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Gear vs. Music (tips for beginners)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by LM Bass, Sep 3, 2011.

  1. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Gear vs. Music:
    Here is my bit of advice for talk bass readers who are starting out.

    Spend your money on lessons, not gear. Get a cheap, but working bass, a cheap mixer, a cheap electronic keyboard, good method books, a metronome and some headphones. Then get lessons with the best teacher in your area. Spend your time thinking about music, not gear. Don't cheap out and get half hour lessons at your local guitar store, (unless that's where the BEST teacher is). Do a little research, ask around, and aim high!

    Most of this website is about gear. EQ and compression and bubinga and stainless vs. nickel strings, and I love that about it (honestly!) But none of this gear knowledge is going to help you play better.

    Learn to "hear". Be able to sing the next note before you play it. Learn to identify all your intervals within a major scale, and be able to sing them, with solfa (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti) syllables and numbers, all on your own without your bass in hand. Learn to recognize major and minor triads, then augmented and diminished, then learn to hear all the 7th chords.

    Don't spend too much time on modes. Modes do not equal "theory", even though that's what many beginning players think. Learn the major scale really well in all keys. Be able to play all the diatonic triads and 7th chords in all their inversions. Then do the same with intervals. Be able to play and hear I IV V in every key. Learn how all the chord tones and extensions sound. Play along with your favourite music, by ear, no tab. Better yet, learn to transcribe music while you are sitting in the cafe with your headphones, music paper and a pencil. No bass in sight.

    Learn to read. Go really slowly, and learn to find the notes on your bass. Learn to read rhythms by clapping them, or saying 1e+a 2e+a out loud. Learn to play rhythms while keeping a steady pulse and not rushing or dragging. Put sheet music on every wall of your apartment, and try to clap the rhythms. Later on, work on sight-reading. Practise for 10 minutes every day with new material in front of you. Don't fix mistakes, just plow through as though you are in a studio tracking a CD project with an entire orchestra. Read a little every day and you'll become proficient in a year.

    Be curious about different musical genres. Don't judge music, just keep an open mind and expand your tastes. Check out traditional Ethiopian music, classical Chinese opera, the new complexity school (Carter, Fenyhough, et al), early jazz, American gospel music, Indian classical music. . .

    Don't fuss over technique too much. Practise hard things really slowly and then gradually speed up. Stay relaxed in your body, but focussed in your mind.
    The music coming from your fingers doesn't matter at all, what counts is the music between your ears! Many young musicians get drawn to flashy players (I did!) and just want to learn to do that one special trick that they see their hero do. It's okay to do that, just remember to put some time in on the fundamentals as well. Learn to be a simple bass player -it will get you a lot of work, but don't forget to find your own voice and your own music. Too many bass players can only do the simple thing, and they miss out on so much. Learn to solo and learn to play melody. Write your own music, we are all waiting to hear you!

    best regards,
    Polfuste, BassChuck, d w and 14 others like this.
  2. PDavyduck


    Apr 9, 2009
    Langley, BC, Canada
    Retail Sales Specialist for FMIC
    Having had the luck of being a student of LM and along with being a 'sales monkey' at a guitar shop, I wholeheartedly agree with all of the above!!!

    Slappa da baass !!! Biiiiig tiiime.

    kittywithabanjo likes this.
  3. Excellent post! I would only add that, if possible start young. This is not easy stuff you're posting, and you have a much better chance of learning this if you're young and have the time to learn it all. I'm 57, and for me to learn all of this would be more and more difficult as I grow older and older. I have to cherry pick, so I would say for me learning music theory, a bit of reading, and working on learning songs is probably enough for me. Stuff like transcribing and listening to exotic music really doesn't appeal to me.

    All my opinion, of course. ;)
  4. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Intergalactic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon sofware
    I suggest to also get a small keyboard along the way and learning how to play chords and how they fit into theory/harmony.
  5. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Excellent post OP. I would just like to add to be patient with yourself. Some people, especially the really younger ones, expect to be the next iconic bassist over night, and sometimes give up in frustration if this does not happen soon enough. The learning process is for life, so take it in small steps and above all enjoy it !! :bassist:
  6. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Thanks all.

    -Stratovani, you can learn so much in a year of focussed practising. I don't believe that age can hold you back (and I'm getting old enough to be an authority!)
    My bottom line is, you'll never know how great it is to be able to "hear" and to read and do the things a musician does, until you dig in and take it on. It's like being able to fly or having super strength, but you get it by having a good teacher and good practise habits. Go for it!

