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Where to start? (Other than taking lessons)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Progressive, Jan 31, 2006.

  1. At the moment, I have no desire to take lessons. I'd prefer to learn it alone for a while. Anyway! I'm at a loss, here; can anyone tell me where to start playing bass? I just got my new bass and amplifier yesterday, but all I've been doing is playing around with them, attempting to develop calluses.

    Another problem (which I'm sure is endemic in beginners, I hope) which annoys me is that my pinkie doesn't seem to be able to reach even 2 frets over from where my index finger can lay; it becomes very awkward and my pinkie seems to want to move into place with the other fingers. Let's just hope it passes.
  2. Find some nice CD and play along with it! try to hit notes and rythm patterns.
  3. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    There is an inexhaustable amount of information available to you with just a few clicks of your mouse, a lot of it on this site. Google 'bass instruction', as an example, and go from there.

    I'm sure someone will chime in here with more specific instructions, but you might start with the basics, tuning your instrument, etc...

    Good luck, have fun!
  4. If you don't want to take lessons:

    Try books or instructional videos.

    Listen to music you like, and try to pick out the bass lines. Start with simple and slow things. If you can't sing the bass line, or at least "sing" it in your brain, then it is probably too much for now. Better to start small.

    Work on being able to tap your foot to the beat of the music, and do it while you play as well.

    Your pinkie will grow stronger and more useful over time. It is pretty much an unused finger until you start playing, so you can't expect much from it at first. Don't worry about it - it will come with time.

    You should consider at least a short introductory book, so you will know the very basics (note names, where they are on the fretboard) and so you will have a better idea of what is condsidered "correct" technique (although plenty of people violate the rules and get along just fine.)

    Oh, and buy a tuner if you don't have one. At first you might not even know when you are not tuned, but you want to teach your ears and brain to hear the right notes and intervals between notes.
  5. i've no idea where you should start theory-wise, but a good way to get your hands used to playing is just do the chromatic scale, which is just 1 2 3 4 on each string. that means put your first finger on the first fret, 2nd on the 2nd, etc, and just play them in order, 1, 2, 3, 4. then move to the next string, 1 2 3 4....and just keep doing this in different places on the neck and in different patterns until you start feeling more comfortable.

    also make sure that whatever you play you alternate your right hand's fingers. that is to say that you almost never want to use your index finger to pluck a string twice in a row unless you're dropping down strings and it happens to be easier...but then even some good players will say doing that is bad.

    your best bet is to find some ultimate beginner dvd or something that will teach you correct technique and posture or you will screw yourself over later by digging yourself into a hole of bad technique.
  6. Thanks for the advice. :D
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Some fundamentals you should grasp right away are tuning your bass and starting to learn your fretboard. You don't have to learn the WHOLE fretboard right away. The first twelve frets are a goal, the first seven are a quicker goal, the first five even quicker. By frets, I mean on every string, not just the E-string.

    You need to work on fretting with your left hand and pucking with your right. I don't know if you have decided to use a pick or use fingerstyle picking. if you have decided on a pick, it will take some experimentation to discover what type of pick works best for you.

    I would not bother with tapping and slapping right away. You have pelnty of challenges in the beginning just learning where the notes are and how to keep your bass properly tuned, and co-ordinating your fretting and picking. The first thing you'll do everytime you pick up your bass is tune up.

    If you don't read music, one good way to learn the fretboard is to learn to read music at the same time. It is actually easier than you may imagine.

    What I would do is go to a book store such as Borders or Barnes and Noble and check out a few beginner bass instruction book/CD sets. Choose one that you think you can understand as some "beginner" books are really more suited to intermediate players or they don't really explain things well enough.

    Such a book/CD set will present bass fundamentals in a coherent, structured way that will help you move ahead from simpler to more complex in a carefully planned way. Resist the temptation to jump ahead. If you neglect basic fundamentals of technique and theory, your playing will take longer to reach the level you may desire.

    Don't forget...any questions you have, come here and ask. We're always gald to be of service.
  8. chasfr


    Jan 4, 2005
    As a fellow self-teaching beginner, I've found my computer to be another useful learning tool. I'm on a Mac laptop, and I use it for a tuner, a metronome, and a drum machine, as well as for playing the CDs that came with my instruction books, the unfortunately titled "Bass Guitar for Dummies" and "Building Walking Bass Lines" by Ed Friedland (who lurks around this forum and posts occasionally). I expect there's similar software available for Windows machines.

    Good luck!
  9. Geeibish


    Jan 30, 2006
    Clemson, SC
    Apart from reiterating all the above messages, I would say that once you learn you're fingerboard and the names off all the notes of each fret, start learning your scales in position (meaning don't play any open strings). I remember that when I started to play electric bass knowing my scales really set me apart from a lot of other beginners. The cool thing about electric bass is that once you learn onescale in position, you have learned all of them. I would say start with major and minor scales, and move on from there.

    Good luck,
  10. Well, I purchased a guitar/bass tuner today... and I re-adjusted my keys to sound exactly in the middle of the range. I feel like I've made progress already. =P Actually, recently, I've been able to pick out and concentrate on the bass of any song quite fast and easily. It all comes to me quickly now that I've listened to huge amounts of jazz shtuff.
  11. Unfortunately, though, it feels as though I have to precisely and harshly apply constant pressure to any of the frets to prevent buzzing of an annoying degree. That's what I get for buying a Rogue :p
  12. Without seeing you play, I cant say, but in case you didn't know this...

