How do you come to terms with knowing you are losing it?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by GretschWretch, Jul 3, 2022.

  1. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Last night I did my weekly sit-down playalong with Austin City Limits (Foo Fighters). My ear still is good -- I can pretty well nail the changes on a song I've never heard -- but my speed is just, gone. I was okay through the first couple of songs but then they played one of those frenetic tempoed tunes where the bass is doing nothing but hammering eighth notes, and I got massacred. Not even close to maintaining tempo.

    So it's like, "Okay, I can't do this anymore," but how do I just accept it and move on? Mind you, I never was one of those lightningfastasquicksilver players, but guys who were coming up at the same time I did were not expected to be. If we could get through the Beatles' "Hold Me Tight" or "I Saw Her Standing There," that was enough.

    But it's like anything recorded less than forty years ago is now out of my league; I would not accept an audition even if one were offered. No point in wasting people's time.

    So, the gorilla is in the room. Now how do I deal with it?
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I haven't turned that corner yet. But I HAVE turned some major corners in my musical journey. So, hopefully, this helps.

    I used to play for a living. At one point I was in 5 bands. At another point I was in a pro band that did around 200 shows per year.

    Then I met a woman I wanted to see every day. We had kids I want to see every day. I tried to make family and music work for a while. But it didn't. I dealt with some serious burnout.

    I did pick up gigs for several years. That scratched the itch. But they didn't bring me joy, for the most part.

    (I'm getting to the point.)

    I found JOY in music again when I formed a band made up of people just like me... former pro/semi-pro players with kids about the same age as mine. Now, at 50 years old, my music fits my life. We do a couple of shows a month, all local, all fun. We rehearse at my home from time to time and basically turn that into a party. And we all play at about the same leve, and are at similar stages in our lives.

    The way you deal with losing a little bit of speed in your playing is to find people to play with who are right there with you. You'll have similar tastes in music. There will be no pressure to out perform your own body. And you can do it just for joy on your own terms.

    For me it was dealing with the fact that I am no longer a pro musician. For you, your body is telling you that there are some songs you'll just have to enjoy listening to rather than play.

    For both of us it's turning a corner. And I think the "solution" could be similar. Find people in similar situations play music for joy.
  3. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Thank you for your long and thoughtful response. I was never a pro, but I was a weekend road warrior for some years, and that experience made clear to me why a lot of touring pros get into the studio at their first opportunity. The road can be a killer. And I totally agree with you about the "joy." Joy I believe is that good thing found at the very bottom of Pandora's box that makes other things bearable.

    Finding musicians at my age and skill level is not too hard; finding ones who still want to play is hard. Finding ones who want to play the kind of music I want to play is even harder, and finding venues who want to book that music is almost impossible. At least where I live. I spend a lot of time with YouTube.

    The oddest thing is that once I turned seventy my tastes in music have dramatically changed, and in crazy ways I never would have imagined. This affects not only artists and genres, but even grade of instruments used. I won't burn up space by going into details. Let's just say that a showroom new Fender would be way too hifalutin' for this music.

    But your post has brought great comfort, and I do want to thank you for it.
  4. smokinjoe


    Jul 1, 2009
    Columbus, OH
    I'll be 59 this month and have been playing since I was 16. I can't play as fast as I used to, either.

    At one time, I eas in a "speed punk" band. I had no trouble keeping up with a lightning fast guitarist. Metallica? Piece of cake. All finger style.

    Now I can do bursts of that but my hands cramp up if I try to do a whole song. My answer is to just play my interpretation, within my abilities. I've found a funk groove fits a lot of fast songs and goes over well.
    DJ Dru, Sorado71, bassfuser and 5 others like this.
  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    This is a tough one, and I think it comes down to whether or not you REALLY want to turn the corner... or whether doing so will make you miserable.

    If you're certain its the former, then acceptance, however you manage to get there, is the key. And I get the sense you know that :) .

    If you are NOT yet ready to make that move, then this is MY experience...

    I'm 61. Still playing as much as ever and have no plans to quit. I did however decide its time to up my game. I just downloaded a whole bunch of YouTube vids and tabs on Teen Town, and I'm going at it. 20 yrs ago I tried, failed and quit - today, I'm determined. Its not my style, its completely out of my wheelhouse, but I'm going one little phrase at a time. I had to start at less than half the BPMs, but I'm astounded (still) at how if you play something 1000X at a do-able speed, you automatically speed up. 10 minutes of repeating something perfectly at a ridiculously slow speed, rest and then the metronome can easily be upped a notch. It works. Almost magically. I'm not suggesting teen town for you, but anything beyond your current skill/speed level will serve the purpose.

