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Getting better at improv on bass - no lessons

  • #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 753 Jonny Blaze


    Anyone have any good material / methods of trying to improve your improvisation and soloing skills on a bass?

    Been playing a few years now but have hit 'the wall' where it feels like the only way I could improve is by taking lessons which I can't afford at the moment.

    I can pretty much pick up a song as soon as I see the tab for it, but trying to solo or improvise fills is something I struggle with.

    Any suggestions?


Comments



  • This is a pretty big topic, so it kind of depends on what works for you and what level you're at now.

    What I find a great help is having a looper pedal to play chords or basslines on and then solo over them. Otherwise if you can record a backing track some other way or get backing tracks online. I believe there are some on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibfMTC9NtDM). If you can find the Jamey Aebersold collection, he has done literally hundreds of backing tracks of jazz standards.

    If you do this enough will you be able to play by ear, like some musicians have done. And developing your listening is going to be essential as you progress anyway. The majority of musicians don't learn to play this way and work extensively with music theory. So the rest depends on where you're at with theory.

    One approach requires that you know your scales quite well. Take E major for example. Preferably with a backing chord/track. Play the E major scale in various ways over this chord/track and find what you like.

    Another is to take riffs, melodies and bits of music you like already and fit them over common chord patterns. So if there's a nice melody line on a tune you like, eg. in Am, you can play that line over any minor chord. You try and work the things you know to fit into different playing contexts.

    Also, bear in mind that improvising is a totally different skill to learning and playing tunes. Improvising actually activates your brain differently to just playing tunes. A big hurdle that people find it difficult to overcome is just making tha move to playing without any rules. So I would also suggest you take some time and dedicate it to just playing whatever you want/can. And it helps to try and be judgement free about it. Just play whatever and develop a feel for improvising.

    I'm not sure where you're at so if these seem like ideas you can run with feel free to ask me about them.

    Here's an example of myself doing a lot of those things I mentioned (shameless plug): https://soundcloud.com/23ad/groove-trap




  • Thanks for the post! I would say I have a pretty good ear but am lacking in theory knowledge.

    I mean I know several scales well and regularly practice them, I know about roots, fifths, sevenths and common patterns (triads and such).

    I know about the role of the instrument in a band i.e typically supporting the melody by outlining the chords used on the rhythm / lead in the bassline and providing the 'driving force' to the tune.

    This has however all been self taught so there must be huge gaps in my knowledge that im probably not even aware of due to simply never having come across it in my studies.

    I certainly feel my lack of musical vocabulary when I'm confronted with a song that I don't have the tabs for.

    Like the guitarist will play the chords in a certain key and I will be asked to come up with a line for that chord progression. I'm usually pretty good at coming up with nice enough or adequate line but it will tend to be a bit monotonous due to the fact that I can't effectively combine notes in a pleasing way in the context of the song.

    Its frustrating and has sapped a bit of my enthusiasm if im honest. Like the guitarist started playing about a year prior to me but has always taken lessons, and so has improved orders of magnitude more than I have been able to do while self teaching from the web.

    I mean I don't obviously blame him for it, if anything I appreciate how much better we all sound by having him play as well as he does!

    Like i said, a little frustrating is all.




  • Ok. I hear where you're coming from. I'll respond properly when I get home.

    In the meantime if you could post some specific things you're working on, like chord progressions or bass lines (tab, text or recordings) I can look at them later and give you some specific guidance.




  • Thanks man I appreciate it!

    It's not even so much a case of that we're working on anything specific, it's more about just when we're trying to just have a bit of an impromptu jam session that I feel my playing is inadequate.

    Do you know of any general techniques or resources for improv / improving musical vocab?

    Im not trying to dismiss your offer! It's just that its kind of more of a general malaise I have! ;)




  • I mean I know several scales well and regularly practice them, I know about roots, fifths, sevenths and common patterns (triads and such).

    I certainly feel my lack of musical vocabulary when I'm confronted with a song that I don't have the tabs for.

    Here is my 2 cents worth.

