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I woke up today and realized I don't know jack!

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by Rodan, Apr 27, 2002.

  1. Rodan

    Rodan Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    Hollywood, FL

    I'm fairly new to TB and feel like being part of this group has all of a sudden made realize that I really know nothing about bass!

    I've been playing bass for almost 14 years now, and play bass almost daily. Although I am not playing in a band now, since I started playing bass I have played in about 4 or 5 original rock bands. With one of them, we even made a cd (in 1996), which got decent airplay at some college radio stations around the country. With this band, I must have played at least 100-150 shows over the course of 4 years, everywhere from Atlanta to NY. I don't think the stuff I played veers from much the rock context, but since it did have some jazz elements and was mostly instrumental, some of the music required a decent amount of technical playing. For some whacky listening, click here: http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/279/tractor_hips.html (If you check this out, I only recommend listening to "Sesquialtera" or "Luciernagas" - everything else is not very good)

    Now here's the thing - I know what a major scale is, and a minor scale is, but I don't know a damn thing about modes, chords, etc. I never learned the circle of fifths, I can't play but the most simple bass lines without having to look at the fretboard. It has dawned on me that I have a good ear and have learned about music "from the gut". I've always thought that I am a decent bass player, but lately, after spending a lot of time in TB I realize that I never developed the musical skills that might allow me to become and even better player.

    I feel like I'm totally stuck in a rut these days - I have one style of playing, but never veer much from it. I really want to develop my MUSICAL skills as a bass player. In addition, I just bought some recording software and have a keyboard that I use to complement anything that I may write on bass. My lack of even the most rudimentary music theory is probably preventing me from being able to write music. I find myself coming up with a bassline, but always running empty when it comes to writing new sections to my initial bassline - probably cause my brain doesn't process what key, or scale of anything I'm on and what can come next.

    Can you help a brother out? I'm trying to figure out what the best place is to learn this stuff from scratch. Can you recommend any books to help me get the basics of music theory down? Also, I think I need a new way to envision playing bass - how can I do this? I find myself constantly playing the same old tired basslines that I've been playing forever. I want to learn something new and to learn how to incorporate music theory into my composition skills. Any other ideas? (I've even thought about going to take some lessons from somebody, but have not had good experiences with people teaching me bass before - when I started out I used to have a bass teacher. After a while, I stopped seeing him because I felt like he wasn't teaching me anything useful, just showing me how to play tunes that he would pick out). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    Welcome to TB. I am glad that TB has helped you decide to become a better player. I will help as much as I can. Let's see what we can do.

    Try Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Book from Sher Publishing. Although it is about jazz, it really gets into a good discussion of functional harmony (the way chords act within a tune), it also gives modes, scales and how to use them in context. Although mostly jazz in nature and written for melodic insturments or paino, it is a really great resource.

    My book, "The Chordal Approach" also gets into the functional harmony topic, but in context of playing chords on bass. This might also open up some new possibilities for you. Check out some of the lessons at my site, www.michaeldimin.com (links to bassically.net's lesson page but hey, I want you to check out my site) you can hear some examples of the Chordal Approach (Autumn Leaves, Footprints)

    I have found that Gary Willis' book, Fingerboard Harmony for Bass is excellent. It really gives some new perspective on approaching the instrument

    A teacher can provide you with a great deal of inspiration. From a teachers perspective, a student who is mature, motivated and committed to learning the bass is a joy to teach. The teacher also becomes really motivated. With that in mind, call my friend Ted Hall, he runs the Austin Guitar School. He might have some suggestions. Also the National Summer Guitar Workshop runs a 1 week program in Austin NGSW. I cannot speak for the Austin campus but I teach at the CT campus and find it very rewarding.

    I hope this helps. If I didn't answer all your questions or if more arise. please post here.

    Mike Dimin
  3. Rodan,
    I know exactly how you feel. I'm in the exact same position. I've been playing bass for 8 years, been in a couple bands, and was relatively successful with one of them.

    If you asked me to just play, I can. But afterwards if you were to ask me what I just did, as far as scales, chords, modes, etc. I couln't tell you. I can play quite well, and have had many people tell me this, and not just my mom and my wife either. :D
    When it comes to the technical and theory aspects of playing bass, I'm clueless. I can tell you where the notes on the fretboard are at with whatever tuning you toss at me. I can do quite a bit, but since I came to TalkBass, I realized I don't know that much. I can hardly read music, although my sight reading and ear training have improved substantially. But if you were to ask me to play a C minor scale, I couldn't do it. I don't know jack, either! Sometimes it disheartening reading some of the posts here and not having any idea of whats being said.
    Unfortunely, I don't have the money to get a teacher. I've tried books, but to me it's like learning a foreign language without having any grasp of it. I tried to learn German, and I couldn't retain any of it. But if someone were to teach me, it would stick in my head even after years of not using it. I still remember quite a bit of the spanish I took in high school. For me it seems like the only way I'm going to improve is to have someone teach it to me. I need to be able to ask questions.

    I too have basically learned everything I do through gut instinct. When I first started on bass, I took lessons for a few months. I quit because 1) I could no longer afford it, and 2) I had progressed to the point where I thought I would be just fine. I was so wrong. But at the time, I was playing in a band, and playing quite well.

    I've been able to develop several different styles of playing, from the root note rhythm of heavy metal, to blues, hard rock, and even some decent solo jazz stuff. All it really took was to "follow along" with the music I was listening to. Not to say I was following perfectly with every note, but I cut the bass as much as I could, and pretty much created my own basslines to the songs I was listening to. Rarely did they match the actual bass lines, but they were lines that fit. I still try to do that when ever I can. I don't worry about what the actual song plays, like the chord structure, timing sequences, and what not. I just play, and I have a good time. Unless I need to learn the song, then I try to get all the info I can, from sheet music to tabs, and learning by ear. Each one is a tool to get me where I want to be.

