New to bass, not to strings or music

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by pingflood, Feb 23, 2006.

  1. pingflood


    Feb 11, 2006
    Hi guys,

    I'm hoping you can provide me with some guidance and direction here.

    Background: Been playing guitar as a hobby for many years. Both classical, plain acoustic, and electric. Also play sax (tenor/soprano), and have dabbled with piano. I know music theory pretty well, can read both treble and bass clef without a lot of effort, can find my way around the fretboard, know how to construct chords and so forth...

    What I am lacking: bass specific skills. I can figure out basic alternating fingers picking, and have a theoretical graps on floating/moving anchor and stuff like that; I've read up as much as I can. I'm also--obviously--inexperienced as far as the dynamics of the bass and how to make it groove and swing nicely.

    As I usually do, I've been looking at getting a book or two first. The problem is, the books I find locally that deal with picking technique at all are the very basic books, and I don't need to learn how to count quarter notes and read music all over again.

    So, I really have two questions...

    1) Is there a book/video suitable for my needs? I saw a DVD by I think Todd Johnson(?) focusing on picking techniques that looked pretty good...

    2) I will be looking for a teacher to visit 2-4x/month. What should I look for in one? I don't want to end up working with somebody who has a very set and narrow idea of how things "should" be and might put me down the wrong path. You know, somebody who's taught the exact same way for twenty years and gosh darnit it's worked well so far... not that it might be a bad thing, but I guess I am wanting somebody who seems open minded and generally up to date on things more than somebody completely dogmatic, if that makes sense.

    Ok, that was lengthy... appreciate any and all advice.
  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    You could look for a teacher who will also act as a mentor and a coach.
  3. I was in a very similar situation to you, except I used to teach guitar.

    First thing I did was to start playing and get my fingers vaguely moving and to build up a little muscle strength.

    And then probably less than a month later I went and found a good bass teacher, and had a lesson. I explained what I used to do and where I was at, and that I needed technique lessons, not playing lessons, and that I wanted to do most of the work myself at home with some ad hoc course correction lessons.

    He got me to play some stuff, and made minor adjustments here and there, and then gave me three months of exercises and studies.

    I have been back once again, but have never looked back. He did exactly what I needed and was a great mentor.

    PS: I have now found a different teacher who is a funk/slap maniac. I will book time with him this year.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I never found any video of bass technique very satisfactory for learning technique. The angle was wrong, or the demo was too fast or the audio was bad or the written instructions that come with the video were minimal

    Books are even less so for demonstrating technique. There is nothing like a teacher to show you techniques for bass playing which have some important differences from guitar techniques. A teacher can watch you and help correct flaws.

    Those who have played guitar a long time may have to adjust their thinking in terms of bass lines and, of course fretting and plucking, plus slap is an added tecnique. Tapping is harder on a bass. It takes a lot more finger strength, at least it does for me. I got frustrated with tapping on a bass. You can be a highly accomplished bass player and never tap, though.

    One last aspect. Some people take coaching well and others simply do not. A teacher is a priceless help in my opinion, but some students do not respond well to a teacher's advice or corrections. They prefer to learn it their way at their pace and their order of business, so to speak. For them, no teacher will give them a satisfactory experience. They simply don't want anyone telling them what to do or how to do it.

    Whatever works best for the bass player is what counts in the end. For two videos that were the best I had of a bunch of videos that did little for me were Stu Hamm's first video and Dave LaRue's video. These came out ten years ago. They may not be available any longer or, if you are lucky, they may be on DVD format now.
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Yeah, but you're like 140 right? So I'd imagine even continence takes a lot more strength for you. ;)

    Okay, just messing with Newstead, listen to what she says, she's been around for awhile, and she's brilliant.

    Pingflood, in terms of looking for a teacher, tell the teacher exactly what you just told us. A good teacher will not be offended that you know what you want. A bad teacher might be scared off by it, but then hey, you're doing your job. It's essential to be honest and communicative with your teacher. Tell him/her what your goals are, what your background is, things that work for you, (so far), and things that haven't worked for you. Recognize that if you can do everything that teacher is asking, without much effort, s/he's probably not a good teacher. A good teacher will challenge you. A great teacher may inspire you.