    First, I'd ease up on (or drop altogether) tabs. Instead try to copy what you hear by listening closely. Tabs are OK up to a point, but they can be a crutch. Knowing your scales is very important. I dont just mean being able to play the scale from root to root all over the neck, though this is a good place to start. By "knowing" I mean knowing how chord tones are made up from a scale. Knowing how to harmonize the major scale. Knowing about chord inversions.

    So, without a teacher, how do you go about learning all of this ? I would suggest www.studybass.com

    Start at the beginning and work your way through it. The great thing about this site is that each lesson builds on what went before, so there are no gaps in the learning process.

    Even if you are not into jazz, learning walking bass lines is a great way of learning how to incorporate your own lines into a given chord progression. The knowledge gleaned from walking lines can be used for all types of music.

    Dave Marks gives a series of walking lessons on You Tube. Inversions are covered half way through the series of lessons.

    Here is the link :

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dave+marks+walking+bass


    If you'd like to make a start on basic theory, here is one of the best resources. Dont try to take in too much at a time or your head will explode. :D Fifteen to twenty minutes at a time is good for a start.

    http://www.billygreen.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Music%20Theory%20-%20Basic,%20Intermediate,%20Advanced.pdf

    I am not a teacher nor am I an expert on theory, but if I can be of any more help, feel free to P.M. me and I'll help you if I can.


    Best of luck with it. :cool:


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  • Yeah studybass.com and http://playbassnow.com/ with MarloweDK are the main sites I have been using and then I've also learned a good few songs from http://www.how-to-play-bass.com/songs-chronologically.html as well.

    Have done a bit of walking lines and blues stuff but I do need more practice there alright.

    Sound for the theory link by the way!





  • Have done a bit of walking lines and blues stuff but I do need more practice there alright.

    Blues is another great type of music to get used to different types of arpeggios.

    Here is another link to try out. This time it is about chord inversions. In case you are not familiar with them, these are when a note other than the root is the lowest sounding.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/2087887/A-Comprehensive-Chord-Tone-System-For-Mastering-The-Bass-Jeff-Berlin

    For example Cmaj = CEG (root inversion)

    If we start with the third (E) we get EGC. This is the first inversion. Starting on the fifth (G) is GCE the second inversion etc. They are all the same chord, but starting on something other than the root note gives it a different flavor.




  • Thanks man I appreciate it!

    It's not even so much a case of that we're working on anything specific, it's more about just when we're trying to just have a bit of an impromptu jam session that I feel my playing is inadequate.

    Do you know of any general techniques or resources for improv / improving musical vocab?

    Im not trying to dismiss your offer! It's just that its kind of more of a general malaise I have! ;)

    OK! So as far as I'm concerned this is exactly the issue, the "general malaise". There is so much to music that any "general" issues can always be broken down into smaller more workable issues. As long as you are thinking in terms of grand problems you loose sight of the little things (lots of them) that you need to do to improve. There is no secret to improv apart from working on the specific little things that are preventing you from improvising. You need to know what specific bits are causing you trouble to be able to deal with them and move on to other things.

    Being able to assess what specific parts you are struggling with is essential if you want to improve as a self-taught musician.

    So you need to be able to identify what's going on in a jam session where you lose the ability to be creative and fall into a habitual playing style. Ideally your guitarist should be able to tell you what chord progression is going on. Otherwise try to remember what chord progressions you have played before with the group; anything at all will do. You can use things you have already worked on to come up with new ideas and approaches. I often encourage people to use a progression they already know to come up with a different bass line over it. So even if you have a chord progression you are familiar with playing over, post it up and we can explore it.

    So just as an example. If we're playing four bars of Am, what will you play? Or if there's a progression Am D7 Bm Am, what will you do for this?

    There are two primary ways to approach this. Either rhythmically or harmonically. Again, either avenue depends on what you are already capable of.

    At the moment I'm working on my arpeggios over a major scale, because I think I need work on them. I'm working on certain chord progressions, specific tunes the band plays, techniques I want to improve on etc... I'm trying to develop a sense of where I want to take my playing and what little things I need to do to get there.




