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Collecting bass wisdom from yalls

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Alder P Ashman, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. Alder P Ashman

    Alder P Ashman

    Aug 27, 2013
    Hey guys, I'm running a small clinic tomorrow about bass playing for bassists and guitarists. I was called last minute to do this, but so far I do have a plan and a good drummer to collaborate with.

    Just for fun and to have something interesting to share with the group, what is a one-liner nugget of wisdom you would share with a group of aspiring bassists? I'd like to collect these, make a list, and share it with the group. And of course tell them where I got the advice from and encourage them to check out tb and participate in this awesomely supportive community of bassists.

    I'm looking for wisdom from all areas of bass playing, simple as they may be... for example things having to do with:

    Learning your instrument
    Locking in with drummers
    Getting a good sound
    Being a supportive player
    Learing song forms
    Learning the blues
    Knowing how to navigate a chord chart/notation/roman numeral theory
    Being punctual, personable, and a team player
    Practice techniques/methods
  2. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Get paid in cash upfront.
    There is no money above the 7th fret.
    Session work requires you own a P bass.
    Learn your fretboard.
    Listen more than play.
  3. Alder P Ashman

    Alder P Ashman

    Aug 27, 2013
    Haha, BAM.
    High-five, brother.
  4. Kragnorak


    Sep 20, 2008
    -First rule of music theory: Any tone may be played at the same time as any other tone.

    -The key to bass is Sympathetic Vibration. This can be demonstrated by playing a fretted 3rd-string G and asking the audience to listen for the open G-string ringing an octave higher. This is the effect that you should have on the group you are playing with.

    -This effect applies to rhythm as well. If your note arrives at a different time as the note of your bandmates, there is no opportunity for the exponential effect.

    -This principle can also be thought of philosophically: we can learn something new in studying rock music that applies to jazz and vice versa.
  5. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Anytime you think you don't need to know something, or learn something... take a deep breath and learn it.

    Your lines should be interesting enough to listen to without the rest of the ensemble, but supportive enough they don't take attention away from the lead line.

    Everything in pop music starts with the blues. You will never know it well enough. The blues is a lifelong trip.

    Never practice without a goal, but always practice.

    Don't be a problem for the people who are in charge. Do everything you can to make the musicians around you sound good.

    Always be on time in every sense of the word.
  6. ZenG


    Dec 13, 2013
    Near the fridge
    4 players. 4 egos.
  7. 16th-notes may get you noticed. Quarter notes will get you hired.

    Don't ever order a complicated mixed drink at a bar with more than 2 TVs on the wall.

    Technique is a means to an end. Proper/good technique merely allows for the sounds in your head to be communicated to a listener through your instrument.

    Every instrument is hard. Every instrument is easy. It all depends on your goals and the standards you set for yourself.

    Around every corner is someone who is younger than you, plays better than you, can dress right for the gig, and is easy to get along with. The sooner you can make peace with this, the better.

    When touring, never eat Tex-Mex north of the Mason-Dixon line.
  8. Assuming these are aspiring bassists, or those just starting out...

    Understand that the bass is not easier than guitar or any other instrument. It might be easier to get up and playing on, but it's just as difficult to master. You can get by with root notes for a while, but you're eventually going to need to progress beyond that. You should play what really moves you. Don't take up bass simply because it would seem to be the easier route. If you absolutely love the low frequencies, it's for you. If not, keep on looking.

    If the bass is the ONE for you, then I'd add these to what you already have...

    Know your instrument. Know the anatomy and terminology. Know the fretboard. Know how to maintain and adjust it. Know how to properly change strings! Aside from maybe some soldering and filing, most maintenance can be done by the average player.

    Know that this is a labor of love. Only about one percent of players actually make money at it (after the cost of gear, lessons, strings, supplies, gas, rehearsal space, etc.) And, only about one percent of those are actually going to make a good living at it. Like anything else in life, if you don't love it, it's probably not worth doing. Not to say that you won't succeed. Just that it's much like achieving success in Hollywood or professional sports.

