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Self-taught just hit a wall.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Alecu, Aug 1, 2013.

  1. Alecu


    Apr 21, 2012
    Brasov, Romania
    Hello to everyone,

    To begin with, I'm a self-taught bass player playing for a couple of years now, having a pretty good evolution as a potential musician. I am a (very) quick learner, as I learned various techniques and can learn songs pretty fast; even more, my muscle memory doesn't need much to "remember". My motivation can make me practice up to 10 hours/day.

    So, a promising start. What is my problem ?

    I simply don't know what to do next. I don't know much musical theory at all, I don't know how should I compose a song from scratch, even though I consider myself a creative person.

    Even more, I don't know what I don't know !?
    Does this mean that I should play only technical material, such as an endless array of scales and arpeggios?
    I honestly don't think so.

    That's why I posted here, I'm pretty sure that most of the musicians have hit this common plateau.
    Any feedback is much appreciated.

    Thank you.

    I'm really sorry, as I think this has been asked before, but I think a conversation with me would be more useful.
  2. angryclown5

    angryclown5 Supporting Member

    May 26, 2006
    Nederland, Colorado
    Learn theory. Major scale diatonic chord construction, minor scale chord construction, chord functions, etc. Music theory 1, and up from there. The material is out there in books, on line, in school or lessons. It will make learning songs easier, and give you material to practice, thereby helping your technique.
  3. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Get out there and play with other people!
  4. ThomClaire


    Dec 31, 2012
    Asheville, NC

    You have to consider, why is it that you are learning this instrument? Is it so you can show off these scales or those techniques? Maybe it is, but I doubt it. I think you should go grab yourself a copy of "The Music Lesson" by Victor Wooten. It's a great read, and has really changed the way I think about music, and specifically learning music.

    We all do this "learning" stuff so that we can play! So, what do you do after you've learned a song? Play it! Why do we learn techniques? So, you can play more/different! So, if you've learned a lot of these things and don't know what to do. Well, the answer is right in front of you. I've learned a lot of different instruments in my 16 years of being an instrumentalist (I'm only just now becoming a musician), and have come to the same problem as you have quite a bit. Now I know that I was at that plateau because I was only concerned with getting better, and I was never really playing music. Learn the technical stuff when you feel like you want to, but do it for the sake of playing music, not for the sake of performing a technique.

    Hope that helps you some. Go out there and keep the music alive!
  5. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    Yup. Just adding to the "join a band" noise. Some people are ridiculously creative and can write phenomenal music alone. I am not one of those people, but found that the more I played with other people, the better I became at constructing basslines, even while alone.
  6. melvn


    Jan 29, 2009
    Central WI
    Listen to different styles of music. I tend to subconsciously, on consciously, pick up ideas doing that.
  7. "Music Reading for Bass". Published by Hal Leonard, its a really helpful start for learning scales and intervals. Also great for learning your fingerboard inside out and music reading.
  8. Alecu


    Apr 21, 2012
    Brasov, Romania

    To answer your second question, I do not play bass just for showing-off those techniques I picked up, but because I simply love it and I would definitely see myself doing all day, for the rest of my life.

    I think this problem occurs because I haven't been in a band yet. I mean I had some reharsals with some guys, but never had a gig or something similar. Come to think of it, I'm pretty frustrated because I don't have a chance to perform.
  9. uselessbass


    Jul 28, 2013
    sandy, Ore
    Join a band or find a guitarist to co write with u will expand your skills for sure
  10. ThomClaire


    Dec 31, 2012
    Asheville, NC
    I don't have experience with it myself, but I always hear people saying to go to open mics. I think it'd be worth going to an open mic even if you don't play at it. It's a great strategy for local networking, and you'll probably meet a lot of really bad musicians, and some really good ones.
  11. Alecu


    Apr 21, 2012
    Brasov, Romania
    Given my situation at the moment, I'm stuck in a small town with 2 decent bands (I'm 17 and everyone is around my age) that have bass players and very few "musicians". So chances are I won't be able to start any band 'till I'll go to college in a bigger city.
    That's two years.

    I can almost 100% start a band when I get there. But what will I do 'till then ?

    Study, I think, and accumulate all the experience I can ?
  12. ThomClaire


    Dec 31, 2012
    Asheville, NC
    That's tough. Play with whoever you can, even your radio. And go read 'The Music Lesson' ;)
  13. u84six

    u84six Nobody panic, the bass player is here! Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2006
    Join a band... or better yet, a couple of bands. ;) I play in both cover band and original band. Being in one just wasn't enough playing so joining an original band at least gave me the opportunity to use my own creativity to build the bass lines, while the cover band allows me to play in front of a lot of women and make a little money on the side (i.e. have a lot of fun!).

    Personally, there's nothing better than playing live with other musicians. I've learned so much more about music playing with other people than any book can offer. On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to take some lessons, because sitting down with another person and playing together will show you a lot of new things that you might not have thought of doing yourself.

