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Born-Again Bass Player!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by EclecticBassGuy, Jan 12, 2003.

  1. hello everyone! this is my first time posting here, and i would like to get some advice from everyone...if i could :)

    i have been playing my bass for about eight years now. never really getting too seriously into it. never been with a band, never recorded anything, never performed on or off stage. i had to scrape up enough money to get my gear...so....i didnt get the "best". i have a Korean made Ibanez 5 string, and a 25 watt fender combo. so my sound is, most times, meak at best.

    anyway...before i would play maybe two times a week...maybe even less. but now, i play it every day, and i have been loving every second of it. my fingers ache, when i listen to a song i hear nothing but the bass line (if there even is one...lol), i am doing my darndest to look for stuff to sell on ebay so i can get me some better gear...(i have considered selling my wife and 5 year old...but figured they would come in handy as roadies later.)

    my playing style is all over the place, i love the way Me'shell N'degeocello makes the bass sound so dang sexy...i love the energy that Flea puts into it...Jaco, do i need to really say anthing? Mr. Wooten fits into that category as well...Les Claypool, the wacky sounds he gets out of his bass amaze me...

    but what i'm trying to get at is this: what do you guys do to stay focused? what advice would you give to someone who just picked up the bass from a long break from it? any specific listening? books to read? songs to play? gear? excersizes to play to help the rusty (cant say that i even developed any to get "rusty") chops get back into order?

    any and all comments or advice is appreciated! thanks for your help!

    Aaron :D
  2. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    velcome!! :)

    well, i''ve been playing about 13 years now and i had a gap of about 4 years where all i did was look at the thing occaisionally..

    when i started playing again i saved up and bought a brank spanking new bass which did keep me interested..

    that said, i think the best and by far the easiest way to keep yourself inspired is to listen to as much varied music as you possibley can... and when you hear something you like - sit down and figure it out!

    also, get in a band - it can be a right pain the ar$e, but playing with other people and/or performing in front of an audience is really what it's all about!
  3. yes, i totaly agree that i should get together with some other people and play...i have been thinking really seriously about that lately. do you have any suggestions where i could look to find people who want to jam? i'm somewhat insecure about my playing...not too sure if i'm what someone would call "good". my wife says i play good...but i think she's obligated to say that...hehe. any suggestions would certainly help!

    hmmm....and new stuff does make me happy...lol

    even if it's new/old stuff...it's still new to me! i think i really do need a new bass too. what would you suggest? i currently have a 5 string...and the only time i really hit the B string is when i miss the E string...should i go to a 4? and what's a good economical (because i can only squeeze so much money out of "the boss") durable bass?


    dang...i sure do babble on in my posts...sorry about that :D
  4. atldeadhead


    Jun 17, 2002
    To find people to jam with:

    1. Ask musician friends.
    2. Open mike or Jam night at local bars/clubs (a great way to network as well as see your competition!)
    3. Ad in the local variety paper (i.e., Creative Loafing, etc.)
    4. The Internet (http://www.bandtastic.com) I'm sure there are a ton of sites for networking.

    If your concerned about how "good" you may or may not be, try recording yourself. A small boombox will do the trick. Listen back to recordings of yourself. Do you like what you hear? If you do, chances are that other people will also like it.

    As far as a good, economical bass goes, I'd give Fender a try. Some of the MIM and MIJ Jazz basses are as nice as their more expensive, American made counterparts. Try to play several different ones if you can and don't buy impulsively. Go back and try them out several times.
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Have you considered buying a really good used bass? If you check E-Bay, check out the prices "high-end" used basses are going for. Follow the web site over time to get an idea what is the going price for various high quality basses.

    I suggest checking out used basses because you may get lucky and run across a high end bass in excellent condition for a very reasonable price. I consider a high end bass to be one that retails for $1500 or more. If you are not in a band, you might have a hard time justifying a $2000 or $2500 bass to your wife, but if you can find a good quality used bass for half that, you might not have plea so hard for that bass.

    If you are not sure what the high quality basses are, checking our own "Basses" folder might help. Also reading Bass Player magazine is a help. You can learn what the best musicians in your style of music play.

    Here's what I would do, however. Before I traded up to a higher quality bass, I'd upgrade that pratice amp. A five-string Ibanez is plenty good enough for your current situation, but that 25-watt amp is nowhere near enough for any jam situation or audition if you play with amplified guitarists and a drummer. Again, you might consider good used sound equipment so that you can get more powerful wattage than you might be able to afford new.
  6. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I'd say go second hand too... but the key is really to buy the best you can afford... no point in starving for two weeks to buy some luxury plank with wires on it!!

