Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by bass theory, Jan 18, 2021.

  1. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI
    I have no idea how to run a club here. am I supposed to register somewhere? I don't intend to assign memberships. Participation is wide open. You don't need to be a bad player or noob to comment here, You just need to be tolerant of those who are. In fact, I hope to have this thread watched by experienced and professional players who can help by answering questions with solid advice.

    I played drums all of my life then recently decided I wanted to learn bass. As a noob, I have had many many questions, and really appreciate the help I have received here. But I sometimes think that my questions interfere in other forums, or are a distraction. Those questions being the reason for this thread, this is a safe place for ANY question to be asked.
    If I attempt to answer a question, because I just went through something similar, or think I have a good idea. I will always qualify my answer, by stating right up front that I am a noob player too... I ask that others who answer a question do so as well. especially, experienced players, teachers, or professionals.
    In addition to the site rules, I ask that you never say anything that could possibly make any questioner feel awkward in any way. Even if the same question has been asked a million times. Remember noobs will have little knowledge of how to navigate the site to find past threads that may contain exactly what they need.
    Teachers, and experienced players need not only wait for a question to be asked. Any advice that might help new players is always welcome.
    MirandM, Billyzoom and JRA like this.
  2. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI
    My personal background, and playing level.
    I tend to self study when I want to learn something. and I am doing that right now in music theory, especially as related to playing bass. I understand triads, and how they are used in creating bass lines.(to a point)

    I understand the harmonics of the root and fifth, But I haven't a clue how the circle of fifths can actually help at all. and what is the circle of fourths I found on a 5 string wall chart?

    I have bad habits, I tend to play with my thumb like it was a pick. (I don't like the sound of a pick on a bass) I am currently trying to teach myself to play with finger plucks.

    I love the fullness and tone of a hollow body, especially a 5 string hollow. But that comes at a price in that the effects of other strings resonating as a result of plucking a string are amplified on a hollow, and I have no idea how to mute them all most of the time. I am experimenting with fretting for a root-fifth power chord, then plucking just the root. to see if that helps, but I am waiting for my 5 string hollow on order to arrive before I go too far. I have a five string hollow which I built, but that has active pickups and the effects would be different.

    So that gives you some idea how much of a noob I am.
    MirandM, VerryBerry and JRA like this.
  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    It has taken me nearly 50 years, but I think I've finally graduated to the "Mediocre Bassists' Club", but glad to help out here if I can! :) Practice more, TB less! :D
    Boomhowertx, StevieMac and JRA like this.
  4. Hover-Rich

    Hover-Rich Commercial User

    Jan 21, 2018
    Craig, Colorado
    Hover Harness, LLC
    My rule is this: If you are having fun, then your bass playing is a success!

    A question for the OP -- Do we have to audition to be a member here?
    350125g0, Erasmusman and bass theory like this.
  5. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI

    My guess is that was a tongue in cheek response. but all questions are valid here so the answer is... no! just by posting you are as much a member as I am.
    BTW I like your rule and agree with it completely.
  6. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI
    I do have a question. In my practice room I have a wall chart showing:
    • the notes on a 4 string bass fretboard.
    • The various scales.
    • A circle of fifths.
    • some typical chord progressions.
    I have a second one with:
    • The notes on a five string fretboard.
    • The various scales.
    • A circle of fourths.
    why does the 4-string show the circle of fifths and the 5-string show the circle of fourths?
    And how are we supposed to apply this to our learning?
  7. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI
    As I said I self study a lot. Since nobody took my bait to answer about the circle of fifths and circle of fourths I researched them.

    Being a noob, I am not at all sure I understand it all correctly. As I Understand it, the main function of both circles(they serve the same function but are organized differently) is to understand and be able to identify the Key of a piece of music by its key signature(# of sharps and flats).
    That is critical when writing music or playing using standard music notation, but of limited value when using Tabs. With tabs this is as obsolete as the one time common practice of writing in 9 different clefs instead of the now standard of using only the treble and bass clefs. (when I had a Baritone guitar, I tried writing in the baritone clef. It was interesting as an exercise, but served no real purpose.)

    Please experts, Pros, and teachers correct me where I am wrong in the following. I need to know why things are taught as they are.

