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Be honest!

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by yawnsie, Jan 10, 2001.

  1. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Right, I'm bored at college, so I'd like to ask you all - what's your honest opinion of your abilities? Do you think that you're still a beginner, or can't you see what all the fuss about this Jaco is about?

    For the record, I think that I'm fairly competent, but I've got a lot to learn. Like what you use the other three strings for... :D
  2. OK, I'll play along...

    In a nutshell, I'm somewhat above average, in my opinion. Knowing where you're weak is the best thing you can do, it gives you a framework for improvement.

    I'm strong in my physical abilities (playing fast passages, good muscle memory of scales/arpeggios, etc), playing "in time" within an ensemble, and in basic diatonic music theory. I can slap pretty well, when the situation calls for it, and I have the sense NOT to when the situation doesn't (which means I don't play a lot of slap on gigs, as most situations DON'T call for it).

    I'm moderately passable as far as my ear (picking out things, hearing ideas and translating them into sound). My intonation on fretless electric isn't perfect, but if I can hear myself reasonably well, I'll get it in tune if it isn't, and right quickly at that.

    My weaknesses are jazz theory, construction of walking basslines, soloing over changes (heck SOLOING...and I used to be pretty good at it, just out of practice :(). I haven't worked on the Bach Cello Solos in too long, need to get those back out and work on them again.

    Within the next 4-6 weeks, I'm going to be really challenging myself, as I've recently put a deposit on an electric upright (NS Design NSCR-5M). It's going to be almost like learning a whole new instrument, the notes are in almost the same place (although somewhat further apart), but I'm going to be playing almost perpendicular to the way I've been doing it for over 20 years now. We won't even start talking about bowing which I will be learning. Should make those Bach Cello Solos even more interesting :eek:!!! ;) Of course, I won't just dive into the Bach, I'll most likely start with something a bit more reasonable, like Simandl (thanks for the suggestion, Marty :D).

    Yawnsie, great topic, everyone should try to review their strengths and weaknesses regularly, it can only make you a better player (and applied elsewhere, a better person too :) ). Who's next????
  3. Dave Siff

    Dave Siff Supporting Member

    OK, I'll go next.. this is going to be very cleansing!
    My strengths, IMO, are:
    I pick things up very quickly, I have a better-than-average ear, my time is good, and I think I have a good, innate sense of when to step up and when to lay back.
    My weaknesses, IMO, are:
    My right hand technique is sloppy.. I've never been able to develop a consistent two-finger thing, and my thumb floats. Consequently, my right-hand muting isn't very good.
    I know almost zero music theory or chord construction. Thus, my bass lines come by trial and error, and I can play only the most basic of walking lines.
    I sometimes have trouble locking with the drummer right off the bat.
    It's never been my intention to try to fool anyone, and I have been busted by some more advanced musicians. I do just fine playing in rock bands, and have even gotten requests for lessons from some fellow players.. "show me how you come up with those fills".. stuff like that. But the more I listen to jazz, and the more I see really great players just effortlessly do their thing, the more I know I want and need to buckle down and study. I have a lot of books at home, I just need to put in the time.
    I guess you could say laziness is my biggest weakness.

    [Edited by Dave Siff on 01-10-2001 at 10:55 AM]
  4. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    Well, OK, here goes. I'm probably not so good as the above posters, but I feel I'm a fairly good accompanist, which is my focus. My goal is to support the music, and add something, without getting in the way. I think I'm a reasonably good rock/pop bassist, although I'm not much of a slapper. I've never been called on to do much slap, though. I took theory in high school, so I understand intervals and chords at least a little. I have a pretty good sense of relative pitch, and when I change strings, sometimes I try to tune the G without a reference. Sometimes I even get close.

    I've done a few solos, but I'm pretty weak in that particular area, and usually have to figure them out ahead of time. Gotta work on my chord scales, etc.

    I don't sight read. I'm working on it.

    I can play pickstyle pretty fast, and I'm working on my fingerstyle. I like fingerstyle better, but I've always found pickstyle easier.

    I love the bass. It's the instrument I want to play. I'm absolutely astonished by the things that Stanley Clarke, Jaco, Dann Glenn, Billy Sheehan, Bunny Brunel, and others can do with it. But mostly, I like it in the backing role (all those guys are good sidemen, too).
  5. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Okay, I'll try next...

    Strengths include finding and settling into the groove pretty quick. I'm reasonably good at chart reading, picking songs up quickly, and knowing when to stay with the simple line and when to embellish. Intonation on fretless is only fair, and like Gard, I am close to having an EUB, so that will get some serious working out.

