Help me! In need of goals!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Chris Gamba, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. Chris Gamba

    Chris Gamba

    Nov 4, 2019
    Im 20 years old. I first picked up bass as my main instrument but was pushed into playing guitar soon after. I am in a band right now and i have recently been displaced from my position on guitar to a new place on bass. I have never played bass with a band before and I think I'm a bit lost on what i should be practicing. We are a jam band with influences like the grateful dead, phish, goose, etc. Please suggest things that i should be learning to get better at improv and improve my bass knowledge. I know my minor and major scales but since I've taken such a long hiatus from bass, I feel like I am just not as sharp as I should be at this point. I just want to get better and improve my playing style. All suggestion are welcome!
    Thank you so much!
    jamro217 likes this.
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Things to practice:
    • 12 major scales and 12 minor scales (sounds like you've already made good progress on this goal)
    • Grateful Dead songs
    • Phish songs
    • Goose songs
    Robscott, Vinny_G, TheReceder and 3 others like this.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I have much the same suggestion as Mushroo above. I would suggest listening to some blues music. Even if it is not your thing, IMO blues is great for getting the feel of how the bass "fits into" the music. Go on Youtube and look up bands/artists such as John Mayall's Blues Breakers...early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green...BB, Albert and Freddy King...Chicken Shack and Buddy Guy. Play along to the songs. As you are now part of the rhythm section, make sure your timing is spot on.
  4. Chris Gamba

    Chris Gamba

    Nov 4, 2019
    THank for the advice! anything more technique oriented?
    jamro217 likes this.
  5. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN
    1. Know your major/minor scales/arpeggios
    2. Know your Modal scales (at least the main ones A Practical Guide to Modes and Scales if you want to go completely nuts, get a Bass Guitar Grimoire)
    3. Use 1 and 2 to practice improv on chord progressions; You can find progressions anywhere or make your own. When I started out, I relied on Real Books and Fake Books for the charts.
    4. Do all of this with a metronome... if you cannot keep good time, none of the rest of it matters
    Vinny_G likes this.
  6. Chris Gamba

    Chris Gamba

    Nov 4, 2019
    Thank you!! I will do this
    fearceol likes this.
  7. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    Excellent suggestion. Blues is also a great platform for working on improv skills.
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  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Not really, no. Learning songs is where it's at (in my opinion).
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  9. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN
    Should have added to my first post... While not really in line with jam bands.... Pick up Standing in the Shadows of Motown by Dr. Licks and start learning some Jamerson lines. Again not obviously applicable. However, if you can get the feel and pick up on what he is doing with his parts (in terms of note progression), you will pick up on a lot that is applicable to pretty much any bass situation.
  10. While your question is simple Chris, the answer can be a bit complicated. I would say to you, don't approach this as a guitar player or a bass player, but as a MUSICIAN. Practicing scales and chords are great for technique. I practice them every day. At Mushroo said, learning songs is where it's at... but you have to approach that the right way too. You have to remember that when you are in a band, the band is ONE UNIT of several musicians. You have to learn to understand your role. And that while you may feel that you've been "displaced" from guitar, they actually displaced you to a role where you have to lead... while you're following. You and the drummer are laying down the framework for everyone else to play inside of. You set the groove. You set the mood. So, yes learn your scales, chords and songs... but learn how the bass sets the character for the tune and everyone else. And at the same time, you have to also get "big ears" so you can play off of everyone else as well. As I said, you have to become bigger than just being a bass player.

    Having said that, one thing that can help (IMO) is, in the process of learning the songs learn the music. The best investment I've ever made is buying the app "Guitar Pro". That will give you access to thousands of free music (files). And what's cool about the Guitar Pro is that you can see all the parts for the band, separately and often as a score. While others have mentioned scales and chords and learning music... nobody asked you if you could read music. While many *get by* without knowing how to read music, imagine how much more versatile, and probably more in demand if these guys could read music. And if you're not a good improviser (like me) being able to read a chart can let you fake your way through, as long as your interpretation can be musical and creative.

    And as part of the above, have you taken the time to understand root progressions and how they are the building blocks of music theory? IMO that is essential to begin to understand bass playing. It will help you with your improvisation, as will chords and scales, especially with old school stuff. The good news is that the essentials come quickly and are pretty easy, especially coming from guitar. The other good news (or bad news if you want to take it that way) is that becoming a well-rounded musician is a life-long process.

    Good luck.
    BOOG likes this.
  11. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    OK it's a jam band and you are new at bass. Let's keep this dirt simple. Follow the chords and play root fives to the beat the songs is asking for.

