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Playing for enjoyment vs. becoming a virtuoso?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by IotaNet, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. I wasn't sure where on TB to put this so I thought I'd go with this forum.

    I'm really curious about what players consider their personal aspiration for playing the bass?

    Let me give you some background ...

    I've recently landed a gig as the "First Sunday" bass player in my church. I'll also be doing some playing with our various choirs when they travel and for special events. I've been working hard to learn the songs and I'm very comfortable that I'll be able to do an excellent job in this role.

    Although the material is challenging for me as an intermediate bassist, there's nothing here that will (ever) require me to become the next incarnation of Jaco or Stanley -- and guess what -- I am TOTALLY cool with that.

    Understanding that one always wants to get better (and that is my continuing goal), I am realistic about the fact that I am never going to become a Bass virtuoso. More importantly, with a full-time job and being a divorced parent, I am not able or willing to devote the kind of time that it would take to do so. It's hard enough for me to carve out 45 minutes a day to practice.

    Having said that, I don't think I need to have Wooten-esque chops to enjoy playing the bass and that is NOT my aspiration. I just want to play well, have my bass ideas make musical sense, and hold down the groove. If I can do that every time I play, it will be a great thing.

    I am wondering -- how many other folks here are in about the same boat as me? That is, "You play well enough to be good enough -- and that's good enough for you."
  2. remember why you picked up bass to begin with and dont forget it.

    TO ROCK THE LOW END and HAVE FUN doing it

    whatever else happens happens, you should always push yourself to improve!
  3. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Great post, Iota.
    I'm in a similar place - full time gig, family that I love and want to spend time with, a couple of other very important hobbies. It's hard to balance family, work, martial arts (which also requires a commitment of practice and time) and music.
    I bounce back and forth... I feel driven to improve my playing. Sometimes it makes me crazy. Other times I just feel like singing and playing and experiencing and sharing the beauty of music, and honestly, that brings a lot of sanity back into my life and into my playing.
    But I still keep working on getting better, in part because it allows me to express that love of music more fully and in different ways.
  4. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I'm in the same boat....but I never really stop learning. That's one of best things about playing - you're always learning something no matter what level you're at.
  5. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I just want to get better. I would like to get better at theory, reading charts, and I want to get a good handle on double thumbing.:bassist:
  6. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Yup. Sounds like me. Wanna improve every day, but enjoying the ride is why I do it. No delusions of grandeur here.
  7. RiddimKing


    Dec 29, 2004
    I think this is a great post topic too. One thing about virtuousity to consider is: do I really like the music virtuosos produce, or am I just awed by the technique and innovation? If the answer is the former, then I think it's worthwhile at least striving to get as much of the technical part down as possible. If the answer is negative, then just play what you like and don't worry whether anyone will ever single you out as a chops monster. For myself, I'm drawn to great basslines and grooves, which are often simple technically, and mostly require good timing and feel. You can often learn them without much effort---but creating them is another story. My goal is to create a memorable bassline that serves the song, and perhaps one that someone else someday "cites" in their own playing.
  8. My original inspiration came from obscure low end thumpers from equally obscure proto-metal bands of the 60s and early 70s. I don't think anyone would consider them virtuosos, certainly not by modern standards, but that's a relative term anyway. I dug what they did and wanted to play like that. Anyway, chops are one thing, but playing bass is as much about integrating your style as it is showing it off. Learning to play what's right for the song can be just as challenging as perfecting your skill, so I think technical virtuosity can be overrated and even a handicap if it's demonstrated at the expense of other musicians or if the song suffers because of it.
  9. thesteve


    May 28, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    I'm totally in this boat. I play bass at church, and for my band...at church my role is to hold the bottom end. I get some freedom to do what I want, when I want, but there's no pressure to "insert double tapping solo here" or "insert Stanley Clarke" here or whatever. I play the parts I want to play and I play the parts that will fit in the song.

    With my other band it's more of the same. i have more freedom to play what I want, but still the focus is on having fun and enjoying what I'm doing...there's definitely a part of me that wants to continue to improve and I know that I have more fun when I can be creative with what I'm doing, but at the same time no one's putting pressure on me to "get good or get out". I'm having fun and what I'm doing now is just fine for the band. Getting better is just an added bonus for me and the rest of my band members.
  10. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    You will find some of the best player are musicians who play for their own enjoyment, especially Jazz players. When you have to make a living with your playing unless your a Wooten or one of the small handfuls of true virtuoso player you are having to please someone who signs the check. That tends to mean playing inside the lines, spending time learning the current hot tunes and playing styles, keeping your reading chops up, making contacts and hustling gigs. When your playing for yourself and getting together with others in similar situation you can play what you want and if someone doesn't like it, no big deal its not going to cost you money. You still want good musicianship skills so others enjoy playing with you, they might just think your taste is weird sometimes.

