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Miscellaneous First steps on bass guitar

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
Messages
1,568
Location
Breda
I played guitar for many years before taking up tenor sax in my forties. Initially, I intenrf to maintain my guitar practice while learning sax. But - at the time- it soon became clear to me that I had to focus my 'practice time' on either sax or guitar . I chose 'sax' thinking that I'd pick up my guitaar practice 'later. I never did.

Strangely enough, I now the opportunity to play bass guitar in band. A very different technique to :acoustic, classical, or "lead guitar". But I'm enjoying learning!
 

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
428
Location
Black Forest
The main thing to understand about playing bass guitar is that you are the one who makes everybody else sound good and who never gets credit for it. Well, sometimes you do.
The next thing is that you are the time keeper of the band. drummers like to think of themselves that they are the ones but in reality, they only provide the icing on your timing cake.
Third, you are providing the structure or skeleton of the music, it doesn't have to be fancy, just the nails that everybody else hangs their musical clothes (notes) on.
Technically, electric bass is not too difficult unless you want to start soloing, which, with your guitar background may not be that difficult. But, there is a fundamental difference between bass and guitar, unless you are talking strictly rhythm guitar, you are the centerpiece of the band, the glue that holds it all together.

@JayeNM can probably elaborate some more.
 

Dave Dunn

Member
Messages
168
Location
South Australia
I always say that bass can either be the easiest instrument to play, or the hardest.
Personally, I love playing bass because of the freedom. Being able to keep time is the important thing (as per the previous comment). If you can chug root notes you won't get any complaints, then you can add embellishments as you feel comfortable, that's what I like about it. I'm a singer first and foremost, but I've often been the bass player too, and at home, I much prefer playing bass to playing six string.
Have fun! :)
 

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
428
Location
Black Forest
I see a lot of bass players who just try to replicate the original bass lines of any given song they play and sometimes I want to step up and either buy them a drink or give them any other mind-altering substance to facilitate them abandoning the lifeless "painting by numbers" way they are playing. It is good to be able to play a certain "structure" but if you don't feel it, it's wasted.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,950
Location
Manchester, UK
I tried bass guitar. How hard can it be? I have rhythm. I know where the notes are. I can read a chord chart. I'm quite musical.
A friend lent me one when I told him I was thinking of buying one. I gave it back after a few weeks.
It's harder than it looks innit? :oops:
It really is. I've tried , too. I could just about handle playing and fretting the string I was supposed to be playing. It was muting the other 3 with various combinations of left and right hands that got to me, and trying to stay in time while you're doing that...
Just not an issue with wind instruments. I hope to get back to it one day.
 
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JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
2,323
Location
New Mexico, US
I am a purist....a bass doesn't need 5 or 6 strings, any good player can do all they ever wanna on 4. Jaco had 4, and he friggin' DISCOVERED notes on the electric which up until him were not known to have even been there....

(Mark Sandeman of Morphine just used 2, btw)

Electric is an interesting bass. "Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master" someone once said of it, and it's true. Once can become half-decent on it rather quickly, actually decent enough to play probably 75% of pop/rock/folk music and get away with sounding perfectly OK.

I wouldn't say timekeeping is solely the bassist's domain. I think if ever there was a synergistic relationship in a contemporary band setup...it'd be the bassist and the drummer. If one or the other is lacking, it's not gonna be a fun night for either and honestly, the whole band will suffer as a result.

I can be playing bass and 'insisting' on a rhythm, tempo, groove, etc....but if the drummer just isn't hearing it, or doesn't have the technical ability or vocabulary to lock in, the bassist cannot carry that him/herself.

Now folks always mention Jaco, Stanley, Wooten, etc...and theya re monsters...but really, the most important aspect of bass playing is just keeping that bottom grooving along...so while anyone can listen to the Behemoths and be either blown away or so disheartened by their own lack of Awesomeness...just as important were the players who just 'did their job' and layed it down solidly....so to me, listening to classic motown recordings, with their studio players, for example...that's just as much an epitome of the instrument as is Stanley, Jaco, Marcus Miller, etc...
 

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
428
Location
Black Forest
I wouldn't say timekeeping is solely the bassist's domain. I think if ever there was a synergistic relationship in a contemporary band setup...it'd be the bassist and the drummer. If one or the other is lacking, it's not gonna be a fun night for either and honestly, the whole band will suffer as a result.

I can be playing bass and 'insisting' on a rhythm, tempo, groove, etc....but if the drummer just isn't hearing it, or doesn't have the technical ability or vocabulary to lock in, the bassist cannot carry that him/herself.

