So imagine the scenario: you’re new or reasonably new to the bass. You’ve got yourself a shiny new Precision bass and you’ve can pick out a few notes here and there. Maybe a friend has shown you some tricks, or you’ve picked up something from some YouTube tutorials.
But you decided you want to get better, so you’ve done some research, you’ve asked around and you’ve found yourself a good teacher. And now you feel pleased with yourself because surely you’re going to start getting good pretty soon?
Sadly there are students who think like this, that if they take a lesson or two then suddenly their ability level is going to soar. And some of this expectation is fed by so called bass guru’s who tell them they can learn to play the bass in 81 days, or learn to slap in 30 days.
And this gap between a student’s expectations and the realities of what is actually required leads to frustration that causes some students to just give up.
And no-one really seems to be honest and spell out that learning is a two sided process. There’s a teacher who teaches AND a student who learns. And just as the teacher has obligations he needs to fulfill in order to teach, so the student has his own set of obligations that he has to meet in order to learn and maintain constant progress.
I call the student’s obligations The Three ‘Ps.’
The First ‘P’ is Practice
Now you’d think it was fairly obvious that once a student has been taught a lesson that he needs to go away and practice what’s he’s been taught? Unfortunately I’ve had students who think that a couple of 20 minute sessions noodling on their basses in a week constitutes practice.
Let me spell out what’s required. To make consistent improvements you have to practice regularly. In fact practicing daily is best because practicing daily takes advantage of how the brain learns.
No matter how busy you are you should be able to make 30-45 minutes a day to practice, most days of the week (OK, you can take Sundays off, especially if you can practice 60 minutes a day). If you can’t make that kind of time commitment then you should reconsider whether you actually want to learn the bass or not – because you won’t get very far without regular practice.
The Second ‘P’ is Persistence
And you need this in spades, because committing to learning an instrument – and then maintaining that level of commitment – can be hard, especially if you lead a busy life (work, family, etc).
And you need to be persistent because there will be times when the last thing you feel like doing is picking up your bass and putting in some time on your bass. And if you let things slide for a day, it’s easy to let it slide the next day too. And pretty soon you could find that you’ve not practiced for a week, or a month.
If you want to get better you need to keep that routine of daily – or near daily – practice going. You need to be persistent.
The Third ‘P’ is Perspiration
Learning to play the bass, putting in the daily practice week after week, month after month, is hard work. Sure there are days when it feels great. But just as surely there are days when you really don’t feel like doing it.
And your persistence will get you to your bass. Once you’ve got it plugged in, then you’ve got to work hard to get your daily practice done. And keep working hard. There’s no shortcut to getting better – no 81 day route that will magically lop off the necessity for years of practice.
You’ve just got to keep working at it. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.
The Fourth ‘P’ is…
…the pleasure you’ll get when the combination of practice, persistence and perspiration combine and you can pick up your bass and confidently play with the rest of the guys in your band in a public setting, and maybe get paid for it! (And yes I know there were a stack more ‘Ps’ there, couldn’t help it).
So when you’re taking lessons from someone remember that the Three Ps are a good shorthand to sum up YOUR obligations to firstly your teacher, and secondly yourself. If you take the Three Ps and a positive approach (oops, another P, sorry) into whatever learning environment you’ve chosen you WILL become a better bass player.