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Looking to Improve Quickly

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DHAUS, Nov 17, 2016.

  1. DHAUS


    Nov 17, 2016
    I've been playing bass for a year or so with a band and we are actually pretty decent, in spite of my lack of skill on the bass. I know some basics, like major and minor chord structure and pentatonic scales from my time on the guitar...and really am just winging it. We play rock, blues tunes. I do have a good connection with our drummer on timing, so that helps. But I want to get a lot better, but don't have a ton of time to practice.

    So, my questions to you are:

    What are the two or three things you would do, if you were in my position, to significantly improve your playing? What exercise techniques or efforts will give me the most band for my buck (time)?

    And, what do you think are the least effective practice techniques...the ones I should completely avoid?

    What are the key principles for playing better bass guitar?

    Many thanks for taking a minute to answer this for me!
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Find a good teacher. Practice more. There aren't really any shortcuts.
    Fabio_MIJ, Whippet, RickyT and 11 others like this.
  3. Since you are with a band and they send you the gig schedule and ask you back you know enough of the nuts and bolts of playing your bass to get by. It's time to practice their music. And learn how to fit into a band and not cause waves or step on toes. Best way I know to do that is be a sponge, absorb everything and do what is right.

    Each song will point you to what new thing you need to be spending your time on. And fitting into a band is really what you learned in kindergarden about how to get along with the other kids.

    Know the material, arrive on time and help set up and tear down. Make yourself useful. Remember there is no "I" in band, and be aware of your place and their toes. You mentioned you and the drummer have a good working arrangement - that's very important and will cover a lot of mistakes.

    The bands I've been with after you get the 50+/- songs down there usually is not a lot of practice needed. Show up and play. If a song gives you trouble work on that one. You are now at the point that the song will dictate how much work is needed. Scales, arpeggios, riffs, etc. you already know, it's now Show Time.

    Sounds like you are on the right track. Good luck.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2016
  4. DHAUS


    Nov 17, 2016
    Thanks for the feedback.

    How many different named formats do you think there are? By this, I mean you have: scales, arpeggios, octaves, riffs, walking bass...and I'm sure many more, or are there? What are the main 'formats' you use?

    I guess my point is I feel like I personally do a lot of 1-3-5 stuff and will noodle around that base and throw in some other hints rest of that scale a lot. Then when they changing chords, I'll drop the main note of the new chord. That's fine for some things but feels a bit restrictive and repetitive. Should I be hitting the main note of the chord on the change? Or does it matter?

    For example we started jamming on a new song this week and I knew the key but not the chords or timing of the chord changes. And to be honest with you it was the most on-point I've ever been. It felt good to be free of the bounds of playing the chord note on the change. Not sure if this was just due to this specific songs' structure or because I didn't really know or care where the changes were and neither did the rest of the band, and was playing with a much more open ear. It turned into an excellent (for us) 20 minute jam with a ton of variations from me and everyone else.

    I'd appreciate any feedback my uninitiated comments above inspire you to share. Thanks!
  5. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Concentrate on the music you have to perform. Every gig, there will be something that you could have played better. Get that straightened out before the next gig. Be ready to play everything in different keys and at different places on the neck.

    We are musicians. We play music. To do this we need to have certain tools and they include the technique of working our instruments. Always be more concerned about the music you are making than the tools you need to make the music.
  6. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Welcome to TB @DHAUS

    Like others have said, practice as much as you can.
    Play along to your favorite tunes to develop your ear.
    Keep playing with others.
    You can't rush or force yourself.
    Progress takes time.
    DHAUS likes this.
  7. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    1. Slow down
    2.Take your time.
    3. Be patient with yourself.

    Learning any instrument is a life long journey. So slow down, practice regularly.... (little and often is the key...a half an hour EVERY DAY is better than trying to catch up at week ends by putting in four or five hours practice)... and take things in small bite size chunks. Otherwise frustration will set in, which in some cases, if it gets too intense, can result in you giving up.

    Progressing on the bass, involves practicing many different things, but if I was to isolate just one single beneficial thing, it would be : Don't use tabs (or at least use them VERY sparingly). Instead, develop your ear by playing along to songs and working out the bass lines by ear, using trial and error.

    Best of luck with the learning "journey". :)
  8. staccatogrowl

    staccatogrowl Savoring time on a spinning, shimmery, aqua sphere Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2006
    1) Start listening to bass lines through headphones or speakers that have capability for bass frequencies.
    2) If your band is covering known tunes, go to iTunes or Youtube (implementing item 1) and listen to some different versions of the same songs. You'll hear how bassists approach those tunes in same or different ways.
    3) Start imitating bass lines that you like. Don't need to go note for note. Go for the tonal and rhythmic "essence."
    4) Practice
    5) Record your playing with your band and listen to yourself. You will be your own best/worst critic, so be gentle with yourself. Hear yourself as others hear you.
    6) Work on improving one area at a time. Spend a week on one area. Move on to something else the next week, while reviewing combined improvement targets continually.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
    FunWithBass and DHAUS like this.
  9. Until we are given a lead solo our job is to provide rhythm and harmony. IMO Chord tones let us do that. R-3-5-7 and of course if minor R-b3-5-b7. But nothing wrong with the 2, 4 & 6 if used as passing notes. The major pentatonic R-2-3-5-6, or minor pentatonic R-b3-4-5-b7 are all "good" notes. I think our task is to decide what notes to leave out and which ones to put into our bass line. Music is made of melody, harmony and rhythm. We normally are responsible for harmony and rhythm. I leave the melody to the solo instruments. Now if you want to play melodically no need in reading the rest of this post.

