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Expanding your bass playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Nico Zottos, Jul 29, 2012.

  1. Nico Zottos

    Nico Zottos

    Jul 29, 2012
    Hey guys! I'm new to the forums but I came for a particular reason. I have been playing bass for almost 11 years now and would like to think that I am fairly accomplished (I don't like sounding like an egomaniac) but here is my question to you. While I have a good understanding of how to improvise, solo, etc, I feel as though I'm limited because of my lack of scale knowledge. I do have a good base in theory but could anyone recommend a place where I could learn new scales and new techniques for my playing? The problem I'm having is that many places online that I've found offer help for beginners but I haven't found any that offer advanced information. I'm not expecting to become better just with a few answers from you guys, I am going to work hard on my own, but I have a feeling that at least someone here will have a good idea where I could begin with new material.

    Thanks guys!
  2. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    I recommend getting the john patitucci etudes book. It has etudes in every scale/mode and it is also a great way to work on sight reading. It will help you get familiar with scales faster because it makes you play melodies based on that scale instead of playing 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 and then back down.
  3. Nico Zottos

    Nico Zottos

    Jul 29, 2012
    Thank you I will look into that!
  4. bassplar


    Jun 5, 2012
    Chicago, IL
    It is actually a good question. I have been looking to do the same, and expand my playing. I really feel like I haven't gotten comfortable with the middle of the neck, 7th fret to 12th fret, like I have on other areas of the bass.

    I have been trying to work on my transcribing skills to expand my playing, in addition to listening to more songs with great bass lines.

    As far as recommendations, I found "Groove Workshop" by Victor Wooten to be very insightful. I felt like it really covered the parts of music other than the notes, which is just as important if not moreso than the notes.
  5. jarrydee


    Oct 22, 2011
    Great video, but teaches you very little about what to practice. more about feeling IMO
  6. bassplar


    Jun 5, 2012
    Chicago, IL
    Agreed, it isn't a laid out lesson plan at all. I did like how Victor went over practicing everything with a groove. Like when you do lay out your scales and techniques to always make them groove. And when he plays a solo with all the "wrong" notes, that is worth seeing.

    I do feel like I have a void with what to practice sometimes. In terms of actual material tp play and a plan. I am really working on improving on this.
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Stick with me on this and think about what I write, even have a pen and paper handy to write out some of the ideas, but follow it through....it's worth it in the end.

    Practicing scales goes like this, I will use C Major as an example.

    Play all the notes of a C Major scale starting from the lowest available pitch to the highest available pitch.

    So if C Major has the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C then on a standard 4 string precision bass the lowest starting note is E and the highest finishing note is D# so almost three octave to practice over.

    But what is the lowest and highest available notes from a C Major scale available then? That is the open E and every scale note available to D, almost three octaves above.

    So to practice C Major the scale reads


    It does not matter that you start on E and finish on D those are still the notes of a C major scale.

    But look again not only have you practiced a C major scale, you have also practiced a natural A minor scale from the A to the A.
    This is because scales have "relative keys". Major and minor scales can share the same notes and the same sharps and flats, but this only becomes apparent when you extend out side the standard idea that a scale is eight notes.
    Yes it construction is eight pitched notes, it's application, practice and use in music is not, as you should now realise on a standard bass for C it is nearly three octaves, so that is twenty three pitched notes to use.

    So if C Major and a natural A minor scale have the same notes then by practicing in this way you in fact practice both at the same time. You do not practice them as separate scales, you treat them as the same scale but with two different uses or application.

    Go to the VI degree of any Major scale and you will have the relative minor that uses the same key and notes.

    So if we start a C Major scale on the E we are playing an inversion of a C major Scale, in fact it is the 2nd inversion, as starting on D would be the 1st and so on.

    But if we know that mode construction is just inversions of the C scale then it should dawn on us that starting on the E, as well as being an inversion, it is also a mode.
    So if a C Major scale has the notes of an Ionian mode when we start on the C and play CDEFGABC, and modes are inversions of these notes,then starting on the E and playing EFGABCDE when practicing playing over the whole neck, then we do indeed play a Phrygian mode because we started in the 2nd inversion of C Major.

    So now if we look at what practicing that C Major scale over the fretboard has revealed to us is that we play two scales and two modes and an inversion.

    But think again, if A minor uses scale notes from C Major then it must be an inversion, and if it's an inversion then it also is a mode.
    So counting it off it is the 6th inversion of C major and that makes it an Aeolian mode.

    So now of we look at what practicing that C Major scale over the fretboard has revealed to us we can now add another inversion and a mode to it.

    So the list from one practice application has had us running through;
    C Major scale also an Ionian Mode
    A minor scale also an Aeolian mode and a 6th inversion
    Phrygian mode also a second inversion.

