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Crossing over from classical guitar

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Funkateer, Jul 7, 2002.

  1. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    After 30+ years of playing classical guitar as an amateur, and a largely unused MFA in composition and theory, I have decided to learn the electric bass. Part of the motivation is to be able to jam with my 12 y/o son, who has taken up the electric guitar with a fury, and the other part is personal musical development. Despite my training, I don't have the greatest ear, and I definitely have a problem with rushing. I am hoping that playing the bass will give me a much better sense of time. My dream is to be able to pick up a chart in almost any style and be able to do a credible job.

    Finally my questions:

    - Any books that would be especially good for someone who knows classical music theory?
    - Any thoughts on converting my classical guitar technique to bass technique? I use three fingers on the right hand without thinking, and am actually wondering if I should try using the RH thumb classical guitar style on the bass.
    - Any practice toys (drum machines, etc) that I should be shopping for?


  2. Mark -

    Welcome to the dark side! ;)

    I too started out my musical life as a classical guitar major, only made it to an AA though before I realized the dead end I'd chosen for myself.

    You have a few advantages coming from classical guitar, primarily the comfort with playing fingerstyle and good left hand technique (i.e. thumb behind the neck).

    Books to recommend are many, depending on what exactly you're looking to learn. Give us some direction, and you will get suggestions aplenty. I'd immedately suggest Ed Friedland's "Building Walking Basslines" as a good start in dealing with that style. I also highly recommend that you find a bass teacher to get a good footing in the instrument, remember. Despite it's similarities to the guitar, it IS a different instrument entirely.

    Sting uses the semi-classical guitar technique you are talking about, and it works fine for him. I don't teach or recommend it myself, but if it works for you, do it. I find it difficult to "dig in" very well with that technique, and it inhibits slap playing in my opinion, but that isn't to say it's not a valid method. I did use a similar technuque, couple with muting the strings at the bridge, to approximate the tone of an Ampeg Baby Bass at one time, but now that I have an NS Design EUB, I don't need it.

    "Toys", definitely get at least a metronome, if not a drum machine. A really good "Swiss Army Knife" gizmo is the Korg Pandora. I have the older PX3B, which works quite well for me, they have just recently released an upgraded version, the PX4B, but I'm not sure what the differences are. The one I have has a headphone amp, effects (which I never use), a drum machine/metronome, and an input to let you play along with tapes/CD's and mix in your bass signal. It also has a phrase sampler that lets you sample (digitally record) and loop up to 16 seconds of a piece of music and slow it down up to 75% without changing the pitch. Good box, I highly recommend it, coupled with a good pair of headphones.
  3. I came to bass from classical guitar also. I find I use i and m for most things, usually with rest strokes unless for some reason I want to do a quick arpeggio. I just find the sound is more solid that way. I don't use a that much except for chords and the odd note that's hard to get to any other way. I do use the thumb technique you mention, but not nearly as often as I do on guitar. Mainly I do it to spare myself big string jumps.

    For some contexts, I find it actually works better just to use a single finger (e.g., the i) for the bulk of the line. I think this is because the movement of a bass line isn't always scalar or unidirectional, so if you try to maintain strict i-m alternation, some string-to-string movements may get a little tangled up. Also, you often can get a more consistent sound when using a single finger; for most people, the i and the m don't sound exactly alike. i-m alternation still works best for me for faster scale passages, though.

    Fingernails may or may not be an issue. As you probably know, most bassists don't use them. I've kept mine because I don't want to give up the nylon-string guitar, but they do change your sound on bass. I find I can't get as "phat" a sound with equivalent settings and instruments as other bassists who don't use nails, so I have to try to compensate with EQ and playing technique. The upsaide is that the nails can give you some extra articulation if you need it. Expect more wear and tear on your nails with the bass than you would with classical guitar, though. I don't know if this can be eliminated, but you might be able to reduce the wear by artifically reinforcing the nails somehow, or else by playing the bass more lightly and using proportionately more fingertip and less nail.

    Hope this helps, and good luck,
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Small world - I came to bass through Classical Guitar as well. Beyond that, I think Gard and Richard have said it all better than I could.
  5. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    Thanks for all the input. Recieved my PX4B in the mail yesterday. Amazing little box. Very clear that the metronome is needed :( Also picked up the Friedland bass lines book. Where were these instructional tools when I needed them 35 years ago!!! I like the way the Friedland book starts out simple harmonically. I find a lot of his ideas very reminiscent of what you learn when studying classical 4 part harmony and are asked to create interesting voice leading. According to UPS tracking, my BTB515 should be waiting for me when I get home. Yipee!!
  6. Mark -

    Don't feel bad, no matter what anyone thinks, we ALL need to spend more time with a metronome!!! ;)

    Glad you're liking the PX4B, I'd like to check it out, although I see no reason to get rid of my PX3B, it works just fine for what I'm using it for.

    The Friedland book is great, I was just going through it again myself the other day...I suck at jazz walking bass! :( You are right though, it is basically good voice leading on the fly! :)

    Let us know how you like the BTB!!!
  7. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I am glad I waited to get headphones. Now that I have the Friedland book and CD, I realize that either I need to use a CD player with a balance control, or use in-ear headphones one at a time, as one channel has drums/piano, and the other has drums/bass. Think I will try the in-ears first.

    I tried practicing 16th and 8th note scales using Friedland's metronome click on 2 and 4 in 4/4. Failed miserably.

    I was browsing the bass instruction bin yesterday and came across vols 2 and 3 of the Chuck Rainey method. Looked pretty good, but vol 1 wasn't there for me to take a look at. What is the collective wisdom on this series?
  8. Mark -

    Yeah, that is one drag, to hear only the piano/drums, you gotta lose an ear (phone, that is) or have a stereo balance control (not many of those on CD players are there?). Worth the aggrivation for the information though, in my opinion.

    On the 2 & 4 thing, start with just quarters first, until you can "lock in" the feel, then work up to eights, then sixteenths...but be patient, don't try to be flying before you can crawl. Developing a good solid feel takes time and practice, that 2 & 4 click thing really helped me bigtime. One exercise I do to really help my time is to put a metronome on at 40bpm and play a scale as QUARTER notes...:eek:....then the next scale in the circle (counterclockwise) as eights.....then the next scale as eighth triplets....and so on until I do all 12 scales up to 12 notes per click @ 40bpm. Truth: the quarters are harder than anything else to get perfect.

    Can't comment on the Chuck Rainey books, haven't seen them. But, based on his ability as a player and the interviews I've read, they're probably a good buy.
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    But..but... have you SEEN the pictures of the PX4B?! It looks so much easier to use, more sleek, just simply....MORE FUN! DAMN! If only I hadn't purchased the 3XB!
  10. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    Christmas in July, except it was my son's birthday and I only got to play the BTB515 for about 30 minutes last night when I got home. All of those 1-4 whole step fingerings I've been seeing suddenly make a lot of sense ;) The instrument came with some round wound strings that sound OK, and the B-string tension is good, but the darn things seem designed to wear your fingers into nubs. Gonna replace them immediately with some flat-wound strings. Any recommendations?

    Gard: Thanks for the practice idea. The state of instrumental pedagogy is so much better these days. Back in my classical guitar student days, they just told you to practice Segovia scales with the metronome. Simple tool, but you still gotta know how to get the most from it

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