Ever come across a book that is a little outside your normal sphere but proves to be a great read? Recently I've been reading Brave New Bass by Chris Jisi featuring interviews with modern bass icons like Marcus Miller, Jeff Berlin and Flea. Each discusses their careers, influences and playing approaches followed by playing examples drawn from their repertoire – nice.
It maybe obvious but the backgrounds and aspirations of bassists are very similar to guitarists. These include emulating their heroes, what they've done to get better, playing with other musicians and how to make a song work.
During one interview there was a consideration I think is worth mulling over. To paraphrase, it was a three-stage approach to becoming a masterful musician:
The discovery of players you'd like to emulate (external realisation)
The discovery of your own voice in the process of stage 1 (internal realisation)
'Losing' yourself to the music when playing with others (external+internal = freedom of expression)
Perhaps it's a little too lofty, especially if you've only been playing a few years, but it can provide a zen-like barometer to gauge long term goals.
So where do you gauge yourself? Mostly chasing the licks of BB/Page/SRV/Vai/whoever? Been playing blues for so long that early Clapton and Hendrix influences are seamlessly embedded in your style? Feel your improvisational chops are never ending during a band jam?
In truth, I think these three stages aren't exclusive but rather cyclic: we don't leave one (never to return) to go onto the next. Influences and vocabularly should always be expanding otherwise we're choking our own development.
I think all of us on GT would agree on this and you by reading GT do too. So whatever stage you are at, we hope GT continues to provide you with the best of materials to make you a masterful musician!