Help with plateauing

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by adamaarts, Sep 24, 2017.

  1. adamaarts


    Apr 19, 2001
    Corona, CA
    Beta tester Source Audio, demos/reviews of many others
    Ive been playing bass for more than 17 years now. I feel like I am way behind in my theory and my improvisation especially in regards to fills and groove.

    I mainly grew up listening and playing hard rock. Nothing fancy musically but taught me timing and energy. I learned a lot of funk and hip hop which helped with altering up my styles.

    So fast forward to today, now I'm playing in the band at a large church. I feel the area I am severely behind where I should be is the fills and general theory. I don't use chord sheets any more as i do it all by ear and memory. Sometimes I'll look at a chart if I get stuck or forget at rehearsal. But performance is memory only.

    I get tons of praise and compliments and I know I am talented and work hard on trying to play the best I can. I have my own little fills I do, but I tend to revert to the same style of just running up and down pentatonics or scales. When I try to recreate some fills on recordings it always intrigues me how they come up with such tasteful and musical ideas. I always try to remember them and use those in other areas, but it's like it just eludes me once I step away.

    So any tips or resources on what to practice? I watch a lot of SBL on YouTube which has been helpful but the more I can learn the better.
    Element Zero and Stumbo like this.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    I suggest learning to sight read, especially for the bass lines that don't get recorded in your musical memory.
    LeeNunn and adamaarts like this.
  3. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    The corollary of this is learn to write/transcribe. When you learn something, write it out in standard notation then you can read it back any time. If you use notation software you can get the software to play back first to mack sure you've transcribed correctly. I find the more I write stuff out the better I remember it, but YMMV on that.
    Sid s, interp, LeeNunn and 2 others like this.
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Even if you are not particularly into jazz, I'd recommend spending a little time learning walking bass lines. They can be used in different types of music. They will open up new ways to view/hear chords.

    A good book to start with would be "Walking Jazz Lines for Bass". For $9.00 you certainly can't go wrong. ;)
  5. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
  6. project_c


    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Sounds like you just need to expand your vocabulary.

    Learn some new licks and phrases from songs you like and apply them to songs you already know. Fitting new phrases to songs you know will involve paying attention to the chords and allow you to understand the context, and make sense of the notes you're playing.

    Youtube lessons will only give you guidance, you have to practice that stuff and apply it to get it into your playing. I also rely on memory more than reading and I notice most progression when I work on expanding my vocabulary. Transcribe some new licks and fit them into your favourite songs.
    DavC, interp and adamaarts like this.
  7. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Identify an area you are weak in and target it. You say you are weak in theory? Focus most your energy toward learning that.

    Plateaus happen when practice starts becoming routine. You can either stay the course or give your brain something completely new to chew on.
    adamaarts likes this.
  8. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I am in a similar situation, except I'm between bands and completely out of new ideas, so I am not even in a plateau... I'm in a rut.
    adamaarts and Lobster11 like this.
  9. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Any good bass instructors in the Corona area?
    adamaarts and InhumanResource like this.
  10. oren


    Aug 7, 2007
    Salem, OR
    The best advice I heard recently is instead of trying to learn a bunch of new things, learn one new thing (lick, pattern, scale, whatever), figure it out in all keys and in multiple shapes on the neck, and then use it everywhere in your practicing and playing for a while, until it becomes a regular part of your vocabulary. Then move on to the next one.

    I heard Michael Brecker on a video say that it took three months from the time he started practicing something until it showed up in his playing. If it took Michael Brecker three months, I figure it’s ok for it to take six months for mere mortals like me. Keep at it!
    jdarctic, tonym, bfields and 2 others like this.
  11. Shishka Bob

    Shishka Bob

    May 28, 2017
    You might be right where you need to be, you know. Let God use you.
    adamaarts likes this.
  12. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    When I get-stuck. I tend to try playing in a different position. Sometimes just playing from a different string makes all the difference. YMMV
  13. Skeptismo


    Sep 5, 2011
    In my experience, for a plateau breakthrough one needs to be ready to put work in. I think one must listen to and learn music that they wouldn't naturally just go for, in order to open their mind to harmony and melody. Discipline is key to practice...instead of making micro-improvements on things one knows well, one must take on skills that one doesn't have at all, in order to make big jumps in skill. So, I really agree with those who are encouraging you to take on the skills of reading music and transcribing.