    Weaknesses, (And oh, there are SO MANY!!!), reading notation. I have all the best intentions of working on this, just like losing weight!!! I have a hard time being able to slap or play with a pick, can't solo. I could say that I'm not that kind of player, but I'm just lame at it. So far, this hasn't been a huge problem, but it is something I'd like to improve on. I also get frustrated with drummers who speed up during a song...since I am playing pretty regularly with one of these, I have to work on chillin out!!!

  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I'd bet each of us is our own worst critic (unless you're married).

    Strengths- I have a very good ear (so I'm told) and I have a catalog of maybe 90% of the songs/music I've ever heard stuck in my head...that I can playback (and play along to) at will. I have no idea how it works and sometimes it even unnerves me.

    I'm self taught but somehow came up with good technique. I know not to turn every song into "The Brad Show, featuring ME!". I have many techniques at my disposal (but I ain't no Abe Laboriel)(and I don't tap, because I honestly haven't felt that it was lacking in anything I've played) and use them to good effect. I listen to the entire piece of music, before and while playing. I'm anal about my tone and only play as loud as is warranted. My intonation on fretless seem to be pretty good. I love odd time signatures and my timing is pretty good. I make interesting (but not too interesting) note choices. I only overplay in music stores (where it counts...right, Bruce?;))

    Weaknesses- Oh yeah! I feel that my reading sucks...and it shouldn't, I just don't do it very often (my excuse). I'm just too lazy to make the effort and it hasn't hampered me from gigging here. With reading taken care of, lots of other pieces fall into place.

    I should work on soloing... I can but I would truly rather groove than solo. When I do solo, it's okay but I've gotten away from the Fusion stuff I did in my younger days. I need to work in a structured fashion to advance this. I can do better.

    I need to work on singing and playing.

    I need to work on what makes me sound like me. Probably sounds strange but it makes sense to me:D

    Overall I'm very comfortable with my playing... I guess that could be a good and bad thing.

    I feel much better now.
  7. 5156246


    Sep 6, 2000
    first my weaknesses:
    - I can't read music
    - I'm too lazy to learn this
    - I always try to start at fast speed though I should start practice at a low level first
    - Intonation on my fretless isn't very good
    - I'm bit of envious if someone plays better than I do

    good qualities:
    - I learn fast, maybe because I want to top others
    - I'm not lazy in learning technique
    - I think I have a good style of playing
    - I keep myself silent in the background, don't want to be the star but important

    I believe these are the main points for me.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Wow it's amazing how close some of the posts in this thread seem to be describing my own siuation. I think I could just cut and paste some of the paras to make my own and it would be completely honest.

    Like Gard and others have mentioned, I am still suprised at how hard it is to get consistently good walking lines in a Jazz context. I feel like I could study this for ever and still have something to learn - although I can always come up with a line, I'm not ever completely satisfied with it and listen to the "greats" like PC and wonder how they came up with such a satisfying line!

    Also Like Gard I am going to get an NS CR4 or 5 this year. I have been looking at them for a year now and this will definetly be my next purchase - they didn't have a 5 in London last year, but now they do! I've tried them out for hours on end at the Bass Centre in London and can see this will be a huge challenge.

    I also feel one of my other main weaknesses is not being good enough at sight-reading. Most of the time I'm expected to come up with my own line, so get out of practice at doing this, but my main band is getting more arranged stuff - almost like Big Band arrangments and I feel myself getting more comfortable with reading these first time, if I've heard the tune before.

    I see my strengths as being versatile and getting a good tone - whether it's slapping, fingerstyle, thumb muting etc.
    I can play convincing solos and enjoy working on these, but have a long way to go, to being up to a "pro" standard and I'm always blown away by every Jazz bass player I hear (every week!)and wonder how I can ever develop an individual voice?

    I know a lot about theory - "in theory" - but I still need to lodge this in my head and incorporate it into my playing. Like if I sit down at the piano and analyse things I can see what's happening and get great ideas, but can't necessarily put this all into my playing. I'm also still trying to get away from "patterns" towards just playing what I feel should be there - I can't just sing something and then play it, as various tutors have advised me to do, but I'm working on it!

  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Oh Yes - almost forgot - I can see what the fuss is about Jaco - but I still can't play that little tag in Havona at the right speed!! ;)
  10. Niels Keijzer

    Niels Keijzer Guest

    Nov 27, 2000
    Didn't you know?
    Michael Anthony recorded that song for Jaco. That's why he never played it live.

