Falling down the rabbit hole when taking on a new hobby

A few weeks ago I posted my goals for this year, and one of those was learning to play the bass guitar I’d been bought for Christmas. Now, I’ve not had anywhere near as much time with it as I’d like, Steam says I’ve spent 4 hours playing Rocksmith over the month of January, but that’s to be expected as the latest lockdown (sorry, Tier 5 Restrictions) have seen us having to take on the role of teacher again, but that’s not all, the changes have had a real negative impact on their sleep patterns and most nights, by the time they’ve gone to sleep my partner and I are ready for bed ourselves.

Even so, during those four hours, I’ve gone from not having a clue to what I’m doing, to actually noticing a difference in the relatively minor improvement I’ve made. The great thing about Rocksmith isn’t that you can keep practising songs, I’ve not even tried that, but that it has a lesson structure for you to use, tells you what you’re going to be doing in short, simple videos then gives you an example to play, each time you get that example right it’ll make it more complicated. So your first attempt at a lesson will only net you a small percentage in regards to its completion, and every time you play through it you’ll find the previous stuff easier and then suddenly have an extra note or a technique you learned in a previous lesson thrown in and that percentage will increase a bit more until you reach 100%, you’re not locked out from trying a different lesson, you can go as far as you’d like and then come back and master previous lessons if that’s your prerogative, it also means you’re less likely to get frustrated when you’re struggling with a particular technique.

I’ll also happily admit that I have had to limit myself to 45-60 minute spells when playing, my hands aren’t used to the kinds of stresses that playing the guitar has on you.

But my limited time actually learning the instrument hasn’t stopped me falling down the rabbit hole, I spent a good few hours learning about different strings on Saturday. I thought strings were strings and you just bought whatever, but no, after reading a post about a guitar players new acoustic guitar and how he’s not too keen on its current strings so he’s buying his favourite branded ones to see how they work out, I had my Google News Feed (or whatever its called where you swipe right on your phones home screen and get a news feed) list the “Top 11 Bass Guitar Strings 2020” or something to that effect. I knew there were different brands but I didn’t realise there was that much variety, then there was a Reddit post on https://www.reddit.com/r/Bass/ where a guy was talking about “round wound” v “flat wound”, which again, are different kinds of strings. When I read the title I thought it was in relation to how you attach the strings to the head of the bass and thought I’d have to do some research into which one my bass is, but apparently, they’re different styles of string, with one lying flatter against your fretboard etc.

I’ve also been following and subscribing to a bunch of bass guitar related stuff on YouTube, I don’t understand half of it currently, but hopefully, as I progress through the lessons on Rocksmith I’ll come across something and go “oh, that’s what the dude on TalkingBass was talking about!”. Alex Moukala is another one I like to watch, I’ll watch some of his stuff on one of YouTube channels, but I mostly catch him on Twitter, not only is he really fucking intelligent, able to get things across to the view in a way that keeps you engaged, but his Twitter feed is full of him being seriously cool and knocking out interpretations of game soundtracks on his bass guitar

Having something that’s essentially different from my normal patterns of reading or playing games, with the odd movie thrown in, has had a notable impact on my mental health, yes I’m using a “game” to learn the instrument, but it’s also something that I’m not putting pressure on myself to learn quickly, just taking my time, having a go when I feel able to do so, both physically and mentally, and having something new and exciting to study, plus it means I can listen to music and try and pay more attention to the bass lines and wonder if I’ll ever have the competency to play along to a Royal Blood or Death From Above 1979 song.

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