I have issues

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by The Nanny, Jul 20, 2005.

  1. The Nanny

    The Nanny

    Dec 23, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Any bandmates I've ever had tell me I'm a great bassist, and one of the best they've ever played with. I suspect they have no idea what they are talking about.

    I've never had any formal bass training...been playing for 20 years, just learning on my own...no teacher, no mentor. I play by ear and feel. But I feel like a total dufus around what I consider REAL bass players...those who know theory, have good technique (I don't even know if I have bad technique, but I'm pretty sure I do), and can sight read. I'm a rock, pop, and metal bassist. That's it. I am always full of confidence around other non-bassist musicians, but when I meet someone who has the training (its obvious), I feel like I'm 6 years old and I don't even want them to see me play. I don't even like trying a bass in a music store.

    Anyone else have this complex?
  2. pdusen


    Aug 18, 2004

    It's all about the music, man.
  3. I've certainly had my fair share of those moments. I began playing bass when I was 16 at the behest of a friend who essentially said, "Dude, I'm starting a band. You gotta' learn bass. It's a lot easier than learning guitar." Granted, I grew up playing classical piano, so I started with a good ear, solid knowledge of theory, and decent finger strength. The only thing that surprised me was how f'ing much those stainless strings hurt my virgin skin. The callousing process was painful, but I stuck with it.

    I took a few lessons with some dude who was first and foremost a guitar player. He also happened to teach bass, but wasn't a bass player -- something which became quickly evident and pissed me off. I wasn't interested in bass as a tuned down guitar. I learned a few scale patterns, bid him adieu, bought a bunch of instructional books and videos, and just played.

    I'm 28 now and I've nailed virtually every gig I've auditioned for. People tell me I'm one of the best players they've had the pleasure of jamming with. Also been told I'm the LOUDEST. <g> Learning how to properly EQ helped a bit (hint: think mid's).

    Usually I start feeling like a five-year-old with broken fingers when I've just watched a Victor Wooten vid or been hanging out at some bass god clinic. I despair (briefly) at my inability to fire off 64th triplets for ten minutes at a time or blow some super fast slap funk in 15/16.

    Then I realize that the reason I play bass is because I enjoy playing with OTHER musicians. If I slapped everything, the other band members I play with would end up slapping ME unconscious. My philosophy as a bass player is to be happy in the back seat, but to not be afraid to stretch out every once in a while.

    The real proof of your prowess as a bassist is whether or not the piece you're playing grooves. Be it quarter-note roots or 16th note finger funk. I've seen slap-happy soloing jackasses who couldn't groove if their lives depended on it -- the band they supposedly supported would just crater and look thoroughly humiliated. And to be honest, listening to a band react to each other is a hell of a lot more satisfying than watching some guy wank off with all the atonal theory in the world.

    The three most important tools a great bass player has are time, tone, and muting. A lot of drummers have a tendency to drift and it's up to you to keep them honest. You'd also be surprised at how the rest of the band looks toward the bassist for song cues, e.g. from verse to chorus, etc. There've been moments on stage when the rest of the band completely missed transitions and I had to hold it down until they figured out what the @#$% they were doing. Most of the time no one noticed because the groove kept chugging along.

    Muting is a huge part of tone. If you let a bunch of notes ring out (esp. below A), you'll get mud and muck, which slaughters a groove faster than a goosed drummer. Being able to control how your notes breathe is a fundamental part of driving a song. More so than which notes you actually play. If you're playing short, burpy staccato sixteenths, it feels completely different from loping whole notes. And if you slap, you NEED to mute with precision. When I moved to a 5-string, I had to completely change my muting approach because the .135B would pick up everything.

    Theory's a useful thing for communicating musical ideas and analyzing music. But literary critics don't necessarily make great novelists. Nor does a head full of scales and modes make you a monster player. PLAYER. The emphasis is on playing.

    If the band sounds tight, people are bobbing their heads, people are getting freak on the dance floor, you're doing your job well. Be proud of yourself.