Don't throw every word on the gold scale, what I meant to emphasize is that bass is equally important for time keeping as drums but many people don't even have a clue and only think it is only the drummer.

And I have played with drummers that never listen (or hear it) and then there is nothing you can do other than playing along.

Otherwise I agree with everything you said :)
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
2,323
Location
New Mexico, US
Yes, I agree with all that. Your initial post read "you are the timekeeper of the band"...which implied the bassist could shoulder that alone. But he/she cannot, really.

Funny thing is....and I just thought of this now....on Electric I am actually fine with locking into the tempo.
On Upright...on tunes which have cool chord changes which I really wanna dig a walking bass line into....I actually have the inclination to speed up the tempo as the song is going along, just because I am enjoying myself and I love walking basslines. So it's actually the drummer who is, for the time being, keeping me tethered.
I realize this is going on when in the middle of a song the thought strikes me: "drummer's lagging behind". LOL. Sometimes that is the case, but when I am playing with the three very SOLID jazz drummers we have here in town, I know quickly that it is I who has been pushing the tempo and they are holding tight.

So...synergistic, again. If they didn't do that, the tunes would end up at least12bpm faster by the final chorus than when they started....
 

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
428
Location
Black Forest
I guess it all depends on the specific configuration of the band. Kirwan Brown (bass) has an atomic clock in his head, so does Kim Stone (two of my fav bassists to play with). And then there are a few drummers around which are the same way. And there are others who won't hold the tempo. And the worst is if you play with two of the latter who don't listen :)
 

John Setchell

Member
Messages
202
Location
Norfolk UK
Bass is my native tongue, and I still get a buzz from playing a few numbers on it.
Yes, the bass-drummer synergy is vital. Whisper it, but they actually lead the band! A glance or private smile and the number drops down to a cool few bars, or irrepressibly ramps up several gears. And if the drummer telegraphs end of song it WILL end!
With bass the old adage “leave your ego in the guitar case” is very true. On occasions a lead guitarist has borrowed my bass at jams - sounds amazing for a few bars, and then it sounds tediously “busy”. Years ago an old bass guy said to me “F*ck up the notes if you must lad, but NEVER f*uck up the groove!”
 

randulo

Living the dream
Café Supporter
Messages
6,441
Location
France
I am a purist....a bass doesn't need 5 or 6 strings,
Years ago, I played with a bass player that had a Fender 5-string. The fifth string was a low C. I think that would make playing in Eb, D or C more flexible. Otherwise, you play what you like, Jocko was great but he didn't play every possible arpeggio (or whatever). I love what Charlie Hunter does:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYFZNmrSCPI
 

ellinas

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,092
Location
Athens, Greece
Mike if you like bass ... focus on bass... just don't treat it like a guitar with 4 strings.... It's a whole new world ... and a nice one too.... The function of bass in a group setup is really important ....
In case we are talking about electric bass ... i'm kinda dogmatic ... 4 string precision bass is the way to go... no frills no tricks ... just full bass sound...
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
2,323
Location
New Mexico, US
Years ago, I played with a bass player that had a Fender 5-string. The fifth string was a low C. I think that would make playing in Eb, D or C more flexible. Otherwise, you play what you like, Jocko was great but he didn't play every possible arpeggio (or whatever). I love what Charlie Hunter does:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYFZNmrSCPI
...an extra string making a bass easier or more convenient, I do not agree. Because now you have an extra string on the bass, makes the neck wider, changes the feel of the instrument, changes your ergos a bit....and for hundreds of years if the bass 'ran out of room' for going lower, the music and musician simple went the octave up to achieve the note (or in the case of a double bass added the low extension to the E string).
It is sorta like a Low A vs a low Bb baritone. One isn't 'easier' to play, it simply offers an extra note. a 5 or 6 string bass simply offers a few extra notes....that historically, and to this day even, are just not 'needed' 99% of the time...
In instances where a tune was in D or Eb, and I absolutely WANTED that low note (very rarely) , I'd just tune the E down... or in rare cases tune the bass down... for that song...

(I never suggested Jaco played every arpeggio ....I said he discovered notes which existed on the electric (via harmonics) which no player before him had ever coaxed out of the instrument...)
 

randulo

Living the dream
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6,441
Location
France
(I never suggested Jaco played every arpeggio
You know I'm not arguing with you, I'm just saying it's nice to have that low C, C#, D, Eb for some music. He did a good job for the bar band. I understand you're a purist, that's fine :) For someone who can play it, that 5th string on a bass can work? Now a six-string bass, that's crap. :)
 

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