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Beginner practice routine suggestions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by KoalaOnBass, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. KoalaOnBass


    Feb 18, 2016
    Hello everyone! After dabbling in guitar for a few years, I picked up my first bass about 2 months ago. I know having a good practice routine is essential for getting decent at any instrument, but I've been having problems trying to figure out what exactly I should be focusing on at this stage and which exercises I should be doing (I'm self-taught).

    I would like to develop an all-round good foundation for playing bass (technique, groove, aural skills, playing actual songs...). I know there are lots of lessons on this online, but most of them are not very well organized and are often aimed at more intermediate players.

    So if you guys have any suggestions for what a beginner should be practicing daily, I would greatly appreciate your help :)
  2. Fudders


    Feb 18, 2016
  3. lfmn16

    lfmn16 SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    The fastest way to get good is to get a good teacher who can identify and help you work on your weaknesses and give you good feedback.
  4. lstelie


    Nov 27, 2008
    Paris France

    Point of view of a « I was beginner not so long ago » guy…. And of course it's my point of view someone can say the opposite without being wrong...

    1) If you're self taught buy Ed Friedland Bass method. To begin it's an invaluable resource, and it's the best investment you can do to start alone.

    2) whatever routine you choose it must emphasis a perfect knowledge of your fretboard.
    It's useless to start sophisticated exercises if you don't know perfectly your fretboard.
    If you come from a guitar background, fretboard knowledge is more crucial for a bassist than for a guitarist. With a guitar you can play simple things by learning some positions, chords and so on without really knowing where each individual note is.. with a bass, if you intend to play with others, the minimum required is chords roots and to do that you must know your fretboard.
    Another reason why this knowledge is also more important for a bassist than for a guitarist : if for some reason (usually it's to accommodate the singer) your future band decides to play a song in a different key, with a guitar you can rely on a capo.. not on a bass, so you must be able to move around your neck with ease.

    3) do some fingers training excercies (like Jon Liebmann Bass aerobics, but they are billions other around). Coming from a guitar background is an advantage.. but the bass fretboard is rather different, larger space between frets….

    4) Scales and Chord Tones (and at minimum learn to find automatically a fith, a minor/major third, a major/minor seventh). Unlike the guitar fretboard, the bass fretboard is symmetrical so it's easy to have your fingers knowing where to find intervals, and it must become natural, something completely automatic.

    5) buy a metronome (second best investment to begin). In a band, the bassist and the drummer are the only members who play all the time, from the beginning till the end of the song, each beat, each measure (ok it's not always true but theoretically you can consider it is true). Nobody will blame you if you're not able in some months to put Victor Wooten to shame, but every body will hate you if you are not perfectly in rythm.
    In most case (not to say all) members of your future band will prefer a bassist only able to play roots and some fifth but perfectly locked to the drummer, to a bassist able to play faster than the guitarist.. but always out of time...

    6) Say good bye to your girl friend, starting from now on your new best friend will be a drummer (spoiler : they are not always as sexy as she was..)

    Good work

    Side notes :
    .. well and if you are not against theory..
    - reading The Jazz Theory Book from Mark Levine (they are billions but this one is really understandable and try to make sense instead of playing with high level theoretical concepts..) will not teach you how to play the bass, but will make you understand how music work and what are the mechanisms behind the “how to find which note to play ?”
    - learning to read music is good (and Ed Friedland book will make you quickly learn reading in bass clef), but don't stick with the bass clef.. because bass key is for… bassists.. all the other members of your future band will use trebble clef...

    Last edited: Feb 18, 2016
    physics, LarryBama, slaps76 and 2 others like this.
  5. +1 to istelie's post. As one of your "wants" is some feed back on how to play actual songs. I'll just add one thing. Be realistic about what type of sheet music you are going to use. Reason I bring this up is I am never handed standard notation sheet music by any band director I play for, it's all fake chord sheet music. So to play songs with those bands I need to be able to read and play from chord charts or fake chord sheet music. Now in your case you have played 6 string guitar before and I'm sure you know how to play from fake chord sheet music. But, for those that do not; adding the following to what istelie excellent post has already given us seemed like a good idea.

    Fake chord looks like this:

    Hello todke kllk morning htse kflle kdckdk
    dkikj 'lklloo kkuio yyyuy dkgkgtki
    No it's not a real song, if it was we run into copyright laws, etc.

    Now all those scales you have learned and all those chord tone notes you have put to memory now have to be used in an actual song. So you have some choices to make. In fake chord what bass lines you use is left up to you. So here are some dirt simple things to start working with.

    Normally notes for the melody line will follow the lyric syllable, i.e. a two syllable word normally gets two melody notes. A one syllable lyric word gets only one melody note. The lyric word "morning" would get two melody notes. Notice the chord change to G happens on the second syllable of the word.

    With fake chord we follow the chord changes and compose our own bass line..... so being able to make harmony using notes of the active chord is left up to us. Here are some vanilla chord progressions to some songs, start here: Ralph Patt's Jazz Web Page Now click on Song Index and help yourself to some chord progressions on songs you know.

    In "April in Paris" notice several of the measures have more than one chord. How would you play those chord and still maintain 4/4 time? No, that is left to you, that's your homework. That fish thing. See you in the shed.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2016
    lstelie likes this.
  6. Good advice so far. One thing I'd add. While you are reading all these suggestions, deciding what to do, where to learn from, but meanwhile still playing that bass you got, make sure you don't pick up bad habits in the meantime. They can be hard to unlearn. Specifically, before you do anything, learn proper finger position for the left hand (use all four non-thumb fingers!) and proper finger picking technique (if you aren't using a plectrum). Scott Devine has a good youtube on the fingerpicking, and probably has one on the left had positions as well.
  7. KoalaOnBass


    Feb 18, 2016
    Wow, thanks for all the help guys :)

    I agree, having a teacher would be ideal, but unfortunately I don't have the money for that atm, so free online lessons will have to do for now.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to write all this, Luc :) will definitely be focusing on these areas.
    I've actually compiled some exercises that seem useful to me from the internet - could you guys maybe glance through them and tell me if you think they would be a good start?

    Fingerboard knowledge (I already know the notes on the E and A strings from guitar, but I thought I would take it a bit more seriously this time and learn the fingerboard properly)



    · Bass Exercises For Beginners | Guitar Lessons @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com



    Rhythm (in addition to practicing the major scale and the above exercises with a metronome):


    Learning songs/ear training (I use the list below as a general guideline for which songs to learn; I'm also trying to figure them out by ear - it can be kind of slow sometimes, but I guess it's worth it in the long run)

    · http://how-to-play-bass.com/play-bass-in-50-songs-rock

    I do know some basic practical theory, like the major scale, interval shapes, and basic arpeggios/chord construction, but I don’t want to get too hung up on the theory side of things just yet, as I find it can get quite overwhelming and discouraging.

    What do you think? :)
  8. enricogaletta


    May 21, 2011
    Taking some lessons from a good teacher is the way to understand how built your own routine schedule and important how check the improvements.
    Usually the main topics to begin are: technique (at least fingerstyle and slap) harmony (scales, arpeggio, chords and improvisation) and reading. Than all the other topics will come automatically as you go ahead.
    If you need more suggestion, pm, I will be happy to help you.
    Cheers. Enrico

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