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Can I erase 9 years of bad technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by FunkyMonkCP, Mar 17, 2009.


  1. Can I erase 9 years of bad technique?

    I apologize if this type of thread has been done before.

    First let me get all you up to speed. This post is definitely long winded but I want to provide the most info possible.

    Back in 99 I discovered the Chili Peppers with “Around the World”. By May 2000 I got my first bass by trading in my trumpet. It was the Fender Squier bass set. I was 15 at the time so I figured I’ll just stick with tablature and figure out everything else myself. That was a mistake I think…well not I think, I know. Also, all I played (and play currently) is Chili Peppers. It’s all purely for personal enjoyment.

    Anyways, I finally got my Modulus Flea Bass in August of 2004. I started to realize around then that my playing was not very good (I’ll elaborate later). It was my thinking that I could try and fix my playing problems by getting good equipment and setting it up perfectly. I tried to get the perfect tone so I bought a Lane Poor, I setup my bass exactly like Flea’s (down to string and pickup height), I got all the pedals he has. By April 2007 I got my final items; the GK2001RB paired with the 410RBH and 115RBH (WAY overkill for a bedroom rig, I know). I soon realized I had hit a brick wall with my playing.

    It took me so long to figure out that I am a pretty poor bass player. Sure, my family and friends think I’m good but they only hear short little snippets I play from Chili Peppers songs. Any musician would notice I have serious playing problems. I have tried to teach myself how to play by reading online lessons and books but I have ADD so I can’t focus for long. Below are what issues I believe I have and need to fix.

    First, I have bad finger technique. My hands and forearms cramp up after 4 minutes on certain Chili Peppers songs (Charlie is a good example). My right hand technique has numerous issues. I have trouble reaching for the D &G strings, I don’t hit them right and my fingers get stuck. I have very small hands however after reading these boards that doesn’t seem to be a problem for other people with small hands. I also rake the strings, I do it without even realizing it, even when I am trying not to (an example would be the end of the chorus on Hump de Bump). I can’t play fast when going from E & A strings to D & G strings. My right hand just has like a traffic pile up. I’ve tried to figure out how to fix it but nothing works. Lastly on both hands, I am unable to keep my wrists straight no matter how hard I try (again, hands are small). Next, on my left hand I reach things and play songs with alternating strings fast, pretty much the same issues I have as with my right hand.

    The second big problem I have is a big one especially when playing bass. I have little to no rhythm. When I record myself playing along with a song and I can’t bear to listen to myself. It sounds like I’m trying to imitate the song. I constantly get off beat or behind in a song.

    The last issue is that I don’t know how to read music. For 9 years I’ve just used tab, that’s it. I have some basic knowledge of music since I played the trumpet for like 3 years when I was 10. When I say basic, I mean mostly I know some terminology. I need to learn to read music. It probably is part of the reason I have no rhythm and can’t remember songs and can’t improvise at all.

    So that’s all the problems I can think of. Now I know I need to branch out to playing stuff other than Chili Peppers (sometimes I do) but just go with me on that one. I am open to other music suggestions; I like funky stuff like Sly and the Family Stone and Rage Against the Machine.

    To wrap things up…

    I’ve been thinking about getting lessons finally but I fear they would be a waste of money if I can’t erase 9 years of bad technique. Should I get lessons?

    What suggestions do you all have? I’m open to all suggestions.

    I’m convinced having small hands is a hindrance. I simply cannot reach for certain things and keep my wrists straight. What do you all think?

    Thanks for your help,

    - Bill


    Whew that was long.
     
  2. OneMoreRobot

    OneMoreRobot

    Jan 23, 2009
    Umm... Dude what I would do is play with people. Play with whoever you can get. Play with your church band. Play with the homeless guy on the corner with the preprogrammed midis.

    Playing with other people will help your playing skills the most. Bass is not a solo instrument.

    BTW, you should probably get some help about that Flea fetish :p
     
  3. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Get lessons, but that is only part of it. That is the easy part. Be prepared to put a heck of a lot of effort into it. You only get out what you put in. Teachers are not magic.
     
  4. rokkitt

    rokkitt

    Jun 7, 2007
    bronx, nyc
    The second big problem I have is a big one especially when playing bass. I have little to no rhythm. When I record myself playing along with a song and I can’t bear to listen to myself. It sounds like I’m trying to imitate the song. I constantly get off beat or behind in a song.



    ++++++++ get a metronome and play all songs and excersises with it.....



    The last issue is that I don’t know how to read music. For 9 years I’ve just used tab, that’s it. I have some basic knowledge of music since I played the trumpet for like 3 years when I was 10. When I say basic, I mean mostly I know some terminology. I need to learn to read music. It probably is part of the reason I have no rhythm and can’t remember songs and can’t improvise at all.


    ==========why do you need to read music to remember the song? you can write out chord charts to do that, and play the song over and over


    So that’s all the problems I can think of. Now I know I need to branch out to playing stuff other than Chili Peppers (sometimes I do) but just go with me on that one. I am open to other music suggestions; I like funky stuff like Sly and the Family Stone and Rage Against the Machine.