    That is a simple way of providing a basic rhythm foundation, that should get you asked bask. When roots on the first beat and the five on the third beat get comfortable add the octave for a R-5-8-5 basic bass line. Of course change chords as new chords become active.

    That should get you going and you will pick up more stuff along the way. Stick to chord tones right now. Plenty of time for scale etc. later.

    Happy trails.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  12. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    SF Bay Area
    I played in a jam band (though the term wasn't invented yet) in the Boston area in the first half of the '90s. Got to see Phish, Widespread Panic, Col. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit, etc. in their heyday - it was a fun time to be seeing live music and playing in a band too. Even got to see the Grateful Dead a few times, though long past their heyday!

    I think the advice to learn songs is key. Learn what you can by ear - if you're in a jam band you're going to need to be able to tell what's going on musically as it happens - it may not be written out!

    Technique-wise I would say learn to play with fingers, pick, and slap - Mike Gordon definitely slaps on some stuff, though not sure how much of that stuff you'll be expected to do note-for-note. Eventually you'll decide what technique(s) you like the most, but I think it's best to be as versatile as possible, or at least open to various possibilities. The bass in the Grateful Dead & Phish is a very active, even experimental, voice in their respective bands, though of course you can just play the songs as a "normal" bassist would too.

    This actually works on another level - I believe that James Jamerson was an early influence on Phil Lesh - wasn't he a delivery guy or postman? - and while driving around he was struck by the bass in Motown songs. Phil Lesh strikes me as a very "not normal" bassist - most of the time he doesn't do what a "normal" bassist would, and that's part of his uniqueness as a player.
  13. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    Get into improvisation. There's a ton of backing tracks that you can find on YouTube. Don't be afraid to let your inspiration guide you, it will allow you to learn a lot about yourself and your instrument.
  14. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Get a good teacher. If you're new, you need feedback on what you're doing wrong AND what you're doing right. You don't get that from books, learning songs or youtube videos.
    alarius, dalkowski and ahadl2500 like this.
  15. dalkowski

    dalkowski It's "rout," not "route." Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    You're asking for a lot, and you've been given a lot. All I would add is this:

    In a context such as yours, goals should be achievable, and that may mean you're taking baby steps (wax on, wax off). BUT with tightly defined, achievable goals, you can be successful, feel great, and stay motivated to go on to the next goal. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Also, a big part of setting achievable goals is to only have a couple goals at a time. Too many goals = intimidating, demotivating, unachievable.

    Finally, consider finding a GOOD teacher that you vibe with, who can create a goal-oriented lesson plan to help you get where you want to go, and hip you to matters of theory and technique.

    Best wishes!
  16. Practice rhythm. Look up metronome exercises. Do them all.
  17. ahadl2500

    ahadl2500 Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2003
    Greenwood, IN

    Best thing you can do for any kind of musical instrument performance is take private lessons. You may improve without lessons. You will improve if you commit to lessons and have a decent teacher.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  18. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    If you used to play guitar did you play lead? If so, you can apply much of that to bass in the jam band scene because melodic bass lines are commonplace.

    The advice to start shedding on Dead and Phish tunes is spot on. Also check out the Allman Brothers, esp. live recordings.
    hieronymous likes this.
  19. Jon McBass

    Jon McBass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2017
    South Carolina
    Agree. Obsessively listen to and play along with records and learn your heroes’ bass parts, that’s what worked for me. Repitition until the bass lines were indelibly imprinted in my mind. That and ignoring my high school studies were key.

    I would take the advice above that recommends staring with the blues because it’s simpler, structure-wise, so easier to focus on your basic mechanics, timing, etc. Plus a lot of Greateful Dead and Phish material is just downright complex by comparison, for someone getting started...
    Vinny_G likes this.
  20. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    1) Scales and chords.

    2) Songs by bands in the genre(s) if music you wish to excel at playing.

    I always applaud goals.

    So, for #1 perhaps you could pick a key a week and work it to death. For instance, start with the majors. If your first is C major, practice C major scales from the top.of the fretboard to tue bottom in every position. First position would actually start with open low E and go to C 5th fret on the G string. Then move to 5th fret as your index finger position. That C scale would start at A 5th feet on the E string. Keep moving up and down the board. Do the same with arpeggios and chords.

    For #2, maybe pick two or three songs a week to learn. Start by learning them note for note (excellent ear training). Then later in the week, turn the bass way down in the EQ and just "jam along" with the song adding your own influences sort of "in the style of" the recording.... applying knowledge you have picked up from #1.
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