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Guitar player picking up the bass

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by musicalshore, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. musicalshore


    Dec 22, 2012

    I've been playing guitar for about 25 years, not professionally. The past few years I've really put a lot into it, and I began playing fingerstyle blues. This has gotten me obsessed with rhythm. Someone had given me a nineties MIJ P Bass a few years ago, and I've been playing it quite a bit lately. Previously, I could play bass in a pinch, but I would never call myself a bass player, but now, I would like to call myself a bass player.

    Anyone, I'm finding it challenging. Playing guitar, rarely does my hand get tired, but the bass tires my hand out pretty quickly. It's difficult to play in first position without making the bass rattle and/or buzz, and I hate when it rattles and buzzes. Also, fretting with my pinkie requires a lot more control than on the guitar, and I have to stretch further, so that doesn't sound so hot.I record my own music, and it would be really nice to feel competent on a bass (not merely 'adequate').

    Any pointers? How long will it take for my hand to "set"? Yes, I know that is kind of a silly question, but consider that I know what I want to do, I just don't have the physical ability to execute...presuming I play an hour a day, how long before playing the bass stops feeling like an endurance test?
  2. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Interesting post. To be able to offer help, I'd love to see you play, and I'd love to see how the bass is set up.

    You sure your bass doesn't need a nice setup to get that action lower?
    Also, you might want to consider a short scale. You might feel more at home.
  3. Assuming the bass does not play like a baseball bat, do some gigs. The stamina will be there in no time: ):thumbup:
  4. wcoffey81


    Feb 3, 2012
    S/E Michigan
    without knowing what strings are already on it this may not make a difference but.... my hands are still at the wimpy stage and i went to lower gauge strings to lessen the string tension..
    basstrings online had some in the clearance bin so that makes this experiment very affordable
  5. austentaciousC


    Mar 17, 2010
    Having done the same myself years ago, i experienced the same problems. The trick is to have a proper setup done, realizing that basses will buzz alot more when un amplified and the truss rod clearance will be different too.

    What you'll find is the best bass players in the business have a very light touch, and let the amp do the work for them. Playing a shorter scale bass, or one where the first position is closer to you also helps. I would recommend light/medium strings with an 80 and 100 gauge e and a strings, the top two strings arent a problem but the lighter bottom strings will get your touch to lighten up, and will be easier on your left hand while you develop stamina.
  6. musicalshore


    Dec 22, 2012
    the action probably has a lot to do with it. I need to get this set up for sure, but I seem to recall Fender basses being kind of hard to play. Years ago, I used to have a small scale Hagstrom that I found in the trash. I liked it, but that was because I was playing it like a guitar. I guess I just have to keep playing.
  7. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    I would challenge the notion that lighter strings are easier to play.

    I think the keys to easier play are a great setup, and for some, a short scale.

    With a good setup, I don't think lighter strings help. As a matter of fact, I think some would find them Less comfortable because they dig into your fingers more than thicker strings.
  8. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    The beast rattles and buzzes, it's just the nature of the beast. I play with my thumb, like using a pick but with no pick, so I use a palm mute technique to stop some of the sustain the bass strings give. There are several ways to tackle this problem, Google can can point you in a direction. I also like the double bass sound that some foam rubber under the strings at the bridge gives. http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f8/foam-rubber-mutes-398011/ So I use that also to help with the string buzz. A good set-up has been mentioned, it should help.
    Unless you are playing from standard notation you really do not need to be playing in first position and as you know the further up the neck the frets are much more forgiving. I use the major scale box and move it up the neck for the key I need. If you are interested ask, I'll be glad to go into detail.
    An hour a day - should not take long for your fingers to get to know what they are supposed to do. Recommend some scale work to get your fingers used to playing in different locations on the neck.

    Welcome to the bottom end.
  9. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    I've been playing bass for 23 years. The past five of them have been primarily on 6-string. I'm very used to playing the bass and handling big necks. That said, I recently got my first Fender P, and I found myself in pain at first. They really are chunky necks. I like it now that I'm used to it, but it took me a month or so to get comfy.

    I'd give it a few months. If you can't get used to it, you may want to try something with a thinner neck. You mention hearing that "Fender necks are hard to play" but you almost certainly heard that about P-basses in particular. Jazz necks are slimmer.
  10. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    I dunno... a lot of the meat and potatoes bass playing you'll need to be able to do will require that you be able to hit those notes that are only available in first position on the E string.

    If those notes are not required, then I agree with this comment. But I disagree with the idea that you can disregard first position entirely.
  11. musicalshore


    Dec 22, 2012
    I agree with that, the best notes on the bass are on the low string.
  12. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    There's no reason for any decent bass to buzz and rattle in the first position, nor for it to cause undue pain or fatigue. Start with set up. Make sure the nut is cut correctly (and know that almost NO mass market instruments have the nuts cut acceptably, let alone correctly). Then make sure the frets are in good shape, the neck relief is set correctly, the neck pitch at the body is correct, and the action is set for a reasonable action.

    Then make sure your fretting hand technique is good. Thumb down in the back, wrist relaxed, etc. Whatever else folks may say about Carol Kaye, her left hand technique and how she teaches it is spot-on. Go to her website and poke around to see how your left hand should be.

    Then it's just practice. The electric bass is NOT just a big guitar and there are some technique differences you have to be aware of.

    Good luck, and have fun with it!

  13. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    The bass guitar is a real physical beast to control and you can't allow yourself to play it weakly.

    The more time you'll spend on the bass, the better you'll improve. Make sure your bass is well set-up and it might be a good thing the use a lighter strings gauge.
    A short scale bass can be an interesting option for you.

    Also, it might be a good idea also to use 4 fingers for 3 frets in the first position.

    The other thing which is the most important imo, you now have to think like a bass player!

    Good luck