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Learning bass

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Larry Trottier, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. Larry Trottier

    Larry Trottier

    Oct 20, 2013
    Is learning the scales first the proper way to learn bass guitar just a question I thought I would ask
  2. randyripoff


    Jul 12, 2008
    It's helpful. Learning your fretboard is also important. Even more important is learning some songs so you can jam along with recordings and get a feeling for the role of the bass in different types of music.
  3. bass geetarist

    bass geetarist

    Jul 29, 2013
    There's no right or wrong way, but learning your scales is a good place to start, and, as randy pointed out, learning some simple songs would be helpful as well (just find something you like, if it's pop or rock, it's likely not going to be too terribly hard, though it obviously varies from band to band). Hopefully, if you learn some songs AND scales, you'll start to understand how scales can be used to construct basslines. I've cut and pasted a post of mine from another thread below, in case you find it helpful.

    If you want to learn how to move around your fretboard and construct bass lines over chord changes, learn your modes. I have a warm up that I play almost daily, where I play all the modes of C major (aka C ionian) in sequence, starting from C major on the third fret of the A string, D dorian on the 5th fret of the A string, then move to E phrygian on the open E and work your way back to C major. I won't write them all out here, but these are the names in order (you can easily find tabs/notation for the scales online)

    C major, D dorian, E phrygian, F lydian, G mixolydian, A aeolian, B locrian (i think I spelled all those right).

    All the best with your low end endeavours!
  4. Panek


    Mar 20, 2009
    Warsaw, Poland
    I have close to ten years of playing bass on me. I'm also a steadily gigging player and composer in one of this country's well known and established bands. An album that I'm playing on and contributed to is coming out this month. I'd say that in terms of how I started and where I am now, I'm very happy.

    And I've never learned any scale or piece of music/bass theory in my life. Nor have I ever taken any music lessons.

    Is there a proper way to learn bass? Don't think so. It's all individual. My experience is that I just picked up a very low quality bass and started jamming along as I felt, first turning the tuners how I liked them, then finding out that it sounds cool when you go E-A-D-G. Then I started playing with tabs and started jamming along to songs by ear. Does absolute pitch help? Dunno for sure, maybe. After that I guess it was natural to start coming up with my own riffs, writing songs and arrangements and then getting to hang with other musicians...

    It does help that the guys in my band started out as self-taught too, as there is a greater level of understanding between us, and I feel that's really important in a band environment. They have more knowledge and experience than me and I've learnt alot; in some areas it goes both ways.

    One piece of advice I can give you is: just do what you're comfortable with and what you feel gives you the best results. But - the best advice? Do it yourself, and develop your own style and feeling.

    On a personal note, I'd rather hang out with someone who is easy-going and basically knows his s**t, plain and simple, and has a good feel of his instrument and music, and sounds good, rather than some dude who spends 23 hours a day doing his preset exercises on his kickass high-end gear, memorized all that music theory mumbojumbo and can name and play all the scales, then sounds like a robot while playing and looks down on those measly, self-taught poor fellas. I've personally dealt with enough snobs to know. Communication is also important.
  5. frankieC

    frankieC A swell guy from Warren Harding High

    Jul 21, 2012
    There's a lot of good advise above. learn scales, learn some songs, learn the fret board, learn to play as many different styles as you think you can handle, learn to play the same scales and songs using different positioning and fingering...

    The only wrong thing is to think that you're finished learning.
    I'll be 64 years old in a few months, and I've been playing since since a was 12 years old. I'm STILL learning new stuff, believe it or not.

    ...of course the other possibility is that I'm relearning stuff I forgot!
  6. Just don't forget to have fun. People start playing in bands all the time without even knowing the names of any notes ("Don't tell me letters, just tell me where to put my fingers!").

    There's no denying that knowing theory and scales is very helpful, but if you're not having fun, you're likely to stop playing before you get any good.
  7. BluesHolyMan


    Sep 28, 2013
    I am learning bass right now myself. In the past I have learned/played Trumpet and guitar, some keyboard. Having said that, here is what I learned about learning...

    I think scales are a good place to start, especially in building muscle memory so that when you have to play in a certain key, your fingers just know what to do - this takes time. Start slow and build up your speed over time. At some point, once you feel you have a solid grasp of a few scales, add in a metronome - it is immediately humbling as you will find you don't keep time as well as you think. Now rework the scales with the metronome until you nail the notes precisely in time with the metronome. There is also a bit of technique mixed in here that I have not mentioned (i.e. no buzzing, etc.) Not trying to overwhelm you though.

    Secondly, I would recommend finding a good teacher if you can afford one. In that regard, I think Panek's advice is good about finding someone who actually plays and is not just a technique junkie.

    At the end of the day, becoming good or great takes a lot of work - just consistently put in the time and you will see yourself improve. Its hard at first, but when you get over the "I suck" hump, it is very rewarding.

    When I was learning trumpet, around 14 years old ( I had been playing since I was 9,) I started lessons with the principle chair of the US Navy band in Washington DC. After about 3 lessons, he sat me down and told me he wasn't going to teach me anymore. I looked at him and asked why. He said "I am not going to teach someone who doesn't want to learn. It is obvious you don't practice so I am not going to waste my time and your parents money."

    That was one of the best lessons I ever had - he gave me one more week to get my act together and I did. I remained his student until I graduated High School. I would go on to win state competitions and was allowed to perform with the Navel Academy Band in Annapolis as one of several guest musicians. It was awesome and I was very grateful for that lesson where he smacked me around (figuratively speaking, of course.)

    Work on it every day, for however much you can.
  8. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    Scales are the building blocks of music. Learning them will make everything else make sense to you more easily.

    It's not a right way vs. wrong way, but what way works for you. You can at least try.

    I will never forget the growing sense of eureka! that overcame me as I played the notes of the C-natural scale for the first time KNOWING what I was playing. It was like suddenly the universe shifted and settled, and made sense to me.

    So of course, I recommend just sitting down, and playing out a C, D, E, F, G and so on. I still remember doing this, on my yellow Hondo bass, almost 30 years ago. When I understood that I had just done "do-re-mi" and that the pattern could be duplicated anywhere else on the fretboard, music went from being a construction of chance and circumstance, to something I could plan to do. Something I could mold for myself.

    I'll never forget the feeling of power that came with it.
  9. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Whatever you're doing, play with a metronome or drum machine/app. Knowing every scale and chord in existence is useless if you can't play on the beat.
  10. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    ...and remember that record sales does NOT equate to good playing, or being a good player. Record sales equates to luck and being charismatic...

    That being said, after 30+ years of playing, the number one thing that held me back from getting some decent paying gigs earlier on was lack of musical knowledge and not being able to apply it to the fretboard.

    Just learning tab and picking songs off of recordings by ear is going to be very limiting. Not only should you learn scales, but also learn the harmonic theory that drives bass parts..chord changes, cadences, how the first, 4th and 5th of a scale/key signature work in song structure...

    - scales will develop individual note knowledge and dexterity
    - the harmonic structure and chord changes give you the foundation to use the dexterity and scale work over top of
    - listening and learning will help you figure out phrasing and style, which will determine what harmonic structures you use
    - tab will help you figure out licks that are harder to figure out by ear

    the order above is the way I should have learned....

    i did learn in reverse - tab first up to scales...I DON'T recommend that

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