    In the music I play, Country and Praise, it is roots to the beat. I am expected to call attention to the changes by sounding the root note, after that, if more is needed, it's left up to me what I put in. That is normally a 5 and the octave 8. So roots are a given and then somewhere between roots and R-5-8-5 is my bread and butter bass line. I do love to find one or two places where a chromatic run can be inserted with out stepping on toes. Only walking I do between chords is with Country and here a walk is expected. Praise will change chords so quickly, and can and will use all seven chords in one song and it's here that a walk between chords is usually not needed. Between verses, if a run fills a void, no reason not to insert a run.

    What keeps that from being boring is the groove. You can fall into a groove with just roots to the beat. From there it's how much more is needed, or not needed. I find that less is usually more. I find a lot of satisfaction following the drummer's kick and falling into the groove for this specific song.

    Is that restrictive and repetitive? Perhaps, I think of it as being what is necessary to perform the part of the song I am responsible for.
    Yes I love jamming, it is free and not a lot of "exact" is expected. In jamming close is close enough. So when jamming have fun and let your creativity side flow. However, when we are not jamming we do need to hit the chord changes. Why? That's what we are responsible for; it is our job to let the band know it's time for a chord change and what new chord is to be used. In Country when the guys hear that walk it alerts them that a new chord is about to come into the song. When you lead with the root they know which chord to use.

    You are asking good questions. I think we all have, at one time or another, ask those same questions.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
  10. DHAUS


    Nov 17, 2016
    Great feedback MalcolmAmos! Much appreciated that you took the time to address each question and help give some specific direction...particularly about hitting the root note on the chord change. This is very helpful.

    I am trying to play "less" as well and will continue using that mantra..."less is more".
    suededoesit and staccatogrowl like this.
  11. DHAUS


    Nov 17, 2016
    - Thanks for the specific steps towards improvement. Great stuff. The last point you made is to focus on one specific area or skill for a week and then move on to a new one the next week. Can you (or anyone else here) provide any specific skills / exercises that you've worked on or that I should start with for my practice? Any and all input would be appreciated!
    staccatogrowl likes this.
  12. DHAUS


    Nov 17, 2016
    Thank you for the specifics of focusing more on playing along with a recording as opposed to reading TAB. Seems like a solid suggestion.
    staccatogrowl and fearceol like this.
  13. DevinWard369


    Apr 30, 2012
    Play Rocksmith on the Xbox1 or PS4.
    static0verdrive likes this.
  14. RolandMHall

    RolandMHall Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    You want to get good quickly:

    Play with people significantly better than you
    Learn music beyond your current skill set
    FunWithBass likes this.
  15. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    learn all of james jamerson's bass parts
    staccatogrowl and RolandMHall like this.
  16. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Hmm - 38 years in, I still feel that way. The challenge never goes away, it just moves...over there.

    Practice what you suck at, not what you're already good at. Otherwise you get really good at....very little.
    suededoesit and staccatogrowl like this.
  17. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    The only thing I would add is to learn the difference between playing and practicing. Playing along to ZZ Top's Tush for the 10,000th time while thinking about what's on TV is NOT practicing.

    I used to have a teacher that said in order to maximize your skills you need to listen to other players, play with other people and practice by yourself.
    suededoesit and bholder like this.
  18. Just practice really. Try and tackle a song that's currently out of your league.

    Really sit down and play your parts. Repeat them over and over until they're natural.
    staccatogrowl likes this.
  19. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    grind yer own coffee beans! as you get better at bass, begin roasting your own beans. later, open yer own coffee shop. let your coffee indulgence parallel your bass playing progressions.
    if not,.. find yer own parallels. i look at my musical journey as a life experience. if you fail as a bassist you still have your coffee shop.
    btw,.. i'm a much better pot farmer than bassist,.. go figure, Grasshopper.
  20. Devote lots of time to playing and use YouTube to play along with songs that you like.
    Understand the song structures and how the original was played but then play the songs differently while exploring all the various possibilities that the chord progressions offer.
    There is no substitute for time invested.
    It takes thousands of hours. There are no shortcuts.
    If you play 4 hours a day, 5 days a week that equals 1,000 hours in a year.
    How many hours invested do you think that it takes to become really good at something?
    interp and staccatogrowl like this.

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