    It all comes down to playing with other people. I have a few friends who are all about jazz theory and are always posting videos of themselves playing. Sure, it sounds pretty good and highlights their abilities, but once in a while I'll see them in a live jam and they sound pretty bad. Why? Because they rarely play with other musicians. Band members need to feed off each other for the whole band to sound good. And that comes with experience. You don't just keep your head down and listen to yourself. In fact, you'll play better and learn more if your focus is on what the other musicians are doing. That's really what it's all about.
  14. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Find an instructor and take a couple lessons just to have him/her point out any gaps in your studies you may have. That should keep you occupied. Oh yeah and since no one has said it yet, go join a band.
  15. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Right after school volunteer to play 30 minutes to an hour at the local nursing home. No pay, but, you will learn how to be an entertainer. Talk to the activities director, they are always looking for entertainment between 2:30 to 4:00 PM. Much after that they start feeding them and bedding them down for the night. Saturday afternoon may be open. Once a week is more than you are doing now and who says it has to be once a week; once a month like the last Saturday in each month....

    If you can sing and play at the same time, there is your band. Talk to the Mayor, see if you can play Saturdays at the park. After a few Saturdays others will show up.

    Jamming sessions are more fun than being responsible for a band and keeping people entertained. Look for jamming sessions in your area. We have several here all within 35 miles of each other. Think out side the box. http://www.npr.org/multimedia/2008/08/mountainview/index.html

    Good luck and have fun.
  16. Alecu


    Apr 21, 2012
    Brasov, Romania

    That's an interesting point of view upon this situation, thinking more as a entertainer than a bass player itself. I should meditate on this.
  17. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    guitar and bass or piano/organ and bass
  18. zphreaky1

    zphreaky1 Far from good

    Apr 25, 2013
    Tucson, AZ
    You can take MAmos' advice. Learn a few songs you think the audience would like. Doesn't have to be an exact song all the time. It can be one you like but arraigned it in a way your audience (say a nursing home) can appreciate. Play a few of their favorites and a few of yours. Arraigned for their tastes if necessary.

    Nothing will help your playing like seeing the influence your music (even if someone else wrote it, you're still performing it. Give credit where it's due and you play it, that one was yours) has on others be it original or a cover, crowd or other musicians. Play with or for others if you haven't lately when you hit a wall. You will learn a ton about yourself, music, and performing. And IMO each of those things are separate and NOT instrument specific ;)

    Gluck with finding inspiration! It can be tough when you're young

    When you're older and time is flying by faster than you can keep up, more than a few minutes on your instrument is a godsend (unless you are a pro and play everyday for work. Haven't done it but imagine it feels different ;) )
  19. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    I am self taught and went the band route as soon as I had enough chops to do it. Fourty years later I'm still playing regularly and I can play pretty much everything that is thrown my way...excepting the Wooten stuff and other similar virtuosi.

    BUT... Fourty years later I also realise how much better I could have been if I'd had the patience to learn music properly, so I'm going back to basics and learning scales, arpeggios, theory and learning to read. I should have done this fourty years ago because with hindsight I would've realised that it's not and either/or situation. Learning this stuff does not mean that you can't play in bands in parallel with your private study!

    Muscle memory is great, but not much use if you only have random, haphazard thoughts for your muscles to remember. I think a good analogy is that I am naturally a good mimic, I've spent a lot of my working life on business trips in France. I've picked up a good number of phrases by ear and I can blather away in 'French', but I never learned the rules of vocabulary and grammar, so 90% of what I say in French is crap that's not worth listening to. I don't want my music to be that way anymore...I can whizz about the fingerboard parroting Geddy Lee, Chris Squire and even make hack attempts at being Stanley Clarke, which might impress a few musically uneducated folks, but anyone who really understood music would see it for what it was.

    There are some good (and frankly, downright bad) learning resources on the internet. I'm fortunate to have spent a big chunk of my working life in a major international corporate in the Learning and Development part of the organsiation. I worked directly with some of the luminaries in the world of instructional design and was responsible for the instructional design standards that all the courseware developers, worldwide, use in the company today...so I know what constitutes good and bad instruction on the internet.

    Avoid the hordes of "monkey see, monkey do", so called " tutorials" on Youtube and the like. They are most often given by delusional amatuers who think they have the skill and knowledge to share with a grateful world but simply have no business trying to teach others.

    Others are leagues ahead in terms of their credentials, and they're very good players but still leave a bit to be desired in terms of proper instructional validity. Don't get me wrong here, proper instruction is a professional skill in and of itself and it is NOT easy. Many very intelligent people spend their professional lives trying to perfect their instructional techniques and course design and still stumble.

    The internet will always have limitations as a medium for learning (virtually impossible to do learning checks to verify that all of the students have acheived the learning objectives for example), but for me the guy who does it best is Scott Devine, so that's who I subscribe to. Solid lessons explaining the theory, the notation as well as the patterns, backed up with a whole chunk of written material, backing tracks etc.

    Other than using the resources that Scott provides I have no tie up with him.
  20. remainthesame


    Sep 24, 2008
    I have to agree with those who are saying to get out and jam with people. Im self taught as well and i know all to well about the wall that you speak of. It can be frustrating, but whats great is that you dont want to plateau which unfortunately happens to many bass players.

    i also would try learning music that you wouldnt normally play. even if you dont like certain genres of music, you can still learn from them.