learn theory first, or technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by EskimoBob, Dec 3, 2001.

  1. Theory

    8 vote(s)
  2. Technique

    26 vote(s)
  3. Learn to play like fieldy

    17 vote(s)
  1. Hey peeps, my first ever thread, if anyone really cares... :D

    but seriously, i've been playing bass for over a year and a half now, and i still kinda suck in terms of musical knowledge... i know a couple of types of scales, and stuff, but tend to learn the shapes rather than the notes themselves...

    i can sort of sight read, it just takes me a few seconds to figure out the note.

    should i carry on trying to work out the theory for now, or do you guys think it is better to get comfortable with the bass first..? i mean, is it better to build up speed, improve the efficiency of my fingers (i.e. use them all, instead of just the index and forefinger, right hand), learn a bit more slap, learn how to use a pick and stuff like that...

    in short... is it better to learn technique or theory first..?

    cheers, peeps, keep it real

    simon a
  2. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Work on them simultaneously, if you can. But if you're not comfortable with the bass, be that first. Theory isn't to much use if you can't utilize it (= play your instrument)!
  3. bassist286


    Nov 22, 2001
    rhode island
    choose one or the other and really wong on noe than really work on the other. you have to balence.


    Nov 22, 2001
    Columbus ohio
    try and find a good teacher memorize fingerboard and just keep at it
  5. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    i leant technique friost and now i cant remember ANY of the notews no matter how hard i try
  6. thanks for the info guys, it looks like i touched a bit of a 50-50 issue...

    i dunno what i'm going to do, but most of you have said i should just pick one or the other, then work on it until i get it down...

    thanks for all those heartwarming people who suggested i should just play like fieldy... cheers guys, your advice will be noted, then burned.

    simon a
  7. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    I agree with the split approach, learning both at the same time. I voted for play like fIelDy however, because don't we all want to be rich rock stars?:D:D I can't believe that dork said he doesn't practice....(thinks about it for a minute)....OK yes I can believe it.
  8. I would say to get comfortable with the bass, and then get into theory - but definitely do both !
  9. Heh

    Figure out the scales by yourself...i.e. find out the notes, write them down on a standard notation paper, than play them numerous times while memorizing the notes.

    1) You'll figure out some theory for yourself
    2) You'll become more familiar with the fretboard and bass.

    Thats what I do for practicing now. Before I'd play alot of my songs. For about 4-5 months during my juicy learning period of bass playing (not how long I've been playing, just how long I REALLY started practicing) I would play scales for about 2 hours a day. Yes. Sometimes...ok, ALL the time it got boring. But I am SO glad I did it. Now I know those scales by heart, am VERY familiar with the fretboard, and picked up some nice theory ideas.
  10. Churchbassist


    Nov 3, 2001
    Why do you have to separate the two. Why not think of the theory as you develop your technique? That's what I do. I have to constantly be thinking about chord tones and how they fit into the musical progression as I strive to play with correct technique.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Eh! Why is a lot of the advice here completely incomprehensible? :confused:

    I think the two are interlinked and really you have to know why you are playing something and have the technique to pull it off. I don't think there is any point in having phenomenal technique if you don't know what you are playing or why.

    It's better to play something simple that fits perfectly with whatever else is going on than to attempt something tricky and get it wrong.

    On balance I would day that theory is more important as this will help you find lines that are satisfying and work well, which need not be hard to play.

    More important in my opinion though, is getting comfortable at playing with other people. If you can get it together with others, then you can often play simple lines that make the whole ensemble sound great.

    More often though you hear people who have practised a lot of "impressive licks" that sounded great at home, but don't fit at all with the band.

    To me, being able to play well with others, is the most important skill to learn and is often the most neglected.

    I also think it motivates you and helps you decide what to practice, if you are working towards something. So if you are playing certain songs in a band or regular jam; you will soon know what areas you need to work on in practice - like you might find that your technique is lacking in certain areas or you don't understand the theory behind the songs - and making sure you don't show yourself up, next time, in front of others is great motivation!
  12. Pluck your A - that's technique. Use the other finger and
    pluck your E - Why the E??? All of a sudden it's theory.

    Or start by practicing a scale. C - to make it simple
    C, (skip a fret) D, (skip a fret), E, (next fret), F .......
    Wait a minute, how come? Why skip a fret twice, then not? It's a major scale? What's that?

