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New Player: Importance of scales?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BassicBitch, Mar 5, 2016.


  1. BassicBitch

    BassicBitch

    Mar 3, 2016
    Ireland
    (sorry if this isn't the correct place to post this, I'm new to TalkBass.com)

    I'm a fairly new bass player. I picked up my first bass in October of 2015. I have owned an electric guitar earlier in my life, but that was about 5 years ago and I sold it soon after because I didn't feel comfortable with it and didn't feel as if guitar was for me.
    Anyway, I feel comfortable enough with my bass now. I recently learned how to slap. I've taught myself to use all four fingers of my fretting hand, and I feel like I'm learning something new everyday.
    My one question is, what is the importance of learning scales and theory (I'm self-taught, so I don't have a teacher). The only reason I see is that it would be useful for writing bass lines(and even this may be wrong). I'd also like to point out that I don't see myself as a professional musician in the future, I'd like to keep bass as a hobby (at least for now)
     
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Scales, theory, and proper technique are of the utmost importance, you are wasting so much time and energy by not studying with a good teacher. It is a huge red flag to me that you think playing bass is about slapping and spreading your fingers really wide apart.

    Sorry to "tell it like it is," but you did ask. ;)
     
  3. jasonrp

    jasonrp

    Feb 19, 2015
    vt
    IMO you should have at least a workable understanding of scales, chords and key sigs. Just being able to understand *** someone means when they say a song is I IV V in E will help your understand a lot
     
  4. HandsFree

    HandsFree

    Dec 23, 2015
    Theory, including or actually starting with, scales has been very valuable to me. It helps getting an oversight of why tones sound the way they do in what context. And that makes it easier to decide which tones you want to play when, according to your own taste and preference. And of course it helps getting a better understanding of music in general.

    But there are enough players that do fine without it; for me it works better to know than to not-know though.

    Going against the stream here, I'd say that practising scales as a technique thing on your bass is not all that helpful.
    I never ever practised scales, but I can play them easily when I want to. Time is better spent practising actual music. And you can just as well develope technique from there. Without need for the boring stuff. :smug:
     
    Honch and Mushroo like this.
  5. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    www.scottsbasslessons.com

    Less than 200 for a year. Don't make the same mistake many of us made. At least get some online lessons.
     
  6. Technicality

    Technicality

    Feb 10, 2011
    Wow.. Not studying with a teacher is not a waste of time and energy. Exploring the joy of music and creative expression as a hobby is not a waste. Good technique is important to not hurt yourself, but it is possible to learn through other resources. Scales and theory are immensely useful for composing, jamming, improvising and learning songs quickly, but are far from essential for a beginner.

    Not everyone learns best the same way, and not everyone is looking to get the exact same thing out of the instrument you are.
     
    B3n, Fat Steve, Ox Boris and 12 others like this.
  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Even if your only musical goal in life is to sit in your bedroom and jam along with your favorite songs, a good teacher can help you get there in less time, with fewer wrong turns.

    Knowing your 12 major scales and how they are constructed (whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step) is an essential Music 101 skill that no musician has ever regretted learning.
     
  8. Sgt. Rock

    Sgt. Rock

    Apr 10, 2010
    Yep. Learning the major scale in every possible position up and down the neck is the first step, and isn't really difficult. It just takes time.
     
  9. Technicality

    Technicality

    Feb 10, 2011
    Wrong turns are valuable learning experience, you can't truly understand something if you haven't learned lots of approaches that don't work. They can also sometimes contribute something truly interesting and unique. Quintin Berry took a "wrong turn" and the world is better for it.

    Sure you can get to a specific goal faster, but that doesn't mean you have learned the same amount of knowledge in less time.

    No musician has ever regretted learning the major scale because everybody playing western music learns it one way or another. You can learn it formally right away and that's great, but if you don't it will soon be second nature if you explore the instrument and play a lot of songs (you just won't know the name).
     
    B3n, pravus and Dgl44 like this.
  10. BassicBitch

    BassicBitch

    Mar 3, 2016
    Ireland
    I don't think bass is all about slapping and spreading my fingers really wide apart. I never said that. I just mentioned that I LEARNED to do these things.
    I don't have a teacher atm, but that does not mean I am wasting my time and energy. I like doing things myself, and I don't care how long it will take me to get better. I'm enjoying the experience of learning to play an instrument. I'm not aiming to get good instantly. I'm working my way up. I don't play gigs or play in a band. I know people who never had a teacher, and they are doing fine.

