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Frustrated with my speed

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Jaredcouture, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. Jaredcouture


    Feb 16, 2013
    Hey guys. I started playing in December after not touching a bass in about 17 years. Long story but I got into it hard. Totally fell in love with playing again. It's not like being a beginner in allot of ways. I'm learning the music I used to play really fast but I've been having problems with speed. I'm 37 years old now and play at least an hour a day. Mostly stuff like Rage Against The Machine and 311. How can I fix my speed. Seems like no matter what I do my hands just can't move fast enough. Any suggestions on practice methods?
  2. LowBSix

    LowBSix Commercial User

    Mar 25, 2008
    818 ~ 805 ~ L.A.
    Endorsing Artist: GHS Strings
    Develop a wide dynamic range. When you need speed let the volume do the work. A light touch lets the string sing. Work with a metronome and take it easy on yourself. Have fun.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Relax, play with good technique (ask your teacher for help with this!), lower the action on the bass, use low-tension strings, turn up the volume on your amp. All of these will help you gradually build up playing speed. In the interim, an exercise I find very helpful is to identify the "essential" or "key" notes of the bass line, that define the groove. So for example if you can't play constant 16th notes at a fast tempo, as a song was originally written, you can play 8th notes or even 4tr notes, so long as your simplified bass line is "hitting" on the important beats.

    Also consider the possibility that, at age 37 (you and I are the same age!) it is completely appropriate to start learning new genres of music that are less aggressive than what you played in your youth. For example, sit on a blues jam with some old geezers, and you may discover a new musical universe that doesn't require blazing speed on the instrument.

    Good luck! :)
  4. I didn't even start playing bass till this year at age 55, and guitar at 49 (yeah, I know) so I feel you pain, bro. I always wonder if there's just a limit to what hands that started training so late in life can do, but if so, I haven't hit the wall yet. It just takes me much longer than it would if I were 15.

    Like the man said, use the metronome religiously and play slow and clean. Bump the speed up only when you can play a piece perfectly say, ten billion times. :) Speed will eventually come but not if you try to push it. If it hurts, stop.

    Also, keep in mind that insanely fast players practiced way more than an hour a day, something that those of us with careers and families find hard to do. You will get there, but patience is called for.

    Fortunately some of the sweetest bass lines ever created are well within the reach of the Turtle Player's Society.

    Glad you're playing again, youngster!
  5. Jaredcouture


    Feb 16, 2013
    Thanks guys! I actually feel a little better now. I have to say the process of learning and buying is allot easier now. Help is so easy to come by. I don't even know if I owned a computer when I used to play. Now any time I'm looking for equipment, new songs to learn or advice I can pull out my phone and look it up. No more sitting around for hours listening to a song over and over to learn it.
  6. eloann


    May 14, 2012
    Unless of course you're playing obscure prog stuff that's not even on youtube like I sometimes do. Ear training never hurts anyway.

    I found speed to be one of those things you can't really train specifically. If you play consistently over the years you'll become more and more comfortable at faster tempos. There are still fast licks I'd like to play and simply can't no matter how many hours a week I practice them (like the intro to Neal Morse's the door) - I'm sure in a couple years it will seem easy.
  7. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    possible things to change:

    lighten up your touch
    use more fingers
    use a pick
  8. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    This is a modern problem, be careful, those hours learning songs have a benefit. So any people want instant access to everything from skills to knowledge and they want it easy. But this is not learning, it is not really improving the players real time everyday skills....that takes time and a commitment to do the work so be careful you do not end up having no real substance to you playing skills.

    I call it "Satnav Syndrome" because like those people that do not take the time and learn how to read a map, use a map, or plan a route of where they are going because all they have to do is program the Satnav......don't really know anything about where they are unless the Satnav tells them.....so when the Satnav gets it wrong they are lost.
    They have no experience of what is right and what is wrong to fall back on, only what the Satnav tells them, and they have no option but to believe it because they know no better. So when they get lost either as a player or as a motorist they ask for help and direction from others to help them find their way.

    So take the time and learn again, there is a lot of mis-information out there and remember you are older, so you will be physically slower.
    There are certain stretches, exercises, and warm ups you can do to help your hands so make playing easier and less demanding, and of course a good teacher is never a bad move to help anyone improve.:)
  9. Dear Jared.

    I think it's more important to play good, than to play fast. but anyway, let me give you a simple exercise to try out, it helps me come back when I've been lazy on my playing.