    If all that is required of me as a bassist, to play well, and have a good time, then I've got nothing to worry about. But if I ever need to work out chord progression, scales, or theory for a song, I'm done for.

    I don't know if this is helpful, but I just wanted to share my story.

    and if anyone knows a good teacher in my area, let me know! I live right between San Francisco and Sacramento. Thanks.
  4. lpbassics

    lpbassics Guest

    Jan 26, 2002
    Although I've been playing for only a year, there is one thing i can say from my limited experience... find yourself a good teacher!!

    Don't settle for anything less. My bass teacher is sent from heaven. He is truely knowledgeable about bass. I can ask him questions about PROPER technique, equipment, and functioning in real life situations. Having a good teacher can give you inspiration, help you through tough times, or just give you someone to jam with at times. If you find that going to your lessons is becoming a hassle, then you should change your course. I truely love going to my bass lessons, and am considering signing up for another hour session.

    Make sure that the teacher is not just a guitar player trying to teach bass. IMO, your much better off finding a BASS teacher, they're out there.

  5. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    Amen to that!!!

  6. Rodan

    Rodan Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    Hollywood, FL

    Thanks for all the info. I appreciate your comments and will try to get a hold of these books. Also, I will search out Ted Hall and ask him if he can recommend any bass teachers.


    It's good to know I'm not alone out there. Thanks for the story and the support.
  7. DarkMazda


    Jun 3, 2000
    I always wake up in the morning and say I suck at bass :p

  8. Mohsin


    Mar 20, 2000
    Mike .. I was wondering if you knew any good bass teachers in the houston area ... I have been playing bass for almost 5 years now but feel technically just as handicapped as Rodan :( ... I think having a teacher can really help me break the rut and i can hopefully become a better bass player..

  9. lazybassass


    Jan 23, 2002

    check that link out. i have been playing for about two years. ive been starting to get serious about my playing for about a year or so. i was getting bored with playing the same old stuff every day and just reading tab. i got a teacher and it was like a whole new world. with the help of this website and my teacher i have learned so much in the past half year. the part i like best about this is you can really watch yourself progress from tabs to reading the bass clef and learning the basics of theory and then moving on to more challening notation and more andvanced theory. i dont know if this will help but if it does ur welcome :D
  10. i think alot of us have encountered this feeling. my first teacher years ago was aguitarist teaching bass and this soured me for years on lessons. in the interim i have been in many playing situations, toured america and the world and still wake up feeling like something is missing. recently i have begun studying chord theory on my own and it is truly amazing how one seemingly insignificant exercise can open up a world of freshness and possibilities!! i became one of those players scared that being well versed theoretically would somehow compromise my individuality,and at one time maybe there was some truth to it, but we all change and knowledge is never a bad thing. good luck to everyone....
  11. Rodan

    Rodan Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    Hollywood, FL

    My point exactly. It's not that I don't know how to play bass - in fact, not trying to toot my own horn, but I think I am a technically proficient player. The only thing is that I don't think about what I'm playing in terms of scales, chords, modes, etc, but rather, in terms of the sound and patterns on the fingerboard. Obviously, I think I could benefit from some instruction, but I certainly never tried to give the impression that I really don't know anything about bass - I just don't know anything about music theory.


    Thanks for the link - looks like very useful information. Maybe tomorrow when I have some free time I can read it crefully and practice.

    Thanks again for everyone's comments.
  12. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    Every technique, every bit of knowledge is just a tool that you can add to your toolbox. It doesn't take from your individuality but adds imeasurably to it.

    Here are a couple ideas to invigirate.

    1. Learn the melodies of the songs you play
    2. Study the interaction between the melody, harmony and bass line

  13. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Rodan, don't consider this realization a totally negative thing....it's only negative if you allow it to continue, right?

    However, you've had a flash of humility. Keep that. It's a good thing, and it'll help you get calls for gigs just as sure as being the virtuoso. Not many gigs require virtuosity, but just about all of them can benefit from the addition of a nice, humble player.
  14. Mohsin


    Mar 20, 2000
    Does anyone know any good bass instructors in Houston, TX???:confused:.. I would greatly appreciate any recommenations and directions ... sorry i was waiting for Mike to answer that part in my previous post..

    Thanks in advance
  15. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999

    Sorry, in my mind I had answered it. I just never wrote it down.
    I am sorry I don't know anyone in Houston. Have you tried www.basslessons.com

  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I don't know Jack either. Who is he? Should I know him?
    Sorry, couldnt help it, bad jokes are my speciality!

    I'm amazed to read that there are so many players in EXACTLY the same situ as I was, up until very recently. The first post here was almost like reading a post I'd written... actually I got a bit scared, I thought I was doing a Tyler Durden!

    I've been playing about 12 years. I'd learnt everything I knew by just figuring stuff out by ear and picking up bits and bobs from friends/ magazines/ books/ CDs etc...

    I've always listened to funk, which gave me Herbie Hancock and initiated the jump on to jazz. After a few years of listening to jazz I decided I just HAD to understand how it worked! I knew I had to start at the very, very beginning, so I started looking for a teacher.

    I'm now having monthly lessons with Steve Lawson... and all is going well. I'm really enjoying the lessons, I'm getting a Hell of a lot from them and, best of all, pretty much every time I play with my band(s) I understand that little bit more about the song than I did before. Steve is very, very good teacher - he makes it all seem simple.

    It's a pretty slow process with me though, mainly cause I have so little time, but each lesson and each new thing I learn is so inspirational.

    Go for it and good luck!

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