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Musings of an average bassist

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by dwm74, Dec 22, 2017.


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  1. dwm74

    dwm74

    Nov 8, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    Today, while driving into work, I had somewhat of an epiphany. Don't know what made me think of it, but it hit me...there are a gazillion bass players better than I am. And that depressed me.

    Sure, I can keep up with almost all of the other musicians I've played with over the years, and my timing is fine, I know the fretboard well and have just enough knowledge of theory to do my task of holding down the low end.

    But I'm not a virtuoso by any stretch, don't have the 'it' factor that makes me anything special as a musician. Competent at best, but nothing more. Every time I hear someone at GC noodling around I'm thinking they're a better player than I am. This isn't a self-confidence issue, just kind of a reality slap.

    On one hand, this is just a hobby, not my profession. But it just dawned on me that no matter how much I practice, I'm never going to be one of the 'best'. Or even close.

    Thanks for reading...I just needed to vent a little...:meh:
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2017
  2. Spidey2112

    Spidey2112

    Aug 3, 2016
    Play within yourself, and stop the comparisons... if it will cheer you up, there's probably several million people who can't chew bubble gum and simultaneously pole vault...

    ... tell me you can do that.
     
  3. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    I'm with ya. You said it good for me too. It is a hobby and not my job.

    My bass playing is pretty basic and there's no use of me even trying to do a solo. I can't slap at all and don't really care to. For me, bass is about clean playing and not hearing the strings tap or buzz around on the frets.

    Also, playing the bass is not about "licks and tricks", it is about timing, connecting the dots to chord changes, support-bottom-foundation.

    What matters the most to me with playing the bass is..........songs. How many songs do I know? How many songs can I play. Nothing to brag about but I know about 3 hours worth of songs and if I take into account music with the 1-4-5 chord pattern, I can play bass for about a week.

    This is what matters to me.

    My favorite bassists are people who keep it simple and intelligent. Duck Dunn, James Jamerson are among those at the top of my list.

    I don't care for "Eddie Van Halen" type of bassists! (You know who they are.)

    attachment.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2017
  4. FirewalZ

    FirewalZ

    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    Dissociating your sense of self worth from your playing....often results in you being able to play better:
    A quote from Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner
    "The sad fact is that many musicians judge their value as a person by their level of playing....therein lies an unhealthy linkage between musical proficiency and sell worth. It raises the stakes for what it means to play badly or well....when the pressure is on to sound good, we play bad."
     
  5. dwm74

    dwm74

    Nov 8, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    Like when recording? :D
     
    Conkal likes this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i find the hobby vs job 'argument' to be irrelevant: it not only doesn't matter (re: the pursuit of skills/chops), but it sets up a 'false equivalency' rationalization.

    we all have the skills we have (at any given point in time) and we all pursue the joy of music-making in our individual way. we have to 'own' our playing levels and be able to assess what is good for us to be able to improve and/or to continue our journey.

    if you want to be the greatest player in the world: good luck!

    if you want to just have some fun with other musicians: good luck!

    if you just want to make a little extra pocket change: good luck!

    if you want to get rich by playing music: good luck!

    if you want to just get a little better by this time next year: good luck!

    if you only want to get the attention of a chick/hunk for the weekend: good luck!

    if you................


    good luck! :thumbsup:


    edit: attempt to clarify communication in english
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2017
  7. Oddly

    Oddly Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    True, there are many many players better than you, and certainly than me...
    However there are also an awful lot more people out there who can't even play a note.
    So we've got that going for us.

    That's my thinking anyway.
     
  8. Funky Ghost

    Funky Ghost Translucently Groovy

    I came to peace with the fact that I am exactly as good as I chose to be. I take joy in my playing. If I was younger, more motivate, more disciplined ( add a bajillion other reasons here ) I would be a different player. I am, however, totally fine with me and my current ability.
     
    wmmj, mikewalker, Pocket4 and 10 others like this.
  9. LeftyD

    LeftyD

    Feb 22, 2017
    Las Vegas
    Yes, there are people like me.
    Never going to do what you have already done.
    Happy being in my room.
    All you people that play or have played in bands.
    Have it all over us that didn't.:thumbsup:
     
    PJMustangFreak and Stumbo like this.
  10. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    first off, there aren't a gazillion bass players out there. when i put my first ad out for bassist available, i heard from 82 people.

    you say you can keep up with almost all the other musicians you've played with for years, you know the fretboard and have good timing. i know plenty of guitar players and bass players i couldn't say that about. your skills are the perfect combination for almost any band out there. most bands would consider it the "it" factor because let's face it - how many times when playing a ballad, almost any cover, classic rock, new wave or punk does a band need or even want the bass player to whip up a flashy showpiece solo, taking away completely from the song? almost never.

    being able to wow them in guitar center with a slap intimidation riff doesn't make a player very useful for roots rock, blues, standards or almost any kind of music you can play with a band. and some of those flashy players have trouble keeping time with music when they're not soloing.

    what "the best" is varies from type of music to type of music and from band to band. i've listened to and played a lot of music where a 16th note run or complex slap session would be out of place at any time.

    it sounds like you are the bass player most bands are looking for, and as you keep playing, you'll keep improving - even if you fail to notice that.
     