    Doesn't this illustrate the idea that they're inseparable?
    You MIGHT be able to play ONE note without a grain of theory, but you can't play 2.:eek:
  13. sorry dude, i don't get what you're saying... i know about major scales and what-not, i was just wondering whether to get fast with my plucking (using four fingers, and thumb for slap), double thumbing, playing with a pick (i still suck at it), whatever, before i learn what to do with this speed i've built up, and cool-sounding noises i can make...

    don't worry too much about the inseperability of the two, though, i think i'll just play like fieldy cos fieldy rules.

    simon a
  14. Well, for right or wrong, I took the opinion that technique was the more important.

    As a self taught player I considered that I needed to be able to put my fingers exactly where they were required, when they were required. That's as much a speed / stamina thing as anything. At that point, though, I must emphasise that I don't place much importance on speed in itself.

    As a consiquence I practice a lot of licks that really don't have much place in the band situation, but they make me feel a better bass player;)

    I can't read music nor do I have any knowledge of musical theory as such. That makes me a worse bass player IMHO but there's only so much time to practice both @ home and @ band. So I have to choose what to do with the time given.

    That's how I've viewed it given my circumstances. :D

  15. ....but try to figure out what makes fieldy sound so cool. What kinds of chords and progressions is he using?

    Sure, learn the groove, but at the same time, learn what makes it so groovy.
  16. Well, you see, I've had my head firmly buried in the bass players' sand for the last 25 years or so.

    I don't know who fieldy is. To the best of my knowledge I've never heard him nor do I know who he plays for.

    Err sorry, 'n' all that, but it's true. Don't know who Flea is either, and have not heard him as far as I know.

    I know of Hamm, Jaco (but have not heard his work as far as I know) Mark King and a few more but that's about it.

    The only players I know anything about are those who played 30 odd years ago: Butler, Jones, Bruce. etc. That was my era.

    Err, sorry but it's all true


  17. .....was that we all use a lot more theory than we realize.
    F'rinstance - I've known a long time that when you hit any note , and then the same position on the next lower string, and go back and forth like that, it works and sounds really cool on some songs. But what I learned when I got out my handy-dandy little bass dial, was that those were the 1 & 5 of the key of that song, and are known as a "power chord". Now maybe if I study a little more theory, I'll be able to use that chord at the right time.

    OK, Rocker John, I don't know Fieldy either, but Eskimo Bob likes him, so he's gotta be cool. And I didn't know Jaco either, until I read about him in Bass Player, then went out and bought one of his CD's. Awesome finger work and great Latin rhythm. It's worth a quid or two, if you can find any Epic records across the pond, there. ;)
    (I tried to look for the CD case & didn't find it, but it's an Epic CD, bright orange face and simply says "Jaco Pastorius" across the front.)

    P.S. -( I have no idea what a quid is!):eek:
  18. spaamport


    Dec 10, 2001
    Burlington, VT
    i've been playing for about two years now, and here's what i have found to be of most use to me as i learn.

    learn enough theory that you can work out an original, basic bassline that you like.

    find a guitar player who likes to solo endlessly. learn a couple scales, and figure out some basslines based on those scales when you are playing on your own. play your bassline over and over and over again and your friend can solo forever, and he'll love you for it, while you on the other hand are getting valuable practicing time on your technique. the bassline doesn't have to be complicated, and in fact, the easier it is, the more room you'll have to improvise and build on your technique that way.

    if you learn songs by other artists, that provides you with technique practice, and getting used to your instrument and the fingering/note correlation, but it doesn't really help you learn any theory or encourage you to improvise. the best thing you can do for yourself is to play around on your bass and come up with some original stuff that you can just goof around on with a friend.

    i hope i made some sense, more power to you

  19. nicely clarified, mr burnthill... you sound at about the stage i am, knowing bits, and always willing to learn... unless you're speaking in the past tense, as to how you learned, and stuff... sorry, i'm easily confused :rolleyes:

    you cut me deep, man. the inclusion of fieldy (who is legend in off-topic, due to his bass-playing inability) was an ironic gesture used to stimulate humour, and offer a witty escape for voters who can't be bothered to think of a meaningful response to the question at hand...

    unless you're talking above my (very low) level of comprehension, a "quid" is a slang term for an english pound... but who knows, it could refer to loads of things... like baby squid, for instance, or something, i dunno.

    keep it real

    simon a
  20. Classical (read: RCM) instruction begins with technique, since technique is the harder of the two to perfect.

    The only theory that is taught in the beginning stages is the most rudimentary needed, like what the names of the notes are and where they are found on the staff. Usually in the key of C. Accidentals and key sigs don't come till Grade 1, IIRC (and its been a LONG time).