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Adult new to bass. Help!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Lullaby, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. Lullaby


    Jan 24, 2014

    Just discovered this great forum.

    I've recently picked up the bass. In my 40's with no previous musical experience.

    I recently bought the fabulous Bass Method 1-3 book by Ed Friedland. I'm working through it but it's taking me so damn long to learn even the simplest tasks. I'm putting in 30-60 mins a night but it's taken me close to a week to just master exercise 34 & 35 in book 1 (for anyone familiar with the book). At this rate, it looks like it's going to take years before i can even knock out a simple song. Some folks here in previous threads seem to be learning and playing one song a night from the book.

    I'm also finding that i'm getting a sore right arm. No matter how many different positions i try with this arm, it starts to ache. I've checked out quite a few videos about right hand technique but still not working for me.

    Any advice or encouragement would be hugely appreciated.

  2. bgressman82


    Mar 5, 2009
    first off, welcome to bass!

    secondly, it's gonna take time. you won't turn into geddy lee overnight. keep at it, and eventually you'll find it becomes much easier. took me months to learn my first "song", and a few more months to learn to play it right.

    i also remember the sore right arm. it'll stop soon (or it won't and you should see a doctor).
  3. megarat

    megarat (Not My Real Name) Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2013
    Squirt Island, USA
    Howdy Lullaby. Welcome to the great hobby of bass. I also started late (in my late-30s), and I haven't used that book, so I can't vouch for it. Personally, I enjoy having an actual instructor. It helps that he's within walking distance of my house, but having an experienced player be able to watch over me while I'm going through the paces really keeps bad habits from forming. Plus I learn a lot about theory, genres/songs/players I'm not familiar with, etc. For home practice, I have a cheap drum machine that I use to keep the tempo, and just play along to that, starting slow, then working up speed.

    If your arm is getting sore, then there's probably something sub-optimal about your playing posture. In particular, which part of your arm is getting sore?
  4. tonym


    Apr 12, 2011
    1. You can do it. It takes time, and you'll pick up speed. I started learning late (I'm 51 now and started in my 40's), and I remember feeling tortured by exercises in Book 1 when trying to play them at tempo. A whole string of them are things I use for warm up now! Remember to have some fun and learn to play some songs, no matter how simple. That's encouragement in itself. There are Hal Leornard books called Easy Pop Bass Lines that they've set up to progress at the same level as the books.

    2. Re: learning by playing along with songs. A bass player friend that was helping me learn gave me some great advice when I was struggling and feeling discouraged. He said "You can always simplify the bass line." He was right. If what I wanted to play along with was above my level, I simplified. I didn't worry about it. I got to play and have some fun and that made all the work I was doing to learn more worthwhile, and I didn't get discouraged.

    3. re: your arm. There's a lot of good info here and online, but if it's hurting too much maybe it's time to take a lesson or two. I can't afford them all the time but took a hand full early on specifically to help with my right arm and hand. I do a lot of work doing the day that could cause ergo problems and starting to play the bass just put everything over the top. I had to start being a lot more conscious of what I was doing at work as well.

    My practice time was limited like yours when I started, and it's only getting better now as my kid is growing up and going out more on her own. The limited amount of time you're spending now makes it slower to get going, but I promise you it will come to a point when you get on a roll and it's gonna feel great.
  5. Zephrant


    Dec 10, 2013
    Spokane, WA
    Welcome, and congrats on an awesome choice. I'm right there with you, approaching mid 40s and nearly no prior guitar experience, but my years of piano certainly help a lot.

    I have found that those books don't hold my attention for long. Good info, and stuff I need to learn, but tedious if I go over 30 mins or so on it.

    If you are in to computer games at all, take a look at Rocksmith on YouTube and read the thread here. It is so much more fun then books and exercises, but only teaches me part of what I think I need to learn of course.

    Went to a friend's house tonight to play RS with him, his wife and two others. I was able to play songs I've never seen before, and hit 90%. (I'm not in to heavy metal much, but he is.)

    I have been playing for almost three months now and am just getting to the point where I can take a tab and play it to the MP3 of the song. Not even close to perfect, but recognizable at least. And for me, that is a big thrill.

    Good luck-
  6. metalhead398


    Jul 23, 2013
    About the arm pain: What bass are you using? If it's an acoustic or something where your arm is naturally at a weird angle, then that may be the cause of your discomfort.

