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Got some real beginner questions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Dave Metts, Dec 29, 2000.

  1. Ok, here's the deal. I've had a bass and amp for almost 3 years now, and I've really not progressed as a player at all. That's probably because I've done nothing but play parts of tabs from pre-existing songs. My goal is to get to the point where I can just pick up a bass and play something that sounds decent. Now the catch. What would you suggest I do to get to this level without taking lessons?

    I'm a college student so I don't really have the time or money for lessons. That and I feel a bit old (almost 19) to be just starting on lessons. So what are your suggestions for learning to play well and training my ear to pick up basslines from songs? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...I'm 42 & have been playing electric bass for 28 years & IF I could find a REAL teacher in this God-forsaken area, I'd go for it! Age is irrelevant...Steve Khan didn't begin playing the guitar until he was, like, your age(& in 5 years, he was a member of the Brecker Brothers Band).

    If you're finding music a "difficult" endeavor, then join the club. IT DOES TAKE A LOTTA COMMITMENT, DISCIPLINE, & DESIRE. Can you read music &/or rhythmic notation?
  3. Thanks for the replies. I think that right now the main problem is the time and money strains. I really don't have the time or money for lessons. As far as taking music classes through the university, that won't work as I'm a computer science major. All of my time for classes must be put into things that directly pertain to my major.

    I've been thinking that my only real option at this point is to sell off all my gear since it won't get much use where it is now, so I may just have to do that. It's something I started as a hobby, but I just don't have the time or the drive to do anything more with it I guess. Regardless, thanks again.
  4. blackwell68


    Dec 19, 2000
    HELL I'm 32 and looking to take lessons. All I can imagine is some kid tring to talk abouth the classic bands of the early 90's.
    swallow your pride. for me it was easy, I don't have any.
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Dav5id heX: I was almost forty nine when I bought my first bass guitar and took my class. You feel too old at nineteen to take classes. I went to a school where I was older than any of the teachers and older than the music school's owner! That didn't didn't stop me. One bass teacher teacher I had, told me he had a woamn in her late seventies just learning to play guitar. A salesman in a Florida mall piano and organ store told me the average age of thier students is mid-seventies! SO there is no need to feel that you are too old to take classes.

    However, you mention you don't have time for classes. If you don't have time for bass classes, how will you have time for practicing on your bass? Actual classes take up far less time than the woodshedding you must do by yourself to be proficient.

    As you are studying computer work, maybe you just need to postpone your bass studies until you have the time you need, but don't sell your gear if you don't have to.

    However, one teacher did tell me that fifteen minutes of practice eevery day is better than several hours once a week. If you can set aside fifteen minutes a day, in two or three years , you will be surprised at the progress you
    have made.

    Jason Oldsted
  6. After doing some thinking, I think it's more that I don't know if I've got the time I need to practice. About what kind of time commitment am I looking at for classes and significant practice each day? If I'm going to get started on this I want to stick with it and make some progress, so I want to know what I'm getting into time-wise. Thank you everyone that's replied.

    (Also, bonus point to anybody that knows where the first part of my nick comes from: the Da5id part)
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I can identify with this and have been in the position where I've had time constraints and have also felt a bit embarassed about going to a teacher and starting from scratch again after many years of playing semi-professionally with no formal training.

    My approach was to grab as many good instructional books as I could that weren't aimed at absolute beginners. I think the most useful were by Ed Friedland and Gary Willis, videos can also be useful - like the ones by John Patitucci.

    But I think the thing that has always motivated me most to learn is playing with other people. If you have got to provide the bass support to a group - no matter what type, this motivates you to keep going and practice the songs you are going to have to play. This gives you a focus and purpose to your practice and stops it just becoming a dry, formal process with no end in sight.

    I think that once you have learned as much as you can from books/videos and playing with others, then you will probably feel readier to ask a teacher for help and advice - you will know what it is that you want to learn and will actually be able to get something out of this, even if it's only an hour every so often.

