How Can You Tell How You're Doing On Bass?

Hey all.
I have a student currently who is wondering how they’re doing on the bass.
It made me wonder -
How do you all determine how you’re doing?
Is it personal goals? Comparative to other people? Being able to do the thing you couldn’t do __ months previously?

I think that for me it’s very personal.
At this point I know (too well) where my weak points are, so I get excited when they improve or feel better. It’s very incremental and gradual.

Curious how you all - brand new players particularly, as this student is new to all music - think about this.


id say on a given day if i am having fun or getting frustrated — if i am having fun and want to keep playing, im doing well. if im hitting a wall and getting irritated, im not doing well. that does not mean im looking for every day to be easy, but i am looking to not be pissed off when trying to play.


It’s my wife telling me “wow, you couldn’t do that 3 months ago”.


For me I compare myself to how I was playing a couple of months ago. I applaud other peoples success, but measure my success against myself.


Oh yeah, having fun playing stuff that was hard before is definitely “doing well”.

Also joining a band/a jam/other people and being able to keep up, one way or another, and feeling that you fit in. And maybe improving every time a bit. That’s ofc very personal, and for me totally unrelated to what the others say… they might be just nice or not wanting to let a bassist slip from their hand :rofl:


A lot of little things. Improv something and go “that sounds cool!” or suddenly play something at a much higher speed than I could a week ago, nail the timing on something, but out a wicked fill, etc.


Fully this.

I really see a 2 part dynamic to being on the path of infinite improvement -
1 - Are you enjoying the journey, rough spots and all? - and:
2 - Are you still willing to put the work in to smooth out the rough spots you can see?

I love

It’s great to have an outside ear/eye on things that isn’t involved in the day-to-day trenches of the practice battles! Someone who can check in and see the plateaus you climb to.

Keep it coming, y’all! I love seeing all of this and the different views/ideas/places everyone has and comes from.
Threads like this help remind me to be thankful for this forum oasis. Y’all are great.


I was at my in person lesson on Monday, and my teacher wanted to do some jazz riffing. And the bass line had the same shape as Billie Jean, so I just ripped through a few measures of Billie Jean no problem.

And I never practice the song.

It’s hard to see where you are for yourself, as growth is gradual. But two ways I can see it is going back on old material and see how easy it is now, and how much faster I can pick up a new song.


For me it is when I accomplish something and look back.
A new cover/tune that was hard at first and then came out great in the end.
Feedback here is great, as I generally think things are worse than they are when I post them, and if people say very positive things it helps me shut up the little voice that says its just ok or crap.
Or like others have said noticing little improvements ‘hey, that was easier then I remember’.


It’s very subjective, I think. There are days when I’m really hitting it and feeling invincible, and days when I just quit in frustration, so it’s hard to measure just how good I really am. And there are certain techniques I’m still not getting the hang of, even after Josh’s lessons and a lot of practice. My advice is just enjoy where you are on the learning curve, and keep practicing.


It’s funny. I’ve come a long way since I started Josh’s course, but I still haven’t ginned up the courage to try Billy Jean again :smiley:



Video of the progress is the best way to gauge the improvements. A few of the students at school came to me for a little coaching, usually they have a song(s) they have to perform so we work on the songs together, breaking them down to sections. What I notice over the years was the level of smoothness and timing. Sometimes I would go back and look at the early videos to compare with their recent performance of the same song. They are more “pro” at it

It’s like watching someone drive stick shift the first week, it’s not pretty, lol they focus on everything, a year later it’s much smoother.


Such a great topic @Gio!! Thanks for bringing this one up!

I think for me it’s a combination of a few things. One thing in particular is by recording yourself. When I now look (or listen) back to some of my early covers from three years ago when I started playing bass I think to myself, “I need to do them over!”…. At the time I recorded them, I thought they were great…. Not so much now when I listen back but one thing is for certain,… I can actually hear that I have gotten better over time. Yea, recording yourself playing is a good way to determine how you’re doing….

Another way is by playing with other musicians. Band practice, jams, etc…. Feedback from other musicians is a great tool…. After one of our weekly band practices a couple weeks ago the guitar player looked at me and said something like “Damn Lanny, you’re really getting better!”…. Having been a former guitar player, a comment like that coming from the lead guitar player kinda made me thi k that wow, this is really cool!….

Then there’s my wife who never hears me practice since I always practice through headphones - she has however listened to every song I’ve recorded and had commented on how much better I have gotten.

As for myself personally, I think the one most important thing that makes me determine how I’m doing happens when I pick up and throw that strap over my shoulder, plug in, relax, block everything else outta my mind, throw on a smile,… and pluck that first note on a song with my bandmates……. Ain’t nothing more satisfying…

Keep on Thumpin’!


What a wonderful, thought-provoking question. I agree with what everyone has mentioned, and recently noticed a couple other ways:

  1. I hear familiar songs differently, especially if I haven’t heard them in a while. Just today, I was listening to Full Moon by The Black Ghosts and really heard how the bass line makes that song.

  2. I surprise myself, like by trying something that I know is too hard for me, or instead of looking for a tab, will try and figure it out myself.

I think there’s also a shift from just measuring incremental forward progress to taking some control of where you want your progress to go.


To me, is when I start to learn something new (song, technique, etc) initially I don’t feel a “groove” on what I’m doing… Timing mistakes, improper fingering (either hand)… it just does not “feel” right.

I know I finally feel the groove because I start bobbing me head to what Im playing and its enjoyable to my ears. Hard to explain. And I notice that I start playing with a smile or very serious face (don’t know why). My daughter keeps telling me I look angry when I play :slight_smile:

So if I feel that “groove” when I play I’ve made progress.


I went back to it over a year post B2B, and it was not to hard at all.
I think finger control is a lot of it, and just practice practice practice putting brain eyes hands together.


For me it’s been recording myself and noticing my improvement with each recording.


Think I need to video and watch myself. I might think I’m playing well but I’m not aware of issues with technique etc.


I think for me its when I’ve got it down well enough that i can play it while my girl talks to me? That’s kinda the “yeah, baby!” Moment.

It’s also kinda cool when she walks in and says " that sounds good. What is it? " and i can respond " nothing, really. I was just noodling around"

This has been a really incremental journey for me.
Being able to fret properly, to be able to play a note legato, to then be able to chain notes and not lose the flow. Learning a scale, and then another, and then freestyle within that.

I haven’t had people around to hear me play until two weeks ago when i come home. So i just had to play along and hope i was getting better, it’s nice to hear that i am.

But for me, the biggest thing is when see something new and decide i want to try it, and realize it’s actually do-able. That PAUL can do this. Honestly, i hoped it would happen- but i never REALLY expected it. That’s the truth. I thought id give up and just put it away.

That’s not gonna happen. At all. That, for me is the biggest benchmark to getting better.