A plea for help after 6 years of playing bass.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by El-Bob, May 26, 2012.

  1. El-Bob


    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    Just a warning, this will probably be long winded, and make me sound like I have no idea what I'm talking about... but that's because I really don't have any idea.

    As the title suggests, I have been playing bass now for 6 years. To cut right to the chase, I've never had a lesson, I don't know theory, and I don't know where to begin with learning it. I've looked through the beginner stickies here, but it seems so overwhelming. If you care to read on, I will try to explain where I'm at in as much detail as possible so that hopefully somewhere more experienced on these boards can set me in the right direction.

    When I first started playing bass, I was just your typical teenage "what's the best bass for metal", "can you tab this song for me" kinda guy. I started playing near the end of my highschool years, and was just basically playing metal songs from tabs. Over the few years after high school, I started going to Churches and playing bass on worship bands occasionally, which involved these sheets of paper with the lyrics printed on them, and the Chord names above the lyrics. So, all I would do is basically play 8th notes on the root, because it was all I knew how to do. As time went on, in my own practice and messing around I developed a better ear, and left tabs behind. I spent a lot of time messing around with my own music, figuring out what sounds good and what doesn't, and started to really work on developing my ears. I started learning songs by ear as much as possible, and started to play more frequently in Church bands. I just finished my 3rd year of University, as a Christian University with campus Praise and Worship bands playing basically rockier, more up-beat versions of the stuff I was playing in Churches. I found myself starting to be able to move off the root, and do some simple fills and runs and melodies and stuff during a lot of the songs, but with no idea why what I'm playing works, I just know that it does.

    Anyway, where I'm at now, is that I realize I need to learn some theory so that I can have more variety in my playing. I'm not big on the idea of really flashy playing, but I at least want to keep the bass part moving, and not be stuck on the root all the time (with the exception of when that's what best serves the song, of course). I don't care about learning to read sheet music for the time being, because I have never encountered it in my life, but I'm constantly given Chord sheets with names of Chords, and little Idea what notes I can use other than the root. This coming year, I will potentially be in 3 different bands playing this kind of music (unless a very skilled freshmen comes in, all the other bassists are in far worse shape than I am, unfortunately).

    My apologies for the lack of clarity... I just need to know where to go from here to expand my playing without being overwhelmed by unnecessary information, especially considering what little free time I have, especially when University is in full swing.

    Also, not sure if it helps, but to give an idea where I'm at, here's a video of me playing a song I learned by ear about a year ago: http://youtu.be/EoCbbJCeYaY
  2. TimXSweeney


    Nov 7, 2007
    Take a theory class at your school and look for a teacher. Other than that, utilize the Internet. There are plenty of free resources and lesson across the Internet that serve any and all purposes from walking basslines to sweep picking on bass.
  3. El-Bob


    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    Unfortunately, depsite having a lot of opportunity for musical involvement, our school has no dedicated music program or teachers. An internet resource would be ideal, so I appreciate that suggestion. As I said, I'm just overwhelmed with where to begin.
  4. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    Others might suggest different but I would advise enrolling in basic theory 1+2 classes, either online or at school. Follow this with a quick run through one of the beginner book series like the "Hal Leonard Bass Method 1-3" series by Friedland, after playing at the level you are this should not take much time at all. You already know must of this stuff by ear and application so this should be merely putting a name to it and possibly introducing you to a new concept or two.
    The next step would be a course of practice in walking bass. This will teach you the advanced harmonic applications of the bass in the traditional role to get you the most immediate gains. These courses usually assume you already have the basics down. I think many people here are fans of Jim Stinett's methods although I am not familiar with his materials. I like "Building Walking Bass Lines", also a Friedland book, from Hal Leonard as it follows the same path I was taught when I first learned to walk.
    The education will continue to branch out from there depending on your interest and where you want to go with music. Once you have the tools and skills from this type of approach you will better equipped for your next leap. The knowledge is what the military types refer to as a "force multiplier".
    One more thing. I highly recommend at least one lesson, he does them via webcam now, with Anthony Wellington if only for his methods of deconstructing a musical concept and extrapolating all the possibilities from it.

    Good luck on your path.

  5. DO NOT beat yourself up over not knowing theory! DO you have reasonable facility on your instrument? DO you use your ears, ie work songs out by ear? I've been playing for 5 years and I feel the complete other way from you, I feel I spend to much time in my head rather than playing and hey to be honest I'm not really enjoying music,practice bass...anything much at the minute.
    I would say stop fretting (pun intended) try ricci adams . net for a start and maybe try looking for teach yourself books in charity shops or music shops, even online.
  6. El-Bob


    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    Mike, thank you very much for your time. This is exactly the kind of advise I was looking for. Something to start me in the right direction. :)
  7. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    Music Dojo does an online theory course. Had a guitarist friend in a similar position take it and he liked it. It's pretty standard stuff, you can find all the info online for free but if you prefer the structure of a class Music Dojo covers that in a chat enviroment. Check 'em out here:


    It not free but it's a good deal if you want/need the structure and the economic incentive.
  8. FerK


    Dec 11, 2011
    I strongly suggest you start off slowly with theory, on your own or with a teacher. Keep your hopes at a reasonable level. A good resource would be StudyBass.com. If you can, check all lessons. But if you have no patience, skip straight to Lesson Block #5 (Common Bass Patterns), Lesson Block #9 (Introduction To Scales) and Lesson Block #10 (Introduction To Chord Patterns). After that you should be able to navigate their menu back and forth.
  9. Tom_RCJ


    Jan 4, 2010
    Cardinal, Ontario, Canada
    Band is sponsored by Trinity Amps and Sennheiser.
    I've been where you are (only a few steps ahead right now to be honest). I'm a terrible teacher, but I can at least put your mind at ease. Once you start learning just the basics of theory, it's like a wall is knocked down. It seems daunting at first, but once you get it, you'll look back and say "What? That's it? That's all I was missing?"