  • Rigsby wrote: »
    Blues is another great type of music to get used to different types of arpeggios.

    Here is another link to try out. This time it is about chord inversions. In case you are not familiar with them, these are when a note other than the root is the lowest sounding.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/2087887/A-Comprehensive-Chord-Tone-System-For-Mastering-The-Bass-Jeff-Berlin

    For example Cmaj = CEG (root inversion)

    If we start with the third (E) we get EGC. This is the first inversion. Starting on the fifth (G) is GCE the second inversion etc. They are all the same chord, but starting on something other than the root note gives it a different flavor.

    Blues is one of favourite things to play actually! I just don't typically deviate from a simple 12 bar pattern and throw in a few chromatic runs here and there to mix it up etc.

    Thanks for the link inversions sound interesting alright, i'll definitely be having a much closer look at that.




  • 18AD wrote: »
    OK! So as far as I'm concerned this is exactly the issue, the "general malaise". There is so much to music that any "general" issues can always be broken down into smaller more workable issues. As long as you are thinking in terms of grand problems you loose sight of the little things (lots of them) that you need to do to improve. There is no secret to improv apart from working on the specific little things that are preventing you from improvising. You need to know what specific bits are causing you trouble to be able to deal with them and move on to other things.

    Being able to assess what specific parts you are struggling with is essential if you want to improve as a self-taught musician.

    So you need to be able to identify what's going on in a jam session where you lose the ability to be creative and fall into a habitual playing style. Ideally your guitarist should be able to tell you what chord progression is going on. Otherwise try to remember what chord progressions you have played before with the group; anything at all will do. You can use things you have already worked on to come up with new ideas and approaches. I often encourage people to use a progression they already know to come up with a different bass line over it. So even if you have a chord progression you are familiar with playing over, post it up and we can explore it.

    So just as an example. If we're playing four bars of Am, what will you play? Or if there's a progression Am D7 Bm Am, what will you do for this?

    There are two primary ways to approach this. Either rhythmically or harmonically. Again, either avenue depends on what you are already capable of.

    At the moment I'm working on my arpeggios over a major scale, because I think I need work on them. I'm working on certain chord progressions, specific tunes the band plays, techniques I want to improve on etc... I'm trying to develop a sense of where I want to take my playing and what little things I need to do to get there.

    That's great advice actually! Thanks.

    As for what I would play during the chord progression, typically i'll just stick to roots and the fifths below or above depending.

    See I tend to find that although I 'know' that you can play any of the notes that make up the chord being played in the line, that I don't actually know all of the notes that make up the chords, so I figure my only choice here is to sort of half take up the guitar as well just to learn the notes for each chord but that seems.. just a little much!

    Playing arpeggios over the scales is where I have been concentrating my efforts mostly but it just never seems to work out very well for me, or i'll end up just playing a basically a triad in repetition!


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  • 18AD's advice is excellent, but in order to put it into action, you will have to do the ground work first. IMO this would involve what I have suggested previously.

    IMO you need to break away from both tabs and familiar patterns. When you practice alone, use a backing track, and experiment. For example, for a given chord, try starting on the five instead of the root. This may not always work. Trial and error (and your ears) should tell you if it does or not.


    EDIT : On the subject of walking bass lines. You might like to invest in the book linked below. It should be a great help in getting you away from familiar patterns.


    http://www.amazon.com/Mel-Waling-Jazz-Lines-Bass/dp/0786659963




  • Yeah, getting away from tab is essential.

    Half the battle is trying to figure out ways to practice effectively. It's taken me over ten years to figure out how to do this.

    It's really hard to judge where you're at through this, so I'm just gonna throw some stuff out.
    That's great advice actually! Thanks.

    As for what I would play during the chord progression, typically i'll just stick to roots and the fifths below or above depending.

    See I tend to find that although I 'know' that you can play any of the notes that make up the chord being played in the line, that I don't actually know all of the notes that make up the chords, so I figure my only choice here is to sort of half take up the guitar as well just to learn the notes for each chord but that seems.. just a little much!

