Should I just hang it up? (Warning: long rant)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by KoalaOnBass, Aug 9, 2021.

  1. KoalaOnBass


    Feb 18, 2016
    I've been growing disillusioned with playing music for a while now and am now considering giving it up. Let me give you guys some context: I've loved music and how it made me feel since I was a kid. There's nothing quite losing myself in a piece of music or going to a live show and being totally mesmerised by what I'm hearing and seeing. I used to spend basically every free minute listening to music.

    So I picked up guitar in highschool and started playing (badly) in a punk band. Then, in college, I got into bass and joined another band, then another. Throughout this musical journey, my main goal has been to experience and channel the same kind of joy, awe, and flow that I feel when listening to others play. But I've always failed. There's always a disconnect between me and my instrument. At best, it feels like I'm painting by numbers, playing note-for-note covers technically decently, but without really getting into it. At worst, it's stressful, draining and embarrasing, like when I try to jam with others. I hate every second of it and everything that comes out of my instrument. I know so many people who aren't neccessarily amazing at music who just love jamming, experimenting, and find it fun and cathartic. I'd like nothing more than to experience that myself, but I just don't.

    Maybe my perfectionism and fear of mistakes is to blame. Maybe I'm just not skilled enough to do what I want (self-taught, never had a teacher)...or maybe this isn't for me and I was meant to just be a music fan rather than a musician. I honestly don't know if there's any point in continuing. It sucks :( if any of you guys can relate or have any input, I'd really appreciate it.
  2. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    Music is meant for everyone, and not only listening, but participating. You just have to find folks who will enjoy your contribution, and more importantly, feel free and enjoy it yourself.
    Some here will tell you to practise more, and that is good, but I think goal should always be to socialise and play music with others. It is deeply social activity.
    There must be someone who you can play with and have fun. If music is too demanding for you, play simpler music. If bass guitar is complex, play another instrument. Maybe try singing, have some lessons and give it a go. Don't give up!
  3. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    I think you need either a Telecaster, Crybaby, and Blues Jr. rig or a sweet Moog synth with touch sensitive keys and a ton of knobs.

    You’ve been playing Mom to all the kiddies. Let your hair down!
  4. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    I used to be like you in some respects. The gig was almost just like a job, colour by numbers affair and I didn’t connect with it.

    I thought about this for quite some time and I realised it’s because I’m familiar and comfortable with the material and an unjustified fear that I’ll make mistakes.

    So I stopped focusing on all those things altogether, my focus became just enjoying myself and paying attention to the audience.

    It was a complete turnaround, they had fun, I had fun, the band had fun and at the end of the gigs we all left on a high.

    You need to separate the mechanical, performance aspect and just let it all go and immerse yourself in the enjoyment of the moment.

    These days I have a lot of fun on stage, I rarely make mistakes and the energy is amazing. I’m an older guy but people who know me for being quiet and reserved off stage are surprised than on stage I’m the exact opposite.

    Try it, you’ll like it.
  5. Frunobulax

    Frunobulax Guest

    Apr 21, 2020
    What you point out is nothing other than the qualitative difference between being a music fan and being a musician.
    You are both.
    Just like there are stratifications of "music fans" there is also stratification of "musician". From the lowest ranked musician to the top musicians, you must enjoy what you are doing otherwise it becomes a chore. Is this the crux of the biscuit?
    What you are describing to me is a certain level of self awareness whilst on stage. I feel this disconnection you mention is actually more of a connection than you realise. For you identify the connection between self and instrument, audience, song list, skill level and your future etc etc.
    Perhaps viewing this relationship from this perspective may bring a fresh approach to your musical future?
    For I do believe that a fresh approach is what you may possibly need.
    Do you play the songs you enjoy listening to?
    If not, can you find musicians to play them with?
    Perhaps some of your frustration resides in the JAM approach...? You mention being a perfectionist and fear of mistakes yet a JAM situation is improvisational and can also be a "who cares if I make a mistake I'm having fun" kind of thing...
    I think the two situations are contradictory for the progress I believe you crave.
    This in no way meant to disrespect JAM sessions. All I'm saying is you may benefit from structure, playing music you want to hear and enjoy presenting.
    There is nothing like finding the right people for a project, to build inspiration.

    Mistakes are necessary and you have nothing to fear about making a mistake. Just keep going or join in at the next vital point. You are not the first to mess up on stage and you are not the last....