    While this might seem a little off-putting, this is all stuff I went over with my teacher, early on in my studies, and I feel it put me in the right mindset, for the long haul. That was 30 years ago, and I'm still playing and even more in love with the instrument, today. When I figure all of the expenses I've had over three decades, against what I've actually earned, I'm probably still in the red. But, I'd do it all again, in a heartbeat, because it's been one of my greatest joys in life. And that, to me, is the real payoff.
  9. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    Play the song, not the instrument.
  10. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    The bassist's job is two-fold: to connect the purely rhythmic part of music with the harmonic/melodic part AND to define the harmony. You must do BOTH. You are not a drum.

    There IS money above the seventh fret despite glib pronouncements to the contrary. Duck Dunn and Paul McCartney are examples.

    Don't piss off the sound crew.

    Listen, it's way more useful than talking.

    Knowing music theory will NOT hinder you creating music, only your own lack of understanding will.

    Without space, music is just noise piling up on itself.

    And, what was said above play the music, not the instrument.

  11. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Show up on time and prepared...always.
    Get along with people.
    Know how to read music (charts and dots) and know theory-it will come in handy.
    The sound man deserves respect-he has power, so get along with him/her.
    Park your ego.
    Play well, not much ( unless, of course the situation demands it).
    Don't stop learning.
  12. My best example is












  13. cv115505

    cv115505 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Oklahoma City
    You are only as good as your audience says you are. You play for the audience not yourself, so your refusal to do certain types of music should be contigent upon what the audience does/does not want to hear. Lose the ego, or stay a bedroom rockstar.
  14. cv115505

    cv115505 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Oklahoma City
    Also, the notes that DON'T get played are just as important as the the ones that do.
  15. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Listen to everyone playing in a group setting rather than just the drummer.
  16. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    Remember that history, musical or otherwise, has rarely been made by timid conformists.
  17. Rehearsal is not the ideal/respectful place to learn the tune--show up ready to put the pieces together.

    Knowing your part cold is not the same as making music with a group.

    Use soft words when making any constructive criticism.

    Smile, especially right when you want to wince after hitting a bad note.

    Watch the drummer's right foot carefully. Ignore it at your peril.

    Practice the hooks, turns, repeats, beginnings, endings and odd measures like your life depends on them--you can save the whole band a lot of frustration this way.

    Be the lowest-maintenance person in the band.

    Tell others when they are doing great, and be specific.

    All the best,

  18. Alder P Ashman

    Alder P Ashman

    Aug 27, 2013
    These are great, everyone. Keep 'em comin'!
  19. Learning your instrument
    - Know your fretboard
    - master the basics.
    - What's hard today will be easy tomorrow (or week/ month) if you just keep going.

    Locking in with drummers
    - Learn to play comfortably AND SOUND GOOD on the beat, behind the beat, and in front of the beat.
    - don't just listen and play along with the drummer, internalise and "own" the beat/feel/tempo of the song (and tell the other band members this too).

    Getting a good sound
    Understand a GOOD MIX
    - bass sits BETWEEN guitar and kick drum.
    - removing muddy lows from guitar, keys, and even kick drum is essential.
    - some basses mix really well with certain guitars, and really bad with other guitars.

    Being a supportive player
    - play only what the song requires of you, but learn to do it your own signature way.
    - overplaying is for amateurs.

    Learing song forms
    - transcribe it, write it out, look at it often.

    Learning the blues
    - listen and lock in with both guitar and drums.
    - The magic is in working together, not showing off you licks.

    Knowing how to navigate a chord chart/notation/roman numeral theory
    - be fluent with common scales.
    - reading music is like a muscle.... it shrinks when unused.
    Roman num. - write it out, then transcribe it to all 12 keys. It's slow at first but you get faster and more accurate the more you do this.

    Being punctual, personable, and a team player
    - prepare your gear the DAY BEFORE so it's ready to load and you haven't forgotten anything.
    - Be known for being reliably on time.
    - give yourself ample time to set up BEFORE rehearsal/ sound check is supposed to start.

    Practice techniques/methods
    - Make daily practice a habit, whether 5 minutes or 5 hours.
    - Starting is the hardest part of any practice session.
    - Leave at least one bass out on a stand within easy reach. You're more likely to practice if you do this.
  20. Be excited about the things you learn. That's what has taken me furthest in my playing.

    Also, stick to the fundamentals. Chords tones and a solid rhythm is what any bandmate wants from you