    Playing arpeggios over the scales is where I have been concentrating my efforts mostly but it just never seems to work out very well for me, or i'll end up just playing a basically a triad in repetition!

    There's no need to take up guitar. The chords are essentially the same for bass.
    So in terms of chords, do you know the basics of how they are made?
    Major chords are Root/Maj Third/Perfect Fifth.
    Minor chords are Root/Min Third/Perfect Fifth.

    So figure out the major and minor chords from a few key centers you usually play in. Maybe E, A, B, C. Get really comfortable with them. How are you with this?

    You say you end up playing the triad in repetition. So this is something you can work with and move away from. It sounds like what you need here is some rhythmic variation.

    I found this handy rhythm chart: http://learndrumsforfree.com/sites/default/files/uploads/2011/dec/96/basic-rhythms-and-sight-reading.pdf

    Can you read or figure out these rhythms? If not, try and get used to this notation. It is infinitely helpful and useful.

    You can use these rhythms to change your root/fifth bass lines and make them more interesting. In fact you can make a one note bass line sound good with some creative rhythmic playing.




  • 18AD wrote: »
    Yeah, getting away from tab is essential.

    Half the battle is trying to figure out ways to practice effectively. It's taken me over ten years to figure out how to do this.

    It's really hard to judge where you're at through this, so I'm just gonna throw some stuff out.



    There's no need to take up guitar. The chords are essentially the same for bass.
    So in terms of chords, do you know the basics of how they are made?
    Major chords are Root/Maj Third/Perfect Fifth.
    Minor chords are Root/Min Third/Perfect Fifth.

    So figure out the major and minor chords from a few key centers you usually play in. Maybe E, A, B, C. Get really comfortable with them. How are you with this?

    You say you end up playing the triad in repetition. So this is something you can work with and move away from. It sounds like what you need here is some rhythmic variation.

    I found this handy rhythm chart: http://learndrumsforfree.com/sites/default/files/uploads/2011/dec/96/basic-rhythms-and-sight-reading.pdf

    Can you read or figure out these rhythms? If not, try and get used to this notation. It is infinitely helpful and useful.

    You can use these rhythms to change your root/fifth bass lines and make them more interesting. In fact you can make a one note bass line sound good with some creative rhythmic playing.

    Yeah I know im not making it easy to see where I am!

    I would probably play more rhythmically by instinct as that's how I enjoy playing, but that seems far easier to me using the kind of percussive qualities of the bass.

    I started out playing drums so I probably have a percussion side to me!

    Sorry but is the attached image an example of what you mean about the difference between the chords?

    Sorry, just trying to get this straight in my head thanks lads!




  • Rigsby wrote: »
    18AD's advice is excellent, but in order to put it into action, you will have to do the ground work first. IMO this would involve what I have suggested previously.

    IMO you need to break away from both tabs and familiar patterns. When you practice alone, use a backing track, and experiment. For example, for a given chord, try starting on the five instead of the root. This may not always work. Trial and error (and your ears) should tell you if it does or not.


    EDIT : On the subject of walking bass lines. You might like to invest in the book linked below. It should be a great help in getting you away from familiar patterns.


    http://www.amazon.com/Mel-Waling-Jazz-Lines-Bass/dp/0786659963

    Yeah this is kind of what im trying to do if I get you, trying to improve my ability to move around the board a little better and increase versatility I guess.

    That's kind of what I try and do at the moment as well when trying something new. When we practice this way its typically the drummer and I (my brother / flatmate) will just pick up the gear and he'll strike up a beat and i'll try and jam along to it.

    Or obviously i'll be messing around randomly kind of and come across a line that kind of works that he'll just put a beat to.

    But a lot of the time the random patterns im trying out are based around a triad kind of pattern which I just mess about with. I'll play one or two of the notes of the scale somewhere and just to and randomly swap in different or adjacent notes and see if anything sounds good!


    Sometimes it works and other times just nothing happens! ;)




  • Yeah I know im not making it easy to see where I am!

    I would probably play more rhythmically by instinct as that's how I enjoy playing, but that seems far easier to me using the kind of percussive qualities of the bass.

