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How important is Technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Edouble, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. Edouble


    Dec 23, 2005
    Hi all,

    After a year of playing, I recently started taking bass lessons and the first thing the instructor changed was the way that I hold the bass, my hand location and plucking technique. None of it seems right and feels quite weird. However, what do I know I'm still new green. Anyway, what's the word on the street? Is their truly only one proper method to holding a bass or do you simply do what feels right when its comes to playing

  2. Tony G

    Tony G

    Jan 20, 2006
    I think it is a combination of technique and feel. If you are just learning, I would take your instructors advice and try learning the way he shows you. Over time you will find out what really works best for you, but proper technique is tried and true, and once you get the hang of it, you will really start to advance I think.
  3. I played with bad technique for a few years (hung my bass really low, etc). I started to get tendonitus (sp?). I changed the way I hold my bass, hands, etc. It helped a ton! And it did improve my playing.
  4. Lewi_wilko


    Mar 24, 2004
    You should listen to your tutor, he is probably very experienced and knows whats best. Plus you will benefit from it in the long run
  5. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    When I receive a new student, the first thing I tell him/her is that the bass guitar has the "problem" that, unlike most "ancient" instruments, there are many opinions about the way you should play it and all of them are valid if they work. This is specially true regarding instrument's height related to the body.

    This isn't really a "problem" when the student is a total newbie. I tell them: "If I tell you that something wrong, it means 'it's wrong according to the way I learned it', but maybe it's OK for a different teacher". The "problem" appears when I receive a new student with good experience playing with a different technique. I remember two students that arrived wearing their instrument really low, and I'm exactly the opposite. The say, for instance, "but Flea wears it like that". And I reply "I know, but I can't teach you to play like that. That's not the way I studied it", so I add "look, I know you already play that way and it may work for you, but let me try to 'sell' you my idea of how the instrument should be played and let's see what happens when the semester ends".

    It worked with one of them but not with the other. Problem is that I'm the only bass teacher working in an university here because I'm the only one who has an university diploma, and what this guy wants is his diploma, so he can't look for a different teacher, as I recommended him (and he's a good, seasoned player). We agreed to try to find and "intermediate point" in which I give him the material, show him how should be played and he tries to make it work with his approach if he can't with mine. It has worked until now, but he's the only of my students that I don't consider like one of my "sons". I know that all of my students who are gigging (but him) have been told things like "it's obvious who's your teacher". That's one of the coolest things of being a teacher and see your students grow.
  6. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    That's the issue, Edouble - You placed yourself under a 'mentoring master'; you should probably give him a chance.

    If you're in-doubt, then you should go see him 'do what he does' playing out as a professional. If you don't like what you hear, then maybe find another teacher. If he doesn't play out, and that's what you're trying to learn to be able to do - then maybe find another teacher...

    You should probably give him a few lessons-worth at least, either-way. I mean when it comes to 'feeling quite wierd'; well that's to be expected with even a small change in technique - and there's always the chance that your present technique really sucks, of course (I mean, from all we know so-far...). When it comes to 'not seeming right'.. well - sort-of the same answer, I guess.

  7. And make sure you play with you're finger tips, this is very inportant you wil sound tons better, then playign with you're finger pads "you're finger prints"
  8. rprowse


    Dec 17, 2005
    Wellington NZ
    A good teacher is like an instruction book. I bought a gas barbeque a few weeks ago. It came in a box and needed assembling. When I looked for the instructions, I found only a rather vague set of pictures... no words or sentences.
    Now, at this point I had to fall back onto any past experiences I had of assembling similar things. I got the thing together, but I was a bit slow and had to 'back track' a few times to correct mistakes. Needless to say, I learnt a lot about putting barbeques together, and, I am sure that I could make a better job if I assembled another.
    I don't want to sound sexist, but I know that my wife... who has no assembly experience... would have taken weeks (maybe months) to perform the same task. She is not stupid, but she has no relevant experiences to call on.
    Here is my point:
    Learning the bass guitar is a bit like assembling a gas barbeque.
    A bass teacher calls on his or her experiences and can save you a lot of time 'putting the wrong pieces together'... this is why we pay him money! He is like a manual (a shortcut)... presuming he is good. If you decide to teach yourself, in effect you are attempting to "put the base of the barbeque together." If you have a good teacher (and trust his judgement), he can save you wasting time discovering things that other people already know. Instead of spending lots of time working out how to "put the base of the barbeque together" (although it must still be assembled), you could be discovering fantastically creative new barbeque recipies!
    Happy cooking.
    Richard from New Zealand
  9. IcedEarthWOM


    Oct 2, 2005
    Great, now I'm hungry.......

