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Shifting of Practice Focus

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by beaglegod, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. beaglegod


    Jan 6, 2009
    Im not sure whether or not its a good idea for me to be posting this, but I want to say that this is in no way meant to start arguments or debates. This is strictly a little mental battle that Im going through personally as a begginer.

    Ive talked to/ emailed quite a few bassists over the past month that I admire and in a sense look up to, these guys pretty much have what I want to achieve as a budding,baby bass player. :p

    Now Ive asked each one of these guys the same question, which Im sure every person in my position asks, "Im a begginer ,I want to play the funkiest grooves you or your mama ever heard, what should I practice to get there?" (is the basic gist of my question)

    Whats interesting is that each one of these guys is coming from a slightly different place.Some are VERY knowledgable about theory and have the credentials to proove it. Some dont know much theory at all. Hence I was expecting different answers or points of view and yet the general idea behind each players answer was the same.

    The answer in a nut shell" Play and transcribe what you hear your favourite players playing. Start with something thats not too complicated and gradually you can work on more complex stuff."

    I havent quoted each person Ive asked simply because Im not sure if thats frowned upon or not, but Ive saved each response in my music notebook all from highly praised teachers/bass book authors/ youtube bass monsters that are all spoken of very highly right here on TB.

    So I switched my focus for the past few weeks by devoting a small ammount of my practice time to the "theoretical" or "classic" training of modes/arpeggios/sight reading etc . and devoting most of my time learning and playing from music in my collection (mostly James Brown right now).

    Needless to say its a lot of fun when you finally get a whole song under your fingers and can lock in with the band, BUT being the kinda guy I am my practice concience starts playing tricks on me as if I should go back to making the scales/modes/arps etc the main thing.

    Than I think of one bass player I know personally who loves straight ahead jazz and feels all other types of music are inferior, hes been playing on and off for 30 years (older guy) but doesnt seem to have rissen to the level one would expect, when I told him the advice I was given about trying to play what you hear, he told me "I never really tried to learn that way." I could tell he thought I must be crazy telling him this as a begginer but when I compare him to some of the guys Ive been in touch with, theres just no comparison.

    Anyway Im going to use this approach for the next 6 months a little theory, a little sight reading practice and a lot of playing by ear each day....we'll see how it gos.
  2. paul_wolfe


    Mar 8, 2009

    IMO "a lot of playing by ear each day" is the thing that will get you there fastest. Most people don't do it because it's hard (unless you're one of the lucky few born with a natural ear for pitch, either absolute or relative) - so the fact that you're doing it will pay off down the load.

    Just keep doing it.
    Don't give up on the days when you feel c**ppy.

    Also if you can, film yourself playing the tunes and post them on YoUTube and ask for specific feedback. Most people can't take proper feedback - use feedback not as something that you get upset about, but something that helps point you in the direction of getting better.

    Hope that's of interest.
  3. beaglegod


    Jan 6, 2009
    Thanks for that Paul, good boost of encouragement.

    Sad thing is Ive always been able to play things by ear, when I was about 6 or 7 I could play songs on piano by ear, simple melodies one hand, and it was at that time that an uncle of mine told my parents "dont let him play instruments by ear or he will never learn to play the right way." I used to play songs on harmonica, toy flutes, and keyboards whatever I was playing with at the time.

    Well the rest is history, taking the classical approach has often led me to giving up on several attempts when I was younger, and here Im realising I had something that I could have used to my advantage. What a waste of time. :crying:

    Not that scales and modes and chords arent important, not at all but what I keep hearing from some really awsome players is your ears are first. I want to get good at site reading and want to be knowledgable about things but above anything I want to play.... bottom line.
  4. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Use your theory studies to analyze what you're learning from the recordings. Just learning how to play what Bootys et. al. played is one thing. But to learn why and how it works, that's what gives you the tools to create your own voice.

    I had a buddy who was teaching guitar during the EVH craze of the '80s. He taught his students how to cop the solo to Michael Jackson's "Beat It", and they talked about what's going on it. He did that rather than just teach them a lot of EVH licks and solos because that solo was a microcosm of what Edward does extremely well. And learning those idea allowed them to learn other solos by them selves, but more importantly to come up with their own solos.

    Same thing for bass- learn what Jamerson, Duck, Sklar, Blanton, Cogbill, McCartney, et. al. do/did. But put some effort into figuring out why they did that. You won't always come up with definitive answers, but it's the process of learning music. And it allows you to be a rally good player who understands music and can communicate with other musicians.

  5. I'd agree with the idea of analyzing what you learn from recordings. It'll make your theory studies more relevant.
  6. beaglegod


    Jan 6, 2009
    Sounds like an excellent way to learn and actually adopt or make these things a part of your own playing.

    Could someone give me perhaps a simple example of how to analyse the theory behind a bass line?
    How does one go about doing that in the best way? Do you simply try to determine the scale/mode or chord/s being played?
  7. I'd recommend getting your hands on a copy of the written music for a song, a piano + vocal chart. Then look over the melody and chords and see the relation the bassline has with those two. Not only scales and modes though, look at where the chord tones, passing tones, and tensions are in the measure. Look at the the relation between the bassline and the melody too. Get to know the rhythm of the line. I'm sure someone will have a better explanation soon. I hope this helps.

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