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Focus on one instrument?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by SnappyFerret, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. SnappyFerret

    SnappyFerret What it is, what it is Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2009
    Here's my dilemma: I started out on the guitar in the mid 1960s. I played bass lines on a regular guitar (along with regular guitar chords and riffs) in the early 1970s. I got an actual bass guitar about 4 years ago, then I got an upright bass about 3 years ago and took lessons for about 6 months on the upright. I don't have much time to practice or play for fun. I play at church once a week, usually on the bass guitar. I would like to get better on the upright (especially using a bow), as well as make progress on the bass guitar and the regular guitar. Am I doomed to fail if I spend time on all three instruments, or will the techniques complement each other to a degree? I am afraid I am stagnating on all three because I can't pick one of the three to focus my limited playing time on. But I enjoy playing all three. How have others resolved similar problems or situations? Your thoughts and advice would be much appreciated. Thanks.
  2. if you can make the exercises you do compliment each other on the different instruments it might help.....all three are tuned the same,so chord tone type stuff translates.....maybe bowing could be practiced during chord/scale exercises....that sort of thing
  3. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    I feel drawn to the guitar as well - but I've pretty much come to a single thought that sums up the whole thing:

    You can't serve two masters

    IMO of course - pick one and focus on that alone. Different strokes for different folks though - maybe multiple instruments are for you.
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i don't think you're doomed to failure, but you might not have enough hours in the day to serve all 3 equally. still, if you want to give it a shot, i don't think it's going to have lasting repercussions. if you think something's suffering over it, then make up your mind.
  5. Yeah, it can be a challenge.. Physically, "chops" for a certain instrument will develop better while focusing on that one instrument. However, musically each can give a different window into the art of music, and therefore playing more than one may help you grow faster as a listening musician.

    I think if we we guide our playing by what we hear, more so than what our fingers feel, or what our eyes see, we can play multiple instruments more effectively, because they are all playing the same notes, intervals, rhythms, forms... music.

    Here's a potential strategy:
    guitar: chords and chord melody
    double bass: bowed melodies, intonation, dynamics
    electric bass: functional bass in an amplified band setting.

    Perhaps focus on what each instrument does best so you have a strong reason to go to each one. As you make more time for playing, each instrument's role can expand.

    If you're really pressed for time, then learn the instrument you know the least. This will get more new neural connections happening in your brain, than playing what you already know. Woodshed the new instrument, and 6 months later you'll find that you can play the new one, while you still have facility on the older instruments. Your brain will be in shape. :)
  6. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003

    When i first started playing upright bass.
    That is all I practiced.( two to three hours a day)
    To the point, that my electric playing began to suffer.
    I went to, one hour on each instrument of practice a day.
    That seemed to balance things out.
    Right now, 70% of my gigs a electric.
    I'm at a point now where if I get a gig on either Bass, I'm fine with it.
    It's work to stay focused on both.
  7. wideyes


    May 9, 2007
    Eugene, OR
    I think your goals need to be considered. Are you wanting to get gigs on all three? Are you interested in maybe going *really* far on one instrument? I think a lot of guys want to have skillz matching Wooten or Hendrix, but don't even really have the desire to live the life and do what it takes to get there. If you do it for fun, community, in spare time, not looking to make a living as a pro, then play all three and have fun! If you have some concrete goals as far as musical advancement and picture yourself going far, you're gonna have to narrow it down.
  8. queevil


    Aug 6, 2009
    I'll probably get some heat for this but I think it's somewhat important for bass players to have experience on some kind of polyphonic instrument. Bass is, technically speaking, a polyphonic instrument but most often it isn't played like one. The reason that I say this is because in many of the guitarists that I've played with have never had any interest in bass and they don't care what I play as long as I'm playing in time and it sounds good. Sometimes it's hard to convey the idea for a chord progression or riff that you have in mind for a bass line that you've created to a guitar player.

    I know quite a few bass players who don't know how to play other instruments yet play very well.

    I just think that it's sometimes easier to communicate with other musicians if you can play other instruments. If anything keeping your guitar chops up means that you're that much more versatile.
  9. tobie


    Nov 26, 2008
    After buying my bass I've packed away my resonator & steel guitars for 16 months (the original plan was 12 months) in an attempt to focus on the bass alone. Out of sight, out of mind. I've unpacked the pedal steel again about a month ago and now my practice time is shared equally between the steel & bass.

    I manage, but find it extremely difficult to put one instrument down and switch to another during a particular practice session (specially if you want to keep on playing those chops you've just mastered). But with straight forward discipline (without thinking about it too much) it can be done.
  10. elavate7


    Jul 8, 2009
    its all about "THE POCKET"
    it depends who you are and how you learn things. my primary instrament is bass and i plan on sticking with it because i know i cant maintain more than one instrament.

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