I have been learning to play the bass. I suppose it started when I was 13 and had silly braces and oversized rock t-shirts.

I stopped playing for a while, but I recently picked it up again when I joined the team at Little Kids Rock about 3 1/2 years ago. It felt like a natural fit for my tech role. A support instrument. The untrained ear doesn’t quite know it’s there, but the music feels empty without it. Also the butt of many jokes, reminding me not to take myself too seriously.

At first, I felt guilty calling myself a bassist when I was not practicing nearly “enough.” Not practicing unless I had a performance to practice for (uniquely, at my workplace, there are a few opportunities to play gigs in public with colleagues every year.) Playing for Instagram but not learning my scales and arpeggios. Just feeling like a fraud.

Something shifted in the last few weeks, though. I just started playing songs that I like. I started playing for fun, sometimes for over an hour a day. I decided that I don’t need to master any one song and that I can skip around (#Aries). And slowly, I am learning the fundamentals. Today, I started learning a technique called slapping and even improvised a bass part. I can feel myself getting better, feel my fingers getting faster and stronger and more controlled. And it feels like it’s happening suddenly, while I am just playing songs that I enjoy (like “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles)

A few notes on this process:

  1. I really have to shut my internal voice off when I’m playing. A lot of thoughts like “I will never be as good as [insert person who literally majored in music in college]” and “I’ll never get this, I’m a failure” come up, and I need to gently shoo them away.
  2. I am learning to take others’ support seriously. I often assume the people around me are being patronizing, but I have found that people are mostly good and willing to help when asked.
  3. I am learning to go with the flow when learning a new skill, which can translate to other skills (like technical ones!). Usually, I love structure. I love to have a plan with a beginning, middle, and end for learning things. However, I am finding that learning the concepts of music and common patterns is easier in the context of a song, and sometimes these concepts come up as a surprise. Sometimes I don’t even know what they’re called. The process of learning this instrument is teaching me to let go and be a little curious.
  4. On the flip side, it’s important for me to document the process of going with the flow. I started collecting my sheet music in one place and may even index it by skill level.
  5. I don’t feel bad taking a break from a song anymore. Sometimes I’ll be like “okay, I get the gist of this, but it’s a little too advanced for me. I will get back to it later.”
  6. I also don’t feel bad for not practicing anymore. I want this to be a fun hobby and not feel any pressure.
  7. Bass is stress relief for me. I pick it up when I want to take a break from work. It’s the perfect tactile activity to enhance my focus and slow my busy brain down.

Finally, this girl has the same bass as me and she’s incredible. I love the joy she shows at the end; it’s inspiring. Enjoy!