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Playing with your bass but not praticing

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mattmcnewf, Sep 29, 2004.

  1. mattmcnewf


    May 27, 2004
    I have recently started the rule that i should always have my bass on my shoulders when i'm in my room or watching TV. As a way of getting more pratice hours in but how useful is this. Because i will just be mmessing around with my bass. I might just run through scales but i won't really be listen so is there much of a point.
  2. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    The school of thought that says you should play even though you're focused on something else (like TV for example) addresses only agility and to some degree technique.

    Focused practice is far more effective in smaller doses than unfocused practice for longer periods.

    Also - the "listening" thing is totally lost if you're just ripping thru scales while watching TV.

    The key to focused practice is not only that you get familiar with the technique required to form a specific scale or pattern - but you'll also engrain the SOUND of that scale or pattern. This is crucial.

    If are watching TV to play along with themes songs and commerical music - that's actually very effective for helping to develop your ear to quickly recognize both pitch AND chord quality (major minor etc..)

    Overall - my big suggestion is to pay attention - focused practice is better practice.
  3. That practicing trick really only works for practicing technique, so for example when you're practicing Victor Wooten-style triple pops, etc. Basically only excercises.

    Oops. Practicing my guitar as I write. Not at the same time, but in short periods.
  4. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I dont see a downside to it. It gets your fingers more used to playing and increases the ease or playing.
  5. Yeah, it's basically all technique. Don't expect your ear to become better or your theory to become stronger. However, it's good, especially with things such as slapping when you're starting out. The more you slap the better you get. It's useful for getting consistency with a new technique.
  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Why not? While your ear might not get "better", why wouldn't the ability to get music from your ears to your hands improve?


    One of the things that I think really helped me early on was trying to play anything I heard... by ear. It could be tv show background music, commercials, anything. You have a finite time to nail it until you hear it again.
  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I am so tremendously against this. Turn the freakin' TV off. Why do we feel we must multi-task everything. Short, focused practice sessions are far more effective than the constant and random running off your fingers across the fretboard.

    Devise a REAL practice program. Keep a journal, focus in on what you're doing, plan what you want to accomplish, what you need to work on. Get organized. Give it between 5 minutes to 5 hours a day, but constant, steady. Always working on what you're doing.

    Some people argue that you get your fingers into the habit, and all that jazz. I believe that's BS. Real, professional, trained musicians don't watch TV, make omeletes, wax the car, or have sex while playing bass. They play bass. Why wouldn't you want to emulate what the pros do. Man, I just can't stand the idea of people "practicing" by randomly playing crap. To me, it's a total and complete waste of time.
  8. I'm with Jazzbo on this one. Playing with your bass while the TV is on is fine, but don't call it practice. You are really just replaying things you can already play. You would be better off setting aside some time to learn something you cannot play (ie. developing a practice plan with objectives). How does that quote go....."If you sound good when you are practicing, you aren't practicing."
  9. ONYX


    Apr 14, 2000
    I'll second JazzBo's statement. I used to keep my bass on while sitting around or watching TV. The only thing I got out of it was a bad case of Bursitis. Even a half hour of focused practice will be way more beneficial to your playing than 17 hours of noodling around.
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Is this thing on?


    Granted, mindlessly noodling is fairly pointless. OTOH, as I already said, it can be a very good opportunity to drill your ears.

    As usual I could be wrong as far as this working for everyone. In my own case, this is where I started and I think it has a direct bearing on the fact that I can recall and play an almost unlimited number of songs I've heard before, regardless of key. I literally know thousands of songs. Sometimes it freaks people out.

    I hear (and recall) intervals. I don't have to think about them, I apply them to the fretboard. Ear development is extremely important IMO and this is a simple, painless way to exercise it. YMMV.

    Rhetorical question... can you play what you hear?

    You should be able to.

  11. mattmcnewf


    May 27, 2004
    Thanks although this wasn't the answer i was looking for. Gotta stop being so lazy i guess.
  12. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Yeah, but that's because you're a no-talent hack without the ability to play ORIGINAL music.


    It makes you HIGHLY employable!

  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md

    Strangely enough, this reminded me of something. Sorry, kind of long story;)

    I auditioned for a spot in a group a guitarist friend of mine was putting together about five years ago. The guitarist, drummer and keyboard player (both of whom I'd just met) began by telling me what they were about musically. We started playing and the guitarist and drummer and I immediately clicked. Just lots of off the cuff stuff, odd time signature grooves, etc. The keyboard player clearly wasn't into it. He decides he wants me to play one of his "originals".
    It was a simple concept.... everything he played, he wanted me to play the root... one step up. Basically playing whole notes the entire time.

    It sounded like ass. If I "screwed up" and played the actual root he asked me not to. After we ended this train wreck he said he wasn't really feeling it. I filed this under "clueless ____". I later heard from the guitarist who told me he and the drummer loved what I was bringing to the table but the keyboard player nixed me. No big deal as far as I was concerned.

    Fast forward to last week. I'm on my Monday night gig in a house band for poetry/rap/ performance open mic thing. On keys, Marcus Miller's former keyboard player. On drums Walter Beasley's drummer. Me on bass. Before we start, the one step up keyboard player comes in and asks if he can sit in. I told him to ask the drummer, who runs the band. He then asks if I'm playing bass in the band and I tell him I am.

