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Help for Classical Musician Wanting to Get Down

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by PortlandBass, Aug 23, 2007.


  1. PortlandBass

    PortlandBass

    Aug 6, 2007
    I need some guidance about how to become a useful bass player that people want to play with. I have a classical music background (trombone, recorder, lots of choir singing), so I read well and have some idea how to practice to develop technical proficiency, particularly if the music is written! I've been practicing steadily for about a year and a half. I'm doing lots of scales and (slowly) working through the Standin' in the Shadow of Motown Jamerson transcriptions and playing along with lots of Arethra Franklin and Duck Dunne tunes.

    From reading posts here, though, it seems what matters most to being a valuable bass player is rock-solid rythem and being able to develop a bass line on the fly, more than being able to throw off fast sixteenth notes. I don't have a good fix on learning these skills, and I don't have the chance to play regularly with others, and have no opportunities to play the soul I am learning.

    What should be my practice priorities to become a useful bass player? I'm starting to practice with a metronome, but I'd appreciate any other feedback.
     
  2. well, to answer the question more properly, you might want to include what kind of music yu are looking to play.

    you said that it seems holding a rhythm and making up a line on the fly are more important than pumping 16th notes, and this totally depends on the music. holding the rhythm is always the most important thing, but for improvising and pumping 16th notes, that depends on the music.
    for punk, rock, and metal, you are more likely to be pumping out the root notes, and less likely to be in a situation where you would have to improvise. this is not to say you cant improvise in these genres, just that it is less common than say, in jazz, where your bass line is almost always improvised over a set of chord changes.

    keep playing with that 'nome, it is a surefire way to get yourself solid rhythm. if you are looking to improvise, i would start learing some theory. i believe there is a sticky in this forum with a bunch of links to theory websites.
     
  3. tswd

    tswd

    Jun 20, 2007
    It completely depends on your style of music. I've played in rock and country bands and I've never been expected to improvise. Every now and then we'd do a jam session, but then all they want me to do is keep the rhythm and hit the chord changes at the right time.

    With the band I'm in now, I only play the root notes when I first learn a song. Then I go off on my own to write a bass line once I know the changes.

    Jazz is probably different. I don't play jazz, and don't particularly care to listen to it, so I don't really know.

    The reading thing also depends on the music style. Most rock players can't read music. If they can, their idea of reading music is following a chord chart. Unless it's a cover band, they won't have bass lines written for you, anyway. So, reading music isn't really a necessary skill. It won't hurt, but it's not near the top of the list of things to know how to do.
     
  4. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Cincinnati
    I totally know where you are coming from. I'm a classically trained brass player, undergrad degree in trumpet, graduate in french horn.

    All the things you learned as a classical player are still important, attack, intonation, tone, pitch color, volume, accent and ensemble togetherness etc. etc. etc. But, as a bass player you are also very much required to set the style of a piece, which basically comes down to when the note is played and length of note, and these elements will change as per the style of the music you are playing. Listen to the way Paul McCartney handles eighth notes and compare that with Ray Brown. Very different. Most classical players will put their notes right on the beat. That's a good thing for a lot of styles, but not all. In jazz, depending on the tempo you may feel better putting the notes a tad in front of the beat... but in blues, they are better a little behind the beat, not late... just on the 'back part of the downbeat'.

    I'm sure some folks here will differ with some of the things I've said here, but the bottom line is that you will need to listen to music a little differently that you have in the past, you'll need to try to pay more attention to the feel of the music. "Rock Solid Rhythm" is of course the backbone of great bass playing, but that doesn't always mean right on the beat, it means putting the note where it belongs to convey the style of the music. There are tons of books that claim to show this, and some of them have some good pointers, but nothing takes the place of listening to great performances in the style you want to play in, and then playing with players who can play with (and in) style.

    Good luck, its a great and wonderful journey.
     
  5. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    You might try to just play chord charts instead of notated music.

