It’s always nice when you come to a sudden realisation about something when you least expect it. I experienced this a few days ago when I embarked upon a late night practice session. Now in an ideal world I would be practicing sat a few feet in front of my amp on a medium volume so I can FEEL the bass while I’m playing. As most bass players will tell you, practicing with headphones is ‘less than ideal’ as you can’t feel the bass and without a decent pair of headphones you may even struggle to hear it properly. However when practicing late at night headphones are a must in order to avoid angry neighbours and even angrier housemates. I dislike practicing with headphones on just as much as the next person but nevertheless I sat down to get some work done.
I decided to practice a transcription I’d been working on for a few weeks. I’d learned the entire solo and was now working on tidying up some of the smaller details and making the whole thing as smooth as possible. Aware of the fact that other people in the house were sleeping I made a conscious effort to pluck the strings gently with my right hand so the acoustic sound of my bass didn’t travel and disturb anyone. After playing through the solo a few times I noticed it felt much more comfortable and seemed to flow much better than it had been. What had changed? My right hand technique that’s what. Up until this point I had been trying to ‘force’ the sound out of the strings with a tense right hand rather than relaxing as I should. This made a sudden huge difference to not only my performance of this transcription but to my technique in general and gave me a whole load of new things to work on in my practice routine.
It may sound obvious and insignificant but the point I’m trying to make is that this epiphany came to me from a situation that was, as I put it, ‘less than ideal’, which in some cases may have prompted the thought “why bother practicing tonight if I have to use headphones”. However if I hadn’t have bothered I wouldn’t have made this small but important discovery that has helped push my playing forward that little bit more.