Gigging Bassist & His Insecurities Run Wild

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by sleepypunk1111, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. sleepypunk1111


    Dec 26, 2009
    So here's the deal,

    I've been a gigging bassist in the Chicago cover band scene for the last 5 years. Despite learning an impressive repitoire, I still feel like I'm always the weakest link musically on stage.

    My knowledge of theory is very basic and never employed in my playing, all I know how to do is read tab or mimic from watching lesson videos on youtube. Because of this, learning new songs is a nightmare for me, to the point where I usually need to hire someone to spoonfeed me the material.

    On top of that, I think my technique is off because my pickhand tends to hurt after 2 songs and by the end of the night, my fretting hand can't even stay in position/get around on fills.

    When I'm on stage playing the songs that I do happen to know really well, I can get bold and move around a bit but I still have problem with eye contact with the audience. When I see pics of me playing it just looks like I'm super hunched over and just awkward looking. I grew up idolizing bass players like Duff McKagan, Mark Hoppus, Mike Dirnt, Jason Black, Matt Freeman, and everyone else who makes their presence known and I feel like I'm just taking up space.

    My last complaint is that no matter how much money I spend on gear, I still think that I sound like crap. Whenever I try someone elses rig, it feels full of life. But mine just always sounds like a Fender Rumble 15, despite having an Ampeg SVT3 while using SX Basses with Seymor Duncans in the P position.

    I just dont know what else I can do, I dont want to quit but I dont want to keep feeling like a failure.
  2. Shawn Cav

    Shawn Cav Guest

    Id say get the foundations of playing down first. technique with BOTH hands. a basic understanding of the fretboard and where to find notes or tones you are looking for. you must first build a foundation before building a house. same thing goes for musical ability.

    as for stage presence. practice practice practice. you have to be comfortable with what your playing which bring you back to my first point.

    finally your complaint about gear... the grass is always greener. be happy with what you have and that envious ear will go away.
  3. Steveman


    Jun 25, 2010
    Take some lessons with a good teacher with helping you become a more efficient musician (not just bass player). Having proper technique, a good ear, and a solid understanding of music theory makes learning new tunes a much easier process.

    As far as being on stage goes, it's all about body language. Be confident in what you're playing, that will help your stage presence.

    As far as your tone / rig goes, I honestly can't say anything without actually being there to try your stuff.
  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    I'll touch on this later.

    What kind of sheet music does the director give out to the guys on the new stuff you are to play? Normally cover bands work from fake chord. I've never had anyone hand me bass tabs on our new stuff. I bet the other guys play from fake chord. See the chord and then play root on one. Need more throw in a 5, still need more the 3 and 7 normally work. I love 8's and 6's. Playing from fake chord is a piece of cake.

    With out seeing what you do I'm not qualified to speak about this.

    Way back in the 70-80's I taught the Dale Carnegie public speaking cource. The whole concept was base around if you are afraid to speak in public, go speak in public until it becomes fun. Do the thing you are afraid of, in a safe environment, until you are no longer afraid. See yourself being successful and you will become successful. The key to public speaking seemed to lie with; Know 100 times more about the subject you will talk on, than your audience. So -- take some lessons. Be better prepared. That by itself should get your confidence up.

    If you feel like a failure that has to change first. Grab some fake chord sheet music and learn how to play from that. Find a teacher. Keep gigging, celebrate small successes. :hyper:

    Good luck.
  5. The first thing is to put things in perspective...there's so much to learn you won't learn it all in this lifetime. Even your heroes like Duff I'm sure have their insecurities about certain aspects of their playing, be it lack of theory knowledge or whatever. I always look at it as a positive that I will never get bored because there are many lifetimes worth of things to learn and perfect.
    Look at it this way - you are doing something right if you've been getting steady gig work for 5 years! If you sucked that would not be happening. Sure there is always room for improvement, we hit plateaus, etc...Every time I have a good run and start feeling like I'm really kicking butt, I'll see a 12 year old ripping through some Dream Theater on youtube and be humbled all over again. I can either let that be depressing, or inspiring, it's up to me.
  6. sleepypunk1111


    Dec 26, 2009
    Thank you to everyone for your replies

    I currently put out a craigslist ad looking for a teacher. I included very specific criteria of what I need to accomplish.

