Whatever is the instrument that you got into, it’s really hard to get good at it. Even if you have extraordinary talents, it takes time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears to become a pro. And despite some negative stereotypes, bass guitars are pretty difficult to master too. They might be simple for beginners, but they’re as hard as any other instrument to master. However, how do you know if you’re a good bassist?
Honestly, is there really an appropriate answer to this question? At the end of the day, what is it that makes a musician good? What is it that makes a bassist good? How can you know if you’re a good bassist?
The question itself isn’t a simple one to answer. There are so many factors that go into account.
Your music theory knowledge, technique, good sense of timing and dynamics, are only some of the factors that will determine whether you’re a good basis or not. But at the same time, there’s no doubt that hard work and a bit of talent will make you a good bassist.
Now, I assume you’re not satisfied with this answer. And how can you be? With this said, I’ll be diving deeper into this topic and exploring things that make one a good bassist.
Table of Contents
I know that it’s difficult for you to get these kinds of answers, but it really is hard to define “good” in this case. However, there are certain musicianship aspects that one must fill in order to become really good at it.
Skills That a Good Bassist Must Possess
In short, we can narrow the most important traits and skills of a bassist to these:
Make every note count. Make every sound and noise count. Everything should be in perfect order. The only way to achieve this is to have proper technique, which would allow you to be in control.
There’s no other way around it – you need to practice daily if you want to have proper technical skills. Along with proper music theory knowledge, they’ll be the foundation of everything.
With that said, metronome should be your companion. Timing is important for every musician. However, it’s absolutely essential for a bassist to have a perfect sense of timing. Along with the drummer, you’ll be keeping a steady background and you shouldn’t miss a single beat. At a given BPM, always know what your fours, eights, triplets, and other note values are.
As a backing instrument, it’s absolutely essential to have proper dynamics. It’s about playing entire song sections loud or quiet, or it can also be about the dynamics from note to note.
And then we have the issue of “groove” which can be somewhat difficult to explain. While staying in the timing, you’ll need to do a lot of proper “micro timing.” It’s what you add to the proper timing, that slightly bouncy feel.
You’ll first need to have a sense of timing and dynamics. Then mess around with it depending on the style of music that you’re playing. But there’s no textbook for it. You’ll just have to get it by feel.
Music Theory Knowledge
Yes, I know it’s boring. But it’s absolutely essential to know at least some essential music theory. No, it won’t ruin your creativity. It will help you “navigate” through music and even express yourself.
Implementation of Music Theory in Practice
And then comes the practical implementation of music theory. As a bassist, you’ll sometimes need to cover the creative aspect, like dealing with arrangements. And what better way to come up with proper bass lines than with practical implementation of music theory?
The skills mentioned above would be absolute essentials, at least in my opinion. It’s something that you should get covered first.
Nonetheless, I would also like to add these “secondary” skills below. However, bear in mind that there isn’t the “most important” skill from any of these. Maybe I could say that the first six ones that I mentioned have a priority. But these are fundamental things that you should have covered. When you’re done with them, you move on to the second part.
And now, the famous “feel.” Some may neglect it as a myth or an excuse for musicians who lack proficient technical skills. However, the “feel” is actually a culmination of all the essential skills listed above. Knowing how to feel the music that you’re performing, be it a cover or your original stuff, is essential for a good bassist.
Knowing How to Properly Perform with a Band
Then comes the crucial part – knowing how to perform with a band. In there, you’re not an individual performer but rather a part of a band, a living organism so to speak. All the skills that you have are not for showing off, but rather sounding good with a band.
Focusing on a Certain Scope of Musical Styles
Like it or not, you can’t be good at every genre. It’s literally impossible to know everything and be really good at every style. During the beginner phases, every musician should determine the scope of genres.
As time goes by, you should get proficient at certain musical styles. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore all the other genres. However, a good bassist, or any musician for that matter, is focused on specific musical styles.
While it’s not something essential, songwriting skills are an indicator of one’s great musicianship. And ultimately, knowing how to compose and arrange music will help you become a better performer as well. This goes for all musicians, not just bassists.
Of course, some musicians are proficient at completely different styles. However, it’s always a good idea to
Having an Appropriate Repertoire
After determining the genres that you’re going to play, it would be a good idea to build up a repertoire. No matter what you think, playing covers is inevitable.
Even the biggest names in the world of music, with countless albums selling millions of albums worldwide, have extensive repertoires of other people’s music. After all, playing covers is how all of them gained experience in their early career days.
If you’re playing genres that you’re really into, then you probably won’t have any issues building a repertoire. Nonetheless, in whichever genre you wish to perform, it’s a good idea to do thorough research and come up with a repertoire. Over years, there should be a few hundred songs in there.
So… How Do You Know If You’re a Good Bassist?
So, at which point will you actually know that you’re a good bassist? You may get some of these points covered, or you may THINK that you’ve covered them.
How will you tell if you’re ACTUALLY good?
For this, there are a few things that you should do.
Be in Contact with Other Bass Players
There’s no better way to advance and keep yourself up-to-date than having contact with other bass players. Be it 4-string, 5-string, or any other bass players, try to meet as many of them as possible.
And by being a part of this network, you’ll have a pool of bassists to compare yourself to. Sure, you can’t really measure something like music. However, with the healthy competition approach, you’ll get both feedback and a way to improve your skills.
Ask a Professional for an Honest Opinion
However, there’s no better feedback than the one coming from a professional musician. If possible, find more than just one who could give you feedback on your playing.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how much your parents, siblings, and friends think you’re good at your instrument. The most experienced musicians do. This is why I’d highly advise you to get a good bass teacher.
Look, if you’re taking lessons, it’s just not about learning random songs, music theory, and techniques. Aside from sharpening your skills, your teacher should give you feedback on your progress. If they’re honest, this will be the final say on whether you’re good or not.
Social media can either be anything from complete waste of time to an opportunity to earn money. This even goes for musicians. But the most important aspect we’re looking into here is sharing your playing and getting feedback.
Now, there’ll always be some naysayers. But don’t take things too close to your heart if you get critiques. Let this be one of the ways you get feedback from other bass players and the audience.
Share your skills and experience with everyone else. This is one of the best paths to becoming an awesome bass player.
“Yin and Yang” of Musicianship
At the end of the day, music is art. And by participating in it, you’re allowed to express yourself the way you want. However, beneath this cheerful and bright surface is hard work and dedication.
What I’m aiming for here is that, if you want to express yourself on any instrument, you need to practice and learn new things. Before you go out there and plug your bass into an amp, bear in mind that you should make every note count and practice as much as you can.
There’s one simple answer that I left for the very end. How do you know if you’re a good bassist? It’s very simple – you’re never good enough. You shouldn’t ever be fully satisfied with your skills. Always striving to be better is the only way to greatness on any instrument.