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Self Improvement Archives

Learning to Improvise
Ask Damian Erskine

Learning to Improvise

A reader, who started on piano, reached out to Damian mentioning that while he’s educated in the areas of reading, there was never a focus on improvising. He said he feels “robotic” and asked for some pointers. That’s the subject of this week’s “Ask” column.

What’s One Piece Of Advice To Become a Better Musician?
Ask Damian Erskine

What’s One Piece Of Advice To Become a Better Musician?

In this “Ask” column, Damian responds to a reader, who asks “What’s the one piece of advice you got that helped you to become a better musician?”

The Lightbulb Moment: In Sync
The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: In Sync

Nothing tears up my heart more than the moment I realize an obvious flaw or inconsistency in my playing. I mean, what have these ten-thousand-plus hours amounted to anyway? If you’re the kind of person who strives for precision—clean playing, the perfect execution of a favorite bass line, or the ability to effortlessly play a musical idea—then you probably spend...

The Lightbulb Moment: Three’s Accompany
The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: Three’s Accompany

When it comes to accompanying a singer or soloist, there’s nothing like the power of three. The rock trio. The jazz trio. The trio of cheeses provided in the green room. It’s the perfect way to get the bases covered (no pun intended). While there are various forms of trio instrumentation (keys, bass, drums; guitar, bass, drums; guitar, fiddle, and...

Taking Criticism in a Positive Light
Ask Damian Erskine

Taking Criticism in a Positive Light

Q: How can I learn to take musical remarks/criticism from a bandleader/conductor in a productive way? I can’t help it, but I always get a little offended and/or insecure. A: Remember this: If you weren’t good enough, you wouldn’t have the gig. While not every band leader may have the best delivery, in general, suggestions and statements of preference are...

Staying Motivated Without Playing Opportunities
Ask Damian Erskine

Staying Motivated Without Playing Opportunities

Q: I read your column for years, but I don’t know if you have answered this already: I have been playing bass for many years and, due to circumstances beyond my control, I cannot find people in my hometown to play (long story, small Greek city). I am taking some jazz theory lessons (via Skype), but I am stuck in...

Competing with the “Bass Virtuosos”
Ask Damian Erskine

Competing with the “Bass Virtuosos”

Q: I have been feeling a bit defeated lately. I want to be a professional bassist more than anything but whenever I watch YouTube, I feel like I just don’t have what it takes. I see nothing but a sea of players with blazing chops, piano like chordal abilities, solo players who sound like an orchestra (with loopers, etc..) and...

Bass Players: On Staying Motivated and Avoiding Unhealthy Comparisons
Ask Damian Erskine

Bass Players: On Staying Motivated and Avoiding Unhealthy Comparisons

Q: How do I come to terms to the fact that I will never be a Damian Erskine-caliber player? How do I keep myself motivated to learn when I am always comparing my sucky playing to much better players? Why would anyone – especially another bass player – want to listen to me play? A: To a certain extent, in...

Musical Goals and Self Evaluation
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Musical Goals and Self Evaluation

For those of us involved in formal education, the end of the year is a time for evaluation in all our classes, e.g. final exams, papers, presentations etc. When it comes to instrumental study, most students play what is known as a “jury.” This is performance by the student for panel of faculty. The charge of these faculty members is...

Starting Back Up on Bass After a Long Break
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Starting Back Up on Bass After a Long Break

Even those of us who maintain a regular practice routine may find ourselves taking an extended period of time away from our instrument. Vacations, travel, illness, work, incarceration, etc. can keep even the most dedicated musician away from their instrument. With an instrument as physically demanding as the double bass, we would be wise to put forethought into how we...