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Starting out

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassplayer425, Nov 9, 2010.

  1. Bassplayer425


    Nov 9, 2010
    I have only been playing bass for a month or so, and I've learned some basic techniques and learned to play some Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine songs through tab. My question is what are some ways that I can continue learning bass and become a better player, and I am open to any suggestions. And I've also had trouble learning notes, as there seem to be two notes for every one note? And also, is it bad to play with a pick?
  2. My two very humble opinions (I've only been playing for four years so take them for what they're worth):

    1) Pick is great, gives a distinct tone that can't be replicated with any other technique effectively. Doesn't always fit with every band and style though, so I'd recommend staying up to date on finger style as well.

    2) I just kept on doing covers until eventually I started enjoying writing more than covering. For a while I felt inferior because I was only playing other musicians work but by covering their work you begin to understand why they made certain decisions in their song writing. In doing so you begin to develop your own song writing.

    My theory is this: If you want to learn something and have the means to do so (you're asking for suggestions on development and you have a bass, so those criteria are met) you will.
  3. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    I prefer the sound of a pick for bass. I hardly ever dont use one. I do use the rounded rather then single pointy end of pick though. Sounds better to me.

    Yes each note can be played in various places on the fretboard. Its why I allways suggest new players learn to fret every note of every string at least down to the 22nd fret. You may hardly ever go that high. But the skills good one and it furthe familairizes you with where notes are.

    Have fun, have regular just goof off with playing your bass, making stuff up, experimenting with any effects you have, etc. Just keep the grove as first thing. Even if its spacey ambient music meess around time. Lol.

    Learn to set up action as feels best to you. This quite often isnt the mfg out of box action. Often is lower, though some prefer higher action. Neither is better, but theres is best and most comfortable and inspiring for you.
  4. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    Simple, take lessons.

    If a) you're motivated and will put the time and effort in and b) find an instructor who can really play, who has real knowledge and experience, who knows how to convey that knowledge and experience, and can convey that knowledge and experience in a variety of styles in order to best reach an individual student, then you WILL progress. And you'll progress far faster than you ever could on your own.

    Are there exceptions out there, prodigies who simply pick up an instrument and breathe life into it? Sure. Are they common? I'd say they're far less common than most people who disagree with me would like to believe. I'd also bet that the vast majority of those who say silly things like "lessons will only force someone else's rules down your throat", or "I don't want to get boxed into some set of arbitrary rules", or "I don't want to be limited by any rules that will stifle my creativity", or any other nonsense like that have never had a good instructor, never did what their instructor asked, or both. But the best part is that whichever it is, BOTH of those things are COMPLETELY under the individual student's control. If either one of them is broken, then fix it! :)

    That might sound like I'm preaching, but I'm speaking from personal experience. And that's not experience I had when I was in school and is simply me parroting what a middle school music teacher told me way back when I was 13. I'm 46 and just started lessons two years ago, and only about six months ago with a very good instructor that I'm extremely happy with. I certainly won't claim I can outplay anybody, but I can confidently tell you I'm not the same player I was six months ago.
  5. Spinal Tapper

    Spinal Tapper

    Nov 15, 2007
    I think you're off to a great start. All great advice above.

    Not sure if this was mentioned yet, but try and jam as much as POSSIBLE with other people.

    Find a drummer, or a guitarist friend to jam with - play covers if you want, or start doing original stuff. I think the best way to get good fast is to play with other people - especially if they're better than you. You'll learn real quick, and don't be afraid to ask questions or look stupid. It's all part of learning. Kind of like taking lessons, but for no charge, and more laid back.

    I never took lessons, its not really the way I learn, by sweating it out with your dollar on the clock (lessons ARE great though!), but I've done this my whole bass playing life, and I'm definitely decent enough to jam with anyone now, write my own parts, and be a good bassist in a band.
  6. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    Agreed. Playing with other people, especially if they're at a level higher than where you are now, is a fantastic way to learn. Fun too! :)

    However, I'm going to disagree with the "sweating it out with your dollar on the clock" comment, though. First of all, if your lessons are focused on "time is money!" then I'd say either a) your focus is way, WAY off base or b) you're a 14 year old whose parents are paying for your lessons for the sole purpose of turning you into <insert any virtuoso's name here>. ;)

    Some of my best lessons, including last night's, are half hours where I hardly play at all, if at all! My instructor and I spend A LOT of time just talking. In fact, simply playing through an exercise perfectly by the next lesson is NEVER a goal. From both my perspective and my instructor's, the primary goal of every lesson is to learn something. And even if I don't play something perfectly, which is often because at age 46 practice time is tough to find, I simply don't care. But I spend a lot of my practice time trying figure out the reason(s) he assigned me whatever he assigned me and if I can come in next week and tell him I figured out that underlying reason he's far happier than if I played it perfectly but completely missed the point. His goal is not to just help me become a better bassist, it's to help me become a better and more well-rounded musician. Good thing, because that's my goal too!

