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Critical moments in YOUR bass playing timeline?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by mrcbass, Nov 7, 2019.

  1. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Was thinking about key moments in my musical development the other day and thought it might be fun to share the moments that accelerated your learning/understanding of something musical.

    For me:
    - On guitar, I still remember the moment I realized how bar chords are simply a way to employ a shifting nut - that the bar chord played on the third fret for G major, is essentially the E major chord with a shifted nut. Seems so obvious now, but it exploded my little brain as a teenager when I put this together.

    - On Bass (these are more evolution steps than "ahas")
    * discovering tone differences depending on where I plucked (close to the bridge, vs close to the neck)
    * discovering that my poor attempts at using pentatonic riffs for guitar solos, was actually a great foundation for bass lines and fills
    * 5 string good, 6 string not so much
    * flats on a P bass (took a while to "get it", but sure glad I did!)
    * keep pedal chains as simple as possible (if used at all)
    * figuring out how to quickly chart a new tune
    * sometimes, stuff that isn't enjoyable to listen to, is actually fun to play
    * singing and playing bass together is not easy, but valuable

    what are your moments that either clarified something you struggled to get or provided step up in your playing evolution?
    two fingers and portpc like this.
  2. When I was 16 I got a "Blues Bass Lines" book, an instructional manual of 1/4/5 & related progressions that gave me a basic foundation in how bass lines work, I wore it out. This was in the late 70's.
    That was a kick in the pants to learn more, as a self taught player even now at 58 I'm a fan of Mel Bay & his ilk.

    Singing & playing is hard but can be done & it's a great skill to have if you like to work. Doors suddenly open & many lead to places that pay well.

    Realizing that even the technically hardest stuff is being played by people, not machines. If I have the desire and determination I can play it also.. cuz i'm a person also!
    btmpancake likes this.
  3. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Seeing Tower of Power in 1988. I was playing in a blues/R&B band and we all went. We were literally speechless afterward - just sort of gestured toward our rehearsal space, met there, and played for about 4 hours. I think it was an hour or two in before any of us said anything.
    two fingers likes this.
  4. Agree with these points. Guess I would add: whenever I played, people in general seemed to enjoy what I did. When I focused on taste / tone / time / feel, musicians enjoyed what I did... it took some wood shedding to get there btw
  5. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Around ten years ago I worked out a number system that cut my song acquisition time down to a small fraction of the time memorizing took. Basically documenting songs based on intervals, which I realized is the way I hear music.
  6. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Forgot to add one of my own:
    playing in a "power trio" - this will really make you stretch your chops because you have to provide so mush support for the "talent".
  7. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    1. my first real gig playing bass: 17-piece big band. i knew then that the bass instrument (rhythm section) could work for me.
    2. playing in my first be-bop ensemble.
    3. recording and playing with the pianist and the drummer i hung with for 20+ years. always the best!*

    * it was a long "moment!"
  8. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    In high school, Robert Ray came to visit as we (the choir) were learning his "Gospel Mass". If you've never heard it, look it up. The bass part is essentially the LH piano part, and Robert loves octaves. Learning that music made me a much better bass player by a considerable amount.
  9. lat


    Dec 30, 2014
    Lower Basstonia
    Retiring, so I had the time and energy to pick up the bass and start learning it.

    Getting Rocksmith as a Christmas present. That was the impetus to actually pick up the bass I had for a year that was collecting dust and start using it. Don't play that game at all anymore, but it lit the fire.

    Got an email from a friend letting me know about a band that was looking for a bass player.
    Actually following up on that email with said band, even though I had only been playing for 15 months and was sure I didn't have the chops.

    Learning how to set up a bass properly. Specifically, learning that filing nut slots to the correct height makes a huge impact on playability in the lower frets.

    Learning that arpeggios and pentatonic scales are vital components of a bassist's tool kit when trying to play songs you don't know.