    Usually I play the best when, If I'm hearing something, I suddenly hear a bassline in my head.
    I think I should play more with other players, and get more feeling in it.
  11. jcadmus


    Apr 2, 2000
    Okay, I'll go:

    I've got pretty good ears, I've got pretty good time, and provided the drummer isn't playing like Art Blakely on acid I can usually find 1.

    So basically if you can give me key, a time signature and a ZIP code, I can usually figure it out.
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Honest? Well, to be 100% honest I wonder why I even get people to let me up on stage with them. I'm constantly amazed that people like what I do enough to hire me.

    It seems the better I play the more stuff there is that is still beyond my reach. The talk about jazz walking is a good example. The better I get at it, the more I realize I suck at it i.e. as my ear gets better attuned to what sounds good I realize how far from good my note choices are :) :)

    I can't play really fast, I can't solo, my ear is mediocre and I can't sightread on the gig.

    On the other hand, some really good players call me up for gigs so there's SOMETHING that they recognize that I sure don't!!! Sometimes I think that my personality and my willingness to take suggestions gets me further than my musical abilities.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    The right personality is a huge plus, Brian. I'm sure it gets me gigs over some of the local "chops" guys.
  14. Bruce -

    Yes, that NS EUB is something isn't it? I can't wait for mine to get here, was just on the phone with Beaver at Bass Central yesterday talking to him about it for an hour! :) I'll make sure to post about it when it gets here and I've had a bit of time to "live" with it.

    And yes, those darn walking lines seem to make us all frustrated. I've been working on and off with some Abersold material, transcribed lines from Mr. PC hisself, and all it seems to do is make me more aggrivated with my paltry efforts :rolleyes:. Even when I was studying with Dave LaRue, he'd play the most AMAZING walking lines, then I'd take a chorus or two and just embarass myself. Of course he'd confide that he wasn't all that happy with his walking either, so I'm thinking it's more of a perception thing than anything else.

    And I can see what the fuss about Jaco is too, but I'm not defining it. If someone is unable to figure it out for themselves, I'm just gonna feel sorry for 'em ;).

    Brian & Brad -

    You caught a big oversight on my part: Attitude. You're damn straight that it effects getting gigs, and it also effects your ability to play and improve. I'd say my attitude is pretty good, despite all my weaknesses and failings as a musician, I'm never wanting for a gig, and have never been fired. Everytime I've left a gig, they've tried to convince me not to, so I must be doing SOMETHING right :D.
  15. bassguy187


    Jun 27, 2000
    Nazo, PA
    strengths are the following,
    -playing with a pick :)
    -making basslines up
    -keeping tight with the drummer
    -slapping ( don't do it in my band, just for fun)
    -Moving jumping and head banging alot!!
    -looking cool while i play

    -playing wiht my fingers,
    -singing on hard bass lines,
    -making up solos (usually dont have any anyway)
  16. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Two major areas of "bass guilt" keep me from ever being an "advanced" player and forever stuck in the intermediate level.

    One is that I don't slap. Oh, I've tried various times to develop some slap chops but just couldn't get myself to dedicate the effort to this technique. I do know one lick...a one bar pentatonic lick I ripped off from a Dave LaRue instruction video and that is it. I have been asked from time to time if I could slap or try a slap line by other band members and always shriveled up inside to have to confess that my slapping reeks of heinousness. Maybe this true confession will finally spur me on to sit down and woodshed until I finally can go to a music store, grab a bass and slap away furiously without fear or shame.

    The second area is lacking a solid repertoire of standards I can pull out a bass line automatically. I read one time in Gig or Bass Player a list of two hundred standards every bass player should know before auditioning for gigs. The songs included the usual suspects, A-Train, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Misty, Laura, JohnnY B. Goode, Twist and Shout, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s pop hits, even The Macarena. In other words the music most likely to be requested at weddings, bar mitsvahs and lounges. When I saw that list, I swore to myself to learn every song I didn't already know. Well, I never did. Ah, what bass guilt! So, I feel a certain lack as a bass player by not having that solid foundation, but then, I don't play weddings anyway.
    However, I could probably come up with a list of at least one hundred blues standards every blues bassist should know. There is no excuse for my not working on a repertoire like that.

    Oh, by the way, I have NEVER been asked if I could tap.

