How to Grow as a Bassist- what should I do?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jc.pettcrow, Dec 19, 2014.

  1. jc.pettcrow


    Jul 8, 2014
    So I'm about 16 years old, I've been playing bass since I was 12. I have grown a lot since then but i want to grow more in my styles of playing and genres, etc. so far I've been learning slap bass and it's coming along. But I know there's definitely a lot more I can do to become a better bassist. But I don't know what I should practice now. One of my goals is to learn to solo over any song in any key at any tempo, and I see all these professional bassists make it so effortless. They barely even touch the string! How can I get to that level and what should I be practicing?
    OutToPlayJazz likes this.
  2. LazyGecko


    Nov 19, 2013
    Find lots of endurance exercises to learn. I think it was John Patitucci who made "The Spider" popular and lots of pros love to work on that one.

    Although being able to play fast is really cool and everything, that won't be of any use to you unless you can groove first and play with taste. Will Lee is a great example. He can play awesome stuff but he does his best to fit in with the sound of the band before anything else.
    DavC and Winfred like this.
  3. I can't tell you how to grow in your techniques, but for general growth as a musician here are a few pointers:

    Listen to a lot of music. All styles, and not just the bass lines. Listen to the horn lines, the guitar lines, and piano lines too.

    Learn to read music. Not just tab as that generally only tells you how to play it.

    Learn to read standard notation so you can decide for yourself where on the plank to play. You'll also be able to read and play on your bass any sheet of music that someone hands you whether it be written for electric bass, tuba, trombone, guitar, piano, and etc.

    Practicing alone is good, but play with other musicians as much as you can. Learn to read the nods, the sidelong glances, the frowns, smiles and other nuances that make up the dynamics of a band. Same goes for reading the crowd.

    Sorry if that's no help.
    JTSmitty, lyla1953, old spice and 2 others like this.
  4. jc.pettcrow


    Jul 8, 2014
    thanks a bunch both of you, that does help!
  5. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Learn to read music
    Sing then play
    Put some chords and a beat in a software like Band In The Box and just play
    Put music you like and just play, not the bass line, no, what you hear in your head
    Lear to solfege
    Write music
    matthewbrown likes this.
  6. Lead soloing is playing the tune, that thing you sing, and as tunes are made from scale notes your scales need to flow in all keys. Major, natural minor, and the pentatonic of both plus the Blues scale will come in handy. Being able to play by ear helps.

    OK, how do we take those scales and play the tunes of songs? Find some sheet music is the easiest. Yes treble clef. It's a long journey and will keep you busy for quite some time. Scott Devine has something that may get you started. Check this out.

    Scott talks about the melody line should have some up's and down's, some say have a wave action. A straight line is boring, three foot waves are exciting. Twenty foot breakers now that is too much.

    Some time just playing the tune for 24 bars is best. But, using what Scott is saying, take the solo by playing the tune, then mess around for awhile, go back to the tune, then mess around some more -- but, give the lead back playing the tune.

    My point in all this, just running a pentatonic scale is missing the good stuff - the tune has to be in your solo somewhere. Yes, have fun improvising, but take the solo playing the tune and give the solo back playing the tune.

    Little more on the messing around in the middle:

    About half way in we do broken chords with the left hand - pinky thumb or root-seven. This frees up the other chord tones so they can be used in the right hand melody.
    Notice right hand melody - leading notes one note above or below where he wants to go.

    Experiment. Our ear likes to hear 4 note phrases, three close notes then a leap of at least a 3rd.

