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Newbie lost in practice...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by golfcart, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. golfcart


    Aug 3, 2008
    Good afternoon guys and gals...I've been playing the bass for a few years now but I never got the basics down. I was thrown into the praise and worship band at church and learned to play A LOT of songs and I'd say I'm doing it pretty well. BUT...I'm totally embarrassed to try out amps and basses in music stores because I was not taught (or took the time to learn) anything besides what to do...and when...My overall knowledge of the bass is honestly horrible. I know "most" of the notes of the bass without thinking about it, and the major scale. Beyond that...I'm lost...If you handed me a bass and told me to play something, I wouldn't know what to do. Now, since you all know how pitiful I am...I'd like direction with my practice. I've decided this year that I was going to learn how to play the bass, not learn how to play the right notes. To be honest, its hard to sit and practice scales when I can play songs. Of course, I can only play songs because I was told what note to play.

    Luckily our piano play is amazing and he covers up a lot of my mistakes.

    I've decided to start with Major scales and learn all the notes within the scale. Question...must I learn all the notes in the scales? lol. Will this help me? I guess I am trying to figure out what to learn first in this mess. Anyone that has any input would be much appreciated at this point. :)

    Thanks again guys...

    The embarrassed bass play...
  2. Don't worry. As you play more and more, you'll feel more comfortable with the instrument and you'll begin to see recurring patterns and relationships between things. As you learn scales and intervals and other basic theory things the fretboard will start to open up a little.
    Learn as many songs in as many styles as you can. That's always great practice. The fact you're playing in a band is awesome. That's invaluable practice.
    Don't get paranoid about playing in music stores. I've seen guys that can tap, slap and strum like maniacs when trying out bass amps but look like amateurs when thrown in at the deep end on a gig playing popular top 40 tunes. It's the same rubbish that happens at soundchecks. Some guys plug in and proceed to slap out some crazy wooten lines to impress any girls walking around the venue (because girls obviously go nuts for double thumb slap lines. Not) and then the sound guy stops the ego maniac and asks for a single open E string or a basic groove from a song in the set.
    If you try out an amp in a shop, play something you know. A basic groove. That's what you'll be playing eventually anyway. I know it's tempting to want to blow everyone away but it can actually annoy some people. I know it's cliched but work on nailing a consistent groove and time feel. Take a riff and play it round and round with a metronome, drum machine or drummer and really concentrate on hitting those beats without drifting. Also, learn your intervals, scales and apreggios (chord tones). The basslines you learn will have more harmonic meaning. For example, if you know a minor arpeggio you'll start to see the pattern in your basslines . The same goes for scales and other shapes. That can actually help with memorising stuff because you start to see basslines, riffs and other pieces as successions of patterns you've already memorised. It's all about building blocks. You'll then be able to be inventive and improvise around these patterns because you know all the other notes that are related. This will all come with experience and practice.

    As for online lessons, Scott's are great. First met him about 15 years ago (we're from the same place and college) and I can tell you he's a great player, lovely guy and awesome teacher.
    I've also got a series of music theory lessons for bass that's getting bigger by the week that start at the basics and get gradually more advanced, along with a whole load other lessons on technique, soloing etc. etc. All the intervals, scales and arpeggios I mentioned above are taught in the theory series. You can also learn to slap at warp speed if you REALLY want to be annoying in the music stores. The slap series helps with that.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TalkingBassVideo (youtube hub of all the lessons)
    www.talkingbass.net (lessons and articles)
    www.musictheoryforbass.com (the talkingbass theory lessons on devoted website)

    Hopefully they'll help somewhat.

  3. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I'd suggest splitting your practice time between exercises and playing songs. Play nothing but songs and you don't improve the infrastructure beneath them; play nothing but exercises and you get bored and discouraged.

    Scales are really not hard to learn, because they follow the same pattern and then you just repeat the pattern from any root note you choose. Make an effort as you to them, though, to learn what notes you're playing and not just the "box, and play them up and down the fretboard as much as you can, not just one octave. Learn the major, then the minor, then the mixolydian, which is just major scale with a flat 7th, and you've got 99% of anything you'll ever play covered.

    I'd also suggest getting the book "Bass Fitness." The exercises there will help with your speed, accuracy, and finger independence.

