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Question About the way I'm Learning

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by FrettFretless, Oct 13, 2013.

  1. FrettFretless


    Jan 2, 2013
    Hey guys, so I guess I should explain the way I've been learning to play bass for the past 3 years. I never had any formal lessons, so I learned my technique online from this site and others. I think my technique is fine. It's songs that were always tough for me. Only song I learned front to back was Jethro Tull's "Bouree". It was basically the first thing I did on bass. But then, midway through trying to learn "Money" by Pink Floyd, I just kinda started jamming away to the song. It wasn't good or accurate at all, but I found it way less stressful than trying to play it accurately. So then, I looked up some drum loops on youtube and started jamming over that using various scales. I loved it! After that day, I forgot about learning any songs at all. This was 2.5 years ago, and still, "Bouree" is the only thing I actually know how to play (probably have forgotten it by now). Now, I don't play in a band or do gigs, though I often go and jam with my drummer friend (big wonder!). I play almost every day, and I am seeing improvement in my playing. My question is whether this method of learning will mess me up if I ever try to play in a band or do gigs. Maybe I'm over thinking it? So tell me, am I too unconventional? All I do is :bassist:
  2. If you want to play in a band or do gigs you'll have to learn tunes.

    Learning some music theory will make learning tunes easier.

    Taking some lessons will make learning theory easier.
  3. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Get in a band and report back the result.
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Depends on what you expect to get from it.
    I will say this, every player i have played with wanted to perform, you could not stop them getting up there, and once up there getting them off the stage was the next problem.
    No matter how good they were, or what songs they knew...performing was what they loved to get from music.

    I have met many people who have giving me many reasons why they are 'waiting' before they take to the stage, or learn new songs, or form new bands...etc.
    These people will probley never do it, those looking for reasons to do something have a different mind set from those who need reasons not to do something.....and even those reasons usually do not stop them.

    In answer to your question, maybe it already has, because you are not being un-conventional in your learning, you are being un-practical in your learning. :)
  5. Well, at least you're being creative. What you do with the loops is a good idea but I'd say it's worth learning songs and building your repertoire if only to inspire you with new ideas and give you a more all round concept of groove and styles.
    On the flipside, if you ever decide to turn pro and rely on your playing for making a living, you'll be thrown into many different musical situations and having a good repertoire can be a massive advantage in those instances.

    Here's an article I wrote on repertoire if you want any ideas http://www.talkingbass.net/building-your-repertoire/

  6. There are different ways that people learn

    I was basically taught from the outset that there is a right way to do things properly

    I have also been exposed to the ideas that learn the way you want etc

    I think that if you are happy playing freestyle all your life then keep following the path you are on

    But if you want to play bass in a band then there are many things you need to learn

    A good place to start is to find a teacher and follow through with the discipline of lessons and practice
  7. Why was it stressful? Maybe a teacher or knowing more musical theory will make it easier and more enjoyable for you.

    Bands are about teamwork, and each player doing their role. Bass needs to lay a solid foundation. Even an improvising soloist needs to understand and follow the chords/rhythms of a song. You really limit yourself and the band without it.

    How much knowledge? Just enough for the style of music you want to play.
  8. IMO, playing with a band there is no place for random notes in what we do. Why do I say that. Your band mates need to be able to trust that you will play what is expected. That brings up the question; What is expected?

    Scale notes when you play the melody.
    Chord notes when you play the harmony.

    Now I also believe you do not have to play the exact bass line the original artist used. I follow the chord progression and play notes of the active chord. Which notes? The ones that fit in this specific song. I know that by itself is not helping.

    Why are the chords there in the first place? To harmonize the melody. To harmonize the melody the songwriter decided what chord would do that -- if we play some of the notes of that chord we also will harmonize with what everyone else is doing. Drum roll! Google harmony and spend some time there.

    Random works when it's just you, as any note in a scale is going to sound OK with any other note in that same scale, but, when you bring in other people they kinda want to know that your efforts will augment their efforts. If you play the chord's notes that come up in the song everything seem to work out OK.

    Of course IMO.
  9. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    I was always from the get go interested in playing originals and writing my own songs but since i wasn't gonna do any theory learning (because I just can't do it, it bores the hell out of me and i can't focus on it) i figured a good way to learn anything would be to just pick up songs by ear. And pick up songs i did, for the first 5 years or so i must have learned well over 500 this way (and i wasn't even playing in a band). It taught me things. Without realizing i was being taught.

    Now if you ARE learning theory an technique then i guess learning songs is not as necessary for you but it can't hurt once in a while, it might give you ideas, especially since you write originals. At one point i could play every single song in my favorite band's catalogue (which actually came in handy eventually cause i had a short stint in a tribute band of this band...amount of songs learning done while in the tribute band? 0. I already knew all the songs perfectly. I never had to prepare.) Since obviously this is the kind of music i would want to write, it certainly taught me a thing or two about achieving the sound i wanted, how to compose good songs in that style or genre. While it's true at first all i probably did was mainly copying, eventually i could make what i learned my own and use it to write my own songs without just ripping off. I find my bass playing style is made up of the playing habits of my three or four favorite bassist (like sometimes i'll do a specific pattern or a specific phrasing and i'll realize... oh...I totally got this from so-and-so). And i'd guess that's how you get your own style, by combining a few of them together. And there's nothing better than learning songs for that.

