Lesson 1 Relaxation
Lesson 2 Practicing
Lesson 3 Playing fast
Lesson 4 Plucking
Lesson 5 Walking bass
Lesson 6 Ethics in jazz
Lesson 7 Bass solo
Lesson 8 Your story
Lesson 9 Listening
Lesson 10 Mistakes
Lesson 11 Questions
Lesson 12 Standards
Lesson 13 Rehearsing
Lesson 14 Tensions
Lesson 15 Timing
Lesson 16 Price/Quality
Lesson 17 Taking lessons
Lesson 18 AABA
Lesson 19 Your own style
Lesson 20 Basic theory
Lesson 21 Modulating
Lesson 22 Rapid changes
Lesson 23 The left hand

        Lesson 11 Questions

Some time ago I received an e-mail with a few questions that are interesting for beginning bass players:

I would like to become a professional musician because I think the bass is a terrific instrument. I love to play for hours at an end, instead of studying for school.
It takes a lot of time and the trouble is that I can’t be sure iff I’ll ever reap the benefits. I can’t know if I’ll be successful enough to earn a living as a bass player. This is not good for my motivation at all!
Also I find it difficult to decide what I should practice. I think music theory is interesting, but I can’t find books specifically for the bass. Can you give me some pointers? Are you a professional musician? How did you become that? How do you deal with your feelings of insecurity?

I’ve been trying to find an answer to these questions practically all my life. You’re future as an electrical bass player is indeed very unsure. Of course, it makes a difference if you like commercial music. Unfortunately, I only love music that is not very popular. I feel very unhappy playing something I don’t like, so I just don’t do it. I solved this problem by taking another job, I work in a publishing company.

Since I started playing acoustic bass as well, I have twice as many gigs. There are many more electric than acoustic bass players. The acoustic bass is a beautiful instrument as well, I love it, although it costs a lot more strength than the electric bass. It’s great to feel these low vibrations against my chest. The acoustic sound is warmer than the electric sound. The electric bass is more direct.

At this point I’m quite proficient on my instruments. Unfortunately, this does not really help me to get more gigs. I think that if you want to play a lot, it’s especially important what kind of person you are. You should be someone everybody likes, who talks easily and makes friends easily.

I’m not like that, I’m more an introvert kind of person. Each year I go to the North Sea Jazz Festival, I really enjoy that a lot. I see terrific bass players there, but also bass players with a bad timing playing out of tune. And they sometimes play with the best jazz musicians in the world. These guys must be very friendly!

If I would be prepared to worry a lot about money and be poor, I probably could just survive as a musician, but I don’t see why I should. Why make you’re life miserable by worrying a lot? I think it’s a great idea for almost every jazz musician to have a job on the side. If you get to be very successful, you can still become a professional musician. Of course, I’m lucky to have my job, which I really like. The pressure to make money if you try to make a living as a musician is enormous and the temptation to play music that makes you feel miserable is also enormous. I did this for a while when I had big financial problems. After three months I had earned a lot of money but was very unhappy. I learned that this was not the way for me.

Why finish school if you want to become a professional musician? Because it’s easier to find a nice job when you're educated. Most jobs for which no education is required are not much fun and do not pay well.

I you want to study music theory, The jazz theory book by Mark Levine is an excellent choice, ISBN 1883217040. This is not a book specifically for bass players, but you’ll learn everything you need to know by reading this book. It’s really very, very good.

I think it’s a good idea to find a teacher. There are teachers for the bass everywhere. See what you would like to learn, in which style you would like to become proficient and ask a teacher if you can learn this by studying with him. This is not what I did, by the way. I was my own teacher. It worked out nicely, but who knows, I might have learned everything a lot quicker by taking lessons…