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Making Peace with My Mediocrity

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Dr. Cheese, May 27, 2020.

  1. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I have been playing bass longer than many who post here have been alive. For years, I was mainly self taught, and was mostly a bedroom bassist. I have played in bands, and I have gigged a little. Mostly, I have played with choirs since the 1990’s. About five years ago, I started taking lessons, and I have really been consistent for the last three years. I can see the improvement, but it has become obvious to me that I have some ingrained habits that are very hard to stop at sixty. To be blunt, I do not think I will ever come close to what I might have been if I had started serious study at least thirty years ago. Ideally, I should have stuck to string bass in college. That would have given me a very strong foundation. I do not plan to quit lessons or serious practice. I just know that it is more for personal enrichment at this point in life.:)
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    Song Surgeon slow downer.
    Hey Doc,

    As long as you're enjoying the ride and the scenery makes you happy, nothing to regret or worry about.:thumbsup:

    I'm older than you so I know something about something, just can't remember what it is exactly. :roflmao:
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
  3. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
  4. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    barrenelly, bassicg, MCF and 16 others like this.
  5. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    For me, it is sad that to realize that as much as I love the bass, I will never be as good at it as I would like to be. I still love it after realizing my limitations, but it is still bittersweet.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    you're in great company, dr. cheese. "i'm as good as it gets" is rarified --- in history, or the highest order hubris! but, "i'm the best that i can be at this moment" is available to everyone...and worthy of respect.

    i'm so old that slowing down the loss of facility/ability is a form of progress...i'll take it! :laugh:
  7. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    The thing that really made me realize my limitations was playing Jaco’s River People, and realizing that my tendency to not truly alternate my fingers, but to play two notes with one finger then two notes with other meant that I could get to 75% of Jaco’s tempo, but I fell apart beyond that. My teacher said he knew no one who loves bass more than me, but I have never gotten where I want to be. I do not really have the time to just remake myself the way a young player could because I have a family and career. I think I could get up to two hours a day, but who knows?
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
    emoterply, MCF, MAXSPINRUN and 8 others like this.
  8. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    Song Surgeon slow downer.
    Doc, you wanna know about limitations? My wife is a human jukebox...melody and lyrics. And, she can learn and remember, pretty much forever, at will, a song after 3 or 4 listens.

    Little ol' me, no matter if I had practiced 1 million hours, would be able to that. She's just born with it.

    So I just do what I can do and have fun. It is what it is.

    Oh, and she has perfect relative pitch.:cautious:
  9. Easy, Doc, don't be so hard on yourself. There are plenty of us who wish we started sooner, worked harder, picked better gigs... The list is endless. That's one of life's lessons: you are who you are and have the ability to understand your shortcomings as well as your strengths. There are some people who are in the right place at the right time and become stars. Others are busy feeding their families and putting a roof over their heads. The overwhelming odds are that most fall into the latter category. How well you play the bass is a good indicator of your dedication and practice. Some have to work harder at it than others, but we all do the best we can. The good thing is that music is an art and not a pass/fail type of exercise. You can be more creative and expressive than others without necessarily having pro chops. (< It helps if you do, though.) Music can be enjoyed on many different levels. I hope this makes you feel better. Now quit wastin' time whining and practice your scales! :laugh:
  10. FantasticFour


    Dec 14, 2013
    You can decide that you have other priorities in life and that's alright.
    You can also decide that you have priorities in music and that's alright too. So many people enjoy playing a few songs to the best of their abilities, learn a couple more every now and then and that's it. Can't see the wrong in that either.
    But if you want to be good, don't be that person that keeps saying "I wish I had".
    Bad habits have roots. Dig and eradicate them. Not as sexy as playing songs, I know. Makes you feel like a beginner, I know. But it's nothing : a little ego crumpling and a couple of months, is all.
    As long as your body agrees to playing the bass, time is plenty.
  11. Lagado

    Lagado Suspended

    Jan 6, 2020
    Stop the madness
    I do what I can. I don't try to be those guys, because I'm not those guys.

    Take Paganini for instance, or Debussy...

    "That all men are equal is a proposition which at ordinary times no sane individual has ever given his assent."

