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Midlife Newbies?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by IotaNet, Dec 11, 2004.

  1. To the Group -

    This is not my first post so I didn't put in the "introductions" thread. Last week, I posted an introduction of sorts in the "Is there a natural playing gap" thread. All that being said ...

    I am 43 years old and have never played bass in my life. I did play trombone in High School/College (Think "Drumline") and had a ball at it. I put down my 'bone 20 years ago (and entered Corporate America) and only picked it up again last year.

    The bone is cool but I "hear" all kinds of musical ideas in my head that it won't let me express. Also (like many horn players), I have always had "rhythm section envy" and have always lusted to play bass.

    Well ... after thinking about it, ruminating on it, mulling it over, I decided to take the plunge today and here is the result:


    Fender JBass (MIM) :hyper:

    I brought it (and the practice amp/method books/gig bag, etc.) home this afternoon and thought I'd share with you guys. I got a pretty good deal too -- $400 for the whole kit. It was "slightly used" by a high-school kid who played it for about 6 months and never touched it again. I got all of the original packaging AND the sales reciept! ;)

    I have been lurking for quite a while and wanted to thank all of you for your wise advice and commentary. I have learned a great deal just by searching the various posts and reading what you guys (and gals!) have to say.

    I do however have one question that I'd love some feedback on. Are there any other "Midlife Newbies" on the forum? By that, I mean people who started playing in their 30's/40's?

    I would be very interersted in hearing your thoughts on how to best learn the instrument while balancing a busy career and family obligations. I'd also be interested in method books and other learning materials that you found useful.

    Wish me luck and give me your thoughts! :bassist:

    - IotaNet

    P.S. A few years ago, I started a website design business and did some pretty nice sites. My most "famous" client is Saxophonist Gerald Albright (a pretty darned good bassist in his own right!) I talked to him today and he has already chimed in with his moral support!

    To see his site and some others I've developed, Click this link
  2. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I was just a few months shy of forty-nine years old when I bought my first bass and started lessons. (I am sixty-one now.) Unlike you, I had no previous music experience. Your trombone experience, even though it was many years ago, gives you a huge advantage over what I had.

    I think it is really great that you have a dream and are taking positive steps to fulfill it, rather than sitting back and saying, "Oh, I'm too old." In fact, I don't let being sixty-one keep me from trying new things. These days sixty-one is actually quite young, relatively speaking.

    I do think that starting music as a rank beginner at nearly fifty had its drawbacks. I think it took me longer to learn than it took younger students at the music school I attended. I also think it was harder to build up speed and endurance on the bass. My finger joints would ache and my right thumb joint especially.

    But, on the other hand, I had a definite purpose and some of the kids dropped out fairly quickly. Very few seemed to have the burning desire to stick it out through thick and thin...not all, mind you. I really envied the young ones who had their act together, knew what they wanted and had such a precious early start to build their skills and develop their talent.

    But one distinct advantage you have by starting older is that you have a definite vision of what you want to achieve and you are mature enough to know you can't take shortcuts, that some days will be hard and some easier and that you have the power to make your musical ambitions happen.

    You also have the maturity to realize your dreams may not happen EXACTLY as you hoped, but that each adventure with your music is a gift, even failures and mistakes. Younger folks might get discouraged, but you have the maturity to see the value in setbacks and failures as well as great successes.

    I wish you luck and hope your bass playing will bring you as much happiness as it has brought me.
  3. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    I picked up a bass for the first time in my life a little over 2 years ago, at 45. I played classical violin for about 10 years back in the dark ages and had been a self taught guitarist for many years after that. Nothing serious, just strumming chords and squeaking out some vocals around the campfire sort of thing. The last two years of playing bass have been the most fun I've had musically in my life. I am in one full time and two part time bands. I recommend some lessons to get you in the right direction and to get the basics down like hand position etc... I took enough to get that much figured out (About 6 months) As for books, I find the ones that have CD's that you can play along with to be the most fun. It all depends on how serious you want to be. It can range from full blown learning of modes, circle of 5ths, major, minor and other scales, reading notation, creating walking jazz lines , ear training yadda yadda to just banging out some root/fifths on some popular I IV V songs for the sheer fun of it.

    Early on, I had a lot of fun and got a lot out of the Hal Leonard Series for Bass , but I'm sure others will pipe in with their own recommendations. I've found the best part of being an old geezer is that I can simply focus on what I want to play and work on that rather than trying to master a pop/slap riff just to impress people at Guitar Center. :D

    Welcome to the fold and keep thumpin!
  4. Kelly Coyle

    Kelly Coyle

    Nov 16, 2004
    Mankato, MN
    Does this count? I was a promising young bass player at 18, but basically quit playing when I went to college. I kept my guitar up in a kind of rudimentary way for years, and got serious about that (mostly acoustic fingerpicking) again five or six years ago (I'm 44). Just last month, a friend and I had the notion of playing as a trio and I got a bass and all the stuff and am getting back into being a bass player, which apparently I missed. I guess I have advantages over some of you in that I'm pretty used to strings and frets (and can read, and know enough theory), and used to play bass pretty well a long time ago. But I feel like a total noob.
  5. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Hi IotaNet - I've been playing electric bass since I was about twenty, but have recently started getting into the upright in a big way. My take is, it's a pretty different instrument. So, I suppose you could say I'm a "newb" in that domain. :)

    Gerald is one of my favorite sax players of all time. I've seen him live several times, and he's always left me with a smile on my face. Very tasteful player. I'd love to jam with him sometime. :D
  6. Dennis Kong

    Dennis Kong Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2004
    San Mateo CA
    I started on upright 3 years ago at 47 and still working on it,
    and now play in 2 different jazz groups now.
    Started on electric and played in many different bands in the last 12 years but never could quite make the change to the DB until now.
    It's something I 've wanted to do: but I stopped & started over the years and finally being middle aged, made the decision to stick to it. It's still a new learning experience for me even tho' I do play now. The DB is a different animal!

