I am completely stuck.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DJC12309, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. DJC12309


    Mar 29, 2017
    I started playing last fall, and took a few months of lessons - they were great, I just don't have time right now to continue them. My instructor gave me a lot to work on, though, that I haven't mastered yet, so I'm still working on all of that. I've also been running through a bunch of other instructional stuff (you'll see my posts in the Hal Leonard Bass Method thread, for instance), and have been pretty disciplined about having good practice sessions.

    I know the fingerboard pretty well, I know Major, Minor and Pentatonic scales, I know the Dorian and Mixolydian modes, I know chord tones and arpeggios. But I CAN'T PLAY SONGS.

    It's incredibly frustrating, and I don't know what I can do to work on it better. I have a decent ear, and can usually figure out the key that a song starts in, but once the changes start, I'm gone.

    Has anyone encountered anything like this when they were starting out, and have any advice on how I can work through it, or songs that might be more 'entry-level' to start with? For instance, I pulled up Midnight Rider by the Allman's, and quickly found it started in D, and I even got the little riff down, but that's all I've got. And I don't really have anyone to play with right now, either, and I know how helpful that would be.

    Any thoughts or advice is greatly appreciated in getting me over this hump...
  2. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Sounds like you have an ear, but have no idea as to movement. Use your ear to follow the movement. Yes, it takes time and effort. Keep trying. Intervals. It's all about intervals. A step here. A step there. A half step rock. It all comes together. Keep at it.
  3. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    It sounds to me like you've got all the theory stuff sorted...certainly a lot better than I do.:D
    Now I suggest you put all that to one side for a bit, and just try this...
    Find a song you like, say that Allman Brothers one, on Youtube as a bass cover and just play along...

    Actually that video is excellent in showing clearly what to play.
    Jam along to that for maybe 20-30 minutes and you should be comfortable with it.

    Once you've that song down, pick another one you like.

    Also, and the 'purists' will probably attack me for this, don't be afraid to look up Ultimate Guitar, or RiffStation, or Songsterr just to get an idea of the chord sequences.
    Sure you can work them out for yourself, but life's short, if you can save some headaches and time letting someone else do the homework, then go for it.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Most songs are re-occurring patterns. As you develop you ear and musical vocabulary, there is nothing wrong with utilizing bass play along, isolated bass parts, and even TAB or sheet music to help find notes. I don't depend on TAB too much - among other things, it is generally not good for more complex rhythm, or might want to play the note in other positions. But whatever gets you home.
  5. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Just quit. That's easiest.
    PillO likes this.
  6. csc2048b


    Apr 4, 2010
    it happens to everyone so don't be too hard on yourself. if you're not having fun, take a break. take time away from the instrument and it'll all work itself out in a few days.
    DJC12309 likes this.
  7. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Find a lead sheet for a blues.
    Just type in [song name] chords at the Google-esque tool of your choice.
    You should be able to play roots to the I-IV-V form and follow along the lead sheet.
    That's all a lot of it is.
    Eventually you'll be able to feel most of the intervals, and follow the lead sheets for the movements,
    DJC12309 likes this.
  8. Skeptismo


    Sep 5, 2011
    You can totally do this!
    In fact, you are at a better place to start jamming with other musicians than you realize. You've got some great vocab in this language, and now you just need to work on putting your vocab into context. I think you've received some great advice on how to proceed, but I'll tell you this: nothing will get your skills over this bump faster than playing music with other players! Best of luck to you!
    bholder, Engle and DJC12309 like this.
  9. twelvetrombones

    twelvetrombones Martian Ambassador Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2017
    Start simple. "Enter Sandman" by Metallica for example, at its bare bones, has only a handful of parts that follow the guitar, try that one. Don't be afraid to simplify. Also, as other have said, nothing wrong with tabs or sheet music, or videos on youtube...
    DJC12309 likes this.
  10. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    here's a bunch of song tutorials for mostly pretty easy songs to help get you started.
  11. Sounds like your teacher missed the vital, important link between intervals and songs. Scales teach you the notes but not songs, as you've correctly pointed out. Playing by ear requires you know beforehand what intervals sound like, the distance between notes, and so you have to be ahead of things to properly do it. That means knowing the song well and knowing your bass well enough to execute what you know.

