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Victor Wooten's Groove Workshop: Help Understanding how to play without thinking.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DuckSoup, Jul 23, 2019.

  1. DuckSoup


    Dec 20, 2017
    So my Bass teacher is having me go through Victor Wooten's Groove Workshop DVD. I'm about half way through, and Victor talks a lot about playing what you feel. Not thinking about what you want to play, or playing the correct notes, or finding the key of the song. Just play what you feel. I'm having trouble understanding this though. I can feel a type of sound I want to play, but my issue is that...Where is that sound. I can't just randomly start hitting notes in hopes that what I feel comes out. In theory you need some kind of foundation right? Victor even mentions that he isn't a master of music theory, and I'm not a master as well.

    I just have trouble wrapping my head around this concept of playing without thinking. I've practiced this a couple
    of times where I either play to a backing track, or not play to anything at all. In both situations it either sounds
    like garbage (Because I don't know what I'm playing) or I stay to patterns I know. (R, 3rd, 5th) or just minor pentatonics.

    It's like there's a secret that everyone else knows but me.
  2. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    You play without thinking by practicing and knowing the music so well that you don't need to think about executing it.
    You no longer have to think about the physical execution, or the theory, chords, or notes you are supporting.
    This frees your attention to listen and respond to what is going on at a deeper level.

    Anthony Wellington breaks down what is needed:

    It may seem like a long road to mastery, but you don't have to master everything before you can get there.
    If you fast forward to the appendix to the Groove Workshop, you'll see Anthony Wellington's excellent "Four Rooms" analogy.

    TLDR: practice
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
    lupien, Reedt2000, MonetBass and 19 others like this.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA

    There's no secret.

    I love baseball. Most of my analogies go back to baseball.

    I HATED the first few weeks of baseball practice. Why? Fundamentals. My father was my coach.... and he was no joke. He would hit ground ball after ground ball at me at a zillion miles per hour. "BEND YOUR KNEES! GET IN FRONT OF IT! LEAD THE BALL!!!"
    Why do you practice every tiny little detail of your swing when hitting?

    Now I get it. You pound the fundamentals into your head, and muscles, so that when the ball is hit, you don't HAVE to think. You FEEL. You almost SMELL where the ball is going. Your body just goes where the ball is. And you get in front of it. And when you stop it, you take one hop and you GUN it to the cutoff guy without even thinking.

    The same goes for music. Do the math during practice. Learn theory and chord structure. Practice scales. Practice arpeggios.

    But when the drummer clicks four times, STOP DOING MATH! The math is already in your head. Just feel the groove. Just go where the rest of the band takes you.

    Make no mistake. Even if he has no formal training, he knows theory. He has practiced, and practiced, and practiced. So much so, his ears know what sounds good in a given situation.

    Short version: Work the fundamentals. Then let go of your head and feel the groove in the band.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
    pablomago, MonetBass, tonym and 29 others like this.
  4. Deep...
    btmpancake likes this.
  5. DuckSoup


    Dec 20, 2017
    So in short they expect you to know all the theory before you can just "Play" That makes sense, but the perspective I got from the video was "Stop thinking about theory, or notes, just play!" But I need that theory!
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    To paraphrase Anthony: Even if all you know is R,3,5 and minor pentatonics,
    you can know them so well that you don't have to think about what you are playing.

    You don't need "all the theory" to reach that "blissful state".
    You can reach it one song / scale / riff / arpeggio / chord progression at a time.
    You can only express yourself with the vocabulary you have practiced.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
  7. DuckSoup


    Dec 20, 2017
    Ok I think I understand a bit better. I think even at the start of the DVD, Victor said something like "When you start learning music, everyone starts to teach you theory, when really we shouldn't" It's not exactly what he said, but that was my takeaway from it. It's like...You have to have that theory to know what to play.
  8. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    An analogy I like is this:

    As you are talking (or typing in this case) you are unconsciously aware of words, grammar, syntax, etc.

    But you are not thinking about each and every word and where it goes.... you just have an idea to express and it just comes out.

    Music is like that.
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You don't need much theory at all. You just need to know the song very well. :)

    May I ask, what is your process when learning a new song?
    HolmeBass and mambo4 like this.
  10. DuckSoup


    Dec 20, 2017
    It depends on the song.

    If it's for a Gig, I'll read the provided Chord Chart, and figure out the roots. Then I'll go back and listen to the original MP3 and pick out any fills or licks and will learn those. Then I'll just piece it all together. I do learn the notes of the song rather than the Chord number or progression. (Something I may change)

    If it's a song I'm learning for fun, I may just put the song on and play to it until I find the correct notes. I do tend to pick up on common chord progressions. (1, 5, 6, 4) If the song has complicated fills, I may go find a tab for that since it's sometimes hard to pick out each note played.

    If it's a song I'm learning for fun but I want to expand on. I'll figure out the songs key, and just noodle around within the 7 notes I have available.
  11. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Victor knows theory. You may have misunderstood what he was saying. Nobody is a "master" of theory. But he knows theory.

    You are WAY overthinking what he is trying to teach you.

    All he is saying is "Don't be mathematical or mechanical when you play. Be emotional."

    You are trying to make even that too complicated. So you may be the very person for whom this lesson was designed. :thumbsup:

    I don't suppose you eat fried chicken with a fork..... ;)
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
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  12. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Man, your analogy was MUCH better than mine!
    L Anthony, Marcus Willett and diegom like this.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Sounds like you have a great process for learning songs! You are using a combination of chord charts, TAB, and (most important in my opinion) your ears. You know how to play songs note-for-note, but you also know how to create your own bass lines that follow the chord progression. Those are all good skills to have!

