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Self-Taught Success Story

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by tpmiller08, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. tpmiller08


    Mar 15, 2009
    Boston, MA
    Don't lynch me for this post guys. Its just what worked for me, and I'm not putting down lessons in any form.

    I've read up on some music theory. Every time I get stumped, I look up something new ya know? I don't know much past interval and scale constructions (Root, Major/Minor 2nd, 3rd, all that good stuff), but I play with feeling. I consider myself a tortured artist, with the life I've lived growing up in a tough Boston neighborhood. Thats another story though :bag: But it gives me a need to express myself, and comes naturally.

    The bass is the only instrument I stuck with. I played drums for 6 months, guitar for like a week, just couldn't stick with it. I picked up a bass about 5 1/2 years ago, and never put it down.

    I never took a single lesson. I just couldn't afford it. But then even when I could I never did. I even got 10 free lessons and never showed. Its just not for me. I'd rather learn my complete own style, and do what feels comfortable. It wasn't hard for me to notice when I was sloppy, or getting fret buzz, or unmuted strings, and to work on each problem as I noticed it.

    My friend who plays bass got a bad case of carpal tunnel at age 30!! Due to the fact his teacher was an intermediate player, who sold himself as something more. So if your going to go with a teacher, make sure you do your homework.

    Well, to the success story part =)
    I got with my band last october. It was my first audition, for my first band, and it gel'd so right, I joined that very day. We had our first gig last Monday (March 23rd). And played hard rock to a blues crowd. It was a hard one to sell, but it went great. Everyone applauded, and there was much shameless self promotion and free beer afterwards.

    The bassist from the band that headlined came over to me after the set, and wanted to talk to me outside. He asked how long I was playing for, and whats my procedure for working my rhythm variations and occasional fills. I told him 5 1/2 years, and I do what sounds right, staying with the feel of the song, but without being too boring to slose peoples interest.
    He replied with, "Well man, whatever your doing, you're doing it right. I've been playing bass for 35 years and I'm impressed. You pulled it together with solid, original bass lines, without showing off......Do yourself a favor and learn standard notation though."

    I dunno if this should even be posted, or if it'll interest yall (doesn't seem to be too many self taught bassists on the forum). But, being the first time playing out, and having an established and seasoned bassist compliment made me happy as hell :D

    Only thing I regret not doing from the start is playing with a metronome. But if ya got a good ear, it's easy to pick up. I just wish I picked one up at the start. I feel I rely on the drums too much. If the drums go on a off beat the whole song, I have to focus to keep up. Which takes away from just grooving to the song.

    Thanks for reading the rant!

  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not sure what the point of this rant is. I was self taught my first 3-4 years of playing bass, too, and had lots of compliments and stuff when I played out. But every time I took lessons, I was able to ratchet up my playing quite a bit more than what I did on my own.

    If you're happy with the level you've achieved, that's great. If you want to keep improving at the same rate, that's also great. But if you want to improve at a much faster rate and be able to do more than play rock covers, then lessons are a great thing.

    I'm happy you did so well on your first gig out, but I think you're celebrating your "success story" a bit prematurely. You're not a true success until you've had a handful of bad nights to recover from ;)
  3. tpmiller08


    Mar 15, 2009
    Boston, MA
    Just sharing my first gig experience is all.
    It was a succesful gig, hence the success story :) I know I'll have bad gigs just like we have bad practices. But for the advancing part, I advance quickly enough as is. Taking lessons, for me personally, won't help me advance more. I'm just a better learner on my own.
    When I get advice from teachers, they say I'm doing this wrong, or that wrong. But everytime I change those one or two things they don't agree with (like playing a verse in low-B), it takes away from the song. Even learning music theory, you take everything you know and forget it. Rules are meant to be broken and all that, and you call on it when you need it.

