The Bass / Life Balance

Alllllllllllrighty then, folks.

I’d love to put this eternal question out to all of y’all.
How do you (or don’t you) balance a life, maybe a family, probably a job, other things that have to get done… with the bass?

I’ve been at every stage of this, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a balance.
Between college… balancing college jazz-bass-major demands with falling in love (college was when I quite video games - something had to give!) - my bass teacher told me that “maybe music’s not for you…” Meanwhile trying to negotiate time boundaries with my (now wife) girlfriend about needing to practice/etc…
Or the professional world post-college when it was all music and teaching and gigging and hustling for bands all the time + getting married?
Or the touring life (worst balance of it all), just blowing out of town for weeks at a time, and then coming back and still needing to be on point with band stuff but also having new babies on board…
And now the post-touring life, where family is - finally - coming first, but now bass has a hard time finding a place.

It’s a weird one.
I think I finally got the priorities right, but I’m also playing less music than I ever have in my life.

I’d love to hear how you all do it, if it’s a concern, if it’s easy, if it’s impossible - whatever. I have a suspicion that life - family, work, obligations, that damn house repair - are the reasons folks stop playing or drift away from the instrument.
It certainly is in my case.

I guess, I’m not so much looking for tips on how to balance things… that usually ends up as an abstract, top-down, idealistic sort of “schedule things out, set aside time, plan for your goals…” type of thing.

I’m more interested in the dirty reality of it, after you made all the schedules and planned everything, and life keeps happening, and you have to deal with all the curve balls and wear and tear on resolve, etc.

Am I making sense?
Is this a thing for other people too?

Share them stories, and lemme know (and each other know) that we’re not alone in the insanity, and the ever-diminishing amount of practice time.
Or let me know how easy it actually is, and to get my act together!


I share many aspects of your musical trajectory, but not all.

Music theory major, check.

Married young, when I was in college, check.

Tried to keep some balance with the physical world (I studied and earned a black belt in Okinawa karate while in school), check.

Then, when I showed up for private sax lessons with jammed/swollen fingers (from aforementioned karate sparring), my sax prof would ask, “What the hell are you doing? Do you really want to be able to play some day?!”

Practiced sax and piano at every possible opportunity, at school and at home, check.

Played in jazz and orchestral bands and ensembles, check.

Slept like the dead whenever possible, check.

Never went pro because I burned out, wanted a real life, and an actual living wage, check.

But before and after all that, steel strings were my real muse. I love guitar and played wherever, whenever, with whomever. Played guitar in a bunch of groups and bass in a band (because no one else wanted to: McCartney’s reason, but most definitely without his talent).

Life, work, three marriages, lots of girlfriends in between, no kids (yay, vasectomy at age 22!), check.

Then B2B, check.

Practiced like a fool for hours a day. Bought a few basses. Bought a lot of TB courses (which fondly remind me of college music school).

Work ramped up and practice time became scarcer. I let my basses rest for days, sometimes weeks at a time, if necessary.

But I now play relaxed (armed with technique and bass theory I never knew (thanks, @JoshFossgreen!), without external pressure, and really grateful to be able to play my nice basses.

Could be a lot worse. Carpe diem.


Crazy to look at someone else’s life in bullet points!
Epic journey, @MikeC

What’s it like when the work ramp up happens?
Is this an easy shift? I feel like the essence of what I’m after is somewhere in this sentence of yours!


interesting question!

so allow me to answer this not directly bass/music related but more in terms of “creative practice” (which for me, is visual art with some bass on the side — sometimes way way to the side), but i consider being a musician also a creative practice.

the one thing i have found helps me a lot as a person who makes things is to have my “adulting” stuff as organized and put together as possible. i religiously use calendars, reminders, and note taking apps to capture anything i need to reference, or to keep appointments etc. i keep my computers very organized and use a specific system to keep my files sorted, current classes i am teaching, committees etc… all easy to find and easy to add to/adjust/whatever. i never miss a bill payment, i try to keep 0 or as close to 0 dollars on my credit card, i live within my means as best i can (with some splurges here and there). my little house i rent is neat and organized, things have a place, and while it certainly gets dirty it rarely gets messy.

