Scales, Arpeggios, or Technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by kore4n_newb, Dec 6, 2005.

  1. kore4n_newb


    Dec 5, 2005
    In my quest to play FLEA-like bass, I've run into the problem of not knowing which keys to hit, as in, I can think of a melody or a short bass solo, but it'll take me a while to find those notes on my bass guitar, and by then, it totally kills the jamming mood I'm in.

    I think my problem now is less of technique and more of doing scales and arpeggios more fluidly. What do you guys think?

    Also, could someone recommend any good medium for learning the notes on my bass guitar, as in books, videos, lessons even? (since, FLEA's bass dvd only got learning slapping and popping)
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Columbia SC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Umm, scales and arpeggios and shifting and positions - alla that stuff IS technique.

    It's not really like there's a hierarchy; first do THIS, then do THIS. You have to concurrently work on a lot of things:
    PHYSICAL APPROACH - which is technique. Where the notes are, where the positions are, shifting positions, scales, arpeggios, fingering, etc.
    UNDERSTANDING - theory, kinda. What notes make what kind of scales, how they relate, what chords live in what keys, how they relate. But this is also EAR TRAINING - what scale sound like, what intervals sound like, what chords sound like, what progressions sound like. Hearing with enough clarity to identify what you are hearing and where it is on your instrument.
  3. kore4n_newb


    Dec 5, 2005
    Not to come off as a jerk or anything, but your suggestion is...?

    I'm open to learn anything, since I posted this with the hope that you more experienced players could give a newbie like me some guidance.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Columbia SC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The best place to learn how to do something is in the same room as somebody who knows how to do it and can show you.

    I HIGHLY recommend getting a teacher.
  5. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    Hey kore4n

    My suggestion would be to play A LOT until knowing where the notes are is almost automatic.

    Not to be speaking for Ed but I believe he is suggesting you learn where all the notes are on your fretboard and how to get to them. I believe he is taking this one step further and guiding you to learn theory so you can be able to hear what you wanna play.

    My advice would be to play with others as much as you can and listen to and learn a lot of different styles.

    Yes - books, videos and lessons are GREAT ways to learn!
  6. I would add that what has helped me the most with transferring the fretboard into "music" is to choose something you like the sound of. For example, it is christmas, so choose a favorite christmas tune, something simple though. Then play it out in terms of the fret board. Lastly, buy a book of staff paper and write it out. This way, you learn first, what the "music" of what you are playing is, and since actual notation is in a sense a visual representation of the note progression (higher, lower, etc) you can learn the music. This you can transfer to scales and arpeggios as well.

    I for one am a fan of a good teacher, but learn something for yourself once, and you will never forget. Be told how to do something and there is no reinforcement for memory. Always remeber how Eric Clapton learned...
  7. kore4n_newb


    Dec 5, 2005
    Who's Eric Clapton? jk.

    But thanks for the advice. I suppose I should just continue practicing the notes on a scale as I have been, and I suppose one day, it'll all click. I mean, FLEA doesn't know a thing about music theory, yet he's one of the best improv. bassists I've ever heard (not to mention, one of the only improv. bassists I've every heard).

    But if you veteran bassists have any more advice, I'm all ears.
  8. listen to more music, while flea may be a great player there are more and more improv bassist out there. after years of playing you will understand hows to improvise automatically, find some friends and jam with them
  9. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    I bet Flea knows more theory than he lets on.

    My approach theory is to cram your brain full or musical info 'til it fills your heart and bleeds out of your fingertips. Eventually I can turn off my brain chatter and ride my heart and soul.

    Theory is not the end all be all. But it is one aid to help move your lines where you want them to go. Or you can lay back and let fly and hope for the best. In my mind it's part both.

    I approach soloing like a slalom ski course where I have points (flags) to get to to tell a story. I go for the flags and trust my experience and skills to get me from point to point. Of course every once in a while I'm gonna crash and burn but it's worth the rush.

    I try and use theory after the fact so i can figure out why I crashed so I don't do it again, or why I was successful and CAN do THAT again.
  10. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    It sounds like ear training is really what you need. Technique can be figured out on your own and by playing with others, and while also is helpful, if you can improve your hearing abilities you will automatically get better with technique.
  11. I believe that Flea was a classically trained trumpet player before he picked up the bass...(more knowledgable TBers correct me if I'm wrong)...which would mean he knows more theory than I ever will....