    But back on topic: I wish I had the guts to go to a teacher. I'd probably be a lot better even after only 7-8 months..... My problem is I'd question everything he/she'd teach :scowl:
  10. rprowse


    Dec 17, 2005
    Wellington NZ
    Questioning is a problem? I'd call it intelligence! Remember: Question / Answer. Ask the question. Listen to the answer.
    ...just like night and day.
    Well, how do you get better at playing the bass guitar?
    1) You listen to other players. You 'steal' ideas that you like... remember, "no man is an island". You enjoy the fact that you have 'bass heros' but you do not try to be a direct copy of any one player because then you would be like an Elvis impersonator... you would not be yourself.
    2) You listen to all types of music. This expands the possibilities that will be available to you when you play the style of music that you love.
    3) You improve your ability to perform comfortably on the instrument so that your ideas (your spirit) can flow. In other words, you improve your technique. Remember to build a strong foundation by getting the BASICS sorted... find a logical way to hold the instrument so that your body will not be subjected to tension, learn the fretboard, learn (and understand) the major scale because it is the backbone of our twelve tone system of music, get your ears working so that you can identify the sign posts of music... melodies, intervals and chords, learn to read musical notation because ours is a written and spoken language.
    How do you learn these things? You get a good teacher. How do you find a good teacher? That's the tricky one.
    A good teacher will probably have most of the following:
    He will love the instrument, he will be a pretty good player (but not necessarily the best!), he will enjoy thinking and talking about the instrument, he will be constantly trying to improve his own playing and will always be interested in new ideas, he will have a good knowledge of music theory, he will always treat you with respect and he will not be frightened of you becoming a better player than him because, if you do, he is probably a great teacher!
    Richard from New Zealand
  11. what is trying to make you change?
  12. rprowse


    Dec 17, 2005
    Wellington NZ
    What do you mean?
    Richard from New Zealand
  13. what is the new plucking tech.? and the old?
  14. Kroy


    Jan 19, 2006
    Best. Quote. Ever.
    That's probably going to end up my next .sig.

    Anyway, I would definitely give this teacher a fighting chance. Like Prowse said (quite eloquently), a good teacher can save you a ton of frustration and headache you'd like run into trying to do all this yourself. That isn't to say that there won't still be some frustration and headache, but hopefully there's less of it. And even more hopefully, learning and getting better on the bass (the coolest of all instruments) is worth so much more than any frustration you put into a song or technique.

    Quick Anecdote: I have a fairly new student whose been playing around 8 months. I started teaching him scales and making him use his pinky finger on the fretboard. He told me it feels 'kinda weird'. But it was just because he wasn't used to it.
  15. Edouble


    Dec 23, 2005
    The instructor has me holding the bass higher up, about mid waist, in a seated position. Then, with my plucking hand, he wants me to keep my thumb perpendicular to the strings while the index and middle finger rest at an angle of about 45 degrees. Then, strike the strings in a downward motion with the tip of my fingers. The goal, he claims, is to let my thumb take on the majority of the weight while letting my fingers just pluck the strings stress free.

    Now, the thumb on the left hand should always stay behind the neck of the bass, along the marker, and lined up with the middle finger, while all four fingers are spread out onto individual fretts with the elbow up. Now.....lets us play.

    Note: this not an attack on him, just putting the question out there since I have not, as of yet ,been able to compare and contrast his style with another.
  16. That's basically the way I was taught. Except I try to pluck across the strings not down into them, with a light touch.

    Do what your tutor says, try it for a while and then if you have issues bring them up to him after you've tried stuff his way.
  17. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Questioning is the ONLY way to learn. When you deal with questions, you get answers. If you only deal with answers.. you get nothing.

    That may sound wrong.. but think about it a while. If you just buy into everything that you are told, you really don't find out what you need to know... and you don't own the information.
  18. Kroy


    Jan 19, 2006
    Those are pretty specific instructions. Not that they're bad, just really specific. Stress free is definitely a good thing. What were you doing before that was so different?

    A lot of my students hate me for it but I make all of them practice with a metronome. The reason for that is I was a musician for like 4 years before I even bought one and was absolutely horrified when I saw how much more productive my practicing was after I got it. I felt like I'd just been screwing around for years. Metronomes can be frustrating sure, but man I made much better time on learning stuff. I don't want my students to have to experience that kindof sinking feeling. Hooboy, I'm getting the jibblies just thinking about it.

    Anyway, point is that you may not like everything your teacher has you do but it's possible it's to save you some headache that he/she experienced first hand.
  19. rprowse


    Dec 17, 2005
    Wellington NZ
  20. Edouble


    Dec 23, 2005
    Now, Folks here is the part of the story that I unfortunately left out. Dum De Dum Dum.....

    One day, I just happened to strike up a conversation with my nextdoor neighbor that I play bass. Coincedentally, he tells me that he's a muscian also and has been playing the Sax for about twenty years!! I'm like wow! Cool! So, I begin to tell him the same story that I have explained to u all. He asks me the name of the instructor. I tell him, and he says, in a nutshell, that he knows my instructor and would not use him. I'm like, GREAT!! (sarcasm) He goes on to say that they met, only once, b/c he was in need of a bassist for a one night gig cause his bassist was sick.
    That scenario is what fueled me to write in.