Jamming - Total Disappointment

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by wannabe_bassist, Nov 9, 2002.

  1. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    Being new to the bass, I don't expect to be Marcus Miller overnight (or even Mark Hoppus, for that matter!).

    Yet I have been diligently following the exercises in my Progressive Bass Guitar book and doing decently. I understand more about music and music theory than I ever knew before (such as in grade school when it is forced upon you). I can play the major, minor, maj pent, min pent and blues scales in any key and most of the common chords/arpeggios as well. Yet my coworkers at our recent jam session laid me to waste and left me behind. I was incredibly embarrassed to say the least. And while we are all good friends and they were just happy to have me there, it was a disaster to me.

    My coworkers and I have gotten together to jam in one of their garages (a classic, no?!) and twice now they have begged me come with my bass. The drummer is decent and the lead guitarist plays like Hendrix while the rhythm guitarist is decent.

    I fumble around with the bass trying to keep up with the insane tempo and nothing I have learned so far seems valid in this setting. 12-bar blues? Boring and not used in popular rock music like you see in any bass instructional text. Any tab I download for the songs they play is incredibly complicated, usually wrong and NOT even remotely in the structure of 12 bar blues or any turnarounds that I can ascertain.

    I am bewildered at my predicament. Perhaps the bass is not for me. We must all determine our strengths and weaknesses. But this saddens me since I truly love the sound of the instrument. I realize that not everyone has the talent, and perhaps I am one of those truly devoid of any musical playing genomes.

    The lead guitarist (and good friend) is trying to help me calling out chord changes, but I fumble and am too slow in finding the notes. While any riffs I play that I have learned so far seem mechanical at best. They are understanding and trying to help, which is great. At home, I struggle to "jam" with the MP3 of the song as I am always left in the dust by the song and then have a hard time trying to "jump back in". This does not come naturally to me at all.

    And if I am relegated to playing only root notes, I may as well as get a keyboard (i.e. the recent issue of Bass Player magazine). But I don't want to do that.

    It could take me 6 months of endless practice to learn one simple song. The song is no longer popular by then or our group has moved on to something else. These guys are levels ahead of me but being friends and coworkers, they want me to participate (and they need a bass player, even if he only plays root notes!).

    I learned to type at a steady rate of about 60 words per minute back when I was 16 and they only had manual typewriters back then. Being in the network engineering field, typing fast is a good thing. I don't think of the letters or even the words anymore. I haven't for like 23 years. I think and the words come out of my fingers. I imagine that the same is true for many of you when it comes to playing bass. I seem to have the manual dexterity to do this but perhaps as I have grown older, this is waning (scary thought!).

    I tried a bass teacher at MarsMusic but he was a guitar instructor primarily and we spent the first 4 one hour lessons learning to play chromatic note exercises up and down the fretboard in boxes. Boring and I had already done that endlessly in the books/videos I have. He spent more time showing me what he knew on bass than showing me how to play it. I have a negative view of bass guitar teachers. I would love to hook up with a local bass player who is better than me (in other words virtually anyone) and learn from them. Just seeing another bassist play would be worth the trouble.

    Any thoughts? Have the rest of you had these experiences before? What "did it" for you in terms of mastering the bass? What got you to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

    Anyway, today was not a "good Bass" day. I am alone in this type of experience?

  2. pigpen02


    Mar 24, 2002
    bummer dude. been there, though....

    stick it out. you're only ever as good as the people you play w/, and staying w/ a challenging group of musicians will only helop you grow as a musician, and for that matter, as a person. facing adversity is a virtue.

    try talking to your buds, explain your frustrations and try to find some tunes that require you to just play bass supportively, without a great deal of complexity, find your groove with the drummer and let them be the million-note pluckers.

    don't give up though. it feels better to try and keep failing than to quit prematurely.

    what kind of music are you guys playing? as long as its not fast jazz, there should be some tunes in the genre that you can all find fulfilling to play.
  3. Play along with your favourite records. You can restart as many times as you have the patience for.

    Start with something fairly straightforward, maybe the Beatles' Norwegian Wood. Figure out the changes and start with the root note of each chord. Play it over and over until you know what is going to happen. You start to "see" each chord coming and can anticipate what to do.