all of the above is to say simply this: my relatively uptight adulting allows my creativity to be free to be nuts. by having the daily life bullshit sorted out, my art and how i approach my art can be bananas and weird and “fun” stressful as opposed to bad stressful. in other words: by keeping my boring shit together, i can keep my interesting shit a lot looser and way way more fun.

there is an idea in the arts of finding a “patron” — someone who believes in your art and provides funding/support for you to make it. i think of my adulting as my own patron for my creative work.

happy to share if you want any specifics about what works for me. i will also say: not sure i have this perfectly figured out by any means, but i suffer from sometimes debilitating anxiety, and having the boring stuff figured out helps a LOT with that.


If I had the answer to the question of how to balance bass (well, any hobby, really) against the rest of my life, other than “42”, I’d not be working where I’m working and I’d be offering training seminars on it. :smiley:


When work ramps up, it’s a gotta-do situation. Not negotiable, because someone is literally buying my time.

That’s cool, though, because it funds everything, including paying bills and buying basses, gear and courses.

I’m not a collector. But I own the bare minimum amount of basses to scratch whatever tonal/feel itch I have whenever I can sit down to play. Jazz necks are my jam, but my fairly rare EBMM Cutlass Modern Classic P kills it when I need a Precision-fueled groove.

I play for joy, pure and simple. It feeds my soul and relaxes me like only one other thing possibly can. :wink:

I have a cousin who is a pro bass player. He’s lived the gigging lifestyle since he was a kid. He ain’t no kid now, but he’s still schlepping, setting up, playing, tearing down, moving to the next stage. It’s all he’s ever known.

I respect him and slightly envy him for his experiences and chops. But he’s not got much money or security, and, frankly, he’s tired.

I love, love, love music, but I needed more to life in order to take care of myself and my family. So playing is now what it started out being: a time for joy and intense fulfillment I can get nowhere else.

So, yeah, work ramps up sometimes. But when it does I step away from playing, but I never walk away. It’s always there whenever I need it.


Ha! Right on @mgoldst. You could probably write a book! (wink)
This is great stuff, and such a cool Patron way to look at it.

Just started my latest re-read of The Guide… I sympathize and love this!

Hell yes.


I think the answer here can only be one thing…
You can’t.

The single most valuable commodity in all of existance is time.
When we are younger, we don’t realize it, and when we do realize it, it is because we have already started to run out of it.

In the end, something has got to give. No matter if you are a musician with little to no other responsibilities or a hobbyist with a full time nerd job, family, yard work, etc. and everyone in between, taking time from one thing takes time from another, and you can never get the formula perfectly right.

I was an idiot for starting to play bass when I was deep into playing and continually developing my sax skills - at least as far as sax playing goes - even less time now that there are two competing things, let alone other hobbies.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new book talks about being useful and takes a hard look at what you do with your time. You can optimize everything you do, like @mgoldst, which is a very great strategy for sqeezing out a bit more time and I totally agree with yim, but you are still dealing with a finite quantity of time. If you map out a typical 24-hour day, you will be very unhappy by how much ‘you’ time you actually have, or, better yet, should have (if you are actually doing all the adulting stuff you should be doing).

If I practice with the family upstairs, am I not spending enough time with them?
If I stay up late to practice, and sleep less, am I optimal at work, or creating an unhealthy situation?
If I turn off my Zoom camera and play during a very boring meeting (never happens :thinking:), am I really serving myself or my clients well?
{Your example here}
Everything is a give and take.

BUT, and here is the big point for me…
Music playing and learning is, in my opinion, the #1 mental health supplement I can take. I view it as a complete positive, and I don’t and can’t, take it too seriously. I will never be as good as I would like, and I cannot put in the time to get there, so I enjoy the ride instead and cherish the time I do have and let it be what it is. I don’t stress over not playing and don’t stress over playing too much (others happily will inform me of this scenario so I can course correct anyway).