    When I play live, I think one of my problems is that my wheels are always turning in my head and I'm thinking..."oh man, that song is coming up in 3 songs, am I going to remember the fill in the second verse?" and it prevents me from looking like I'm having fun. Some people quiet their neuroses with alcohol or drugs but I'm not really into that at all.

    For some reason I think that having the "best gear" fixes everything, and I know that it isnt true but I keep buying stuff anyways. I honestly don't think my tone sounds any different now then it did with playing through a Kustom 200hd.
  7. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    So, you've been gigging for 5 years and presumably playing bass for longer than that, yet you don't seem to have a good ear or "chops". Frankly, I am very surprised. You must be doing something right. What is it? Focus on that.
  8. sleepypunk1111


    Dec 26, 2009
    When you put it like that, I wonder myself how I have survived this long.
  9. jbalou02


    Mar 8, 2010
    Whats a pickhand?

    It doesn't matter how you get there if you're there. Learn how you learn.

    Do other people tell you you suck or keep hiring you? Sounds like they keep hiring you.

    Buck up junior...stop beating yourself up. Damn if there aren't enough dagger eyes across the stage towards the bass player from the primadonna's already.

    Feel good in your grey matter and you will start to sound good in your ear hole.
  10. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Join a punk band.
  11. Mark Nye

    Mark Nye

    Sep 18, 2012
    Columbus, OH
    If you're not satisfied with your skill level, take lessons and practice. I mean, what else can you do, really? I've been pro/semi-pro for 15 years, and every time I pick up a bass, I feel like there are things I can do better. The minute I'm 100% satisfied with my playing is the minute I quit.

    As for tone, well, good luck EVER being satisfied with that. I'm pretty sure The Quest (TM) for the perfect tone/rig is what keeps TB on the web.
  12. First of all, there is so much more to being a musician than chops/theory/gear: it is also about showing up on time, making your bandmates sound good, maintaining a cooperative attitude, keeping sober, having reliable transportation, etc. Obviously you are doing something right, because you are getting the gigs. So take a moment to make inventory of the positive things you have going for you; you will feel better about yourself. :)

    Second, it sounds like you need a teacher, so I think it's great you are finding one, I think it will really help with your hand pain and so forth. If you were my student, my advice would be to spend at least 51% of each practice session learning your favorite songs by ear, to improve your theory and rekindle your enthusiasm for music.

    Third, regarding the gear/tone question, that's a tough one. What I've had to learn through the years is to completely let go of it and not worry about it when I'm on stage. It is the sound guy's responsibility at that point and all I can do is execute my performance. I find I get the most compliments on my tone when I give the sound guy a simple "vanilla" formula (such as a Fender-style bass through a DI box or mic'd Ampeg) that he has dealt with 1,000 times before and knows exactly what to do with. When I am practicing at home I set the amp flat and explore the tonal variations I can get just using my hands. When jamming along with songs I experiment how close I can get to the recorded tone using technique (not gear). For example this is how the "palm mute" technique worked its way into my repertoire; I was hearing the sound a lot, but couldn't seem to duplicate it using EQ, so I asked my teacher to show me the technique in person.
  13. Bodhi


    Jan 21, 2014 have ready been given great advice but here is my story. My band stopped gigging very much just busy with jobs and life so I lost interest and wasn't picking up the bass at home anymore.

    Last year at a gig I noticed I wasn't having fun, couldn't git into it, just didn't sound right. Been playing with these guys for 7 years.

    I realized it was me. I just wasn't practicing and getting better. So I started trying to play every day. Learning songs we don't even play and learning anything I can about bass and music whether it pertained to my band or not.

    Now I can't wait to go to band practice or the next gig.

    On my sound...sometimes it sounds good to me and sometimes it just don't seem right, but I always get complements on the way I sound so it must be fine.