    Oh yeah, and never compare yourself to wankers in a music store. You're there to see how a bass works for YOU, not to impress anybody. Just hitting notes and listening for tone, seeing how the neck feels, that's all you need.
  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    We normally do not play the tune, we play chord tone accompiment. So don't worry about someone asking you to play "something". If that ever happened run a scale or arpeggio for them.
    Learning all the notes of the major scale, i.e. C has no sharps or flats and E has 4 sharps, the F#, C#, G#, & D# is an undertaking you do not have to embark on right now. IF you play patterns and use fake chord sheet music and compose your own bass lines.

    I suggest you start with your patterns:
    Bass Patterns based upon the Major Scale box.

    Major Scale Box.
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string

    Want the Cmaj7 chord. Find a C on your fretboard and put the pattern's R over it then play the spelling for the Cmaj7 chord. Which will be the R-3-5-7 scale degrees within the box. Want the D major scale find a D note and place the patterns R over that and then play the R-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 scale degrees within the box.

    See a chord - the spelling will be.......

    Basic Chords
    • Major Triad = R-3-5
    • Minor Triad = R-b3-5
    • Diminished Chord = R-b3-b5

    7th Chords
    • Maj7 = R-3-5-7
    • Minor 7 = R-b3-5-b7
    • Dominant 7 = R-3-5-b7
    • ½ diminished = R-b3-b5-b7
    • Full diminished = R-b3-b5-bb7
    See a chord and play it's chord tones. As every key will have three major, three minor and one diminished chord it's a good idea to get your major, minor and diminished bass line chord tones into muscle memory so when you see a chord your fingers just know what will work. Now the song may only give you enough room for the root, or root five - adapt and get as many chord tones into your bass line as needed. Root on 1 and a steady groove from the other chord tones plus something to call attention to the chord change is what we do.

    Generic Notes - for your bass line.

    • The root, five and eight are generic and fit most any chord. Remember the diminished has a flatted 5.
    • The 3 is generic to all major chords. So R-3-5-3 will fit under any major chord.
    • The b3 is generic to all minor chords. And R-b3-5-8 will fit under any minor chord. Why the 8? Well the 8 is just another root in the next octave.
    • The 7 is generic to all maj7 chords. Yep, R-3-5-7 fits nicely.
    • The b7 is generic to all dominant seventh and minor seventh chords. G7 = R-3-5-b7 or Gm7 = R-b3-5-b7.
    • The 6 is neutral and adds color, help yourself to 6’s. Love the sound of R-3-5-6 with a major chord.
    • The 2 and 4 make good passing notes. Don’t linger on them or stop on them, keep them passing.
    • In making your bass line help yourself to those notes, just use them correctly.
    Roots, fives, eights and the correct 3 & 7 will play a lot of bass.

    Scales: The scale spelling for several of the scales:
    • Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base
    • Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    • Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Leave out the 2 & 6.
    • Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the blue note b5 added.
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor with a natural 7.
    • Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3.
    Let the major scale be your home base then change a few notes and you have something different. No need to memorize a zillion patterns. Let the major scale pattern be your go to pattern - then adapt/adjust from there.

    When you get that into muscle memory go get some fake chord sheet music and follow the chords. C chord coming up in the song - you know that the R-3-5-8 will give you a safe bass line. Probably R-5-R-5 will be enough. If you need something more try R-5-8-5. Need more throw in some of the 3's and 7's. It is possible that pounding out just roots may be all this specific song may need.

    Ed Friedland's book Building Walking Bass Lines will be time well spent.

    www.studybass.com is another site you may like.
    Pull up some fake chord sheet music and see if you can play along to what is written. http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/n/norah_jones/cold_cold_heart_crd.htm

    Watch the bass:

    Good luck.
  5. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    I find it very beneficial to learn songs by taking the bass lines off the record. It not only trains your ear, but really helps in learning "how" to play. Try and mimic the sound and feel of the music you are playing which will help develop your technique.
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher get a teacher


    If you cannot get a teacher for some reason, the best way to practice, in my opinion, is to learn songs off of radio/recordings using your ears. This is how people who can't find teachers have traditionally learned to play for 100+ years. Don't worry about the scales and theory and stuff, you won't get it right on your own without a teacher anyway. ;)