    Now, repeat for every single song you think has some innate musical value. :)

    The other thing I can think of is to write out chord changes and practice playing them over and over and over with a metronome or drum machine. Again, the goal is to see what chord is coming and prepare for it mentally.
  4. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    We primarily played Duck & Run by 3 Doors Down. Which I practiced decently alone but when we jammed together, it was hard for me to hear my own notes with drummer and lead guitarist drowning me out. And the TAB seems wrong, the guy has like 9 notes in one bar and then 7 in another which throws me off.

    And once I loss my place in the tempo, I am out. Duck and Run is about as simple as it gets (short of Greenday or Blink).

    "Oh yeah, just play along" sure.....what notes do I play, how do I improvise, what the heck are the chord progressions, what key is this in?

    They make it sound so easy, and it is NOT.

    My frustration level is incredibly high right now.
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I understand and sympathize with your situation. It certainly can make you feel inadequate. What I would do if I were in your situation is to beg, borrow or steal charts from those guys you jam with. Of course, many jam groups don't even have charts of their songs.

    If I understand it, your group plays different songs every time and they are relatively distinct in chord progressions and song structure from the common 12-bar blues pattern. Furthermore, I take it that even if the songs did follow a 12-bar blues pattern, the group plays too fast for you to simultaneoulsy invent a serviceable bassline on the spot.

    If they are too spontaneous in their selections and have too large a repertoire of songs, it will be quite difficult for you to always be playing catch up with them. That's why you need to get ahead of the game by knowing ahead of time what songs they plan, what chord progression, what key and try to be prepared with a simple bassline. If they can't do that much for you because they prefer to hang loose, you will be in a difficult spot until you can build a catalog of songs and a have a few basslines that might serve you well.

    Is there anything you can do to help yourself that will improve your situation fast? Maybe buy a fake book of songs in the style your friends play. Make your own charts and play basslines for the chords. Start out slowly, then try to gradually build speed forming basslines from the fake book charts.
    Also buy a cheap Radio Shack tape recorder and record your jam sessions. Listen in to hear yourself and maybe figure out what you did well and how you can improve.

    Good luck and please do not get discouraged. It sounds like most of your jam group have a lot more experience than you do. Do not be hard on yourself about it. You have done well to stick with them this long.
  6. Grygore


    Oct 25, 2002
    Grand Prairie, TX
    Yeah..that's a drag, I've been there too (and occasionally still am!). Couple things that might help...

    If there is a song that you know well and feel comfortable playing, see if they are willing to learn it. Being able to play a song all the way through with minimal mistakes or none at all will bring a smile to your face and goes a long way towards helping you feel better about your abilities as a bassist.

    For other songs...first thing of course is practice, practice, practice! (I'm sure yer sick of hearing that hehe). Can you see the rhythm guitarist while playing? I have found when playing unfamiliar material, that it helps me to watch the chord changes the guitarist is playing. Then you can at least root off that and then move around some. Don't worry too much about playing the line note for note right away. Sometimes it's hard to adapt to other players styles (meaning the bassist that wrote the line). You'll develop your own style and heck, you might come up a bass line that's BETTER than the original :D

    As far as losing your place in the song, that will happen, try not to let it bother you too much. Since most songs are broken into verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, etc. you can anticipate the next part coming up. So, for example, if you lose it during a verse and you know a chorus is next, just kinda fake it on the root for a bit (it's never as long as it feels hehe) and then jump right back in on the change.

    You're learning the bass the exact opposite of the way I learned. I taught myself by listening to tapes (remember those?) of the bands I loved and trying to emulate the bass lines. Only recently in the past couple years have I started to learn the theory. I knkow the scales well now and am just beginning to learn to sight read. I've been playing for about 15 years hehe:p

    Above all, don't give up...if the desire is there (and from yer post it seems to be) you will acheive many things, it just takes time. Yes it will be frustrating at times, but as time goes by and you become a better player, there will be more joy than frustration...THAT'S what makes it all worth it:D

    This is just how I look at it, I hope it helps some...
  7. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    I appreciate all the positive feedback.