    Anyway, I didn't ask if I need a teacher or if why thinking is flawed. I asked WHY scales and theory are important. You didn't answer this question, and COMPLETELY went off topic.
     
    B3n, Fat Steve, Ox Boris and 10 others like this.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I'm sorry that "a good teacher can help you understand why scales are important (and teach them to you too!)" was not the answer you wanted to hear.

    In the time it took you to chew me out, you could have learned 1 or 2 new scales!
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
    Sgt. Rock likes this.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    What is the value of filling your head with more information, if it is totally wrong and useless information?

    I don't need to know 1,000 major scales. I only need to know the 12 correct ones. If I learn 1 a day, I'll be done in less than 2 weeks.
     
  13. Sgt. Rock

    Sgt. Rock

    Apr 10, 2010
    Slapping is a technique that does you no good if you can't find the tonality of what you are playing. Learning to slap before you can play the actual notes *is* a waste of time, assuming you want to play the actual music of course. Would you rather join a conversation in your native language where you can understand what everyone is saying, or one that is so foreign to you that you might know a handful of words or phrases? If you want to actually play music and really understand what you are doing, expressing yourself clearly and articulately, then understanding theory is very important.

    I don't believe anyone picks up an instrument without the goal of being able to play music. Scales and theory are vitally important if you want to *efficiently* do that. If you are having fun doing what you're doing, that's great. Now imagine how much more fun you could be having if you could hear a song that you love, quickly find the key it's in and the corresponding chords and scales used to play it, and begin playing along. You would be IN the conversation, understanding what everyone is saying, and be able to contribute your own thoughts.

    If you find a good teacher and work on your theory, you'll be learning the ABC's of that foreign language.
     
  14. Sgt. Rock

    Sgt. Rock

    Apr 10, 2010
    "Soon" is both optimistic and relative. We can avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration by drilling on the fundamentals early in a student's development. A lot of people decide they aren't musically talented because they don't "get it" right away. Clear, useful instruction in basic theory can prevent that situation and help them develop their abilities more efficiently, making them happier in music, and with themselves.
     
    Mushroo likes this.
  15. Why do scales? So your fingers can learn where the notes are on your fretboard, and your ears can learn the good sounds from the bad sounds. I know of NO musical instrument that does not start you out running your scales. It's a right of passage thing......
     
  16. Scales and theory were important to me in order to learn the chord tones which is what a bass player needs to know.
     
  17. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    A bass player who knows how to use the correct 3rds over chords is in the top 5-10% of the bell curve. At least figure that out.
     
    Sgt. Rock likes this.
  18. Technicality

    Technicality

    Feb 10, 2011
    The OP says they have been playing four months, is at the point where they are feeling comfortable with the instrument and is learning something new every day. They also sound pretty happy with self teaching, and don't sound in the least bit frustrated to me.

    I don't think they are doing anything wrong and don't deserve to be criticized for their approach. I don't think they need to change what they are doing, because it sounds like it's working and is fun. Learning something new every day is fantastic! Sure an instructor is likely to be beneficial, but some people don't respond well at all to the formal education style and a lot of teachers teach that way.

    Victor Wooten gives a great talk on the drawbacks of formal theory first music education:
     
  19. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    There's not much mystery left in music. Theory, scales and modes exist for a certain reason. Doing things the "wrong way" doesn't aid you....in any way, in a better understanding of music.

    I took the approach you seem to advocate early in my music adventures.......it's only now that I realize that it was nothing more than a excuse to justify not doing the work. Doing it right, the first time, ultimately aids in learning faster.

    To answer the original question:
    • Knowing theory will make learning songs easier, as you'll understand why you're playing what your playing.
    • Knowing theory makes it possible to improvise or "sit it" with nothing more than some chord charts and a good ear
    • If you learn theory the right way, you won't be reinventing the wheel that has existed for about a thousand years.
    • Knowing theory, and being able to do all of the above allows you to play with better musicians, which is ultimately a more enjoyable experience.
     
  20. stringtapper

    stringtapper

    Jun 24, 2009
    Denton, TX
    The thing is Victor's lesson does just as good of a job at pointing out the inherent flaws in the "music as a language" analogy as it does in making good points about the value of play and learning from mistakes (unwittingly so I would assume).

    It's a helpful analogy and one that I've used in music theory courses I teach, but it can only be taken so far, and I think Vic's TedTalk crosses that boundary.
     

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