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Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by brad_paddock, Jun 29, 2004.

  1. brad_paddock


    Jun 21, 2004
    I am wanting some guidance on what I need to do to cross over from the amature to professional bassist. basically, I would need to practice many, many hours a day (which doesn't by any means guarantee my professionalism) but when I practice during those hours what do I practice? Do I just prcatice scales and if so which ones? what about techniques? I am wanting to trully persue this dream of being a professional bass player who maybe becomes a session player or some thing like that and thus want to know HOW I can get there. Thanks for your responces.
  2. Wood = Basses

    Wood = Basses

    Jun 19, 2003
    professional = getting paid
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Brad,

    What are the skills required to be a pro? It all depends on the kind of music that you're playing. There are pro players with dreadful technique, no knowledge of where the notes are, crappy tone etc. who just got lucky by being in a band that got somewhere.

    You mention session work. The things that are required for session work include good time, good tone, reliable equipment, an understanding of different styles of music (assuming you're doing a variety of projects - it's likely that they are going to cover a number of different styles. If you end up in a situation where you're doing lots of sessions in one style, then an intimate knowledge of that one style may well be sufficient...)

    Learning scales is a step on a journey towards knowing music. Learning endless scales for a bassist would be like learning pages in a dictionary for a poet - you'd get a few choice words out of it, but it's not going to hone your craft.

    So what to practice? Practice the things you're going to be required to do - stick on CDs and learn the lines as quickly as you can, trying to get the tone and the feel right as well as the notes, get used to hearing the kinds of cliches bassists use in various styles. Learn to read chord charts - this is connected with the previous practice area in that you need to know what kinds of lines to construct over the various chords. Having monster chops, being able to tap and double-thumb is unlikely to get you a session gig. It might get used on a session if you can do all that other more rudimentary things well, but it's never going to get you the gig in the first place.

    So theory wise, you need to look at how basslines are constructed, how chord progressions are grouped into keys, and which notes the bassist uses a lot of the time (hint, roots and fifths come up rather a lot...)

    If you're looking at doing pickup gigs as well, you'll need to be able to play Jazz standards out of a Real Book - that's a book (either legal or illegal) of jazz tunes that get called on function gigs - if you can read those, you'll be able to fill a few more night's a month. Ed Friedland's 'Building Walking Basslines' books are a great place to start for that stuff. In fact, get as many books about the fine art of bass playing as you can. John Goldsby's book on Jazz Bass is great, Chuck Sher's Improvisors Bass Method is good, The Inner Game Of Music by Barry Green is marvellous.

    However, not wanting to rain on your parade, but there is VERY little studio work out there. That's not to say that you won't be one of the ones who gets the gigs, but there sadly isn't a situation where producers are sat just waiting for bassists to call up offering their availability for work so they can pay them union scale. I got offered a session recently with a multi-million selling artist, and was offered about a third of the Musician's Union minimum daily rate!! I turned it down, at least til they come back with a budget...

    However, don't let that dampen your resolve to become a pro player, just remember that the area you may end up working in won't neccesarily be the one that you think is going to earn you the money...

  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I love your avatar Steve.

    I've always felt that networking is such a huge part of any business, especially one as impacted as studio work. Steve, can you concur? Do you believe that, obviously along with solid talent and dependability, networking can be of vital importance? Getting your name out there, meeting people, being easy to get along with, dependable, etc.
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Networking is very important indeed, or at least being in a position where you meet other musicians. A lot. Being good won't get you work, but it will keep you the work once you luck your way into it. You'll get hired because you happen to wander into a conversation at the right time, because you meet someone in a bar and they dig you and are looking for a bassist, because a friend of yours gets lucky with a gig and recommends you.

    It's a lottery, but you can certainly shorten the odds. :)