    Fingerstyle technique is complicated, at least at first. It may feel very alien to the guitar. The frets are bigger, the strings are thicker, so technique is crucial, otherwise you'll face injury. If you go to a rock show, ignore the bassist's technique, it's probably failed. If you go to a jazz show, and the guy is playing fingerstyle, there's a decent chance the technique is better, but no guarantee. Sign up for a class at the local junior college, (I didn't check your age), as the teacher there might be able to help you. But really, it comes down to finding a teacher.

    That being said, alternate your two fingers on the right hand. ALways. Make that the norm. Practice playing near the fretboard, near the bridge, and inbetween. I find that the best technique is a full stroke of the string, where the finger follows through to land on the string above as a resting point. Your tone will be fuller and clearer, you can play faster, and you can navigate the bass easier.
  6. Ah yes, jazz snobbery rears its ugly head. :smug:

    You already know the theory and such, so now you are looking for technique. You'll have to decide on your own what constitutes good and bad technique. Some will tell you one way, some the other.

    Some will say you can't learn anything but "bad habits" from rock players. Well, what's bad for some is good for others.

    For example, James Jamerson, who many recognize as a true pioneer on the electric bass, frequently
    • used open strings instead of their fretted equivalents
    • used open notes that were completely "out of key"
    • played practically everything with one finger only
    These are all techniques considered "wrong" and "incorrect" by many people. Many teachers and/or books will say that the two fingers must alternate, the open strings are forbidden, and there is no playing out of key.

    However, Jamerson used these techniques on countless great bass lines, and influenced and inspired untold numbers of bass lines written by others.

    All the while he was "wrong."

    But I guess since he started out playing jazz, it's excusable. :smug:
  7. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    Not jazz snobbery, simply the truth. 90% of rock bassist have terrible technique. There are MANY exceptions...I think Stefan Lessard is a model bassist for excellent technique (In my very very humble opinion) But I must bring up the F word.. Fieldy ;) lol

    anyway.. back on track. I think you're on the right track. Picking up a good teacher will definitly shoot you into the low end pretty well. What to look for in a teacher? Well that depends on what you want to do. Personally, I stay away from the teachers that will teach you scales, modes, and then shoot you into classis rock cover songs. You will be able to play in a local bar no problem! But you will have to continue on by yourself. If you find a teacher, that goes at a nice pace, but does not go further unless you know perfectly what you worked on, in the prior lesson; I think that is what you would be looking for. Try to find one that insists you learn how to read (even though you already know how) and also insists you use a metronome. I think those are the two biggest signs of a good teacher. But you cannot rely on them alone ;) use your discretion when choosing a teacher.
    Try and find one that is moderately humble. It will make it easier on you in the long run! :smug:
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Just turned 145 last September. I haven't had to use a walker yet, but I am getting close. I've decided I could have it double as a bass support now that I am too old to wear one one on my rickety old shoulders. I'll market it as Oldstead's Bass Support for Geriatric Bassists and sell it here at TalkBass.:bassist:
  9. pingflood


    Feb 11, 2006
    Thanks to everyone for their input; I really really appreciate it.

    I will shop around for teachers. Some of the schools don't allow for a "test drive" so they're out; if I can't do a single lesson to see if the teacher's worthwhile, well, that's not a good sign! Also, one school I called said all their bass teachers "teach any style, no problem!" which I really wonder about.

    Anyway, I tend to prefer to learn things on my own, but I recognize that I might end up with bad technique if I don't get the basics down... so teacher it is, if only once or twice a month to keep me on track.
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Sounds like a reasonable plan to me. Because you are an experienced musician, you really wouldn't have to have lessons more than once or twice a month unless you want to, of course. With fewer lessons, you have plenty of time to work on what you learn in each class and come to the next class well prepared.