    I started out playing drums so I probably have a percussion side to me!

    Sorry but is the attached image an example of what you mean about the difference between the chords?

    Sorry, just trying to get this straight in my head thanks lads!

    Yes, that is exactly the difference between the chords. It applies for all chords. So it's the same difference between E maj and E min, the third is what makes them different.

    I suggest that you get familiar with the note names on the neck.

    Ok. It's good that you have an instinctive rhythm and I'm not suggesting you get rid of that at all, but that you add an extra level of understanding to that instinct. It is important that you push yourself outside that instinctual playing as well. With enough practice some more difficult rhythmic (and melodic) ideas will eventually become instinctual. You won't have to think about it any more. Then you can use your brain power to process even newer ideas.

    So keep playing what and how you like to play. Feeling it is crucial. But at the same time add in this extra stuff on the side. My worry is that if you rely only on instinct you will not progress beyond that. You can still do that, but do this as well.

    Just to recap then.

    Harmony.
    Can you play the major and minor of E, A, B, C?
    Can you play a major scale?
    Can you play a minor scale?
    Learn the note names on the neck.

    Rhythm.
    Can you play those rhythms I posted?
    Do you understand what a bar of 4/4 is?
    Can you play a quarter note rhythm in 4/4?
    Can you play an eighth note rhythm in 4/4?





  • Sorry but is the attached image an example of what you mean about the difference between the chords?

    Sorry, just trying to get this straight in my head thanks lads!

    Yes. That attached image shows the pattern on the fret board for major and minor chords. They can also be played in other ways. That's the visible difference. As 18AD said, it is hard to know exactly where you are at theory wise. For example, do you know why a chord is major or minor, or why a C maj chord consists of CEG ? As chord tones are the bassist's bread and butter, IMO this is essential to learn. I previously mentioned the importance of learning to harmonize the major scale. I had a "light bulb moment" when it was explained to me like this :


    Chord tones are made up by using every other note of a scale, i.e 1,3,5,7 etc. The other notes can be used as approach or passing notes. So C maj = CDEFGAB (1234567) 1,3 & 5 gives us CEG. If we want to add the 7 it will be B.

    In order to harmonize the scale ( i.e. to play all the chords that are in a given scale) we do what is called "stacking thirds". We will take the C major scale, and work from the bottom up, starting each line with the third of the one below it. So.... from the bottom up...


    BCDEFGA - Adding this line gives us the 7th chord
    GABCDEF - G is the third of the line below.
    EFGABCD - E is the third note from the line below
    CDEFGAB = Cmaj scale


    Now, if we read from left to right from the bottom up we have all the chords form the C maj scale.

    CEG is C maj and CEGB is Cmaj7

    DFAC is the second chord (Dm7) etc.. up to BDFA

    Play these chords in succession on your bass and try to get used to the sound.



    Why is one major and the other minor ? Assuming you know about intervals (if not...another "must learn" IMO ;)), because in the case of major the interval between C&E is a maj 3rd and with the minor the interval between D&F is a minor 3rd. It is the third of a chord that determines whether it is major or minor.


    Hope your brain is not fried at this stage !! :D




  • 18AD wrote: »
    Yes, that is exactly the difference between the chords. It applies for all chords. So it's the same difference between E maj and E min, the third is what makes them different.

    I suggest that you get familiar with the note names on the neck.

    Ok. It's good that you have an instinctive rhythm and I'm not suggesting you get rid of that at all, but that you add an extra level of understanding to that instinct. It is important that you push yourself outside that instinctual playing as well. With enough practice some more difficult rhythmic (and melodic) ideas will eventually become instinctual. You won't have to think about it any more. Then you can use your brain power to process even newer ideas.

    So keep playing what and how you like to play. Feeling it is crucial. But at the same time add in this extra stuff on the side. My worry is that if you rely only on instinct you will not progress beyond that. You can still do that, but do this as well.

    Just to recap then.

    Harmony.
    Can you play the major and minor of E, A, B, C?
    Can you play a major scale?
    Can you play a minor scale?
    Learn the note names on the neck.