    I'm going to highlight one of your statements. I'm not picking on you ;) but rather just using it as an example of what I think Victor Wooten might be getting at:

    I think Victor Wooten would say, this is an example of "thinking." You have made an intellectual decision that the song belongs to a "key" and that there are 7 "available" notes you are "supposed to" play. What if you turned off that thinking and "allowed" yourself to experiment with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale? For example, a song in C Major, can you find a way to make Eb sound good? Or what about F#? Never mind whether these notes are "right" or "wrong," just focus on how they sound, and you are building your musical vocabulary. By giving yourself freedom "not to think" you can come up with imaginative new ideas, instead of the "same old same old." :)
    pablomago, Artman and John6 like this.
  14. Luigir


    Mar 15, 2018
    It's not you. I work the same way you do and most people work the same. Classical education, with all its quirks, in practice is a synthesis of how to teach stuff in an organized manner and it's far from "express yourself".
    By the way, to me, teach something to somebody means giving him the tools to form his own ideas but without tools there aren't ideas either.

    Big imho of course.
    Artman likes this.
  15. Wissen


    Nov 11, 2007
    Central PA
    I've seen Victor give other talks about his approach to teaching music. I haven't seen the DVDs you are talking about so this is admittedly just an inference, but he did a TED talk where he said something similar.

    In that TED talk, he said we shouldn't start in with the academic stuff because it kills the love of music. Music is a language. And when we are first learning to talk, how do we learn? We babble, we observe, but we do it. His point was that traditional didactic instruction kills the love of music. Sitting a child down in a classroom and expecting them to study music is a good way to drive them into other hobbies.

    But once we get in to school, we learn grammar and spelling and all of those things that help us speak well.

    So no, we shouldn't teach theory right from the start. But. In your particular case, theory is helpful for building up those unconscious fundamentals mentioned in other posts. And repetition. Lots of repetition. Why do you fall into the same old patterns? Because those are the ones you have practiced so much you don't need to think about them. We're all guilty of this. Those who are better bass players than I am simply have a better vocabulary. And that's my fault.
    CB3UK, DJ Bebop, ELG60 and 2 others like this.
  16. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    One other bit of wisdom from Victor - Groove trumps notes.
    His point (about thinking) is at least partly "many musicians spend so much time thinking about which notes to play that the groove suffers".
    How would you play if you weren't afraid to play a "wrong" note?
    What if there were no "wrong" notes - just different choices?
    He does an excercise/demonstration where he plays 2 solos over the same changes.
    In the first he only plays notes that are "correct" - in the key of the changes. But he plays them without much "feel" - just the right notes. And it sounds pretty good - nothing wrong with it. Nothing "wrong" with it.
    The second time he plays "only the wrong notes" - only notes that are not in the key. All "wrong" notes! But he plays with groove and intensity and totally makes it work - and it definitely sounds better than the first solo.

    As others have said, practice and learning are the times to "think". When it comes time to play, put thinking aside and feel.
    L Anthony, wraub, ELG60 and 4 others like this.
  17. DuckSoup


    Dec 20, 2017
    I'm an Engineer for a living, it's my job to overthink. :D
  18. DuckSoup


    Dec 20, 2017
    Also, I'm going to read though a lot of these responses I'm just caught up at work at the moment, but so far I appreciate your guys's perspective on this.
  19. AFRO


    Aug 29, 2010
    I like the baseball reference:thumbsup:
    I'll equate it to math.

    Do you know your times tables through 10? (rhetorical question) why ? why do you know within a fraction of an instant without the slightest flash of a brain synapse? a quick test. 9x9 = ??? and 7x6 = ???

    did you instantly answer these questions? my guess is yes. Why? because it has been flash-card-drilled into your very being.

    what is 9x13 ??? 7x15 ??? much more tricky right ? because once we get through times table through 10 it sort of falls off, not that we don't need to learn them past that point, but because we have a good foundation of figuring out how to solve the equations past the 10x10 grid..

    now on topic.

    this is to illustrate the point that unless you have it ingrained into your playing you will always have some 'struggle' with 'new' concepts and/or techniques. same with the baseball fundamentals reference.

    the answer to the latter 'test' is 117 and 105 respectively and yes a I did use a calculator for those last two. :smug:

    I tend to learn my theory away from my bass then APPLY it to my bass through my playing. drills and techniques. In this way it does not get in the way when I just wanna jam or have fun.

    hope this makes sense and can work for you and how you apply it to your "unconscious learning" the drills are the flash cards.

    I found a vid by Adam Nitti that will be in my routine later this week when I get back from my work trip.

    Good Luck and Stay Low :bassist:

    Operator Error :bag:
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
    ObsessiveArcher likes this.
  20. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    It takes a lot of time and effort to become "naturally talented". At least that's my experience. When I was re-learning bass (I took a decade off due to wrist issues), there was a point (4 or 5 years in) when I suddenly realized that the notes were just "falling under my fingers" - I was essentially unaware of how I was playing the right notes - they just somehow....happened. When I'm learning a new tune (which I do pretty much every week, as I play church gigs where we do different music each weekend), there is some learning of the chord structure, memorization of the patterns, etc, but a couple nights in, I know the song, and I'm polishing and working on nuances and rhythms, not thinking about what notes to play.

    If you haven't experienced this, you most likely just haven't practiced enough for long enough. For me, it's just about putting in the hours. There are likely people for whom the number of hours is less than me, and some who would take longer, but I think anyone with some talent, and enough dedication over enough years can get there.
    ELG60, John6 and Medicine Man like this.

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