Inspiration is my favourite reason to play bass. I often hear people use the word motivation to encourage practice, but that word tends come with the connotation of forcing oneself to achieve, whereas inspiration feels fun, creative and natural. A bit of a push isn’t a bad thing, but it’s nice to have a balance between the two. I think there’s a reason people refer to what we do on the bass as playing rather than working…because it should be fun and enjoyable. One of the best ways I know to stay inspired or renew inspiration is to watch or listen to my favourite artists play. This might be going to see them live, getting one of their albums, or even watching clips of them playing on YouTube.
Not only does this inspire me to play more, it also allows me to take note of the techniques that they use. How are they creating that sound? I watch their finger placement, how they hold their bow, how they move with the bass. There is so much we can learn from watching someone play.
Likewise, listening to an artist I’ve never heard of before, or someone who plays a different type of music also inspires me to play. I bought an album a while back called Flying by Garth Stevenson which gave me heaps of new ideas of different ways to use a bass in combination with a looping pedal. There are endless sounds and techniques we can learn, but the only way to do it is through our own exploration on the bass, and listening to others.
The thing I love most about watching people play is the enjoyment and satisfaction that comes through performing something they’ve learnt. Even if I don’t enjoy the sound they make, that alone is usually enough to get me inspired to go home and play. So if you’re lagging on inspiration: get a new album, browse YouTube or get out and see someone play. If there’s someone who’s inspired you lately, or you know of an exciting gig coming up…let us know!
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Sometimes I wake up with no inspiration or enthusiasm to practice. Sometimes the thought of picking up my double bass makes me cringe. Sometimes every note I play sounds like claws dragging on metal. Perhaps I am alone in feeling this way, but in case there are others who, at times, feel the same way I thought I would share some tips for practicing that I’ve learnt through my own experience tackling this conundrum.
1: The first and hardest thing I find is accepting that it is okay to feel this way. Like any learning process, playing double bass will create feelings of inspiration, excitement and progress along with frustration, failure and disappointment. The fact is, if we didn’t have the bad days, the good wouldn’t exist either. If we can prepare ourselves for both kinds, the hard days become less of a shock.
Easy Setup for Practice
2: Just pick it up. Take exercise for example. A lot of the time getting dressed to workout is the hardest battle. After doing that, actually exercising seems like the natural thing to do. It increases the chances dramatically. Likewise, once the bass is in my hands, the natural thing to do is play. One thing I find helpful in getting this done is to always have my bass out and ready, making it as easy as possible to start. I have a stand in my room with everything I need set up within arms reach. This might sound lazy but it certainly helps!
3: I tell myself I’ll just play for ten or fifteen minutes. It may not be a long time but it’s amazing what can be achieved in short bursts. A lot of the time when I get warmed up inspiration will begin to flow and I’ll end up playing for far longer. It is the initial trick of telling myself I only need to do a short amount that gets me started. The rest flows naturally. And if it doesn’t, at least I’ve worked on something.
4: Have a plan. Write it down and make it very specific. Try and solve just one problem at a time. It may be 4 bars or just 2 notes. Sometimes separating left hand from right hand helps when practising separate skills.
What do you think? What helps you to play when you don’t feel like it? Let me know in the comments below!