    Jason Oldsted

  17. i think i'm pretty good given that i've only been playing for a little over 2 years, since i always played bass instead of doing homework in high school. i can improvise fairly cool basslines if given a chord progression, i have good muscle memory, and i can play pretty darn fast as well as slow, if need be.
    probably my strongest quality is that i'm open-minded. i will play just about any style of music, i mostly play fingerstyle but i'm not above using a pick for technique reasons on a few songs, and i usually stay away from slapping but will do it sparingly. the only thing i won't do is tap. that only sounds halfway good on guitars, and even then it's cheesy and 80's.

    the bad: i'm slow at figuring out basslines in recorded music and such, my ear isn't very developed.
  18. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Well, once again I'm bored at college (students today, eh?) and I don't think I'm going to get thrown off the computer like I was on Tuesday, so I'll go into more detail myself:

    My strengths are being able to play (more or less) in time, knowing when not to overplay, being able to improvise quite well (as well as my limited knowledge will allow me, anyway) , my ability to work out recorded lines fairly quickly, and having the decency not to sing or slap.

    My weaknesses are my ears (I can't tune by ear very well, no matter how hard I try), my theory (or rather, lack of it), and the fact that I always seem to end up in the same position, playing virtually indentical riffs in different songs, and the slowness of my playing. And the less said about my "soloing", the better...
  19. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Brad, Bruce, and Gard have definitely touched upon some main points. And Gard, you spoke with someone named "Beaver?" Okay, then.

    Strengths are easier to list first, because they are fewer! I have very strong theory. I'm a much more analytical person than many other musicians. I have worked at constantly developing my understanding of classical and jazz theory. The jazz theory is weaker than the classical, that's what studying fugues for a semester will do to you, but is getting stronger as I continue to study. I understand the concepts of the bass's role pretty well. Sometimes that can be overlooked, and I try and make sure what I play fits the songs. Also, I listen to my bandmates. I know that how I'm playing will largely be affected by how they're playing, and even if I'm good, and they're not, we all have to play together to sound good. I play slowly well. This was a very big concern of mine after playing lots of R&B and funk for awhile. I got in a band with some slower songs, and have really developed slower, melodic bass lines. I can play pretty well on my fretless electric. My intonation isn't too bad. However, I have found that by the fourth set I will start to get lazier. I sight read well. I'm not fluent, but am very confident with music in front of me. I do have to work on it independently, I can't just play as I read, but it's stronger than most musicians I know.

    Okay, weaknesses. My left hand technique is horrible, and has lead to tendonitis several times. (The wonders of acupuncture! Thank you China!). I really have to re-learn my left hand techniques, and I've been lazy about that. I have a horrible ear. I constantly work on ear development but find it harder than many others to learn songs by ear. This is where sight reading comes in handy. At my best, I can come within a semitone, at my worst I've been a 5th away! I can't play fast. What is Hip? Forget about it. I'm still a beginner at fast playing. I can't slap/pop really at all, and I don't really know what tapping is. I'm still working out muting with my five string. Occasionally, I can some serious buzz, especially from my B, and usually when I'm playing fast. I can't solo to save my life. (Unless it's a slow song). I like Peavey. :) I don't practice as much as I should. And, let's see, I don't understand what the big deal about the Beatles is, or the Rolling Stones, or Led Zepplin, and I've never heard any Rush that I like. (In all fairness, I haven't heard all that much Rush though).
  20. Jazzbo, in the off chance that you're serious and not "having me on" as some of our British bretheren would say - the Beaver I was referring to in my post was Beaver Felton, of Superchops4Bass videos and the co-owner of Bass Central. Monster player, and all-around nice dude. Beaver is a nickname, I would assume from either his dentation (not that it's obviously different than anyone elses, just a guess), or more likely from his uh....younger, more...um.....friendly with the females :confused: ;) days (got named for what he was hunting, possibly??). I do know his given name, but won't divulge it for fear of his repricing my en route new bass :eek:. Ask me again after I get it, maybe I'll spill the beans then :D.

    As for your weaknesses, well I wouldn't classify some of them as weaknesses. For example, I like Peavey too, and refuse to consider that a weakness :p. The left hand/thumb thing, yeah that is a toughie. It's always worse to unlearn a bad habit than to start with a good one. I guess I was lucky, I studied classical guitar early on in my career. Had an instructor who'd hold a ruler on the top of the neck, and if my thumb peeked over....WHACK!!! :eek: Hard core old school, but exceptionally effective :D. It's been said a thousand times: playing fast well comes from playing slowly well; you apparantly have something of a headstart on this one :). As for not getting the Beatles, et al, well, personal taste is not a weakness...although not digging Rush does make me worry about you a little ;).

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