Amplifying Your Journey to Professional Bass Playing: A Comprehensive Guide for Aspiring Musicians
Congratulations! You’ve decided to follow your passion and embark on the exciting and rewarding journey of professional bass playing. While your love for music and inherent talent have set you on this path, honing your skills and building a solid foundation is critical to truly make your mark—and money—in the music world. You’ve probably heard tales of bassists who achieved stardom without formal education or a mentor’s guidance. While such stories inspire, they are exceptions rather than the norm. So, how do you navigate this diverse landscape and build a successful career? Buckle up, as we explore the most effective avenues for becoming a top-notch bass player.
1. Music College – Structured Learning for Disciplined Musicianship
My personal journey to professional bass playing kicked off within the organised, disciplined environment of a music college. As an unsure young adult, my initial choices at the A-level left me feeling disillusioned. This led me to drop out and enrol in a BTEC in Jazz at my local college. This life-changing decision subsequently blossomed into a four-year degree program at a highly esteemed jazz college, where I studied under the mentorship of one of the country’s top bassists.
In a music college, the structured learning environment provides a clear pathway to skill enhancement. The course structure followed a predictable yet effective pattern. We would choose four tunes each term—generally a medium swing, fast swing, Latin or straight 8th, and a ballad. These selections formed the bedrock of our coursework for that term. We learned to construct basslines around the melody or the ‘head’ changes and improvise solos over the harmony.
Beyond mastering tunes and improvisation, the curriculum dived deep into music’s foundational elements. The program offered ear training, arrangement, basic keyboard skills, exceptional ensemble classes, and instrumental lessons. While the curriculum might not be genre-specific, the comprehensive education provided a rigorous exploration of music that can be applied to all styles of music.
Investing in a music degree is not just about learning; it’s about creating opportunities to make money in music. You’re honing your skills and building a network in the music industry, which can be invaluable for your career. So, if you’re ready to invest in a music degree, tackle the most complex musical challenges first. Once you’ve mastered these, you can apply this knowledge to more popular genres through listening and immersion.
2. The Church Route – An Organic Pathway to Musicianship
Before music colleges emerged as a legal avenue for musical education, many accomplished musicians would credit their growth and success to their early experiences playing in church. Gospel or church musicians are renowned for their exceptional ears, feel, and tone—traits that form a solid foundation for any musician.
In addition to these technical skills, growing up in a church environment offers musicians a nurturing space to mature, learn from experienced role models, and experience healthy competition. This organic pathway to musicianship provides invaluable practical experience and an opportunity to develop your unique musical style.
Moreover, playing in a church setting can also serve as a stepping stone for aspiring musicians to make money in music. Churches often pay musicians modest compensation, and the connections formed can open doors to other paying gigs. If you’re located in a large city, and faith plays a significant role in your life, the musical lessons gained in a vibrant church environment can be invaluable.
3. One to One Bass Lessons – A Tailored Approach to Mastery
If the traditional routes of a music college or church don’t appeal to you or aren’t feasible due to personal or financial circumstances, consider a combination of self-study.
and private lessons. This approach offers flexibility and can be tailored to your specific needs and goals, allowing you to pave your way towards professional bass-playing success.
Take inspiration from Scott Devine, the founder of Scott’s Bass Lessons, who sought private lessons with Jazz Fusion legend Gary Willis when he didn’t have the grades to enter a music college. In today’s digital age, you can learn from some of the world’s finest players through online platforms like Zoom or Skype.
Private lessons allow you to customise your curriculum and target areas that need improvement. Moreover, you can work at your own pace and focus on your personal goals. However, without the competitive environment that a music college or church naturally provides, you’ll need to be your own source of motivation.
To make money in music, attend every gig, participate in jam nights, network at shows, and actively seek opportunities that can push your boundaries. Collaborate with local bands, offer to play at events, and put yourself out there to be noticed by potential clients or agents. Embrace the fear of failure—it can be a powerful motivator that drives you to practice harder and constantly challenge yourself. Let every experience, success or failure, serve as a lesson propelling you forward in your journey.
The Power of Networking: Your Key to Unlocking Success
Whichever path you choose, always remember the importance of building meaningful connections in the music industry. The relationships you forge during your formative years often evolve into professional connections that could open doors for future opportunities. Networking is essential for any musician looking to make money in music, so don’t underestimate the power of a well-connected community.
Advice for Aspiring Musicians: Essential Tips for Success
1. Be consistent: Regular practice is the key to mastering your craft. Set aside dedicated time for practice and make it a habit.
2. Stay disciplined: It’s easy to get distracted or lose motivation, but discipline is crucial to achieving your goals as a musician.
3. Be open to learning: Never stop learning, whether it’s through formal education, private lessons, or self-study. Always strive to expand your knowledge and skills.
4. Network, network: Attend events, engage in online communities, and connect with fellow musicians. Networking will help you learn from others and provide valuable opportunities for growth.
5. Embrace your unique style: While learning from the greats is essential, developing your unique sound will set you apart in the professional bass-playing world.
6. Stay humble: Even as you succeed, remain humble and grounded. Remember that there is always more to learn, and growth is a continuous process.
As you embark on your professional bass-playing journey, remember these tips and choose the path that best suits your needs and goals. With hard work, dedication, and guidance, you can make your mark and make money in music while doing what you love. So, go forth and let your bass-playing journey rock on! 🎸
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