Feel first, virtuosity second. If you haven’t got good feel, everything else counts for nothing. Why do we get so easily distracted by the unimportant stuff? Why is it often so hard to discipline ourselves to play only what’s required when we are being creative? It takes a long time to mature as a musician but we can aid the process by taking a breath and thinking clearly about everything we do both in our practise time and in the way we approach live performance. For the vast majority of the time, as bass players, we are called to play with simplicity and taste. If we listen to any of the great song players we hear that often they are playing simple parts with authority and conviction; the choice of notes or rhythms may make things sound simple, but making it FEEL great is not as easy as those players make it sound.
We can potentially get distracted away from the important stuff when we practise because of our inherent desire to want to impress others with the musical skills we are developing. It’s common to want to be able to run scales and arpeggios at top speed for the sake of it, to ‘blow people away’ with our ability… There’s often a strong willingness to learn all the flash techniques of the best players on our instrument with no thought as to whether these techniques will be of any benefit in any musical situation we find ourselves in. What it comes down to is a player’s motivation for learning to play the way they play.
Maybe we should stop trying to impress everybody with attempted virtuosic displays that we can’t really pull off, and concentrate rather on the thing that matters most; making music that feels good first and impresses second. The thing is, music that feels good DOES make an impression but let’s try and honest. Music first, ego last. I believe it’s one of the hardest things to master as a creative musician.