    Anyhow - unless time or some serious physical ailment is stopping you, I do believe we can continue to up our game. Depends on how important it is to us. To me its still what I love doing most. If you have other things you enjoy more... then back to the acceptance thing :) . Either way, I wish you the best!
  6. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    I think it's just part of bigger life philosophy, understanding where you are age-wise, and what are positives and negatives.
    I will not play wise guy here much, I am mid forties, so still have some way to go (hopefully), but I came to terms that recreational sport, as I knew it, is over for me. I'm in good shape, but young guys still run circles around me. But that's actually fine. Every gray hair is one life wisdom learned. If you are cool with that, you will be cool with changes you get with age.
    As for that pedaling on the bass, just play 4 instead of 8, and smile wisely like you know something none knows ;)
  7. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    I think I'm where you are: I can do bursts but I cannot sustain through the entire song. I never was in a speed metal or any other type of metal band, and any of those type bands who would want to add a seventy-three year-old me to their line-up ought to immediately submit themselves to a competency hearing.

    I still want to play music so that fire still is in the belly, but I want to play only music that I enjoy, which does not require speed, not even funk level speed. So I suppose my thread is as much philosophical and theoretical as it is pragmatic.
    scott sinner likes this.
  8. Lowendchamp


    Jun 27, 2021
    Shelton WA
    RattleSnack only has a couple years on me and I've been playing over 30 years myself and I agree. We as bass players are the masters of the timing and tempo as far as how listeners marry the drums to the treble. That being said we can re-imagine any song slower and with the right finesse make it groove really hard. That is how I'm dealing with my bouts of carpal tunnel. I do miss my 20s when those problems were for old guys.
  9. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    This might work; this I could do, provided I am allowed to play "in the spirit of" and not required to do note for note.
  10. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    I've been coming to grips for the past few years that I'm not physically able to do it anymore. At least not beyond what I do now. I'm 53. Just a weekend warrior these days, but I once had a full-time gig. I had it at 27. Then life got me. Osteoarthritis ate my spine. Put my fingers to sleep at 47. So I got me some Titanium upgrades. Lost 100 lbs. Fought for normal life a while, and got my groove back. I just can't get up at 4:30 in the morning, work all day, then run all damn night too. Doesn't work for me. I had to learn how to pace things. Prioritize. I can gig, but I know what the limits are. And I'm good with them.

    I had a strange moment right between soundcheck and downbeat last night at a pre-Independence Day party. Me and this cat right here... first stepped on a stage together 30 years ago tomorrow. We both went on the road at the same time too, but with different bands. Here we are, decades later. Still at it.

    Ernie & Greg.jpeg

    I guess as long as I can, I'll keep trying.
  11. smokinjoe


    Jul 1, 2009
    Columbus, OH
    My brother in law (also a bass player) in his 60s, hooked up with a singer/guitarist and played a couple times a month at senior centers, hospitals and coffee shops. Maybe there's someone near you doing a single who would be open to adding bass?
  12. "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened"

    That phrase usually helps me come to grips with changes that come about in life. ("Bittersweet", but it helps).
  13. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Thanks for this. The YouTube vids are an excellent suggestion and that sort of learning is still within my grasp. And I'm not packing it in; I still love music and probably am more frustrated by the lack of (non-country) venues around here than anything else.

    But my tastes over the last three years have just gotten weird. The stuff I learned to play on in the sixties no longer holds any appeal for me, even as an oldies band. I like acoustic Delta blues; plugged in Chicago blues, not so much. I have grown to like urban folk (think Karen Dalton or Dave van Ronk). Merle Travis or Hazel and Alice? For sure. Even jug band; I got my first jug in 1968 and still have it.

    Even my preference in instruments has changed. No more brand new or even mildly played-in instruments. It has to be fifties budget stuff that would fit right in at a barn dance or an NYC basket house. As in Marvel or Danelectro.

    Dan Quayle spoke truth when he said that a mind is a terrible thing to lose.

    Fortunately for me, none of the music I like to play now requires speed, just solid time and tempo and the ability to craft an acceptable part even on a song I've never heard, and I've always been good at these things.
    Miles_ONeal, zubrycky and Joe Nerve like this.
  14. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    For me that's been the story of my life for quite some time. I use turmeric and ibuprofen to reduce inflammation in my hands, and that helps quite a lot. But I have also had to put the kibosh on certain things that I just can't play, or find simpler ways to play them that hit most of the key notes.

    It's very humbling to realize that I'm getting to my expiration date, but I choose my battles. I'm not going to die on the hill of trying to play stuff I can't play, but I can still play a lot of stuff.
  15. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i can relate, @GretschWretch, but i think @Joe Nerve has the ticket for you, regarding your playing (on the personal level), and i really appreciate what @two fingers was saying about playing with others. good stuff! :thumbsup:

    i'm in a similar situation, being older than some rocks. but i'm sure that practicing makes a difference: even more when cracks in our abilities begin to show due to aging. what i've noticed is pretty much the same as what you describe --- not nailing licks, and being tricked by things i could always take for granted heretofore. in order to produce certain results = i have to learn things again :rollno: ...but it's mostly for the physicality of it, i.e., "playing while old" is just different than "playing while young," IME/IMO. some of those old pathways (neural/brain to muscles and back) just get gunked up and my/our fingers don't obey as expected (or the fingers seem to be up to the task, but the brain is 'taking too long'!).