    I do agree with the advice about starting off with a teacher, but I think that you can be in the position where you are apprehensive about what is expected and what to ask, but having read through a few books you can get an idea of the sort of things that are involved and this might help.
  8. I'm 33. I tried the self-taught route for about a year back in 1990. Actually, with the right book, you CAN achieve some limited success. I used Modern Electric Bass, by Joseph Lilore. I made real solid progress, till page 34 came....scales! Then, the questions came up in my mind...what is a scale? Why do you need 'em? What are the rules behind them? Why this why that....That was where I hit my wall with the instrument.

    Got married in '92, sold my unplayed gear off, fell away for several years to start a family.

    November of 1999: I watched Yes's House of Blues concert on DirectTv, and Chris Squire singlehandedly got me back into playing again. A few weeks later, went to GC and picked up my Rick 4001V63, and started clanking around with my old books again. Then I remembered that books alone weren't getting it done for me. So, I found this GREAT bass teacher in my area (who I am still with), Randy. This dude is AMAZING, and an excellent teacher who teaches at YOUR pace to your particular requirements. If you are a pro who's looking to get better and earn a living at the instrument, he'll push you like a drill sergeant. In my case, I'm a hobbyist who wants to take it slower and really learn the instrument so I can get the most out of it. I learned more from him in two lessons than I learned on my own for those several months I was hacking away alone in 1990! With what I have learned about music from him, I've been able to compose my own music, and play not only bass, but keys and guitar as well. http://www.mp3.com/entrylevel is my website if you would like to hear what just under a year of quality lessons can get you from a relative starting point of nearly ground zero in Dec. of 1999.

    Also, here is a page from Randy's site about his philosophies on bass instruction...VERY enlightening reading for ANYONE: http://ww2.integrityol.com/bassbeautician/Philosophy.htm

    Sorry for the longwindidness, here guys :) Just had a lot to say on this point, and I can't stress enough how much ANYONE can benefit from a good instructor; irregardless of playing level and experience.
  9. jazzbass1


    Dec 2, 2000
    Even if you sit in front of the TV and practice playing along with it for 15 minutes that's better than giving up altogether. Time can be made if one wants to make it. Sounds like maybe your heart may not be in it.

  10. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I'm with Bruce on at least one point: find someone to play with. A guitar player who shares your musical tastes is a good place to start. Little has motivated me as much in my musical education as playing with others has.

  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    To Da5id: I have no idea where your name comes from, so I'm showing my ignorance completely. You have me baffled, for sure.

    Now, in answer to your question about time needed for bass classes and private practice. A class usually lasts half an hour or an hour. While many students go once a week, some go less and some go more depending on their free time and the size of their wallet.

    As for personal practice, someone told me fifteen minutes every day is better than several hours on the weekend. I think that is because you learn faster with regular repetition. If you play only on weekends, you may forget a lot or take longer to train your fingers between sessions.

    Even if all you do with your fifteen minutes is attempt tp lay along with a favorite CD, you will make progress. If you can occassionally squeeze in a longer session of half an hour or an hour, all the better. And, yes, playing with a guitarist, pianist or drummer is both fun, helpful and motivating.

    Lastly, please don't sell your bass equipment. Honestly, I believe you will regret it if you do and it will be much harder to go out and buy it all again if you wait several years. I wish you luck and hope you can find some time to learn the bass guitar. There is no hurry. Take your time.

    Jason Oldsted

  12. Ok, so i'm the youngest then to post in here? *ducks the tomatoes* In all honesty, and this is just my opinion, if you were really keen on playing, then you would make time. Even when i was doing my final exams for school i still took my regular time to practice for one hour. Why? because i really wanted to. Not that you have to practice for an hour, but instead of say watching tv between study breaks or what not, play the bass.

    Guess it all depends on how much you really want to make a go of it. Afterall, not many people can just buy and instrument and then they know how to play it the minute they get it home.... Although Eric would disagree?? :p

  13. Oh my....so many responses.

    Thanks everyone that posted under this thread. All of your responses have been really helpful. I'll probably start looking around for a teacher when I get back on campus. Either that or I'll wait until summer. I'm definitely feeling motivated to at least play some more.