    The more music theory I learn the more I disagree with how it is taught. For example....
    On the wall charts...
    • charting scales is probably important for lead guitar, and other instruments playing the melody. But for bass players, their parts are (like rhythm guitars) based on the cords, not the scales. A chart showing the chords, not necessarily a picture of how they are played, but a list of what notes make up the triad. Yes, you experts don't need this, you already know it, but us noobs do.
    • Chord progressions are important to learn early, because even if you don't know the bass part for a song, by knowing the progression you can build a bass line that might be completely wrong, but will at least have the correct harmonics. Unless I am looking for an exotic chord and really need to know the scale, scales are only used for warmup and to learn range.
    Another thing which I feel is left off most early lessons....
    • learning how to play as part of a whole. for example when writing a bass line, avoid playing the same note as the melody at the same time. (this diminishes the impact of the melody). A lot of new bass players say when in doubt, just play the root. I think it should be when in doubt play the root except when the melody is playing the root, then play the fifth. Or use a patterned variation of the root and fifth instead of just playing the root.
    • Power chords should be taught early. Because even though they should be used sparingly, they can add a lot. I am experimenting with using the natural resonance of a hollow body (which makes it very hard, but also very important to mute all strings) by fretting for a root-fifth power chord while playing just the root. Or by playing power chords with ghost notes instead of single notes. In either case the resonance will still be there but in harmonic balance.
    • I would suggest that standard tablature include the key, and chords above the measures. and while we are at it. Tabs should always be written in measures. I hate tabs which are just a run on stream of note with no timing, no chords identified, and no time signature. The only way to follow those tabs is if you already know the song. That is like writing in ancient Greek where you need to already know what it says in order to read it.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
    Boomhowertx likes this.
  8. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI
    Ok it is looking like this is going to be a 1 man thread.
    that's ok, I would like the help learning things, but if I must ask questions, then research it myself, then document my findings where no one will ever see them, I'm fine with that.
    Eventually some noob will see this, and read it just for grins, and maybe be thinking the things I asked about.
    If so I hope they find my musings helpful.
    Boomhowertx likes this.
  9. WestyBassBob

    WestyBassBob Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2020
    I've been playing for about a year. I took lessons for a few months before the pandemic which gave me a pretty solid start. I've been practicing every day by using a variety of approaches. Mostly I just try to learn basslines, either by book or by ear and just keeping tabs in a book. I also enjoy improvising simple bass lines while listening to recordings.

    My main problem beyond the eternal challenge of keeping rhythm is that I tend to clang or twang the G and D strings quite a bit. I've been looking into some exercises to improve that.

    I cannot use a pick or slap to save my life. The pick either falls out of my hand or I grip it too hard and it ruins my rhythm and tone. I would like to learn slapping and popping but I'll need to start some lessons again for that. I am able to do something like slapping, but it is not what anyone would consider slap bass.
  10. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI
    sorry I have not been here in a while.
    You bring up some good ideas, questions, and comments.

    As far as the slap, pop, or pick goes. sorry I have no ability for that either.
    Right now my focus has been on playing chord arpeggios. in every position using every fingering which I know.
    I figure it can help a lot if I get good enough at that to recognize a chord from sight and/or sound and know how to play it.
  11. Billyzoom

    Billyzoom Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2011
    Bay Area
    Howdy...I am a lousy bass player, but I'll temper that my saying I play guitar, tried bass for 6 months or so about 5 years ago, loved it, then somehow stopped. I just started playing again, and I'm trying to focus just on enjoyment and letting the improvements come as I spend more time playing and less time on here. I'm going to try to work on maybe 30 minutes a day with fingering (alternating, rest stroke, etc.) just to get my fingers to obey, then spend time trying to figure songs out and play for enjoyment. Fortunately I have a decent ear.

    Having said that, I'm a little further along in terms of understanding harmony and such, based on what you say, but I'd say I still have a very rudimentary level of harmonic understanding. So if I can offer feedback, I'll do it in terms of how I understand it...may not always be technically correct, but who knows. I'm trying to simplify to explain generalities...when someone more advanced comes on later and corrects me/explains the other variables, keep that in mind.

    To your question about the circle of 5ths/4ths. In my experience, this hasn't been especially important to me, but I don't really read and don't focus on key signatures and the use of accidentals (sharps and flats)...but now that I'm learning more about theory and bought a keyboard to help me, I'm starting to see how it might matter.

    The idea of 4ths/5ths is as I understand it a matter of the relationship of one to the other. If you go clockwise around the circle, you're moving in perfect fifths (if you start on C, then play a major scale from that note, where the "1" is "C", when you arrive at the "5" that would be "G". So G is the fifth of C. If you then start on "G" as the "1", and play a G major scale to the fifth, you'll find it is "D" could then start on "D" and continue. Each time you do this, if look at the circle of 5ths, you'll see you've moved a step clockwise. Each time you move a clockwise step you'll find that an additional note had to be made into a sharp to preserve the major sound/structure. This is why you see one added sharp, then two, etc. as you go clockwise.