    I'm sorry for not trying to explain the theory myself, but like I said, I'm a terrible teacher due to always having an odd perspective on things. Just trust me that if a disorganized nincompoop like me can handle basic theory, anyone can. It's most likely far easier to learn than whatever it is you're studying in school. Unless you plan on getting into the big heavy theory stuff. That gets a bit weird, but you can do quite a bit before you have to get into that stuff.
  10. El-Bob


    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    I appreciate all the replies a lot guys. People like you are why I love this forum. I plan to take a serious look into all of the suggestions so far, and I feel encouraged that I will find what I'm looking for :D


    Jan 21, 2012
    I understand What Your asking. Cause I felt the same. Well, back around 07. I had a,accident and was laid up for a long time.
    So I wanted to keep my mind goimg and not veggie out on TV. While I recovered.
    So I looked around and came up with The Rock House Method. They are a group that tackles all ages, skill levels and genres.
    Point being. They have online support And you can purchase the DVDs They have. But I enjoyed the way they presented the material. Got you playing quickly. And with a nice way of not making it feel Like work.

    Either way. You can check them out online. And they have forums To ask teachers stuff too.
    Ear training, scales, etc.

    It helped me alot. And I've let several borrow What DVDs I have of theirs.
    Just look at their site. And you'll see if that'd be something you'd enjoy.
  12. Zoa


    Dec 28, 2009
  13. kicklock


    Jan 22, 2009
    El Bob,

    We ALL started off in your shoes. If you LOVE bass, you WILL improve over time. Be patient, and practise often.

    The obvious thing to tell you is to get a teacher, and learn. Of course this WILL help you. However, I will tell you of some things that have helped me.

    1) I started off learning guitar on a CHEAP, steel string acoustic. The strings were HIGH off the fretboard, and playing was painful. But I loved music, so I stuck to it, and my hands got stronger over time. This prepared them for my future role as bassplayer.
    Guitar also taught me about the use of chords, and how they affect a song. Today when I rehearse, I can talk to the guitarist ( or whoever is holding chords ) in his own language. Trust me, this helps.

    2) I had the opportunity early on to meet a few good drummers, and I also learned a bit of how a drummer sees the song from them. Tempo, groove, locking down the kickdrum, etc.. This will always help you to help the band,and the song sound better.

    3) I was always an ok singer, and I admired the work of McCartney, Cetera, Sting, Wetton, and others. Learning to sing, and play at the same time helped me to realize what helped the song, and what hurt the song from a bassist's point of view.

    So, El-Bob, I suggest that you could listen, and learn about other instruments, as this WILL help you improve. Thanks for asking for my opinion. I hope it helps, and I wish you satisfaction, comfort, and love from your future bassplaying. :)
  14. Picktastic


    Feb 29, 2012
    If you don't already know any. Learn and practice scales. Even just knowing a simple major and minor scale and being able to play it it any key will get you really quite far with what you are looking for.
  15. http://www.billygreen.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Music Theory - Basic, Intermediate, Advanced.pdf

    First 20 pages covers the basics. Next 60 pages gets into intermediate and advanced music theory.

    Print the first 20 pages and read some each night. Good idea to have a pencil handy and make notes in the margins. Having your bass near by is helpful. Theory is best learned one bite at a time, eat enough to satisfy your hunger, but, not enough to make you sick.

    Using theory. Yes most of the stuff we play is from lead sheet or fake chord which do not have the bass clef, so standard notation, except for melody from the lead sheet, is not going to help, can't hurt, but really not with what we run up against.

    I use the box and know what chord tones are in a chord. Now which chord tones to use is the important part. The song may only give me room for the root or root five. The 8 is always safe and then the correct 3 or 7 will fit if I have room for them. As you read those first 20 pages keep the following in mind.
  16. El-Bob


    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    So much good advice, thanks guys! The problem with trying to approach this stuff on your own is having no idea where to start. There's just too much out there, and most of it goes over my head. You guys have given me some excellent starting points.

    Edit: If I really get my major and minor scales down, that should help me with the majority of contemporary Christian music that I'm encountering, right?
  17. adi77

    adi77 Inactive

    Mar 15, 2007
    play different chords(if you have a guitar) or arpeggios on the bass and try to remember the "color" of each..singing along helps
  18. Yes, but, remember a major scale run in note order sounds like a scale exercise. Use the major scale notes, but, not all seven in scale order. Right at first use the major or minor pentatonic scale. Why, well the 5 notes are not in scale order so it kinda breaks up the scale exercise thing.

    Major pentatonic R-2-3-5-6 and minor pentatonic R-b3-4-5-b7.

    Can not escape the melody needs to follow the tune - as best you can.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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