    When I was in 3rd grade, you HAD to take music class (which is considered torture by most kids when you are that age). I was given the clarinet to play. After a few weeks, they took it away and told me to go play gym instead. That "was" my level of ability and interest at the time.

    Music theory was always a mystery to me. I have interest in reading sheet music. But music theory is another item. What makes a chord? Why are some notes used and others not? etc.

    I have spent significant time reading and analyzing bass music in songs. I see the bigger picture now that has always escaped me most of my life.

    I just can't get my hands and brain to operate fast enough or creative enough however. I realize it takes years and maybe longer. Some pick it up right away.
  8. Davygravy3


    Sep 21, 2000
    I am kind of in the same boat, I have been playing for 3 years in Jazz band and every once in a while try to get together with some friends and play some songs we like.

    My bass teacher and band director have taught me theory and I know I am good at it. I am pretty good at scales AKA I know the forms with my fingers, 2 4, 12 4, 1 34 across the different lines, but I still can't always play the right scale.

    In Jazz band I get music usually it has the whole line and if it doesn't and I have to improvise I do not always understand how to read the chord changes aka what scale to play. Reading music for me is easy, but when I get with my friends it is different

    When my guitar player is so so its gonna sound terrbile. They say go get the tab, I go to my computer go to the tabs and am like WOW thats wrong or WOW that guy has no clue what he is doing cause he is telling me to jump from the 5th fret to the 10th when I could go over a string and play 3rd and 4th frets. That lets me know I probably should not trust this tab. Then they say here are the chords and what not and they are just like PLAY thinking I am just gonna be able to play something really cool. Well, I would like to but I think it is a little more complicated than that. I also believe that is has to do with the fact that my scales have to be known better and my hear should be better trained. It all builds up...
  9. Man, I feel bad for ya's. I think we've all been there at one point. Play just fine alone, but then get into a band situation...and fall apart.

    It's a whole new thing man! Ya gotta learn to bounce stuff off of other people, what level to have your amp at, what EQ setting works good for everyone, etc. I usually wind up spending twice the amount of time practicing alone with being with 1 or more others. It's just a feel thing.

    Heck, I'd guess if you polled the people here...you'd find that as a population mean, we'd been playing for a year or more before we even started playing with others. It literally takes time, don't let it get to you.

    Easy enough to say, I know. But also equally easy to accomplish :) Time happens...just like taxes. And you pay taxes right? Then time's happening.

    Maybe you can hook up w/ a local bass player or TB'er? Nothing makes me work harder than hearing someone else. Especially if you let them play your bass, then you know what it can do. Trick is to make it do it while you're using it.

    Go get some.
  10. banditcosmo

    banditcosmo Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2002
    Charlottesville, Va.
    I'm no expert at all but I'm sort of in the same situation. I just starting playing with this band and they have a bunch of songs for me to learn. The singer/guitarist wrote out the lyrics to everysong and then wrote what key each part is in. sort of like this:
    A - - A - - - - - - - - G------F
    some random lyrics here and the key for me to

    This really helped me a lot. At the very least I can sit on the root and then add to that as I get more comfortable with the song.
    One other thing that was a big help to me was memorizing the notes on the fretboard. You need to get to where you know the notes on the fretboard without even thinking about it like the A string 9th fret is F#.
    Like I say not an expert but that's what worked for me.
  11. Gabu


    Jan 2, 2001
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I will second the playing with CDs suggestion.

    For my interview with my current band they gave me a list of 45 songs they wanted to play, and I learned a third of them in a couple of weeks practicing for a hour or two each day after work.

    I read tabs to the songs, but playing along with the CD was much more helpful.

    Also, download "slowblast". It enables you to slow a tune down without altering it's pitch. It's a great tool to learn some of the more complicated parts.
  12. Gabu


    Jan 2, 2001
    Woodland Hills, CA
    Another thing I forgot to add was your biggest obsticle may just be confidence.

