The Plateau – What Do I Now?

It happens to all of us – not just bass players but all musicians – when we feel stuck, stilted, stymied, etc., and just can’t seem to get beyond the point where we are now. Sometimes you lay down the bass for a while, sometimes for a long while, sometimes it’s a year or two, if ever, before you get back to playing and practicing again.




It’s no secret that I’ve done that many times. I hit a plateau a couple of times a year while in college. Of course, I couldn’t quit then except for practicing (still had rehearsals, etc.) Later on in life, I put the bass down for a year or more a couple of times. I always had a really great reason for doing it- day job stresses me out, gotta clean the house, I hate (insert music or musician), it goes on and on. But I had an epiphany about 15 years ago.

Okay, maybe an epiphany is a bit overblown. I went to a concert at a local club in my area. The band was a three-piece instrumental ensemble made up of several well-known musicians who had gotten together to explore some completely improvisational music.  I had met the bass player many years earlier in New York. This night I ran into him between sets at the club. We exchanged the usual greetings and pleasantries. He looked straight at me and asked what kind of music I was playing now, who I was playing with, etc. I answered with some of my typical pat answers – I had a young son now, I needed to make a lot more money, etc. He replied “How can you stop doing something that you are so passionate about?” The conversation continued until I realized he was right. His passion was to play music and to make it work out, no matter what.

The bottom line is that it takes deciding to make it work. There is this amazing thing that happens when you decide. Things start working out around that decision. Indecision leads to nowhere or decline.

Specifically, usually it just takes some inspiration. I sometimes search through lots of music, listening, transcribing (the best thing for me), watching live performances – and any other way you can seek out something invigorating.

There are a few ideas from others on the internet – this one is pretty good.

Those are my thoughts. Most successful musicians have some method for overcoming a plateau. This worked for me but search around.

Leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you on this subject.


About Dwight Mabe

I've playing music since the age of 5...a really, really long time. I've been teaching bass guitar and double bass for over 30 years, writing about music and bass guitar for nearly as long.
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