It is no secret that many of us become frustrated with our practice time and the lack of results in our goal to be better players.  Boredom sets in and we soon find ourselves aimlessly noodling, wondering how do we improve as a bass musician.


In my years of private instruction in my home studio and worldwide online, i’ve identified the stumbling blocks that have encumbered many to the point of distraction and disappointment. Believe me that a great majority of bassists that I’ve taught have in common that most deadly of maladies…not practicing musical facts!


Practicing music content provides the hammer and nails with which to build the ''house of the creative''. Music fact based practicing produces results that you and others can hear.


The emotional and creative is right brain dominant and the left is logical and analytical. Many bass players get tripped up when they confuse the two.


Craft: ( practicing music content) is HOW we do something...


Art : ( our approach and creativity, interpretation) is WHY we do something


When you practice musical facts, You are not performing. you simply make mistakes and correct them. When you read music, you never run out of things to practice!


By the way, learning how to read is not hard if you do it correctly. I've taught hundreds this skill over the years.. and they have ALL grown as bassists. Absorbing information through reading is exploring the very things the competent player needs to know..


Case in point:

Many bassists not spending enough time on music content will only practice what they know or assume to know and expect improvement for their effort.


Go slowly so your mind, fingers, and ears absorb new musical facts…that way you can correct your mistakes simply and without the critical right brain. Making mistakes is an important part of practicing in that you simply correct and learn from them.


This can also apply in creating walking and solo ideas.. Learning music content helps us play the chordal patterns, tensions, substitutions, etc. that has been used for many generations and also how chords move and ”ask” for next one. This is the basis for all western harmony…it all eventually goes into the right brain creatively as we connect our ears, fingers, and mind as we work. This fact is made evident in so many that I've taught over the years. They are presented with the very same material.. yet they express themselves differently with own creativity. Witness this fact in that the alphabet we learn as children is very defined and narrow.. yet we use it to express different viewpoints and feelings that are unique to us... How incredible that we have 12 notes in the chromatic scale and this very defined and narrow fact is utilized to create art that has no limitations and embraces the expression of emotions and ideas!


Remember to keep your practice sessions short at first and your mind, ears, and fingers engaged with what you are working on.


Contact me if you want to learn more, have questions, and want to book a private one on one lesson with me here in Nashville or Worldwide via Skype. You will learn well. Teaching is a passion of mine and doing this since 1979 while maintaining a full recording and touring career has taught me a thing or two


Sharing a quote from a former student that learned '' Real Deal, Real World '' in his time with me:


''Steve Bryant cuts out the nonsense and shares with you real world knowledge, techniques, and methods that he himself uses on a daily basis as a Nashville session player. Studying with Steve is one light bulb going off after another. No matter your level of experience or style, you will be a better musician after studying with Steve.''

- Matt Cantin

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I welcome all students with a desire to truly improve their playing to get better gigs and sessions, or to satisfy your personal critique and goals..


I look forward to working with you!





All The best,


Steve





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Updated: Jan 1, 2020

Imagine a world where you are making more money than you have spent on gear, various and sundry music related expenses etc. in a calendar year! That year when you show a profit on schedule C of your income tax return. There are various interpretations of the word ''professional'' depending on who you are talking to and their point of view.


For the purpose of of this discussion, I am defining a pro bassist as one who makes a living primarily as a musician. One can play on a pro level, have a pro work ethic and business sense, pro level gear, pro level attitude and still not make (or choose) a full time living at it.


I have been asked over the years by bassists everywhere who are aspiring to be full time pro players about '' what it takes'' to attain that goal. If you don't already live in a city that can support a full time musician.. move to a city that does. Granted, this is a bit easier when you are young and in your late teens or 20's, but don't let that stop you by all means if your heart is set on doing it. I am going to talk about Nashville specifically as I've been a resident and session bassist for many years and a full time professional since 1975. Of course, this can be applied in other cities where there is a viable music industry/scene.


Consider well these points:

* Preparation! Know how to read number charts on a level of competency with a minimal amount of time..sometimes you will be required to play on the spot!.. some gigs are like that, especially the sub gigs and demo sessions where time and money is at a premium.

I also want to impress upon you that knowing how to read notation and chord charts expands your opportunities to work and opens doors to a wider world:-) The basics of reading is not hard.. I know because I have taught hundreds this very basic skill over the years, and some are working pros now. many semi-pro or weekend gigging players. Have a working knowledge of chordal notes and how chords move in a progression is so very important .. your chordal notes form the backbone of your playing.. I've taught many this very necessary skill.. A bassist that knows his or her chords is an asset. Music is expressed in chords, not scales.. I've never been hired to play a scale .. this is a perspective that become evident in the pro world..