The past few months I have been unable to play bass due to some hand issues that continue to go unresolved, sax is doable but only in small doses. Am I working more? Looking at my family more? Going to the gym more (that was hard to type wtih a straight face, should be "at all)? No. I am reading a crap ton more, listening to music a lot more, and probably interacting more with my family “oh, you hurt your hand, that’s why it is so much quieter around here lately”.

With questions like this, I always refer to one of Adam Carolla’s statements - “Does it make you happy, or does it make you money? And if the answer is no, then don’t fuckin’ do it”.

Hard to go wrong if you really stick to that mantra.


yup hard agree with @John_E. something that took me a surprisingly long time to understand about myself is this:

being creative is hard, but being actively creative (eg, actually doing the thing, not just talking/thinking about doing the thing) always, always makes me feel better, even tho its hard.

at the end of the day what i want is to be mostly happy. whatever form that takes is cool with me.


I’m with you there, @mgoldst.

I’ve worked as a creative all my life, and it is hard to be able to match or (hopefully) outdo what I delivered for the last project or gig. Under-promising and over-delivering sounds tres groovy, but it is a bitch to maintain over the long haul.

That’s why, even though I might technically have the time and opportunity to practice/play at the end of the day, sometimes my creative tank is empty. And then, if I practice/play anyway, the experience almost lulls me literally to sleep.

My best playing times happen when there’s been little or no work on a given day. Then, playing is energizing and truly fun. I cherish those times.

Work is work and sometimes playing is work, but even when it is, it reminds me of the line, “Sex is like pizza: Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good.”


@Gio this is the most important sentence up there. Go with your gut on this one. Things are good for you now. This is gold. Your Bass/Life is in balance, you’re just surprised where it landed :slight_smile:


I was born in the Bronx, and swiftly moved to the burbs. After being an exemplary child (I didn’t start to talk until I was 5, today they would probably classify me as on the spectrum, thankfully we didn’t have such things back then), I started my musical career.

I should probably interject that my dad was a gifted musician. He had a masters in music from Kansas U., played sax, spent his time in WW2 playing his sax for generals and big wigs in the army band over in Europe, when he wanted to be in combat. He would sit down and read an opera score for relaxation like you or I would read a novel. He would hear the score in his head as he read.

I don’t know his full story, he left us too soon, but after the war he finished his degrees on the GI bill, got work in television, worked his way up on shows like the Today Show, the Tonight Show, Sid Caesar; when he passed he was directing his own show on classical music.

My sister has perfect pitch, I don’t have perfect pitch but I can hear the next note in a sequence with great clarity. I can always tell when one of my strings is off tune immediately. I will play a note, then play the next note and I know when it’s not the right note progression. My other sister plays flute and piccolo, and oboe though I think that fell by the wayside.

I think we got our talents from Dad.

Anyway, I started out on violin, then did some guitar, did piano for about 30 seconds because my sister played and I wanted nothing to do with that. I settled on drums, and played those for some years. Had the band camp experience.

My dad passed, my mom got sick, we got poor, and I went to work to help put food on the table at 13 or 14. I worked at a shady garage doing whatever I was told and paid under the table. Balance was out the window then and been working since. Didn’t pick up an instrument again until I picked up a bass in the pandemic.

I often wonder if life would have gone different if I picked up bass as a kid cause it really is the best instrument for me.

So I started bass at 59 and everything was going good, got past the cancer thing, and all was fine until I changed a water bottle at work about 7 months ago and tore something. My bass skills have been degrading since then, and I finally got evaluated (like everything else in a post covid world, trying to get a specialist has a wait list) last week and it seems I have an issue rotating my left forearm, so a 34" scale bass causes pain in about 90 seconds of playing. I do much better with a short scale. So I am focusing on that and feeling no guilt.

Pains me that I cannot play my dream bass which is 34". I will get better and back to it.

I don’t have a work life balance issue. I live alone with my cat, and my carnivorous plants which are dormant this time of year. When work is over it’s over.