    =========funky is good! will start to give you an a better groove!

    To wrap things up…

    I’ve been thinking about getting lessons finally but I fear they would be a waste of money if I can’t erase 9 years of bad technique. Should I get lessons?


    ========== if you dont take lessons, the chance of fixing your "problems" are worse....so , go to a few teachers and see what they say......shop around for a good teacher and see who you are comfortable with ..

    good luck !
     
  5. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    First of all, let me acknowledge your self examination skills. You seem to have spent some time thinking about this (and the post only represents some of your thoughts). Technique is a learned skill, like reading. The problems with your hand positioning and strength are easily addressed with well known exercises. You'll be faster and stronger in no time at all.

    More troubling is the lack of rhythm sense you expressed. That is key to our position's in the framework of the 'band'. We build the platforms on which others stand. It requires that we emphasize the beat, accentuating the drummers lines (hands and feet) to develop the 'feel' of the song. In my experience, rhythm cannot be taught. You can improve greatly by working with metronomes and carefully thumping the downbeats, but you have to know where the beat is to make it happen for the band.

    My guess, given your self taught history, is that your problems are more imagined than real. You probably are more critical on yourself than you need be and you are holding yourself up to high 'professional' standards. Ever hear RHCP play live? It ain't the same as the recording, better in some ways and not exactly what you would expect otherwise.

    Relax, get some lessons, do the work, and enjoy feeling the groove come from within.

    -richard
     
  6. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Like he said: Relax. Play with people, not just RHCP records.

    And get a good teacher. That *will* help.
     
  7. Matt Dean

    Matt Dean Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    SF (North) Bay Area
    You've gotten some very good advice... to which I'll only add this: practice.

    It takes about ten years to become an expert at something and you've put in almost 10 years into developing cognitive patterns and accompanying muscle memory becoming an expert in your "bad technique." It will take some time to change that.

    However, it can be done!!! You just have to put in the time to develop new cognitive patterns and muscle memory.

    Maybe one more thing... as much as I like Flea, I'd branch out and listen to other bass players and styles of music.
     
  8. Mongo Slade

    Mongo Slade Supporting Member

    Dec 1, 2005
    Northern New Jersey
    9 years is nothing, and I'm sure your effort has not been all in vain. List some positive things you have developed over this time, take pride in them, and use them as a platform for moving forward. Find a teacher, join a band, learn to read, and practice the things you are weak at.
    Good luck.

    Peace
     
  9. David1234

    David1234

    Jun 1, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: SWR Amplifiers
    +1 all

    Get a few lessons so that when you practice, you'll be enforcing things you need to enforce, and not just getting better at what you can already do.

    Some aspects of rhythm can be taught, mostly subdividing and counting along with your playing until you (eventually) get the benefits of counting without actually having to do it. I've had a number of students improve by learning how to subdivide the beat better, and by learning how to slow a memorised sound down in their mind and, while replaying it slowly, analysing the beat more carefully. Again, get a good teacher. You can unlearn 9 years of bad technique and you can improve nearly any skill that you can see a problem with. It's the guys who can't see the problem who can't unlearn.
     
  10. Captain_Arrrg

    Captain_Arrrg

    Jan 23, 2008
    Mountains of Colorado
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    Don't erase them. Unless ALL you did was play RHCP songs and never strung notes together on you own, you've probably developed a musical voice- Build the theory around it while demolishing what gets in the way.

    Join a band OR put you headphones on, and play along (NOT just RHCP)- Not necessarily the bass line, but something you've come up with based on the roots. Play along with the bass drum, just hitting the root when the drum does. Add or, even better, take out/elongate notes when ready.

    And don't be afraid to dance! If you aren't dancing, no one else will be.

    Yes. This will help you with reading music, because if your teacher is worth a darn, they won't let you use anything else.

    I'm sure someone will disagree with me, but keeping you wrists straight is to keep you from hurting yourself, not to hinder your playing.
     
  11. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    By rhythm, I think you mean "good time." I agree it can't be taught like one might teach a lick or a scale or a chord, but it certainly can be learned. In fact, we all learned it at some period in our lives, or are still learning it.

    I teach steady time to children every school day. It takes quite a while for kids, though it is even harder for adults to acquire it, if they didn't do it when they were 4-6 years old.

    You should have heard one of my 2nd graders today. She held a very steady beat on wooden temple blocks for several minutes while I played a fast samba on a cowbell. She then did the same faster and then again slower, when asked. Finally, she did it again while 5 of her classmates struggled to play the samba rhythm with me.

    Last fall, she couldn't have done it. Obviously, kids are developing and growing, but they are also learning. Part of her learning has been the music we have been singing/dancing/playing in her class.

    My point is that if you have had good time seemingly all your life, you still had to learn it. It might have happened young, or perhaps in a context you cannot recognize or recall, but it is learned.

    Kids who only watch television, whose parents don't sing to them or dance with them, and who don't have lessons or music and dance (in school or elsewhere) end up without a good sense of musical time, and often with problems matching pitch vocally, IME.

