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One step forward, two steps back...happy then frustrated...is this normal?!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Neil Folkard, Nov 29, 2020.

  1. Neil Folkard

    Neil Folkard

    Nov 24, 2016
    Hey all. After decades of being an on and off hobby guitarist, I've been playing bass seriously for a little over 7 years now, and fallen in love with the instrument. I've always loved prog rock/prog metal/jazz fusion styles of music and have been playing fretless bass since the day I started. I'm in three original bands and write songs. No one can fault me for ambition, lol.

    The thing is: playing always seems to be such a roller-coaster ride.

    One day, I think I'm doing well, my fingers are really doing what I want them to do, my tone is improving and I'm getting places. The next day, I can barely stand to hear myself play and severely question whatever ability, I may have.

    One day, I love my pedals and effects and sound, the next day, the sounds coming out of my rig make me cringe and I wonder if there is something wrong with my bass or amp!

    Honestly sometimes it seems like it requires a PHD, or some form of unfathomable, arcane preternatural knowledge, to understand how to make pleasing amplified sounds with equipment.

    Is this normal?! Do others have these same feelings? Is there any way to overcome them?
  2. A lot of people report this so it is common. I fortunately don’t.
    BBQisgood likes this.
  3. thewildest

    thewildest Supporting Member

    May 25, 2011
    I think there are two things at play here: if your playing technique changes day to day, there will be no pedals or amps that will fix technique issues.

    I would start by isolating problems. On one of your “bad days” just plug directly into the amp and hear yourself. If you are playing too hard/your plucking hand is in the wrong spot/your fretting hand is tired and there is buzz all over the place... then technique.

    If it is the pedals/amp:
    - check all your connections, get good cables, work the pots to eliminate any rust
    - if your pedals use batteries, get rechargeable ones and keep them charged
    - write down your amp/pedals setting

    I solved the pedal/amp issue going full computerized (Mac-Mainstage) and playing through a PA type amp. Was sick and tired of the effect amps had in my sound. Now I always sound consistently the way I want it.

    I hope some of these help
  4. Yonni


    Oct 31, 2016
    I’ve been playing around 4 1/2 years and have this. With technique I stop what I’m doing and do some basic warm up routine or play an easy song for a bit instead. That usually gets me back on track. I can be guilty of over complicating the sound but I’ve read lots of others saying the same thing; what they thought sounded good yesterday sounds flat or dull today. I don’t know what it is but sometimes it just makes me put the bass back down and walk away. I’m really thinking of limiting my choices (ditching the multi effect and just having a compressor and preamp and that’s it). If you find a solution let me know!
    Outtaseezun, Mili and Neil Folkard like this.
  5. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I think it's perfectly normal in that, the more we know and learn, the more we realize what we don't know and can't do. My personal response to that feeling is zeroing in on any perceived shortcomings so that it evens out with my usual standard of playing. Microtiming is a usual culprit for me.
  6. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    Completely normal.

    Neil Folkard likes this.
  7. After 40 + years of playing, I still learn something daily.
    As long as progress eventually goes forward, that's all that matters.

  8. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    Sounds pretty normal. Yes, other have the same feelings. The way to overcome them isn’t 100% effective. The feelings invoke GAS, which can just as easily make the feelings worse instead of better.
    Best of luck, or hope your next spell of Gear Acquirement Syndrome helps instead of splashing more GAS on the fire.....
    Rabidweasel and Neil Folkard like this.
  9. Some days you can barely stand to listen to yourself play, you question your abilities, and you wonder if there is something wrong with your equipment.

    But other days you think you are improving, and love your equipment.

    This is why you should keep at it. Because in the past when you were confronted by periods of counter-productivity they were always followed by periods of progress. Remember this when you are in a down cycle.

    Always after the rain, there is sun. Always.
  10. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Keep in mind that there's a reason they call it "practice". It's a practice, just like doctoring or lawyering. A regular or daily experience in a discipline. Some days are easier than others, but the repetition and practice of making music via a tool and a variety of methods is a point to examine.
    Neil Folkard likes this.
  11. Robscott


    Mar 20, 2017
    Tonbridge UK
    You ever spent time in Scotland?
  12. Neil Folkard

    Neil Folkard

    Nov 24, 2016
    It's funny...not quite Scotland, but I've been to England numerous times. The weather is supposed to almost always be dreary there too, but it has always been sunny and nice when I've visited. Every. Single. Time. lol
    Robscott likes this.
  13. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    IMHE as a hobbyist, playing bass is like investing in the stock market.......or rehabilitating from injury......progress is best measured from quarter to quarter, not day to day. It's like watching a kid with a yo-yo on an escalator. Keep your eye on the kid, not the yo-yo :)
  14. I want a t-shirt that has that text on the back for everyone to read.

    It sums up my life.

    One step forward, two steps back...happy then frustrated...is this normal?!
    Neil Folkard likes this.
  15. The Deep

    The Deep

    Jul 21, 2017
    Totally normal. It’s part of the journey.

    Progress is never linear.
    PWRL, Kubicki Fan and Tom Bomb like this.
  16. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    If you are actually experiencing the huge swings day to day as described, no I don’t think that’s normal. If you are just employing extreme hyperbole to make a point, then yes, that’s normal.
  17. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    You should get comfortable playing with and without your pedals so you know what you can and can't control with your hands. But it's perfectly natural to always think things will be better if you buy new gear, it's called GAS.

    It also sounds like maybe you are stretching your focus. Ever take a day off? Or take a couple days and play guitar instead? Or just watch the Falcons lose and feel sad for me that I'll never see them win a Lombardi?
  18. How is your playing in the long haul? I have these same feelings but I notice that I'm getting better in spite of the valleys. What would really depress me is if I could see I was getting worse or couldn't do the things I used to do.
    Neil Folkard, leftybass54 and Mili like this.
  19. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    White Salmon, WA
    Normal. And beyond the day to day, there will be times when life gets in the way and you’ll have to start again years back.

    Don’t sweat it.

    Enjoy the days when everything is clicking, know there will be more.
  20. IMO it’s normal to feel ups and downs. There are a lot of factors that affect how you feel about your playing and sometimes they are not going to line up to give you great joy.

    I have learned to accept the off days. Don’t let them discourage you.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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