    As for finding people to jam with - check classifieds - go to gigs and meet people - put an ad in classifieds... try loot.com or the US equivalent?

    Good luck and enjoy!

    Oh and going back to old classic styles such as motown and learning is SO vital!
  7. i want to thank every one who responded for the very sound advice!! i really appreciate it!!

    i think getting involved here with other bass players was the best thing i could have done...the perfect first step...if you will =)

    i am in the process of getting a new rig...400w amp + 4x10 cab...hoping that this will make things even better for me! and, believe it or not, my wife is all for me getting a new bass! she's all into the way they look...lol

    i have another question to propose to you bass gods and godesses: what do you think about pedal effects? what about the multi effect pedals? hmm...i should make my own post about this one...

    thanks =)
  8. atldeadhead


    Jun 17, 2002
    Concentrate on getting a good tone using only the bass/amp/cabinet as well as your fingers or pick (I recommend using your fingers, but learning both can be beneficial -- focus on fingers though).

    Spend your time learning about chords, progressions and scales and how they relate to making music. This should keep you more than occupied for the near future. No time for fiddling with toys

    Down the road you may want to add some effects, but for right now you need to concentrate on the basics:

    Chord Structure
    Getting a good well rounded tone

  9. that is some SOLID advice! thanks a ton!

    any suggestions to some books or reading that i could do to help me out in this area?

    i had played the tuba for six years before i picked up a bass eight years ago...so i know a little about music, progressions, chord structure...but i sure could use a refresher...hehe.

    and as for using a pick...i would never think of it! finger, thumb and palm is all i use...i dont like the sound i get from using a pick. boy does that sound snobish or what?

  10. atldeadhead


    Jun 17, 2002
    There are a ton 'o great lessons to be had for free on the Internet. One site I'm thinking of in particular, http://www.activebass.com, has many great lessons. In the beginning, I would suggest that you try and focus on learning the notes on the neck. Start with major scales. Learn the major scale in all the different keys AND in all the different positions.

    Play the notes as well as say/sing the notes as you practice. This will not only help your ear but will also help you to learn the notes on the neck. You'll start to notice certain patterns with the different positions. Learn to recognize these patterns as well, but focus on the notes names and not just the patterns.

    Stay motivated. Stay focused. And sooner, or later, I would recommend getting a teacher. There is a lot you can learn from books, magazines, and the Internet, but nothing can take the place of a qualified, LIVE, teacher.

    Good luck!
  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Electric BG, I spent a ton of money on effects pedals and a bass wah, plus eventually bought a rack and rack units. I hardly ever used the pedals. In three bands I played in, the guitarist used my Marshall distortion pedal.

    For the most part it was a waste of money, except I loved that Korg rack unit tuner and the Fermin rack unit I had with rack lights. I also got a lot of use out of my DI unit.

    You need to be clear on the type of music you will play. You can spend a lot of money on pedals you never use, because you are in bands that don't play a style that demands that particular effect.

    With the fancy multi-units, you may spend a lot of money for effects in one unit, of which you use only twenty percent (or less) of the effects and the other eighty percent are effects you never use.

    I was an effect freak, but it mostly ended up being for my own amusement. Even in the nu-metal band, the guitarists preferred that I didn't use distortion, even for small passages. They wanted to play distorted, but they wanted the bass tone clean.

    I'm glad you are upgrading your sound rig. If you must buy one other item, buy a drum machine. It will keep you entertained forever as you practice trying out different bass lines to a nearly infinite variety of beats and tempos.
  12. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I guess there isn't anything specific that I do to stay focused. I love and adore music. To me, playing is as important as breathing, and yet still, I don't practice nearly enough. There is a certain addiction type situation I find myself in. All I have to do is hear a Motown tune on the radio, and I need to be playing.

    But, here are some things that others do:

    1) Get a teacher. (I do have one myself). A teacher helps keep you focused and on track. If you're the type of person that needs someone to hold you accountable, a teacher is not a bad way, as you may feel an obligation to practice the material s/he presented.

    2) Write out a very specific practice routine. Talkbass here has a wealth of archived threads on practice routines. Sometimes having things written down helps.

    3) Re-prioritize. Do you really need to watch that extra hour of television?

    Nothing different that anyone else. Play intelligently, and with passion.