* Develop friendships/working relationships with upcoming artists, songwriters, producers, and musicians. You never will know if that that up and coming writer could be the next hot thing with a string of smash hits:-) In many cases the writer/artist pulled in from their relationships the the great bass player they knew personally over the months and years and hung out in a friendly ( not mercenary) manner... being confident and easy to work with is so very important.


* Take advantage of the networking and career building qualities of union membership. The music business IS a business.. and your continued success depends on getting paid fairly and having the resources of collective bargaining working for you.. also, the benefits of equipment insurance, health insurance, pension, and various services is so helpful in building your financial future. reuse and upgrade payments from demo to master

See the full details at: http://www.nashvillemusicians.org/


* View each gig you take as a networking opportunity and treat people respectfully.. it will come back to you:-) Be prepared, show up a little early for the downbeat ( start time) and be open and friendly... I can't express how extremely important it is to keep your commitments and work habits professional.. this one tip alone will save you so much grief, drama, and wasted time. Don't be reluctant to graciously turn down work if you are not being respected or the business end of things are promised and not delivered.


* Never get your entire sense of self worth from the ups and downs of the music business.. it is far too ephemeral and capricious to let circumstances dictate your value in the entirety of YOU as a creative musician and as a person.

Learn to fill your bucket from activities and interests from non music related sources.. I promise it will all flow into your creative bass playing!






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Updated: Dec 10, 2019

In the many years I've been teaching students privately, I have encountered problems that confuse and inhibit progress. Understanding how to develop a strong sense of time is certainly an important aspect of playing well. Some students do not read notation and it's the first thing they are exposed to in our working together. I've never experienced a student NOT improving by regarding the written notes.


Learning to read music is not hard and the basics are grasped in the first lesson. Nothing illustrates music content as well as written music! All aspects of harmony, rhythm, and melody are clearly articulated and allow the student to hone in on aspects of technique.


* Reading music sharpens comprehension and navigation of the the fretboard.


* You are not entertaining assumptions that could be inhibiting to the bassist, such as wasting too much time on things you are already comfortable with and not enough time on your weaknesses. with written music in your practice time You will NEVER run out of things to practice that are truly relevant to being a competent musician.


* All written music addresses technique.. in other words.. no one will disagree that being a competent player means the ability to play '' that note at that time and each note's duration'' - I've said this many times to students and at seminars..


* I don't use tablature with students. When asked why, I tell them tab is not used in the professional world


* As I assign written music to students.. They have specific and relevant material to review and have a metric to gauge progress based on music principles and facts.


* Learning to read does not stifle creativity.. it enhances it! In other words, knowing what something is musically and how it is played on your instrument helps not only in understanding what you are required to do on a gig/session, but helps the bassist outline their own ideas when communicating with others..


* Reading will also increase your work opportunities and broaden the scope of basic musicianship


When I am asked by a student what '' groove'' is .. I state: the ability to produce THAT Note at that TIME'' ( refer to my first paragraph in this article ) Written music illustrates so well in facts how this is done.. which equips the bassists to express the art of music. Consider the world renowned painters Rembrandt and Picasso.. the expression of their art in how they related their experiences were entirely different. However, they each understood the FACTS of mixing colors to produce varying hues to express themselves uniquely.. How does it hurt the bassist to know the facts of music? The answer is self evident.. Craft is the exploration of ''how'' we do something.. Art is the exploration of '' why'' we do something..... note that I am addressing Craft in this article:-)


Comprehending written music also includes counting and knowing where the downbeat is and where '' One'' is of each bar.. The majority of practice time in learning reading is not using a metronome.

It is vital to count out loud the beats and do the very necessary work of making mistakes and correcting them .. hard to do with a metronome demanding that you play in time!

The misuse of a metronome by many is using it to keep a tempo without the player being aware of the downbeat and where the note and phrase is in the bar.. this is musically dangerous! In addition, having the metronome beat on '' two and four'' is essential to good time .. as it requires of the bass musician to be responsible knowing the downbeat of '' One''. it's been so much fun over many years of teaching to see students get '' The Aha moment'' of truly getting this!


Want to learn more or have questions about improving your playing? use the contact form on this website or stevebryantbassguitar71bass@gmail.com. I've taught some of the current crop of top studio, touring, and band bassists in the Nashville music industry....If you are in the Nashville, Tennessee area, I am available for private lessons in my home studio. I am also available worldwide via Skype. You will learn well!





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