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Expert on all things bass or simply focused?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Pudge Fish, Apr 13, 2015.

  1. Pudge Fish

    Pudge Fish

    Aug 6, 2013
    Caught up in trying to learn about too many aspects of what, initially, started out as simply "playing bass"?

    I've been playing bass for several years and have gotten involved with a couple of bands / recording projects. At first, being a better bassist was my only goal. I feel that as we grow into our musical roles, it becomes important to accept the burden of learning, not only technique, but maintenance and more. So after learning how to set up our instruments, we find "our sound". This means learning about technologies and techniques in bass guitars (build designs, configurations, pickups, preamps, strings) and then on to amplifiers and cabs (and pedals, sheesh!). With amps, you must learn enough to keep from blowing up your gear (such as impedance, power handling, cable types, all about tubes) and with cabs you can get into speaker size / arrangement, power requirements, crossover points, SPL, and more, ALL while trying to find / tweak "THAT" sound we each want.

    Then you have to find a way to mesh that with a band and make it all click. Next, you get to record or play live, and each option has HOSTS of factors to learn at incredible depth. Never mind getting into microphones, mixing, PA systems, and all of that.... I know Rome wasn't learned-about in a day, but it can seem like a lot, even taking each bit as it comes.

    So how about you TalkBass folks? Do you study everything you can to try and gain as much understanding as possible, or just stick to playing your bass and being the best bassist you can be and, perhaps, gather the info slowly or when absolutely needed?
  2. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    That is all true. The objective is to be able to deliver when it counts. Knowing and understanding all the details matters. That's why TB is a good thing.

    To paraphrase Miles, you have to go learn all the details, then forget all that and go play.
    Ethan117 and Pudge Fish like this.
  3. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    For me, I'd say "expert with a focus." It comes down to what is appropriate for my gigging situations, as well as what I want to learn myself.

    For example, I'm not a slap player at all. Sure, I know some of the basics of it, and a couple of more advanced things (like double-thumbing) and use it on gigs when needed, but I'd never consider myself an expert on that, because there are guys that are not only on top of that, but are inventing new things as well. On the other hand, I can sight-read like a madman in bass and treble clef (still takes a second with tenor), but it's because my gigging situations call for that type of level of expertise.
  4. Funkmabassup


    Jul 16, 2013
    My impression is that TBers obsess more over gear, sound etc etc than most bassplayers I have met. Personally I like too focus on the playing the most, but on another hand I dig my gear, if I try some new basses in a shop I usually conclude that these basses cant even touch my Sadowsky so whats there too GAS about :D
  5. Pudge Fish

    Pudge Fish

    Aug 6, 2013
    Nice. You took it another step, where just becoming a better bassist involves learning technique, and surely we cant adopt all techniques so we have to pick and choose what we focus on. I've heard a number of guitarists (Steve Vai comes to mind) advocate the practicing of what we're good at want to play rather than practicing things we're not good at to supplement our repertoire (much like your mention of slap technique). I agree that it's good to have a base (bass) understanding of different options but to focus on improving one's own innate abilities. Even the "simpler" side of "focusing on becoming a better bassist" means you have to pick and choose and (hopefully) learn about the options you engage or dismiss. Just like everything in life, to improve is to grind.

    The best example of my frustration, personally, is having my bass in hand, ready to record and feeling good, then my recording software (or other PC function) halts.... nothing kills my joy faster than gear getting in the way of a groove. But to overcome this, I have to become an expert on the software, hardware, and terminology (just for research) in order to overcome this. This seems to apply to EVERYTHING in my musical world... Want a different cab sound? Gotta learn the terminology, then figure out what variable you can change to move smartly in your own direction. Takes a bit of steam but I dig the journey. I'm not happy if I'm not learning / growing, so that may be part of it! I'm hoping to hear that some fellow TB'ers have found a way to keep it simple!
  6. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    Well, I try to look at "what skills are required of me to continue to be a working musician?" and then focus on that. So for me, while knowing all the intricacies of slap bass would be pretty cool, it's not something that would pay in the long run for me. That's also gotten me to learn some skills that I wouldn't want to learn (Steve Harris' gallop comes to mine), but were required of me for the gig. Granted, I've found uses for it later, but if I had a choice, I wouldn't have spent the time to learn that.

    In terms of gear, I grew up in a family of music educators, and my uncle was a working musician. So I like to think that I have a different view of gear, in that I'll pay for dependability and reliability over affordability and bang for the buck. Don't get me wrong, price point is definitely a factor especially when you have a budget to adhere to, but spending $$$ on a bass that I don't have to adjust truss rods on a regular basis due to weather or intonation pays for itself over the long term, over saving a bit on an instrument that is more prone to needing constant adjustment.
    Pudge Fish likes this.
  7. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    You should be just enough of an expert to always, consistently bring the "boom" to the room.