    However, in order to walk, skip, run, and ride a bike, you need basic pulse holding, and even speech requires pitch contour matching. Music is in so many places. :cool:
     
  12. Take time to relax, dude.

    You have 15 years of not playing bass and you managed to turn it around. Now it is just 9 years and you're panicking. Get a teacher, and start slow.
     
  13. Implosion

    Implosion

    Oct 19, 2007
    Finland
    +1 What everyone else said.

    This might also be a part of your problem. The setup that Flea prefers is perfect for him, but it can be a total opposite for you. Would you think that Flea's shoes would be perfect for you if they were four sizes too small? You have to setup your bass they way it's best for you, not how somebody else prefers it.
     
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Never saw so much good advice in a single thread! You definitely need lessons. Playing should be pain-free. No reason it should ever hurt. Make sure you get a teacher who knows proper technique. The other stuff is important, but if you can't play without pain, you'll never enjoy it.
     
  15. The Insane

    The Insane

    Jul 12, 2007
    Germany
    First let me say that you don't have ADD in any kind, otherwise you wouldn't have posted such well structured, clear and informative post. That's not common. Don't let the thought of it hindering your development.

    Here are some tips that helped me to get (still to go) through the crises:

    Don't play so hard, play with a very light touch. Play with everything relaxed as much as possible. Watch for your shoulders, your breath and hands.

    Get a teacher. Definately.

    Learn to read music, it's fun.

    In my opinion rhythm can be taught or learned like everything else. You are not good at it because you never practised it. You can't read music and improvise because you never practised it. No one can do it without practice.
    For improving your rhythm I've got a small exercise that I like:
    Turn on the metronome (60-70bpm, 4ths). Then clap the 4ths with your hand, or hands on the knees or whatever. Then change to 8th. Then to triplets. Then to 16th. Then go back. Always speak loud: 1,2,3,4, then1+2+3+4, then something like Ta-Ke-Ti for the triplets, Ta-Ke-Ti-Na for 16th. Start SLOW!
    When you're good at it, change every bar. Try to get a feel for the rhythm. How does an 8th note feel? How much do I have to speed up to play the triplets in this tempo when I played 8ths before?
    Do this for 5 , or 10, or 15 minutes or whatever you like, but regulary, every day would be great.
    Then try with the bass. First with an open string. Start SLOW! And go through it all again. I promise you, you will improve.

    Play for fun, if you're in a bad mood just don't.
    Good luck :)
     
  16. Projectile

    Projectile

    Feb 5, 2009
    Dude, you are over analyzing things. Let a good teacher tell you where your problems are and how to fix them. You don't need to learn how to read music, you just need to practice. I mean "real" practice, not just sitting around playing RHCP from tabs. Go play with some other musicians, take some lessons, and put some real effort into it. I guarantee you that your mentality is 99% of what is holding you back, not bad technique.
     
  17. mattsbass

    mattsbass

    Aug 12, 2008
    If you wanna start playing by ear play easy theme songs like Darth Vader or The Simpsons. Something catchy and gets stuck in your head.

    Also I learn about intervals and practice them EVERYDAY! Make sure you know the difference between them and sing along! So when you listen to your tunes you can easilly decipher differences!

    Good Luck Man!
     
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Reading music not important??? What makes you think that? Bear in mind the people who can play music without reading music are rarities, not the rule. The vast majority of people who don't learn to read end up frustrated and quit. And I'm one of those people who couldn't have figured out how to play if I didn't know how to read. Those of you who can play without knowing how to read are pretty lucky. Also, when a person complains of pain when they play, then they need to learn techniques to where it doesn't hurt.
     
  19. Wow, thanks for all information guys. I have tried to find a good teacher in my area before but I couldn't. I live in the Northern, VA area and can't find any consolidated source on the net. I really want to find a good teacher. If anybody knows of one in my area, let me know or tell me where to look.

    Most of my original post was negative. I am not completely incapable of playing bass. I can play simple stuff and every once in a while I come up with a cool little tune.

    I have used pre-made drum tracks to play along to but I am clueless as to how I could fit into the tracks. My cousin plays the drums so maybe some day I will play with him. Maybe I just lack musical talent, I hope that isn't the case.

    Whats weird is that if I go without playing for a while (2-4 weeks), I actually play better for a short while when I go to play again.

    Trust me, I definitely do have ADD. Yesterday I decided to take my meds since I had to get a lot of work done at work. As you can see from my original post it makes me focus like a diamond-super-laser. ;) I stopped taking the meds regularly because the side effects are almost unbearable. I always thought the problem would go away but here I am, almost 24 and I still have ADD :(
     
  20. crijan

    crijan Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    Endorsing: JH Audio IEMs
    Another way to find a teacher is to ask other bass players in your area if they have any teachers they would recommend.

    Don't know any other bass players in the area? Go watch some bands play and introduce yourself. I'm sure there's tons of bands playing in a major population area like the D.C. suburbs.
     

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