Back to Bassics: A Letter to My Beginner Self
It’s been six years since I first picked up the bass. I was a 17-year-old drumline kid, passionate about music and eager to learn anything to make me a better musician. I started with bass rather passively, not expecting to delve in as deeply as I have, just wanting to try something new. From playing little gigs with nobody except my parents in the crowd, to slowly climbing my way up to SXSW and festival performances, I’ve come a long way since my devoted Este Haim fan girl days.
Although live music is on hold right now, I can’t help but be grateful for my journey, all the new knowledge I’ve accumulated, and the amazing people I’ve met along the way. Looking back at my younger, frustrated beginner self, I wish I could tell myself the things I know now.
The first thing I’d tell my beginner self is don’t be afraid of sounding bad—it’s okay! In fact, sounding bad is good because that means you had the courage to pick up your instrument instead of telling yourself you couldn’t do it and give up. The truth is, sometimes the beginning stages of learning something new isn’t really that fun; you’re learning new terms, exploring the way everything feels, and trying to figure out what’s aurally pleasing to you.
At first, it may be hard to pick up the instrument because you feel so lost. The feeling of inadequacy never really goes away, but it does get better over time. Even devoting just 10 minutes of practice a day will gradually grow and naturally turn into 30 minutes a day. Trust this process. Everybody starts somewhere, and even the most seasoned players, when learning challenging concepts, feel insecure about the way they sound.
There comes a point in one’s journey when you finally start to feel more comfortable with the way you sound. For me, it was after playing a few years in my college jazz band and then starting my first band. Having those experiences under my belt, I really wanted to try playing with other people and getting session work. To do this, you must put yourself out there. When I started, I went to a lot of jam sessions around town and to as many shows as I could. I met a lot of people, made a lot of friends with common interests, and slowly kept getting more and more gigs.
Obviously the circumstances have changed with the pandemic, and you can’t really network the same way; however, the internet is a powerful tool! Don’t be afraid to post yourself playing on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, anything. You’ll start seeing other musicians at a similar level with similar styles and vibes. There’s a Google plug-in available for up to a week for free called Listento where you can stream audio from your DAW to anybody elses DAW no matter where they are in the world. This tool is extremely convenient and in times like these it’s definitely worth trying. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people whose musical styles intrigue you. Even if you don’t end up creating together, at least you’ve made a cool new friend!
The most important thing I’d tell myself and anybody new to music is do not be afraid to walk away from situations where you are not being valued. Whether it be sexism, toxic bandmates, or overall feelings of discomfort—if you don’t feel comfortable or as though you’re given the space to grow and thrive the way you deserve in your creative environment, walk away. This applies to pretty much any situation; however, in an industry so heavily dominated by men, it can be a struggle to maneuver in the same way men can. It’s a painful reality, and the most helpful thing I can tell you is to trust that better opportunities will come. The only way you can make room for these opportunities is by leaving toxic ones. It’s hard to feel like leaving these situations is the best choice in the moment, but it truly pays off mentally and emotionally in the long run.
A few weeks ago, I saw a quote that said, “The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” Enjoy the process! Things may not click or come naturally right away, and that’s okay. I look back at where I was and it’s such a rewarding feeling to see my growth as both a musician and a person. The best part of learning an instrument is not knowing how to do something one day, to wondering why it seemed so impossibile in the first place the next day. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t compare your journey to others. Things will come at your own pace—just allow yourself to enjoy music, and what it means to you.
About the Author
Kinseli Jazz Baricuatro is a session bass player hailing from Austin, Texas. She began playing piano at the age of seven and spent her middle school and high school years playing drums in her school marching band. In college, she joined her college jazz band and slowly began to pick up the bass guitar. She has now played and recorded with a range of artists and has begun delving deeper into the producer world. Follow her musical endeavors on instagram @kinseli.