Sick of being mediocre
I have been playing bass for around 3/4 years now, I play in a touring band and I try to practice a few hours a day. The current standard I am at I feel is not good enough and I want to improve. I do realise that I need to practice more but I am asking for people's advice on what to practice, how to practice, techniques to nail, ways to improve on improv skills, ear training, remembering songs which I have learnt and stop mistakes.
I am just sick and tired of not fulfilling my full potential (in my opinion) and my guitarist friends showing me up on bass. I play in a rock (pop rock) band so all I have had to been is tight without doing anything spectacular. I do know my major scales.
My current standard, well to be totally honest it would take me an hour or two to nail a Muse song, I can play the simple stuff once stuff starts to get remotely technically I **** myself and mess up or it takes me hours to learn and I get frustrated at myself as I feel I should be able to play and learn the songs faster.
I have considered bass lessons but at the minute I cant exactly afford them, although should I bite the bullet and find the money from somewhere? What is a reasonable price for a 30 minute lesson?
I want to get better, I have the motivation, I even bought RockSmith for the Ps3 to see if that would help.
Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated.
My advice is to learn and play as many songs as possible. This is the #1 most important musical skill, in my opinion. Just turn the radio on and jam along to your favorite station (or, sometimes for fun, your least favorite station!) and I guarantee within a few weeks you will notice a big improvement in all aspects of your musicianship: ear training, stamina, phrasing, rhythm, dynamics, vocabulary, technical execution, etc. :)
Another big motivator for me has been playing with other musicians, especially those who are better than me in some area I'm trying to improve. So whenever you have the opportunity, jam with new people, learn their songs, and try to get out of your comfort zone.
I hope I can help,, Try practicing to a super slow tempo around 60bpm any errors in your technique you will find quickly and then "force" yourself to play those riffs correctly.
I had the hardest time using four fingers on my right had but after slowing it all down your muscle memorize what your brain is telling them to do.
Best of luck fellow Bassist
My formula for improvement is:
1) Do gigs - even fill-in gigs with 3rd tier bands is better than sitting at home on TB :)
2) Get a *good* instructor. 40 minutes with one of the senior guitar instructors at Musician's Institute was better than 8 hours with the hacks teaching in my hometown
3) Record your live shows. When I mix down the multitrack recordings of my band, I hear drum fills and guitar parts (and MY mistakes) that I was not aware of at the gig. This process of continual improvement has allowed me to lock in with the drums much better!
First thing Mikey, well done for being positive, second thing, can you harmonise those scales you know?
If not, that alone is months of reading about them (however you read), listening for them in music and get them under your fingers.
This one thing alone, learning to harmonise your scales, will improve your timing, speed, dexterity, tone etc.
It is the next step for you, nothing else will really make a difference till you learn this.
Since you tour you have lots of time to read about them, work out what is being said, why they harmonise and ways to harmonise scales, but start with the major scale...it all unfolds from there.:)
Don't be discouraged. Every time you pick up the bass and play something different, or overcome a challenging line, you are better than you were before. You never stop learning and to be honest there is no "tipping point" where all of sudden you are good. You are a better player than some, and not as good as some others......just like all of us will always be.
Keep a positive attitude and try to always have fun. Find the genius in simplicity and remember, most of us play less as we get older, wiser and more musical.
You just need to challenge yourself with harder songs. A lot of the guys who got good fast started out with the hard stuff actually. Stuart Zender got so good in 2 years because he learned all of Heavy Weather by Weather Report.
You're going to get lots of advice on here. Much will come from other mediocre bassists so take what you hear with a grain of salt. My advice (as a mediocre bassist) would be to speak to a bass player whose playing you very much like and ask him how he got where he is. What things did he spend his practice time doing? Then do those things. Kind of like the old concept of a disciple or apprentice. Just watch everything your teacher does and do exactly as he does. Lots of the master players out there have been gracious enough to share their practice tips with the world. Read all of those and apply what you can.
You'll often hear that you just need to practice more... I can most assuredly tell you that this is a partial truth. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent.
I must have spent over 10000 hours running scales. I can now tell you many years later that much of this was wasted time. Sigh....
There were better ways for me to have used all of those hours. Scales and fast technique are only some of the skills needed. There are others - arpeggios, groove, ear-training, etc... that are perhaps even more important skills for a bass player. I'm playing catch up now in my later years.
Don't look down on yourself, pal. First, define to yourself what IS GOOD. For instance, playing a nice Jamerson line with the right tone and articulation IS GOOD. It doesn't have to be technical or complicated. Playing a country line right IS GOOD, too, but you just need to learn some lines, then work on articulation. Articulation is everything. Enjoy the groove, enjoy finding the groove, enjoy saying it right. That IS GOOD!
I feel your pain. I too feel stuck in the mud at times. For me, I learn as many songs as I can from every musical style. It helps me to broaden my techniques. I also learn them slowly. One part at a time until I can put the pieces together like a puzzle.
I have a saying - I play music to practice music, and I practice music to play music. What this means is that I don't worry too much about scales, arpeggios, and whatnot. Learning songs is what I'd advise you to do. Turn on the radio, and play along to whatever comes up. Don't worry about clams, worry more about the feel. In time your ears will develop, and you'll be able to dial in the right key and groove to just about any song that comes your way!
Nobody ever paid $100 a ticket just to listen to Geddy Lee play scales all night!
Dittos to what others have suggested and...
Try and learn songs out of your musical comfort zone.
And not necessarily the complicated prog-rock-Jazz type things, but if you're in a rock mode, try & sort out some Herb Albert, Burt Bacharach or old time radio standards.
All the music I used to forsake is now some of the most enjoyable for me to learn to play.
1) Listen to as much music as you can - different styles, different artists, different eras. Listen to music you don't particularly care for even - just to hear what the bass is doing (or other instruments even). A big part of playing bass is regurgitating what you have digested musically - and how each player weaves their own style out of it.
2) Lessons. Even if you can find someone to sit with and trade bass licks, that will help.
3) Play with different drummer. Each drummer can bring different side out of your playing.
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