In the Wachowski brothers film ‘The Matrix’ there’s a key scene in the first third of the movie where Keanu Reeves character is offered two pills. If he takes the blue pill nothing changes for him and life will carry on as before. If he takes the red pill however he will learn the truth, the answer to the question: What is the matrix?
Blue Pill. Or Red Pill. It’s a decision that will change his life for ever.
What’s The Matrix Got To Do With Learning How To Play The Bass?
It’s to do with whether you want to take the red pill or the blue pill. The red pill represents the truth. And most guys out there want to get better at the bass. Hell, if you asked them they’d probably say that they don’t just want to get better, they want to get great.
Only the way that most bassists go about trying to get great is the equivalent of taking the blue pill. They buy into some of the courses out there that proclaim: You can learn how to play the bass in 81 days. Or: Slap like a master in just 30 days.
What Happens Once The 30 Days, Or 81 Days, Or However Many Days Are Up?
What happens is this. They wake up on day 82, or day 31, and they find that they’re maybe a little bit better than they were on Day 1. But only a marginal amount. And so they do one of two things. They give up in frustration. Or they toss away the course that obviously doesn’t work and they go looking for another one.
Why Don’t These Courses Work?
Here’s a personal belief of mine: you can’t teach someone to be great at ANYTHING in 30 days. Or 81 days. That’s just not enough time to accumulate mastery. If you believe the greatness meme making the rounds you need somewhere in the region of 10,000 hours of disciplined practice to make you great.
Let’s say you could manage 10 hours a day, every single day, for 81 days. You’ll not have managed a tenth of that 10,000 hours that it’s generally considered that you need to put in. And let’s be ruthlessly honest, the kind of person who buys a ‘blue pill’ product is not going to practice for 10 hours every single day.
And you know what, it doesn’t actually matter how good or bad these courses are – anyone taking them is simply not going to achieve the result that’s being sold because the time frame is wayyyyyy too short.
Let’s look at this statement: ‘Slap Like A Master in 30 Days.’
This is a classic ‘blue pill’ product. If you ask informed bass players to name some great slapping bass players you’ll probably end up with these names. Victor Wooten. Marcus Miller. Stanley Clarke. Flea. Larry Graham.
Let’s take Victor Wooten – who can definitely slap like a master – because I know some of his biographical details. Victor first started getting serious attention as a great bassist around the early 90s. At which time he was around 25.
It’s well documented that Vic started learning to play bass aged 3. And was playing professionally soon after, by the time he was 7 or 8. The important point here is that by the time he began to generate critical acclaim he’d been playing and practicing for 20 years or so.
Not 30 days. Or 81 days. 20 years of practice actually gives us around 7300 days to play with, give or take a few hundred.
So no course – no matter how brilliantly designed or put together – is possibly going to be able to reduce those 7000 days into just 30. Or 81. Or even 500.
What’s The Alternative? What’s The Red Pill Approach?
The ‘red pill’ approach is simply this: the truth.
Here’s what acoustic bass player and jazz educator Todd Coolman tells prospective students they need if they’re going to have a small chance at success: ‘…a great work ethic, strong self-discipline, talent, great potential, good training, the ability to network and a lot of luck.’
Wow. The truth’s kind of scary right?
Here’s Another Piece Of Truth.
There’s no magic pill that will make you good. At the bass or anything. I’ve said this before in other articles – but it bears repeating – if you scratch the skin of somebody considered ‘really talented’ at their chosen discipline what you’ll find is that they’re not ‘talented’ because they were born with a gift that you or I don’t posess.
No, their talent is simply a function of hard work over time.
And scientific studies are being conducted that back this up – AND refute the myth that people are either born talented at something. Or they’re not.
I Don’t Want To Be Great. I Just Want To Get Better. What Can I Do?
To get better at the bass – whether you aspire to be ‘great’ or ‘talented’ or merely ‘good’ – what you need to do is have a focused practice system that will ensure that you make consistent improvements in your playing.
The only system I know that does that is called Deliberate Practice. How good you eventually get using Deliberate Practice is down to YOU, down to how much focused practice you put in over the upcoming months and years.
Deliberate Practice is definitely a ‘red pill’ product. The question you have to ask yourself is: Do you want to know the truth?