    Final words: Music is great therapy. If your not getting therapy of some sort from it, change tunes till you do.
  6. Frunobulax

    Frunobulax Guest

    Apr 21, 2020
    Brilliant advice. I've experienced the same thing myself.
    KoalaOnBass and Samatza like this.
  7. Fun Size Nick

    Fun Size Nick

    Feb 21, 2006
    London, UK
    Perhaps this is an indicator that you could benefit from some help along the way? Personally, I would attribute many of the things that I find frustrating in my own playing to the fact that I have not had much one-on- one instruction on bass (which is something that I have plans to do something about). I had the leg up of having had lessons on piano and being part of a school band programme on flute - I can't imagine what it would have been like to come in to bass without that experience.

    I can't overemphasise the difference that even small pieces of musical information (eg advice about rhythmic concepts, walking line construction, understanding of chord theory) that others have shared with me over the years has made to my enjoyment of playing music - to be able to better translate ideas from my head into my instrument.

    I grew up in a scene where being 'self-taught' was seen as positive and admirable. I now look back and recognise that being taught by someone who doesn't know any more than you currently do can be enormously limiting. You might just have maxed out what you can do with your musical imagination without some input from someone with different knowledge and a different perspective than you.

    Please don't pack it all in without giving some lessons a shot - it might make the difference between music being 'for you' and not.
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Learn. Music. Theory.

    Your problem may be that you don't know the LANGUAGE of music. After all this time you're still a foreigner on stage trying to speak a second language.

    You may have ideas in your head, but are unable to reproduce them on the spot because you don't know what works (and what fails) with regard to chord structure and harmony.

    Find an online theory course. If that doesn't point you in the right direction, start collecting concert tickets and don't worry about it. Keep the joy however you have to.
  9. Hummergeist

    Hummergeist Commercial User

    Jul 21, 2020
    Tutorials, reviews, and interviews for Future Publishing.
    'Joy, awe and flow' is one thing, but some of what you see/feel when watching other musicians, is showbiz...the performance and appearance of 'ecstasy'. Some of what you're describing is the other side of playing an instrument. It's always going to be a very physical experience, with your hands in contact with wood and metal, playing metal strings on a lump of wood. You need to embrace that part of it, and accept it, and then you can get more absorbed in the playing and the pleasure of playing. I relate to what you're saying because I went through that when I first started as a naive kid, I thought playing bass or guitar was going to be some kind of magical experience, but it's not - it's a very real-world activity. Hope that makes sense.
    Fun Size Nick and KoalaOnBass like this.
  10. comatosedragon

    comatosedragon Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 12, 2014
    Rockingham VA {616}
    Thank you OP. You were able to put into words the very things that have been floating in my mind for a long time.

    This is me, 100%. And it has been a downfall in many areas of my life, not just music. I'm mid 40's and still haven't figured out how to cure myself of that.

    I wish you better luck my friend.
    KoalaOnBass and Hummergeist like this.
  11. Charlie Tuna

    Charlie Tuna Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2005
    Key West, FL
    Perhaps you are thinking too much when you are playing and it is becoming work. Try listening more instead and eliminate any inner voice you may have. I've played many genres of music and enjoyed playing "rote memory" country tunes as much as any other, which some people would find hard to believe. What I did was stop thinking and instead listen to everybody else more while I played. Hearing the singer's voice, lyrics, guitars and drums all blend together as one really taught me how to become a part of the music.

    Mistakes happen and unless you are being paid big bucks don't worry about them. Buy Victor Wooten's book "The Music Lesson" and see if that helps take some of the stress off your playing. Also, experiment with different setting on your bass, amp and your fingers. Play soft, hard and everything in between. Turn up louder, turn down. Tweak the tone knobs. There's so much to explore so find a basic sound you really like and that may help you connect with your instrument better. Good luck.
  12. Hummergeist

    Hummergeist Commercial User

    Jul 21, 2020
    Tutorials, reviews, and interviews for Future Publishing.
    My way of dealing with this is to fully indulge my perfectionist tendencies as much as I want before the event starts, then that makes me feel confident enough during the actual event to let it all go and be more in-the-moment. At times my job has required me to talk to large audiences, and that's how I've got through those as a very shy person. Practice practice practice. Be the one to stay in your room practising while the others are out partying. It pays off.
    KoalaOnBass and comatosedragon like this.
  13. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    I think many musicians are growing disillusioned due to lack of interaction from bandmates and audience as for many, that is what music meant to them, the hang, the socialization. Removed from that, music is a craft that can be like a smooth hard rock face that heads straight up into reasonless nonsense (I've been practicing arpeggios in quintuplet groupings. Why?). Often without the input of others we might go down a rabbit hole of self disillusionment, a no feedback loop. No one to pat us on the back when we practice our scales or play the tune perfectly. This is then multiplied by band mate packing it in and they are hard to replace. Maybe your favorite venue is closed or not taking your type of act anymore. Maybe during covid you found you liked walking your dog and getting to bed early. Thing is, there is no reason to quit, maybe just not as high on the list of hobbies anymore. I struggle with thoughts of quitting often, and in recent years (covid notwithstanding) I have been taking less sideman gigs (if I hear the 'one more song' chant at the end of the night again, I will murder), and I doubled down on just doing a solo bass thing. And even then I kinda feel like what is the point? My own enjoyment is the only thing that matters. If I can gig and share that, great, if not, I am ok with being selfish. I practice Autumn Leaves for a jazz gig that will never happen.
    JCooper, Jeff Elkins, 31HZ and 4 others like this.
  14. Hummergeist

