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Stuck in a Rut?

"I've enjoyed your video (Grooving for Heaven, Volume 1) and think I could use Volume 2 right about now. I'm 47, been playing bass for about 5 yrs, just at church, and I'm kinda in a rut. I will either push through to a new level or give it up. I'm thinking about paying for lessons to help me get a groove. I know all the notes and love the songs that we do, but I just don't get how to be a real bass player yet."

- Quo V. (via forum post)

The short answer is: "Pushing through to the next level is COMPLETELY THE TICKET!!!" :^)

All of us players reach plateaus from time to time, as I'm sure you know - it's completely natural, just as there are seasons in life. The cool thing is that you can use these times to step back for a minute, take a short breather, and assess your strong points as well as your "areas of potential growth"...and what steps need to be taken to address them.

I would wholeheartedly urge you to follow through and locate a good teacher in your area - someone who will not just teach you bass licks, but will take the time to cover the overall musical picture in order to give you solid perspective and context for your playing. There's no substitute for that regular teacher/student interaction & accountability.

I've also found it HUGELY helpful to have some resources on hand that will both inspire you & give you some practical material. For inspiration, I highly recommend the Flecktones DVD, "Live at the Quick". It's PHENOMENAL (not instructional, per se, but will do WONDERS for your artistic/creative side). Abraham Laboriel's video is another highly inspiring resource. For practical stuff, I'd recommend the following videos:

  • Grooving for Heaven, Vol. 2 (OF COURSE!)
  • The Slap Bass Program (Video Progressions)
  • John Patitucci's Electric Bass Vol. 1 (DCI)
  • Funkifying the Clave (Warner)
  • Any of Jamey Aebersold's jazz instructional CD's & books

Otherwise, I also think it's invaluable to listen to a broad range of music and try to learn your favorite bass lines by ear. After getting them under your fingers, analyze the various parts in terms of the phrasing, note choices, beat placement, etc....and figure out what EXACTLY it is that makes them work so well. At that point, you'll have some solid knowledge to use to jumpstart your own bass line composition.

Above all, it's key to remember that your musical talents are God-given, and it's an enormous privilege to both enjoy & share...so resist the temptation to get beat-up and discouraged by occasional ruts.

(Excerpted from my forum at The International Institute of Bassists, 2003)

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