    Aldous Huxley - Proper Studies.
    ooglybong, Penphoe, DJ Bebop and 9 others like this.
  12. howardf


    Jan 28, 2020
    I hope I can reach your level of mediocrity someday.
  13. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Hi Doc :)

    I never played for any other reason! :D

    And where would that be? And what would you do when you get there? Stop playing? :D

    For me playing bass is like rock climbing. Of course you want to reach that mountain's top

    and it is nice to be there, but the fun part is climbing! :)


  14. CGremlin

    CGremlin Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2014
    Palm Bay, FL
    This quote sums me up perfectly. I feel that I'm still pretty good, but like you, I missed out on a lot of untapped potential over the years, whether it was not taking lessons when I should, or poor practice habits, or whatever else I didn't do. I'm only 52, but I'm already developing arthritis in the fingers of my left (fretting) hand and the thumb of my right hand, and what used to be cake for me 20 years ago can sometimes be a bit of a struggle now. There are occasionally periods of weeks where my hands are uncooperative and I just can't play at all. It's kind of sobering to realize that my best bass years are almost certainly behind me now, but I can still find a degree of fulfillment composing at home on keyboards, which aren't nearly as hard on my hands.

    Next up on the track list: "Losing It" by Rush...
    DJ Bebop, 2playbass, Stumbo and 3 others like this.
  15. dloase


    Jun 20, 2016
    Interesting. I'm almost your age and have been playing music on one instrument or another since I was about 7-8. Started piano and played that until I discovered girls and the fact that they liked guitar players better than piano players. Started playing guitar and bass. In middle and high school added trombone and flute. While in CG add valve brass. Later in life added mandolin, banjo and dobro. Maybe if I had stuck with one I could have mastered it, but play for enjoyment not $$. Being able to dabble in any of the above (except trombone now - my ear is shot) allows me to fit in with most groups that allow me to play with them.
    Don't fret about the "what if's" in the past, just enjoy where you are now.
  16. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    I, too, understand.
    I'm in an industry that is in painful death throes and I think how much more I could have earned toward retirement if I had exploited my love of languages instead of my love of writing.

    I've played bass since I was 14. I'm finally good enough that Guitar players will give me the bass and go back to 6 strings. But I'm not versed in deep music theory or possess the skill to play in an orchestra or pit orchestra or.....

    I love playing. It's who I am, not how I make my living.

    ...and I've heard you play on this forum. You're pretty good, bro.
  17. Tom Kinter

    Tom Kinter Supporting Member

    I empathize, Doctor. I'm 70, been playing 55 years. I have those same revisionist thoughts about how I would love to redo those years in my 20s. Especially in college (Philosohy major - sheeesh!). Nevertheless, it's a really powerful dynamic to be 60 (or 70) and still be improving, working the brain and the fingers. Especially the brain. Nothing is better for the aging brain than working at music. I remember reading about Artie Shaw describing why he retired - he felt he had reached his peak and was beginning a slight decline. I'd rather be in the head I'm in now & enjoy playing the music. There's a lot to be said for personal enrichment.
  18. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Doc, as my late mother used to frequently and wisely say (cue Brooklyn accent), "Honey, that should only be your biggest problem". I started playing 17 years ago at 40. At the time I was working 65 hour weeks, including nights and weekends. I committed to 30 minutes per day, 6 days per week, and promised myself my only goal was to suck a little less each month. Over time that credo morphed into always enjoying my play time and not worrying so much about "progress". Initially, when I'd hear a great, talented bassist play, I was motivated but intimidated. Now I just enjoy the ride. I know that if I had spent as much time and effort from as young an age on the bass as I did on my career, I'd be a lot better, but I'm not so sure I'd enjoy it as much as I do now, and I wouldn't want to have swapped my career for music. When I started playing, I had zero expectations.....never expected to play in a band in front of people, let alone get paid for it......when my 1st teacher (I lasted 6 months before going it on my own) urged me to practice standing for "when I'll play out", I laughed and explained that I never expected to play outside of my living room. 3 years later I was playin' out about a bit and lovin' it. Life is what happens while we're making other plans. I saw an interview with Les Paul when he was in his 90s......he said that when he was young, the challenge was to see how many notes he could play.....and that at his advanced age, the challenge was to decide which notes mean the most......I say the challenge is to find what gives you the most joy from the music, regardless of the situation. Be well and regards from Montreal :)
  19. neurotictim

    neurotictim Gold Supporting Member

    You're always welcome in the Mediocre Bassists Club! You can be #1109.

    On a real note, I feel ya. Different reasons, but I know I'll never be able to take a quick trip through Donna Lee or Classical Thump, and I'm actually pretty okay with it. The only time I really mind being mediocre is after watching YouTube videos of tweenagers playing circles around me, lol. Otherwise I'm pretty happy plunking away.
  20. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    NOBODY that strives for excellence is ever as good as they would like to be. I play mostly guitar now, and I started taking lessons a couple of years ago and I practice 3-4 hours a day. That's real practice, not noodling or sitting on the couch watching TV. Whenever I think I'm getting pretty good I put on some Johnny Hiland, Joe Satriani, Brian Setzer, Danny Gatton etc., etc., etc. and get back to practicing.

    I've done some research on this quote and it's clear that he actually did say something like this:

    The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90. "Because I think I'm making progress," he replied.

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