    You should (for example) be well-educated enough in the workings of your rig to quickly troubleshoot the obvious things such as blown fuses, faulty cables, or ground problems. You should also be aware of cabinet impedance, so as not to create a mismatch that puts you out of comission. Likewise, with your bass, you should be able to fix a faulty jack, perform basic setup, and change your own strings. That's all stuff in YOUR wheelhouse.

    Past being able to supply a direct out signal to the board, let the sound guys worry about that, LOL!!!
  8. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    I definitely focused on becoming an expert on the playing/musical side. Mostly b/c that is the only side that I feel I have 100% total control over. I am the only one to blame if things "blow up" or don't work in that area.

    In all of the technical/technological things, my thought has always been that I want to know enough to keep out of massive expensive repair bills that would be avoidable by having some knowledge in the area. I can do a set up on my own bass - but would never do it on someone elses. As far as electronics and amps, my feeling is that someone else has put the same kind of time into that as I have into the music, so I would rather them do that. it would be coo lto be well versed in those kinds of things, but I devert to the music full time as mentioned above
  9. Chuck King

    Chuck King Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2006
    In any area of endeavor, particularly involving art and/or craft, there will come a point at which, to take things to the next level, you need to have a certain level of mastery of an unrelated skill. You can either obtain that skill yourself, or hire somebody to do it, but you need to cover it one way or another. As a bass player, in many situations, to advance in the world of music you will need, first, to develop the skills necessary to play successfully in a band; then, you may need to also develop a bunch of secondary skills necessary to make a band successful, which can range from technical skills like sound and lighting to business skills like marketing, to web development or photography. While all those other skills are not strictly speaking part of playing the bass, they can be integral parts of being a successful bass player. (This of course depends on how you define success, which is a controversial Pandora's box that I don't think needs to be opened for the purposes of this thread.)
    xUptheIronsx and Pudge Fish like this.
  10. Pudge Fish

    Pudge Fish

    Aug 6, 2013
    Some very real responses here. I feel like I messed up by letting other things get between me and my playing, but realistically... to level up in these things, you'll run into new hurdles. To record your stuff, you have to hire someone and go to a studio or buckle and find a way to do it yourself (thankfully this has gotten simpler). For recording, it makes sense to be able to acquire the skill and record when desired, but you may never care to learn mixing / mastering and leave those skills to a pro. Even writing music (trying anyway) takes me away from my flow of playing. Since it's all part of my musical journey, I enjoy it, but I miss the days of being happy to simply jam with my buds on whatever ratty stick had 4 strings.
  11. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I try to learn a few things at a time--but I do it on guitar & bass & now mandolin
  12. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    This is sooo true. this is a great post/observation. I talk about this stuff a lot with my students...how you always have to be educating yourself about all OF THE WORLD to understand your little part of it.

    It is crazy how many circles touch each other when involved in an activity. I never thought I would be able to understand, or even really care about much of the electrical engineering you need to know about to keep those things running in bass world. Yet, I found myself learning about these things (definitely not mastering them) and understanding that world as well.

    good stuff
  13. Pudge Fish

    Pudge Fish

    Aug 6, 2013
    You also hit the nail on the head with 'learning vs mastering'. Most of what I engage (outside the realm of bass manipulation / theory) is with a goal of "firm foundational understanding" and additional depth is based on need or interest. I'm a very curious individual and I love music because there will ALWAYS be something to learn (speaking of, I probably won't "master" playing bass either) but I let that curiosity pull me in so many directions, seemingly because there's always a need or knowledge I deem useful to gain.

    Chuck's post put my woes into a very succinct bit of truth. The more I learn, the more I understand people who say "I play my bass and let the ___ person handle ___". Sound engineers (even the crappy ones) know more about the technical side of things than I ever will, but I find myself researching cab placement, SPLs, crossover frequencies, how differing musical frequencies and output types interact... There won't always be a "sound person" and I'd rather know it and not need it than vice versa.

    At VERY least, I want to be able to ask informed questions when the experts ARE around! In my humble, all knowledge come with more questions.
  14. RED J

    RED J Lol

    Jan 23, 2000
    I never forgot someone once saying our style is determined as much by our limitations as our strengths.There was a time when I thought I had to learn/know everything, but I came to realize in music as well as my day job, getting really good at the things I actually use or do is a whole lot better use of my time that learning just to learn.
    When I have had to learn something new, I have been up for that, but have realized that for me, doing everything, being everything, knowing everything was not very practical, so I ditched that idea.
    I have a friend who is what I would call a professional student, he has to read a book or hear a lecture about everything and can converse, but he has no resume' of experience.

    So to me, as a bass player as in every other phase of life, the real world experience is what counts, the verifiable resume and the thousands of hours of application are where the meat is. There are a lot of styles and music genres I'm not the guy for, but I have never been found lacking by my band mates in any of the bands i have really put time in with. I'm happy with that.

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