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Thinking in terms of bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bscenefilms, Feb 20, 2014.

  1. bscenefilms

    bscenefilms

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    Howdy folks.

    First time poster here and I hope that this is the appropriate sub-forum for my question. If not, guidance is appreciated.

    First, a little background...

    I am a guitar player. I am a hobbyist and have been playing for about 40 years. I have a decent understanding of theory - harmony, rhythm etc. Every now and then I will sit down and write a song - generally these are gifts for my wife.

    Recently, my nephew was visiting and I wanted his opinion on my latest opus since he has a masters in composition. Specifically the bass track that I had recorded. Not owning a bass guitar, I lay down a bass track with the guitar, pitch shift it and run it through a bass amp sim.

    Whenever I have done this in the past, I am never satisfied with the result. It does not have to do with tone but with what I play for the comp.

    To me, it never sounds like a bass player - it sounds like a lead guitar player playing bass. My nephew agreed and said that a good start to overcoming this issue is to learn the bass.

    So, Monday night a lovely bass guitar shows up at my house courtesy of my nephew. So I look online for proper instrument position, thumb, finger and pick techniques for the bass.

    Once there and comfortable I look up simple beginner bass riffs but find this is not of use for me. I can play the instrument and can play some riffs etc. But, coming from a guitar, I feel that I lack the mentality of the bass player.

    I plan to take some lessons locally, but I wanted to see if you folks might be willing to share your experience with this "mind set" as it were. Getting out of guitar mode and adding the new bass mind set to my playing.

    Any thoughts here are greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!

    Mike
  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

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    You have a very nice nephew!

    My suggestion given the skills you already have is to start with YouTube. You've been playing for 40 years and so you're familiar with music of past decades.

    I'd suggest you find YouTube clips of great numbers you've enjoyed listening to and which you can remember...because you will recognize the bass lines.

    I'm thinking stuff like Green Onions and Time is Tight by Booker T and the MGs, Creedence Clearwater's Fortunate Son (very simple part), and maybe some stuff like ZZ Top's LaGrange. You can find tab versions of the bass lines pretty easily, which may help a lot in getting started (although you will find that most tab parts avoid open strings, which is IMO just adding complexity which adds nothing.)

    There are two reasons I'm suggesting this:

    1) This approach would be FUN. Great music, and it's played by people who THINK like bass players.

    2) This is a way to hear REAL bass players - people like Duck Dunn on the Booker T stuff is one of the legendary bass players...and he's famous for not over-playing. Dusty Hill of ZZ Top lays down simple bass lines that are precisely executed and work beautifully.

    To think like a bass player, you need to learn to think of groove, rhythm and accenting the music - not playing the melody. The classic rock and R&B stuff you grew up with will help you down that path.

    Other standards you might try:

    Route 66 (lots of options from slow to fast)
    OHIO - Neil Young
    Soul Man - Blues Brothers version
    Peter Gunn (simple line - all on the E string...four notes)
    Stray Cat Strut

    Some classic surf tunes which are fun and not hard:
    Walk Don't Run
    Pipeline
    Misirlou
  3. kedo

    kedo

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    Think of it as a percussion instrument that has strings and frets, that's also like a piano if you play fingerstyle.
  4. bscenefilms

    bscenefilms

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    I have a jam band with my wife on keys and bass (Think: Ray Manzarek), a buddy on drums and I play rhythm/lead guitar. A number of the tunes you mentioned by Booker T and the surf stuff is some of what we cover. That and a LOT of Steely Dan. I will give Time is Tight a shot I think out of the gate as the wife LOVES that tune. Peg, Josie, Reelin and Pretzel Logic will have to wait I suspect :D

    Nother question - I notice some players use a sponge under the strings at the bridge - I presume that is to mute. What's the opinion on that? I really do like the muted tone (I have been palm muting as I play a lot) unless you are doing slap/pull...
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

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    Sounds to me that you and I share a liking for some of the same music.

    Time is Tight will work great for you as a starting point. Don't be afraid to tackle the Doors' Roadhouse Blues either!

    The sponge re-creates the mutes common on basses in the 60's. P-basses came with a bridge cover that had a strip of dense foam glued to the inside, where it pressed against the strings. My 1970's Univox has a flip-mute that can be seen here. (It's a desktop capture from my computer screen)

    [​IMG]
  6. bscenefilms

    bscenefilms

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    Do you also use the sponge cover as a palm heel rest? The Bass I was given is a Modern Player Jazz Bass. No cover and no thumb rest. I assume thumb rest is just a personal preference?
  7. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

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    I think you are correct; you are not thinking as a bass player things. You are used to playing lead, the tune, our bass is primarily an accompaniment instrument. Question, when you are playing your lead electric guitar and the vocalist is singing what do you play? I bet you leave the melody to the vocalist and you provide harmony and rhythm by playing the chord progression while he/she is singing. Or you provide echo melody and augment the vocalist's efforts, i.e. you get out of the vocalist's way and give center stage to the soloist.

    That is what we do on the bass, we augment the melody by providing rhythm and harmony, i.e. we follow the chord progression and play the notes of the chord until we are passed the lead and then we get to play melody for 24 to 36 measures. But, ultimately we have to pass the lead back to the solo instruments and revert to playing the notes of the chord. I bet the riffs you've worked up were done with out thinking about harmonizing the melody. I bet you were still thinking in treble clef. We play the bass clef.

