am not the one for resolutions, but I like to set goals with the new year, to make sure I am on the right path to follow my ambitions. Sometimes, I get on autopilot and sometimes forget where I go. Being a very disciplined person, on many things, it’s not unrealistic to fit a lot of different activities in my schedule, but there is one rule, I must be enthusiastic about it.
Last night, I woke up in some panic because of my university class. It’s not even started, and I am freaking out because I don’t like the subject nor the professor. I study Political Science for fun, but panic during the right isn’t much fun. After thinking it through, I decided to cancel and make a better use of my time during the semester. Seven hundred dollars in my pockets, or at least not spent.
Amongst the things that are worth my time, my bass. My beautiful Tequila Sunrise Fender Meteora fills me with joy. I am not very good, and I keep saying that I am trying to play, but while I am trying, dopamine replaces anxiety.
Since I started my musical journey, last August, I have been very disciplined. Apart from the three days we were out of town for the Montreal Knob-session, I have taken my instrument to play it at least 30 minutes per day, sometimes up to three hours. If I had written a bit more about it, you would have learned that I started with a Sterling by Music Man Stingray short scale, and that I quickly ditched it for a full scale 1994 blue burst Music Man Stingray, to finally get a Meteora as a gift on November 7, and completely fell in love. There is something magic with the Jazz Bass shaped neck.
As a 41 year-old, I have more access to instruments that a young beginner would, I am aware, and I appreciate my “luck”. However, this luck comes with a great counterluck, meaning it’s not easy to start learning so late. I have a great motivation, but it often feels as if it will never work. To compensate for the lost time, I suppose I have this great will and lots of discipline. My life choices allow me to rank music higher in my priorities. Quitting engineering was risky, and terrifying, but my time proved to be more precious than the money I made.
Regarding my goals with my music, I have wanted to word them, but the problem with the concept is that once it has been said, it starts to exist, and it leaves a lot of room for failure and disappointment, which can overshadow improvement. Now that I have written all of this, let me share with you my four steps to prioritizing music in a healthy manner.
First, be realistic. I have made room for music, yoga, outdoor walks, reading and healthy cooking, but it’s not possible for everybody. Planning a daily music moment is ideal, or at least six times a week. It doesn’t need to be equal every day, but at least five minutes a day is enough to create the habit, and work its way in the brain. Avoid distractions and be 100 % with your instrument. It could be five minutes on Monday and Wednesday, 20 minutes on Thursday and Saturday, one hour on Tuesday and Friday.
Second, make sure to have an accessible music setup. Mine is in the dining room. We bolted a guitar hanger on a wood desk and slid my amp under the desk. All my music sheets are close by. I can be ready in 30 seconds so it’s even worth playing while I am waiting for my herbal tea to infuse, or my soup to heat. Of course, this is not a jamming setup, but it can easily consist of the most versatile guitar or bass with a headphone device, useful for the days when it’s gonna be 5-10 minutes.
Third, be ready. You know you have days when you can’t waste time looking for what to play? Have functional exercises ready. Scales, arpeggios, or a song that challenges you just enough to be useful, without feeling like you failed. For the days with a longer time slot, warm up more and play whatever you want or need to practise!
Finally, choose when you push yourself and when you fool around. Both exist on a continuum, but it shouldn’t be all one or the other. If you keep pushing yourself super hard all the time, you’ll end up burnt out, and if you never push yourself, you won’t improve. There are moments for both.
This was my take as a new wannabe bassist. It’s easy to not find the time to practise and enjoy our instrument enough, and feel some guilt. Up until now, it has worked for me and I am confident it can be helpful to many people. May your instrument bring you joy and freedom in 2024 and beyond. I didn't tell you my goal: be confident to say "I play the bass".