Would you want to have coffee with… you?

Part of learning bass is knowing how to give off a positive vibe

By Jon Liebman
Week of November 8, 2021

I’ve been in all kinds of musical situations, having played in ensembles of just about every size, from duos all the way up to large orchestras. 

No matter the size of the group, the way musicians interact with each other on a musical level is certainly important. But so is the way they interact on a personal level.

Have you ever thought about what kind of vibe you’re giving off when playing with other people? Is it one that will endear them to you? Or will it push them away?

I got to thinking about that during a recent conversation I had with session great Reggie Hamilton, published as this week’s FBPO interview. With all the shows, tours, and other stuff he’s done, Reggie’s been around a lot of people, and he’s picked up all kinds of vibes.

How aware are you of the vibe you might be giving off in a musical situation?

You want to learn bass because of the joy it brings, laying down that foundation for the band and making the music feel good. That’s what you’re striving to do.

Oftentimes, people tend to be most critical of themselves, which means they take what they’re doing seriously and they really want to succeed.

You know you’re not perfect, and you want to improve. Just be careful you don’t look like you’re mad at yourself if your grooving doesn’t sound exactly the way you want it to yet.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” Reggie says. “Don’t be self-deprecating or negative, because that never helps. Beating up the subconscious helps absolutely nothing.” 

Don’t lose sight of the fact that playing music is supposed to fun, especially when playing with other people. “Find music you like,” says Reggie, “but take your time and enjoy the process.”

Think about your skill level right now as a bass player. I bet you’re better than you think you are (to those of you shaking your heads, stop it!). If you get down on yourself, you’ll perpetuate those feelings and come across as a downer.

“Find people that you really like to play with,” Reggie says. “It’s the same, like you don’t want to go and have a coffee with a person that’s negative all the time. That makes you feel bad that you even have a coffee in your hands. So don’t play with musicians like that.”

Taking it a step further, don’t become that kind of bass player. No matter what happens, try to stay upbeat and give off that positive vibe to the rest of the band. They’re more likely to want to have coffee with you if you do.

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 Reggie here.

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