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Stuck in a rut

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MikeyMcMike, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Hey all

    I was wondering if I could get some advice, I’m stuck in a bass rut. I have been playing for a good few years but seriously over the last year. I don’t seem to be making any progress. I am getting easily demotivated when I feel I should be able to play stuff that I can’t. I try to play songs which I feel I should be able to play but even when I go to play easy stuff I can’t seem to get it.

    When I go to practice it is a struggle just to find something I want to play and or learn and when I choose something I give up if I can’t do a part. I know I should stop and go over and over a part but I just can’t get motivated to do it. I have tried learning the songs by bands I’m in to and still nothing, I even tried Rocksmith for the Ps3.

    I want to become a better bass player like everyone else but I just seem to be constantly go around in circles. My ear for music is terrible I really struggle to pick out what notes are being playing in songs and I often have to use tabs to learn song which I forget how to play in a matter of days if not hours. I play bass in a band but two of the guitarists write most if not all of the bass and sometimes record it and I can’t seem to get rid of the simple mistakes out of my playing.

    I feel embarrassed when we jam because I don’t know what they are playing. I really want to improve and be the guy everyone turns to for bass. I know this requires hard work, effort and dedication which I want to do but I can’t get motivated to do it.

    Has anyone got any advice to pull me out of this rut? Any books I should check out to improve? Should I look into bass lessons?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. cv115505

    cv115505 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Oklahoma City
    Sounds like a problem of motivation which can only be remedied by yourself. Once you cure the motivation issue, in order to get maximum benefit from your hard work, you'll need lessons. Do not just roll into GC and take lessons from whoever they stick you with... ask around and find out who is a good teacher in your area... then seek them out.
  3. greggster59


    Oct 31, 2006
    New Jersey
    A GOOD teacher will help you avoid/break bad habits and keep you motivated with constant challenges.
  4. itsalljustaride


    Sep 23, 2009
    The one thing that got me back into actually playing and having at least some fun doing it was learning one scale. I still only know that one scale really by heart, but even if I don't have anything particular to play, I can at least noodle around on those notes and still feel like I'm playing music.

    That was the epiphany for me, as someone who isn't a "theory person". That scales offer a way to basically play almost any order of notes in that set and that it will sound at least decent. It also helps you learn the notes on the fretboard if you try to call them out as you play.

    Learning specific songs is fun, but as you said, can be easily frustrating when you can't play it exactly as it sounds. Learning the more fundamental aspects of music means you can fall back on some simpler practice modes when you get frustrated with trying to replicate someone else's playing style.

    Also, after reading your post over again, this will also help you with not feeling completely hamfisted when practicing with your band. If you can figure out which scale or chords the guitarists are using, you can quickly narrow down the set of possible notes that might be used in the song. That is, of course, assuming they know themselves, or are following (even unknowingly) a scale. Chances are, if the music sounds decent, there is some kind of scale or something being riffed on. You just need to develop a sense of what it is. Having someone in the band who is at least partially competent with the "language" of music goes a long way. It means instead of having 30-minute sessions of "wait, which fret are you playing there?...ok...you're going too fast...then which one...?" you can just say, "Which key are we playing in? Got it." and then in the rare cases where something sounds off you just ask "What chord was that, it sounds weird." and adjust accordingly.
  5. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    A little basic theory will let you assume what the other guys are doing. If you'all are doing 3 chord songs and you find that you are not with the other guys - there are only two chord choices left - you have a 50% chance of getting the next chord change correct. Dirt simple theory, if you are in a major key the major chords are the structure chords, the minor chords are the color and flavor chords so --- there are only three major chords, worry about them and let the solo instruments get the other stuff -- for now.

    When I get lost I watch the acoustic rhythm guitar's hands and change chords when he does, or I run the tonic pentatonic to the beat of the song - or just pound out roots of the tonic chord till I find my place. IMO, in a jamming situation the beat is the thing, the actual notes are important, but, secondary to the beat. The other guys look to you for the beat first - then something that will signal a chord change is coming. If you do not have any idea what chord is coming next - well that is something you need to work on. I use chord charts and band directors keep sending me the gig schedules. EDIT -- Just saw this -- quess who is using a music stand. http://www.scottsbasslessons.com/live-sessions/live-session-2-long-time-coming.html

    Its not rocket science, but, a little theory helps. How much do you already know? Can you follow the chord changes, by ear? From what you say, probably not, it takes time for your ear to develop this skill. Can you follow the chord changes if given fake chord (chord charts) sheet music? Give us a starting place and someone will jump on it.

    Good luck.
  6. mrmills


    Jun 22, 2009
    Kent, UK
    I suggest learning some music theory, scales, chords, etc. It helped me to understand some of the magic of writing music as well as helping when trying to transcribe as music tends to follow the patterns. Memorise modes/scales and you will start to see their patterns in music.

    Pick up a book (I started with bass guitar for dummies!), watch one of the many great free tutorial channels on you tube and most of all practice! Productive practice to re-enforce the theory/techniques you read/watch. Use headphones and a metronome and possibly even record your practice sessions so you can listen back and work on the weaker bits.

    Dedication will pay off in the end. Don't give up!
  7. spz8


    Jan 19, 2009
    Glen Cove, NY
    Find a great teacher if you have the time and finances. If not, there are TONS of great self study options online. Learn the basic intervals, major/minor scales, and chords built from those scales...


    This is my favorite online resource. Mark is the real deal, very easy to follow, and a total pro.


    Another great resource, Scott is an amazing teacher and player.


    A-Z for learning to play bass.


    If you can't get enough music theory instruction. Very thorough!