  11. dwm74

    dwm74

    Nov 8, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    Great post, pcake. You basically took my glass half-empty post and turned it around to a glass half-full perspective. Thanks! :hyper:
     
  12. Richland123

    Richland123

    Apr 17, 2009
    Since I have always had other things going on in my life such as work, family, and activities, I have never had the time to devote to practicing as much as I would like to get to a virtuoso level. However, on the positive side, I have been playing in successful regional bands for 48 years doing a variety of styles with some of the area's top musicians. I have always continued to learn and strive to be a better player along the way. One philosophy I adhere to is that while I will never be "the best" and I admire players who are more skilled than I am, I feel I am one of the best at what I am able to do to the best of my abilities.

    So, don't beat yourself up; just keep playing.
     
  13. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    California
    Seriously, there are only ever going to be a handful of people who are able to reach the top of any profession or skill. Why do we assume that if we don't make it to the top our efforts are pointless? It's like we set ourselves up for deliberate disappointment with this kind of thinking. I don't get it.

    Just play your bass and enjoy the time you get to spend making music. Life is WAY too short to waste it comparing ourselves to everyone else. Do the thing you love and stop worrying about it.
     
    Nashrakh, PsyDocHill, JRA and 2 others like this.
  14. bwildt

    bwildt

    Mar 21, 2017
    Wichita, Kansas
    I came to peace with myself and my technical ability many years ago, realizing I would never be a wow-everybody hotshot. Really, I don't have the dexterity and concentration to be a Victor Wooten. Instead, I concentrated on these aspects of playing.

    Being a good foundation for the song.
    Making the notes that you play be the ones that are really needed.
    Having a decent knowledge of theory and arranging.
    Having a decent knowledge of different musical styles.
    Being a decent reader.
    Being prepared, on-time and easy to work with.

    The above skills have gotten me further than being a flashy player would get me. I can play and be a contributor to the success of rock bands, pop bands, country bands, americana bands, big bands, dixieland bands, pit bands, church bands. Granted, I stay away from highly prog and fusion stuff. I've not heard anyone say, "I wish he could play better." Usually the comment is, "That sounded great. It's just what we need."
     
    Pocket4, Frontporch, bass12 and 5 others like this.
  15. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA
    Since I didn't pick up the bass (first instrument) til I was 42yo, I'll never be an 'amazing' bassist. I'll settle for 'pretty good' at this point, but keep working at improvement as the calender flips.

    I like to say I'm the best bass player my band has :D. I just joined a second project to work a different side of my fingers & brain.
     
    wmmj, Lvjoebass and R&B like this.
  16. Richland123

    Richland123

    Apr 17, 2009
    When you get introduced on stage during a show, they can say you are the best bass player on that stage at that moment.
     
    Lvjoebass, Sixgunn and R&B like this.
  17. Relax . It's the same two bassists on every other record you hear....Kaye and Jamerson.
     
    micbass and R&B like this.
  18. To be honest. I used to practice religiously. As in 4-6 hours a day 7 Days a week for many years. I probably peaked about ten years ago and then I realized. Nobody cares. Most popular music is actually really simply to play. I would recommend focusing more on becoming a better songwriter. Playing interesting lines is fun, but nothing beats hearing hundreds of people singing along to a song you helped write. I mean really if you want to be more successful. Instead of practicing 4 hours a day. I’d recommend spending at least half that time learning better ways to market your band.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2017
    Phud, wmmj, DrummerwStrings and 4 others like this.
  19. R&B

    R&B Both kinds of music: Rhythm AND Blues! Supporting Member

    This! On time, in tune and on tempo is what every band needs. Hotshot slappage and soloing, not so much. Extra noodling and random noises from the bass department, never.

    If you haven't already, come and join your joyfully mediocre brethren here! The Mediocre Bassist Club
     
    Dee-man, mikewalker, dwm74 and 2 others like this.
  20. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    The spectrum of what we regularly hear performed on bass has expanded a lot over the past twenty-five years. A lot of the people now playing bass would never have been interested in a 1960s setting because "bass virtuosos" as we know them today simply didn't exist at that time. The average person is turned on by speed and "virtuosic" displays, so that's what the average person who picks up the bass tends to be interested in trying to reproduce. The unfortunate thing is that we bassists who are more interested in playing a supportive role almost exclusively are sized up by the average person (and by certain musicians) based on comparisons with the virtuosos everyone has seen on YouTube. Go to NAMM and what do you see? A total wank-fest with guys trying to outdo each other in the chops department at nearly every booth. And it's perfect for the instrument industry, because wanking sells to the common person.

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to displays of virtuosity. I love seeing someone demonstrate a mastery of their instrument, regardless of what that instrument is. But context really has to be kept in mind when it comes to the comparisons of approaches to bass. If we're talking about soloists, then a degree of virtuosity is generally expected and appropriate within the context. When we're talking about playing a supportive role and making a piece of music work as a whole then, more often than not, virtuosic displays on the bass are not going to be appropriate. What is going to work most effectively is good, solid, tasteful playing: the kind of playing that is generally not very exciting to listen to in a solo context (e.g., at NAMM or at your local music store).

    Listen to Tony Levin (who is not a very fast player when compared to any of the "virtuoso" types out there) and consider how many records he has played on compared to any of the gospel chops guys. :)
     
    wmmj, Nashrakh, PsyDocHill and 6 others like this.

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