What I Would Tell My 16 Year Old Bass Self

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by shadven, Aug 26, 2019.

  1. shadven

    shadven Twang-tastic Bass Player and Song Writer Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2009
    Tampa, FL
    I rock, therefore I am.
    I’ve been playing bass for 40 years. I’m not going to list my resume, but I’ve done some big shows, rubbed shoulders with household names, played on a ton of records that went nowhere. Local hero, plus. If I could go back in time and give 16 my year old self some bass / music career advise this is what I would say:

    Sing! Become a strong lead singer and a stronger backup singer. Your singing chops will be just as important as your bass chops. Maybe more important. You will be expected to be a strong bass player, that’s a given.

    Scales AND chords. These are the ingredients you need to create great bass lines. Play other instruments and get a decent grasp of music theory. Jazz is your friend, even if you are a rock, country, pop player.

    Become a songwriter. Write at least one song month... good or bad, finish the song and write it down (record it if you can). Just keep writing.

    Become a decent guitar player. You need guitar to communicate your ideas to your band and the world. You really have to be a half-decent guitar player.

    Don’t stay in a band that doesn’t have ambition. Surround yourself with the best musicians that will have you. Artists and creatives can be eccentric and often push boundaries. Embrace your (and their) freak flag. Make musical alliances and play in one-off projects to widen your musical relationships. Don’t limit yourself to just one or two genres. Don’t be afraid of starting a band an being the band leader.

    People like to work with (and hang with) nice people. Be a nice person. Do your homework. Know when to speak up and know when to shut-up. Quite, assertive confidence and competence is very attractive Learn how to wave your flag without being arrogant. Be humble and supportive of everyone in your band.

    If you want a life of music, go to where the music is being made. LA, Nashville, NYC, Austin, London... sorry, but that is about it. There are other music towns, but you are not going to get as many opportunities in smaller markets.

    Looks matter / stage presence matters. Dress for gigs. Look like the music artist rock star that you are. But, you must present as authentic. Don’t let yourself get fat if you can help it. Take care of yourself... go to the doctor and stay fit. Gigging and touring is tough on your mind and body. Don’t eat too much fast food. Know your limits with drugs and alcohol. Less is more, don’t become a druggy, alcoholic.

    Treat the woman (men) in your life with dignity and respect. If you aren’t in a relationship, treat your girlfriend, one night stand, f-buddy well. Treat everyone from the guy sweeping the floor to Macca with honesty and respect. You will gain respect, gigs, friends, business and $$.

    Play quality instruments. Keep your gear in perfect working order. Spare cords, strings and keep spares for others in your gig bag. I keep batteries, guitar strings and a hi-hat clutch.
    Matt R, Just_Ethan, Tom Bomb and 63 others like this.
  2. rufus.K

    rufus.K Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2015
    rollie 55 and shadven like this.
  3. musicman556

    musicman556 Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2019
    Smyrna, TN
    I have no pro aspirations, but that is solid advice anyway.

    I am the guy with the spare strings/parts/cables for everything. Playing in small-time bands and stuff with limited budgets and equipment, that is SUPER important! I'm an audio nerd, and MAN does that box of adapters come in handy a LOT!
  4. Funky Ghost

    Funky Ghost Translucently Groovy

    To watch my gear like a hawk! I miss my Aria and it is/was irreplaceable. Freakin' thieves stealin' from a punk kid.
  5. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Excellent list.

    I'd also add: don't be afraid to take a (calculated) risk or two. You have a lot less to jeopardize when you're younger vs older/settled/locked in.
  6. Great advice! Learning other instruments is a very good idea. The only problem is I seldom get to play them in a band as bass is in demand!
    nozkcb and shadven like this.
  7. Acoustic356

    Acoustic356 Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2014
    30 years from now there is going to be this thing called YouTube. It will be a free place to go where you can get video instruction for every song that you ever wanted to play.

    On the bad side... the music of the era is going to SUCK!
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
  8. lat


    Dec 30, 2014
    Lower Basstonia
    I would've told my 16 year-old self to not care that your friend that wants you to buy a bass and join their band is a pompous pain in the ass. Swallow your pride and buy that shaging bass.