    Rhythm.
    Can you play those rhythms I posted?
    Do you understand what a bar of 4/4 is?
    Can you play a quarter note rhythm in 4/4?
    Can you play an eighth note rhythm in 4/4?

    This is a big issue for me as I often have trouble when the guitarist says 'ok so start off in x up here' or what ever and i'll be a bit flabbergasted!

    What I try and do is say aloud the notes of a scale when i'm practicing it up and down the neck but it hasn't come easily to me!

    Yeah this is about where I want to be, kind of where im getting over this plateau!

    Thanks for all the tips guys.

    Can you play the major and minor of E, A, B, C?
    Yes but don't know the notes well enough.

    Can you play a major scale?
    Yes.

    Can you play a minor scale?
    Yes. I can play a lot of the common scales (major, minor, chromatic, pentatonic, mixolydian mode etc)

    But when I practice scales I just play the interval pattern across every fret, or every second fret.

    It's more the patterns i know than the scales themselves I suppose.

    Can you play those rhythms I posted?
    Some of them yeah, the only notation i've really ever used is basically used for drum instruction though so I'm not 100% sure on these. (like here)
    So what i'm reading in your example on the first one is: a bar of quarter note pulse, a bar of half muted notes on the off beat, a whole note and a final bar of quarter note pulse.

    Or in the second example it would be three bars of 8th notes followed in a kind of train like rhythm followed by single notes?

    Do you understand what a bar of 4/4 is?
    Yes.

    Can you play a quarter note rhythm in 4/4?
    On the 1, 2, 3, 4

    Can you play an eighth note rhythm in 4/4?
    On the 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 for the same speed as above.




  • Rigsby wrote: »
    Yes. That attached image shows the pattern on the fret board for major and minor chords. They can also be played in other ways. That's the visible difference. As 18AD said, it is hard to know exactly where you are at theory wise. For example, do you know why a chord is major or minor, or why a C maj chord consists of CEG ? As chord tones are the bassist's bread and butter, IMO this is essential to learn. I previously mentioned the importance of learning to harmonize the major scale. I had a "light bulb moment" when it was explained to me like this :


    Chord tones are made up by using every other note of a scale, i.e 1,3,5,7 etc. The other notes can be used as approach or passing notes. So C maj = CDEFGAB (1234567) 1,3 & 5 gives us CEG. If we want to add the 7 it will be B.

    In order to harmonize the scale ( i.e. to play all the chords that are in a given scale) we do what is called "stacking thirds". We will take the C major scale, and work from the bottom up, starting each line with the third of the one below it. So.... from the bottom up...


    BCDEFGA - Adding this line gives us the 7th chord
    GABCDEF - G is the third of the line below.
    EFGABCD - E is the third note from the line below
    CDEFGAB = Cmaj scale


    Now, if we read from left to right from the bottom up we have all the chords form the C maj scale.

    CEG is C maj and CEGB is Cmaj7

    DFAC is the second chord (Dm7) etc.. up to BDFA

    Play these chords in succession on your bass and try to get used to the sound.



    Why is one major and the other minor ? Assuming you know about intervals (if not...another "must learn" IMO ;)), because in the case of major the interval between C&E is a maj 3rd and with the minor the interval between D&F is a minor 3rd. It is the third of a chord that determines whether it is major or minor.


    Hope your brain is not fried at this stage !! :D

    No worries, cheers! Theory is definitely lacking but I appreciate the help.

    Yeah I think I know the difference alright but it is a little.. hazy I guess! Like I know that it is the interval structure of the scale that gives it it's unique sound and that this is true for chords as well. Is that what you mean? (sorry again! ;) )

    I can see how you are sliding the root of the scale around from the end of the collection of notes at every pass here in you example.

    This would mean you are essentially descending through the scale playing it off each root that makes up the notes of the scale?

    I will try and have a few runs through it this afternoon anyway and try get my around this a bit better.

    Thanks again lads.




  • No worries, cheers! Theory is definitely lacking but I appreciate the help.

