Most folks who know me know I’ve spent a lot of time gaming and watching YouTube, but I’ve acquired numerous other hobbies that I don’t talk about as much. For instance, I play the bass. While I’m a far cry from a virtuoso, I do enjoy messing around on the lower-register instrument.
Recently, I’ve started to learn songs by ear. No tabs, no sheet music, no tutorials, just me listening to a song and trying to work out the notes by my own hearing. Let me tell you, it is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
I’m not one of the few who have been blessed with pitch-perfect hearing and can tell you the name of any note or chord that’s played with a single guess. In these early days of learning by ear, that has made transcribing basslines a wee bit difficult.
Unlike my bass playing, it is pretty well known that I’ve got a bad case of perfectionism. I want everything to align perfectly and I want it done right the first time. While my perfectionism does sometimes help increase the quality of my work, it also makes the process more frustrating than it should for me. Like, for instance, when I’m figuring out the bassline to a song.
My perfectionism tells me that I should be able to, on one pass of the song, figure out what notes are being played. But as a novice transcriber, it can take me three of four repetitions to figure out a single note. Picking out the right note on the first pass is more a matter of luck than actual skill. And after that is mastering the more intricate details like hand positions or timing.
When I do struggle to figure out how to pay even a simple riff, my perfectionism tells me to stop trying. I can’t get it done perfectly so there’s no point in trying. Of course, this goes far beyond basslines. I’ve dealt with that perfectionism for as long as I can remember. At times, it becomes debilitating and I just cast aside whatever it is I’m doing. I honestly don’t want how many things I’ve needlessly killed off just because they weren’t quite perfect.
Without fully realizing it, I became tired of being a perfectionist. I can’t remember any exact time or catalyst event, but I know I’ve slowly started to kill my perfectionism. Recently, I’ve started to realize that perfection is little more than an illusion, some abstract concept that no one is fully capable of achieving. Instead of allowing the perfectionism to dominate my mind, I’ve allowed more room for progress and growth.
The first song I learned by myself, The Long Defeat by Thrice, is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a fairly simple song with few intricate details, but I’m still proud of learning it myself. I absolutely love listening to the song, but being able to play along with it now makes the song that much more special to me. That incredibly sweet feeling makes me glad I didn’t give up because of the difficulty.
Any time where I do this better or improve that is a win. I just have to constantly remind myself of where I’ve started and look back at my progress. When I play The Long Defeat, I have a tangible example of my improvement. Finding the landmarks of growth is so crucial because they in turn inspire me to continue growing.