Some beginner questions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by letsjumpnow, May 24, 2005.

  1. letsjumpnow


    May 16, 2005
    Hi! I just did my first short practice session with the bass. I’m a drummer, but I’m making myself play bass for at least 15 minutes every day so I can learn the basics – I’m having fun with it so it usually gets up to 45! I have a few initial questions:

    1 I like how it sounds when I pluck the strings with my fingernails (they’re a little long :D). Is this the same thing as using a fingerpick?

    2 To start, I just went up and down the bottom string, using my index and middle fingers to press down on the frets and the same fingers on the other hand to pluck the strings. I put a song on repeat and ignored the melody and just tried to play the rhythm. Tomorrow I’ll go up and down all the strings doing this for a while. Is this advisable?

    3 Is it fact or myth that if you’re playing rhythms, you’re only using the bottom (by bottom I mean the biggest string, hopefully I’m correct) two strings, and the top two are just used to crazy stuff like Vic Wooten or soloing/fills? I have no aspirations to do any fancy stuff. I will like playing Sly and the Family Stone/Beatles/Neil Young type simple stuff if I ever do get the hang of it.

    4 Can anyone point me to a good place for figuring out songs by ear and also for good songs already tabbed out? I don’t know how to read tabs yet, so a site where I could learn how to do that would also be appreciated! I’m going to look into the musis theory/general instruction links and after posting this.

    5 Do you have anything you think I should know right off the bat? Do’s and don’ts? Common beginner mistakes? I’d love to know!

    6 Can anyone give me advice on how to be able to practice by hearing both bass and the music I’m playing to in headphones? I have a pretty nice receiver, an iBook laptop, an iPod, $50 sennheiser closed-ear headphones, and a crappy little guitar amp for the time being. The bass I’m using, a Schecter, and the amp, are borrowed.

    Thank you! And I hope to get to know some of you as I learn!

  2. To #2:
    That's a good drill but you should mix it up a little so you don't get too used to using the left index when you use the right one, and vice versa. Practice starting your plucking with the middle finger as well.
  3. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    1. Yes and no. If you like this, I'd advise getting a fingerpicks or you can seriously damage your nails. It's also advisable to learn other styles i.e. fingerstyle with the pads of your fingertips as well as pickstyle.

    2. Any warmup is good, to work on muscle memory and build-up. It loosens your muscles so you don't cramp while playing therefore it's pretty good.

    3. You can use whatever strings you want. In punk and 80's rock, it was very common to find only the E and A strings used. It even went as far as some bassists stringing EAEA with a backup for each in case it broke. Listen to some Guns N Roses for an idea of using higher strings in an arena rock environment.

    4. Check out, there's a FAQ on reading tabs, but it's also advisable to learn to read music notation. That'll show you rhythm as opposed to just where to put your fingers, offering a lot more room for improvisation.

    5. Only Don't is don't get discouraged. Bass is easy to play, but hard to play well. There's never a point where you stop learning or improving. As far as do's, find a teacher, if nothing else, an older, more experienced bass player to show you the ropes.

    6. Check out a Tascam CD-BT1 Bass trainer. It's a CD player with bass boost, bass input and you can slow it down to get a better idea of what the bass is doing. Plug your headphones into that, and it's a good piece of equipment for $150.
  4. Hekbass


    May 21, 2005
    Zephyrhills, FL
    I think what you say about using just the lowest 2 strings for rythm and the other 2 only for "crazy" stuff is a really crazy idea in itself. Where did you get that? Who told you that? Listen to James Jamerson (Motown), or Jerry Jemmott for incredible bass lines that use all 4 strings and are just groove-a-liciously rythmic. Jaco took those concepts to the next level - if you check out "Come On, Come Over" from his self-titled debut, the main groove starts on the G and D strings around the 10-th fret C note on the D-string! And he's not doing "crazy" stuff, he is playing the main groove of a monstrously rythmic song!! So, feel free to use any string your EAR and the music guide you to. Keep grooving. Peace.
  5. DaemonBass


    Mar 29, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    Hi there,

    I would recommend you only use tabs to learn a few songs when you are starting. I think this is a good idea. When you are a new player, it increases your motivation when you learn a some new songs (and they actually sound like the song) from some TABs you got online. Also, you might start to get an idea of how your fingers relate to the notes of the song; then you can use this to make up some of your own songs.

    However, after a while I say drop the tabs. The main reason, as I see it, is because most of 'em are dead wrong and maybe only get 1 or 2 riffs even close. If you want to read the language of music then read bass clef, as I'm sure 100 people have told you by now. :)

    I try to spend a lot of time transposing songs into the drop C tuning my band uses and generally develop a better ear. I say drop the TAB and work on ear training.

    Also, when playing along to records try to set your bass volume as low as possible and still be able to hear it; otherwise, you can't really hear if what you're playing is close or way off.
    Good luck
  6. As far as using only the E and A strings, even the most simple (and I mean simple) blues run or walking uses all four strings. It makes it easier to hit notes without moving your hand 6 or 7 frets up or down the neck, you just move a string over.