    Yeah I think I know the difference alright but it is a little.. hazy I guess! Like I know that it is the interval structure of the scale that gives it it's unique sound and that this is true for chords as well. Is that what you mean? (sorry again! ;) )


    No need to apologize. We all learn by asking questions.

    Yes, the interval structure of a scale determines it's unique sound and whether it is major, minor etc

    What I was demonstrating earlier is how chords are derived from scales. Once you know your scales to a high degree, move swiftly on to chord tones as it is these (chord tones) that a bassist will play 95% of the time.

    This is explained well on our old friend... the "Study Bass" site ;)

    http://www.studybass.com/lessons/bass-chord-patterns/chord-tones-are-primary/


    Getting away from theory for a moment. You said previously that you have a good ear. Can you play what you hear ? Without using tabs, could you listen to a song and be able to work out the bass lines, then proceed to play along to the song track ?

    If so, that's a great asset to have. If not, then it is well worth your while working on this. I am an old dinosaur :D and started playing bass when there was no such thing as tabs. I spent many hours moving a turntable stylus back and fourth across LP's try to work out the lines of a song by listening and by trial and error. You can imagine the sense of triumph and joy when I was finally able to play along to the song without a mistake from start to finish. In retrospect, I am glad that there were no tabs when I started out, because I was forced develop a good ear by working things out for myself. This will naturally get easier with time and practice.

    A well structured practice session should incorporate many things. Theory (take it a little at a time), groove/timing (as you have being discussing with 18AD), and developing a good ear.




  • This is a big issue for me as I often have trouble when the guitarist says 'ok so start off in x up here' or what ever and i'll be a bit flabbergasted!

    What I try and do is say aloud the notes of a scale when i'm practicing it up and down the neck but it hasn't come easily to me!

    Yeah this is about where I want to be, kind of where im getting over this plateau!

    Thanks for all the tips guys.

    So for learning the note names, maybe start smaller. Pick some keys that you normally play in and get familiar with where those notes are on the neck. So start with E, A, D, G. For example E, open E string, 12th fret E string, 7th fret A string, 2nd fret D string, 9th fret G string. (repeated past the 12th fret) When you are comforatble with that add in C, F, Bb, Eb or other familiar keys you are working in.
    Can you play the major and minor of E, A, B, C?
    Yes but don't know the notes well enough.

    Can you play a major scale?
    Yes.

    Can you play a minor scale?
    Yes. I can play a lot of the common scales (major, minor, chromatic, pentatonic, mixolydian mode etc)

    But when I practice scales I just play the interval pattern across every fret, or every second fret.

    It's more the patterns i know than the scales themselves I suppose.

    The thing about an instrument like bass is that the pattern learning is both a great help to playing and a great hindrance to learning theory. Once you know the pattern you leave the theory. But if you know what you are doing beyond playing patterns, then you can use the patterns to great effect.

    In terms of scales it would be helpful to know what the intervals are in the scale. So remember we looked at the difference between a major and minor triad? If you then apply that to the scales you know (major, mixolydian, lydian, minor, pentatonic, etc...) you may start to see what the difference between the scales are. So a mixolydian, major, lydian are major scales. Have a look at the position of the root, third and fifth in each of these scales, they will form a major triad.
    Can you play those rhythms I posted?
    Some of them yeah, the only notation i've really ever used is basically used for drum instruction though so I'm not 100% sure on these. (like here)
    So what i'm reading in your example on the first one is: a bar of quarter note pulse, a bar of half muted notes on the off beat, a whole note and a final bar of quarter note pulse.

    Or in the second example it would be three bars of 8th notes followed in a kind of train like rhythm followed by single notes?

    Do you understand what a bar of 4/4 is?
    Yes.

    Can you play a quarter note rhythm in 4/4?
    On the 1, 2, 3, 4

    Can you play an eighth note rhythm in 4/4?
    On the 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 for the same speed as above.

    I think you know what's happening with those rhythms. So if you are looking to practice with them I would suggest picking a rhythm from that list (http://learndrumsforfree.com/sites/default/files/uploads/2011/dec/96/basic-rhythms-and-sight-reading.pdf) and applying the harmony stuff you know to them. So just as an example, the last two bars from that chart form a pretty interesting rhtyhm. Loop that rhythm, those last two bars, write it out if necessary.