    I wish would of stuck to it when I was 18, but being young &
    foolish: wanting to sound like Jaco :I didn't. And I had a good DB teacher who was in his 40's at that time who encouraged me too. But I didn't stick to it and gave up. Years later I lent Jaco my equip & tried his bass and discovered" I could emulate his style but it didn't feel right, and I should develop my own style of playing." :meh:

    Agree with the Bop-man. Middle age has advantages & disadvantages. Being older & somewhat more focused ? ?? :rolleyes:
    you can slowly move ahead of the younger players.
    I 've slowly progressed from non-functional DB player to a somewhat functional one now. Where as some of my DB instructor's students (1/2 my age) have quit or still haven't progressed very far- even tho' they were more advanced than me at the start.

    Suggest getting a good teacher if you haven't done it yet. Someone in their 40's or so; The person has better understanding of your situation-Maybe even Gerald's bassist!
  7. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    I played violin briefly in third grade, and a few years later became a self taught drummer. At 28 I switched to Bass (friends band needed a Bass player), and 10 years later here I am.
  8. zillo


    Jun 5, 2003
    Hi: I started from scratch two years ago at 44. I always loved listening to music, going to shows, and all that, but had it in the back of my mind that playing music was witchcraft or magic or something. Certainly not something I could aspire to.

    Then my kids started taking music lessons in school. I watched them, no magical powers at all, and they seem to do OK. I thought what the heck.

    Well, I still don't have any talent, but a couple of years and a lot of practice time later I can hang with friends and play some blues and rock and reggae, and it's more fun than I ever thought it would be.

    Good luck!
  9. zillo


    Jun 5, 2003
    Whoops...didn't answer your question:

    Here is my experience...

    First: Practice first thing in the morning or after 9 at night at night. Otherwise family things break up the practice. Foe me an hour before work and and hor before bed is good

    I take lessons now, but didn't for about the first year and a half. I think that was good for me. As someone else said above, it seemed to take me a while to develop finger dexterity and strength, and generally to learn anything. It also took a while for my ears to get oriented. I don't know how to explain that, but it seems like after a while I could hear the bass more accurately. It was good to work through that on my own, I think.

    Play scales and arpeggios, learn the neck, always use a metronome, pay close attention to the time counting exercises. Get a good style book that reflects your musical interests...I like the Mike Hiland Mel Bay books.

    I worked on those rudiments and then lucked onto a good teacher. That has been a big help in starting to pull all the elements together. Mty teacher seems to tailor the lessons and assignments to my multitude of weak areas, and that forces me to work on stuff I do poorly rather than play what I know over and over
  10. To the Group -

    After about 48 hours with my bass, I have to say one thing:

    "I should have done this a long time ago!"

    Please recognize that I know this will not be easy and I realize that I'll probably get so frustrated that I'll (temporarily) want to throw this thing away at some point but I have to say that Bass is a (for lack of a better phrase) "weird" instrument.

    I played Trombone for years and it took forever to even make a decent sound come out of the horn. Yesterday, I just sat with my bass and played scales for about 30 minutes and then treated myself to about 30 minutes of trying to learn "Boogie, Oogie, Oogie." It was "weird" to be able to play something that actually resembled music after having the instrument for such a short time.

    I'm SURE that I probably sounded like crap and I KNOW that B.O.O. is not "Donna Lee" ... that said, by the time I put away my axe (I LIKE saying that!) for the night, I was smiling -- and for now, that's what it's all about.

    Just had to share that. ;)

    - IotaNet
  11. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Greetings IotaNet!

    Like many here, I started playing bass later in life. I'm also in my 40s' and I too had many of the same questions, concerns, etc. I'm married and have three teenage boys so I immediately knew what a time-management problem could arise from pursuing my passion. As I read the other responses to this thread, I have to say that collectively they pretty much sum up my feelings as well.

    As for me, I had a brief introduction to acoustic guitar when I was in my late teens, but only because my sister played guitar in church. Beyond that, I really had no "formal" musical influence that I realized at my young age.

    I later realized though, that what I really appreciated about music was the underlying component that always got people "moving to the groove". I really didn't know what that was at the time, but for whatever reason, I knew that I could
    definately contribute to whatever it was that provided that feeling.

    Shortly thereafter, I realized that it was all in the rythym section and I soon knew that that was the place for me. I started paying a lot of attention to drummers and
    bassists and eventually decided to have a shot at playing electric bass.

    When I started, I was somewhat already poised for success as my kids were already musically talented so we could get together and jam at will. My oldest son is a guitarist, my middle son plays piano and keys, and my youngest plays sax and is now beginning bass. I have to admit that that's definately a plus.

    I also took lessons from a very talanted local Jazz musician who taught me how to read standard notation and how to develop and refine playing techniques.

    All of this, coupled with a never-ending burning desire to learn and excell, has driven me to accomplish what four years ago I'd somewhat consider a pipe-dream.

    I'm here to tell you that you're NOT too old to learn and become proficient on bass. No... it's not an *easy* instrument, and I'll agree with you that it seems "weird". But,
    believe me, you CAN do it. In my opinion, a lot of it has to do with realistic expectations.

    For instance, if you know that your current lifestyle will make it difficult to practice regularily, yet your desire remains, then you need to adjust your growth expectations accordingly.
    Fortunately, at your age, you've likely already attained the maturity to know this. i.e., a teens six-month plan might very well be your (and mine!) "five-year plan"

    Keep in mind though, that that's ok!

    I've actually got a lot more to add, but, *my* lifestyle prevents it at the moment. Take care and best of luck to you!