    But also we have been using notes that form triad and arpeggios, so in a way chord tones, but chord tones with there extensions such 9ths, 11ths, 13ths,

    So add to that list...well it should now become apart that that list just keeps growing from one simple change of practice of a single scale, now do this in all twelve keys and now your fretboard will reveal more scales,more modes, more inversions, traids, arpeggios etc etc

    So this next part expands the use of all those ideas..if all that went before was not enough.
    There are various routes we can take across the fretboard to cover the nearly three octaves with some fret mapping and each playing takes on a new discipline and a new relation to practicing in this way, try this for the start.

    So do you use open strings?......do you play
    EFGABCD only on the E string or is it EFG on the E string, then ABCD on the A string?
    EFGA on the E string then BCD on the A string, maybe EFGA on the E string, then BC on the A string and use an open D ?

    This is just a few of the starting option to consider when you look at the fretboard, then the options for fingerings are many and in various places, so which ones do you use?
    Well answer is try them all see how many different ways you can get around the neck to play those C major scale notes.

    So hopefully you can see that by expanding the use of scales to all available notes you expand the relationships and understandings.
    Sure I would expect questions, and some deeper explanations, but this is why a teacher is worth their weight in gold, because they should open up the mind of the player to music and over time make it all easy to not only understand but use in real playing situations.

    For me I teach this concept as basic first year learning, because it put the bulk of the work on the student to study and work out, it teaches them fretboard skills and fingerings etc.. So it prepares them for more advanced ideas, if they want to continue, or bail out here and at least have a solid foundation to build on if they so desire,
  8. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    yes Victor Wooten is good, however thats not what the op is asking for. The way Victor teaches is very different (you can tell from his videos and the book he wrote). Im sure if you asked Victor some scale exercises he would teach you some, but he doesn't do that for the general public.
  9. Nico Zottos

    Nico Zottos

    Jul 29, 2012
    Thank you so much Fergie, that was very informative. Thank you for taking the time to write that out!
  10. curbowkid

    curbowkid Guest

    Jun 27, 2011
    Brooklyn, New York
  11. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    No probs, this argument that crops up between "scales v chord tones on a regular basis does not take this sort of practice time into consideration when they think of scales, seemingly a scale is just eight notes to run up and down....which is pointless.

    This info was a cut and paste from a scale fret mapping lesson I teach, so I hope I got the correct and related points across. I have read it over and over so it looks good to my eyes.
    One point to mention is when you do move the practice to other scales, practice and move each new scale by cycling through 4ths and 5ths, so from C the order would be;
    for the 5ths and;

    Like I said, write it out to see the ideas, then work on any one of the ideas, then tie them altogether to see and understand the relationship.
    This learning format is the same for all 12 keys, by learning and practicing in this manner you fill in all the blanks that you may have in your knowledge and playing skills.
  12. bass_study


    Apr 17, 2012
    Jaco once said... I forgot where I saw this... Is to play a bassline in different position and shape to break your habit. It will expand ur knowledge of the neck. or as Jeff Berlin said practise the bassline in different keys.

    Also transcribe the bassline you like, analyze them with the theory you already know. It is the real example of how the good players use scales and theories into playing. Not many occasion the players will play descending or ascending scale or arppegios. And you will understand how creative they are and you will be inspired.
  13. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Cliff Engel--- International Institute of Bassists
    He has some great study lessons on-line. Very affordable.
  14. pastorjamesc

    pastorjamesc Cheap Ability, Expensive Taste Commercial User

    Jun 26, 2012
    Waco Texas
    Owner/Operator of Cotten Patch Sound Design. Burns of London Guitars and Basses retail. I do sound design, resetting, and education for churches, organizations, and small venues with no Sound personnel. Studio for "self-produced" rental use.
    I just started back playing (mostly just for pleasure) just a few months ago. But I wanted to learn some theory and such. Came across this guy http://www.cliffengel.com/.

    Its a correspondent type lessons. I'm in my second lesson. He sends you one ever couple of weeks, complete with pages, mp3 chord stuff, and some music to listen to. It is almost all music and scales for me with some technique. It's basically like a book lesson written just for me where I can chat with the author every Monday night.

    Tell him James sent ya!

  15. pastorjamesc

    pastorjamesc Cheap Ability, Expensive Taste Commercial User

    Jun 26, 2012
    Waco Texas
    Owner/Operator of Cotten Patch Sound Design. Burns of London Guitars and Basses retail. I do sound design, resetting, and education for churches, organizations, and small venues with no Sound personnel. Studio for "self-produced" rental use.
    LOL I guess we posted at the exact same time. I'm very pleased so far with the lessons I've received from him and have a ways to go. (Right now he has a minimum of 5 lessons paid up front but gives another three or a skype lesson as a bonus.)

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