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Best way of learning the bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by MadPink, Dec 23, 2000.

  1. I've had my bass for maybe 3 months. I im just wondering what you guys(and gals) think is the best way of learning the bass? Should I take the time and get lessons or should i just get some tabs and listen to music and sorta learn on my own? I really like the way Justin Chancellor(bass player for Tool) and Paul D'Amour (former bass player for tool) play. There playing is very smooth and has a good rhythm.
  2. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    Most would benefit from taking lessons. Play with a metronome, drum machine or keyboard to help your timing. Play with other musicians as soon as you can. Have fun.
  3. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    As MJB said it would be good to learn by lessons and by playing with others. While you get this sorted out, listen to a lot of music and see how the musicians reat ie bass/kick drum., guitar/hi hat and where the fills go etc.
    Your or my 'style' is basically the sum of what we listen to and adopt as our own, rather than a straight copy of one player. Hope you get as much enjoyment from bassplaying as I do.
  4. got5onit4u


    Dec 24, 2000
    lessons would benieft the most but what i have learned is find one of your friends who has been playing for awhile and play around with that person and also most tabs posted on the interent are not correct anyways so dont rely on that so much, have fun and play what you enjoy to play and everything will come to you, it takes time you cant pick up the bass and be great in a day so just hack away and play what you enjoy, once your hands get good than start to take lessons and learn the thorey, also it doesnt hurt to learn what chords you are playing atleast
  5. virtual.ray


    Oct 25, 2000
    Along with the other good suggestions above,I would add that you should try to learn your fretboard so you can find the notes in different positions quickly.Also,use every exposure to music as a learning tool,i.e.,when listening,try to find the meter and where the measures start etc.,and try to hear the changing pitches and get familiar with how they sound e.g. a I chord>IV chord change as opposed to a I>V etc.Even if you practice with a metronome,tap your foot as well and try to count as you play to sharpen your timing.There's a slew of temporally challenged drummers and guitarists out there and you want to be able to "count" on yourself.
  6. Lessons are a good idea if bass is your first musical instrument (even if you have played another one before, it might be a good idea). After you are comfortable with it as far as playing, try playing along with your CDs (I know TOOL is going to be one of many :)). Just a thought I guess. Eventually at some point (when you feel comfortable or when you feel like it or both) join or start a band.

    Just my own $0.02. Good luck.

    Derek J. Power
  7. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    Lessons are always a good idea, it gives you the oportunity to ask the instructor questions that you can't do while sitting in your room, practicing your theory. I think the 1st and formost thing any beginer should do is work on propor finger positioning, and your scales, (an excellent book for bass scale patterns is, "The Bass Guitar Scale Manual" and if you dont already have one get a metronome of some sort. (i use a drum machine in a casio keyboard, cheesy but effective) Practice the finger position as you practice the scales, with the met clicking. This will help you learn everything in time, which is your 1st and foremost role, and help you to learn the notes and their placement on your fret-board. And also learn as much theory as you can. Its ok to play along to covers but I wouldnt recomend it as how to learn how to play your bass.
  8. do it the old fasion way. one fret at a time
  9. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Hey dude, don't waste your freaking time on lessons. I never had a lesson a day in my life. No one has ever even sat down with me to show me a thing or 2. I learned all I know on my very own and I am very proud of myself. Without lessons I shall list what I have achived....

    Opening for 3 nationally known bands.
    Countless successful club gigs.
    Recorded studio cds.
    Sat in to help a solo artist record a country demo. He now plays in Nashville and has sold songs to several major artisits.

    Lessons are for the birds.
    robocal likes this.
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    JWC, maybe you are exceptionally talented or I am exceptionally "ungifted" or maybe it is because I started very late in life at 49, but I simply could not have taught myself. I had lessons and have never regretted that I did. Of course, I put in a lot of hours on my own with videos, books, playing along to CDs and playing in various bands. A teacher, alone, is not enough if one is not willing to do the tough work alone, but I really believe some folks need at least a few classes, especially if they have no musical background whatsoever. I think they learn faster with some orientation from a teacher even if it is only a guitar player who can give a few hints.

    Jason Oldsted
  11. JWC

    JWC Banned

    Oct 4, 2000
    Jason, I guess you are right, and maybe I was too adamant about slamming lessons. Here is why I slammed taking lessons. A man who plays bass that I know, who has played over 30 years, owns a music store in town. I always have given him my business when I needed reparis, new strings, etc. I had asked him several times to show me some stuff on the bass when I was just starting. He told me I didn't need his help and that I would figure it out on my own. Well, then I felt rather rejected by this man I respected. I then bought a book that really pissed me off because it taught me nothing. I guess I felt I had to prove my worthiness to the local musicians and on my own at that. Maybe music is my one true talent, and I thank God for it. I also think it is awesome that you are staring the bass at 49. But you know, I don't think 89 would be too old if you have the heart and desire to succees. Rock on Jason!
  12. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Thanks, JWC. Maybe a good way to sum up the question of how best to learn to play bass guitar is to accept that each bass player pretty much has his own journey to reach his goals (if, in fact, he ever does). For some the journey is relatively easy and short and for others, the journey takes much longer, has more detours, hits lots of traffic snarls and red lights, and the would be bassist even gets lost occasionally. That description fits my own journey better.

    When posters ask how "best" to learn, maybe the best answer is to advise them to try many different things to see what works best for them...teachers, videos, books, friends, solitary experimentation. Evidently there is no one right way to master bass guitar or any instrument, in fact.

    (Oh,thanks, JWC, for telling me to "rock on." For me that is very flattering. I hope I can be happily rocking on in 2001.)

