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What are essentials to a new bassist?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by domino24, Feb 20, 2002.

  1. domino24


    Feb 19, 2002
    Kennewick Wa
    eell, first off, if there is another thread that has this answered, i would appreciate someone directing me to it. seriously, i just wanna learn more. i picked up bass about a year ago cause me and a bro wanted to play worship for our youth. im only nineteen. he decided he wanted to play guitar, and another friend decided he wanted to play drums, so that sorta left me with bass...but i wouldnt do either of the other two for nothing! im really getting into more styles of music, mostly i like....well...worship....and rock, both heavy and soft, ska, alternative (whatever that means) and more of the like. i guess my question is from experienced points of view, where do i need to go from here and what should i avoid so i dont waste my time and energy. basically right now all i play are one note wonders with the chords on the guitar to the beat of the drum. i fill in some with 3rds and 5ths sometimes when they sound good, but other than that i just add some bass reinforcement. i would appreciate anything anyone has to say. thanks.:D
  2. domino24


    Feb 19, 2002
    Kennewick Wa
    yeah, mostly i play the root of the chord the guitar is playing. im not sure about what v lines are and i dont know exactly what latin sounds like. ive seriously thought about a teacher. mostly money and time prohibit me from that. but its true that if i want to learn more than what i can come up with out of my head ive got to get something out of someone elses....(one of my best friends sayings). anyway, thanks and anythings else, maybe some expansion on some of your ideas, would be great.
  3. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Hello domino24,

    I think what PortraitOfTracy meant by root-V was referring to the chords in the scale (root=the I chord by the way): I-V

    Say you have a C major scale (you have learned your scales, if not, well, there's something to learn.):

    C D E F G A B C

    If you wanted to harmonze the scale (here is where chords come in) you would use every other note of the scale (and you would get your root chords etc.):

    I chord=C major
    ii chord=D minor
    iii chord=Em
    IV chord= F major
    V chord=G major
    vi chord=A minor
    vii chord=B diminshed

    So if you wanted to write/play a Root-V bassline here you would use C Major and G Major.

    Hope I explained this correctly (and clearly! :eek: )

    Edit: I must've been posting this the same time as Portrait's and didn't even realize it. LOL. Just go along with his explanation. :D

  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Welcome Domino,

    It always amazes me how many people just fall into playing bass! I think it goes to show how little notariety the instrument gets. It's funny how people always fall into it, but quickly become so passionate about it. Welcome to the bass Domino, and I hope you get out of it everything you want.

    It seems to me like you're coming into bass with the right attitude. Excellent. It's important to know what to avoid and how to start off right. You're creating habits right now that will be so hard to break in the future if they're bad habits.

    The "essentials" would probably be:

    1. Get a Teacher. I know, I know. Money and time. That seems to be the most common argument people give for not getting a teacher. Obviously, I don't know your situation, so it may be impractical. But my advice to you is to make every single effort to get private, one-on-one, lessons as often as you can. First let me talk about the reasons. A teacher can open up whole new worlds for you. This is so critical when starting out. A bass is not like a guitar to learn, in that left and right hand techniques are so critical. Sure, it's important in guitar, but because of the physical demands of the thicker strings and the larger frets, you risk injury much easier having poor technique. Injure yourself, and you're not going to be playing for a long time. Also, a teacher is interactive. They can directly respond to what you just played, or to any direct question you have.

      Finding a teacher is difficult, but not impossible. Don't let the difficulty deter you from trying. Call as many teachers as you can in your area, (check music store listings, the internet, newspapers, friends, etc.). Have a list of questions prepared to ask each one. (How much do you charge, Where are you located, What are your hours, What is your approach to teaching, How long have you been teaching, What will you teach me, etc). Have a conversation with each one. Some teachers may offer a discounted first lesson. I encourage you to get one lesson with at least 2 teachers, but maybe more. Feel them out. See which one works best for you. (Conversely, respect their time. Be on time, be prepared, give 24-48 hours notice if you have to cancel, etc.).

      Now, you mentioned time as an issue. This is the point to where you need to decide how important this is to you. Is there something you can cut out of your life for just one hour a week. Maybe you can do lessons every other week. (If you do this, stay focused. Often, not having the thought that your lesson is around the corner may make some people procrastinate on practicing). Often, teachers will work with you on scheduling. Remember, the time you get on lessons now will save you time wasted in the future on mistakes or lack of direction.

