Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

I have a problem playing by ear

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by haplo07, May 8, 2002.


  1. haplo07

    haplo07 Guest

    Apr 13, 2002
    Tinley Park, IL
    Hi. I am new to the bass. i mainly know guitar and besides the usually questions that arise when i play my new bass, one is how do i play by ear now? I can't seem to discern one note from another on the finger board while i am trying to figure out a bass riff like i would trying to figure out a guitar riff. it's harder for me to pick out the bass in my music as notes rather then a groove or bottom end as i have always look at it in the past. does anyone have any suggestions or it is like anything, something i just get a feel for and learn over time and it's just a case of "starting over" frustration with me?
     
  2. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    If you really can't hear the notes as notes ON THE BASS (as opposed to when listening to recordings) then you need to work on playing scales and arpeggios until you DO hear it :confused:
     
  4. Here is something posted by Jazzbo that gave me lots of encouragement, perhaps it will help you as well.

    quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Originally posted by bcarll
    So how do you learn to listen and be able to pick these lines out? Is there a technique that works or is it either you have the ability to do it or you don't? Many singers can sing harmony to almost any song they hear but does that mean if you can't do that you can't "learn" to sing the parts of a song. Seems like you either have that gift or you don't and if you don't you're going to be a stuggling bass player. So---- I want to learn this ability so please share with us how we can learn to hear and play bass lines.

    bcarll
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    That part in bold BCARLL, is absolutely false. You do not either have it or don't have it. I used to believe that. I simply believed that I wasn't a musician. Musicians were naturally born with that talent, I thought. I didn't have good ears. I didn't have a voice. I didn't hear things. For the first two years I played bass, I could barely pick out a bassline of a song.

    There's nothing overnight you can do to develop this. You simply have to listen listen listen listen listen. This road requires patience. You play bass, so you obviously know how the bass sounds, and even better, you know what the bass usually does. Most of the time, the bass does not fall out of the order of things that your brain is already used to. (The exceptions to this rule might by Jaco, Wooten, etc.) You can try playing with the EQ on your stereos. Boost the bass, reduce the treble. Of course, this is going to boost everything in the range of the bass, which will include the drum's bass drum, and possibly some piano, if that's what you're listening to. I think the drum thing can be good, because if you really can't hear a bass note because of the bass drum, maybe they're in sync with each other, and hearing the interaction between bass and drums is critical.

    Do you know the basslines to any songs? Start there. If you do, play the original recording and sing the bass line you would usually play. You don't even have to pick out the bass line now because you already know it. But, what you'll be doing is training your ears to hear that bass within the song. Then I would move to something where the bass is more "out in the front" of the song." Maybe some Police, some disco music, some older, simpler Motown, (Ain't Too Proud To Beg, Going to a Go-Go, My Guy). Blues are good for this too because there's a lot of diatonic motion, you're ears are so programmed to that major/minor scale. Blues patterns also have pretty standard changes. Developing your ear to hear the change from the I chord to the IV chord, or I chord to V chord, or a chromatic walkdown is an excellent skill, and there's so much of that in blues.

    So, you want to start simple, with something you know. Then move on to a basic, formulaic style of music, like BLUES. Then, some rock songs that you've grown up with, or loved all your life. There will, I promise you, come a point to where you will have to teach yourself how to hear everything besides the bass. I promise.
     
  5. haplo07

    haplo07 Guest

    Apr 13, 2002
    Tinley Park, IL
    Thank you for your responses to my post and for you taking the time of giving me ideas and insight that i doubt i would get anywhere else. It's time like this that truely make me thank God for me accidentally finding this site. everything you have said i will take to heart and think over seriously and utilize if i can. To all of those that thinking of answering and are wondering if my problem is answered; please drop a response anyway. you maybe say something in passing that might help me and not even know it. to everyone thank you and God Bless.
     
  6. haplo07

    haplo07 Guest

    Apr 13, 2002
    Tinley Park, IL
    you are right. i do need lots of practice. i just got this bass two or three weeks ago, but to put more light as to my not picking out the notes...well, i hear the bass. i can tell pitch in note from another but it's hard to follow along like i would on a guitar. i can tell what a guitar player is doing and i can find the note in the phrasing of his/ her riff easier than i can on a bass. i guess it's all the treble in the guitar, the character of the instument's sounds that i am used to that make it easier than a bass. i mean i just have to train my ear to listen to the low end now and it's not easy for me to say the least. sometimes on a slap riff i can somewhat pick that out better than a low-end jazz riff fingered or when it's all bass in the background of a song and there is no treble in the bassist's sound to cut through all the rest of the sound in the mix.

    example (not like i can play like any of these guys): Entwistle of the who or Geddy Lee of Rush - their sounds have a nice bass texture, but they have a high end in their mix that i can pick out notes more than i can listening to lets say Whole Lot of Rosie from ac/dc (listening to it now). i can hear the bass but it isn't as clear to me. you know what i mean? it's hard for me to express so if you don't know what i mean i understand.
     
  7. You can also try singing the bass line. That will help you pick it out. Someone else, sorry I can't recall who, mentioned listinging to the song from another room. It does make it a lot easier to hear the bass lines.

    My favorite stuff to listen to is classic rock, and bass wasn't always recorded really well back then. My studio is downstairs. If I put a song on and head upstairs to my bedroom, that puts me right above the studio. It's much easier to hear the bass then.

    Also, good headphones will help too, and I've noticed that I can hear basslines in my car that I can't hear in my studio.

    Start with really simple songs with really strong bass lines, like the Police. It's really frustrating trying to learn something complex by ear when you're first starting out.

    Brianrost also gave really good advice in learning scales and arpeggios. Knowing them will be a big help when it comes to picking out a line.

    Lisa
     
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The timbre of the bass means that in many recordings it can be so buried in the mix that determining the pitches is tough. On old recordings, prior to 1960, say, the bass is sometimes so poorly recorded that it literally drops in and out of hearing at times. Picking up bass lines off jazz records made in the 30s for instance is a real art, often it's just "whoop whoop whoop" that you hear, no pitches at all.

    The other part of your problem is familiarity with "cliche" bass lines. You can hear the guitar parts because you 've learned and played enough other guitar lines that you can hear the typical stuff that guitarists do. The more songs you learn on bass, the more easy it will be to pick up the next one. Like that 1930s jazz record example, I can GUESS what the line might be if I can hear roughly half the notes because I know the general principles behind bass lines from that period.