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I can't seem to get the hang of bass playing...?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by josa115, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. josa115


    Nov 17, 2012
    I am not skilled in anything and I wanted to be good at something for once, and I chose the bass because I like blues music and I just like how it sounded.

    So I have been taking lessons for about six months now. And I don't think I've improved in a while, I think I'm in a rut- I feel a bit aimless. I've thought maybe it was my instructor's fault, but I think now it's me who's the problem. It's so frustrating not to have any clue what I'm doing. I'm supposed to improvise while playing a simple pattern like G C G D C G D G, but I can't improvise at all, my technique is poor, and overall it's shoddy playing. I know a few scales, but when my instructor explains music theory to me, it goes right over my head.

    I think what I need to do is set down some goals about what I want to be able to do, and have a set practice regiment every day, like something really specific, but I don't know what I should do. Can anyone help with that?

    But maybe I am just too lazy/talentless to pick up an instrument? I don't want to waste my parent's money if it's hopeless. Has anyone ever felt like this? Is there a solution?
  2. Thumpy Fenda 5

    Thumpy Fenda 5 Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2012
    Belleville, MI, USA
    what's your favorite song? scales and theory are cool, but if you don't know how to apply them, it can get discouraging... but i mixed it up a little by learning some of my favorite songs..
  3. psp742

    psp742 Washburn above others.

    Jun 4, 2012
    Morganville, NJ
    Get Ubisoft Rocksmith and the bass DLC... It's both fun and easy to grasp since the game adjust to player skill. The better you follow the notes and chords, you learn actual set of each song... The games are pretty fun too, helps you get used to position in fret, chords, etc.
  4. drummer5359

    drummer5359 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    Pittsburgh PA USA
    Not bad advice.

    I was playing a lot of blues (which I like), but I felt like I wasn't learning any new techniques. Now I'm working on specific songs. I find that diferent songs may require a technique that I hadn't learned. So, I'll stop and learn that new technique in order to learn the song.

    It's helping me.
  5. josa115


    Nov 17, 2012
    I'll definitely try to do more songs I like... Does that mean bass tabs or just trying to do it by ear?
  6. Thumpy Fenda 5

    Thumpy Fenda 5 Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2012
    Belleville, MI, USA
    Both actually help! I play mostly by ear, but have found tab to add in helping in my personal growth. i also agree with the other gentleman about technique. a lot of my favorite bass lines were those little extra things bassists do to "make" the note... :bassist:
  7. SoloC


    Oct 23, 2012

    I have this game for the PC; the DLC is included. Overall it's a good way to practice to songs, and learn all the techniques. Many of the techniques also have games for you play along with too. For instance, the sliding technique has a invaders type game where you slide to the fret the invader is coming down. As you move forward in the game the invaders speed up. There are also a lot of finger exercises available. If you feel the songs are too hard, you can lower the difficulty to help you get started.
  8. Cnote2


    Nov 8, 2012
    Try TMBG (teach me bass guitar)
  9. VerryBerry

    VerryBerry Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2012
    Alberta, Canada
    TMBG by Roy Vogt is excellent! I've personally got Rocksmith on my wishlist too, just for fun.

    I don't know what your budget is - Rocksmith for PC, Playstation 3 or XBox is around $80; TMBG when I got it was just under $190.

    Rocksmith approaches learning to play bass or guitar more from a gaming perspective. From videos I've watched, some found it kind of addictive, which for learning an instrument, can be a good thing.

    Having said that, TMBG is a really first class, 10 DVD bass guitar course that starts you off assuming you know little to nothing about playing bass, but by the time you get to Lesson 20, you can really play. It is amazingly well done. It will also teach you some music theory, notation and technique - lacking in Rocksmith.

    So maybe you need both to approach practice from different angles to keep you interested. :)
    Check out both websites at



    Don't get discouraged. It takes a long time to get proficient, and to expect big results in a short time is unrealistic.

    By the way, Roy Vogt of TMBG is a member here and posts quite often.
  10. Six months? You're kidding, right? I've been playing for over two years and I've hit a brick wall, I still feel like a beginner. It takes a long time, I realize, to become any good in any instrument.

    So just hang on to it, hang on to your lessons (or change teacher if your current one no longer inspires you), or try another instrument for a while (many a times you can just rent one and give it a shot).
  11. josa115


    Nov 17, 2012
    Thank you, this is all really helpful. I don't think I can afford Rocksmith or the TMBG right now, but I'll start saving up. I'll definitely practice more with these tips.
  12. gmarcus

    gmarcus Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2003
    Hang in there. First thing is to develop some endurance, just simple hand strength and calluses on your fingers. I bet you can play longer now than when you started out.

    You are definitely ready to learn a simple song. Pick a blues song that you really like and start to learn it. I suggest getting the MP3 for the song and looking up the words and chords on the Internet. Make it a simple 3 chord song at first. Print out the chord sheet so you can see where the chords are, then play along with the song. At first just play the root note of every chord right when it comes up in the song and listen to how it sounds in the song. This is really satisfying and important. Listen listen listen to how your note sounds in the song. You are part of the music now.

    Next play those root notes in a rhythm along with the song and listen to how your rhythm fits in. Nothing fancy, less is more in blues. Listen to the words, feel the emotion of the song and become part of it. Put all of your emotions into those simple notes. That is the blues!
  13. dieselbass


    May 15, 2010
    Davis CA
    Scott Devine makes a good point, you don't get steadily better. You make little jumps followed by plateaus until you make the next jump. Getting through the plateau is the rough part. He has great material and it's free. Also has a great sense of humour. Best of luck and don't give up!

