Beginner feeling overwhelmed

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ual, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. ual


    Aug 12, 2010
    Hi all. I've been playing bass for a couple of years (casually) and recently have been trying to learn to read music and bass theory etc, but I'm feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff to learn and I don't know where to start.

    I've tried reading up on it online but it doesn't sink in and I started taking lessons with a guy who isn't really that great a teacher (so I'm looking for a new one). My problem is I can't just sit down and read about it, I need to have it set out like a course with someone to guide me, as if I'm in school. Aside from get a new teacher, has anyone got any tips on how to learn as much as I can? Or maybe some reccomendations for CD+book learning sets or whatever.

    Any help is much appreciated.

    P.S. I'm basically a complete beginner. I know some very vague things about music but that's all really.

    BASSDROID Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 22, 2007
    Port Huron, Michigan
    If you are not already doing this, I'd suggest that you spend as much time as possible playing by ear along with recordings. Training your ear in this way will help you develop the ability to hear and recognize the concepts you are studying.

    Find a new teacher; one that has a strong and practical understanding of how to apply music theory. Ask the music dept. at your local university if there are any grad students or music theory majors who may be willing to teach (they don't necessarily need to be bass players).
  3. ual


    Aug 12, 2010
    I haven't tried the playing by ear thing, but that's a good idea. The teacher I currently have is a student at a Performing Arts Academy and is extremely good, but he tends to go either too fast for me, or off on tangents (I've informed him of these issues but he keeps doing it, I'm not saying on purpose, but he does) so hopefully the teacher I have just emailed can provide me with more structured lessons.
  4. emblymouse

    emblymouse exempt Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2006
    Big +1 to listening and playing along by ear. You can set the difficulty, and it will be immediately entertaining and satisfying. Enthusiasm is a big part of making progress. Along the way you'll stumble on patterns and relationships that you can then specifically dig deeper about. This kind of self driven inquiry will have more meaning than a smorgasbord of theory.
  5. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    I'm a big proponent of setting goals and finding a good teacher who'll help you reach them, but that's just me because I need structure.
  6. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    I'm also pretty noob, and basically self-taught, but I'll throw my thoughts out for what they are worth. How much time do you have to practice and learn? That's going to make a lot of difference. If you're able to give it an hour five or six days a week you'll be able to learn more than if you just pick the bass up for half an hour twice a week.

    Obviously, get a better teacher. See if your teacher can give you a syllabus -- does he or she know what concepts to teach you and in what order? Or they just playing it by ear from week to week?

    If you haven't already, I'd suggest getting a good bible of bass scales and just work on a couple of them each week. That will help you learn your way around the fretboard some. Remember you don't need to learn everything at once. Just spend a few weeks learning your major scales, then the minor ones, and then the various other kinds like Mixolydian and whatnot.

    Probably also a good idea to split your time between working on that theory and trying to learn songs. After all, at the end of the day, being able to play a song is what it's supposed to be about. Use tabs if you have to, get a book to learn from notation, and also try figuring them out by ear. It's not only good for skills but also a confidence-booster -- "Look, I can play ___!"

    Now to go home and follow my own advice...
  7. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    Simplify. Break the lessons down into pieces & cover them in sequence. For example, 15 minutes reading music you have never seen before, 15 minutes playing scales related to your theory lesson, 15 minutes playing new songs, 15 minutes reviewing recent songs. That can be an hour, half hour or 15 minute segments that fit into your schedule. :cool:

    Here is 1 thread with some suggestions about scales, etc;

    The TB Search function will lead you to at least 10 more. Good luck. :cool:
  8. rmkesler


    May 6, 2009
    Winder, GA
    Find an experienced teacher. He/she will be able to get you on the right track to working on material appropriate to your level of playing.

    Get out and start playing. There's nothing more motivating than preparing for a performance.
  9. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    THIS thread (from just ten days ago) has probably the best exposition of how to learn theory, and the most practical (as in really being able to make music) order to tackle the topics.

    Note the post from Mambo4. Its important to learn this stuff in an organized sequence, otherwise it IS overwhelming.

  10. sdoow


    Jun 22, 2010
    I've been in pretty much the same place as you. I started about 3 years ago and was very eager to learn everything I could. I spent wa-a-ay too much time watching YouTube clips, and searching the web for exercises and tips on theory. I was getting tons of info but it wasn't in any sort of order and I wasn't sure what to do with it. I took lessons for the first year from my daughter's guitar teacher, he was well meaning and I enjoyed the lessons but he wasn't a dedicated bass player and I ended up splitting my time between guitar and bass, never really making a breakthrough with either one. Just developing the dexterity to play took forever, and the idea of figuring anything out by ear was overwhelming.

    If you can't find a good instructor, and for that matter even if you do, I'll offer the following.

    1. Always use a metronome, or drum track. Practice your scales or simple patterns, start slow and work up to speed. If you find yourself rushing slow it back down.

    2. Perfect practice makes perfect, if you practice doing things wrong you'll always play it wrong.

    3. Record yourself, it can be really brutal listening to yourself but it makes you concentrate on getting it right.

    4. Buy some books, or check the library. I don't know what's available in Perth, but there must be some good music stores with inexpensive Bass books to work through. If your unsure where you stand then start from the beginning, it never hurts to review and reinforce things you already know.

    5. I've been slowly working on "Note Reading Studies for Bass" by Arnold Evans, published by Mel Bay. As well as "Building Walking Bass Lines" by Ed Friedland, published by Hal-Leonard. Whenever I find the time to spend time with these books I feel myself improve.

    Hope this helps.
  11. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    --running edit--

    Find/Buy a copy of Edly's Music Theory for Practical People. It covers the Theory basics clearly with illustrations that are easy to understand.'s
  12. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    I vote no on "always". When you're learning something for the first time, IMO, it's more important to be accurate in hitting the notes at very slow speed, which will probably not be in time with a metronome. There's no benefit to use a metronome from the beginning.

    Once you have the scale or whatever down enough to hit all the notes accurately, then using a metronome might make sense. Even then, if you're making mistakes, you'll need to slow it down further or turn it off until you do it accurately without worrying about being in time. Then go back to the metronome.
  13. get the 3 pack of hal leonard's bass method (by ed friedland) actually work through each page and dont skip around.
  14. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    +1 to this. Theory like anything in life has an order of learning, each thing you learn will support things to come and that is it in a nut shell. Because it has wide implications, it can seem over whelming, but when structured in a natural order it is just a series of small stories, in small chapters that make a book.

    problem for many is the dip in and out of this book, they get plot lines and characters out of sync so always struggle to understand what is going on. Yes they may understand a character on his own, but fail to see how he figures in the plot. Some even go to the end, the final result if you want and work back from there. They see the final result but will never understand it because they have not read the whole book from the start.

    So start at the beginning, and once you have learned and understood on lesson or idea move to the next, the repeat. doing this you will so realise that structure and foundation in you learning will make the task easier.;)
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