    Congrats on choosing the right path!!
  7. I used songbooks to learn guitar and I'm doing the same to learn bass. Right now, I'm hacking my way through a Zeppelin TAB book. Will keep hacking until I'm working and then it will transition into playing. I'm careful to play slow enough so I don't learn bad habits and I skip the sections that I just can't hack. I say the plucking finger aloud as I'm playing whenever I can... 1...2...1...2...etc...

    Also getting good info from scottsbasslessons and a few other guys that have a lot of beginner stuff posted on youtube.

    Hope that helps. Enjoy!
  8. Hang in there. I'm 43 and started playing in April; it took three months for me to get my hands/wrists/forearms in shape. Around then, you will notice that you can play longer without pain and by then you will have trained your fingers to find frets and strings automatically (just a matter of building muscle memory). That's when the fun starts :hyper:
    If following set exercises isn't inspiring, try learning a simple song that you like… probably a youtube vid, or at least a tab on line. Concentrate on what you have accomplished and build from there. Resist some sort of imaginary goal of "playing x song" or mastering a particular exercise. Find a way to practice so that it is fun. And there's no hurry. The techniques and knowledge build exponentially, so improvement won't be so plodding in 6 months time. I figure I got at least another 30 years to learn my craft. ;)

  9. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    First thing to remember is that the brain can learn at any age. If you practice, you will get better.

    The second thing is that as a beginner, you're really learning a lot of things all at once, and it may seem like you're moving slowly even though your practice really is helping you. At some point, it all starts to come together and feel much more natural.

    As for the soreness, it shouldn't hurt to play. I second the advice to get some instruction. I don't see a way to diagnose this on the internet, and I don't think that simply pushing through is a good idea. Assuming your technique is ok, then you might want to make sure you're taking a break in your practice or maybe break the sessions down into multiple sessions per day rather than one long session.

    Best wishes.
  10. When ever I try to learn a line, I practice each hand separately. I will learn the strings to strike with my right hand and work on rhythm without worrying about fretting the notes. I will learn the fretting without using my right hand. After each hand has learned its part, then I let them play together. I can not program both at once (yet), and breaking them apart really helps me learn.
    The best encouragement you'll ever get is playing a song you love (start with one with a simple bass line). Positive attitude is key… I tell my mentor: "I practice a little each day and I know I'm not getting any chittyer!"
    f n o r d !
  11. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY

    Ed's book is a great choice as a method to learn! I highly recommend finding an accomplished teacher as well, though. Since you have no musical background, a teacher can help to explain things in a certain way that may make it easier for you to learn, understand and retain the information you are seeing in the book.

    Also, they can help with your body position which may be the cause of your pain. Or, it might just be your arm getting acclimated. Either way, they can let you know.

    Most of all, don't let your age be a factor. No matter how old you could have been, you are always the age you are, and it will always take time to learn. Stick with it and have fun!
  12. KellyM


    Jun 11, 2006
    Lynnwood, WA

    I am in my mid-fifties, so don't let your age be a factor in your learning to play. You are certainly not yet a geezer. :)

    Regarding your arm pain, it is difficult to tell from your description what the cause is. It could be simply that unaccustomed motion and muscle effort is causing you pain, and you merely need to work through it. However, it could also be that poor technique is causing you to hurt yourself. Good technique is a wonderful thing, and will not limit you in future efforts. Poor technique is a horrible thing, and can cause you physical distress as well as hampering your ability to improve once you reach a certain level of ability.

    I would recommend that you research proper bass technique, and work as hard as you can to achieve it. It is most important to learn this when you are starting out. If you spend a few years learning to play, but using bad technique, it is extremely unlikely you will have the patience to learn good technique once you determine that your poor technique is what is holding you back.

    In any event, welcome to the community of bass players. :)
  13. KB4178


    Oct 7, 2012
    Boone, NC
    I was in a similar situation. I played a bunch in high school, some in college, but never took lessons. Fast forward to 43 years old, and I decided to pick up the bass again and take lessons this time, and it's been a blast.

    The Friedland book is excellent. Stick with it. I still feel like I'm not progressing fast enough, but I look back over the year that I've been using it and taking lessons, and I can see that I've made a great deal of progress. Songs that I had no hope of playing a year ago I can play now.