    -Stumbo, absolutely. A little $100 Casio or Yamaha keyboard will help immensely.
  7. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    Im so glad there was no internet or TB back when I started. That, and being a broke teenager helped me focus on technique. It wasnt until I started coming to TB 4 years ago that I learned anything about gear. I could play pretty well but couldnt tell you anything about gear. So, I agree beginners shouldnt focus too much on gear.
    Dark Red Moon likes this.
  8. Trayster2


    Aug 13, 2012
    This is absolutely the BEST advice I've read. I've been browsing over bass guitars for a couple of months when I already have one that feels just fine.
    Thank YOU!!!
  9. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    As my friend Andy McRory said, "more Mel Bay, less E-bay!"

    GastonD likes this.
  10. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    It's all very good advice for noobs - and even for some not-such-noobs anymore... :smug:

    I would add just one caveat: While it isn't necessary by any means to buy an expensive, boutique instrument, neither should you buy one that's so cheap that it is difficult to play, or simply doesn't sound very good.

    There are various definitions of "working" bass, I suppose. Mine would be: "significantly better than merely functional". It's a musical instrument, after all. Don't cheap out too much. It should at least sound good to you, as well as be relatively easy to play. For one thing, it can be very, very difficult for a beginner to maintain motivation with an instrument that doesn't yield very much immediate reward for playing it. :meh:

    Fortunately, there are LOTS of good to very good instruments (relatively speaking) available these days in the entry-level to intermediate value category. Check out such brands as Squier, Fernandes, Dean, Ibanez, Schecter, ESP and Washburn - just for starters.

    Polfuste likes this.
  11. You'll need an amp.

    One big enough to jam with a drummer. Don't need 1000w, but a few hundred comes in handy.

    There's a big gap in instruments between cheap rubbish and "entry level". Entry level with a good set-up can easily become gig ready. I've only ever owned one bass. A lower end Yamaha. It has served me well for 20 years......nothing better than:

    "Man, that bass tone is awsome, what sort of bass is that?"

    "$300 Yamaha with 15 year old strings, the rest is me."
    Dark Red Moon likes this.
  12. Nary were truer words written.
  13. rickl289


    Jun 17, 2009
    minnetonka, mn
    I've been playing for 3 years and over 50. When I started I borrowed a bass until I bought a $65 Squier from my teacher. set up is critical. Plus he looks at it once a month to see if it needs any adjustment.

    I try to write out everything I'm working on and bring home the church bulletin to practice my sight reading. I also play along to the radio (find a blues radio station on iTunes and try to nail it before the song ends).

    I have a mixer connected to my computer and with headphones it really doesn't bother anyone.

    Joining a band probably raised my 'game' more than anything else. I still can't believe guys playing for 20+ years wanted me to play bass.
  14. Raw Amateur

    Raw Amateur

    Feb 9, 2011
    Approaching my second year of playing this December. In my first year, I did one thing right and one thing wrong. After a few months of playing, I realized this was something I was gonna do for a long while, probably to the grave. So I tried out and bought a nice bass to replace my less than 100 buck starter Ibanez, and a decent combo amp.

    Then I did something wrong. I love classic rock and got into my head that a vintage tube amp would be great. When a V4 full stack came on craigslist I went for it. Dumb. Spent more time trying to get it to sound good, going through multiple techs etc. Eventually sold the gear at a loss.

    My second year, the only things I've focused on are books and lessons. I have bought some software too to help me record and also jam but its a slippery slope. If I find myself spending more time trying to figure out how to work a program than playing my bass, I push back away from it.

    Great advice. But man it is still fun looking at gear tho :D
    Dark Red Moon likes this.
  15. I find new gear every once in a while doesn't harm anyone. In fact, I often feel motivated to play by some new piece of gear! But your rig shouldn't be the defining feature of your music. Rather, it should assist in presentation to others.

    In that respect, I dig a lot of old records more than the stuff coming out nowadays. Sure, some of the bands sound so slick and those old geezers sound so fuzzed out, but when I listen to the music, I know what I like.

    - Jimmy Rage
  16. Very good advice OP!
  17. Man, you just blew my mind. Great post.
  18. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    I keep the thought of new gear as a reward for getting better.

    The best thing I did in my first year was getting a decent litte amp -- a Roland Bass Cube-- otherwise the sound I was making was pretty thin and not very encouraging. Came at a cost, but I'll never complain -- some things are worth what you pay for them.
    The biggest clue was I sounded much better under headphones than I did out the speaker. Now when I try and sound like I know what I'm doing I don't have the excuse of a weak sister amp.
  19. Trayster2


    Aug 13, 2012
    I know. I am going to print it & hang it on the wall! I also loved JTE's "more Mel Bay, less eBay."
  20. Jim2100


    Jan 16, 2014
    Gary, In.
    This is my first post.
    I want to say that I have to copy this and save it as a road map in my journey to learn to play my new, yet to receive Kala U-Bass. right now I too am trying to find an amp to learn with. So again I am open to suggestions.