    Practice makes perfect...transferring what you hear in your head to your instrument is always the hardest part. That's the whole idea behind theory, scales, and arpeggios. The knowledge of these things allows you to play what you hear and carry on an intelligent conversation with other musicians at the same time... :bassist:
  12. kore4n_newb


    Dec 5, 2005
    Ok, I guess it's about time I took back what I said about FLEA not knowing a thing about music theory.

    He did play trumpet, in fact that's what got him accepted into Jilliards music school, or whatnot. But in his DVD, the one where he jams with Chad Smith of RHCP, he gets interviewed by this moron named River Phoenix, and Flea says that he doesnt know a thing about music theory. So yea, thats where my whole line of "FLEA doesnt know a thing about music theory came from:" him.

    Anyway, I just felt as though I should back-up my point, because I fear the wrath of you seasoned bassists who respect Flea. I respect him too, but I'm just saying what he said in that interview. So please don't kill/shoot/hang/stone the messanger. =P
  13. Most certainly not killing/shooting/hanging/strangling/or doing anything else to the messenger. The deal is really good players WILL know theory, they may not call it theory but you can only get so far without it. Take it from experience-I have reached my peak (w/o theory) and am now struggling to learn it is a chore... :eek:
  14. joeyhimself


    Jul 17, 2005
    You mean Juilliard, one of the most prestigious music schools in the US... Not, or whatnot.
  15. yes thats the one, he got accepted there before the peppers hit it big with the first cd deal.

  16. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    What you might be needing is ear training. Simple to do. A teacher I once studied with made us practice the table of contents of a song book. So we didn't open the book to the song, but rather just read the title, recalled the melody of the tune (sing it first if you need to) and then play the melody on your instrument without looking at the music. This technique works great even if you don't read music! The whole point is to learn what it feels like to play a line.

    Learning is a process, and a long one at that. Plan to fail a good number of times before you get down on yourself. Anytime you play your bass you're getting better. Pay attention to your sound and what note you are playing. Singing along as its advantages, mostly it makes you pay attention to your note.
  17. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    We could discuss for an hour what may be good things for you to learn, and a teacher would start you on that path, and other threads on talkbass will discuss them, but right now, based on your original question, you need to be able to do what BassChuck said. Without knowing the key, or the names of the notes in that key, or the locations of the notes in the key on the fingerboard, you need to work on playing notes that you hear in your head.

    The problem that many guitar and bass players have who "learn scales" is that they learn visual fingerboard patterns, and then look down at the fingerboard, and pick notes at random from the notes that they visualize that are not wrong. Please note that I said "not wrong". The typical average player says that they want to know how to play the "correct" notes in a key, but they really simply learn to avoid playing "wrong notes". So at some point they are satisfied with randomly playing notes based on a memorized fingerboard pattern. This playing can sound rather bland and random and lifeless to a more experienced musician, and maybe even a recording of their playing would later the player that actually played it, even though when they played it they were thinking that they were sounding pretty good because they played no wrong notes.

    Select a five fret zone on the fretboard. You are going to play notes on any string but only within that five fret zone. Come up with a short melody. Turn on the radio to a pop radio station if you can not come up with a simple melody on your own. Pick out no more notes than one verse of Happy Birthday. Play that melody, in that five fret zone, starting anywhere within that five fret zone. When you run out of room in the five fret zone, you will need to play the next note, by ear, on the next higher or lower string. Say you pick Happy Birthday. Pick any starting note, and then play Happy Birthday, by ear, based on the intervals you hear in your head, looking at the fingerboard as wood, not as notes or as notes in a key. Hear, look, play. You can play Hap Py Birth Day on one sting, but then for To you may need to move up a string because you ran out of room. Later, Hap Py Birth (that really high Birth) you may need to jump two strings. Ok. You are the human. You can do that. Now remember the exact string and fret you started with. Keep the five fret zone the same, but move the starting location one fret higher. When you play the same melody, up one half note pitch, you will now be playing the same intervals, but you will be forced to play a different fingering. Move up another half step. You will again be forced to play the same melody with a new fingering. If you started the first melody with your index finger you will soon be starting with your pinky. Use that pinky. Do this will all four fingers. Eventually you will run out of room. Play a few of the higher notes up on the highest string on your instrument, but keep the five fret zone rule for all other strings. Now move down one fret at a time. You will eventually run out of room on the lowest string on your instrument. Feel free to play a few notes outside the five fret zone on the lowest string, but not on other strings. Pick a new melody, and a new five fret zone. Eventually you will be able to play what you hear without knowing the name of the key or the names of the notes.