    Think about this; what is the function of each instrument in a band setting. The bass can play treble clef melody, but people go for drinks when we do our solos. Plus our instrument is not a solo instrument, it was intended to provide the bottom end foundation, maintain the beat and call attention to the chord changes coming up.

    So what is step number one? I would recommend the book Bass Guitar for Dummies, no pun intended. Followed with Ed Friedland's Building Walking Bass Lines. First task beyond knowing where the notes are on the fretboard is what notes need to be in our bass line. Creating a bass line that will augment everyone else's efforts is our job.

    Have fun.
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

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    I don't heel mute at all, nor do I rest my heel on the bridge. I play off to the E string side and brace my thumb either on the edge of the pickup or on the side of the neck (depending on the sound I'm going for). I like covers for their cosmetics.

    I started on upright bass, so I play two-fingered style. One of these days I'll get good enough with a pick to really use it, but that's not critical.
  9. 2behead

    2behead

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    It's funny that they are such different instruments. One of the best tips I got when I started was to shut my eyes, start with only playing with the kick. Get the "feel" for the pulse. Now this is the part that seemed odd and made me laugh as a kid. dance a bit, not like go crazy. But move with it a bit. Sink up with the big hits that the kick/hats are locked into. A lot of times it's way less than you would think. Don't get fancy. Save that for one or two spots in the whole song. I've all so had it described as bouncing a basket ball. Bounce it like you are relaxed not like you are pushing in down, work with the ball. Super cheesy I know. But a huge part of it is that laid back sort of feeling.
  10. strictlybass_ic

    strictlybass_ic Supporting Member

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    I can very much empathize with your plight. I picked up the bass with no musical background to help out some friends whose band lost a member. They were both guitarists so all of their advice was from a guitarist perspective. The first year or so was tough, like really tough. My playing was garbage, and anything i tried to come up with was worse. I thought i was hopeless because I was still struggling with fingering and "busy" sections of songs.

    Then one day I FINALLY figured it out. To play bass well (at least in a band setting where you have sonic range support) is all about "less is more". I learned that instead of trying to hit more notes I could make my fingering less noisy, more smooth, and the overall mix sounded much better. Even stuff that I had finally nailed down. I tried cutting back on the volume of notes, or frequency of plucks and things just got better. It drove my guitarist friends nuts. They kept telling me to do more, and add in those fills that they liked. But recently when we started doing recordings and they really listened to how all the parts work together they're blown away. Before they were trying to get me to do lots of fills and odd harmonics, but now when we play back tracks they tell me how much they love the one random slide or the occasional walking bass inspired improvisation. For me the bass part sounded best when you couldn't tell it was the bass part.

    The guitar exists for all the frills and fun, the drums form the foundation. The bass (IMHO) is best served by making a strong but subtle link between the two. I know it sounds like blasphemy, but try taking some of your lines down to just root notes, then add in a couple fills or a little bounce, and see what that does for your composition. You can always make it more interesting later, but to start try playing it like it's not even there, and see where that gets you.
  11. Technotitclan

    Technotitclan Lurking TB from work Supporting Member

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    This
  12. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties Supporting Member

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    Think of the bass as the lowest common denominator (literally!) among the three major elements of music: melody, harmony & rhythm - because that's exactly what it is. As such, your role as a bassist is generally to find the best path (i.e. most basic, most elegant, most creative, most fluid, etc.) to simultaneously serve each one.

    Because of this unique role, bass parts frequently have a stripped-sown, abstract quality that isn't common to any other instrument. The purpose is not to fully articulate a complete musical idea, as it could be with a guitar, or a horn, or a voice - but rather to suggest, or imply, or evoke a particular musical idea, mood or vibe - generally with a smaller number of much more carefully-placed notes. So although it may not seem to make much sense played alone, the best bass parts make perfect sense in an ensemble context.

    MM
  13. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa

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    my take will be to see the bass line as a 2nd or 3rd guitar line...

    More interesting than another root-five player ... unless your music should be more "groove" oriented or whatever ...


    We don't know what kind of music you write ... maybe a ground bass would be better, maybe my advise would make your music interesting, etc

    I find it funny it is so different for so many people ... it is music !!! To me everyone should make music no matter the instrument ... but it seems more like the instrument play the player instead of the player using the instrument to get a sound out of it.
  14. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

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    To me, the most important words above are: "Less is more." That's what made so many of the classic 60's and 70's bass players famous.

    Good notes above - follow the drum - play less - complement the melody, don't play it.

    If there is a Zen player in the band, the bass player is it; he's also the one who kicks ass as needed. Combine those two and you're thinking like a bass player.
  15. bscenefilms

    bscenefilms

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    Thank you all so much for the great advice!

    A new adventure begins!

    Mike
  16. Dropitlow

    Dropitlow

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    The best advise i ever got was to think like a drummer, since the bass and drums are the time keepers its important to stay synced. As stated before keep it simple at least to start with, like building a house get a good foundation with your root notes and the build simple runs or accents around them. At least that is what i do.

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