    Now, if you go the OTHER direction, starting on "C", move DOWNWARD in pitch from "C", (it really doesn't matter in practice whether you're going up or down...the notes are the same, but it helped me understand this way) but count down from the number "8" (because "1" and "8" are the same note, just "8" is an octave higher). If you do this, you'll find that "F" is the 4th. If you start a major scale from the "F", you'll find that you have to flatten the "B" to make it sound major. So in the key of F you'll have one flat, which is B. Then do this again starting from F, and you'll find you have to flatten another note, etc. When you do this you're moving counterclockwise on the chart, in 4ths.

    Holy crap, this is really confusing to try to explain in writing in particular. Maybe why no one tackled it yet.

    So, when you were in C, the fifth of C was G.

    When you were in G, the FOURTH of G was C.

    So when playing those two notes, is is the interval between them a 4th or a fifth? The answer is yes. Ha. If you consider the C the root (or tonic), then the G would be the fifth (the fifth in terms of interval, or, perhaps more importantly, the V meaning the "5" chord). If you were in G, theC would be considered the fourth (or, more importantly, perhaps, the IV chord).

    So, when moving around the circle in a clockwise direction (5ths), you'll find that G is the next clockwise step. When moving counterclockwise, they will also be next to each other, but you're moving in 4ths.

    Now, the moving downward thing is handy for some people because they remember "downward" as moving in 4ths, and "upward" as moving in 5ths. If this confuses you, disregard it.

    Again, key signatures and such are important, I'm sure. But for a guy who plays by hear mostly, doesn't need to read and has the advantage of bass/guitar playing that allows us to just move our scale patterns and such up or down frets to change keys, unlike keyboard players, it wasn't essential to learn the sharps/flats in each key.

    For me, where it was useful, was, if someone told me only that a song had a G major and a D major chord in it, you couldn't be sure if it was in the key of D or G. But if it also had a A major chord, then I'd know it was likely in D, as there is no A major chord naturally in the key of G. In the key of G, a A chord would be, if the chords included G, D, and A MINOR, then I'd know it was likely in G. I found that helpful, because when trying to learn songs, if I knew the key, it made it easier to guess the likely type of chord it would be if I heard the root note.

    Now that I've thoroughly confused you, I shall bow out. Gimme an A for effort. Ha.

    And all that stuff I said didn't really does, which is why I'm trying to learn it. But it wasn't necessary for me to learn to play.
    Boomhowertx likes this.
  12. bass theory

    bass theory

    Oct 7, 2020
    Portage WI
    Actually your response was not so hard to follow.
    An update on what I have learned in the mean time.
    The primary use for the circle of fifths and circle of fourths is in understanding chord progressions.
    As such, it is vitally important in writing music, but not so much in playing music.
    I have 2 young granddaughters who play violin and guitar and thought my playing bass was really cool.
    The younger one (guitar) is completely new, but thought that "jamming" with grandpa would be awesome.
    So I decided to write a song or two that was easy enough for her to play, and was therefor carried by a bass melody. Pretty ambitious for a noob like me. But, I figure there is no better way to develop skills. This is how and why I learned a little more about progressions.

    I found this to be completely awesome for explaining the circles and actually using them in writing.
    The Chord Wheel: The Ultimate Tool for All Musicians (Paperback or Softback) 9780634021428 | eBay

    It is a book with a slide chart on the cover. You set the chart over the key you want to write in and it tells you what chord is I, ii, iii, IV, V, etc.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
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  13. MirandM

    MirandM Married to my bass.

    Oct 29, 2019
    So you think you're a noob... uhhh I play bass for 41 years now, and I can only read one note, the C. That's it.
    How did I tune my first bass? I turned the tuner of the lowest string to a tone I liked. Turned out to be the D which is where I stayed, at DGCF or better said D-standard. Tried several times on E, never worked.
    I play by ear and it seems I kind of do that mediocreish, but I don't need fretlines on a fretless so I guess my ear functions decently. :)
    I played in a band with someone who had studied music, he understood everything on paper but couldn't play a decent song without a pentagram, he asked "how do you do that?" and I answered "I have no idea, I just do it".
    So my motto is "JUST PLAY YOUR BASS AND HAVE FUN", but I keep considering myself a bad, crappy noob player. So count me in, :bassist:
    bholder likes this.
  14. MirandM

    MirandM Married to my bass.

    Oct 29, 2019
    Somebody lost his notes here.... wasn't me though... I have no notes or generally I miss them. :roflmao:
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