    Hummergeist Commercial User

    Jul 21, 2020
    Tutorials, reviews, and interviews for Future Publishing.
    Yeah - lockdown has been a real ‘why do you play?’ moment, 100%.
    KoalaOnBass and squarepeg like this.
  15. Katoosie

    Katoosie Mangoes! Tahiti! THE PLAN! Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2020
    Learn theory and practice practice practice until the instrument feels like another limb.

    Until you're at that point, it will feel weird.
    I'm new to the whole music thing but slowly, very slowly... The more i learn and practice the more joy and connection i get out of playing.

    Just a thought.
  16. My advice: Don't hang it up, but give yourself a break, put yourself in a radically different headspace, and when you pick up your bass next, do so with a completely different intent than you had when you last set it down. Take at least 30 days and don't even touch your bass.

    A few ideas:
    If you're into reading, check out Effortless Mastery, Zen Guitar, and The Music Lesson/Spirit of Music. There are audiobook versions too. Full disclosure: I'm on The Spirit of Music audiobook, so I'm biased, but Vic's writing is a good way to really expand your mind and look at music from a different point of view.

    Work on a different instrument, but do so with a totally different goal. Learn to play a song on the Theremin, or a few piano chords. Get your first drum kit, or take a few singing lessons.

    Try a different art form entirely. Spend a month writing haiku, or get a set of paints. Explore some non-musical expression and see how your inner artist wants to come out.

    When you're ready to return to music, dive into theory. Get a book or, even better, get a teacher. There are amazing world-class guys, like Anthony Wellington, who you can take lessons with on Zoom! Heck, you don't even need lessons from a bass player. The best teacher I know is a guitarist in Portland named Scott Pemberton, he offers Zoom lessons and teaches theory in a very organic way.

    Whatever you do, remember that you don't need to make some grand final act. You can put the bass in the closet for a while and decide to take it out again in a week, a month, or a year.

    Lastly, remember that nothing is "just" music. It's all connected. Take care of your health, your mental health, practice good self care, and look for ways to balance your life as a whole, not just your music. All that stuff will impact your music in ways you can't even see until you reach the other side and look back.
    red_rhino, SteveCS and KoalaOnBass like this.
  17. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Then get a teacher. A Good teacher.
  18. Honkey tonk

    Honkey tonk Turn it up

    Feb 10, 2019
    Lower 48
    Think of Your rant as more of a Cool story
    KoalaOnBass likes this.
  19. You are never too old for face to face instruction. A teacher can teach you things that you just can't learn with self instruction. You didn't say what type of music you have been playing so maybe you are just tired of what you are now playing and should look into a new genre. If you are not enjoying electric bass then how about trying an upright. IMO it is the coolest instrument on the stage. If you need a challenge then maybe you should learn Jazz. That will definitely keep you busy. Another suggestion was to learn synthesizer. Definitely get instruction for this. You can get very creative with a synthesizer for sure. Don't give up playing music because you will definitely miss it if you do. Good luck.;)
    lfmn16 and KoalaOnBass like this.
  20. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    You don't say how old you are or how long you have been playing but it can take years of dedicated practice to get to the level of connectedness you describe. And it depends on what you are playing and practicing. If you don't learn and practice the skills of improvisation - ear training, active listening, technical exercises, fingerboard knowledge and basic music theory - then it will be difficult to 'connect'.

    I am not saying that improvisation or playing jazz is the only way, but you have to find a way to get inside your instrument. Understand what it can do, how different techniques produce different sounds and tones, and how those various tones and sounds correlate to how the music makes you feel. Get to know the voice of the instrument and how that might map to your inner voice or whatever you hear in your head. And don't be fooled into thinking you have to sound like everyone (or anyone) else...

    But there is no reason to stop. Maybe a good teacher will help, at least in showing you direction if nothing else?
    JRA and KoalaOnBass like this.