(I’ve been away from my website and Youtube channel for the past 2 months, but have returned after a crazy summer full of home renovation and moving across town. I apologize for the delayed responses and absence. It’s really good to be back!)
Perhaps you’re like me and struggle with maintaining a solid, regular practice regimen. You know scales, arpeggios and modes are good to know and helpful to practice, but have a difficult time keeping the routine going. Although I believe the fundamentals of music such as those mentioned are essential for any serious musician to grasp, they are certainly not the only things necessary for strong growth in your craft. In fact, the more I read and hear from other professional musicians, the more I realize that the greatest thing you and I can do to grow and improve as bassists is to learn songs.
Sit down and learn a song today. Learning songs will develop your ear, your recognition of patterns and common chord changes and it will keep you engaged more than any other practice routine, in my opinion. In his book, The Music Lesson, Victor Wooten teaches that we learn to speak our language by engaging in conversation. We first learn to use the language in context before we go to school and learn about the language (you can also hear Victor talk about this in his interview with Scott Devine on the SBL podcast). This is also the idea behind the Suzuki method of learning music.
Find a song you like that won’t frustrate you too much and take 15-30 minutes to focus on learning as much of the song as you can. Chances are you’ll put in more time than you had planned and will enjoy playing along with the recording. Further, you’ll have a new song in your repertoire. So much will be gained from this process. As you get to know songs, pay attention to the chord progressions. Find a chord chart and take note of the major and minor chords. As you become familiar with a particular genre and/or artist, you’ll be able to feel where the song is going and start to see the commonality of many chord progressions. Learning theory will then help you to see the how’s and why’s of the songs you’ve been learning and performing. The theory will become a light to help you navigate through creating new lines and learning new songs.