    A jazz fake book can be handy for this, just ignore* the melody and try to create line using roots and fifths, chord arppegios, pentatonic scales, proper scales and chromatic notes.

    My jazz guitarist father once told me "as long as you hit the root note on the down beat, it doesn't matter what you play" Not exactly true, even in a jazz context, but it underscores what is important. Most pop/rock/soul improvised lines are essentially Roots and fifths with crafty ways to connect them. In some case, like Jamerson mind blowingly so.

    Different styles are primarily a matter of rhythmic phrasing. check out the "Bass Bible" by Paul Westwood for a good survey.

    * of course the real goal is to serve the melody, not ignore it
     
  6. spindizzy

    spindizzy

    Apr 12, 2004
    Michigan
    I can only contribute one tip here. Listen to drummers.

    Your training has prepared you to understand the music. If you stick to scales that are common in a particular style of music and remember that the space between notes is a important as the notes themselves you will be on the right track.

    But I think your asking about the groove really. For that you need to get in touch with someone else's foot. The bass drum is your god and should guide you to where the pocket CAN BE FOUND (because there are no hard and fast rules). The snare and other percussion parts are your accents; the parts of the groove that marry you to the drummer.

    This is where you should start as once you understand that most music today derives most of its drive through a combination of the drum AND bass parts. Your musical training ought to kick in about then and the rest will come to you practically without your concentrating on it.

    Spin
     
  7. hunta

    hunta

    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I'd advise to shelve the books and charts for a while and focus on listening and playing by ear. Find some recordings you really dig but don't know how to play, put on repeat, and learn.

    Record yourself (or get a friend) playing some simple chord progressions on piano and try to come up with something to play on top of it. Start easy and go from there.

    Learn to groove. Listen to some really funky stuff and drill it in your brain. Play "Teen Town" or "What is Hip" and listen on repeat until you pass out. Get that sound inside your head!

    Make the sound come from YOU and not from somewhere else (charts, books, conductors). Get a drum machine and jam with it. Just mess around and come up with something! Experiment.
     
  8. Deacon_Blues

    Deacon_Blues

    Feb 11, 2007
    Finland
    Welcome to TB! Saw this was your first post here.

    Good advice so far in the thread. A few more here... :)

    Continue to play along to records. Skip transcriptions/chord charts for a while and play totally on feel; that way you'll learn to build your own bass lines. I assume you know the most important scales already so use them to build the bass lines.

    Play also by yourself jamming to a drum machine or - better for your timing - only a metronome's click. Try setting the metronome to play only on beats 2 and 4 and play over that. This is a very good way to practice your timing and groove. And, it actually grooves more than when the metronome's hitting on all beats. It's not very easy to get into it, but once you're there it's pretty easy. However, if you lose the tempo at some point, your metronome will tell you that instantly before you notice it yourself. Once you lose the feeling where 1 is, you're out... It's a demanding exercise, but worth the challenge it takes to master it.

    Over to the next thing... :) On your list of instruments you play, I see no chord or rhythm instrument. Therefore, I assume you're not that familiar with how various chords sounds (not talking just plain major and minor here, but 7, maj7, m7, 9, m9, 6/9, sus, m7b5, 7#9 etc etc...). You'll need to learn how chord progressions sound in order to know what to play on them and how to "bind" the chords together. Start with a standard 12-bar blues progression and move on towards more advanced progressions as you get better.

    That's enough of TB today for me, it's almost 1 am here now... I wish you good luck with practicing. Also hang around here every once in a while, and you'll learn a lot.
     
  9. PortlandBass

    PortlandBass

    Aug 6, 2007
    Great comments. Thanks to all, and I certainly will lurk around the forums. Time to play.
     
  10. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Hey Portland-

    Your classical background will certainly help you much, and the Standing in the Shadows book is an excellent choice, especially if you are listening to the original recordings as well.

    To break out of your classical roots, however, I have one recommendation.

    Have you tried beer?;)

    See you at the Horsebrass in September.
     

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