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Asking For (and Getting) Feedback

Q: As bass players, we often find ourselves in situations where we do a job for others, be it taking the bass chair in a singer’s project, subbing in a band, teaching, giving workshops, etc. I often find it difficult to get appropriate feedback for my job. I like it when people are happy with my work, and I also like it when I am given the opportunity to learn from my mistakes or wrong choices. Often, however, I have the impression that the people you work with don’t exactly tell you what they think, even when you ask them. Sometimes you just start wondering and speculating when they don’t (or do) call you back. Sometimes, too, it feels unfair because you feel that you could do a much better job if they just told you what was wrong. Could you share some of your experiences, or even strategies about this?

A: I’m sure that this will bring a lot of comments below, brace yourself!

Two thoughts happened simultaneously when I read your question:

A) The bass is the wrong instrument for anyone needing recognition or positive re-enforcement of any kind.

B) You might be worrying too much.

Generally speaking (and genre dependent), you’re job is to not be noticed to some extent. Especially in the pop realm, which would include country these days, if the singer or anyone else notices you, it is because you are either over playing or doing something wrong. With that in mind, not getting feedback might just mean that you are indeed doing a fantastic job and have nothing to worry about. I’d say that is certainly true if you are also continuously rehired by those bands.

I take it as a compliment when a singer gives me a compliment along the lines of, “That was so easy! I didn’t even know you guys were there!”

Now that I’ve said that, I’d like to also say that this particular way of thinking might be outdated as it’s been proven over and over again that the bass can take a prominent and musically supportive role.

Don’t assume that people aren’t willing to give critical advice unless you seem like the kind of guy who might not be able to “take it”. Some people, it’s true, have softer egos and take things too hard when someone tries to give them helpful advice.

But those people typically don’t last very long in the group either, so again, if you’re hired back and working steady with these groups, I think you may be over thinking things. It sounds like everyone may just happy with your playing!

My advice to you would be this:

  • Continue to leave yourself open to critique and comments.
  • Worry less about how everyone else feels about your playing and use your own musical sensibilities as your guide.
  • Record rehearsals and gigs, critique yourself, strive to make yourself happy with the music (not just your playing, but the music).

I guarantee that if the music sounds good to you, it’ll sound good to them as well (and if it doesn’t, that just means that it might not be a good musical match).

Readers, what’s your take? Tell us about it in the comments.