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Practice without Bass

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Uncle Fat, Apr 14, 2003.

  1. Yep! I do it all the time!

    31 vote(s)
  2. NO! That's silly..

    13 vote(s)
  1. Uncle Fat

    Uncle Fat Guest

    Mar 14, 2003
    Portland, OR
    I recently read an article in Bass Player Archives that asked several pros what kind of practicing they did when they didn't have their bass handy.

    Jeff Berlin's response was that you can't. You can read and try to improve your general musicianship, but it won't make you a better player.

    Then I was watching Jacos instructional video and he stated that he did most of his practicing without an instrument.

    So, what's your opinion? Does practicing without a bass make you a better bass player? If so, what do you practice? If not, please explain....

  2. Killdar


    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    hard to say.....I can't see how anyone could do so without a bass in hand, at least with technique. I sometimes just grab some sheet music and figure out all the stuff that way, or run songs through my head, but all the real practicing needs something to play on.

    people who don't need a bass are just musicians....
    people who do need one are BASSISTS
  3. Stephen S

    Stephen S Member

    Apr 10, 2002
    San Bernardino, CA
    You can't practice with your hands what your mind doesn't know.
  4. Uncle Fat

    Uncle Fat Guest

    Mar 14, 2003
    Portland, OR
    I guess what put me off was Berlin saying that you can practice musicianship, but it won't make you a better player. I can't agree with that. Granted, you can't practice technique, but that's really only a small part of playing (for most of us). You can practice wiggling your fingers, but practicing your musicianship will make you a better player than having good technique. Duck has never been known for his technique, but he's one of the most influential players out there.
  5. I do practice technique.. in some way..

    I do exercises with my fingers all the time.. and it has helped me improve my double thumb technique, and speed on both fretting and plucking hands.
  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Can you visualize a chord progression or line in your head? I can. IME putting it on the actual
    bass is the final stage of practice, I learn with my head too.

    When I have to learn new music from a recorded source, I usually do this without bass in hand. It's probably a big part of why I seldom have trouble transposing... I'm not immediately locked into a key and instead "visualize" what I need to play first.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Keep in mind, this is the same person who claims that using a metronome will actually make your time worse. I believe a grain of salt, or perhaps a block of the the stuff roughly the size of Utah, is in order here.
  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    "Just" musicians???
  9. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Uh... and somehow bassists are elevated above the level of musicians?!?

    The thing is, as a bassist, you are (hopefully) a musician. And a musician, you "speak" the language of music. And do you need a bass to improve yourself as a musician? No. The bass is a tool of expression - but you don't necessarily need to use it to deepen your understanding.

    Part of being a musician (a big part) is *listening* to music - listening to players, as well as hearing music in your head. Do you need a bass to do that?

    When you hear a song on the radio, how about trying to identify chords, harmonies, melodies, bass lines?

    While you're practicing with your bass, you're learning to play bass - but you're not necessarily learning to be a musician, which is the goal, no?
  10. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I don't think you can develop much in the way of the manual dexterity elements away from a hands on approach... but a lot of the skill of being a bassist (or any other kind of musician) is in the hearing and thinking, and that doesn't require an instrument in your hand.

    In fact, sometimes you might understand things more clearly if you don't constantly fetter the flow of ideas by trying to play them. It's not a million miles away from the way my web-scripting goes - at least half of my break throughs have come when I've been away from my computer (of course, that could be something to do with being away from Talkbass as well ;) )

  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I'd have to go back to read what Jeff really said, but any practice away from the bass is general music practice...it's not BASS practice. Of course, Jeff has also stated many times that learning more about music is your real goal anyway.

    Can it make you a better player? Maybe! Stuff like squeezing grip masters aint gonna help but working out lines to play over a chord progression will.

    I think Jeff's statements are based on something pretty simple: you have to WORK to get better and there are no shortcuts.
  12. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    That's the heart of the thing. There's a difference between taking a break and letting your mind assimilate what you've learnt and suggest new approaches and just not doing any work in the first place. The approach that works should be obvious :cool:

  13. Uncle Fat

    Uncle Fat Guest

    Mar 14, 2003
    Portland, OR
    I found the article:

    The article is in the "Trenches" section at archive.bassplayer.com .

    That goes without saying, but you can't always be with your bass. You can work rhythms or melodies in your head while you're on a plane for example. I think trying to practice even when you can't be with your instrument is pretty far from trying to take shortcuts.
    And as far it being "impossible to become a better player without actually doing it". That's just nonsense. Here's an example: Any kid who watches a Chili Peppers video and pays attention to Flea's right hand can learn to slap. He can slap his bass for hours on end. If he doesn't know music, he'll slap octaves for days and impress the hell out of his friends, but he really won't be much of a player, will he? If you sit the same kid down with a theory book for an hour a day, he'll know what notes to put under his fingers when he does that impressive slapping. He just became a better player.
  14. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    I agree with this, literally. If you "never" pick up the bass, you couldn't prove you ever got better:D

    I disagree about the "general music" thing though. When I am visualizing voicings or chords or lines in my head, I am not doing it "generally", I am visualizing a bass fretboard as well. I think that's pretty specific, not general.
  15. Killdar


    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    I completely agree. Please remember that I never have any idea what I am talking about, EVER.

    pigs will fly through a frozen hell when I actually think about what I write.

  16. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Here's a short list of things, off the top of my head, that I can do away from my bass. These, in my opinion, will all make me a better musician, which will make me a better bassplayer.

    - Play and practice piano
    - Transcribe
    - Practice of and training in music theory, (which includes a vast number of exercises, reading, or studying)
    - Rhythm work, (clapping exercises, etc).
    - Listening
    - Peer contact, (talking with and sharing information with other bassists)
    - General musician contact, (talking with and sharing information with other non-bassist musicians).
  17. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Aside from the philosophical and mental issues that wax above, I have found playing an acoustic 12 string to be great exercise, it really helps keep up my left hand strength, and keeps the old callouses in shape on both hands.
    HeHe, if I spent the time I spent on TB actually playing the bass I'd be awesome ... hmmmm
  18. Practicing my slapping on a piece of wood improved my (right hand) technique.
    (I've learned this from the "101 bass tips" book by Gary Willis.)

    Using Chinese health balls helped me to improve my fingering speed.

    I have also learned a lot from the internet (especially here on Talkbass), reading books and articles, watching video's and other bassplayers, listening to music, ...
    Just tapping your fingers to the beat of a song can improve your sense of rythm ...

    So yes, imo you can practice without your bass.
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Sometimes it's even more fun without the bass, as it can tend to get in the way of what you're really trying to accomplish.
  20. I've found that if I don't play for over a week, then I come back and play, everything, including theory, seems much clearer.

    If we all spent a day without touching our bass, and spent more time listening than playing, we'd become better bass players. Granted we wont be 'jaco in 24 hours', but I mean, you might notice an improvement, as far as composition goes.