    Take a confortable 4 fret section of the bass, let's say 5th 6h 7th and 8th fret.

    -Assign one fret to each finger on your left hand. (in order)
    -Set your metronome at a confortable speed.
    -play the following finger combinations one string at a time.
    -do 5 laps from E string to G string and back and then go to the next finger combination.
    -Keep the non playing fingers close to the fretboard on the left hand, that way they come faster when you call them.

    E|5-6-7-8-|--------|--------|--------|--------|--------|--------|5-6-7-8-|...x 5 & next.

    fing:1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 and so on...

    E|5-7-6-8-|--------|--------|--------|--------|--------|--------|5-7-6-8-|...x5 and next

    fing:1 3 2 4 1 3 2 4 and so on...

    - try also 1423 - and 1432
    - play clean, be careful with the speed setting.
    - keep good time consistance on your right hand.
    - dont over-do it, if it hurts leave it for a while.
    - move it around the neck, try different 4-fret combinations.
    - increase your metronome speed acording to your progress.

    It's not musical, it's just a muscular exercise for your hand.
    Have a good one.
  10. russtolium


    Jul 12, 2010
    Haha, man ain't that the truth. Story of my life. I actually find it really satisfying to record a cover that hasn't been covered on Youtube yet. :ninja:
  11. thewildest


    May 25, 2011
    Well, I respectfully disagree on a few things here: this anti-GPS manifesto, while brings some good points, are in line with the notion that people should still keep their book of logarithms in their pocket instead of just using a calculator: if any of the available tools enable you to reach your goals more efficiently, go right ahead and use them.

    Also, this 'you're old so you're slower' its a generalization that just confirms some flagrant lack of methodology in your observation skills, same skills you claim people should exercise by learning to read a map.

    Your anatomy, focus, motor skills and natural endurance have a far superior influence on your playing than your age, and giving the correct balance of features the OP would reach the same or better level of performance than a younger person.

    I am no spring chicken (44 this year) and picked up the bass 2 years ago. Because i have learned how to study throughout my life I am infinitively better equipped now to lean than back when i was 16 and i feel I progress far faster than I did then.

  12. Bassguitr123


    Mar 20, 2013
    Turning up typically helps, just don't have as much attack if you do. If you play with a pick or slap, maybe lighter gauge strings would help.
  13. Bassguitr123


    Mar 20, 2013
    Agreed, age doesn't define speed, I started playing at 13, and my spoed and agility has increased now that I'm older. It's a muscle memory aspect to me.
  14. subexpression


    Oct 9, 2010
    I'd be EFF'd without my phone address book/contact list. I can honestly say I don't know a single phone number anymore. I know exactly how it happened—convenience!

    Yes, the long hours of ear training and learning songs by ear have the benefit of being able to quickly understand what's happening in a live setting. Without that speed developed from years of listening, a musician can get lost quickly.

    It also lends itself to fast 1-on-1 learning and writing. In a band, most professional musicians lack the patience to "teach" another musician because they should already have gone through the woodshed process early on, and not need a coach in a professional setting.

    I've known some great teachers who have tremendous patience for their students, but little or no patience for playing with lazy musicians who need to be bottle fed and have their butts powdered and diapered by the more-experienced musicians in the band. I tend to agree.

    Tabs are a great time saver if you're in a cover band and need to slug out 40 or 50 songs quickly (like 5 days or less). But this should only be a supplement to EAR TRAINING!

    Sorry for being hard ass :)
  15. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    The problem is if the gadgets go boobies up...can you still function?
    I would need a calculator to estimate how many times I've been called because my gal pal's GPS wasn't not charged.
    I agree here. I was never that "fast" until into my late 30s...years & years of playing, thinking, listening, paying dues, etc...muscle memory became "better".
    Big thing, though, I paid more attention to economy of motion.
    Especially with the plucking fingers. Strict alternating between the index/middle. I had certain exercises that I could do while watching the NFL games on Sunday. Yeah, I know...the TV. This was not "musical", per se...it was purely physical (like doing sit-ups/push-ups while the game is on). I do believe those many, many hours of that paid off.
    Fretting hand? Keep the fingers as close to the fretboard as possible.
    Another thing: Think ahead, think fast.

    Unless one is a natural...here's where payin' dues pays off (i.e. "the hours spent listening/learning a piece of music").

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