    And I'll never be happy with the level I achieve. Isn't the point to learning an instrument to always improve, ya know? :bassist:


    PS - I don't play covers. We play all originals :p

  4. quale213


    Sep 17, 2008
    Being succesful means something different to everybody. I was self taught for even longer than you (7 years), made it on a few tours, recorded with pros, and realized how much I was missing out on by not opening myself to leanred pros.
    If bass guitar means this much to you, and I am happy for you that it is an artistic outlet, then why not learn more from someone else, ie a lesson? Do not short change yourself because you have reached a milestone with your first gig, continue on the path and even more "successes" may be obtained.
    Just my .02, no hard feelings.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well, you actually have to want to learn and realize that the teacher may actually know more than you. And you also have to realize that a teacher may show you something that initially slows you down but ultimately improves you greatly. The OP shows no signs of wanting to do any of that. Which is cool...if you have yourself at a level you're happy with, that's fine. But it's not going to "ruin your playing" to learn proper technique or to learn how to read music, and in order to break rules, I've always felt you have to know what the rules are. Quite honestly, most people who think they're breaking rules more often than not find out they're following rules they never heard of. But again, if you're happy and have no intentions of following a lesson plan, save your money and rock. It's not impossible, but it does take you a lot longer.
  6. Mr. Mig

    Mr. Mig

    Sep 7, 2008
    I myself tried to self teach myself, but when I took lessons with a real bass teacher everyrhing came together so much better. If you seriously applied yourself to a teacher you may see things that you didn't before. It sucks to have to shed old habbits in the pursuit of obtainig new ones. My striking was off and on my first lesson I was given drills to correct it and in the first 10 mins. there was a huge difference. My playing now has a much richer tone. Again, it took awhile and practice everyday to make it work with out thinking about it, but it worked.
    As for your friends getting carpal tunnel? That sucks, but it can happen to anyone who does not learn proper posture. You can also get arthritis and calcium deposits if you don't learn proper posture.
    I would suggest trying some lessons with a real bass teacher. If you can do it once a week for a month, or so, I think your playing will expand.
  7. Adam Bomb

    Adam Bomb

    Mar 26, 2008
    Bezerkely, CA
    Grats, Troy! I think that's an impressive story.

    The only interest I have in lessons is technique. I agree with the OP that if one is mindful and disciplined, a player can address many issues on his or her own. And I don't care about progressing slowly or reinventing the wheel because I am not in a race with anybody - not even myself. However, I am good enough at enough other things to understand that when messing around in an area I am not learned in - like bass - I may not even be able to see all of the issues. Also, if I can get a bass sensei to show me some cool techniques that I can wow my bandmates with, why not. Haven't gotten around to it since my one and only bass lesson to date. I'd rather spend the time and money on a massage.

    I have less and less interest in learning theory. Like the OP, I will pick up a book when I have a question. But too often I have seen knowledge of theory override a person's ears. "That won't sound good" sort of thing, when, when they finally actually play it, it sounds good. I don't need someone to tell me what will and will not work, as long as I have good ears and am willing to keep humping along until I get where I'm trying to get. Again, I don't care if it takes time for me to find what I am trying to say. It's fun and I'm in no hurry.

    I'm expecting a chorus of voices on the other side. That's fine. I reserve the right to change my mind about the issue. The thing for me right now is that this is a hobby. The one lesson I took, that man snapped at me in a way that my actual bosses wouldn't dare. Eff that! LOL

    Again, well done.

    --Bomb :bassist:
  8. Mikio


    Feb 21, 2009
    Santiago de Chile
    well, the 35-years-of playing-guy saw you had talent, if you add the propper instruction to talent you'd be pretty much better, I guess, I too had a lot of compliments when I started playing and then, but when I got to University... well, my level has increased a lot, stuff that I wouldn't ever notice has come to my mind when I'm playing, and not only because of the education I recive, but because that education leads my self-learning ways to different levels too!
  9. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008

  10. Captain_Arrrg


    Jan 23, 2008
    Mountains of Colorado
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    There are lots of them, they just don't state that they are self-taught because people then disregard everything else they've said. Said people then tell you that it's impossible to have you "own sound" and focus on telling you how much better you'd be if only you would do as they have done.

    I would consider myself a sort of hybrid. I learned music on a different instrument then left institutionalized music once I started on the bass. I used what I knew, and learned what I needed (like you). I've recently started taking lessons for college credit (motivation) though, and surprisingly clicked with my teacher. Point is, there is more than one way to learn bass.