    Absolutely everything. Rule nothing out. Find the joy of the bass in "Master of the House" from Les Miserables, just as much as from "Aeroplane" from Red Hot Chili Peppers, just as much as Bach's Cello Suites, just as much as country, blues, funk, soul, R&B, pop, anything.

    Obviously, as bassists, certain works stand out based upon accomplishments by the bass players. I believe it's widely believed here that Flea and his band do good work, so listen to that. Listen intently why it works and doesn't. Definitely listen to the master, Mr. James Jamerson of Motown fame. Definitely hear Jaco's self-titled. Acknowledge Victor Wooten's solo and group work as well. Hear Christian McBride, Brian Bromberg, and John Patitucci. These are some of the more widely known names, and while their style may not be yours, you can take something from all music.

    1. Mel Bay's "Note Reading Studies for Electric Bass."
    2. Arban's Conservatory of Trombone.
    3. Bach's Six Cello Suites
    4. Oscar Stagnaro "The Latin Bass Book"
    5. Dr. Licks' "Standing in the Shadows of Motown."

    Everything. Play what music sounds good to you.

    Way back when, when I bought my first bass, I got the bass, amp, stand, tuner, strap, and 'nome for $500. While those prices may no longer hold, it was pretty good gear. My combo amp, a Peavey Minx 110 has held up miraculously, sounds brilliant, and works for jams and small acoustic shows. It was quite inexpensive. My first bass, an Ibanez TR70 was quite inexpensive as well, and got wonderful tone.

    I've since moved into a more "professional" setup, that is by no means high-end, compared to what many people here have in their possession, but my Carvin Fretless Bunny Brunnel 5 string, Peavey Firebass II head, and Peavey 410 SVT setup cost a total of approximately $2050. Not a huge amount of money by any stretch of the imagination.

    It's all about scales and arpeggios. Search the archives for specific drills. Pacman and Fuqua have supplied to real gems of scale/arpeggio practice routines.

    Dedicate a reasonable amount of time to your endeavor. You'll get out of it exactly what you put in. Stay focused during practice, no distractions. Spend your money less on gear, and more on lessons, music to listen to, and books. Have fun.
  13. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Oh yes, and avoid tabs.
  14. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Jazzbo's advice is cool...always. I wish I were that disciplined. But anyway, what has worked for me to get focus is I get ardent about one style. First it was heavy metal, then it was blues, then reggae. AT present I don't seem to have a style focus, but I know one will inspire me when the time is right.

    By really focusing on one style, learning who the past and present movers, shakers and shapers of that style are, what the quintessential recordings were, repeatedly listening to the best examples, and trying to get the "feel" of the music.

    That's just my way of finding focus. It has worked well for me, but I recognize that each person has to get inspiration in his own fashion.
  15. no doubt! Jazzbo's advice KICKS A$$! thank you so much Jazzbo...that is EXACTLY what i was looking for! someone to just lay it down like that...sweet...i can see already that i am going to have to completely restructure my life surrounding my bass.

    you will be happy to know that i just went out and got me a "comfortable" strap the other day...and a guitar stand...(cant believe i didnt have one for all these years), so i have a much better playing position over that lame nylon strap....

    oh and i got to try out a 300watt Ampeg head attached to some Genz-Benz (spelling?) cabs...:eek: crazy stuff man...i had people walking in off the street to see who was lighting dynamite in the music store! lol....i LOVED it!! i think i made the kid who was showing the gear to me wet his pants...all the while my five year old is screaming "play it louder daddy! play it louder!!"

    ok..now i'm just jabbering on...

    anyway, i will do my darndest to stay away from the tabs (as i sheepishly delete "bass tab archive" from my favorite's list)...they are just so easy...*sigh*

    again, thank you Boplicity, Jazzbo, Atldeadhead and Howard! your advice and help is appreciated more than you could imagine!

  16. EBG:

    As for the books jazzbo recommended to you. I ordered "Fingerboard Harmony For Bass" by Gary Willis off of Buy.com. I don't know if you're strapped for cash or not, but they sell books so cheap. You don't have to pay for Shipping & Handling. Only drawback is that you have to wait longer, than say you would if you ordered from amazon.com.

    I'd look for the Signature Licks books as well...step-by-step break down of bassists' styles. They only have Flea, McCartney, Motown, and popular basslines in the series, though. My McCartney book is excellent. Except for "All My Loving" being in the wrong key, which could've been done on purpose.

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