    I kind of laugh when I see people give reasons against lessons, especially the ones that are based on "that's just not the way I learn". It's as if they purposely seek out The Headmaster from "The Wall" (hey, I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan and I just saw Roger Waters two nights ago, forgive me ;)). My lessons are nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like that. If I didn't have the time to learn to play something perfectly in a given week, who really cares?!?! Life gets in the way sometimes. But I play it as best I can, I show what I learned while working on it (musical concepts, bass techniques, theory concepts, etc.), I come in with questions, and if I have to repeat an exercise this week then, big deal, I repeat it. And when I have a rare week where I can actually find some extra practice time then I make it my goal to wow him next time. In the end, it balances.

    But keep in mind that with lessons, *you're* the one paying the bill and if it's not going the way you want, you either work that out with your instructor or you find a new one. But don't let yourself be limited by "that's not how I learn". I mean, we're not talking about high school here! ;) But if you can find someone who can adapt to your learning style and you're motivated to take yourself to a higher level then I think you just might be pleasantly surprised! :)

    EDIT - Just to clarify, I don't mean to imply that my lessons are easy or they're not serious. My instructor pushes me hard, especially with the things I show interest in or explicitly tell him I want to work on. However, the push is always with encouragement and a "See how far you've come?!" approach rather than with demands, rigidity, and a cookie cutter approach.
  7. Welcome to TalkBass!

    I think you should be equally proficient using your fingers and a pick. I've always used my fingers. My theory is that if you're not using a pick, there's nothing to drop during a show.

    As for learning, I'm not sure of your age, but for someone who is still in school, you can always take music class for free. It'll give you some insight into music theory, if you're interested. My parents got me my first guitar for Christmas when I was 16. The next schoolyear, I signed up for music class in highschool. Within that school year (Grade 12), I was able to take the Grade 10 and 11 levels. (The good thing for me was that we were supposed to learn a different instrument in each course. The first course, I chose guitar. The second course, I chose bass. That's where I discovered my love for the bass sound.)

    For learning cover songs, try listening to music of all genres. You seem to be into the grunge/alternative rock genre. Listen to some metal for some technical aspects. Funk is an excellent source to listen to examples in groove. Even if you presently have no interest in jazz, classical, etc... There will always be a few musical passages that will stand out for you. If they sound cool to you, try to figure them out.

    Above all, have fun practicing.
  8. Winnb


    Nov 4, 2010
    Depends man. If you're a young guy looking to be a pro musician then you need lessons in technique, sight reading, different styles, ect. Plus you need to play as much as possible.

    But if you're a guy just looking to jam with local bands as a weekend hobby and have some fun then just play.
  9. Bassplayer425


    Nov 9, 2010
    Thank you all very much for your posts and your insights. I might take lessons eventually, and I think it could benefit for me to take lessons very much. Also, I'm wondering if it would be too early to jam with people and whatnot. I also do listen to different types of bass, and I find them all interesting. I love funk on bass because it is an interesting style and the techniques and different ways to make your playing stand out are plentiful. And also, I enjoy reading about bass almost as much if not as much as I enjoy playing bass. It is an instrument that I enjoy playing and I prefer it greatly over guitar and other instruments. Also, whenever I go to Guitar Center, I always talk to people there about bass playing, style, etc., and I enjoy learning about the different types of basses and how they differ. And again, thank you all for your comments and your ideas on how I can expand my knowledge and skill of bass playing.
  10. Do you know anyone that plays bass and I mean really plays bass not a guitarist that knows some bass? I met a guy that works at a music shop and it's been nonstop fun and learning since then. Make sure you can be friends with the guy and you will be motivated to get better.

    As for a pick, im not the kind of guy to say my way is better than yours or you have to do something this way but when I first started I played with a pick too, I told myself it was just for a better tone, but I was really copping out on developing good finger technique, which for me was much harder. I was out of town and loving bass so much I couldn't stand to be without a lesson, called a guy up, real good player, session musician for big names, great guy, the works. I head over there excited to the extreme and what do you know he takes one look at my playing with a pick and tells me to throw the pick away. I asked why, his retort was something to the effect of "You (as in personally me) aren't giving yourself and the instrument all it deserves by playing like that, you need to develop finger skills or I won't teach you". I was pretty livid and went on a tirade about Chris Squire and Newstead, once again he said "No, you aren't Chris Squier, I know for a fact that Chris could play all his lines fine with finger style, develop finger style first, then I'll let you decide if you want to play with a pick". From that day forth I have never touched a pick. If nothing else it will give you street cred :D.
  11. Bassdude404