      You also mentioned money. This is also a point where you need to decide how important this is. Can you cut something out of your life. Do you buy 10 CDs a month? Could you cut that down to 5? Do you eat out 5 times a week? Can you cut that down to once? It's all about prioritizing. Also, explore teachers of other instruments, especially piano. Please don't think that a piano teacher cannot help you out. I mention this only because many piano teachers in my area are considerably cheaper than bass teachers. Explore your options. Do your budgeting. Make it happen. Even two one hour appointments a month is better than nothing.
    2. Get a teacher.
    3. Buy a metronome. I don't know if there's anything more important to a bass player than a time. You simply must have good time. A teacher will help you explore drills you can do with the metronome to become proficient with time. You need to internalize that feeling of time. Get it in your head, your hands, your feet. You need to spend a lot of time with the metronome.
    4. Buy a tuner. You gotta be in tune.
    5. Listen with HUGE ears. Listen to everything out there you can. Listen to the great bass players, in whatever genre, not just the one you're interested in, but all genres, it will open your mind. (Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Jaco Pastorious, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, Nathan East, Jerry Jemmott, Geddy Lee, Michael Manring, Jeff Berlin, Adam Nitti, and so many others.) Listen to how the bass interacts with the drums. Feel the rhythm section.
    6. Learn the proper and correct spelling of the word "Rhythm." Note that it is not spelled, "rythm," "rhithm," "ryhthm," nor "rithym." This is important.
    7. Get a teacher.
    8. Learn some theory. Click Me. Start here. Ask questions. Lots of questions.
    9. Go to shows.See live performances as often as you can.
    10. Avoid Tabs. Learning songs from Tabs may stifle your ear and ability to interpret pieces based upon a knowledge of harmony or melody. They undermine respect for effort.
    11. Learn to sight read. You might be thinking right now about how you want to rock! You don't need sight reading. Maybe not, but any great bass player has always had a diverse number of influences help create what they hear in their head. One way to open yourself up to a plethora of melodies and harmonies, is sight reading. Learning how to sight read enables you to communicate clearly with all other musicians, to share your ideas and to hear theirs. You open yourself up to every musical idea ever conceived.
    12. Find others to play with. It doesn't matter your skill level. Surround yourself with others as often as possible. I encourage you to find others at a level slight above yours. This helps push you and encourages you to excel. There's nothing like working with the dynamics of others.
    13. Record yourself. I record all my practices, my lessons, my rehearsals, and my gigs. I listen to them constantly. The tape doesn't lie. It will pick up things you didn't know about.
    14. Maintain your sense of humor. Be passionate about what you do, but be able to laugh at yourself.
    15. Do not be afraid to play the "wrong note." There really is no wrong note, it's just played at the wrong time. Don't be afraid to experiment. This is a constant journey, there is no finish line.
    16. Have fun. Focus. Maintain discipline. Be dedicated. This is how you grow. As you grow, your mind will expand, your path will broaden, and you will be able to express yourself on your instrument. Have fun with it, this will make the journey more productive.
    17. Get a teacher.

    Like anything worth doing, time and energy is needed. You will get out of bass exactly what you put into it. While my list is long and extensive, and may seem daunting, it is not meant to be undertaken in one day, one week, one month, nor one year. These are things to keep in mind as you continue on your journey.

    Hope this helps.
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Day-um, TOESGROW, you never cease to amaze me! With the amount of insight, thought and experience you put into posts like these. You suck. I wanted to write this stuff first! :D
  6. the_majik_bum


    Jan 27, 2002
    Jazzbo, thank you soooooooooooo much for the advice you gave!!, its helps me out soooo much, i love you, lol, jk ;) , but thanks a lot for the advice, it really helps

  7. bcarll


    Oct 16, 2001

    Thanks for all the great advice you just gave this young gent. Wouldn't hurt us all to read this and apply it regardless of our skill level.

  8. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Most Excellent:cool:...................I especially liked the rhythm instructions;)
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Thank you guys. Anytime I can help.
  10. A lot of good advice here already.
    What I tell people who ask me to teach them .. I resist that, is this :

    Can you hum a bassline that you've heard from a song ? If you cannot hum it, you cannot play it. This is the basis for all ear-training and improvisation, so start humming basslines of the songs you've heard all your life. From the easiest commercial jingle to the most complex stuff. As you get these into your psyche, as you learn the techniques of playing, the familiar basslines and riffs will start to play themselves. Just give it time and have fun.

    Good luck.
  11. bcarll


    Oct 16, 2001
    Back in the sixties when I was a teenager ( OK, I know I'm over fifty) My barber used to play bass in a local band and I can remember sitting in the chair listening to him hum basslines from the songs on the radio. Some times it sounded good sometimes it was off but none the less he sang with a joyful heart. Now that you have brought this subject up of being able to sing the bass lines to songs before you can play them I bet this is what he was doing -- maybe without knowing. BTW-- he was a good musician and played with the band at many of our high school functions.

    So how do you learn to listen and be able to pick these lines out? Is there a technique that works or is it either you have the ability to do it or you don't? Many singers can sing harmony to almost any song they hear but does that mean if you can't do that you can't "learn" to sing the parts of a song. Seems like you either have that gift or you don't and if you don't you're going to be a stuggling bass player. So---- I want to learn this ability so please share with us how we can learn to hear and play bass lines.

  12. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    That part in bold BCARLL, is absolutely false. You do not either have it or don't have it. I used to believe that. I simply believed that I wasn't a musician. Musicians were naturally born with that talent, I thought. I didn't have good ears. I didn't have a voice. I didn't hear things. For the first two years I played bass, I could barely pick out a bassline of a song.

