Process of learning a fast line

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by tinkertoy, Jan 3, 2018.

  1. tinkertoy


    Aug 24, 2017
    Hi All,
    I'm kinda 'new', I started bass 7 months ago, without any guitar/string experience prior. Took lessons from a great teacher for 6mo, and am taking a break for $$ reasons.

    I'm trying to lock down Uriah Heep's Easy Livin'. I can play the whole song, except for that 100mph backward scale. My right hand plucking 'plan' simply falls apart when I try to increase from 0.1mph.

    Not worried about the left hand; I know the major scale pattern and I can see the notes just fine. For the right hand, I start at the top, choosing which right-hand finger for each note. I try to use a rake on the string changes to get some more efficiency.

    But whenever I speed it up my right-hand fingers forget their job! Is my memory just garbage (I am almost 50) or is this the correct approach and it will come to me in time?
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Try playing with a pick
  3. If fast playing is turning into mush it is probably because your ears and or mind can not hear as fast as your fingers are playing. To play fast we have to be able to hear each note. Old story - slow down and increase speed in small segments.

    Good luck.

    P.S. I'd ditch the rake.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  4. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Play it slowly and gradually speed it up to tempo.
  5. thewildest


    May 25, 2011
    Florida, USA
    The sad truth is that to play fast you have to first play really-really slow. The other sad truth is that it is not what 1 hand does, but what your brain manages to deliver to both hands so they go in sync.

    In general, you can't play what you can't think. If you "throw" your hands to it not knowing what you are going to do, you have little chances to deliver the sound you want. First you have to train your brain to "see" the pattern you want to produce, and for that is why you have to repeat the motion several times. Your hands are capable, but your brain needs to understand it before it instructs both hand to do this combined. There is no "muscle memory" or "reflex motion" that can sustainably be applied when learning the instrument without reprogramming your Pons and Cerebellum (I wouldn't go that way :).

    My recommendation is to practice slow, but with purpose. Not to speed things up but to play it flawlessly, like a pro, multiple times without 1 single issue. You will see speed coming as a by-product, instead of being the goal.

    I hope this helps,
  6. tinkertoy


    Aug 24, 2017
    Thanks guys, I really appreciate the feedback. I'll continue playing it slow until it's second nature.

    All my songs thus far have been doable and just needed cleaning up. This is my first "oh heck no!" riff, so I'm working through the process on faith. ☺
  7. GBBSbassist

    GBBSbassist I actually play more guitar...

    Nov 23, 2010
    Use a metronome. Cut the BPM of the song by about half and really lock down all of the notes. Then, gradually speed it up. Don't speed it up unless you can nail it at the BPM that you're currently on. An increase of about 10 or so as a time should do the trick.
    M0ses, NeckPickup and physics like this.
  8. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Slow at first, yup.

    I will add that keeping your fingers down on the fretboard helps. I started playing upright (again) last year and my teacher pointed out that I was lifting my fingers off the fingerboard.

    I worked on it and transferred that practice to the bass guitar. It improved my speed and clarity. It works!
  9. tinkertoy


    Aug 24, 2017
    So moving forward, can I assume that there's no bass 'nirvana' you reach that allows you to hear/read a fast arpeggio and instantly you know how you're going to play it? Difficult lines are almost always a planned/choreographed - process?

    This paradigm is new to me, because my only other instrument was saxophone in school. With that, if you could read and play, you could (in principle) sight read anything. Your fingers didn't need a 'game plan'.
  10. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Bass is no different from saxophone or any other instrument in that respect.

    Once you have reached a level of fluency there is no reason you can't listen and repeat any line you hear without pre-planning every note.
  11. Sometimes what helps me is tapping your foot in half time. The song you speak of is on Songster, and the passage is four groups of triplets, tempo is 150 bpm. Instead of playing each group on each beat, play at ~70 bpm then play the first set of triplets on the down beat and the second set on the up beat, third set down and fourth set up. This tricks your mind that you are playing slower (and easier), but to a listener, it sounds at tempo like the record. Hope my explanation makes sense...
  12. dc-upright


    Mar 31, 2013
    I use a program called Amazing Slow Downer which allows me to loop the part I am learning and slow it down. I start at 50 or 60% then speed it up 3 or 5 % at a time until I can play it full speed. If I crash at the faster speed I slow back down a little, and take however much time it takes. It takes a while but you will end up playing it right at the correct tempo.
    Mr.Ace likes this.
  13. Mr.Ace

    Mr.Ace Bass players rule!

    Sep 8, 2015
    Pompano Beach FL
    Endorsed by Fusion ( maker of killer gig bags)
    You could also do some drills as part of a warm up, that includes stretching you’re hands and wrists. I like to play muted chromatic scales at an even tempo up and down the fretboard. From 1st position all the way up to the second octave and then back.
    Good luck
  14. Mr.Ace

    Mr.Ace Bass players rule!

    Sep 8, 2015
    Pompano Beach FL
    Endorsed by Fusion ( maker of killer gig bags)
    I love technology!
    dc-upright likes this.
  15. But a bass has the same notes in multiple positions. Pianos and wind instruments don’t.
    I can listen and repeat lines without pre-planning, but I often find it valuable to try different variations for fast passages so I can find the way that works for me. Sometimes it’s just so that my hand ends up in a good position for the next section.
    comatosedragon likes this.
  16. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Many wind instruments allow you to play the same note in different positions.

    All you're talking about is a different aspect of fluency.
  17. Interesting! A trumpet player told me she found string instruments strange because there were so many places one could play the same notes. What about sax & trombone?
  18. mc900ftj


    Jan 21, 2014
    Starting slow is the friend of Smooth. Smooth is the friend of Fast. Start slow, stay smooth, get fast.
    BassmentRatt and Nev375 like this.
  19. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    The more you play, the more naturally you'll just know what the most efficient way to approach a run is.
  20. bfields


    Apr 9, 2015
    Ann Arbor, MI
    In addition to "play slower", a few ideas you could try:

    - practice the right hand on its own. Don't worry about fretting the right notes, just practice plucking the right strings at the right time.
    - break it down into smaller overlapping pieces. E.g. work just work on getting notes 1-4 right then stopping. Then work on 4-7. Then when they're both solid try running the two together.
    - turn those small pieces into exercises of their own and practice them at different tempos in different keys.

    Something like this I wouldn't work on for more than a few minutes at a time. Better to go work on something and come back to it tomorrow. It'll come eventually.
    ObsessiveArcher likes this.