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Experienced guitar player need to play bass tracks...

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by StoneCountry, Nov 9, 2006.

  1. StoneCountry


    Oct 20, 2006
    Howdy folks.

    I'm sure some of you have travelled this road before, so I though I would ask...

    I'm a guitar player, very proficient - been playing for 20 years. I play country in hybrid picking style (fingers and pick together).

    I've got a thorough understanding of the fretboard, chord structures, scales, etc - that stuff is old hat and is transferrable to bass.

    So, I have a project studio, and for a most of my songs I've just scored the bass track manually using Cubase score and broomstick bass. Sick, I know. So I thought, hell, I'll just play the bass tracks myself to get a more convincing feel to the song.

    It straight ahead country that I write, so no need for any slapping or wild techniques, just the normal fingerstyle root-5, or root-maj3-5-maj3 stuff.

    So, for a long term guitar player like myself, is it reasonable to think that I should be able to lay down some decent tracks (with some practice of course) for my demos? Or is the learning curve really more than you expected?

    Any of you make the transition, and what should I expect?
    Understand that I don't want to change instruments, only play well enough to lay down the bass tracks for my recordings. I'd never play it outside of my project studio.

    Thoughts appreciated.
  2. zachbass02

    zachbass02 One Hairy....squatch.

    Jan 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    DO NOT OVERPLAY!!!!!!!!! This seems to be the biggest thing for guitarists, especially lead player, to overcome. Take what you're thinking of playing and cut it in half. Do that again, and you've probably got a reasonably usable line.

    I recently heard a guitarist filling in on bass. It was painful to hear. He didn't understand the use of a rest. He was good about getting the root on the 1 or relatively close to the 1, but then for next three beats of EVERY measure, it was a flurry of lead riffs that were so so so over the top and obnoxious it was ridiculous.

    Just remember to approach your songs with the mindset of "what will add to the song, lay a solid foundation and groove?" Find the pocket. It doesn't matter how many riffs, notes, etc.. you can get in there if you're not locking in the pocket. For country style stuff, try to play just to the backside of the beat. A good example of that is Shania Twains "That Don't Impress Me Much". Whoever played on that is so far on the backside of the beat, he almost drags. But man does it set up a great pocket for that song and keeps a song that could feel like it wants to run away tempo wise right in a great feel and groove.

    You should be able to knock out for you stuff what you need to without too much trouble. Hope that helps.
  3. user101


    Oct 15, 2006
    Well but if you already have the bass tracks, then i guess there's not much chances of overplaying unless the basslines are already way too complex.

    But technically speaking, i think the transition from guitar to bass is not that easy. For the left hand, you have to get used to the fret distance and in my opinion, fret noises are not that easy to hide anymore due to the fat strings. So stretching and accuracy are definitely points to look out for. I was a guitar player before, and although not very good at it, i noticed that i could get away easier with my mistakes than on bass. For the right hand, i mostly play with rest strokes with the index and middle finger. A certain amount of finger strength is necessary in my opinion to get good tone. Other than that, coming from country style, consistency and plucking shouldn't be a problem for you i guess...

    Those were the few points i noticed when i made the transition from guitar to bass. Hope it helps
  4. Vlasco


    Aug 23, 2006
    North Dakota
    From the way Stone talks, it doesn't sound like he'll try to do anything obnoxious on the bass. The basics for country bass are very easy and you should have no problem picking it up in a few days. User covered most of the bass quirks already. I'm sure you know about where to pluck on a string to make it sound softer or harsher. On a bass you can use the pad of your finger much more easily than guitar, so if you want a nice smooth sound, take advantage of that. Using your thumb also gives a nice smooth sound. If you want something a little more, use more the tip of your finger and give the string a nice little pull to the extent you want the sound to be.

    Hope this helps, good luck.
  5. StoneCountry


    Oct 20, 2006
    Thanks for the input and tips guys. I do appreciate it.

    I have done a tremendous amount of listening to very good country Bass lines, even manually scored them myself, so I can't see any risk of overplaying.

    Paradoxically, it's actually UNDER-playing that I'm more concerned with. You know, just trying to add the ocasional variations here and there to add dimension, dynamics and break the monotony of a root-5 repitition. Even though 95% is the same - the little differences here and there I've noticed can breath life into things.

    I hope to get the right hand fingering solid enough to get the real groove happening properly. That's the part I guess I was wondering about in my head - how hard is that transition to make.

    I've got my bass on order coming in, so when it arrives, I'll take a few cracks at existing projects that I know the basslines really well and try to replicate them to get the feel for it.

    This is going to be fun. :)
  6. The best example of a guitarist playing bass is Tom Scholz in Boston. Yes, he played every bass track on every Boston song, including the debut album. And he played the bass with a very similar style to how he played guitar, but with enough understanding of the bass to make it different. It turned out great.

    I would say you should first off learn the bass lines on a bunch of cover tunes of other artists that play a similar style of music as you do, and play those songs over and over again, just make sure you have learned a good variety, maybe a couple dozen songs. That may be the best way to start learning to think like a bass player.
  7. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    You seem to be coming at it from the right direction and with the right attitude.