    Learning that if you want to change the fundamental feel of a song, as the bassist, you have that power, for better or worse... lol
  10. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    - When I decided to start playing again after 15 years..
    - When I got my first 5 string
    - When I discovered TB
    - When I finally decided to do more than just learn songs.
  11. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    Setting the pace, for the first time, leading off. For me, it was Mongoloid — burnt now into my memory banks. The nerves bit in: the make or break moment — setting the tempo. A lifelong pursuit, as it turns out, but a first glimpse at the challenges ahead and a huge thrill. The make or break moment.

    And then, whenever the penny drops — may it never stop dropping: knowing that nurtured, protected ears will adapt — a minor miracle and a great joy for the cloth-eared — all you have to do is actively listen and be patient. Always wear protection, in the face of danger — ears can last years.

    Stripping back the BS: louder isn't necessarily better; it's my way (her way) or the highway — think again, sweetheart; do the hard yards and everything gets easier, as long as you do it efficiently, wisely, within reason, and within your limitations. Having fun is serious business — everything else takes care of itself. That's life.
  12. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I took a break from bass guitar for about a year in order to experiment with the conga. When I finally had enough of that, I returned to bass, but as a completely transformed player... literally, every aspect of my approach had evolved. The first ten years of my playing was competent, but perfunctory. The experience of learning a new set of musical chops helped me to spend the last 20 years expressing myself completely differently on bass.
  13. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Rochester, NY
    Getting a halfway decent bass and realizing the strings aren't supposed to be/don't have to be a mile above the fretboard. Stuff suddenly got way easier to play and I learned about a thing called "setup".
    garp likes this.
  14. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    +1. I traded in my first bass because I deemed it to be unplayable. It wasn't until I got my second one – which was my sole bass for almost a decade – that I learned the basic mechanics of stringed instruments.
    biguglyman likes this.
  15. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    1. The moment I "saw" the notes of the chords lying within the major scale. I saw GBD, CEG, DF#AC sitting there in the G major scale and finally got why I IV V define the key. Quickly extrapolated to the ii, iii, and vi (the vii came later) and I got away from thinking of each chord in isolation but considered the progression.

    2. The first time I knew enough about playing to recognize what happened when I played with a good drummer. That moment made me think of myself as a bassist, not a guitarist marking time on bass.

    3. Reading a Jack Bruce interview in Guitar Player where he said "Just because the bass has a traditional role to fulfill, doesn't mean one has to fulfill it in the traditional manner."

    4. Reading an interview with Freebo (Bonnie Raitt's original bassist) who talked about the wide range of music he was exposed to and how it ALL informed his approach to bass. Tuba, French horn parts, etc. all shapes his concepts.

    5. Hearing a taped Duke Ellington interview on the radio where they asked if he considered his music to be jazz. He replied "There are only two kinds of music; music that sounds good and whatever you want to call that other stuff."

    6. Andy McRory telling me "More Mel Bay, less Ebay!"
  16. TNCreature

    TNCreature Jinkies! Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Philadelphia Burbs
    Allowing myself to make mistakes in front of others musicians, instead of playing it safe and boring. This helped me expand and grow.

    Learning to do my own setups.
    This was a huge obstacle when I was young. So freeing to just take it on.
  17. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    1. Hearing the bass walkdown during the intro to Jingle Bell Rock back in the late 50's when I was 6 or 7 years old.

    2. Realizing I wanted to play music and playing bass was the easiest way for me to get into bands.

    3. Auditioning for a trio with a jazz pianist and drummer made me realize I had a lot to learn but I could follow along if I listened really good.

    4. Playing in a duo with a jazzy guitarist and just having fun with the music.

    5. Minor stroke caused issues with my right side so I had to modify my playing quickly and played the gig two days after I was released from the hospital.

    6. Getting my right and left hand to sync up closer to how they were before the stroke and dealing with the rest of the issues with playing it caused.
  18. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA
    The single BIGGEST thing that had improved my playing in all this time was joining a startup originals band at about 1.5 years after picking up the bass (first instrument.) Within a month my then wife commented on how much better I had gotten after a few weekly practices with other people.

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