  4. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    There appears to be a certain amount of eletism among some formally trained bassists. As if those of us who picked it up on our own will never measure up to their rules. A good friend of mine said simply, "John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson had no formal schooling in music."
    That's all he had to say.
    I can find the pocket and stay there.
    I can learn to play any song I really want to play (or have had to).
    No bassists have ever complimented me on my playing, but it didn't keep me from getting paid at the end of the night--and that's the only confirmation I've ever needed.
  5. I feel the same way somtimes. I've been playing for about 25 years and took maybe 2 lessons early on. I don't read and am horrible at improv, so I stay away from jazz and blues situations. I don't really like that kind of music anyway, so it's cool.
    I learn songs quickly by ear (lots of time playing to cds) and have a good feel for dynamics and rhythm.
    One of my problems is that I'm rarely satisfied with bass parts that I write. Other people like them, but I kind of feel that If I can do it, then its not good enough. Plus, I get bored easily playing the same stuff over and over again, so I'm constantly farting around at rehearsal.
    I want people to like my stuff, but I get nervous when I get compliments.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The bottom line is whether or not the instrument acts as an impediment to getting music out of your head and into the air. The bottom line is whether or not you can hear and identify what it is you are hearing other musicians play (even if you can't identify it as a D7b9#9b13, you hear it as THESE NOTES, HERE ON THE INSTRUMENT). The bottom line is can you carry on a musical conversation with other musicians in such a way that you communicate how it is you are hearing whatever you are playing.

    Basically are you playing creatively or playing by rote? Do you HEAR every note you are going to play or are your fingers just going through motions that they have learned by rote (if he's playing an A chord , all I have to do is stick between these frets or play this pattern)?

    I can't really talk about whatever psychological problems you may be experiencing, but if you REALLY know what you're doing, it doesn't matter HOW you know it. You just need to figure out what you REALLY know.

    Is there a certain amount of elitism among those people who can spell? Well, maybe not elitism, but you're sure going to have to go a longer way to prove yourself if they have to decipher every letter or memo you hand to them.

    Hyar me kaws Im reel smrt. Best of luck.

    Good ear - this is the best one of all. If you've got great ears, then what's so hard about "improv" or jazz? All you have to do is play what you hear. If you can't hear it, maybe your ear isn't as good as you think...

    NANNY AND ZOEY -like I said, I can't really get into why people make you feel a certain way about yourself. But YOU can. Ask yourself, what makes me feel this way when I meet another bassist? If I am conscious that the ONLY way I can sound is how I sound, and that is something that I am content with, why do I lose that feeling when another player is in the building?
    While it's nice to hear that people enjoy your playing, it really doesn't mean that much. What does mean something - am I getting close to the sound that is really ME? Somebody said something about Victor, Victor is absolutley the best Victor Wooten that there is. No matter how good you get at playing like Victor Wooten, you are ALWAYS going to be NOT VICTOR WOOTEN. But the converse is true also, if you get to be YOU, so that every note you play communicates YOU and WHO YOU ARE, nobody in the world is going to be a better version of you than you. Believe me, being in NYC, you get to have everybody in the world walk into where you are playing. And all they are looking for is to hear what it is YOU have to say for YOURSELF. Nothing but that. Of course we all strive for tha moment of true poetic beauty, but as long as you COMMUNICATE honestly and with intent, everybody can get with that.

    I do have to laugh when I hear **** like "happy in the back seat", "well I don't really like that kind of music","Learn any song I really want to", "atonal wankers". It all smacks of " I don't want to put the work in, so it must suck.'

    getting paid at the end of the night--and that's the only confirmation I've ever needed. - Then why not be a plumber, the money's better.

    John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson had no formal schooling in music - And that's why Lennon got my buddy Dan Aprea to write out horn parts, cause he couldn't communicate with other musicians. That's why Jimi never ended up doing anything with Miles Davis (which he VERY much wanted to do), cause he couldn't get his ear around what was going on with Miles' band.
    Now Robert Johnson... OK no "formal" schooling. But blues (and jazz really) has always been more of a "master-apprentice" kind of thing and RJ certainly went through that. And probably would have continued, if he hadn't been killed. Any number of other blues players became involved in the nascent jazz scene and pushed the parameters of what they could play and what they could hear forward.
    But the bottom line with all that STILL is, are you avoiding the work because you CAN already deal with those skill sets or because you CAN'T? You be the judge, but I gotta say if I ain't running in the money in the Tour de France but I'm making fun of all the nutritionists and doctors and coaches and trainers etc. that Lance uses in his preparation, well ya see where I'm going.
  7. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    Good thread.