  14. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
    How long have you guys been playing before you started playing gigs?
  15. VerryBerry

    VerryBerry Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2012
    Alberta, Canada
    Josa, here are a few more ideas that give you more resources to choose from to keep up your interest.

    Go to YouTube and search Scott Devine, Jeff Berlin or MarloweDK. They all are great teachers. There are more out there, but these are 3 off the top of my head.
    The point is that everyone explains things differently and in a different style - you can choose the tutorial that suits you best for whatever you are working on.

    For help in making practice time more productive, there's http://www.essential-music-practice.com/music-practice-charts.html.

    You want backing tracks to help with improvising? Checkout http://www.wikiloops.com/backingtrack.php.

    www.studybass.com is also a really good teaching website. (If you want more music theory training, http://www.edly.com/mtfpp.html has a course for download at a cost of $20.)

    To help with learning songs by ear, get Audacity software at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. It allows you to slow down your music without changing the pitch to allow you to learn songs easier by ear. This is for PC. If you have a Mac, you need Transcribe from http://www.seventhstring.com/ at $39.

    All of the above are available at no cost (except Transcribe and Edly's). There are many resources available to help you progress, but you do have to keep at it. None of these will magically make you a better player without the hours and hours of work. (And hey, I keep looking for that kind of magic, but I haven't found it yet.)

    The next bits can cost money, but I'll mention them anyway. Be sure that your bass is set up as well as it can be. You will probably have to take it to a reputable shop for this, although many TBers have learned to do this on their own. You don't want a poorly setup bass to be an impediment to learning. Even if you take it to a shop, you should have an idea of what a setup consists of. This site will explain it - http://www.tunemybass.com/bass_setup/.

    Just guessing here, but at this point you probably have an inexpensive practice amp, and while it allows you to hear yourself, it probably doesn't give the tone you are hearing in the songs you may be trying to learn. You'll probably want to work up to something that can give you more of a professional sound - it makes you want to practice more. But again, that's only if you stick with it and can then justify the expense down the road.

    Only my opinions. Hope there is something here that helps you.

    All the best.

    EDIT: Bookmark http://www.notreble.com/. and check out their "LESSONS" section. Lots of good stuff there!
  16. bwoodman

    bwoodman Supporting Member

    I learned totally by ear, but had an advantage of taking 8 years of piano lessons AND playing drums since I was very young - and I happened to have a very good ear - bad for sight reading, as I used to figure out songs by ear and fake out my teacher - and my sight reading still sucks to this day. I'm great with chord charts, but notation - very slow. When I first started on bass, I learned songs that I liked by ear and ones that I'd been noticing the cool bass lines. I did have a few lessons early on, mainly to get my technique together - started out with a pick, then later switched to finger style only. I found myself in an original band after having played for about a year - met a drummer around the corner from me - I was 15 at the time and the other guys were 18 and had been playing longer than me. I've been playing for 34 years now and there's plenty of stuff I don't know / want to learn - and there are new players on the scene every year that play circles around me. A couple that come to mind are Hadrien Feraud - 28 years old - and I'm quite sure I'll never be as good as him - look him up on youtube. And the kid from Dirty Loops - look them up - he's amazing and I'm currently trying to figure out stuff he's doing. I'll never have solo chops like either of these cats. I grew up listening to Jaco, thought I'll never be at that level. As a kid playing drums - listened to Buddy Rich, but once again, who the hell will ever play like that again? I just dig the bass and do my best. I haven't been fortunate enough to make a living playing bass, but I play pretty much every weekend in my cover band - restaurants and private parties - average $1000 per month in gig income and have always had to have the "day gig." I know, TMI....end of story.
  17. bwoodman

    bwoodman Supporting Member

    +1 !
    I forgot about MarloweDK and Scott Devine - I've been studying their lessons / playalongs for a few years now!
    All great advice VerryBerry!!!
  18. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    It takes time. Be patient, don't get frustrated. Maybe find another instructor.
  19. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Just a couple of months here, but I had the advantage of piano lessons as a kid before I took up the bass.

    The length of time before you're ready for gigs will depend on the nature of the gigs you're thinking of playing. But I would advise any beginner to try to find opportunities to play with other musicians informally as early as you can. This can really make a difference to the way you learn. If you're lucky enough to be able to play with musicians who are more advanced than you (I was) then that's even better.
  20. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Bass is not always about the way it sounds, its about the way it feels. You can play all the right notes, but still "feel" right. But to understand feel you need a vast library of experience and music and players to draw from, it's about application of what you know as much as how much you know.Check out the link,


    As for scales and theory for playing Blues, its just major and minor Pentatonics, so two interval patterns to learn and apply.
    To this add a major and minor Blues scale and you are armed with all the notes to tackle most 12bar standards, and lead you to understand how the use of a chromatic approach in Blues work.....but you may not have the feel yet.....and that comes from experience and playing gigs.

    As for setting goals, try this. Listen closely to the blues you love....and I mean listen.
    Work out in your head on a bit of paper what you hear is going on, then...and only then pick up the bass to confirm it. Do not play along and learn...listen and learn. You have to hear what is being played, not what you think is being played. So write a simple 12bar chord chart and fill it in. So do a search on chord charts and learn a bit more about how to create them and use them.

    These basic steps are about learning to play, its about familiar characteristic shared in Blues, learning to hear and identifying them. Once you have this framework down then more and more challenging musical ideas will become easier because you have a grounding in a I IV V framework.:)