Looking for general advice and feedback
Hi guys and gals,
I've been visiting this site for a while now and have found a lot of advice and support here just by lurking. I've reached a point in my bass playing antics where I would like to post here and get some things off my chest and maybe soak up some advice. Sorry if this turns out to be somewhat of an essay, but I'm in a bit of a dilemma and believe that this is the best place to turn to get some answers and perhaps some support.
About 3 years ago, my partner at the time felt that our relationship was suffering under a lack of mutual hobbies. She was practicing the drums and was taking basic lessons back then and she suggested that I learn the bass guitar. Now, I did do a brief stint in acoustic guitar playing many years ago, but I quit because I felt that I just didn't have a knack for it. I gave up after less than a year and didn't look back.
I gave in to the nagging of my ex, took the plunge and ordered a 4 string bass even though I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. I also ordered a Bass players guide book to help me get started and proceeded learning notes and notation. I got frustrated and bored with learning after several weeks and the whole endeavor turned into a chore (just like it did back when I tried to learn to play the guitar in similar manner). I stopped playing for about 3 months. A short time later, I purchased a smartphone and stumbled upon an Tab app that scrolls tabulature in real time which I proceeded to purchase in the hope that it would make things easier and maybe rekindle my motivation. Which it did. I guess every noob wants to just get stuck in and at least play a bit as opposed to just learning stuff. The app helped with that.
So anyways, I got hooked and basically fell in love with the instrument. Even after my ex-wife quit practicing the drums and moved on to greener pastures in life, I was still going strong and practicing daily. And still am.
In terms of technique:
I started off by trying to cover 4 frets with my fretting hand which just didn't work out. Alas, the maker burdened me with tiny dwarf-like hands. I thought "sod it" and took a step back to just covering three frets which seems to be working fine for me thus far. I also started by finger plucking with two fingers. This is where dilemma 1 comes into play:
- No matter how much I practice and mess about with my plucking hand position, I cannot seem to achieve an equal sound whilst alternating. I spent months trying to "get it" and that alone was my sole source of frustration for at least 2 years. Just hearing it makes me mad at myself. Bop, bom, bop, bom, bop, bom ect. I tried everything all the up way to playing hard as hell to building up callouses in the hopes of getting rid of the issue. To no avail. A few months back I switched to plucking with 3 fingers which allowed me to achieve a more equal sound that I was happy with at first, but at the end of the day, although I'm am able to play faster through it, it still sounds awkward when playing the same note for too long. It's great for songs that involve moving around the neck a lot though. Is there any way to refine action whilst plucking? I've been shifting my hand around to find a sweet spot but just can't seem to find one. Are my fingers too short?
- Most of the songs that I desire to play along with are pretty fast (Metal ect.) so as my fingers don't seem to be up to the job. I decided to just go for it and learn to play with a pick. Now, I've tried this many times over the course of the past three years and went back to finger style, but yesterday, I kinda thought: "just get it done". I've been practicing for mere hours and it seems to be growing on me. I still sound like ass, but I am hearing the consistency that I so desire. Down side is, it still sounds like I'm still producing two different note when I alternate between up and down plucking using the pick although less defined. Is this just due to my complete lack of experience with the pick? Or am I holding, strumming, doing it wrong? Is there a good way to hold the pick? Is there an optimal hand position whilst alternating between up and down motions? Should I be playing further back?
- I must add that I generally lack a sense of rhythm but have noticed that I'm becoming more aware in that aspect. Is playing the bass something that I can learn with bad rhythm comprehension? Will it grow on me if I continue practicing?
If you managed to read all of this, then thank you for your precious time and please excuse my terrible grammar (I'm German :-( ).
Any feedback would be highly appreciated.
The song dictates how we should sound the notes. Sometime just root on 1 is enough, sometime not. It's a feel thing. Used to hate it when the old guys told me to feel it. The band I'm with wants root on 1 and the chord changes to happen on the correct syllable of the chord change word. That's what I give them and it seems to work for us.
I'd also recommend picking up 'Essential Bass Technique' by Peter Murray. He covers all the basics and his right hand lessons and practice exercises are very well put together and easy to follow.
As for rhythmic sense, use a metronome and start at 60 BPM. Try to hit a note per beat on the beat, then two notes per beat. If you find on the two note per beat exercise that you are playing unevenly double the metronome rate to 120 BPM and hit the notes on each beat. Over time you will find that your rhythm will improve this way. Just a basic idea but it works.
I picked up a metronome today. I'm going to take your tip and start at 60. Thanks.
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