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How long did it take you?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by SmokinJoe992, Oct 17, 2019.


  1. I have always been curious about this. You will rather frequently see a thread from someone just beginning to play an instrument in which they ask the question "How long does it take to get good". The post is often met with multiple replies that all basically boil down to some version of "it depends". We all know that "it depends" is the correct answer, but I am not sure it is usually very helpful. With all that being said I would like to ask the question in a different way. How long did it take you to get good? How long was it from when you first started playing an instrument until you were regularly playing with others? How long until you joined your first band or music group? How long until you played your first gig? How long until you felt like you were competent or at least felt comfortable referring to yourself as a bass player or (insert instrument) player, or musician?
    To get things started I have been playing bass for a little over 3 years. I joined my first band about 4 months after I started playing. It was a rock originals/cover band that was apparently very desperate for a bass player. Three bands later I played my first real gig one year and three months after I started playing. After two years I began to feel comfortable referring to myself as a bass player and musician. I still do not feel like I am very good, but I get better every day.
     
    TolerancEJ, Pendulous, Rezdog and 2 others like this.
  2. grinx

    grinx

    Mar 24, 2003
    Raleighwood, NC
    Started playing with others the day after I bought a pawnshop bass. Had a friend in HS (his dad owned the pawnshop I bought the bass from) who played drums with a friend from another school.
    Buy a bass (they said) I did
    We'll teach you to play (they said) They did

    That was 35 years ago. Still have a cassette recording of 4 hours of playing my first night. Got bloody fingers from 13hrs of trying to learn a 12-bar blues and started smoking that night. Still smoke. No bloody fingers.

    Still playing, still not good but NO ONE plays my lines as good as I do

    Every few months I notice improvement, which isn't hard, because I rarely practice.
    We've only played out 2x this year, practiced 3x.
    Been working on our 3rd album that is guaranteed to sell at least 21 copies.

    Been writin' chart-toppin' hits lately like there's no tomorrow.

    Hang in there. You may forget how much time you put in to it but your fretboard never does.
     
  3. mrcbass

    mrcbass

    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I'll let you know how long it took me to get good when I get there...

    To answer your specific questions, my timeline:
    Started playing with others in a band: 2 weeks* (and I was pulling my weight, not just tossing out root-fifths)
    Auditioned for second band: 3 months
    Feeling somewhat confident that I was generally passable: about a year and a half
    First gig: 3 years (Just took that long to find a band that could book gigs. 4+ years in, I'm now in my 6th band that was good enough to have gigged if things hadn't imploded or we had contacts to book.)
    First audition for a band that is a couple steps above a bar band: coming up

    *I'd been playing music off and on for about 35 years (horns and theory in H.S and college, guitar after college) prior to picking up the bass. My learning curve was limited to just getting some basic technique figured out and learning my lines.

    I still have lots to work on, but I know my limitations and tailor my lines to my skills. My biggest challenge right now is singing and playing at the same time. I don't have a good natural voice so this is more than just working on timing. (It's probably the thing that's going to keep me from nailing the upcoming audition and it's breaking my heart.) :crying:
     
  4. garp

    garp

    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    It took me only about a year of owning an electric bass before I started playing with others. But I'd say it took me about ten years before I felt like I was truly competent on it.

    There is constant debate around the legitimacy of the so-called "10,000-Hour Rule" when it comes to mastering any skill. Google it if you are at all intrigued by the concept. For me, it might not have involved precisely 1,000 hours a year of practice & performance over a decade to develop proficiency. But it did take many years of playing along to FM radio, vinyl, cassettes and CDs (sometimes at night in the dark so I couldn't cheat by looking at the fretboard!) before I had real confidence in myself.
    Ultimately, this is all that really matters. When you stop learning, you stop growing. A good friend of mine is an accomplished jazz sax player who has multiple recording, arranging and touring credits to his name. He still practices almost every day – regardless of whether or not he "needs to." I've adopted that philosophy, and as a result, I too feel as though I get just a little better every day.
     
    timplog, Rezdog, Nashrakh and 2 others like this.
  5. When I first started playing I thought singing and playing at the same time was impossible and that only genetic freaks with some natural god given ability could do it. 3 years later I am the primary vocalist in my current band and have about 40-50 songs I sing and play bass at gigs on a regular basis. Just like my playing it improves every day. Good Luck with that audition.
     
    Bruiser Stone and mikewalker like this.
  6. mrcbass

    mrcbass

    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Thanks.
    So far I've been lucky enough to have my backing vox be icing: "cool if you can, but make sure your bass lines are there", so backing vox has always come along as I could bring them. Yes I have simplified a few lines to sing, but I keep the groove. I'm getting better and better (with what I have), but this audition may be more of a "backup singer that can play bass" kind of situation. This would be a huge step up in class for me and I'm probably out of my league, but want to push myself to take a shot.
     
  7. There is constant debate around the legitimacy of the so-called "10,000-Hour Rule" when it comes to mastering any skill. Google it if you are at all intrigued by the concept. For me, it might not have involved precisely 1,000 hours a year of practice & performance over a decade to develop proficiency. But it did take many years of playing along to FM radio, vinyl, cassettes and CDs (sometimes at night in the dark so I couldn't cheat by looking at the fretboard!) before I had real confidence in myself.
    Ultimately, this is all that really matters. When you stop learning, you stop growing. A good friend of mine is an accomplished jazz sax player who has multiple recording, arranging and touring credits to his name. He still practices almost every day – regardless of whether or not he "needs to." I've adopted that philosophy, and as a result, I too feel as though I get just a little better every day.[/QUOTE]

    I have always felt like telling a beginner that it is going to take you 10,000 hours to get good at your instrument is not very helpful. Most people that pick up an instrument are not trying to become Jaco Pastorius or Pino Palladino. Most people would be cool with being Adam Clayton or Michael Anthony. I agree that if you ever wanted to absolutely master every nuance of bass playing 10,000 hours may have some merit. However, if you just want to play some rock n roll, country or blues I am pretty sure most people could get there well before 10,000 hours.
     