    There's nothing overnight you can do to develop this. You simply have to listen listen listen listen listen. This road requires patience. You play bass, so you obviously know how the bass sounds, and even better, you know what the bass usually does. Most of the time, the bass does not fall out of the order of things that your brain is already used to. (The exceptions to this rule might by Jaco, Wooten, etc.) You can try playing with the EQ on your stereos. Boost the bass, reduce the treble. Of course, this is going to boost everything in the range of the bass, which will include the drum's bass drum, and possibly some piano, if that's what you're listening to. I think the drum thing can be good, because if you really can't hear a bass note because of the bass drum, maybe they're in sync with each other, and hearing the interaction between bass and drums is critical.

    Do you know the basslines to any songs? Start there. If you do, play the original recording and sing the bass line you would usually play. You don't even have to pick out the bass line now because you already know it. But, what you'll be doing is training your ears to hear that bass within the song. Then I would move to something where the bass is more "out in the front" of the song." Maybe some Police, some disco music, some older, simpler Motown, (Ain't Too Proud To Beg, Going to a Go-Go, My Guy). Blues are good for this too because there's a lot of diatonic motion, you're ears are so programmed to that major/minor scale. Blues patterns also have pretty standard changes. Developing your ear to hear the change from the I chord to the IV chord, or I chord to V chord, or a chromatic walkdown is an excellent skill, and there's so much of that in blues.

    So, you want to start simple, with something you know. Then move on to a basic, formulaic style of music, like BLUES. Then, some rock songs that you've grown up with, or loved all your life. There will, I promise you, come a point to where you will have to teach yourself how to hear everything besides the bass. I promise.
  13. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    A pair of headphones helps me hear the bass, and strange as it might be, being in an adjacent room from your stereo sometimes helps to seperate the bass line. Though the later isn't very practical cause you have to return to the stereo to replay the line you want hear again, but sometimes it helps me when I am having trouble picking out a passage.
  14. bcarll


    Oct 16, 2001
    Thanks Jazzbo,
    Once again you come to the rescue of the lost souls of us bass players. I had heard this theory before about being able to hear the line before you could ever play it and really was doubting my "talent" because this has always been a challenge but certainly an opportunity to learn. Good to hear from you that you also experienced the same feelings. I think I now know what you are trying to convey to us by being able to hear it before we try to play it. It also has finally sunk in that this journey of learning music will never end and we cannot say that we are ever completely without something new to learn. We must keep learning new and practicing what we have learned. Seems like I used the word learn a lot in this posting but I guess that 's what it's all about. Once again thanks for your contributions to our forum!

  15. Thanks Jazzbo + Friends

    This has been of a lot of help to me. Been playing bass for 8 months now, know some scales, have useless ears, can't play with 4 fingers on fret hand like i should (but damn it i'm trying)

    Any other good ear-training stuff anyone knows of? Because I want to steer clear of tabs and "machine-learning" (if you see what I mean)

    Truly inspirational guys

    By the way I absolutely agree with the sentiments on "having it or not having it". I believe everyone can do anything if they try hard enough (I suppose I wouldn't have picked up a bass last year if i didn't think that, though....)
  16. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
  17. Bead


    Mar 12, 2002
    Notts UK
    Can't agree more! Get yourself in an adjacent room, or better still go downstairs. That bass line really stands out.
  18. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Well actually I have to go upstairs. My stereo is downstairs and that is actually how I discovered this phenominon. It makes sense because lower frequencies move in all directions while mids and highs move out from the source directionally, so lows will predominate away from the front of your system. Ever heard a car with a sub coming down the road way before you see the car.:D

    Glad to see you have the right attitude. I posted this at another thread, but to encourage you, I downloaded some tabs the other day after starting to learn a couple of songs. The tabs were inacurate as usual and were actually slowing me down and getting in the way. I tossed them in no time! Made me feel good. NO GREAT that I had evolved to that point. Make yourself do the one finger per fret,(slow down if you have to), and make sure you alternate your plucking fingers. Sometimes it is hard not to rake. And I agree 110% about being determined. Of course talent plays a role in learning any skill. Those of us with less "talent" just have to work harder to achieve the same result.
    Gods Speed to Ya,
  19. In my experience, people don't know bass until it is missing. So try this. Turn the bass DOWN. Completely OFF. Now, hear what is missing ? See how EMPTY and devoid of life the song is. The missing part is what you need to play, the bassline. So alternate listening with and without bass. This will help to pick out the bass part.

    Also, be wary of most complex basslines ... there are sometimes multiple bass lines in a song. So start with the simple stuff, then work your way up.

    Relax with this, and experiment to find the right technique for you. Once you train your brain to follow a particular instrument in a song, you will be able to follow ANY instrument in a song.


  20. Jazzbo you have indeed lifted my ever sagging spirits. I was beginning to think that I would never be able to pull bass lines out of songs. But you have given me the hope that I was looking for. Sometimes pulling out a bass line reminds me of those optical illusion posters. the ones where you have to stare at it. Sometimes it takes forever, but one time you look and BAM, you see it. Thanks for the much needed inspiration!