    I didn't when I was 16 and ended up waiting until I was 50. Better late than never... I guess...
    IamBF, randini, pappabass and 3 others like this.
  9. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Sight read some music every day.
    Bob_Ross, shadven, mikewalker and 5 others like this.
  10. interp


    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    Pretty good list.
    shadven likes this.
  11. rollie 55

    rollie 55

    Oct 1, 2018
    lost in space
    Enjoy your playing its a long journey with many twists and turn's :)
    shadven likes this.
  12. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I'd have told myself go to college and stop with the music nonsense.
  13. jjmuckluckjr


    Mar 24, 2015
    Legend has it that when the Ramones first went to England @ 1977, a young Joe Strummer asked Johnny Ramone for advice. Joe was hesitant to play in front of people because he wasn’t a good guitarist yet. To his credit, Johnny told him F-that. Start a band, play in front of everyone, that’s how you get better. If you wait till you’re a master, you’ll be too old!

    The lesson is that experience is the best teacher. It’s like being a chef in a restaurant. You may have what you’re convinced is a great dish, but everyone else thinks it tastes like fried dog turds. You need a lot of input to improve, and find your own voice. And don’t be afraid to fail, Lord know’s I’ve played a clunker or two. If you haven’t been heckled with a resounding “Freebird” in fluent drunkenese, you haven’t been playing enough gigs!
  14. If you wanna get ____, take up lead guitar, or better yet, sing (or yell, or howl, or scream...). Bassists are invisible. If that doesn't work: P bass rosewood/burst/tort/flats.
  15. BoogieZK


    Sep 28, 2008
    Toulouse, France
    I would told myself to enjoy practicing and to practice as much as i can because time flies like helium balloon....
    I would also told myself to enjoy playing on stage and not focusing on the poopie tornado mess that musicians enjoy staying in.
  16. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  17. ThinCrappyTone

    ThinCrappyTone Guest

    Oct 1, 2011
    I would tell 16 year old me:

    “invest in apple stock”

    “buy that $750 vintage les paul with the big gouge... people will eventually pay extra for damage”

    “Fire that ahole drummer”

    “do more situps”

    “don’t marry the singer”
  18. skygzr


    Feb 23, 2015
    Southeast US
    It’s OK to sleep with lots of drummers till you find one you like

    Singing: yes, I wish I understood my voice better back then.

    Groupies: some are fun and some are....not fun. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

    You’ve illustrated the Universal Tragedy....life is lived forward and understood backwards.
    Bob_Ross, smeet, shadven and 4 others like this.
  19. Dincrest

    Dincrest Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    I would have told my high school self (since I was 15 when I started playing):
    -Don't let the haters (esp. d-baggy musicians) get you down. You'll face that nonsense your entire life. You are better than you think you are. Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up rather than tear you down.

    -Be patient. You WILL get to play in cool bands that gig and tour. You WILL have fans who look up to you (this all happened in my 30s). Don't be in a rush to be in a band, because no one makes good decisions under desperation. Remember, Lemmy was 30 when he formed Motorhead.

    -It's not your gear's fault that you're hitting the wall. The $5,000 rigs you see in Bass Player magazine will not make you a better bassist. That being said, GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) will affect you your entire life.

    -Don't be afraid of alternate tunings. They may trip you up at first, but many songs just play/sound better with an open D/drop-D tuning than they would transposed on a 5-string. Drop-D is fun!

    -And for fun, I would look over some of the Jeff Berlin and Anthony Jackson articles in 1990s issues of Bass Player with my 16 year-old self and say, "Man, Jeff Berlin and Anthony Jackson are pretentiously arrogant d-bags, aren't they?" My 16-year old self would hesitantly agree and then I'd reassure him that a LOT of the bass community feels that way.

    -Remember, Alphonso Johnson is your bass hero for a reason. Several reasons, actually. And he will remain your bass hero for life.

    And I would have told my college self to:
    -Make time to play bass daily. Even if it's just 5-10 minutes of scales before going to sleep.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
  20. Metalbasspro


    Feb 9, 2009
    WA state
    Funny! I was just thinking about this kinda question at work tonight. I'd probably tell 16 year old bass self to hang it up and join the Navy or something. Maybe toss the amp and enroll in Auto mechanic school. Anything but this thing that drains my pocket and never pays off.
    bwoodman likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 20, 2021

Share This Page