Berklee Bass Talk: Is It Necessary To Play Live To Improve?
Q: Is it still necessary for bassists to play live with other musicians in order to improve their own playing? There are so many practice tools available now, especially the hundreds of various play-alongs with great rhythm sections. On the other hand, in live situations, we’re sometimes playing with others that might not be at our playing level. Why not just try to improve our chops at home?
A: It is absolutely essential that bass players play with other musicians, not only to improve their own playing but to experience the ‘give and take’ of being a member of an ensemble. There are so many variables at work when playing with others. The first is simply everyone’s different personalities, and learning how to negotiate and work among them; to be a player among players. I always recall Abraham Laboriel saying the bass is the role of a servant; we are to serve the music and make everyone else sound good. He always does a masterful job of this.
And then there are all the things that occur in the moment that musicians need to be able to respond to. For instance: a singer losing the form, the drummer rushing or dragging, the guitarist playing wrong chords. How do we react or respond? You do not learn this by playing with DVD’s where everything is always perfect and always the same. We learn whenever we play, whether it be with more experienced or less experienced musicians. Try Googling “baseball batting instruction”, you’ll find many. Perhaps you can learn some techniques from these but you need to get into the game. You need to be up to bat with two men on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and the game on the line, to know what that takes to succeed. No DVD will ever teach you that. And no DVD will ever teach you the energy, the excitement, the joy and the fulfillment of playing with a good band live, and knowing you are holding it all together.
About Ed Lucie: In addition to being a Berklee professor and graduate, Ed has a Masters from the New England Conservatory Of Music. As a pro bassist, he has performed with Stevie Wonder, Buddy Rich, Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule, Leo Nocentelli, and has performed both on Broadway and TV. You’ve heard him as a sideman on numerous albums, and perhaps have read his columns back when he was a contributing writer for Bass Player Magazine.
For more info on Ed Lucie, visit his Berklee page.