’s a bass player’s best friend?

  1. Ted White says:

    When I resumed studying bass after a 45 yr lay off at the
    age of 66, the first five things I focused on we’re:

    1–get a good teacher
    2–volunteer in a chamber & full Orch
    3–read, read, read, scales, scales
    4–organize practice under teacher’s guidance
    5–secure an affordable instrument & bow
    I continue with the above still at 84.

    I have

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