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Getting Back Into Bass Playing: How I Felt Out of Love With Bass Playing and How I Came Back

I think I felt out of love with playing bass for the past year and a half and didn’t even know it.

But let me back up and tell you how I think this happened and why I think calling it ‘falling out of love’ is appropriate, first.

The last year and a half of my life have suddenly become substantially busier. The transformation is like night and day. I woke up one morning and suddenly I had people I needed to meet with, personal deadlines that needed to be met and a full time job that needed my undivided attention. Literally overnight, my life went from work with free time fit in working to fit in free time.

In the last year and a half I’ve moved apartments from North Carolina to Rhode Island, picked up a full time job, joined up with 3 bands, jumpstarted my own electronic music/one-man-bass-guitar-show called 10 Volt Army (plus took on the challenge of mixing, mastering, packaging and handling my own promo and show acquisition for) and, of course, started Smart Bass Guitar (which is currently looking for more writers, for those that are interested). That’s a lot of stuff. A lot of music to learn, a lot of obligations ot stay on top of, a lot of sleep that needs to be had and a lot of

To some reading this they might be saying that this is nothing, this is just part of the maturation process. Well, that may be true. But I don’t know many people in my age with the same, let alone a fraction of the obligations I do. So to me, this is a lot of stuff to juggle and certainly a challenge. One that I’m up to mind you, but a challenge none the less.

Now all that being said, you probably noticed that there are 4 projects that require bass guitar playing on that list.

But the title of the article is “I Fell Out of Love With Bass Playing”. What’s the deal?

Well, it hit me this past weekened when recovering from a weeklong ailment brought about, I’m nearly certain, as a result of pushing myself too hard and my body saying ‘Dude, slow down’.

I finally had some time to relax and sit down. I didn’t have anywhere to be or anyone to see this weekend with the exception of a short visit from the parents and said to myself, I’m going to pick up my bass and play a little. Play like I used to play – just screwing around on the instrument and seeing what comes out.

I haven’t had much time to do this over the past year and a half. I’ve had plenty of time to play with purpose, with a band or a project, but not much time to just sit and mess around with the instrument.

As I started to play I noticed my right hand fingerpicking felt off. I noticed many of my go-to motifs and runs that I used to do I was having a tough time doing. I paused and said shit – am I this out of practice?

Evidently, I think I was.

I needed to know what was going on. I set up my iPhone to see my right hand as I played and took some short videos. For as long as I could remember I played with 3 fingers – index, middle and ring. Looking back at the footage, somehow, I wasn’t playing with my middle finger and only my index and ring finger. My middle finger lay at partially tense while the other two fingers did the work.

Needless to say I was a little surprised. Was I going to have to relearn 3 fingers?

Going to my left hand, I noticed my ring finger wasn’t as ‘responsive’ as I remember it. It’s almost like it was stumbling over frets and messing up fast 16th note runs.

Has my formed slacked this much? Apparently so.

As I sat bewildered, because this was the first time I could think of where I really felt rusty, out of practice, I couldn’t believe that I let myself go like this.

After all, looking at my lifestyle change the past year, it kind of made sense. Yes I had money to spend now and an in to the Rhode Island local music scene like never before, but I realize much of my playing was autopiloted. Playing to play the gig, to play with the band. To get by.

I wasn’t really enjoying bass playing like I used to. It felt like work. All the band’s all the new challenges just seemed moot looking back over the past year. Even with my own personal bass guitar endeavor, 10 Volt Army, coming into my life after years of sitting on the shelf, I wasn’t really inspired. I fell out of love with the instrument and it was just like the person you’ve been married to for years. You’re still with her because you’ve both run out of options or don’t have anywhere else to go.

I spent the rest of the afternoon examining what needed to be fixed and working to correct my form. Luckily the damage wasn’t massive or extensive – rather, just a case of deep rust settling in.

Time to shake the rust off, I thought.

I went through scales, runs, 8th note patterns, 16th note patterns, turning 4/4 runs into 9/8 runs, rock into reggae, thumb exercises – you name it (I’ll write about that soon – all the exercises I got my groove back with) while making my focus reactivating my middle finger on my right hand and index on my left.

While working at this, I could feel the old excitement of playing coming back again. I had become so focused on my bass that nothing else seemed to matter. I could feel myself not only gaining my old form back but getting experimental and curious with the instrument again. Trying new things and keeping notes on what sounded good and what I could use in 10 Volt Army or one of the other bands.

For the first time in a year and a half, I was excited to play bass again and looked forward to the challenges of the instrument. I’ve even started to learn to two-hand tap (thanks to Grant Stinnett for inspiring me! Check out his book Tapestry and his videos of him being awesome).

Am I here to say that I’m back to being inspired on bass – the end? Not quite.

More, I’m here just to share that bleakness that comes with being uninspired and going through the motions whether it applies to bass guitar or something else in life.

In short: it sucks. It really sucks.

It wasn’t until I became aware of how much I was neglecting my instrument and casting aside all the time I had put into the instrument over the years did I realize that I wasn’t having fun and that I was just going through the motions of bass playing, not actually playing bass.

To those who have found themselves in a similar situation and are reading this, I don’t have an answer for you that isn’t cliché.

Take some time out of your busy day…

Just take an afternoon…

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

For you the reader who feels as though they’ve fallen out of love with their instrument, it’s up to you to figure out the best way to a. figure out if you’re just going through the motions of playing the instrument and b. how to get back into enjoying your craft again.

I don’t have an answer. I’m just some guy who writes for the internet on his own website for other bass players’ utility.

But that all being said: playing bass is fun. Playing music is fun. Creating is fun. And being able to create by yourself or with others is the most fun you can ever have with your clothes on (or without – whatever works for you or whatever you’re creating).

Go out and play bass.