    Blueinred likes this.
  8. IMO the ability to provide competent backing vocals while playing an instrument dramatically increases your value to any band playing just about any kind of music. Acquiring this skill is definitely worthy of your time and effort.
     
    Groove Doctor, huwnyc and basslifter like this.
  9. mrcbass

    mrcbass

    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Absolutely. It's the only reason I even try it and I have landed a couple of other positions because of what little I can do.
     
    huwnyc and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  10. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Germany
    1. I'll tell you when I'm there
    2. Day 1.
    3. Day 1.
    4. About 3 months.
    5. I'm still on the fence about this. I regularly played gigs in the past where I did not really know what'll happen on stage until maybe an hour before the gig. I was never comfortable with those, even though It happened quite often with a select circle of musicians I knew well, so a rough outline was already chalked as soon as I knew who would participate. Still, a gig with no setlist and no rehearsals is hard on me, I will be nervous from the time I get out of bed until the first set is over. But I guess to get from the point I bought a bass to the point where the answer to the question 'Can you play the bass' became a simple 'Yes' took me about four or five years. It did not help that I played exclusively in originals bands and exclusively in the genres punk, hardcore and metal for the first decade.


    I bought my first instrument with the sole purpose of joining a band. We were friends, there was no bassplayer alternative and the spot was mine. So I got a bass and went to the first rehearsal knowing which side is up and not much else. I bled on the carpet because I did not realize my technique with a pick was slowly grinding away my index finger and I was immersed too far to feel bodily sensations. We were a bunch of kids playing punk. I was the least talented and the rest had a serious head start, so I needed to practice. A lot. Punk became a blend of hardcore and doom and our songs became more complex. We grew fast and reached a level where we were welcome playing with the bigger bands in our area when we still needed people to drive us.
    I was fast, I could play complex riffs over complex time signatures but I knew nothing about theory, was very bad at improvising and could not play anything outside my niche. It took a rock cover band experience plus about a year in a funk band to get from being fast to being able to come up with a bass line on the fly.
     
  11. garp

    garp

    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    I'd agree with that, and I certainly wouldn't advocate it as a teaching philosophy – I'm merely relating my own experience as a self-taught player. I also frequently tell younger players that I probably would've evolved faster as a bass player had I took some proper lessons early on – something that even Adam Clayton did at one point.
     
    StyleOverShow and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  12. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa

    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    The facts: started bass when I was fifteen. Started playing bass with others when I was fifteen. Joined my first band at fifteen. Played my first gig at fifteen. Competent and comfortable to refer to myself as a musician - about age 10. Bass was not my first instrument. First paying gig: 17. First steady (five nights a week, every week) gig: 21st birthday.

    Good? As in really good, knew my theory, knew improvisation, knew multiple bodies of work and styles and no longer had to think about the details? And most importantly, had my own, identifiable style? End of college - 24 years old.

    My guitarist brother hit everyone of those deadlines save for the "knew multiple bodies of work and styles and no longer had to think about the details" after six weeks of playing. And guitar was his first instrument! Freakin' overachiever. Sure wish he'd get back into playing.
     
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  13. One of the reasons I started this thread was to encourage beginners to put themselves out there. We have already had a couple of stories of guys playing in a band from day one. I was in a band after 4 months. I feel like I have much to learn, but I have progressed pretty quickly. I mainly attribute that to playing with others early, and not waiting until I was Geddy Lee to do it.
     
    Blueinred likes this.
  14. John Bess

    John Bess

    Sep 2, 2019
    Started taking lessons at 15. Though I had a good grasp of theory, I couldn't hold a groove. Went to MI at 19. MI forced me to play with people, which led to my first gig, my first band at 20. After four years I felt like a real musician, but that included music school and practicing four to five hours a day for two years.
     
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  15. I would imagine that you were a lot better than most of us when you played your first gig.
     
    danesdad likes this.
  16. This is digging deep... I started playing around 1984, spent a minimum of 1 hour with my bass every day.

    Jam sessions, hi school jazz band, cover band, etc. all within the first year as I recall... could be off by a few months. Never kept a captain's log. But - loved every note
     
    Kipp Harrington and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  17. Joedog

    Joedog

    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    Had my 1st paying gig at 15. now at 66, I'm still working on it. "GOOD" is so relative a term. I'm better than I ever imagined as a kid, and not nearly as good as I would love to be. I'll never be THAT good....LOL
     
  18. Having played several instruments in the past including bass, it usually takes about two years to get proficient. Meaning, you have a list of songs that you can play well without making a lot of errors. By this time you should be able to comfortably play in a band or group setting in front of an audience. Your fingers should be dexterous enough to play a 4 hour gig without pain or discomfort. You will have a nice set of calluses on the fingers of both hands and will have found a comfortable playing position. Essentially, you will get out of it what you put into it. :thumbsup:
     
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  19. John Bess

    John Bess

    Sep 2, 2019
    Dude, I wish. My first gig was a blues jam in South Central LA. The keyboard player kept yelling at me, "you're messing with my left hand!" Not so good. I lasted one tune.
     
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  20. I agree with you about the lessons. Especially, early on. You can get tons of information from YouTube videos, but you don't get feedback. Having someone watching you and letting you know if you are doing it right or wrong can save you a lot of trouble and wasted time down the road.
     
    huwnyc and lfmn16 like this.

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