    This is not going to happen over night, enjoy the journey.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2014
    rujulian likes this.
  7. Forget all the scales, the exercises, the stretching, meditating, and the yoga-type bull**** to make you better. Well, sort of...... When it comes to getting better, YOU DO IT BY PLAYING WITH OTHER PEOPLE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, AND getting that EXPERIENCE under your belt (Or skirt :D). Now, please don't interpret that I said those boring scales and exercises are bad, because they're definitely not. Sure, they'll help with your technique and musical knowledge. You can study all that until your brain explodes, but it'll never take the place of what you learn by playing live and getting that experience under your belt/skirt.
    The only difference between someone that deliberately sits down and practices scales incessantly, and someone that gets out and jams (Meaning:Having fun!!!) with people, is the player that went out and jammed may not know the names to all those scales. But, I'd sure bet my ass that there's a damn good chance that they can probably play circles around someone that's been sitting in a bedroom for years, jackin' around with scales and modes, when it comes to playing in a live band situation. Now, which sounds more fun? After all, playin' music is meant to be fun! But remember, if you plan on makin' a career as a studio cat, it's a given that you're gonna have to hit the ol' woodshed from time to time. The bottom line is, you're gonna get more outta playin' live with others. It's fact.
    It really doesn't matter if it's a club, garage, a picnic, or porch. Get out and play!! You would not believe how many amazingly spectacular guitar players that I've ran across over the years that made my jaw hit the floor with their awesome, technical playing. And, I mean they played beautifully. But....... they get put in a live band situation, and they friggin' fall to pieces. They're LOST, and there's no two ways about it. They literally do not know what to do. Lost. Gone. Outta there!! And, it's a damn shame. Wasted talent, sittin' in a bedroom blazing away, sounding like a god. With no way to use it. And, it's a damn shame to waste all that talent.
    Think about it, how do you think 98.999% of players/bands from the past got so damn good? It's simple. They played live with anyone to hone their chops when they started.
    You'd be surprised at how many big-time musicians there are that don't know squat when it comes to modes n' scales, and all that mumbo-jumbo. For Christ's sake, there's a scale called, the Neapolitan Scale. Ain't that the ice cream with 3 flavors?!?!
    But, you can bet that they can play their ass off, and probably surpass a Julliard graduate, all without knowing those goofy names. And, then go eat some neopolitan ice cream afterwards.:bassist:

    Now, what sounds better? Sittin' in a bedroom by yourself, or playin' live with friends, and eatin' ice cream?
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2014
  8. DavidEdenAria


    Dec 13, 2013
    On a Hill
    With all due respect sir, times have changed enormously in the past few years.

    You can learn excellent chops in a band setting but you need an excellent teacher to make sure you are doing things properly.

    There are FAR more ways to interact with other musicians for a 16 year old than exposing herself to things a 16 year old needn't be around in a band setting.

    WAY too much nonsense going on in many bands, despite many being great team players 'on stage', its the bull crap often occurring 'off stage' that can be detrimental, so be careful who you associate with.

    I was in jr. high & high school band making virtually straight A's for 6 years....we were never allowed to even speak during rehearsals as we played serious classical music and marches for contest (which we consistently placed 1st).

    FIND a GOOD teacher and stick with them and let them guide you to other credible musicians to learn good habits early on.

    MANY of the great rock artists spent 1000's of hours home alone listening to records and playing along.

    Duane Allman had to get away from the whole studio scene (where he was paid quite well) to seriously work on his slide chops....ALL ALONE for at least a year to focus and get away from the nonsense that can surround life in a band.

    You need excellent guidance from the best teacher you can find and go from there imo.
    gjohnson441496, petrus61 and vmabus like this.
  9. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    How to Grow as a Bassist- what should I do?
    A good start would be not to think as a 'bassist' but looking at the music and trying to understand how it works, incorporating everyones role in your point of view. This will lead to a wider understanding, including your own role.
    Learning to read will help and getting to know a lot of music.
    Practicing technique is also really important to allow you to play all that stuff your inner ear wants you to.

    old spice and LazyGecko like this.
  10. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    I don't have a comprehensive plan or anything, but I do recommend this book - . The exercises do a lot to help build dexterity and accuracy. I got to the point that I could play a lot faster using it. Now I'm working on thinking about discipline, restraint, and musicality - playing just the right notes rather than a lot of them.

