Problem Hearing Bass Lines

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bluesbreaker5, Jul 4, 2008.

  1. Bluesbreaker5


    Mar 24, 2006
    I really can't hear much more than simple lines. For example, I have the Tommy Shannon DVD Lessons and he shows basslines from some of the SRV tunes. They really groove. But when he "plays with the band" all I hear is the common 12-bar blues progression. My ear doesn't pick up his different changes, walk-ups, walk-downs, scale changes. He's obviously doing them, but I can't hear it. I'm not a youngster anymore, so maybe my hearing is not as keen?
  2. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I don't know if I'd go blaming my ears so quickly. It's more likely coming from what your soundsource is. Could be multiple soundsources too, that just aren't putting the bass out in a way that YOU can clearly hear.

    I get frustrated a lot of times because I don't know how to find or purchase the perfect system for me to hear the bass. A guy in one of my bands plugs an ipod into a $40 boombox and all of a sudden I hear bass in songs that I never knew existed. I heard Maggie May in a diner bathroom once and went nuts trying to find out what speakers they had in there because bass I never heard before jumped out and slapped me in the face.

    Fiddle with whatever EQ you've got on your systems, and try listening from different spots. Certain songs I have to stand up to learn and get a different angle from my speakers. : / Keeping the volume low is often helpful too, the bass comes through a bit more clearly for me without the thumping overtones.

    Last note is that if you're new at picking out basslines, it gets a lot lot easier in time. When I just started playing bass I couldn't for the life of me distinguissh what octave things were being played in. I'm now often learning 4 or 5 songs a day. It gets eaiser. Oh yeah - and my hearing is shot from years and years of no earplugs. Luckily the higher pitches go first. :)
  3. Radek


    Jun 12, 2008
    Some people can transcribe rather easily, some other don't. Don't worry - you don't have to copy exactly the same lines. Play your own. :)
  4. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    I have to disagree with Radek on that one. Though it is true that when covering a song with a band it's more important to get the general feel and style then the exact notes, when transcribing for the purpose of learning or listening to bass lines to give you new ideas it's much much more beneficial to hear it exactly.

    Of course i'm includng all IMO IME IMHO....
  5. E2daGGurl


    May 26, 2008
    Maybe it's playback? We have a Beatles DVD with Paul playing thumpingly on And I Love Her - but only when we pump it through the stereo amp or the big TV (which has a bass speaker). Playing back on small TV or laptop - can't really here him. Also, can't hear him on one car stereo that well (even with a CD, which has better sound to begin with) but can hear the same CD on the other car stereo (of course, I have the bass turned all the way up on that one - but it has reasonably good bass speakers).

    Sometimes I lie on the floor to hear, too. Helps, especially if overall volume is low. But turn that bass up on whatever EQ you have!
  6. jayarroz


    Jul 10, 2007
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    well.... I would say practice, practice, practice. I start every practice out with ear training. Hit C on a piano, keyboard etc. Then close your eyes and with a pencil hit a note. Sing up the scale until you find out what note it is. Do this every day!!! This will get you to recognize notes, your brain can't find them if it doesn't have something to relate it to. When you where a child someone put an orange in your hand and told you, this is an orange. You can download the amazing slow downer also for free that will slow down the music and you can loop a passage until you get it. Good luck, its always a learning experience!
  7. FingeringAm

    FingeringAm Inactive

    Jun 28, 2008
    So Cal
    if its a specific song i want to hear i listen to the cover on youtube...people love to post themselves playing pretty much any song with there amps at 11 and the backing music low so try this if u wanna hear and see the notes being played
  8. Bluesbreaker5


    Mar 24, 2006
    Thanks for all the suggestions, I really appreciate it.

    Jayarroz, I also appreciate your input, however I have had note training with piano and violin going way back, so I don't think it's not recognizing the notes as much as the notes simply getting lost.

    Now, I can pick up quite a bit of Jack Bruce's bass lines when he was with Cream but I would have never picked up Duck Dunn's fabulous lines on Jailhouse Rock had I not looked at the tabs.

    It's probably like you guys said....crank the bass up and try selective listening.
  9. Actually a lot of clarity can come from midrange, so cranking the bass might make it more boomy and more difficult to hear.
  10. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    Bass is just tougher to hear than other instruments. Treble is a real quick wave and it's easy to hear minor pitch problems / pick up lines. Bass is huge, long waves and it's more difficult to pick out lines. There's a huge difference between 800 cycles per second and two octaves lower, 200 cycles per second. Your ear is trying to "line up" the pitches and it takes that much more effort to line them up when they occur that that infrequently.

    In the Standing in the Shadows of Motown book, one of the musicians talks about playing their 33rpm records at 45rpm to get the bassline to "pop" out and make it easier to hear.

    And as other people have said - make sure your rig is good enough to handle those frequencies. Are you playing this DVD through your TV speakers? Pick up some inexpensive studio monitors, something with a woofer perhaps - something full-range and fairly flat. Nothing by Bose or anything in that league - Bose has a "scooped" bass + treble only sound that's great for "woah, did you feel that explosion?" movies but horrible for music. You can even try running stuff through your bass amp.
  11. jayarroz


    Jul 10, 2007
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    I think ear training and recognition is a lifetime thing. Herbie Hancock can hear 12 notes at one time if you hit them all at once. Trust me ear training before each practice will help with the notes just getting lost. If you can hear the chord that is being played then you will find the notes that underly it. Thus making it easier to find where those notes might be. sometimes you can barely hear the bass in the song, but if you know what everyone else is doing "hearing their notes" then you will find the bass line. And then it works!!!
  12. wld3


    Jun 22, 2008

    Any thoughts on this product: MJS Complete Bass by Ear

    I posted a query about it myself but I never received any replies. Do you think it would be/could be a worthwhile product?

  13. jayarroz


    Jul 10, 2007
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    from what you have written it sounds like you have what it takes to figure this stuff out. I wouldn't buy that by ear thing.