    Ed: Good post!

    All I have to add is that I will evolve as a player how I want to. My guitar player has been getting on my case about 5-string basses and how I can play faster, etc. I am not interested.....yet.....Maybe later on.

    I am happy right where I am and I am proud of that. I truly don't mind if a bass player out in the audience notices I alternate between a pick and finger style. I don't care if they think I rule or I suck. Whatever they want to believe is theirs.

    I once read a quote(maybe on TB) that 75% of all bass players think they are better than 75% of other bass players.

    Maybe my closing sentence will help the OP look at himself differently. The bowl is half-full, Nanny. :)

  8. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    I'm in the same boat. I suck. I'm only 5 years into it and most of my friends tell me that I'm better than most pro bassists. What they don't understand is pro bassist show restraint. In jam situations, you don't always have to, and this is what they hear me in. I hide when I hear someone dropping theory lingo, I've been meaning to remedy this. You should too! It's never to late to learn. Regardless, if you are playing metal/pop/rock and you're playing well enough to fit the genre and impressing people to boot, you must be doing something right, even if it's just having a solid sense of time. I don't think you can be taught that.

    There is certainly some good posts on this thread, good stuff.
  9. Funkengrooven

    Funkengrooven Turn it down? You gotta be nuts!!

    A wise jazz player once said:
    "The audience only hears what you play, not what you meant to play"
    That means other bassists too. I only matters to you where you got your knowlege, no one else knows unless you tell them.
    What is heard is the groove. If you are in the groove and laying it on the one, you are there. I play the stuff that I do because I like it and I am constantly experimenting with other stuff that gets worked in eventually. That includes reading music.
    Stu Ham I am not, but nobody but Stu Ham is Stu Ham as was posted earlier. That goes for Percy Jones too. Both amazing cats that I love to listen to, but I'll never play like that cause it ain't me.
  10. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    I'm going to jump back in here because I see this thread starting to become an usuns vs themuns thread.
    I misspelled elitism in my initial post.
    I should probably term it as more of a launguage barrior between formal and not formal musicians. We have to make an effort to communicte with one another. Us informals are used to it. That's how we learn music together. Formals hand out pieces of paper and everybody follows along.

    I have played with formally trained musicians. Most were great, and I was able to hang. They seemed okay with my ability.
    I learned chords from Mel Bay. Went to a lot of jam sessions, and found out what I needed to know to make money as a bassist.
    My heroes didn't go to school for music.
    School is not a prerequisite for becoming a great musician.
    Miles probably hasn't made as much money in 50 years as Hendrix did in five.
    Music is a business. Anyone who sees music only as an art form reduces it greatly.
  11. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    /me grabs some popcorn awaiting for the war to start. :)
  12. I REALLY don't like that kind of music. If I did, I'd work on it more.

    Not everything people say is an excuse for not being as good as you.
  13. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    There's no harm in starting over.

    As a matter of fact, I routinely go back to the fundamentals. It's almost like a cycle of learning. Each cycle you gain little bit more understanding of music itself.
  14. Ronny


    Jul 20, 2005
    Jerusalem, Israel
    I know what you're talking about. I was there, but eventually I just got better and now I love playing in music stores and I don't have too much problems playing with trained musicians, as I'm playing with people that I can be honest with them. If I don't really get this chord or that rhythm I feel comfortable to stop the other dude and say "hey man, what was that... you did there? I want to learn how to do it" - and there ya go, I'm another step ahead towards being "well trained" ;)

    I agree Funkengrooven who said that no one knows what you meant to play. Knowing scales and modes is very nice and helpful, but even with plain octaves and without knowing which notes should or shouldn't fit into your riff you can have some killer grooves.

    In my opinion, it goes like this - First you have to train your ears. But really hard, this is the most important part of the work. Think of it like this - If you can hear what other band members play, or hear something for a split second for the first time on a new CD and immediately improvise or even more shockingly, reproduce it on your bass perfectly - You're damn great :p

    So let's leave the bass for a sec. If you just hear the music in your head and know exactly what was it that he played two seconds ago (not necesarily "F#7 then Bb13") and you can sing that then that is great. You also need to be able to improvise when singing the notes and to create good music in your head. After you're able to do that it's all just hours and hours of sitting and practicing on techniques so you'll actually be able to translate what's in your head into the final thing people will hear thru the bass.

