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How do the greats, get to be so good,

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by robert betty, Apr 11, 2003.

  1. When we think of the "Masters of Bass Guitar" several names may come to mind. Jaco, Abraham Laboriel, Geddy Lee, etc. The question I pose is this. Is practice and proper instruction all that is required to be a Bass Legend, to attain that high caliber ablilty? Or is there something more. I here about and have even been told that when it comes to music I am a natural. Yet I have been instructed professionally and practiced my a@* off and am still not even on the same continent as these greats, or even probably most of you. I want to know what else is it. Genetic disposition? Parents who don't allow their kids do to anything but study and practice music so that it becomes all they know and devote to??? What??? I know how you become good, practice. But how do you get THAT Good???

    Just a frustrated musician mainly frustrated by my own limitations.
  2. i am a strong supporter of the "you are just born with it" theory.
  3. Practice. Period.
  4. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

  5. CDuff


    Sep 14, 2002
    The "you're born with theory" scares me a bit.
    I reckon lots and lots of practice combined with as eclectic a musical taste as you can handle would help. Listening to many different styles of music (and bass-playing) should give you some ideas and a 'freshness' (christ, i hate that word) that'll make you stand out.

    Just to get slightly off topic here for a second, this thread made me think.... is musical innovation dead?
    Seems that every band (or bassist) is compared to others that preceded them.

    (are there enough brackets in this post?)
  6. efcleff


    Jan 20, 2003
    I really think that in addition to talent, the great bassists don't have a 9-5 job they have to go to every day. Their job is to play the bass-period ! Also, they've all played since childhood to attain their professional level. If you played your bass all day long ( and got payed to do so ) you would become a legend too. Now, not to say that you won't some day... I practice 2-3 hours a day, am not even close to being good...learn something new everyday...but the bottom line is I love the bass ( four string Fender Jazz MIM ) AND THAT MAKES ME A LEGEND IN MY OWN MIND !!! Rock-On
  7. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    If you talk to any of these top players, I will guarantee that 99% of them practiced as much as they possibly could.

    There are always some freaks of nature out there, but even those guys had to work at it to some extent.
  8. Practice.

    Forget about being born - it's happened already, and even if you think like a Buddhist it's not going to happen again any time soon. Make the most of what you've got.
  9. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    good post. the whole "he's born with it" camp ends up sounding to me like some kind of rationalization for not practicing ("i wasn't born with it, so i'll never get that good").

    practice. the more time spent with fingers on strings, the better you'll be. simple math, really.
  10. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    yup, or "I WAS born with it, I shouldn't need practice"

    Practice is key, I think that jaco was born with some intrinsic abilities, and his hands were huge(always a plus)
    but he would never have achieved what he did if he hadn't practiced.
  11. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I get payed to play all day long, and I'm no legend.

    Then there are the stories of the old cats who worked all day long in a factory, went home to crash for a few hours, then out to the clubs to play all night long, getting home just in time to leave for the factory again. Dedication, determination and practice are the key.
  12. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Here's my 2 cents.
    The consensus here is practice is key and it's a constant. The thing I love about music is that you are never good at it. There's always something to to be learned, and new stuff is being developed all the time. Even though Geddy Lee is awesome at the progressive rock stuff, do you think he can play jazz changes like Ray Brown? Do you think Flea can play horn-like melodies like Jaco? Can Jaco play percussive stuff like Les Claypool? Jamerson is awesome, but his one finger technique will never let him pick like Gerald Veasley or Rocco Prestia. The point I'm getting at is that everyone has limitations. On the other hand everyone has strengths, and the greats make the most of their strengths and turn it into a signature.
    Do what you do (or want to do), and do it well. If you don't do it well, practice until you do.
  13. So the general opinion I'm sensing is that there is no such thing as "Natural ability", which actually makes me feel good. I still wonder though about those people who seem to learn and pickup things at twice the rate of others. Born Geniuses, for instance, childhood prodigies who can do complex math equations having never gone to school. Are all of you saying the same principals can't possibly apply to musical ability??. Yes I believe you can be as good as you want to, if you work hard enough at it, My real question is do some have to work harder than others to achieve the same skill level?. I also liked the thought that we too often compare ourselves to others. Music is an expression of emotions and it should envoke emotion in the listener as well as the performer. Talent, & ability impress, but musicality engages the heart. My opinion is, it doesen't really matter how fast you are, or how many variations on a theme you can produce. If what you play is tasteful and an expression of your emotions you are a fantastic musician.
  14. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire

    I think you might be asking two entirely different questions here.

    Becomming an excellent player and becomming one of the "greats" is not necessarily the same. There are many very good players who never quite achieve the level of musicainship you would associate with a "great" player.

    The answer to learning how to play well is practice, study, and listen. Be careful though. Practice does not make perfect. You must be practicing the right things.

    There is obviously different degrees of natural talent in all of us but the good news is that the majority of great players are not necessarily the most talented.

    You ask the question how to become "That good"? It is a very sequential step-by-step process called EXPERIENCE. It is quite common for an over night success to take 20 years in the making.