    Same instrument. Same five fret zone. Put the radio or your CD player or MP3 player a slow simple pop song. Maybe a Boy Band love song. Not kidding here. I am for real. This is not the time to put on Disturbed. Ok. Listen to the song. Again pick a five fret zone. Play one note in that zone. Any note. Any String. Within that five fret zone. Listen to that one note against the harmonic structure you hear going on in the song you are listening to. Does that one note sound good? Bad? If it sounds bad, move up or down one half step (one fret) and play that note. That note should sound good. Sound like it belongs. Sound...INSIDE. Whenever you play a wrong note, a right note is always one half step away. Ok. Look at the fingerboard. Hear in your head the next higher note that will sound good. It is one or two frets higher than the note you are playing. That may put it outside the five fret zone and up on the next string. But it is ONLY one or two frets (one half step or one whole step) higher than the note that you just played that sounded good. But you are not going to stab at a note and then after you play it determine if it sounds good. No. Hear the next note. Play the next note. Zen. Be the note. Continue playing notes up higher and higher to the highest note on the highest string within the five fret zone, and go back down to the lowest note on the lowest string in the five fret zone. At any time, no matter what the chord or melody that is being played in the song you are listening to, after you listen to that song for a little while, you will be able to play the notes that sound good with that song by simply moving up and down the frets and strings in that five fret zone.

    Try the same thing above on only one string. I do this all the time when watching TV. When they are playing music in the background of a TV show, I will play a note at random on a string at random, higher than the 12th fret. If the note is "wrong" I will move it down a half step, and then just keep moving down the string playing all the notes on that one string that sound good.

    I do not want to get too complicated, but there are 12 different notes. Those notes repeat again in name and sound one octave up. Out of those 12 total notes, there are 8 of those 12 notes that are in a key. A song plays in a key for a period of time or for the entire song. The notes in a key are in whole step and half step intervals. In simple pop songs, usually all of those 8 notes sound good and the other 5 notes sound bad at any time. In the above exercises you are listening for, and finding on your own, those 8 notes that are in the key. Doing this may actually put you AHEAD of many students who are taking lessons and learning all the names of the notes and the visual fingering patterns.

    This is what Flea is talking about. He may know the names of notes and he may be able to pass a music theory test that is based on the english language. But, when he plays, he is not thinking the correct english language names of notes. He is playing by ear what something inside his head tells him to play. He is looking down at the bass as wood with dots, not as a fretboard with named notes or lights that light up for the correct notes. He is not thinking, I am in the key of D, a D Major chord is coming up, I want to play the third, I need to play an F#, I need to find an F# near where I am playing, ok there one is, now I need to move toward that F# with a line. No, He chooses to "not know music theory" because it is better and more creative to just play. Like when you riff with your friends. Hey dude. What's up. Nothing. What's ya doing this weekend. Dude, I am getting smashed. Yo, what about that gig over at the Beta Bar? Yea, I am going with Mark. Who is playing? Hey, Core is playing last. No way. The last time they played the place was packed by 10. I know, and they did not go on stage until 1.

    When a good runner is running down the road, to him or her it is just like when you and I ride a bicycle. When Flea plays, it is just like when I b.s. with my friends. I do not think English Grammar. Flea does not think music theory. The above exercises will help you start working today toward that goal.

    If I used a word you did not know, ask or search the internet to find out about that term.

    Harmonic Structure
  18. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Please realize that if anyone tries to help you by telling you the key that that song is in, the notes in that song that are correct, a fretboard pattern for the major scale, or tell you to use some order of the notes (whole step, half step, etc.) you will not be learning what you are trying to learn here. This is not a song you are trying to memorize to play for someone to impress them. This is an exercise, and anything that gets in the way of you hearning and playing the next note based on an interval you hear inside your head, you are not moving forward in ear training. This is not memorizing. This is not improving speed. This is not avoiding wrong notes. Hear, look, play. When you get to the point where you play the very first note, not at random, but correctly all the time, and then just play up and down the zone. You are there, but you need to keep working on this and creating your own little exercises.

    I am always delighted with the exercises that great players say they work on. They seem to be as good at creating exercises to help them with what they are working on as they are at playing their instrument.
  19. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    From the Internet:
  20. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    This does not mean that you have a get out of music theory class free card. But, you asked about a very specific musical skill: "I can think of a melody or a short bass solo, but it'll take me a while to find those notes on my bass guitar...". My advice was aimed at helping you with that specific issue.