    You do not want to press the string directly on top of the fret, but rather just to the left of it (assuming you are playing a right handed bass.) Ideally your finger is as close as possible to the fret without actually pressing on top of it.

    Pressing on the fret itself will result in a lot of buzzing or other undesirable sounds. If you are fretting correctly and still getting buzzing, either you are not fretting hard enough (likely if you are a beginner), or else your bass may need some neck and/or string height adjustments.

    Probably the buzzing will diminish over time as your hand grows stronger at performing the right motion. At first it all seems awkward and ungainly though.
  13. I knew about the just to the left part, and when I press directly on the fret, it completely nulls any sound at all.
    I'll just keep practicing every day. :D
  14. xonebass


    Feb 17, 2005
    Orange, CA
    I would start with a couple of basic tunes that are really easy to recognize and play. Pick up the tabs on the net and make sure you've got a recording of the tune you want to learn. Start with easy tunes - I started with Tom Petty and Nirvana (mostly cause they were easy and I was into that music at the time). Pick tunes that are easy and you want to learn.

    Also don't forget about your right hand (assuming you are right handed). Practice with your index and middle finger on the open E string and just try doing 1-2, 1-2 back in forth with those two fingers until you feel that you are getting consistent tone and loudness with both fingers.
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    That's precisely why "learning alone" can be a frustrating and mistake filled experience. Why are you so adamant about avoiding learning from someone who has both a deeper and broader experience than you? Why would you be willing to take the advice of a book/video/website (which was put together by someone who teaches) that can only try to communicate a concept to you in ONE WAY, rather than an actual breathing person who can change the approach and presentation of the material to your specific needs, who can KEEP changing the approach until you discover the one that best communicates to you? Why are you so willing to rely on the advice of someone on the other end of the computer screen for advice about physical approach instead of someone who is right there in the room with you, who doesn't have to try to figure out what you are describing and you don't have to figure out what they're describing, they can just go "here, like this"?

    A good teacher is going to give you a solid foundation in the fundamentals of music, a methodology for getting deeper into your own musical concept and good, solid physical approach to the instrument that will insure that you have a relaxed tension free interface.

    Up to you, but if you are serious about a long term musical life, I highly recommend finding a good teacher.
  16. Interesting the amount of people who seem obsessed with getting new players to get lessons =P. I am pondering it; unfortunately, guitar lessons are common and it's hard to find a bass teacher here. I wonder why...

    I'll check.
  17. Bass Guido

    Bass Guido

    Dec 7, 2005
    Man can I relate to your dilemma!

    I played a little as a teenager, very little. That was almost 40 years ago. After that amount of time I had forgotten what I had forgotten. About 2 years ago I decided to begin playing again. After going to my local music store and purchasing the wrong equipment, I promptly went to my local yellow pages with the idea of finding a good bass teacher. I live in the Tampa Florida area, so you would think finding a qualified instructor would be a snap. Well think again. Over the next 6 weeks I took 6 lessons with 6 different guitar teachers, all claiming to be bass instructors. What a let down.

    Finally, not ready to give up I started buying instructional videos and books. I probably purchased 30 of them! They were all pretty helpful in their own way, but none really gave me the help I was looking for. One day while doing a little surfing I stumbled across somebody’s advertisement for a product called e-media bass method. Needless to say, I ordered it.

    Wow. In one weekend I was able to learn more, much more than I had learned in 6 weeks. It includes everything from setting up and tuning to playing basic jazz. If I remember correctly, it consists of 135 lessons. Most lessons include a video along with mpeg samples and diagrams. Its pretty neat and well worth the purchase price of around $60.00.

    Now, I wish that I could end this story by telling you that I am now a seasoned bass player and I owe it all to e-media. I can't. After about 6 months of working with the program and practicing about an hour a day, I was able to convince a local and pretty famous professional bass player that I was worthy of his time. We meet weekly (when he is in town) for 4 hours every Monday night for my lesson. I still practice an hour each day.

    Today, almost 2 years from buying my bass I'm a pretty fair bassist. I’m told, probably a 5 or 6 year level player. It's been a lot of work and a ton of fun.

    Keep pushing forward. Don't give up. Take a look at www.emedia.net. And PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

  18. Thanks Bass Guido! Everyone's so helpful on this form. =P
  19. chasfr


    Jan 4, 2005
    With no disrespect toward Ed or any of the fine teachers of bass guitar, there are reasons for working alone. Here are mine: I'm a middle-aged guy and I don't intend to be anything more than a "bedroom" player. I picked up the instrument for stress relief and my own enjoyment. I'm having fun with it. Reporting to a teacher on a regular basis works against my ambitions (or, perhaps more accurately, my lack of ambition).

    I've spent many years studying other performing arts (acting, dance) and had to give up on Aikido just a couple of years ago because my knees are getting too old. So I understand how to learn things in this realm.

    It ain't a competition. I don't mind plodding along in the slow lane, playing along with my CDs. And when I need advice, all the wonderful contributors to TalkBass are happy to give it.

    Good luck! (and have fun!)