    You guys are all friends and there are no penalties for mistakes. Just have fun! If you get a bit lost, try to play it through. Don't stop.
  13. Noobai


    Aug 25, 2002
    Stanford, CA
    Best way to get better it to play with people better than you :) Stick with it, itll actually probably help in the long run.
  14. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Yeah, and who do you know has picked up a bass and right away sounded good in a band context without prior expereince playing bass or another instrument and oodles and oodles of practice? If it does happen, it's as rare as hens teeth. This isn't easy, if you're thinking it is, you've got the wrong attitude. You just have to work harder, but to your credit you're doing the right thing, you're putting yourself out there, kudos to you for that. Work harder, play more and your hands and brain will begin to operate fast enough. Practice and performance, does make you better.
  15. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Stick with It! You WILL get better.

    Take Boplicity's suggestion and record your Rehearsals. That's the best way to evaluate your performance.

    Just Stick With It!
  16. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    Sounds like you need more time by yourself playing along to records. That will help get your speed and technique together w/o embarrassment. Rome wasn't built in a day. I learn something new everytime I gig and I've been at it 20 years. Without patience, forget it

  17. Man, I remember my first jam. What a total loss. :) There's nothing to it, just keep practising. You'll get better, don't worry.

    About your I - IV - V concern, this thread might be helpful, it lists some songs based upon this progression. And try to get to know in advance some of the songs you'll be playing, that way you can get the chords and have a general idea of what the song's like before you start playing.
  18. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    Wow, I appreciate the positive feedback!

    I will look for that Slowblast software too.

    My coworkers seem to like old 80's rock and such. Not that I don't but also like Greenday, Blink, etc. Easier bass lines too.

    My taste in music is varied. Virtually anything but Country music (yecc!). For example, I picked up the following:

    Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
    No Doubt - Rock Steady
    Soundtrack to 8 Mile (Eminem)

    I know folks who listen to music more than me yet cannot remember the beat or lyrics to a song. Even before I picked up an instrument, I could remember the notes in my head to virtually most songs I have heard. I seem to have the right memory for this stuff.

    But it gets lost on the way to my hands. My hands are like "...what? Me? Was I supposed to be doing something?..." when I try to play. heh, heh.

    Another quick question. When you play rock are you doing the whole 4 fret stretch with your fingers all the time or are you using the "bunch of bananas" grip across 3 frets (from Bass for Beginners, discussing the groove verses solo fingering/grip). I see a lot of rock bassists using the 3 fret grip. I guess it depends but it sure seems more natural.
  19. It's purely a feel thing. Up to 7th fret (with my index finger) I'm using 4 fingers on 3 frets (Ring and pinky acting as one). 8-12 I do 4 fingers for 4 frets. Above 12, 3 fingers on 3 frets (Pinky drops off). This is just the style I've developed into. It's the fastest and most accurate for me.

    A really good example of changing up fretting formations for me, is Soul to Squeeze (RHCP) I use all 3 different formations. Main part is 4 for 3, The F...G.A.C..B part. chrous is 4 for 4, and bridge gets a D barre using four fingers, and a C barre chord using 3 fingers (based on 15th fret A string).

    It's in there somewhere, learn to let it out. But don't develop bad habits while it's happening. Tough to do.
  20. I think you should go ahead and keep jamming with your coworkers. Try having the rhythm guitarist call out the chords to you as you play the tune. And if you need to, stick to the root for now (playing around with rhythm, and perhaps some 5ths and octaves). Between jam sessions, keep working on building beyond root, 5th, octave. Your friends seem to genuinely want your participation and seem understanding enough to allow you the time playing roots to gain the confidence and ability to do more. Their experience and ability will help you to improve yourself more than you may think.

    Also do what someone else (Boplicity, perhaps?) suggested. Take a song you've learned and can play well and get them to play it. Getting through a jam session with only roots feels better than just giving up and not playing but still has a certain sting to it. Getting through a song that you brought into the picture because you know it and are comfortable with it can tke away some of that sting and help boost your confidence level. One tune that has an easy bass line and might be accepted by your friends pretty easily (based on the Hendrix reference) is Hey Joe. Very easy bass line to play. Pretty much just roots with a few passing tones. This is an easy tune to get through and gives you an idea of how to escape root playing with some simple passing tones (a good starting point when trying to break out of that box).

    P.S: I must admit that I didn't read this whole thread, so I apologize if I've repeated anyone or everyone here.