    Speaking of which, I was playing a little earlier today and I broke a string (G) for the second time inside of about 6 months. Am I doing something wrong? I happened while I was playing the same song I played the last time it snapped ("Antipop" by Primus). I guess it's kinda ironic that I pop a string while playing a popped note in a song called "Antipop." Fairly amusing. Since tomorrow is New Year's Eve I hafta wait until Monday to get new strings... what a bummer.

    On another topic: If I decide to wait until summer to begin formal lessons, do you have any suggestions for books that might be good for a beginner? I want to re-learn everything from the ground up, maybe lose some bad habits. Thanks again and everyone have a happy new year.
  14. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Sorry about that G-string. If you were popping, maybe you pull the string too far from the fretboard or maybe you have a problem at the bridge or some other problem with your bass. That is the sort of thing a good teacher could help you with, as they could tell if the problem is faulty technique, faulty strings or faulty equipment.

    Anyhoo, your idea to buy a book for study until you have time for a teacher is an excellent way to use your time. You don't say if your interest is only technique or whether you are interested in theory and "reading" skills as well.

    If you want to learn scales, modes and chords inside out, you might like "The Bass Grimoire" by Adam Cadmon; Carl Fischer Publishing, 1996. The author says while it is "essentially designed for the intermediate and advanced player, this book will lay an excellent foundation for the beginner."

    Check bassbooks.com or amazon.com for current price and availability.

    There are many other excellent beginner books, but I think the best ones are the ones that come with a CD so you can hear exactly how examples are supposed to sound. This is especially helpful if you do not read music.

    Jason Oldsted
  15. FuturePrimitive

    FuturePrimitive Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2000
    Rochester, NY
    You can find the time. I started bass this past semeseter and found time to practice 3-5 times a week while working full time and taking 10 credit-hours at school (I'm also a CS major). It's all a matter of priorities. Just ask my wife! :D

    Another thing to consider is take lessons during the summer only and just practice at your own pace during school. What I've found works for me is when (and if) I watch TV, I pick up the bass, put on the headphones and play. I'm more interested in playing than what's on TV anyway. The headphones are for my wifes benefit, she's more interested in what's on TV than what I'm playing. ;)
  16. 311 fan

    311 fan

    Sep 24, 2000
    La Verne, CA
    If youre looking for a great bass book to learn off of for now, get Bass Fitness: An Exersizing handbook by Josquin Des Pres. The only thing in the book is a bunch of Notes to play. Trust me, it will help youre fingers paying. Its got tab and the real notes stacked on each other, so you will have no trouble eading or playing. It goes from easy to a bit harder. At least check it out. I bought it at Guitar Center, but Im sure you can find it anywhere. Good luck!
  17. EdgarHons


    Oct 14, 2000
    << (Also, bonus point to anybody that knows where the first part of my nick comes from: the Da5id part) >>

    There's no set time to play bass, don't make it a chore. People don't like having to do stuff, they like having stuff to do. Keep your bass, you'll regret selling it later. Don't set quotas for anything you don't have to, that way you can't fail, but you can still progress.

    By the way, I'm guessing because in Roman Numerals, V is 5 you just put a 5 instead of V.

  18. Well,you are not old...not at 19 anyhow! LOL Wait until you hit the big 3-9 like me!! I realize that your school has to come first so if you can`t take lessons that is the way it goes.The very least you can do is remain stagnant..that is keep up with what you can do.Hell that is more than most ppl can do with a musical instrument!Then later on when you are a bit more settled or what have you you can begin the upward climb toward musical perfection again.Just my 2 cents worth...If you can keep the music in your life ,even if it is a minor part,your life will be richer!

    `Nuff said.

  19. I too agree about the teacher part. I've had one for about a year now. I waited for 2 years and was progressing no further. Now I sound very much better than when I didn't take lessons. It helps in nearly all aspects of your musical abilities.

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