    In looking at your personal profile it is obvious you lack experience. You might respond that you have many years of experience. Experience doing what? You will always grow to the level of people you surround yourself with. Not beyond. All great players were not great in the beginning they just kept climbing the ladder. This means continually putting yourself in a new environment that you then have to grow to master.

    All growth demands change and change is always painful.

    First you have to want it bad enough. And then, you must be willing to sacrifice. One cannot negotiate the price of success. And that price is different for each individual.

    Sorry to sound preachy. I just care.

    p.s. I should add, that the answers here are from people who have NOT done what you are wanting to do. Check the fruit on the tree.
  15. Jeff2287


    May 4, 2002
    Think like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Overcome all limitations. No need to quit just because of limitations. Push past them with all of your will. Just keep practicing, be open minded, and listen to diverse music and, with any luck, greatness'll hit you like a sack of bricks.

    As for the whole "natural ability" thing, I think that's a tad misunderstood. People who are thought to have "natural ability" and catch on quickly like myself (I RULE!), these people are just really talented (Boy do I sound like a narcisist)(spelling?). People also tend to misinterpret the term, "talent." In my humble opinion (I RULE!), all talent really is is the ability to think fast and catch on quickly. It really only functions as a BIG time saver in this particular context. Everyone else has to be a little bit more patient with it.

    Don't just go thinking that because a great like Geddy Lee will never play like Les Claypool that you are doomed to a the fate of mastering one style of music and then remaining there forever. Keep in mind that you're not Geddy Lee and that all the great players mentioned secumbed to limitations to some extent. They're not perfect, no one is. You're not them either! You're musical path is and will be quite different from these greats(unless you're some obsessed freak who feels the need to follow in someone else's in every possible way which I don't recomend).

    Another thing to keep in mind is that if you don't find playing music fun enough to practice a LOT then you're gonna have one hell of a time trying to be a great like these people. Unless I'm VERY much mistaken, these people loved music with all of their hearts and stuck with it and practiced all the time and were committed to it. Music should be very fun for you if you want to become a great.

    Also keep in mind that chance plays into it greatly. There are probably Millions of virtuoso musicians out there that are better than all the greats combined that will never hit it big and will remain virtually if not completey unknown for the rest of their lives. These greats are among the lucky few that hit it big and got famous and had every other bass player looked up to 'em. You've gotta be lucky to some extent, especially in a world where the likes of MOTLEY CRU got big (GOD ARE THEY AWFUL!).

    Well, that's about all I can think of at the moment and thus this seems like a good spot to end my ridiculously long post/essay about becoming a great. :D :bassist: :) :bassist: :D
  16. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Yes, it takes practice to master the instrument, but there are certain people that have an artistic sense that goes beyond prcatice. It occurs in every field, from the arts to sports to business.

    Some people could paint all day, but that wouldn't make them great painters. The great painters have an artistic gift.

    How many thousands or millions of athletes practice and practice, but will never have the style and grace of Michael Jordan?

    Some people are great managers or successful salespeople.

    I believe that some people are naturally gifted in certain areas. Yes, some of this can be practiced and developed, but it goes beyond that.
  17. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
  18. You know, this is kind of interesting... back in the days before calculators, clerks and accountants used to manipulate large numbers in their head all of the time. They got every bit as good as the supposedly genius-struck idiot savants, who were dropping jaws all over the world by performing "staggering" arithmetical feats in short periods of time despite being ... uh, idiots.

    The suggestion is, these idiot savants were practicing working with numbers by being so stupid as to spend all their waking time counting and multiplying things for no obvious reason. That implies that even children or the mentally unfortunate of the world can become supremely good at something, just by repetition of practice.

    Goes beyond practice? I don't see how you can justify saying that - in my opinion cultivating artistic sensibility is part of what practicing is for. I see musical practice as a broad spectrum of activities including woodshedding, composing, recording, playing live, improvising, blah blah blah. All of these things will develop artistic sense.

    IMO, familiarity and hard work pushed to the extreme are more than sufficient to explain "genius". That suggests to me that in order to become transcendentally "great", you should start doing all of the things that define musical greatness - composing, transcribing, playing, improvising, whatever.

    Even if I'm wrong, practice will still make you better.
  19. There's something Ive learned today. I dunno if this has been posted yet..

    Keep your mind open, don't be compelled to think about one kind of music. Be open, don't think that you couldn't put a funk line in Ramones song, y'know? Gotta be creative; woudl Jaco be Jaco if he could play every single song on the planet while not making his own music? I dunno, I doubt he would've been so amazing if he hadn't done what he did do!

    There's a bizillion colors on the planet, and millions already used, so what you have to do is to use what's left, and make new colors with what's not been used.

    That's part of it, I pretty much agree with ecery else said above. :)
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think there are two things here and the answer to how the "greats" got be such good players is undoubtedly down to practicing a lot - but that requires determination and dedication - having the motivation to put everything into music.

    So - for some people, being comfortable, having nice surroundings, doing what you want, etc etc are more important than music - but for great musicians - nothing matter as much as music. So - not many people can be this focused, on one thing.

    Of course the second part of this is that to be realy "great" - you have to have done all that practicing/focusing, but have also come up with something original that makes you stand out from the crowd - you have to have something to say!