    Oct 23, 2010
    Myself, I grew up in the late 1970's listening to Black Sabbath and AC/DC records, and my brother (drums) and I would jam out to them after school until our parents came home...Very rarely use a pick, only certain songs to get the right sound (Symphony of Destruction-Megadeth for example)...Learned alot trying to replicate Geezer Butler's parts on those early Sabbath albums...Then along came Iron Maiden and alot of other great bands...I'm 46 now and still learning new stuff about the instrument...
  12. 1: Play as many different styles as you can

    2: play with as many different people as you can

    3: be open minded

    4: dont limit yourself, try to be able to play anything, whether it is stylistically or technically (pic, fingerstyle, slap)
  13. superbeast101


    Sep 6, 2010
    practice as much as possible, when I was first learning to play just sitting with the bass unplugged whilst watching tv and mucking about or doing finger exercizes helps greatly to strengthen your finger and hand muscles. play through part as much in repitition as you can when learning them, you will form a muscle memory and more than likely never completely forget it.

    one good excersize i was taught early on is the finger per fret progression. Have your four fretling fingers set out a fret each from frets 1-4, progress through the strings and back again playting a note per finger, then move to the next four frets. before long you'll be able to just keep doing this while watching tv or whatever. it makes a BIG difference! as you get better you can alternate the progression order, such as starting on the third finger and fret going 3, 1,4,2 ect. also don't rush to speed it up. lean whatever you are doing at a slow speed first. speed comes with time. :)
  14. Martin89


    Nov 8, 2010
    Glendale, AZ
    Unofficial Endorser: Ibanez, D'Addario, Zoom
    Youtube, youtube, youtube. JK, but it is a very cool and fast way to pick up a lot of song/style techniques if you learn visually and can't always play with people who are better than you(whether in a lesson or jamming format). You can easily learn a new song or technique everyday.

    The main goal with me is being able to play lots of stuff and play the stuff I like extremely well. So I agree with the getting away from just the pick(throw in some fingerstyle, slap/pop, etc.). Learn scales and progressions(popular patterns) and how to manipulate them on the fretboard in different keys. And it wouldn't hurt to get some theory/music reading skills so you don't have to rely on tabs. If you're a self-learner get a bass method book, and if time, age/money allows-get lessons. I took lessons on Trumpet first and got my theory down so when I transitioned to guitar, lower brass and bass I had my theory down and just picked up on the bass clef format(something I still need to work on more though, 7 years of straight treble is hard to break).
  15. Oh also use your pinky! I started out not using it and when I began DB come to find out you don't even use a ring finger, all about the pinky. Anyways after the initial learning curve I started applying it to EB and it has helped my tone and speed so much. Practice your pinky strength a lot.
  16. pbd

    pbd Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2003
    Metro Detroit
    owner Procables N Sound
    I totally agree with this post in regards to playing with other people, it pushes you to play better and will also push you to play for longer periods of time. Lessons are a good idea but keep playing with other people and have fun!

    Todd :)
  17. superbeast101


    Sep 6, 2010
    playing in a band or jam enviroment not only brigs you on leaps and bounds as a player it teaches you so much about music in general, the other instruments you dont play, team work and people skills, but most iportantly it teaches you about yourself as a musician and person.. things that IMO can't be found anywhere else
  18. Bassplayer425


    Nov 9, 2010
    Thank you very much for the advice, and I have been using my pinky. I have three years of experience playing viola, so I have finger strength, so that will probably help me greatly. And yes, I use my pinky finger very much, and I try to stretch my fingers, not too much to hurt them, but enough to get used to them.
    And thank you superbeast101 for your advice and your ideas on excercises I can do, which I will do. Sometimes I feel like I don't want to let go of my bass, so I will try that out while watching TV. And also, about jamming and playing with a band and whatnot, how do you find people to jam with?
  19. Bassdude404


    Oct 23, 2010
    Not sure how old you are, but if you're over 21, find a bar in the area that has a "jam night"...Usually on a Thursday or something to help bring in business....Good way to hook up with fellow musicians, and put yourself out there if you're looking for a band...
  20. superbeast101


    Sep 6, 2010
    I don't know where abouts you live dude, but there should be some sort of musician forum online or even in your local street press that local musicians will advertise in. Perhaps even on here ( though I haven't fully explored the site)
    I live in Australia, and alot of musos here use site like fasterlouder.com.au, or the street press that circulates their capital city and surrounding areas, drum media for Sydney ect. Also local music stores often have noticeboards for musicians looking for likeminded folks for bands n jams. if you seek you shall find :)

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