Why podcasting is like playing the bass guitar

I’ve been in a bunch of bands over the years—I was a vocalist and guitar player in most of them, until a few years ago, when a high school kid in my church band offered to tach me to play bass. This kid, Sam, was precocious and highly talented—he could play the marimba, xylophone, harpsichord,piano, and, yes, as you can tell, he could pretty much play a cigar box banjo or anything else you set in front of him. I was nervous as I first considered his offer. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I could pick up the bass; my main instrument for many years (besides my voice) was simply the tambourine and the “chicken shake.” But Sam was a good teacher and once I got going, I quicklyrealized how simple playing the bass could be, really. A bass guitar only has 4 strings and all you have to do to play it is to hit the root notes of chords over and over and over again. I was shocked and super happy about this discovery, and I was fairly quick on the uptake, if I say so myself. But Sam didn’t want me to get over-confident, so he pointed out one day that “playing the bass takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.”

 Now that I’m a podcaster, it strikes me how this dictum is true of bass-playing and podcasting, as well. Podcasting couldn’t be simpler, in many respects. You grab a microphone, plug it in, hit record, start talking and that’s it! You don’t even need a mic, actually. You can use the very voice memo app on your phone. Pretty much anyone can get rolling with this medium. What a relief, no? Yes, there are books and videos, webinars, conferences and the like, but, the truth is, you can literally just grab a microphone and begin today.

 However, perhaps that is exactly the key word: begin. Yes, podcasting is simple at the outset, but to do it well is another matter altogether. A basic bass player will help the band keep its beat, but that’s about it. A more skilled bass player will make every song soar.

 Here are a few more parallels between the bass and podcasting:

  • Just pick it up. As I said, I was a little nervous about attempting the bass at first. But I didn’t overthink it. I took Sam up on his offer. Don’t get bogged down researching and planning out every detail of your show months in advance. Don’t let fear hold you back. Just get your gear and get recording. Start now.
  • To improve your sound as a musician, you have to practice. There’s no getting around it. So, don’t just talk about podcasting, lurk around on FB groups, read about it, or attend conferences. Get going and keep going. Record episode after episode. You will improve as you go along.
  • Learn from a friend. Sitting down with Sam was a MILLION times better than learning online. We laughed as I struggled; we smiled when I did it right. He patiently taught me the proper hand positions and techniques. We bonded, and he could correct and guide me, IRL. Nothing beats one-on-one help.

Find your audience. What good is music if no one hears it? Every bass player has to line up some gigs. Get your show on some platforms and let people hear what you have to say. Promote it and promote yourself. You have a message for the world. Get it out there! It’s important or you wouldn’t have picked up a microphone in the first place.

Where are you on your pod journey? Are you a novice just getting started? A seasoned player? We are all improving our craft as we record, edit, produce, and repeat the process over and over again. Do not get discouraged if you’re not quite where you want to be. Remember that it takes “a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.”

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Hilda Labrada Gore is a podcast consultant and the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast. It is in the top 50 of all alternative health podcasts on iTunes. Visit her website holistichilda.com for information on her podcasting consultant packages.