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Tips on stop playing on the 1 and being more melodic

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Ferniff, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. Ferniff


    Jul 11, 2010
    Queens, NYC
    Been playing for almost 4 years now, drawing influence from McCartney, Jack Bruce and recently a lot of Phil Lesh. I've noticed a play a lot of call/response phrases and stick mainly playing the root on the 1 beat. I just can't seem to break out of that and it's frustrating me. I know my chords and modes but when I play I just can't seem to make anything sound musical. Any tips at all would be helpful. On a related subject, any tips on playing more "spacey" and "psychedelic" would be great too!

    Here is a sample of my playing from July
  2. Precision101


    Sep 22, 2013
    Have you ever tried improvising with a band Mate or other musicians? That's how it should start IMO. Any bass line can be made into a spacey type sound if played in the right type of pattern. Be creative and try to fit 5ths, 4ths, 3rds, octaves Into your playing or a phrase McCartney plays a lot of melodic stuff from just fiddling around on the bass in a certain key. If you know your notes, the fretboard pretty well, phrases, shapes ect. It should all come out naturally if you experiment around and put it all together. Learn a lot of minor and major shapes and phrases that you can come up with.
  3. Ferniff


    Jul 11, 2010
    Queens, NYC
    Yes actually, I jam with a bunch of guys at least once a week but I just feel I'm stuck in a rut with my bass playing. I guess I just need to keep at it. Thanks!
  4. Precision101


    Sep 22, 2013

    Ah I've been there. Haha But again sometimes it's good to just chill back and keep the Rhythm going with the root note. Pink Floyd does that a lot (roger waters). Just sit down with the bass and fiddle around with it. The true key to finding your own style technique and melodic ear is to sit down with the bass and progress yourself forward by hitting notes along the fretboard and seeing what's good and bad. This is how I've developed my ear for major and minor phrases. Trust me it will come along. Just keep playing and playing :D good luck!!!
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  6. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    OK first of all you guys need to concentrate on even being a cohesive unit. Every person on that track is off in his own little world. The drummer's tempo is all over the place. The guitar player is dragging one second and rushing the next. Maybe get the drummer to play to a click track. That song was a hot mess. And it could have come together if all of you were trying to play WITH each other.

    But keep playing with people. I have learned much more on stages than I ever did practicing at home or even in classes or lessons.
  7. Ferniff


    Jul 11, 2010
    Queens, NYC
    Thanks Precision, that helps a lot actually.

    Thanks Two Fingers, yeah in hindsight when listening to our tracks we were all over the place a lot and tempo was odd. Believe it or not it's one of our favorites we recorded. I wouldn't call it a song though, it was just a jam. We've gotten much better at playing with each other since that recording. Generally I'm the best at keeping the time but I go off in my own world a lot too.
  8. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I know you dig Phil, so my advice is couched in that context.

    You don't need to play the one or the root on one to keep a strong rhythmic pulse, but your need to do so is highly dependent upon the time-keeping skills of your fellow musicians. The better they get, the more liberties you can take; all, of course, in the context of the level of improv that provokes stink-eye in your particular situation.

    That said, one of the tricks you can use is to avoid the root on one rather than avoiding the one altogether. Try a simple chord progression (let's say 8 bars) and compose a line that lands on the 3rd of each chord on one rather than the root. In this (while practicing, not while rehearsing with your band), play the root on two instead of one.

    Then, create three more similar, but variant lines to the same progression; all focusing on the 3rds of each chord on the one.

    Then do the same thing, but land on 5ths on one - and here's where the variations come in - follow up the 5ths with either a root then 3rd, or a 3rd then root on subsequent beats (I leave it to you to decide if these are 2nd, 3rd, or 4th beats - try all permutations, including eighth notes, quarter notes and/or half notes if you prefer). Then write three more similar lines with different note choices.

    You now have some 8-12 lines over 8 bars. Learn them to a fault of precision. Then omit notes from each; sometimes it helps to play a ghost note (i.e., a plucked note deadened by the fingering hand) to retain the meter. This not only adds a percussive element to your playing, it makes your lines less dense and simultaneously, more personal.

    Point being, learn to omit the one by learning how to play a line with the one so you are so familiar with it that you don't need the one. If you transmit your confidence with the line to the band, they won't need your one either.

    Just a few thoughts.
  9. Ferniff


    Jul 11, 2010
    Queens, NYC
    Lots of help there Fretless, thank you! You made me realize that Phil works so well because everyone else in GD is so well meshed together so he doesn't have to be the time-keeper. I love the guys I play with but until we reach somewhere near the Dead's level, I won't be able to jump out of a groove and do my thing. This made me re evaluate my playing a bit. I've been took focused on being a lead-bass player like Phil or Jack Bruce when in context it didn't always work. Instead I should take step back and play fill in the correct role of a bassist. But I'll definitely work on those exercises tomorrow.

    heh, everywhere here I see Phil Lesh being mentioned you're there. By the way I'm getting that modded Guild Starfire in the TB classifieds. The Lesh in me has awaken.
  10. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    This is because I was thrust into becoming a bass player for my HS production of Jesus Christ Superstar in my Senior year of high school (1980). As a three-year guitar player, I learned bass by fire, on a [DEL]great [/DEL] decent score that I supplemented with the lines of the late great Alan Spenner, and soon thereafter became immersed in Phil's playing. What a great time! Best days of my life, for sure, at least in terms of music.

    I was a tabla rasa and I was lucky. I was exposed to musical ideas that were well-suited to my mentality. To this day, I listen to some music and shake my head in complete misunderstanding, despite its popularity. I also listen to some music that never had any mainstream popularity, and float off to the land of bliss.

    Be true to yourself is my best advice. Music will call you or not. If it's a vocation, work harder than you know how. If it's an avocation, embrace it and choose your moments.

    Oh, and I had my eye on that Guild Starfire. Play that like no tomorrow!

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