How much do I really need to know?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by scoopscallahan, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. scoopscallahan


    Jun 14, 2011
    I've been playing for a few years and I've got serviceable dexterity and have memorized a lot of songs from tabs. I can play along to these songs and was able to put together a band for a while and could play the songs we covered pretty well.

    The band has disbanded (pun intended) and so now I'm focusing more on learning my instrument rather than just memorizing the songs that we covered. I've spent the last few weeks trying to memorize the fretboard. I'm getting better but if you yelled D# at me it would still take a few seconds to get my finger on the G string 8th fret or A string 6th fret. I'm pretty much focused on that and nothing else for now. But once I get that down I want to make sure I'm on the right road.
    I have no desire to write my own bass lines. I don't think I need to read standard notation. Basically I play for fun and as a hobby. I'm a 42 years old lawyer, husband, and father of two so I'm not trying to make a living out of this. I'd like to be able to be handed a chord sheet and play along. I want to pick a song to learn and have it down in a matter of days instead of weeks or months as it was taking before. I want to play country (classic, alternative, southern rock influenced not nashville garbage) and hard rock (think Grunge with some melodic metal in there). I hate jazz and don't really like R&B. I like the bass because it's a support foundational instrument and not out front or a focal point (lead guitar or drums). I want to learn why the bass line I want to play was created the way it was so it is easier for me to learn and commit it to memory.

    So if a guy wants to be a weekend warrior and be able to jam with his friends and play rock star a little what would you suggest I focus on after I learn the fretboard.
  2. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    learn songs-lots of songs
    pick some fave tunes and break down the chords and learn the chord tones.
    chord tones alone will carry you farther than learning modes and scales at this point.
    Remyd and squidtastic like this.
  3. DagoMaino


    Feb 1, 2013
    Just learn how the fretboard works (octaves, fifths, and thirds), circle of fifths, and major and minor scales and that would cover about 95% of what you'd need to know to jam out rock style tunes pretty well.

    Fretboard familiarity and a good ear will go a long way as long as you're sticking with simple music genres.
    Remyd likes this.
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Are you able think the chords that are being played as you play your lines?

    Do you know what notes make up the chords?

    If not, those would be primary to achieving your goal.

    If yes, then I'll ask more questions :)
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You're certainly welcome to do anything you want, but the whole "I have no desire to write my own bass lines" and "handed a chord sheet and play along" are kind of mutually exclusive.
    There's a lot of work involved in learning how to get around the fingerboard, how to understand how chords are constructed and how they function, how to hear that construction and function with some clarity. How much or how little of that work you want to do will determine how easy or how hard learning new material, understanding why that line is the way it is and reading (or hearing) your way through a chord chart will be.
  6. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    For me, the answer is that there is no end to what I need to know. I intend to continue learning until I physically cannot play anymore, or I die. Whichever comes first.
    herbygardener likes this.
  7. I find that there comes a time every day that I wish I knew just a little more.
    Ed Fuqua likes this.
  8. So you play from tab and you have memorize ten songs. If you write your own bass lines and play from fake chord sheet music you can play hundreds of songs. In fact you can play songs you have never heard before. Yes; fact.

    Fake chord, as I'm sure you know gives you the lyrics and the chords to play under the lyrics. Following along with the sheet music all you need to do is find the first note of the chord on your fretboard. Not a step for a stepper. Get bored with just roots for a bass line add a 5. For example here Scott shows us how to use the root, three, five, six and eight to make a generic riff you can take all over your bass neck:

    You know your fretboard. Take this basic box pattern all over your fretboard.
    Major Scale Box.
    G~~|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E~~|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    That's a start. Have fun.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2014
  9. squidtastic

    squidtastic Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2013
    If you die and are still physically able to play, please let us know!
  10. scoopscallahan


    Jun 14, 2011
    I just wanted to say thanks for the quick and awesome responses. Good stuff.
  11. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Will do! :D
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I encourage you to explore learning notation.
    As a player who learned pattern / ear / theory early and came to notation later in life (and by no means a fluent reader)
    I am convinced via my own experience that learning notation has in fact improved my musicianship in many unexpected ways.
    The benefits to musical understanding manifest long before fluent sight reading is achieved.

    It's not so daunting if you break it into bite sized chunks.
    Bainbridge likes this.
  13. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    I was exactly like you and completely relied on tabs. You need to stop using them and start learning to play by ear. Trust me the first five or so songs are going to take longer then using tabs but soon you will be faster using your ear.
  14. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    "I want to pick a song to learn and have it down in a matter of days instead of weeks or months as it was taking before" is not a very ambitious goal (sorry).

    You should be able to turn on the classic rock radio station and jam along in real time. You should be able to show up at a rehearsal or jam session, sit out on the first verse of a song you've never heard before, and jump right in on the second verse. These are ambitious (but hardly impossible) goals!

    If you are not comfortable yet with these skills (it will take a lot of work) then what, you may ask, are some good exercises to achieve them? Well I'll tell you...

    1) Turn on the radio and try to play along by ear. Do this for at least 1 hour per day. If you do no other practicing then at least do this!
    2) Jam with as many musicians as you can network with, all styles, ages, and levels of ability. Do this as many nights a week as you can schedule.
    3) Stop using tabs and start using your ears!
  15. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    As a fellow weekend-warrior, I would concur that you should work on learning scales and chord structure, for two reasons. One is, as others have said, that you'll be able to jam along with nothing but a chord sheet or, for that matter, a guitarist or keyboardist yelling out chords at you. The other reason is that it will facilitate learning songs by ear rather than by tab. Knowing the theory will enable you to quickly eliminate some notes, and thus more rapidly figure out which notes are right. Even if you're not aspiring to write your own bass lines, you'll be able to pick up material more rapidly that way rather than plodding along with someone's error-ridden tabs.

    I'd also suggest trying some fingering exercises, like in the book Bass Fitness. You don't have to drill them for hours like a music-school student, but they will enable you to play with more speed and accuracy.

    Finally, think about learning to read music. You won't have to use it like a professional session bassist would, true. But you never know when some situation comes up where it's handy. Maybe your kids are in a community theater musical and they need a bass player in the pit orchestra, maybe you start playing at church or something. I started playing at church last December, and while most of what we get is lead sheets, sometimes it's a page photocopied from a hymnal and there are no chords, just clefs. It's good not to have to turn an opportunity down because you don't have the skills.
  16. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    The title of this thread made me think it was a teenager wondering how much he needs to know as a "musician" to get laid. Then I saw the OP is 42. (Uh oh, and a lawyer, too. Forget I said that.)
    Remyd likes this.
  17. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    What a blast! You're in for some fun. I like country rock, and the harder stuff too - it's accessible and familiar - and sometimes it's a real breeze too so hang on to your hat and have a ball!

    In the intro to an out of print edition of The Guitar Handbook there's a really handy tip from Robert Fripp. The point he makes is that, when you're learning, no matter what, it's beneficial to learn from a tradition. Be it jazz, classical, rock, country, blues, and so on, what you'll have in the end, with each tradition, is a superior awareness of the dynamic range and the true potential of your instrument. Each tradition has already plumbed the depths of the possibilities, naturally - all the tricks, all the chops :) so that, in the end, you'll have it all, more or less, regardless of the style you chose. And, from there you can just about go anywhere.
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