    Find a teacher who combines theory with ear training and you'll find the tools to get there. And as others have said these patterns repeat for many pops songs, so much so that you'll *facepalm* when you realise how little variation there is! :)
  12. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    As mentioned previously, resources such as ultimate guitar can give you endless sources or chord structures for countless songs. It seems from what you say that you have scales and arpeggios under your fingers, so now you need to understand how these work within harmonic structures, ie songs.

    I suggest grab a couple of charts and really pull them apart, score out the bass part and identify where the things you know are being used in the bass part.

    You will probably struggle to find complete scales, closed arpeggios or anything else that looks like what you have learned, but there will be fragments of all of them all over the place - riffs, runs fills etc. The art is in spotting them - this will provide context for what you have learned. Do this enough times and you will soon be able to pick out similar things in other songs. From there you will be able to incorporate the things you know into your own parts.
    Good luck!
    DJC12309 likes this.
  13. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    So many teachers focus on scales/modes/etc. but don't make the connection to playing "real" songs. Being able to play every scale doesn't mean you can groove in a rhythm section. The Hal Leonard book is a great resource.

    Is your teacher a bass player or a guitar player teaching bass?
    DJC12309 likes this.
  14. Wolfenstein666


    Dec 19, 2014
    I've been playing for ten years and your grasp of theory far surpasses mine, so you're in a much better situation than what you realize. Look up some tabs / sheet music (if that's an option) and just learn to play to some of your favorite songs to help develop the timing and 'feel' of playing along to live music. It helped me a lot starting out, and eventually you'll graduate from playing along to songs to playing along with a band.

    Most importantly, don't get frustrated and try to enjoy yourself.
    Spidey2112 and DJC12309 like this.
  15. Shishka Bob

    Shishka Bob

    May 28, 2017
    You have approached this the correct way, and that is beyond doubt. But you aren't getting any return on your investment. You know what you are doing theoretically, but you can't play.

    You are just the opposite of how I went about learning the instrument: I don't know what I am doing but I can play songs. I just listened and played notes that seemed to fit. I worked on playing very few notes that had good tone. It's as if I didn't let not knowing what I am doing deter me.

    So maybe your barrier is your knowledge - in other words, you are trying to play with your head and not able to integrate your ear and your feelings.

    Try this (and I know it's easy for me to sit here and say this but hard for you to do): Start again. Pick a few easy songs with simple bass lines. You will find that you can actually play many songs using only a very few notes. See how repetitious they are? See the patterns your fingers follow to play the notes? Let that be ok for now. Keep it as simple as possible, even if it bores you. Focus on playing the notes that sound right to you. Work on making the tone of those notes really good. I think that what you will find is that, if you stick with it (and try to forget what you learned so your thinking doesn't get in the way) you will learn to play songs quicker than you think you can.

    Do not give up.
    Mark McClelland, DJC12309 and Engle like this.
  16. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Great advice given. The ability to hear intervals within the context of a song is a skill that comes easier to some than others. But, it can be learned. Using chord sheets or TAB is OK to get your started IF you listen while you do it. Listen and learn what those changes sound like as you play them.
    Spidey2112, DJC12309 and Engle like this.
  17. I think your next step is to find other musicians to play with. It’s usually not too hard to find someone that sings and plays guitar.

    Get the chord charts for whatever they are playing and just start by playing the roots.
  18. interp


    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    It’s all about training your ear.

    Learn solfège (you probably already know it actually) and how to sing/hear common intervals (thirds, fourths, perfect fifths, etc.).


    btmpancake and DJC12309 like this.
  19. Rockonjp76


    Aug 8, 2016
    716, NY
    Play along with tabs.
  20. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    You're using your brain too much and your ears not enough.

    Forget about keys and changes and theory for the moment. Find the notes of a song. Don't try to understand it academically.

    It's like learning how to speak when you were a baby. Listen and repeat. Comprehension comes later.
    You don't learn grammar first and then start talking. You learn to talk and then learn the rules of grammar as you go so you understand why it works the way it works.

    Start with a song you know well enough to hum the bass part of.
    If there isn't one, put down the bass and listen to your favorite song until you can hum the bass part.
    Then play those notes, along with the song.
    Even if it takes going through and finding them one by one, stopping and backing up a thousand times.
    After you can play the whole song along with the recording, THEN go back and figure out the theory of it.
    AndyPanda, Ellery, Robb Fesig and 4 others like this.