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theory -- where do i start?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by blong1, Mar 20, 2001.

  1. blong1

    blong1 Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2000
    hi all,
    i have been playing for about a year and have very little knowledge of theory. i've just been playing whatever sounds good to my ear. i get so bored when i sit down and even try to learn the fretboard (and i don't know it too well as a result). but i have decided to bite-the-bullet and start trying to learn a little theory in order to expand my playing. only problem is that i don't even know where to start. what do i need to start with? and then what after that? can anyone suggest books or videos that i can get that shows patterns for learning (if there is any)? thanks for any info that you can give.
  2. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
  3. blong1

    blong1 Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2000
    yeah, i tried the teacher thing once before but it was a complete waste of time. all they really wanted me to do was bring in recordings that i wanted to learn and they would show me how to play it. that's great and all, but what happens when i play with people and can't figure out a good, catchy groove? i can't just play someone else's tune. there isn't anyone in my area that i would even consider taking from again. they all told me the same thing when i would talk to them about taking lessons.
    and i have no problem with learning scales, but i want to also learn how to apply them and use them to make up basslines.
  4. Starrchild


    Nov 10, 2000
    The Bay.
    get mel's bay electric bass book 1 & 2 and you're on you way.
  5. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    blong1, ditto on Ed's sage advice.

    If you want to get a leg up before you commit to a particular teacher, I recomend Libster as the best on-line lesson site. Libster starts with the ground floor basics and you can learn at your own pace.

    I am into thier course for about five or six weeks and I am learning to read standard notation before I start on chord theory. I can now read standard notation well enough to pick out the notes and play them. I still can't sight read as I play but a part of my practice routine consists of attempting to sight read. I can see a little improvement each day.

    If you decide to give the Libster a try, I recomend that you print the lessons and put them in a binder. Then you will always have them handy even if you aren't online.

    I also highly recomend spending time reading the mail down on the DB board. You probably, like myself, wont understand a lot of what they are talking about most of the time but submerging yourself in the jargon will make you aware of what questions you may need to ask.

    Those guys on DB forum are dead serious about thier music but I have yet to ask a serious question that wasn't answered accurately and quickly.

    Good luck with the lessons.


    addendum: Avoid tabs like the plague. Standard notation is EASIER to read than tab. Yes, I said easier!
  6. blong1

    blong1 Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2000
    thanks for the tips guys. and ed, i realize that there is no over-night-cure-all pill that will make me an instant success. i'm not looking for a quick fix. i'm just looking for a direction to start in. and i did read your quote saying find a 'good' teacher. that is why i replied with "there isn't anyone in my area that i would even consider taking from again"... because i don't think that any of the teachers from my area are worth the money. and yes, i have told them what i want to learn. i'm not dissing them, they're just not what i want out of a teacher. i can use tab if all i wanted to know was the notes in a song. i do appreciate your opinion though, and your effort at helping.
  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Keep looking for a teacher. Check local music store bulletin boards, other musicians, (go check out a jazz band and ask the bassist for advice finding an instructor), and local colleges, at any level.

    After an exhaustive 60 second search on the web I found this URL. Someone here might be able to help you:


    Even with all the theory knowledge, as Fuqeduped said, you still need someon to help you make sense of it. You can memorize Spanish vocabulary all day, but you'll never be able to speak without understanding grammar, syntax, structure. Music is a language too. You can memorize chords and scales forever, but you still need to understand their context.

    This is important, please don't give up on your search for a teacher. It's difficult, costly, exhausting, and can be frustrating, but when you find one, the results are definitely worth it.
  8. blong1

    blong1 Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2000
    yeah, i looked into some college courses...that was actually the first thing that i wanted to do when i started playing. but of the 2 colleges that are near me (the closest being 45 minutes away), they wanted me to take 'classical guitar' lessons for half a year before teaching me bass guitar. that shot that idea out of the water since i don't own a guitar and didn't really have the time to drive 1 1/2 hours each day. then i couldn't find a decent teacher. so now, i'm gonna just gonna have to buckle down and try to teach myself this theory stuff. anymore suggestions?
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Well, what I really meant by talking about the colleges, is using it as networking. Talk to some of the teachers, faculty, other staff, or students, and see if they know any teachers. Or, if there's a teacher there, see if they would consider private lessons. That's not too likely, so you could also find some jazz bassists in the area, and see if they are interested in giving lessons. It's worth a shot.

    If you really want to start learning theory on your own, you face a daunting task. I would check out every possible resource out there, and assimilate the best knowledge that way.

    You've got books: Mel Bay makes a great line that teach some basics of theory with it's application to bass guitar. If you can't find these in a store, go online.

    You've got videos: I don't have many suggestions, as I don't use videos much, but search archived threads, I'm sure there's info there.

    You've got more books: Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory" book has great theory in it, but you might struggle to understand all of it's implications for bass.

    You've got online: www.activebass.com is a wonderful start.

    You've got us: Search archived threads for some knowledge too. Mike Dimin's forum is great. You've got the "Idiot's Guide to Scales" that was posted in Miscellaneous (with a link earlier in this thread). You've got Gard's Circle of Fifths thread somewhere around here.
  10. BassDude24


    Sep 12, 2000
    There is a lot more to theory than just the fingerboard and scales, there are also all sorts of rhytms and timings that you should learn. There are a lot of theory books out there, and they have helped me out. Usually a company will put out a series, and once you "graduate" from one book you can go to the next.

    I would suggest this, or start taking lessons.
  11. Just a question. If you try and teach yourself, how are you going to know if you go racing off on the wrong track? A teacher will put you back on track. How are you going to get an answer to a question that cant be answered by surfing? A teacher can do that. Man, I've been playing around 19 years, and 6 of that was as a fulltime pro, but I've recently started taking lessons again, and I love it! There's always someone around who knows a s**t load more than you do.
  12. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    An old timer saxaphone player was interviewed on BET on Jazz the other day. He used to tour with Duke Ellington. (I regret I can't remember his name.)

    Anyway, he said back in the early days of jazz, the musicians all taught each other. He felt very privileged to have been surrounded by some of the all time greats who were never selfish with their advice. He also said, today it is different. Many young musicians think they can teach themselves with books and videos, but they can never be their best without help from other experienced musicians passing on the tradition and the skills.

    That's why there is nothing like a great teacher, and it needn't just be a bass teacher. A piano teacher can pass on a tremendous amount of valuable insights to you. Or a sax player, for example. Even a good drummer. If you can't find a decent bass teacher, try someone else. You might be surprised how much they can help you.

  13. Tronictq


    Jan 23, 2001
    Having troubles finding a teacher? WELL...... it so happens that I wanted a teacher, and was in search for a "good teacher". I ended up driving two hours every saturday to a "awesomely amazing teacher". A great person, great bass player.
    What happened was, I was at some sort of exhibition, with jazz music, and all sorts. Well this guy, jazz master, was doing sound checks on his bass, I was quite nervous to talk to him, but i had an itch to find a teacher, i though he might know of someone, So i worked up the nerve to go and talk. And now look at me, playing for 14 months, getting deep into jazz and the sort and loving it.

    NOTE get and older musician, my preference/opinion. IT seems like they have more wisdom ::) You can have a great young guy to. Lol, just as lon as you get a good one. GOod luck

  14. BaroqueBass


    Jul 8, 2000
    Salem, OR
    I would reccomend NOT getting your average bass-player to teach ya theory. Best bet is an old lady piano teacher or neurotic DB player that eats and drinks Simandl and Bille. Something along that line. Of course if you can find a knowledgable BG who's got his theory down good;; coooooool.

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