    When I stopped playing guitar for a living, my playing improved so much. I was taking more chances in my playing and practicing some really advanced stuff. I was getting more respect for my playing and guys wanting my to teach them. So not worrying about paying bills I could be more myself.
  11. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I just wanna play.
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I know I'll never invest the time to compete with the Wootens of the bass world, so I try to focus on executing things with competence and consistency.

    to that end, I aim for virtuoso competence :)
  13. glink


    Feb 16, 2007
    :cool: There will always be better players than you and always worse ones. Besides, better is a relative term. I have heard players with blazing speed and technical virtuosity and I get completely bored of hearing them play after a while. Good groove and feel and time is in your heart and soul more than in your hands. If you are rocking the band (the bassists #1 job) ,in the pocket and having fun, it's all good. With that said , it takes a lifetime of practice and experience to perfect and maintain that art!
  14. I totally agree. There's something liberating about playing what you really like or want to, as well as taking creative initiatives that are shunned in cover bands and similar scenarios.

    So the odd issue is indeed that those who want to live on music have to tone down, while those who play occasionally in jam-like scenarios could become more interesting players.

    There's always also the compromise approach - make your money the boring way and enlist in interesting configurations now and then. --Kent
  15. Bassenstien


    Jun 13, 2006
    I love being a pocket player with no flash. Its what made me start and its what keeps me going. I love seeing the flash but not for me.
  16. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    My personal opinion is that if you're not playing for enjoyment, why are you playing in the first place? Playing just to "become a virtuoso" is a pretty illogical reason to play an instrument, given that it's hardly a financially rewarding pursuit. I have sunk an unbelievable amount of time and money into my art, and I continue to spend more and more time and money, far beyond the amount I rake in by playing. Perhaps at some point it may pay off financially, but if it doesn't I really don't care.

    The people who go in really caring about being a virtuoso usually fail. If you play for enjoyment you can't fail.
  17. +1 I took this up as a hobby when I retired at the end of last year. I have no idea where this is going.
  18. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    I'm having fun being what/who I am, A hack in a cover band... If I get better along the way, then so be it! I do know some people who approach thier learning like a competition, & they're NEVER satisfied, & ultimately quit to find some other challenge.
  19. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    When you play bass, or any other instrument for that matter, the main goal is enjoying yourself. You set yourself goals, consciously or not, and when you meet them you're happy. Some people have virtuosity as a goal, the closer they are to achieving that, the more enjoyment they get from playing. Some people just wanna get out and play, so the more they do that, the happier they get. Some people just want to play so they can have little jams with friends should the situation arise, and when they're able to do that they pull enjoyment.

    For me my personal enjoyment isn't in becoming a virtuoso, its playing in a band and making music with others. I set goals, and when I meet them, I set others.

    You see greats like Jaco, Wooten, Clarke, Manring, they didn't set off with the goal of becoming a virtuoso in mind. They just have a drive to constantly keep pushing themselves.
  20. I think being a virtuoso at an instrument has to be in the person before they become that person. I believe that not everyone that picks up an instrument can get to that level, no matter how hard and long they practice. I also believe in learning the basics FIRST and FOREMOST before any crazy tricks or techniques. If you can double thump like Victor you better also be able to groove like Jamerson, well maybe not exactly like Jamerson but you know that I mean.

    I've been a guitarist for 20 years and I've had the gift in music in me since I was 3 years old. That's when I played my first song on the piano. All my life I was bragged about by my family and told what a great pianist I was going to be one day, but I hated the piano. I loved guitar and later bass. I would practice for 4-6 hours a night during high school but in my senior year I was told by my father that he would pay for any college degree I wanted, but NOT a music degree. So I did what every angry young man does when his parents upset him, I rebelled. It was then when I lost the desire to become one of the best guitar players in the world, and I became a working man, and a party man. Music was only a hobby that I rarely spent time on.

    A few years later, after I got cleaned up and found the Lord, I have this new found love in being a better bassist. I know I won't ever become like Stanley or Jaco but I do believe I can be a go-to-guy when it comes to being a player you can count on to be solid and in the pocket. I know that the kind of music I play in my band, progressive rock fusion, I have to be on my toes. Maybe not a virtuoso but I have to know my stuff. That, in turn, leads me to be a better player in my church and in other churches I play in. There's no better feeling than for the worship leader to turn around and look you in the eye and tell you, "You did great, Thank you." I guess that's my drive.

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