    Yes, drill your scales. Yes, play with other people. I never understood where people get the attitude that it's somehow mutually exclusive, as though there were some competition over which was "right."
    Need Gigs and SirMjac28 like this.

  11. Right back atcha with the respect thingy there, partner..... But, your wording makes it sound like any and every musician she hooks up with is gonna be a murderer, bank robber, or heroin addict. I don't know where you're from, but it ain't that way where I'm at, that's for damn sure. People have basically been the same, for thousands of years, so what's that mean? The fact is, in life: There are good people, and there are bad people. Look, if she's gonna play in bands and live among humans , she's gonna have to deal with different types of people, sooner or later. Plain and simple. That's a very, very big part of living life, like it, or not. Why "shield and protect" her from other musicians? I'm sure she (and her parents) has a good enough head on their shoulders to know not to let her jam with a room full of booty-bumpin' heroin addicts, and ax murderers. As for the ax murderers, they do make a great stage prop at an Alice Cooper show. But, not so much the booty-bumpin' heroin addicts, though.
    I just think it's an insult to her, and her parent's intelligence, that you would possibly think they can't judge other musicians for themselves. At least that's what it sounds like to me.

    Listen, have you ever heard the story about the "preacher's daughter", that was protected and shielded early in life, until she left home? Well, when she was finally free to do as she pleases, she goes absolutely wild, with screw-up, after screw-up. Why is that so? You figure that one out, partner. It's simple, for most people anyways. If you have some common sense, you'll know how that story ends.
    She never said she was gonna make this a career. Music is supposed to be fun. If you approached music this way, and it's not your career, I truly feel sorry for you. Because music cannot be fully enjoyed with such restrictions that you're suggesting. I bet you would've crapped your pants if you had seen Hendrix playing with his teeth. I can hear it now, "Why, why, he's not using proper technique! He's using his teeth, for Christ's sake! Oh, the humanity!"

    Wait a minute, before I go any further...... Seriously now, are you trolling me? Let's break it down, shall we? We shall.....

    So, what you're saying is probably 95%+ of legendary musicians aren't playing those classic songs right. Is that what you're saying? Once again with the respect thingy (again), but, that's absolute crazy talk. And, I'm quite sure others will agree. I apologize if I may sound harsh. But, I'm the type of guy that'll hurt some feelings, if it involves an honest answer....... Excellent teacher my ass. God, I would absolutely never, ever listen to a note of music again, if it were done "properly".

    Let me clue you in. We ain't talkin' about a fully-automatic machine gun that she's gonna be takin' to war to kill people with, that requires a boot camp. It's a bass guitar, for Christ's sake. I know it's not the "proper" name for it, but, people call it an axe, too. Just in case you didn't know. Look, if she wants to put a hook on the headstock of her bass and use it as a giant earring and let it drag the ground while she window shops at the mall, then she can. Music is for pleasure. It's not like she's training for Hitler's Olympic Team. Wait, wait, let me guess........ next, you're gonna suggest she shoots herself up with some steroids to increase her recovery time and build her stamina while she plays her scales and modes, all while "doing it properly". Am I right? I am, aren't I? I knew it!! If so, don't get 'em from Mexico, they're not "proper" steroids.

    It's not my type of music, but the Ramones, or the Sex Pistols and 100's upon 100's of other bands wouldn't even exist, if that approach were taken. And, not to mention, Billy Sheehan would probably stick that Makita Drill of his where the sun don't shine and pull the trigger on it, if he heard that kinda crazy talk. With all due respect, of course.

    SirMjac28 likes this.
  12. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    I think the best way to improve as a bass player is to play with other people. Specifically, play with a real live drummer. It's a bonus if you can play with people who are a bit more skilled than you.

    I personally don't think you need a teacher. It's music, so there doesn't have to be a "proper" way to play it. You can learn a lot on your own by searching on the interweb and watching the millions of YouTube videos that are out there. You can also learn a lot from the people you play with.