    Some things you might think about right now in your playing though: When you play by memory, do you think in terms of the bigger harmony as you play? Ex. when you play over a Gmaj7, are you thinking of Gmaj7, or are you just thinking G? You might get your charts back and experiment a bit with finding different harmonic approaches if that is the case. Do you approach each song as a learned unit when you play? It can be all too easy to lose focus and play on autopilot once a tune is really internalized. It's like driving home along the same route every single day, you find yourself taking the same path without even noticing how you got there. Maybe try in practice to play some of your stock tunes in a different genre. Convert a hymn into a reggae groove, or a contemporary worship song into ragtime. Sometimes even just doing mashups or medleys can help break out of that autopilot mentality.

    Best of luck to you!
    Nashrakh likes this.
  14. I'm not going to talk to plateau breaking, but instead how to play Church music. Gospel or Praise? If Praise from what you have told us IMO you need to cut back not expand your bass line.

    Praise will use 6 or 7 of the available chords in a song, and the changes come quickly. So roots to the beat is what normally works best. Pentatonic runs are way too much. Our place in Praise is to call attention to the root, lock with the drummer's kick drum and fall into a groove. Or leave the rhythm to the drummer and accent the lyric message with well placed root notes that help add to the message being sung. This works with slow ballad type songs, i.e. if the drummer brings out his brushes, one root at every chord change and then nothing more till the next chord change works with what we do on the slow ballad songs.

    The song dictates what bass line is needed. Sometime that is straight 8's to the bar. Other time it is just one bass note at the chord change and nothing else till the next chord change. The message is the important thing and what we do should help with that - not get in the way.

    You've got 6 to 7 new songs each week. I bet the director hands out fake chord sheet music on them to everyone. I suggest you play from that. If all members of the band are playing from the same sheet music good things happen. If we are all working with the same chord it makes it easier for the vocalist and rhythm guitar. Yes there are places where a well placed run will add value - if the guitar has not got this covered already... Your talent can be used in Praise, if it does not get in the way of the message. There is a fine line we need to stay on..... For now I recommend you scale back, get used to the band and the type of music they play, then start thinking about fills and runs.

    Yes I got bored and started looking for places to add "stuff" till I realized "stuff" was not needed, in Praise, from the bass. The keyboard, guitar and vocals take care of the "stuff" we need to provide the basic foundation for them to play Their "stuff" over.

    So. if it is Praise, IMO you need to cut back. If it is Gospel, that's more like jazz and another story. If Gospel, visit your local black church and listen to what they do. Our local black church's musicians will, near the end of the sermon, drift back on stage and augment the preacher's message with improv jazz type accompaniment. Now it's here your playing by ear could be well used.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
    bertthebassist and packhowitzer like this.
  15. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Shoals Indiana
    I have found that I have learned more watching some of the killer bass players on YouTube. I find that watching a player play gives me an insight on how they come up with their bass lines.
    adamaarts likes this.
  16. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    This is the answer. It's time to find a teacher.
    drdunwoody and Phyzzbin like this.
  17. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    IME the plateau happens when you have been trying to move on by, for example exploring new ideas or techniques, learning a new style or approach, getting to grips with a new tune or set list. You feel like you should be improving but you don't see the improvement or change. This goes on for a while and nothing appears to change. You have reached the plateau. Then, without warning, you realise that you have made a leap. Perhaps the new stuff is suddenly assimilated into your style. Perhaps the new concepts or techniques cross over into the old tunes which start to sound somehow different or 'better'.
    My point is that sometimes you feel like you are getting nowhere but in reality all you are doing is waiting for your fingers to catch up with your ears...
    Stumbo likes this.
  18. CryingBass

    CryingBass Ours' is the only Reality of Consequence Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    Could it be that you need some "motivation stimulation"? It sounds like you have a lot of talent already.
    I know that throughout my life if I don't occasionally stumble upon some newfound motivation it is easy to peak at skills. All kinds of skills :) Best of luck, and hang in there.
    adamaarts likes this.
  19. DavC


    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    music is a language = learn some more words

    plateau = road block = change direction , go around , go over , etc ...

    i started learning other instruments lines/licks ... wanna be more melodic , learn some sax or horn lines /licks

    all the licks we lock away in our memory banks, get mix up and turned into our own 'style' ..!!
    SteveCS, Davbassdude and adamaarts like this.
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Sep 21, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.