Playing the Bass

I’ve played the electric bass guitar for fewer than two years now. I’m making progress in my ability to play. I appreciate the support I’ve received from the other members of the Flatrock Irregulars, North Platte’s premier Irish Band, members of Holy Spirit’s music ministry and the folks at Open Mic. I know I have a long way to go but I’m feeling more comfortable with the bass. I’m learning “The Circle of 5ths,” scales, bass patterns and bass lines. I enjoy the opportunity to learn a new skill. At this point I know what questions to ask.

Learning the notes on the bass’s neck is a challenge. Musicians tell me learning the notes on the neck is an important first step for a bassist. I understand that advice and have set a goal to learn the notes. I will find the position of the notes on the neck without thinking of a scale first. I’m using drills to help me learn the notes positions. But, for me, playing is the most productive way to learn the neck. I’ve also discovered that I need to pay more attention to the timing of a song.

Like many tasks I expect to play expertly after picking up the bass. Alas it doesn’t work that way. Practice, practice I tell myself. Last night I practiced the songs we were to play at Mass this morning. I give special attention to one song in the key of E minor. I had the E minor pattern down and moved through the song. Then came the time to play the lively song and it was clear I had not given enough time to practice. I have learned when playing the bass there is a wide range of alternatives for any given cord. As long as I am playing a note in the song’s key I’m OK. A good bass line may include a variety of notes that support the root note being played by the piano or guitar. I translate that to mean it is hard to make a mistake playing the bass. Nevertheless I ask, “How many hours did I spend wit the bass in my hands last week?” Oh not nearly enough.

Learning to play the bass reminds me one of life’s lessons, if I want the skill I have to be willing to do the work. It’s time trade the keyboard for the bass. And the music plays on.

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