    We hit the first song, which is basically a jam vibing off something Scooter , the former MM keys guy, does. Lots of movement, syncopated as heck, phat groove, lots of fun. The other guy is staring in amazement. Afterwards he's gushing all over the place, wants to get my phone number, wants the drummer and I to come to a club he works in, etc. The rest of the night is more of the same. A guy comes up and asks if we know Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free". We let him sing about a bar of it, just enough to figure out where he's singing and proceed to nail this song. The crowd is going nuts... and so is the other keyboard player. I'm doing what I usually do, trying to really work the low end. I was using the Elrick NJS5, Ambush 5, AMP BH-420 and a coax Bag End 1-15 and as usual the rig killed.

    The next day he talks to a friend of mine and asks "Has Brad been practicing?".

    "What do you mean?".

    He relates the audition story and explains that what he heard the night before didn't mesh with what he thought I was capable of.

    "Brad's been playing like that for years... maybe you weren't hearing him".

    I get that a lot around here;). I've been back in this area since 1980 and for some reason this year I've been getting more calls than ever. I guess the right people are finally hearing me now.
  14. I'm starting to feel the same way - playing for years and years (I know you've been at it a lot longer than I have) it's sometimes easy to think that you won't see a development or change in how you interact with other musicians - or how other people hear or percieve your playing. In my case, my playing is having the biggest impact its ever had - i.e. I really drive my band and because everyone feels good it makes the whole band sound better.

    Sounds like the keyboard player was / is an a-hole - I am wary of keys guys sometimes as a few I have met recently have strange ways of communicating with the band - i.e. they don't want to be bossed around - or told when something isn't workig musically - they get all self-important. However two of my fave musos to play with currently are both great keyboard players - so this is defiitely a personality thing - not a keys thing.

    Back to focused practice - I agree, don't watch TV all the time - but random ear training excercises good too.
  15. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I look at it like this...I WILL be watching the NFL ALL DAY anyway, why not have the bass in-hand? Too, I don't call this 'real' practice...& I am not that random with what I'm doing. I may try to cop a line/groove from a commercial, background music, etc(like Brad said) or it may be trying to nail an off-timed thing by sheer repetition or maybe something akin to Manring's permutation exercise for the fretting hand. In any event, I would say I have had success; I have never been a chops-meister but, for me, I would say my technique has improved a lot over the past 10 years. I shoulda done this back in the '70s!

    Agree 100%

    I'm sure you've read Milkowski's Jaco bio...

    (BTW, one can practice their plucking technique during pre-sex ritual. I have been asked "What are you doing done there...practicing your bass"? Think outside the box!!!)
  16. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I must be the Bizarro-Brad. I have forgotten literally thousands of songs.
    Taking Ornette's "Practice without memory" to the nth degree.

    Nice story, Brad.
    I kinda know some people like that around here...surely, they're not as good as they think, either.
  17. That's why chicks dig bass players - stamina!
  18. Well, I assumed he wasn't really paying attention to what he was playing. If the TV is loud enough and you don't really hear what you're playing, or care about the sounds you're plunking out of your bass, you won't get much more than technique out of it. Playing scales, for example, and hearing the notes you're playing will do something for you in terms of note association. But hearing is the key.

    Of course, if you play along to commercials or anything else, your ear will develop and you will get better. I definitely agree that it's good to try to emulate even the melodies of the songs you hear. They don't necessarily have to be the bassline, or anything close to low. You could percussively slap the drum beat too! :D
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Good point... don't limit listening to only basslines.
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    On a lot of levels the whole idea of "playing while I got the tV on" is more about avoiding practice than it is about trying to get deeper into practice. "yeah man, I practiced for 6 hours today. While I was watching roundball, first a college game and then a pro game." And can proceed to tell you exactly what happened in each game, but can't really discuss in any specifics what they were working on with the instrument.

    I mean if you're practicing 6 hours a day and you have your bass in your lap when you turn on the TV, it ain't gonna hurt you none. But don't confuse noodling with practicing.

    A good practice routine is going to challenge your weaknesses. It's going to demand attention to the smallest aspect of your approach. You divide your attention between what you are working on and what Paris and Nicole are up to this week, you aren't working anymore.

    JUST WORKING ON TECHNIQUE - ??? Music isn't pushing buttons. Connecting your ear to your fingers, connecting what you hear externally and internally to your fingers, that's what you should be working on. Not trying to remember what pattern in what order in which geographic location. Music isn't about putting your finger THERE, it's about making the sound you hear inside get out into the world so others can hear it. If you take your ear OUT of the equation by mindlessly running patterns while your attention is elsewhere, you are teaching yourself to turn your ear OFF.

    TV AS EAR TRAINING TUTOR - again, you want to use this as an adjunct to all the real work you are doing on your ear, OK. Personally, I think that it would be better to spend another half hour transcribing solos or lines. But pulling off as much of TV tunes as you can as they go by is no substitute for specific, focused, progressive ear training.

    ANYTHING you do in life is going to benefit from a focused and concentrated attention.