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When I sit down with my bass alone...

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by capnsandwich, Apr 7, 2009.

  1. ....I find myself not really getting in a creative groove, especially when I do it in the morning. When I'm in a band setting though, I can groove and play like it's nothing. It just flows and I don't even have to think about it. It just comes out.

    Does anyone else have this problem? How do you overcome it? I really want to be able to sit down and be creative, just my bass and I, but I find myself going over the same rudiments and scales as I've been doing for months. It's only when I'm playing in a band situation that I find myself pushing the boundaries of my playing and feeling myself advancing as a bassist. When I'm jamming with someone I can play anything it seems, blues, jazz, rock, etc., but alone it's a different story, just rudiments and redundant scales and modes.
  2. southernrocker

    southernrocker Inactive

    Apr 4, 2009
    I don't think bass is awesome alone. (hold back the hate mail!) I share your problem. Sitting at home and jamming are completely different. Nothing is better than having a good drummer, too. When I play alone, I usually just play along with local classic rock stations, so I can jam alone.
  3. tpmiller08


    Mar 15, 2009
    Boston, MA
    Hey man,

    Got the same thing goin on. Once in a while, I'll strike something amazing working by myself. But the best tunes I've written go through a different process. Either A) I write a riff or bass line, play with with my drummer, and BAM! - the next part just comes from my heart and my fingers just play it. Sometimes it needs a little tweak, but it just works. or B) My drummer just starts playing something random, and I find a perfect bass line to fit.

    Theres alot to do with that I'm sure. But things like syncopation, to me, just don't sound right unless theres a solid drum beat behind it. Maybe you might wanna pick up a drum machine instead of a metronome if this applies to you.

    When I practice alone, I go through theory and technique for hours on end. When I play with my band, I go through application of it all for hours and hours on end =)

    Hope this helped!

  4. shamus63


    Dec 17, 2005
    San Mateo, CA
    When it's just me and my bass at home, I play the cover songs that I never get to play on stage, not worrying about creativity at that point.

    When I get out on stage (on a good night) and on-the-spot, that's when I get the creative juices flowing...doesn't matter if it's a cover or just a jam, I just let it rip.

    Pretty much the same situation you've mentioned; when/where creativity happens really isn't important, as long as it happens.
  5. TobyBrodel

    TobyBrodel Guest

    Mar 3, 2008
    I know exactly what you mean, this is big problem for me too.

    i bought a loopstation, i usually record something mundane and contrived, 'jam' with it until something better comes out, use that as a new loop and get overdubbing until i'm faced with a massive wall of sound, it's sort of like soundsculpture or something at times.

    due to the tap tempo thing it is pretty mechanical, nothing like jamming with other people, and you've only got your own ideas to bounce off, but you might surprise yourself at how perception can change with only a few seconds' listening time.

    it's great for your timing too, completely different way of playing
  6. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    You can improve your playing and ear a lot when you're alone. In fact, you can jam with the best rhythm sections and bands on earth. Transcribe and play with recordings.
  7. MikeBass

    MikeBass Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2003
    Royal, Oak, MI.
    I'm different I guess.
    I can paint songs in my head and play along as if the other guys were in the room with me.
    But then again, I "see" songs and arrangements as colors and shapes. I think this helps me visualize playing with a band when I'm playing alone.

    For years when I first started playing, I would sit alone and practice. I would practice scales and whatnot, but also just playing songs by myself.
  8. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    Somebody asked me about this exact same thing a week ago, and here's a cut and paste of the manifesto I wrote:

    Been there, many years ago. I'd sit down with a bass, play three notes, and say "I got nothin'", even though I was working in bands all the time. The real solution is really figure out how the generic reality of music works as a whole, not just on the bass. My enjoyment and excitement from playing bass at the time I write this comes from musical knowledge and experience that I've gathered over the years. The bass is just another tool to use to express it to the outside world.

    For the scenario you're describing, it's easy to see that you're happy with your creative process when in a full band situation. There's a great number of backing tracks, software suites, and electronic devices to play along at home by yourself, so you effectively have a virtual band to play with whenever you want.

    As far as feeding the creative mind, I always suggest learning new melodies, bass parts, chord patterns all the time. There's an old piece of Jazz wisdom that says "imitate, assimilate, and innovate". There's no shame in borrowing, stealing, or appropriating things you like in your own playing - the key is to observe how this music fits into the scales and patterns you already know. These musical facts stick with you, fuel the creative spirit, and give you a wellspring of ideas and approaches to draw from when creating your own music. It's nearly impossible to create in a vacuum with no influence or outside source of ideas.

    It's also prudent to bring these concerns up with the very best, most qualified teacher you can find - it doesn't have to be a bass teacher. You may only have to see a teacher like this a few times to get over this hurdle, but it's still a very good piece of advice. Musicians that can play, create, and perform at levels you have yet to attain are a very valuable resource that few are smart enough to take advantage of.

    Lastly, almost every bassist I've met who is concerned about a lack of creative spark on the bass isn't really involved in playing another instrument besides the bass. Sometimes ya gotta put it down and create and explore on another instrument that presents a different set of solutions and problems that the bass doesn't. This is an important step in learning about music as a whole, as opposed to just a bass part.
  9. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Well said 20db Pad.

    I would add, or amplify.... Bass is a musical instrument and as such is capable of so much more music than just bass lines. Explore different styles. Play all the melodies from a musical. Jam along with classical records, or the radio. Listen to opera, lots of good melodies there.

    Play every kind of melody that you can discover. All music is melody... even drum parts. Look for melodies in everything you hear. Difference in styles come more from rhythm than note selection. Turn on the TV and listen to whatever music is playing... find the first 3 notes of the melody and turn OFF the TV and finish the melody in your own way.

    Make some new music today... every day.
  10. Man, if this isn't the truth...

    Since I've gotten my electric guitar a couple of years ago and started learning and improvising lead lines on songs that may or may not even have lead lines (or even guitar :) ) I've managed to turn my bass playing into a much more melodic thing.

    Nevertheless, when I'm playing with others, I get a different creative spark...I hear rhythms differently and play differently, I hear different parts differently...

    I find, that I can play the exact same song pretty much the same a dozen times in a row with one group of musicians...I'll then go and play that same song with a different group and the way I play it changes immediately.

    Everything mentioned above all falls into the category of "listening"...
  11. This is all good advice. I was a guitarist for 20 years and even with guitar I found myself digging myself in musical holes that took me a while to get out of. Ever since I switched to bass, though, I've found that sometimes those holes get pretty deep to where it takes a good jam session to get those creative juices flowing. Thanks everyone for your replies. I'm listening.

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