    Just remember, it takes a lot of practice to make something look easy. Good luck and have fun.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2014
    SirMjac28 likes this.
  13. I agree it takes much practice and in addition to the miles of text in this thread I will add,

    Don't be afraid to develop your own style

    Play the bass in a way that you find comfortable to play

    Enjoy learning to play simple things well

    Simple things played well are things that feel and sound good to you

  14. "Play the bass in a way that you find comfortable to play."[/QUOTE]

    What if it's not the "proper" way?;)
  15. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I always recommend not watching those YouTube videos of expert bassists it will start to drive you crazy wondering how they do it so easily especially if they're younger than you. It seems you want to learn how to improvise? which to me sounds like you could definitely benefit from learning how to play jazz. Find out if there are any local jazz bands that you could listen to or local teachers who could tailor a program specifically for your needs. I would also do some research for online lessons because I am constantly amazed at all of the great learning resources musicians have today. The thing that helped me was creating new basslines for songs I like specifically jazz songs. Always remember there isn't a wrong or right way to do things as you can see from the many great answers you have received so far. It's a wonderful journey that never ends enjoy it and also think about where you were four years ago and how well you are dong now good luck.
  16. Don41_2

    Don41_2 Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2012

    Lots of good comments, here's a quick comment on the "learn to solo over any song" statement.

    As someone who has the same goal as you, I disagree with the comment about forgetting about scales - assuming you want to take your playing up another level.

    I you do, then I recommend that you learn scales & modes. It unlocks the mystery of how to lay down a great (original) solo.

    Get a good bass teacher that understands this. Then get a looper or get tempo slo (cheap if you have have an ios device). Practice, practice, practice (as a 16 year old, i'm sure that doesn't sound like much fun!)

    Knowing the scale for the key of the song will help you to know (most of the time) what notes will fit while improvising. Learning modes are a way to change up the sound by playing in a different part of the neck.

    I wish I understood that years ago.

    Make it fun - the joy is in the journey.
    gjohnson441496 likes this.
  17. mike313


    Dec 14, 2014
    Yes, play a lot with other musician, every style, every level of expertise you can find.

    When I was your age I locked up myself in my room for years practicing alone for hours and hours, thinking I had to be VERY good technically before I should venture to play with others musicians. Let me tell you, that wasnt really a good idea.
    Go out and play everywhere and with everyone you can. You will have good experiences and bad ones, at the beginning problably more bad than good, but thats the best way to grow as a musician (and as a person).

    Source: I have exactly two times your age.
    hdracer likes this.
  18. I think a combination of the above suggestions is in order. First, go to an instructor to learn proper fingering technique, scales, chords and practice exercises. Second, play with some friends if you can. There is no substitute for experience. You need to learn to listen to the other musicians you are playing with and how to lay down a nice groove. It doesn't have to be fancy. A good simple pounding bass playing roots on the 1 is very effective, especially when playing for a dancing crowd. Third, practice at home the things you learned from the instructor. You should also play along with songs. This is a good way to practice if you are not in a band. I do this every day. I pick a playlist from my iTunes and play along with the songs. Different genres, different styles. It helps you to get used to playing at tempo and listening to the band you are playing along with. You have a few years under your belt so you should have the basics down. No go out an play, have fun and learn. Good luck and keep thumpin'.:):cool::bassist:
  19. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
  20. You have lots of good advice here! "Get a good teacher" is the best, I think, but that can be difficult, depending on where you live. You might consider getting in touch with one of the pro bassists at ask a pro forum and requesting an informational interview. Or you might contact a teacher in a university or conservatory department in your region. IME, if you want expert advice, it's best to ask an expert! Also, two or three lessons with a really good teacher can get you headed in a solid direction if you can't find someone in your area who can help you. You're at a formative stage, and while developing your musical ability is foremost, making sure you build solid technique now will pay off huge dividends later. Best of luck!