    when i miss the mark too much, i either have to double down on the practice -or- find ways to 'cheat' the process as best i can, or both. these days i'm trying to be effective, and part of that for me is the requirement to lower my expectations a bit, "i'm no spring chicken!" :beaver:

    and this tidbit was given to me by a great musician who, at the time, was also dealing with the effects of aging on his own playing: "i may not be as fast as i used to be, but i'm not as slow as i once was." ;)

    since playing is so important to us = never quit! "full steam ahead" and "proceed with caution" are not mutually exclusive. and at our age = what's to lose? our dignity? :laugh:

    i hate to say this to someone who already knows it to be true, but: it takes practice! :) spend some practice time exercising some of those 'old reliables' (skills) back into shape. it works!

    you're an old bull, you don't need luck --- all you need is a clear path to the bottom of the hill! :D :thumbsup:
    JAFERD, Miles_ONeal, timplog and 12 others like this.
  16. bassinflorida

    bassinflorida turn that dang thing down

    Jan 27, 2014
    Tampa, FL
    Tongue-in-cheek comment here, but is playing bass guitar the "only" thing in your life giving you a problem at your age?
    70 here also.
    timplog, JRA and murphy like this.
  17. Speed was something that has never been my strong point. As someone that’s in my late 50s now and spent a good portion of my middle aged years as a serious competitive runner, I applied some of my running training into my bass playing.
    As a 20 year old I couldn’t play YYZ or teentown but I can now. My biggest issue I face now is I have no desire to stay out past 9 in the evening :)
  18. spatters

    spatters Suspended

    Mar 25, 2002
    1. Skinnies. Go 40-95, or even lighter (you might need a custom set from Stringjoy, like 35-45-60-80)
    2. Most people play way too hard. It's fun, but you don't need to. Put on some skinnies, then practice fretting only as hard as you need to in order to make the notes not buzz. It's much lighter than you think.
    3. Then practice plucking only as hard as you need to in order to make the notes ring out. It's also lighter than you think.
    4. Now you can very likely lower your action dramatically.
    5. Practice this. You'll find that your speed goes way up, as well as your endurance!
    MarkJC8, Mpcorb, Jim Guyett and 18 others like this.
  19. We often simply shift our priorities to other things and let our health, fitness & playing skills “go fallow”. Then we wake up one day feeling like a different person.

    If you’re happy on that path, more power to you.

    If you want to change course, here’s a couple of thoughts I discuss with patients almost daily….

    1. You can’t lose it if you never really had it.
    if you were never fast in your prime, don’t blame it on age. You lose 10-15% of function with aging. )About 1% muscle strength per year if you do nothing). The rest is simply from lack of consistent diligent practise and playing daily.
    It takes longer to regain/ get back into shape each year as we age, but it is doable.
    Once you’ve reached your old level again, it’s just maintenance. Much easier.

    2. It’s about mindset
    - either you’re an athlete and you train daily, or you’re a hobbyist.
    What once came easy now takes a lot more commitment. We need to increase our commitment to stay at the same level.

    3. Why do you do what you do?
    - Playing for fun and do what you love? Great. Enjoy it.
    - Play for passion and to immerse yourself? Do what you love and let that be it’s own reward.
    - Playing as a challenge and to see growth, (albeit slowly at a glacial pace)? Pick your battles, focus on one area, and reap the rewards over time if it really means that much to you.
    Find joy in playing and carefully choose your battles.

    4. How do you respond to challenges?
    Are you a fighter or do you go with the flow?
    If you can find the reserves, why not try it? I helped a 52 yr old patient to achieve a black belt in karate, despite having permanent disability. He still had the fight in him.

    Anyways, just food for thought. All things i find help get people thinking.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2022
    Mpcorb, Jim Guyett, timplog and 13 others like this.
  20. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Answering in the spirit of your request:

    *Subject matter not fit for minors shall be acknowledged but not discussed.
    * Every year I compete in my community's Balderdash, which is a short sprint for men who are losing their hair.
    *Within the last month I had a long visit with my primary care with a long list of concerns, which he said are all normal for aging men:
    hair stops growing
    nails stop growing
    wounds heal more slowly
    I need more sleep and have less energy, especially for sustained tasks (i.e., more naps)
    I don't like lifting heavy weights, such as tube amps or T40s
    when typing posts like this one I continuously land short of the key I am aiming for

    But it's not all bad. Since retiring back in August, my blood glucose and blood pressure readings have plummeted to the point that the numbers are almost too low, and my last A1c was 6.0 after being 7.2 for too long.

    And I have lost thirty pounds, which I attribute to drinking lots of water and having no snack vending machines at home.

    TMI I know and apologize for; I'm just your Magic Eight Ball doing its job.
    Mpcorb, Jim Guyett, 2pods and 14 others like this.

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