    IMHO, the biggest problem you are going to have is to keep the 1-5 very solid and on time through the whole song. It takes practice to keep notes solid for a prolonged time. Practice with a metronome or a drum machine to make sure you don't slow down.

    And the occasional change can make all the difference. But again, don't overdo it. And for a demo, I am not sure how much you have to worry about it. It generally takes multiple listens to notice the little fills. I would err on the side of simplicity.
  8. StoneCountry


    Oct 20, 2006
    You know, that's a good point. It sounds simple, but you're right - it's probably going to be take much more discipline that I'm expecting from the outset.

    I think with all this advice, my best approach will be to simply play verbatim one of the bass tracks that I've scored manually, that I know work (that are just missing the "human element" groove) and just use it to get the groove and consistency down pat, without worrying about WHAT to play.

    Strangely enough, I'm in a way looking very much forward to this.
    It may be quite rewarding in the end, who knows.

  9. Unfortunately, you will be unable to get a convincing feel. The problem stems from the fact that you are basically a guitarist. Whilst, you may believe that you are capable of playing a bass, you can't. Not really.

    You see, being a bass player is much more than just what instrument you pick up and how you wiggle your fingers around. It's a mind set.

    The good news, is that there is still hope for you. All that you need to do is throw away all your other instruments and play nothing but bass for a minimum of 24 months. You also need to sleep with your bass each night. You are permitted to make love to your significant other but you must maintain contact with at least one finger to a string of your bass.

    To complete the process, you need to go and see a heap of live bands. What you do there is extremely important. You must talk to the other bass player and actually like them. Any thoughts of "I can play that better" or "that was a mistake" will buy you an additional month in guitarist purgatory.

    Once you have completed this behavioural modification process you will be ready to lay down a great bass track on your recording. The only potential downside (you will see it that way now, but you will come to see it as an added benefit later) is that you will no longer be able to play guitar. All in all, a great trade off. ;)
  10. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    I'm sure you'll be able to lay down some adequate tracks, but it will be a far cry from what a serious professional bassist would supply. The differences will lie in feel and sound, not in the notes you play.
  11. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD
    Maybe you'll even turn into a bass player :smug:

    After you get groove, fretting and endurance down, you may want to try palm-muting. I think this works especially well for country as it gives an almost upright-like thump.
  12. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I thought palm muting was used with picking?

    I use flats to get more thump.

    I have to disagree with this. I think it applies more to rock than country. In rock, it seems the lead guitar shares the spotlight with the singer and sometimes is more important.

    In country, everybody must support the singer. So country players *tend* to be better at just creating a supporting groove. Even lead players tend to know when to lay back.

    Of course, this is all generalization.
  13. My entire post was a joke.

    Obviously, not a good enough one. lol
  14. StoneCountry


    Oct 20, 2006

    I guess my goal shall be to keep it simple enough that I've got a shot at making it convincing.
    I'm a persistent perfectionist, so I may even surprise you guys.

    I may post it when I'm done to see what you guys think.

    Anyway, thanks for the welcome and support guys. I appreciate it.
    I was half expecting to be shot down saying I was a guitar player.
    I was pleasantly surprised.

  15. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Well I tried to shoot you down . . . oh well. ;)

    Welcome to TB.
  16. StoneCountry


    Oct 20, 2006
    Hehe... it's going to take more than that to deter this determined soul. :smug:
  17. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I'm a guitarist turned bassist, and while I understand and agree there's a different mindset and feel to both instruments - to be honest, I don't think it's the brain surgery that a lot of people make it out to be. Most decent guitarists can lay down a convincing bass track that nobody is going to question. I defy anyone to say, "HA! That's a guitarist playing bass on that recording!!! I can smell it a mile away!!"

    That being said and appreciating the fact that you you want to play more like a bassist than a guitarist, the best I can do is share my experience. It took me about a year to really settle into the whole bass thing. Wound up hanging up my guitar. I've become obsessed with bass, guitar always frustrated me... that's why I often argue here that bass really IS easier than guitar. I like to argue that just to piss people off too though. :ninja: Anyhow, I think a good way to get into the bass player frame of mind is to play endlessly with a metronome, just grooving on 1 or 2 notes trying to make them sound as feel as many different ways as you possibly can. It's amazing how much you can come up by playing on top of the beat, in front, behind, stacatto, soft, hard, a mix of everything, a steady rock solid pulse for 3 minutes straight. I think doing that can really get someone into the essence of feeling the bass as opposed to playing notes. The first bass player I played with (when I played guitar) used to love to play songs that were just a bunch of pumping 8th notes because he said he used to meditate while doing it. He could shred the crap out of the bass also.

    Another simple thing you can do to add a little color to the root and 5th thing is add a half step pickup note before both, either sharp or flat. It gets the walking bassline feel going, and just about everything works.

    I think learning some motown will also slap the the guitarist right outta someone. :)
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