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What to do next? Help, please...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Hedgehog_SBM, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. Hedgehog_SBM


    Nov 28, 2011
    Hi All,

    I've been playing for about 2 years now, loving it, and am looking for advice on what to learn next. Here's a little history, what I think I do well, and what I think I don't do well:

    *) History:
    - right hand (plucking hand) technique is so comfortable that it happens without even thinking
    - left hand (fretting hand) - basically solid, except for trickly lines that require a lot of ring finger and pinky dexterity
    - I've learned about 60+ songs - so many that I can't remember how to play them all by memory alone.
    - Started playing classic rock and simpler R&B songs. Move on to a next level of "challenge" - which was funk/disco groves at decent tempos. Picked up a little slap/pop with those.
    - Started with StudyBass, and expanded to many instructional books, TrueFire videos, etc.

    *) What I think I do well:
    - timing - always practiced along with songs or metronome. Practiced songs until my notes "covered" the originals - kept repeating until all notes were "perfect"
    - patterns - can play the basic one octave scales - major, minor, pentatonics, etc. and started two octave scales, but haven't felt I have really "used" them much yet.
    - ear/transcription - I download TABS that I find very helpful, but always find mistakes and correct them - many times in subtle lines (ghost notes, 16th note pick-ups, stuff like that). A good example here was finding that basically every TAB posted for the main phrase in the song "Le Freak" by Chic is wrong. :)
    - theory - I have a very good understanding of critical basics like the circle of 4ths and 5ths, etc.

    *) What I think I don't do well:
    - scales: Everyone states that practicing scales are essential for the bass. I really don't think I understand this. I can "see" and "hear" the chord tones, and other scale tones in songs. I can play the songs by memory. But I *never* think if playing a bass line by starting with the scale, and playing notes from it. I think that's really bad, and I'm really ignorant because of that.
    - very solid technique: Some things I can play very solidly, but some "basics" I think I still mess up sometimes - like crossing strings smoothly, getting solid tone on every note played all the time, etc.
    - playing from fake sheets - here's what I think I should be able to do - pick up a fake sheet, read the chords, and straight away start playing a unique bass line. I can't do this. Sure, I could see the chord play the root, play the chord tones, but I can't just pick a rhythm, and easily switch to the next chord and do the same. Am I a dunce bcause I can't do that?
    - reading/playing: while I can figure out the notes pretty quickly, I don't know them "immediately". Similarly, I can read standard notation, and pretty quickly - but I'm nowhere near picking up standard notation and just play it right off.

    My interests at the moment (what I want to do):
    1) pick up a fake sheet for a song, and have enough ability and confidence to just start playing credible bass lines with other musicians at practice sessions with friends, or even "open mike" type gigs with people I might not know.
    2) understand how to use scales. I know them, I understand the concepts. But I just don't see how to apply them practically.
    3) improvise bass lines (that's kinda connected to the above two)
    4) play different styles - *that* I think I'm doing well - I listen a LOT (I'm listening right now), and I can feel the groove in my pants. I'm taking the time to learn slap at the moment, and tying it to playing funk/disco. That will take a bit longer, but at least I think I know how to proceed with instructional videos and books.

    BUT for the other three above, I really don't think I have a clue what to do!

    **==> Can you help me with advice? What should I be doing at this point in my learning to solidly and profoundly learn the instrument?

    Oh - and one more thing - what's your advice on taking the steps needed to play certain lines that I'm *dying* to play well - but are just a bit out of reach. One example, Jamiroquai's "Time Won't Wait" - killer bass line, that is just a bit out of reach at the moment.
    ( )

    Sorry for the long post! If you have read this far, THANKS!
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    My advice would be to take a few lessons from a good teacher. He/she can watch you playing, assess, and advise accordingly.

    I am not saying that your analyses of your playing is incorrect, but sometimes we need to have it looked at independently and from a different perspective.
  3. Hedgehog_SBM


    Nov 28, 2011
    Thanks fearceol. Heck, my analysis of my playin is probably incorrect! This is good advice. I expect I'll pick up a lesson, or more, to get good direction.

    Anyone else have more advice before I seek out face-to-face instruction? I'm sure your advice will help others reading this thread who are in a similar place in their learning process.
  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    When I read your post I said to self; been there, felt that. I already know my next step is to get some knee to knee instruction with a bass teacher. My problem is finding one that plays and teaches Praise music.

    Already playing from fake chord. Bringing fake chord over from 6 string rhythm guitar is a piece of cake. Only difference we play the chord one note at a time instead of strumming. Which notes takes some study, but root on one and then the 5 and if you still have room the 8 comes next. Still have room the correct 3 and 7 round out what you need in your bass line. Ed Friedland's book "Building walking bass lines" is a good place to start.

    Course it helps to know what scale tones are in each chord. http://www.smithfowler.org/music/Chord_Formulas.htm

    Scales and when to use them. I know of no instrument that does not start you out running your scales. Why?

    1) Everything starts with the major scale. Chords are built from scale notes.
    2) Running our scales let our fingers know where the notes are on our fretboard.
    3) Plus trains our ears so we know the sound of the good and bad notes.
    4) Scales are used for melody. But, when we think of harmony we start dealing with chords and.......
    5) Chord tones are used in our bass line.
    6) Improvising a bass line from the chord progression is a study in itself.

    Get with a teacher. At this point if you are still teaching yourself, your instructor does not know what he is doing.
  5. Hedgehog_SBM


    Nov 28, 2011
    Hi Malcolm - you are always helpful. Thanks.

    What you have written above helps me communicate a very important point that can help others help me with advice. Here it is:

    * When I am playing songs from TABS, I can often see the scales being used - pentatonics, or minor scales, etc. So - going in "that direction" - meaning learning the song and understanding the scales is something I comprehend.

    * So, the problem is going in the "other direction" - given the chords, how to produce the bass line? That requires the element of knowing / thinking up the rhythm. That's ok, since I'm assuming I know the song, or at least the style of the song. But what about the notes to use? Obviously, the basics are (i) play roots, then (ii) add 5ths, then (iii).... I'm talking about filling in the *many* ways to satisfy (iii).

    Is there a good book (or books) that basically teach you step (iii) ? I understand that one example of this would be "Building Walking Bass Lines" by Ed Friedland. But in reviews I've read for that book, some people say it's a very simple book. Probably a good place for me to start, but perhaps I'm looking for the bigger picture. But are there other books that do this? Maybe there are several books, separated into different rhythmic styles?

    Any constructive advice from all of you out there is appreciated - thanks in advance.
  6. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    When we speak of the notes to use I think we are talking more about harmony than rhythm. The notes we play deal with harmonizing the melody line. How we play them deals with rhythm, i.e. reggae or Texas swing.

    Ed Friedland has another book you may want to take a look at. It's called Bass Grooves and deals with the beat of a song. The groove used. Yes the groove normally has a lick, however, how you groove it differs. For example the Tramp groove has several different examples - same basic notes, but, different order. The way you play those same notes is outlined. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=bass+grooves

    I think this book may hit what you want more so than Building Walking Bass Lines. I'm sure others have this book and could give their opinion. BTW Building Walking Bass Lines IMO has value and was the first place I saw scale degree numbers, i.e. R-3-5-b7. The light came on when I saw those numbers.