Thursday, January 19, 2012
One year in
It's been one year, give or take a couple of weeks, since I dove back into bass playing. What have I learned so far?
You've got to play. Don't think about playing. Don't read about playing. Don't watch other people play. You've got to just play.
Every minute you spend playing, from warming up to jamming to records to just noodling around on your own makes you a better player. Sure, some things are more efficient at making you proficient than others, but the worst possible way to get better at playing bass is to not play at all.
Music theory isn't exactly the most fun thing in the world. Learning it can be... well, a little boring, out of the context of actual music. Get around this by keeping the "music" in music theory. Learn theory in the context of songs you love. Figure out why they sound the way they do, and internalize it. That way when you hear a certain sound in your head, you have the language you need to communicate that through your fretboard.
Play... with other people
You'll never stop playing on your own. Solo practice is essential no matter how good you get. But playing with other people is one of the reasons most bass players get into the instrument. Because, let's face it, the bass isn't exactly a solo instrument. (At least, not for most mortal players. Solo virtuoso bass is a topic I don't have much insight on.)
So get out there. Take chances on people you don't know and play some bass. Sure, putting an ad on craigslist or bandmix.com or your local music store is a lot like randomly dating people on the internet. You're going to come across some weirdos, flakes, and oddballs you'll probably never want to see again. But you'll also meet some awesome people who are in the exact same position you are in: cool people just looking to play.
So get out there and do it. As often as you want, if not more.
Don't just learn... understand
I hit on this in my post about learning a Pretenders song, but the biggest thing I learned all year about music is that rote memorization doesn't get you very far. Instead, working to understand the structure of a song allows you to play it, internalize it, and then apply what you've learned to new music.
Playing music you don't understand is the equivalent of learning a speech in another language. Sure, you might be saying the words right. You might even get the inflection right. But the intent behind is going to be empty. When you understand the music, down to the rhythm and harmonic relations, you don't need to think about the mechanics of it. You're not reading; you're speaking.
If you haven't already, give it a try. I promise you'll notice the difference.
What's next for 2012
So, what's next? More of playing, for sure. More jamming with new musicans. Hopefully, more gear and book reviews. (I'm hoping to write up a review of The Lost Art of Country Bass some time in the next few weeks.) I'm also hoping to start exploring original songwriting as a bassist, so that should provide some fertile ground for posts.
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