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practicing, muting

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by kimstevens, May 30, 2003.

  1. kimstevens


    Nov 12, 2002
    Michael and Steve,

    I am writing to ask you about your practice habits when you were starting out playing fretless. I have recently begun practicing 6-string fretless (with lines), and am working on scales and arpeggios throughout the range of the bass, and 2-note patterns within one hand position.

    If you were working on any given scale, for example, and if you couldn't play that scale consistantly perfectly, would you nevertheless move on after a while to something else, or just practice that scale until it is perfect? And would you not try to increase speed (at all) if your intonation and dynamics weren't completely under control at slower speeds? I would like to practice in a way that will make me the best player I can be in the long run. I once had a friend in youth orchestra, a hot violinist, and when he got his first world-class teacher, he was instructed to not play any pieces of music for a year at least; just exercises. I don't have a bass teacher myself; I've only had lessons on upright in the past.

    About damping: although I have asked about this topic in the past,and the concepts you gave have been very heplful, I am still wondering what you do about ringing upper strings when playing pizz on the lower strings. I know that I can flatten the fingers on my left hand to dampen the upper strings, but this seems to compromise my technique. Also, with fast pizz playing with lots of string crossing, my right hand dampening goes out the window. Any insight is greatly appreciated.

  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Kim,

    I think it's important to divide your practice time up, so as not to end up with it unequally weighted in one direction - it's no use having great intonation if your timing is out... etc...

    the five Ts are a good starting place for getting your playing together - consider each of them for each note/phrase/line/solo/whatever.

    they are (make a note!)


    you can have great technique in terms of playing fast and clean, but have no tone. You can have a great sound but no idea what to do with it, you can have the greatest feel in the world, but not get within a mile of each note... None of these are really where you want to end up.

    So in terms of ordering your practice time. I'd work on two main areas (for each of the above) - control and awareness - developing an awareness of what you're doing, what you want to do and what you're supposed to do, and then working on the control needed to execute that. So that covers everything!

    Start with a phrase, of any kind, play it slowly, as slowly as you like, but focus on the sound of every note, the attack, the decay, the shift to the next note. Get right inside each note. Feel free to allow each note to last ages. If your serious about this stuff, practice can become a meditational pursuit, where you are working on your connection with sound, and your control of it. Remember that everything between your fingers and the vibrating air that comes out of the speaker is your instrument - all of it colours the sound and you to know it as well as you can, so you can do what you want to do with it.

    So, take your phrase, play it til it's you. Til every note is where it should be, til you can FEEL each note before it happens, til there are no surprises. Then change your intention, and work until you can do that one too, til you know it, control it, own it. See how many parameters you can control just with your hands, how far you can stretch each one. The bring in the controls on your bass, then your amp, the rest of your signal chain...

    The aim is music, the tool is bass, the path is the pursuit of control and awareness...

    ...sorry, you just caught me in a particularly philosophical mood - I'm really glad you asked this, cos I soooo need to get back into all the stuff I've talked about above - so we'll both report back here in a month, and see how we've got on? ;)

    hope that all makes sense - if not, feel free to come back with more...


  3. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Man, what an inspirational post. Thanks for sharing those thoughts with us Steve. I think the art of learning and playing music is truly meditative. :)
  4. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Well put, Steve!

    Kim, I think the important thing is that you're thinking about these issues. It's tough to know when to keep shedding an exercise and when to move on to other things. Improving as a musician is largely about beginning to understand your own learning process so that you have a sense of what will be most beneficial to you. Different strategies work for different people.

    String muting is a very difficult skill to develop and one that, in my opinion, is too often overlooked. I use the left hand technique you talked about for muting strings higher than the one I'm playing on, but it takes time to get it clean and I still practice it. Good luck!
  5. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Does that one extend to what you're wearing while you play, Steve?

    'Cause I gotta say, y'know, practice what you preach and all... :D j/k

    Seriously though, great post Steve, I will try and incorporate this into my practice.
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    LOL - I never said taste wasn't a subjective value... ;)

    let me know how you get on applying that stuff!


  7. kimstevens


    Nov 12, 2002
    Thank you so much for your replies to my questions. It really helps to hear about how others pursue music and the bass.

  8. Borknagar


    Feb 3, 2003
    Norway, Oslo
    6 string fretless.......you gotta be crazy for real
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    nah, if it had been unlined, that'd be crazy... ;)