What I have a balance issue with is in artistic endeavors. I also write, and have been published. When I write, it sucks my energy and I don’t play bass. When I play bass, it sucks my creativity and I don’t write. I have not solved this conundrum yet.


I’m sure like a few others I missed the Covid time, :joy: business was easy for restaurants no dine in just pickups and delivery very little pressure. That life’s side, the bass side was just awesome. Buying modding and selling is just super fun it gave me the opportunity to start and grow my collections.

Now I’m more busy than ever and life is back to the fast pace juggling with family life with 3 young kids and 3 puppies. So much to do and so little time.

I’ve never cheated on anyone but I’m treating my bass playing like my mistresses, :joy: I’d sneak out and just play for a while and comeback and joint the family activities which makes the time spent on my basses a little extra special ha ha.

I’m fortunate to be in two bands that occasionally do private gigs. It’s the things that I look forward to and it keeps the rock’n’roll dream alive, :laughing: I’d know weeks in advance so I’d plan the set list and practice time then the needed rehearsal or two to fine tunes everything the anticipation and the wait keeps things exciting.

Though i wish there are more of it but then it’d be a job not a hobby any more and it would be less fun I guess.


Brutal! Glad there’s at least an option to keep going with the short scale.

This is a real interesting aspect of your creative work. I think I have some similarities to this too.

This is hilarious, but also so appropriate.
There have been plenty of times when music has built up resentment in my other relationships - either family, friends, wife - you name it. Bass can be a very tempting rendezvous!


I’ve had that happen with some past relationships. Those individuals thought I was either crazy or just crazy-selfish when I’d disappear to go practice. In either case, I’m not suggesting they weren’t right.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly… :notes:


I’m a bit surprised it’s not been mentioned yet, but probably the best thing that could happen to my life/bass balance would be the death of the internet, social media in general, or at least of youtube :sweat_smile:
I would probably end up watching TV or the like, but having access to everything from a smartphone is a huge distraction. That is my number one priority for the near future.

Bass related, after a ton of practice during the pandemic when I discovered B2B, life got in the way and this year the new baby has rightfully claimed a lot of time and energy. I had to quit lessons, couldn’t keep up with regular and challenging practice.
But I might join a second band soon. Apparently, I can still squeeze in some time to learn new songs if the motivation is there :smile:
Playing every day is still not going to happen, even the 10-minute exercise suggested by Josh in a recent video feels too much sometimes. But half an hour, 3/4 times a week is enough to achieve decent results on a handful of songs at a time…

With all the compromises, things look good and the balance is more or less where I would like it


I am at the point where something has to give, and it’s going to be videogames. This sucks worse than it sounds for me; half my career was in the games industry and they have been a part of my life since arcades as a preteen.


I have a confession…I have not played my bass in over a month :frowning:.

Not from lack of wanting to, just not enough hours in the day. Work has been extremely busy, chewing up majority of my day. Wife and I had a hectic November with multiple unexpected home repairs needed, holiday gatherings with both sides of the family (an issue which basically extends into January 2nd).

What little time I currently have for hobbies is temporarily being used up by board games. Specifically, wargames (which if you’ve ever played, know most are a massive time sink). I joined a large game in progress and am too polite to back out.

Closest I have come to playing is dusting the bass on the wall, and changing the strings on another, and making sure setup was still good. So I have far from acheived balance with bass/life. After the holidays, when work goes back to business as usual, and after my game is done, I will be right back on the bass.


Man that’s an awesome point. I don’t play many game per console but I love the ones I play. I have not touch my consoles in months. It takes a bit of time to play console games so now I’m down to a couples of games on my iPad.


I agree! @Gio you’d probably played more bass in a week than many of us play in a year. If you get your balance “right” right now and bass playing is not a big part of that, it’s ok man. See where it goes, just don’t forget to touch it a little bit everyday or so. As much as you have been playing, soon your body would need that back or more time on bass in the routine, I think that’s a good thing.

Heck! If you give it a rest for a few weeks when you get back to it you might get your virgin fingertips back and experience the finger pain like a noob again, :joy: