A couple starter bass questions for anyone...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by thor16, Jun 16, 2004.

  1. thor16


    Jun 16, 2004
    To start off, how hard would it be for me to teach myself bass guitar this summer, and what do you guys suggest for a guitar to start up with?
  2. megiddo


    Apr 5, 2003
    Houston, Texas
    Welcome to the board. You will learn a lot just reading posts here. As far as teaching yourself, try the Mel Bay "You can teach yourself bass" book for starters. If you're still serious when you get about half way through start looking for a teacher. It will be worth the money.

    As far as starter basses, it kinda depends on your budget. Do some research, talk to your local music store and get the best you can afford. Starting out on a crappy bass will kill your motivation. I paid $350 for my made in Mexico Fender Jazz and have found it to be a decent bass. When my skill and budget increases I will be looking for something better though.

    Hope that helps and good luck!
  3. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Some people (myself included) can't STAND books. I've been playing for 25 years, and I STILL can't make myself grind through a Mel Bay book. It's worth trying, though.

    My suggestion is to use the net...there's a whole lot of great stuff available online. Try this link:


    You'll have a lot of fun if you pick a few songs you like with simple, clear bass lines and play along with them. That will keep you motivated, and will help train your ear.

    Learn the names of the notes on the fretboard. Again, look online for references.

    Learn some basic scales. Cyberfretbass has an article on the five scales you really need to know. Read it. Pay attention. Practice.

    Play songs to stay motivated, but also play scales and exercises to build your knowledge and technique. If all you ever do is play the same five songs you'll never get any better.

    When learning a song, don't try to learn the exact bassline. Just get the chord changes down first, and play the root notes, concentrating on the rhythm. The actual bass line can come later...what you really need to do is stay on key and stay on rhythm. For that matter, often you can just play the root note of the key the song is written in, and if you get the rhythm right it'll actually sound good. My point here is that the actual bass line, while important, is not as important as staying in key and staying in rhythm. If you can stay in key (meaning that you've trained your ear to hear the changes right) and stay in rhythm, you can fake any song ever written and get away with it.

    Don't fixate on your favorite kind of music (though this is pretty much inevitable). Every good musician I know of listens to styles of music that are way outside what they're known for. You can learn a lot...no kidding. And I don't mean minor variations...I mean contrasts like country vs. metal, salsa vs. hip hop, etc. Listen to ANYTHING that has a good, readily identifiable beat and LISTEN CLOSELY to it...get into the groove and figure out what makes that music work. And I mean ANYTHING. There is quality to be found in all forms of music, even the forms that you think suck the big wazoo. Those who are completely and utterly devoted to a single style are limiting themselves, IMHO.

    Finally...find someone to play with.

    I won't get into equipment too much here, other than to say that:

    1) You're not going to get a really good bass for no money, but you can get an adequate one. I just bought an Essex Jazz bass from Rondo music and was very impressed by the quality for the money ($150).

    2) If you actually intend to play with other people, plan on an amp at least three times as powerful as the one used by the guitar player (figure 150 watts minimum). Anything smaller is a practice amp only.
  4. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    Get a teacher in the beginning. It's too easy to pick up some nasty playing habits you'll need to break later. Plus you can learn how to tune the darn thing much easier with someone showing you. :) Fortunately, it doesn't take too many lessons before you can go on your own.

  5. I think getting a teacher is good. He or she will give you some good basic guidance, like how to hold the bass and finger positions, etc. You probably don't need a ton of lessons to get started. I like books, particularly one's with CDs. I have one on building walking bass lines and Peter Erskine (one of the greatest drummers - remember Weather Report, Jaco) is playing the drums on the CD. I can play along with him for hours.

    I have also found that jam sessions are great. Jam sessions can come in many manifestations. If you have a good teacher, they will be able to hook you up to a good one. Some are held at bars with people actually watching. Some are held at people's homes. I know of one in Buffalo, where I live, that is held at a church and is especially geared toward newer musicians.

    I also play the upright bass and went to a blue grass picnic to jam. There were two other bass players there, one of whom was very good, with good technique and awesome slap bass techinque. I watched him like a hawk for chord changes and other ideas. It was better than several lessons and free. I would recommend going to as many jam sessions as possible with different styles of music and don't become an age snob and refuse to play with older folks. I played with a mandolin player that kicked and she was probably in her 70s, but was a wealth of knowledge! In fact, most of the musicians I play with are 20 years older than me.
  6. I guess it depends on the person, but for me, lessons have been a real blessing. I've been playing for a little over three months now, and just started lessons two weeks ago. I would honestly say, over those past two weeks, my playing has come farther than it came in my first two and a half months. For me, having an instructor has several advantages. For one, I own the Fastrack Bass 1 and 2 books, Mel Bay's Teach Yourself Electric Bass, and Bass for Dummies, and while what I've learned in the first two lessons can be found in these books, for me, reading words in a book just doesn't compare with having another live person right there to show and explain those things to me. Plus, when I have someone else to please, I'm driven harder to do my best. Every Monday when I go in there, I want to be able to nail what he showed me last week, almost without flaw. Having someone else be proud of my accomplishments makes me all the prouder. Also, I was playing with my thumb, which I would consider an improper habit at least, and my instructor taught me to switch over to a two-finger fingerstyle and my tone and speed improved ten fold. Now I'm working on the finger independence exercise he gave me for my left hand, because now it's the hand that gets left behind! Just one little trivial thing that made a very noticeable difference in my playing ability, that I wouldn't have bothered with if I didn't get a teacher. Oh, and the most important thing I wouldn't have bothered with without a teacher, how to read music. :smug: I know you can learn without a teacher, but for someone like me, a teacher just really helps more than any book, video, or software ever could, alone.

    As for an intro bass, being I'm still a n00b like you, I can only offer limited advice. One, it may be true that the more money you have to put into an instrument, the more you can get out of it, but that isn't necessarily important for us begginers. Why? Well, we aren't going to be hitting the stage right off the bat, so a pro-level instrument and high powered amp aren't a requirement. Two, we don't have a pro ear for tone, so a cheap instrument might sound as good or better to us than a more expensive one. Three, we're not accustomed to proper care of the instrument, and I'd much rather accidentally hurt a cheap bass than an expensive one. That being said, the only other advice I have, is to buy brand new unless you have a bass knowledgeable friend/person go with you to help you pick out your bass. I learned that the hard way, I purchased both my Squier and Ibanez used, and both have issues that would keep me from buying them today, that I didn't have the know-how to notice when I purchased them. Anyway, good luck and welcome, from a fellow n00b.
  7. I started out with "Bass for Dummies", great book. :bassist:
  8. thor16


    Jun 16, 2004
    I know it would be ideal to get a teacher, but I'm really not interested in that. Thanks for the site and the tips. How about a guitar though? I've heard good things about Ibanez... can anyone support this?
  9. josh_m


    May 5, 2004
    Davie, Fl
    I use an Ibanez GSR100 as my main bass, I can afford nicer but don't need to. I changed the pick ups.
  10. Eyescream


    Feb 4, 2004
    Knoxville, TN
    I'm going to echo the essex suggestion that other people have voiced above. I contend that one shouldn't necessarily spend very much on their first instrument, because of the risk involved. If you don't like playing after all, you're out significantly less than if you had bought a really nice bass.

    I didn't like the idea of lessons when I started when I was 17, either. Now I'm 24, can't read music, don't understand even enough to know what key I'm in, and I'm working really hard to play catch up and figure out what all this means so I don't have to keep turning down offers to play so I don't embarrass myself. Buy a cheap bass, and spend the left over money on lessons, and while you're there, learn to read music.
  11. thor16


    Jun 16, 2004
    How much did that run you?
  12. thor16


    Jun 16, 2004
    Reading music isn't much of an issue, I took piano lessons for about 4 or 5 years.
  13. Eyescream


    Feb 4, 2004
    Knoxville, TN
    Oh, well that's alright then. I imagine you probably know theory and all that pretty well, too.

    Well, nevermind. Get a nice bass. :D
  14. thor16


    Jun 16, 2004
    It's been a while since a sat down and played. (A long while) But I imagine that all that theory stuff would start coming back to me.
  15. Eyescream


    Feb 4, 2004
    Knoxville, TN
    It very well may.

    Honestly, the best thing I can tell you to do is figure out a budget, and then go to guitar stores and play everything you can get your hands on through every amp you see that you might like (I'd like to direct your attention to the Mesa/Boogie Walkabout Scout combo amps, they're spoken rather highly of).

    check out these sites:

    bgra.net (review archives)
  16. thor16


    Jun 16, 2004
    Well, from reading other threads, I have noticed a trend in guitars that people recommend, and that would be Essex, and Yamaha.
  17. Eyescream


    Feb 4, 2004
    Knoxville, TN
    Essex seems to be a pretty good across the board cheap starter bass. Their Jazz bass copies run around $150-$200, and they're supposedly pretty solidly made. I don't personally like Yamaha basses, but I've never played one so it's just my prejudices speaking.

    The gear does not necessarily make the player, but nicer gear makes it more fun to play, if you get my drift.
  18. I guess how quickly the theory stuff comes back to you will be largely dependent on how experienced/adept you where with it last time...

    like if you only studied it for a few months and it was a few years ago, that's giong to count for next to nothing now.

    I've played violin/piano/organ (with pipes!) pretty much all my life and studied music. I didn't pick up a bass until my late twenties (I'm now 33) and I have to say I found it pretty easy...like I just said "What's the string tuning?" picked it up and basically played...however, getting to be a good bass player is another matter, for me it was mainly about learning different styles and playing in a band situation - I think I naturally have the techinique in the way I hold the bass and hand/finger positioning from my violin playing even the finger picking to a degree as that is how I frist learnt the violin before picking up a bow.

    I'm not sure that piano playing will help you pick up the bass unless you have studied the theory and understand the concept of arpeggios, chord progressions, root notes, counterpoint etc. etc.

    Strangley, the one thing that I found hard initially was using a pick!

    Anyway no need to get disheartened as you will be starting at least one rung up on the ladder!
  19. thor16


    Jun 16, 2004
    are those essex ones only available online?