    So try every manner of combination of things over this rhythm. Start just playing root. (Same chord over the two bars). Add in the fifth. For the first bar just play root fifth, then the second bar play the triad. Or play two bars of root fifth, two bars of triad.
    Or play these sequences of notes over it in the given rhtyhm (in E minor):
    D E D E D E G A G E
    E B G E E A G E D E

    There is no end to what you can do really. I guess the hard part is just being able to know what you need to do to improve while keeping it interesting. I hope some of my suggestions have been helpful. Feel free to ask about anything else.


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  • Rigsby wrote: »
    No need to apologize. We all learn by asking questions.

    Yes, the interval structure of a scale determines it's unique sound and whether it is major, minor etc

    What I was demonstrating earlier is how chords are derived from scales. Once you know your scales to a high degree, move swiftly on to chord tones as it is these (chord tones) that a bassist will play 95% of the time.

    This is explained well on our old friend... the "Study Bass" site ;)

    http://www.studybass.com/lessons/bass-chord-patterns/chord-tones-are-primary/


    Getting away from theory for a moment. You said previously that you have a good ear. Can you play what you hear ? Without using tabs, could you listen to a song and be able to work out the bass lines, then proceed to play along to the song track ?

    If so, that's a great asset to have. If not, then it is well worth your while working on this. I am an old dinosaur :D and started playing bass when there was no such thing as tabs. I spent many hours moving a turntable stylus back and fourth across LP's try to work out the lines of a song by listening and by trial and error. You can imagine the sense of triumph and joy when I was finally able to play along to the song without a mistake from start to finish. In retrospect, I am glad that there were no tabs when I started out, because I was forced develop a good ear by working things out for myself. This will naturally get easier with time and practice.

    A well structured practice session should incorporate many things. Theory (take it a little at a time), groove/timing (as you have being discussing with 18AD), and developing a good ear.

    Yeah thanks a lot. Just even getting myself thinking about chords more so than scales has led to some pretty sweet sounding practice this weekend! Feeling pretty good about practicing right now actually. Also nailed a blues line I had i've had in my head for ages but couldn't get out.

    Thanks for ye're help lads.

    I can sometimes play by ear but not all ways or everything by any means. We have the gear mostly just sitting in the front room staring at us the whole time, so say i'll hear a nice sounding line on the tv I can sometimes just pick up the bass and start messing around trying to see where the first note is.

    And if I can find the first note I can mostly figure out the rest of the notes by trial and error. Thing is I probably wont remember that tune fully or anything. I'll kind of figure out and go 'Nice one!' and then just put down the guitar and sit back.




  • Yeah thanks a lot. Just even getting myself thinking about chords more so than scales has led to some pretty sweet sounding practice this weekend! Feeling pretty good about practicing right now actually. Also nailed a blues line I had i've had in my head for ages but couldn't get out.

    Thanks for ye're help lads.

    I can sometimes play by ear but not all ways or everything by any means. We have the gear mostly just sitting in the front room staring at us the whole time, so say i'll hear a nice sounding line on the tv I can sometimes just pick up the bass and start messing around trying to see where the first note is.

    And if I can find the first note I can mostly figure out the rest of the notes by trial and error. Thing is I probably wont remember that tune fully or anything. I'll kind of figure out and go 'Nice one!' and then just put down the guitar and sit back.



    Hi again,

    Great to hear that your frustration level with practicing has decreased a little, and that you are now enjoying it a bit more. That will give you the determination to keep at it.

    It may seem frustrating trying to work things out for yourself knowing that you could look up the tabs. I can assure you though, it is worth the time and effort and will pay dividends in the long run.

    It is not always easy to pick up the bass lines of a song by ear. Sometimes they can be complex or other times far back in the mix. My main point is whenever possible it is much more to your advantage to do so.


    If I can be of any more help, let me know.

    Best of luck with it. :cool:


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