    If at all possible, find an instructor. An instructor can point out the things you're doing wrong, see where your weaknesses are, and give you personalized help in fixing problems. Plus having an instructor plugs you in to your local musician community which will help you connect with other musicians.

    Give this article a read:

    Article - How to Play Music Faster: Ideal Practice Methods for Adult Musicians. We adults picking up instruments for the first time face some different learning challenges than younger people. The author gives some great advice.

    Welcome to the Bass! It's a way of life.
  14. Is your right hand your fretting hand, or your plucking hand? I have trouble with my right shoulder (plucking hand) if I play sitting down too much. Sitting makes my have to hold my elbow up and out too far. I have a good strap, and when my shoulder starts to hurt, I start playing standing up till it stops and then I can sit again.
  15. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Welcome Lullaby! I started at 38 myself, and there are lots of other guys around who did at the same stage in life. If you're up to exercises 34 and 35 in Friedland's book after just a week, I'd say you're moving fast. Be patient and take the time to repeat exercises. You're learning music as well as bass, so you're going to need to work through things a little more gradually than some to get the ideas down. Everyone goes at their own pace.

    It's hard to say about your right arm. Having a teacher, or at least another bassist, look at what you're doing will probably be necessary. Where is the soreness? Is this carpal tunnel-type soreness in your wrist and forearm? Or is it a sore shoulder? Try stretching out before you play (dmanlamius on youtube has a vid with some good stretching exercises). It may be that you're tensing up too much, or that you're holding your arm in some unnatural contorted position. This site is also very informative -- http://chriskeuken.nl/ . Chris K was a talkbasser for a while though I don't recall seeing him around recently.
  16. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Yes to Ed's book. In fact anything Ed writes will have value. He and Scott Devine have a talent for teaching, both arrange words in such a way that we understand what they are saying immediately. I'm not going to touch on the medical issue.

    Ed was the first to introduce me to scale degree numbers, i.e. G7 = R-3-5-b7. For some reason that clicked and dovetailed with the patterns I was seeing in Bass Guitar For Dummies. The following patterns helped me, copy this and file it away, perhaps a little much for right now, but, great information to have when you are ready for it. Perhaps this will give you a peek at what lies ahead. Offered for what it may be worth:
    Welcome to the bottom end.
  17. Lullaby


    Jan 24, 2014
    So much terrific information and encouragement. Thank you all so much.
    I've always enjoyed a structured way of teaching so the Bass Method book is great. I was just worried that it seemed to be taking me so long to pick up the basics.
    I'm definitely going to get a teacher who can maybe work through some of problems i'm having.
    With my arm pain, it's upper arm - between the elbow and shoulder on my plucking arm. Someone mentioned it may be due to sitting down too much? This may be the reason. I've yet to stand up with my bass while practising. I also think that i may be tensing up a bit because i'm concentrating so much on the exercises without realising it. Thanks for the tip.
    I've been reading a lot of comments on this forum about Rocksmith. I ordered it the other day just to have some fun. Thought it might get me playing some more on my bass. I do realise that it's a game and not the best for learning to read etc but i'll give it a go.
    And finally, it's great that there's so many 'adults' here willing to give feedback. Thanks again.
  18. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Upper arm pain, the only thing I can think of to cause that is that you're tensing up too much or hunching up your shoulder or something. Standing up might help, but you should be able to play comfortably seated too. Rest your forearm on the upper bout of the bass and relax your shoulder, see if that helps.

    Never played Rocksmith, seen some demos of it. Some people have found it useful to get started, but at least one thread here it was apparent that the guy was tending to play the game more than play music. Still, a tool is a tool, so use it for what it's worth if you want.
  19. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101

    Books are great tools but not complete. An experienced teacher will help you tremendously. Especially with your technique and posture which seems to be your problem regarding your pain.

    Bass is a tough instrument to play at first, really physical.

    Find a good teacher,

    Good luck and enjoy, join a band as soon as possible for the real fun and excitement of playing music and bass !
  20. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    The best advice I can give is find a strap length that is a good compromise for both hands and KEEP it.

    I see people shorten and lengthen their straps all the time. One position feels good on the fretting hand and another on the picking hand.

    Find one that is ok for both and leave it alone.