I'm very mediocre, and I'm not getting any better

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Tupac, Oct 31, 2011.

  1. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I've been playing for about 5 months now, starting at the beginning of June. Ever since, I've been practicing rigorously, an hour a day. However, I feel like for the past 2 or 3 months, I've hit a wall. It's not normal to hit "the wall" so early in instrument playing. I consider myself VERY sloppy. I can play some difficult songs, like the main riff in YYZ and Lounge Act, but not cleanly. Even simpler riffs I have trouble playing with good time or consistency. If anything, I'm getting worse. What do I do? There must be something inefficient about my practicing. My definition of practice means sitting down for and hour and playing some riffs or trying to figure out new ones. I'm somewhat well-versed in theory, it's my technique that's bothering me big time. Any advice?
  2. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I disclose nothing
    get in a band with people who are better than you ...
  3. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    I'll echo Ric5 here. Playing with other people is the #1 thing that will improve you.

    In terms of your practice time, try to set a more definite goal for that hour+ of time. Say you're wanting to learn a song. Make fully and completely tackling a section of that song your goal for each day: at least to get the notes under your fingers, if not to nail it. Then, after several sessions, when you've learned the notes beginning to end, the next session can be a full on play-through where you begin to focus on cleaning up your execution.

    This idea of approaching it methodically can be used for any practice goal you have. Techniques: Want to get better at pick playing? Slap?
    Theory: Want to know more about harmony, scales.. things that can help you write your own lines.
    Pick a single goal and work toward it for that practice session.
  4. Doll

    Doll Versus Doll

    Jan 31, 2010
    +1 to that, I find I don't grow as a bassist when I'm not challenged in a band setting.

    Also try practicing scales, or patterns. I often do a
    1 3
    1 4
    1 4
    1 3
    then in reverse and then move down a fret the entire way down the fret board.

    As for timing and consistency start practicing with a metronome.

    But you will go through times like this, it happens, just keep with it.

    In the mean time I think there is a mediocre bass players club to join.

    One of us... one of us
  5. treekiller


    Mar 4, 2010
    +1 to finding other musicians to play with. Also, do you own/use a metronome? If you are "sloppy", it can be a big help in tightening up your rhythm and timing.

    Taking lessons might be a big help right now as well. A good teacher can help you to learn proper technique and avoid bad habits that can inhibit your ability to play cleanly, etc.

    Good luck!!! :bassist:
  6. I think hitting different plateaus in one's playing is natural. Over the next few months nothing will progress, but if you keep at it something will click and you'll see improvement again. Pick a tough new song to learn/work on, or join a band. Either will provide you with the impetus to break through and hit the next plateau. I would not be discouraged by this at all. It's a plateau, not a wall.
  7. pica


    Nov 26, 2009
    Work with a bass instructor.
  8. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    One on the things I found beneficial was shorter practice sessions, instead of 2-3 one hours sessions I split in into 4-6 half hour sessions, by an hour my mind wasn't focusing enough for it to be worth carrying on.

    If you can play YYZ at full speed even sloppy I don't think that's bad progress for 5 months, my fingers certainly didn't move fast enough to play that fast by 5 months.
  9. Matt R.

    Matt R.

    Jul 18, 2007
    Huntsville AL
    Keep practicing alone and with other musicians. And chill out. If you're already disillusioned 5 months into it, then you have a loooong road ahead of you my friend. It isn't easy.:bassist:
  10. TC.65


    Dec 20, 2008
    Carbondale IL
    +1 to playing with other people. I've been playing quite a bit longer than you been playing in church for a few years. It seemed like I wasn't progressing at all.

    About a month ago me and a couple of guys decided to start a band playing originals. We have played together 3 times came up with a new song each session. Since I have to create my own lines I seem to have improved tremendously.
  11. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    If your playing is sloppy, then you need to slow down your practice time and make sure to play everything cleanly and accurately. If you practice sloppy, you'll play sloppy.

    Practice playing everything slowly, cleanly, evenly. Build up the tempo gradually and stay at each new tempo until you can consistently play what are working on cleanly.
  12. Guiseppe


    Oct 26, 2003
    Vancouver, WA
    I've found that over 30 years of playing, I usually don't realize when I'm "changing plateaus"; in my experience, someone will comment on my playing, or perhaps I'll just notice a particular passage or song that has become more basic over time.

    One thing I WILL say is that DON'T pressure yourself into some pre-conceived notion of what you should be doing. What you SHOULD be doing is A) practicing regularly (and implementing good habits, so that the time is productive and NOT a waste of your time), and B) finding new ways to enjoy playing bass and inserting yourself into your playing. You said YYZ was one song you play...is it because that song somehow speaks to you? tone? technique? or just because it is a tough song for a lot of people to play?

    Think of it...at 5 months you couldn't even walk yet...I recommend taking a breath, find some music you like playing, and learn to fall in love (again) with your bass.

    It's the journey that makes it worthwhile. Best of luck!
  13. Clearwave


    Sep 29, 2011
    The Future
    If you're not practicing with a drum machine/metronome you're not really practicing, you're just noodling around. You won't be able to play complex bass parts cleanly if you can't play super simple bass parts cleanly.

    Learn a few super simple, slower tempo bass parts and work on really nailing it. And spend lots of time with a metronome. When deciding who to play with, always associate yourself with better musicians than yourself, it will make you better. Especially the drummer. As a bass player, you can only sound as good as the drummer.
  14. Bochafish


    Jul 26, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    +1 to playing with others and the metronome suggestion. An amazing thing happened when I started to practice scales to a metronome. I started to build my internal feel for time. You start to recognize more easily when anyone playing starts to fall out of time.

    Also big +1 to slowing down til you can play it clean, the gradually speed it up. One great thing about our instrument is that all you have to do is make your fingers do what you want to play a song. Unlike voice, where no matter how much you practice, you probably won't ever sound like Poverotti.
  15. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    How serious of a player do you want to become? When I started playing I practiced 7-8 hours a day, I was 15 then not many responsiblities. 20 years later - after taking a 15 year break, I'm practicing 3 hours a day on weekdays and 5+ on weekends and yes I have a demanding full time job, wife and 5 month old kid and I squeeze in a workout 3-4 days a week.
  16. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    there's such a thing as practicing and embedding your mistakes. Som eteacher's recommend 20 minutes of focused careful atention and 20 minutes to goof around for practice.
    In your enthusiasm and impatience you may have been playing too fast and too sloppy. Slow down until you have the percision you want and then work your speed up.
    At this point getting in touch with a teacher just to check your technique, if not to start lessons, could really pay off. A good teacher will be able to spot bad habits and provide guidance in correcting them.
  17. cracked_machine


    Jan 8, 2010
    Best way to practice alone is to play along to the actual track. It's the closest you can get to playing with others. It's the most fun too...am I the only one who doesn't use a metronome? I don't see the point of a metronome if you have the actual record to play along to.
  18. I've used a metronome about 3 times... much rather play along with the track. and playing with others with no track has never been an issue either.
  19. KCLRbass


    Sep 5, 2011
    One of the most valuable applications for a metronome is to slow yourself down while staying 'in time'. In other words, set the metronome to a slower tempo than the recording and play through the tune. Like cracked_machine said, it's not nearly as fun as playing along to a track, but it can really help tighten up your playing if you're struggling at full speed.

    +1 to metronome AND playing along with the track.
  20. DougD

    DougD Bassman7654

    Sep 19, 2002
    North Las Vegas NV

    But you may not think you are getting any better, but you are. It's sometimes hard to see progress in ourselves. But if you keep practicing, especially as prescribed above, you ARE getting better. You just can't see it ....yet.
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