    Good luck! :)
  15. The Nanny:

    I know *exactly* where you're coming from. 36years ago, I was in precisely the same situation where I leaned to play bass by playing it in a band situation. No guitar playing background or experience and no lessons either formal or informal.

    Here I am over three decades later and still playing (much to the horror of my kids ;) ) and I too always feel perfectly comfortable in the company of other musicians when playing, jamming or just passing the time BUT things do tend to change when I find myself confronted by other bassists who may have had the "benefit" of formal training. If the conversation turns to "theory", I'm outta there rapido!! :D :D

    HOWEVER, never forget there there are millions of "educated idiots" out there and that applies more to musicians than most IMHO. How many "bedroom" players have you heard/met who can "talk a good fight" but couldn't play their way out of a paper bag in a band situation and wouldn't know how to stay "in the pocket" if their life depended on it? :meh: :meh: :meh: :meh:

    I guess that I am never going to be anything other than a "jobbing" bassist but, hey, there are a lot of much worse fates IMHO :D :D

    When all is said and done, there is still nothing that beats the buzz of really playing WITH (as opposed to "at the same time as" :D ) other musicians in a live situation in front of an appreciative audience. :D :D

    Also, without being too up my own a***, I sometimes think that a player who has persevered with his instrument and continued to play it for many years is, in a sense, more blessed with a musical gift than someone who has been "trained" to play almost by rote. That's my theory anyway and I'm sticking to it. ;) ;)

    Eventually, it just becomes "what you do". Your playing will always be a journey rather than a destination. :) :)
  16. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    I'm relatively new to bass playing, about 2 1/2 years into it but I love doing it - I really get a buzz from making one of my favourite songs actually sound like it should, on my own bass.

    I do, however, have low confidence around other musicians, regardless of their talent OR instrument! Luckily, I jam with some of my best mates - one of which is one of the best lead guitarists I've met in person (technically, theoretically and in terms of actual skill too), and a drummer who's just recently got back into it. I constantly make mistakes, but then again I've only JUST started jamming.

    I'm always telling other musicians I meet how bad I am and how I need more practice, but at the end of the day I LOVE making the music... and practice makes perfect!

    I can read music, but I can't yet put it to practice on a fretboard... theory is my next step, but that'll all be self taught too.

    The way I see it, if you can hold a groove, and you can smile while you're playing the music YOU want to play, why should it matter? If some flashy dude wants to show off with the theory he knows, or the fact that he slaps and you don't etc, so what? If you're getting positive comments from the people you play with, that's all that counts... unless of course you want to get some kind of record deal!

    I'm quite lucky in the fact that most of the musicians I know are pretty cool and down to earth - they want to help you rather than show off, but now and again I meet someone who seems to just be in it for the glory...

    I'm sure I'll have a different view on it when I start gigging though!
  17. EFFECTIVE practice makes perfect IMHO.

    Practice just makes "bored". ;) ;)
  18. Spikeh

    Spikeh Sex Strings

    OK, OK... as long as you're trying new things and not afraid to experiment... Practice makes Perfect ;)
  19. Yes it could, I do see a certain amount of defensiveness in that statement. :meh:

    True :)

    Not true (unless it is a classical, orchestral setting) I've been in many arrangement sessions where the notation is only a starting point. The ability of the musicians to communicate with each other in a common language streamlines the process.

    That's the way it should be! :) No two musicians, formally trained or not, are ever at the exact same level of ability.

    As did many other folks. :cool:

    ........... nor should you? :eyebrow:

    True. However I've never heard anyone complain that schooling has prevented them from becoming a great musician. I have heard people state that they have become good musicians despite having no formal music education :D

    Yes!.... Of course!.... Music is ALL about money! :rolleyes:


  20. Music is not a business IMHO.

    The Music Business, however, is. ;) ;)

    On the issue of formal training - v - no training, we all have to beware of inverted snobbery. :meh: :meh:

    Having said that, I have worked with many brass players who literally could not play if you removed their dots and would play an entire song in the wrong key if that was what was written. :scowl: :scowl:

    Sad but true.