1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)


Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by bassman68s, Jul 5, 2005.

  1. bassman68s


    Jul 5, 2005
    I started playng bass two years ago, and the way i started was to listen to songs and then match them note for note. Well a year later, I know a lot of songs, but improvisation is nil. My most pressing problem is that i cannot seem to wrap my mind around the incorporation of scales into my routines. When i practice scales, they do not seem to help me learn anything useful. I wonder if i just don't have the imagination for bass playing or if i'm just not practicing in the right way. I use the root234567octave method of playing scales, but it just doesn't seem to help my solo ability at all. Can somebody, anybody, help me? What the heck am i missing?
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Personally, and this approach might not work for everyone, but it works for me. I don't even really think about scales and modes and theory when I improvise. I think about what I hear, and if I hear something, and I really hear it, then my fingers will do the rest to make it work.
  3. jetforcex


    Sep 23, 2003
    I like what WrongRobot said.

    bassman68s, it sounds like you are so rigidly focused on trying to use the scales that it is causing your creativity to suffocate.

    My suggestion would be to completely drop the scales for now, and try and get back to hearing what you want to play. Imagine you are talking through your bass. Go real slow. Relax your mind, and with a chord or root in the background, listen inside your head...and whatever small melodic sequence you hear in your head, try and replicate it on your bass. It might help to hum simple melodies slowly to yourself first, and THEN play them. Try not to get too complicated with the melodies at first, and have the discipline to stay slow. Even an improvisation containing only one pitch can sound interesting if you vary the rhythm as you repeat the note.

    The usefulness of scales comes later, in studying why some things you play sound better than others against certain chords. And they are also good as a merely physical workout. But improvisation doesn't start with scales. Try to find something to say inside yourself first, something simple, and then talk through your bass.

    For what it's worth, many of the greatest jazz improvisers in history learned their instruments just like you started....picking out tunes note for note, and this sharpened their listening skills to the point that they could play what they were hearing inside themselves directly, from ears to fingers, without having to pause to think about all the theory and math behind what they were playing.

    You're definitely not suffering a creative failure, but rather a technical preoccupation that is not giving your creativity a chance in the first place. Toss the scales for now and let your inner ear take the point.
  4. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I think there’s some good advice here. I hope you guys will take an interest in studying music but never forget to just play and have fun, too!
  5. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Forgive me for busting in on Michael and Steve's forum, but maybe I can cheer you up a bit bassman...

    So you have the ability to learn songs note for note by ear alone? You can play the parts correctly, and then play (or are confident you could play) those tunes in a band situation with a live drummer? Well, if so, you have all the tools necessary to be a terrific bass player one day. DON"T GIVE UP!!!!!!

    There have been some incredible musicians, bass players included, who can't tell the difference between a scale and a fish.

    What you're missing is...a teacher.