    Not trying to pick on anyone in particular, just sharing what I've observed.
  11. tpmiller08


    Mar 15, 2009
    Boston, MA
    +1 man. I understand where everyone is coming from. But if it works for me, and I'm in a gigging originals band, then I think I'm doing just fine :cool: Especially with damned DJ's stealin all us musicians kool-aid

    The input is definatly appreciated from everyone though. Maybe someday I'll start searching for the right teacher for me, just not now.

    Keep rockin all,

  12. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I am self taught. I had a few simple guitar lessons as a kid but never bass and that was over 30 years ago. I do have other players show me or teach me a thing or two and i like that. I dont have time in my life for lessons but would do it if i could. I got back to playing music 7 years ago and have been gigging since and in two bands now both originals and covers. I also sing some backups,write songs and play guitar. I try to also like the OP use my natural abilities but know we are all limited. I wanted to play music and the bass not study it and there is a difference. I am happy doing my job in the bands and happy playing music. Lessons in my life now would take the fun out out of music and rule #1 with me is take the fun out then I'm out.
  13. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    I'm also self-taught on the bass and in fact self taught in basically everything I do for fun and for a living ( except flying planes, I did take lessons for that).

    So I can speak with a fair bit of authority on the self-teaching process.

    The main problem with being self-taught in anything is verifying whether what you taught yourself is the right way to do it. Also, even if you did use a correct method, you may not be up-to-date and there may be improvements in whatever it is that you havn't availed yourself of yet.

    In my case, I had been doing all kinds of things wrong in my playing over the years. The two biggest were not being aware of what is a correct fitting bass and poor right hand technique.

    Once I discovered those problems I was able to start working on fixing those. I.e. adopting the floating thumb on the right hand has made a dramatic improvement in my playing. The correctly fitting bass problem I'm working on right now.

    So while being self-taught has its good points (you REALLY learn what you're teaching yourself), it does have those drawbacks. You have to be aware that you may have learned something wrong or not learned all aspects of what you need to have learned.

    That takes verification from elsewhere - a teacher is the best bet, then other educational materials etc. It's not a good thing, in my view, the reach the conclusion that you've gotten it all down pat. At least not until a lot of time and effort has passed and even then you have to be willing to start over if necessary (like I've had to do in my playing several times now).

  14. bassistgook


    Feb 5, 2009
    I've been playing for 10 years self taught and people are often giving me complements too. Instructors will do the same thing for you as a book but just cost more.
  15. soundpost311


    Dec 14, 2004
    This is what bad teachers will do. You need to find a teacher that designs lesson plans around your learning style, and knows what you need to be taught to progress. The teacher also needs to learn how each student is motivated, so they can appropriately do so.

    I was stuck with a lot of bad teachers, who didn't understand that every student deserves the teacher's 100% attention.

    I had a couple of teachers who would do the "wow" the student thing and it just made me want to cry because i wanted to do it too, and knew that i couldn't. That may motivate some people, but i know i felt like crap.

    I guess my point is... self taught may be better than a bad teacher, but the sky is the limit with a good teacher.
  16. BurbsToo


    Sep 16, 2007
    UMass, Amherst
    Cool. I know it's frustrating as hell learning on your own. But you really get an appreciation for what you've learned especially when it's a eureka moment. I'm self teaching myself too. 1.5 years so far. I tried sax when I was in middle school but it just felt like another class and the music teacher never felt like a friend to me. He preferred scorn over working through my problems with me so I quit a few months in. I guess that left a bad taste in my mouth that never went away. But now that I at least have the muscle memory I may give it another shot; perhaps in the summer. Good work and keep on striving. Best of luck.
  17. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    there's no such thing as self-taught... just because someone doesn't have lessons doesn't mean they're not learning from other sources.. he looked stuff up... if someone wrote something he looked up then he's not self-taught (these things don't write themselves)

    music, being an art form primarily a sound-based medium, contains lots of information in itself... if you listen to other musicians and assimilate what they're doing, it's NOT being self-taught either!
  18. BurbsToo


    Sep 16, 2007
    UMass, Amherst
    Or you're born with it. ^^
  19. Sure you can argue that 'self taught' players are assimilating the teachings of others. But this is a one way street. You are not receiving active feedback from a teacher.

    I think most people would generally agree that the perception of being self taught is little or no experience with having real, in the flesh tuition.
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Nobody's born with the ability to play music.

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