    Jason Oldsted
  13. thanks for everyones "".02"" hehe. can anyone give me some pointers on getting better flexibility? I cant reach all that far yet..i think maybe 4 frets and thats hard. Also what do you people think about also learning guitar to better yourself on the bass? do you think thats a good idea?
    i already know a few chords and such on the guitar because my friend plays it.
  14. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Gradually your fingers will become more flexible, stronger and stretch further. These things come from lots of regular practice, believe me.

    As for learning guitar to be better at bass, my own impression is that if you are just learning bass, learning guitar might be a distraction and take time away from your bass practice. After you are further along, then taking up guitar, too, or keyboards or drums, might, indeed, give you added understanding of music in general. I really admire "multi-instrumentalits" who can double in a number of different instruments from strings to horns to keys or percussion, but good multi-instrumentalists are generally people that have dedicated years to their craft.

    I suspect that even the virtuosos who play many instruments specialize in one which they call their primary instrument and that is the one they dedicate most time. I'd advise you to stick to your bass guitar for a year, at least, before you expand to other instruments. If anybody else has a different opinion, please weigh in. I tried drums and sucked with major suckage, so maybe I got burned branching out. Maybe others here have had better experiences.

    Jason Oldsted
  15. camerondye


    Nov 7, 2000
    Here is my outlook on the subject. I haven't taken a lesson in my life, if anybody can really say that. I have learned from countless bass videos, books, and the internet. So I might not have taken private lessons, but I have learned from watching other people like we all have to do, especially when we first start out. Once we get a little talent under our belt we can branch out a little more.
    The best fastest way to learn, in my opinion summed up in a fairly short paragraph, is to:

    1. Practice everyday!!! Divide up your time in to practicing scales and other patterns to get your f fingers stretching and taught a little better, and remember to always play with a drum machine or metronome (Super Important). Spend the other half learning how to play songs by ear. Listen to the song and match a bass line that fits the song that is in your range of playing. It might not be the exact bassline, but it will be close enough to play with the cd and get timing on a lot better. Playing with the music is the fun part and we all have to remember we are doing this mostly for fun and we love it.

    2. I think you should take a few lessons in the beginning to get you on the right track from the very beginning. Call a couple of stores to get some info on their teachers and pick a good one. Don't ask the teacher to transcribe songs for you, because that is not helping you, do that portion yourself. Ask the teacher about technique problems and anything along those lines.

    3. Start out playing BLUES based songs. Any motown, blues, and blues rock will be a great foundation to go into any style. Learning blues technique is at the bottom of the Bass Tree and EVERYTHING branches out from it. Including hard rock.

    4. Ask around and get on the internet of some good books & VIDEOS (they are expensive, but how much would a lesson be from this bass player) on theory, technique and all other aspects of bass playing. If you see a good bass player in a store, most of them will be glad to talk to you about things. Watch their technique and pick up as much as you can.

    5. But most of all, have fun and establish a love for the instrument and music.

    Cameron Dye
  16. I just thought of asking my buddies parent who is a great jazz drummer and a good jazz bassist, so I'll see if he can show me anything. The only problem with that is i've heard he go's pretty fast with the learning. If I don't like it i guess ill look around the music stores for some teachers.

    Another Question...anyone know any good theory books?

  17. VictorLeMonteWooten


    Dec 6, 2000
    i am self taught for bass, and in a way i regret it. I had to fix a bunch of problems with my rythym when i play with others. I couldn't play in rythym with and unsteady drum beat. My brother got so p.o.ed at me because i couldn't play bass to his "terry bozzio" drum solo. It could be his problem because whenever we played he had to be a lead instrument, even if it was drums. If he played a triangle, he would want a solo. talking about it kinda makes me p.o.ed.

    no lessons- less $$$, don't have to listen to a teacher that wants you to play just like them.

    lessons- learn a lot more

    i've had a viola teacher that was a real bytch. She was only in it for the money. She wanted me to play exactly her same style and everything. There are some things that need to be a certain way while there are others that are basically what your style is.

    my bro had a teacher that told him to hold a pick way back in his hand. It was like telling a child in little league to have a batting stance like Griffey or some other baseball player. Some teachers will tell you stuff when they should say "do what is comfortable to you, as long as it has good tone, intonation, etc"
  18. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    MadPink, you asked for theory books. Two excellent ones are "Chordal Theory" by Michael T. Dimin and "Fingerboard Harmony for Bass" by Gary Willis. The latter comes with a CD so you can hear how the examples should sound. It also has exercizes for four, five and six string basses. BOth books are specifically for bass, but some general theory books can be found. They often favor classical music though or are written for other instruments.

    You can purchase these and other theory books at:


    Jason Oldsted
  19. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    I have said this before... A good teacher can show you things it may take years for you to discover or stumble upon on your own.
  20. rooster


    Jun 10, 2000
    upstate new york
    madpink welcome to being a bass player.its a great instrument.probably the best instrument that helped me to play the bass was playing the drums.i started at the age of eight years old now i am 42 years young :D and have been playing the bass for 22 years.i played drums in three of the 14 bands i have been in.like was said get the metronome the biggest problem with playing the bass is keeping the timing.a lot of bass players work on technique like slap,or doing incredible runs,but i beleive that your timing is the most important basis for a rock solid bass player.and you will eventually play with a drummer that speeds up and slows down as im sure we all have.there are many great people on this bass forum with good advice.mine is take a little of everything that works for you and utilize it to the best of your ability.sorry for rambling on its just great to see another person who wants to learn a GREAT instrument.check us out at http://www.witzend.org


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