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What to learn when you can do a lot but don't know a lot.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassash, Apr 3, 2006.

  1. bassash


    Mar 23, 2006
    I'm frustrated. I'm a technical bassist, who's got a good ear. I can lay down a good groove, whether slapping or finger style, I have stamina and can play quickly blah blah but... my theory knowledge is poor. And it's sooo hard to motivate myself to learn much, since I'm having plenty of success without theory. But that doesn't mean I don't want to learn. I just need to know I'm doing the right thing.

    I've been able to play well in my band and write good basslines, but I get the feeling some of it is luck and just having excellent other musicians. And I find every bit of limited knowledge I accumulate I manage to incorporate it well into my style. But where do I begin to learn my theory properly?

    I know all the notes on the E and A string and through octaves I can easily work out the rest, but when it comes down to modes and scales (with the exception of the pentatonics and most of minor and major) I know very little else. I often just play around and work out a good bassline, but I'm thinking if I knew more I could be so much better a bassist.

    So boiling all this preamble to one question, where do I start? I can't fork out for lessons, since I'm a student. Do I learn arpeggios first, learn all the scales? I've got a couple beginner books and such, but they aren't very comprehensive and don't really help you help yourself.

    So basically, what do I learn now? And then from there where do I go? The sticky offers many sites but which one first?

    Cheers to anyone who read all that and has an answer. I'm sure many of you are experienced bassists and feel they plateaued at some point. You must have overcome it!

  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
  3. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Sometimes its hard for me to learn something unless I have a way to use it. Get yourself a project that will require you to learn some theory.

    If you have a way to multi-track record, compose a melody for your bass and then a accompaniment part, like chords or a second melody.

    Write out some music that you know. That will help with reading and ear training. Listen to some music that is different from what you usually play with your band, and try to play along with that. Try some 50's R+R (if that is different than your band), or some old show tunes (Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter etc etc), they have clear harmony and will be interesting from a theory standpoint.

    Move your musical ear to new places. Some practical applications will come to you.
  4. bassash


    Mar 23, 2006
    Thanks guys - well I'm not too sure about Theory of Harmony - it looks like a very useful book but I imagine myself not having the energy getting through what looks like a beast of a book! On the other hand, I play a bit of guitar as well, so I think BassChuck's advice is a good idea. I am the same way - I learn in a very active way. I'll lay down some chords (from the major scale for example) and find out what I can play with my bass - I think I need to start right at the beginning with triads of the major scale (if you guys think that's a good idea?) and then see where I should go from there. I've got a microphone on my PC and Kristal so I can definitely make some basic stuff.

    I don't have much 50's rock and roll but I think that's another good idea, it's a very different style of bass to what I play at the moment (funk/rock). It might cement any theory I learn. And since much of the music I don't play is major, it gives me an excuse to play in different scales.
  5. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Yeah 672 pages.

    But it's got all the right stuff in it.
  6. Transcribe
    Obviously you could pick out basslines by ear now the theory part is the actual writing of what you just played and how it related to each chord in the given tune.
    So use that for your motivation even if you write it out in it's basic format for starters ie
    [ E - - - - ] [ A - - - -] etc then if your'e having problems you use your practice time to learn what the problem is and solve it.
    So for example if you can't write out the rhythms get a rhythm book and study it more importantly learn how each rhythm LOOKS like & HOW it sounds like in all possible ways, or if your struggling techniqually do sum finger exercises or Slap Tech.if the song requires it etc or can't hear it go to www.good-ear.com and do sum eartraining but you get the drift.
    By honing into detail on each subject you are on your way to sum fine musicianship if still having problems I suggest a lesson or two with a good MUSIC teacher to show you ,then you can go from there.
    Wow you get all those lessons from learning one tune aint MUSIC wonderful
  7. bassash


    Mar 23, 2006
    Thanks! It's true - I should work out what the hell I'm playing half the time. I think this summer I'm going to get a couple lessons as you say, just to get me on the right track.
  8. fr0me0


    Dec 7, 2004
    Winnipeg Canada
    thats for posting the good ear link, thats going to be really helpful
  9. I like to think of music theory in terms of intervals and their relationships. This applies to scales, chords, chord changes, and riffs, about everything really. I would start by learning all the intervals and recognizing them on the fret board first, not only with you eyes but your ears too. After that take a look at basic chord construction and how that applies to intervals. For instance
    Major chord Minor chord

    Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5 VS. Root, minor 3rd, Perfect 5

    This is a pretty easy example but very important to playing music. Once you learn your intervals chord theory will be a breeze. Well maybe not a breeze but you will have a great handle on it. After that learn your Major and minor Scales in all of their positions and pick a part what intervals they are made of. Then step into the modes, they will make sense after you learn those intervals! And do the same for chord changes, riffs, your favorite songs, etc.

    I think one of the most important factors in learning theory is playing the piano. I work out stuff all of the time with a cheap keyboard in one hand and my bass in the other, it just makes sense how it is laid out visually. If you can get next to a piano player or take some lessons it would make a huge difference in your playing. I really do not work on technique with the piano, I just use it as a theory tool. Good Luck!!!!:bassist:
  10. DMX


    Mar 10, 2006
    Oxford, UK
    I'm in exactly the same position as you, bassash, it's almost like you wrote the post for me! Thanks everyone for all of the tips so far.

    My problem is that I've been struggling off and on with intervals, chord theory, scales and harmony for a while now using several different sources. I've noticed some of it has sunk in when I come to write new basslines but I still don't feel I have a proper grip on it all. Can anyone recommend a book or site that will hold my hand and gently take me through it all step by step, ideally with some structured exercises that I can follow? Or am I just kidding myself and all it needs is hard work?



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