    But yeah i don't see how that is "stressful" to learn a song? I always saw it as fun. Sometimes challenging, but fun when you manage to learn it.
  10. FrettFretless


    Jan 2, 2013
    Now that I think about it, it was my approach that made it stressful. I am very much a perfectionist, and that, combined with short temper made me get easily aggrivated when i made a mistake. If i couldn't play note for note, in my eyes i couldn't play at all. (even though i do know that tabs aren't always perfectly accurate to begin with). I will definitely try some learning by ear; you guys have given me enough reasons why songs are important. I feel like learning by ear will make me less thirsty for perfection, and widen my playing style, as was mentioned by a few of you TB'ers

    Thanks for the insight!
  11. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    You make the 'classic' mistake.....note for note.
    You are listening to a 'take', one of many in most circumstances, so you are restricting yourself to playing a line that even the player that recorded may not even adhere to.
    Every song has a main theme, supporting theme, bridge theme etc. When learning songs, you use these themes to get the idea across, not stick ridged to any bass line recorded. I have heard other play songs i have recorded and they play them in a way i do not, they play the take that was used, where as i have moved on a developed the line from playing it live. Truth is i always will, i will never be truly happy with anything i play and will always see the next time i play it as a chance to improve on it. :)

    Look at it in this way and your playing life is not only easier, but it lets you play songs in your own style. :)
  12. Have you tried the app Amazing Slow Downer?? Learn to play it at 50% speed and gradually play it faster with practice.
  13. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    The song mentioned originally that frustrated the original poster was "Money" by Pink Floyd. That has a very rigid bass part that can't really be strayed from. It's also in odd meter (7/4) in many parts. I can see why he was frustrated with it. The key is patience. Until someone can accept that they need to be patient while learning, they won't learn very much.
    I agree that being totally content with your playing leads to not learning anything new and being stagnant (instead of playing something better the next time). As musicians, we should all be learning until we can't physically play anymore.
  14. I agree 100%. You don't just get better as a player, you get better as a person.

    Spend a few minutes relaxing and focussing before playing. It is a great skill and habit to be constantly developing. It will help in all areas of your life when things get stressful. It also makes an extraordinary difference in really important situations - studio, big shows, public speaking, etc.

    Break things down to smaller pieces.
    Do short practice sessions (5-10 mins) on difficult/frustrating parts, then leave it until the next day. You improve overnight as your brain settles into the newly acquired skill.
    Repeat these short sessions daily for a few weeks and watch yourself improve exponentially. :)
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Money is a classic example of playing a song note for note when it is not needed.
    The riff of Bm7 is the hook after that it is up for grabs, the transition through F#m7 and Em can be taken as heard. As for it being an odd meter to work in, that will just become easier with playing the song and the 'correct' notes will start to fall under the fingers if you want them to, but nothing will be really learned from the bass line, the learning is in the chord structure and time sig.....that is where the learning is.:)
  16. Frohman


    Nov 24, 2009
    If you don't learn new stuff, there won't be much improvement in the future, when you have exhausted your possibilities. I think I had played for about 3 years too, when I realized that I need to start learning new stuff to expand my rythmic library. Even though I could play arpeggios, all the scales and modes and well in time, I realized I was reusing the same rythmic patterns over and over again. So for me it came to a point where I started looking into song melodies, and a lot of "non-bass" material to expand my possibilities.

    I could play the bass part of "So What" perfectly, and that was great, but learning the piano voicings was a challenge, and so was understanding the way they built their solos around those voicings. Motives, responses, listening techniques. Jamming away is great, but don't forget that when you sit alone you are likely to go all over the place, and do the same things over and over again, and that doesn't make you a worse player. It makes you learn everything you already know better. Remember that you don't have to emulate that when you play with other people. In a jam, it may sometimes be great for a bass player to play the same thing over and over again, throwing in variations only to add to the vocabulary to the soloist or to create suspense.

    So, yeah, finding the self-discipline to acctually sit down for two hours and learn song, down to the last note may not be a bad idea. The first one is the hardest, it gets easier and easier. And then there'll be those song that you'll just never learn, until you revisit them two years later and pick them out in a second. Becoming a master of the instrument takes time, and you won't be the best. When you get to certain point, you don't even need to be the best. You'll just be so good, that it doesn't matter. And even then, you'll feel like you suck.

    Keep trying!
  17. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    euh ... but some music require note for notes ... or you want to create more elaborate harmonies where every instrument need to play a specific note at a specific time or else the harmony will be ruined ?

    what about music like classical music where you can change the way it played but not what is played.

    Or in jazz where you have to have the right chord progression and the right melody to make it recognizable ...
  18. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I agree that is where the learning is at, but if you don't play Money note for note and try and do it your own way, you're going to have some angry Floyd fans on your hands. Learn the rules... then break them.
  19. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    That is ear training and is a very important part of being a musician. Cheers to you! :D

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