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How do I not sound like a guitarist?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by SomewhatHarmles, Sep 26, 2009.

  1. I'm just starting out with bass.

    I'm coming with a background of informal fingerstyle guitar.
    The first couple times that I picked up the bass, it felt really off...like a big Stratocaster...which is not good.

    To me, an instrument has a particular feel to it that's distinct. For instance, a ukulele is not just some small guitar. Likewise, I feel that the bass has a very, very important non-guitar role in generating the pocket.

    I've been listening to a number of bassists to get a feel for the identity of a bass: Flea, Victor Wooten, Thelonius Monk, and tons of Jazz. However, I'm not really sure what "the bass" should sound like. I just know it when it's there. aargh!

    Anyways, I was wondering what you'd recommend to avoid sounding like a guitarist playing a bass.
    I'd also appreciate any favorite non-guitar sounding bassists, or other artists that have a good "bass sense" (do cellists count?).
  2. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
  3. pick up a P bass tune it up walk to the nearest ampeg set eq flat and let her ride
  4. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
    I believe you're asking about how to play bass grooves like a bassist, rather than how to get a "bass tone" vs. a "guitar tone", right?

    The best thing you can do to get that groove under your fingers, is to pick 1-2 tunes from the bassists your listening to (Wooten is great...), preferably tunes with simple, strong lines, and transcribe them.

    As far as other bass guitarists who don't sound like guitarists... there are tons. My personal favorites are Jaco Pastorius, Steve Swallow (check out John Scofield's "En Route" album), Jimmy Haslip of the Yellowjackets, Nathan East, James Jamerson, Jeff Berlin, Marcus Miller, and many others...

    If you are indeed looking for a "bass tone", I suggest putting flatwound strings on your bass.
  5. For me playing a fretless as my first bass stopped me from "playing guitar on bass."
    Fretless made me think of the instrument differently, and made me think of the role of the bass in music.
    BTW, Monk played piano.
  6. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Lock with the kick drum - think rhythmically rather than melodically. (Melody can work its way back in, but for starters, moving more into rhythm than melody will help).
  7. While I don't feel I've been playing long enough to start doling out advice, I have had a bit of an instrument identity crisis when I first started playing bass in a band.

    A couple of weeks ago I bought Jeff Beck's album, Blow by Blow, and let me tell you, no other album has inspired me more. The bass playing was so present, so powerful, yet so simple. Phil Chen is my new god. His bass lines on that album have such a groove, and really help carry along the song, without sonically stepping on any other instruments toes. Truly a masterpiece if I've ever heard one. I've spent the last few days trying to learn the album and with each lick I learn comes a new found appreciation for my instrument. If you haven't heard this album I strongly recommend it taking a listen.

    Don't get me wrong, I love listening to Victor or Marcus or Jaco tear up a fingerboard but I doubt that kind of lead playing is the role many of us are trying to fill in an ensemble.
  8. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
    Speaking of Jeff Beck, check out Tal Wilkenfeld, who started on guitar and is now a bass guitarist touring with Beck. She's also played with Chick Corea among others. The girl can groove- I think she's not even 20 years old yet.

    Actually, Wooten, Miller and Jaco are/were always SUPREME groove players, regardless of the number of notes they play. Listen to any of Jaco's versions of The Chicken. That bassline is one long bass solo, but it's all in the pocket. And yes, I would love to play like any of them, any time, all the time. It's what I constantly work towards with my practicing.
  9. lancimouspitt


    Dec 10, 2008
    dayton Ohio

    All the bass players you named are great,but to get a feel for bass I wouldn't soley listen to them.Especialy to start out with.
    Listen to a wide variety of music and just listen to the bass and what it seems to do individually in each style,then listen for what it does in all those styles.
    Listen to country,rock,jazz,blues.
    Whatever music style you can think of.
  10. wittynamehere

    wittynamehere Guest

    May 11, 2009

    As a new player I've been listening to a LOT of 60's and 70's Soul and R&B, which I was never into before, but anything from Stax or Motown in general has a killer groove and the bass sits way forward in the mix. It's like bass porn actually :D
  11. Thanks everyone.

    I was looking into the "great bassist" section, and I found a lot of greats particularly Red Mitchel and Charles Mingus.

    I found a workaround sounding guitaristy...but it looks really dumb.
    I found that if I straddle my bass like a cello and play vertically, that it feels great.
    I also lose the guitar feeling, and can think more bassist-y.

    BTW, I started this thread so that I can get some insight into thinking like a bassist, and not just sounding like one. I can copy something if I hear it and fiddle with it enough, but it'll be fake until I can really "think bass."

    Anyways, thanks for all your comments. I'll be listening to these guys that you've mentioned.
  12. For bass, one big thing that helped me is to look at your drummer's kick drum.

    Try (for a few songs) to only play the root and only when he kicks the bass drum.

    It is a really easy/cheap sounding bass line. But once you really have that down, then you can start thinking harmonic and melodic support.

    Also, one thing that really helped me was to remember that the bass is typically in "charge" of the one beat and the three beat. Nail those two, and you should always be set.
  13. LaklandBass


    Jan 26, 2005
    somedumbguy.... well said.
    The right hand gets input from the drummer and the left hand gets input from the guitarist.
    Also listen to some Red hot chilli peppers. Flea does a great job of laying down a groove that you can easily hear.
  14. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    +1 If you are going to be a WORKING bassist, you gotta be able to groove. I can tap chords, slappity slap, hammer-ons (sp) for days. NONE of that ever got me a gig. But give me a drummer who pays attention as much as I do, and we're going to have some fun.
  15. TrevorOfDoom


    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    most Motown
    Elvis Costello and the Attractions
    Elton John
    The Beatles

    all required listening IMO. cop those lines, and you're set. Motown and Zep for the Groove, the others for how to straddle the rhythm/melody line.
  16. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    Our guitar player plays bass sometimes in another band. Not well, but there are 2 other acoustic guitars, so it fits better.

    Anyway, I have been trying to help him get a better "groove". One of the things that he said that he has realized about playing with the drummer is that guitarists tend to play with the snare, and bass players play with the kick.

    If you realize this a fight the old tendency and lock with the kick drum as mentioned above, it will be a lot easier for you.
  17. First, I applaud you for wanting to make the effort.
    Next, I suggest you really listen to some grooving music you like, without playing it yet, and identify exactly why it grooves so hard. Really pay attention to what each instrument does, and when. Realize it isn't ALL on the bass and drums to make the groove happen. Teamwork.
    Often, less is more, and the when is often more important than the what.
    For some really great examples of this, check out some Average White Band.
    And don't be afraid to use a pick if you want to:
  18. Flatwound strings are great if it's tone you're talking about. www.webstrings.com is a good place, or D'Addario Chromes. That is a good first step.
  19. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    What kind of picking method are you using? If you want to "groove" and sit in the pocket rthmycally (f**k spelling that word), I would recomend using a different picking method than the one you're probably using that is similar to guitar fingerpicking. Go the two-finger method and stay there, at least while you are just starting out. Eventually, if that's what you like, you can branch out into four-finger flying popping and slapping palm muted finger frenzy, but to start off with, you really want to keep it simple. Personally, I've been playing for almost 7 years and I've never had the slightest inclination to step out of the pocket or use my pinky finger, but that's just me.

    Watch some video of old school dudes, every once-in-a-while you get a nice shot of their right hands.
  20. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    The "What Duck Done" book is a great starting point for learning simple, but powerful lines. You may have to be able to read some music, though.

    The John Paul Jones lines (Led Zeppelin) that are easy to pick out are pretty good too.

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